Several articles have emerged that contain praise from non-profit groups toward President Obama for taking steps to protect whistleblowers, albeit at a time when more whistleblowers are prosecuted by his administration than ever before. The coverage goes something like this:
Obama’s Justice Department is prosecuting a number of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act.
A government secrecy expert opines that this is unprecedented.
The article mentions Obama’s efforts to expand whistleblower protections through legislation or executive action.
Non-profit groups such as the Government Accountability Project and the Project on Government Oversight applaud Obama for doing more than any other president in history to protect whistleblowers.
What’s missing, however, is any discussion that such steps are mandated by law, specifically 5 U.S.C. 2301(c), enacted by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978:
(c) In administering the provisions of this chapter—
(1) with respect to any agency (as defined in section 2302 (a)(2)(C) of this title), the President shall, pursuant to the authority otherwise available under this title, take any action, including the issuance of rules, regulations, or directives; and
(2) with respect to any entity in the executive branch which is not such an agency or part of such an agency, the head of such entity shall, pursuant to authority otherwise available, take any action, including the issuance of rules, regulations, or directives;
which is consistent with the provisions of this title and which the President or the head, as the case may be, determines is necessary to ensure that personnel management is based on and embodies the merit system principles. [Emphasis added.]
Key among those “merit system principles” is the protection of whistleblowers.
So is it a fact that Obama has “done more to affirmatively protect whistleblowers than any other president,” as POGO’s Angela Canterbury recently stated? Yes.
However, it is not out of benevolence or favored policy, but his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The fact that a president is finally executing a 1978 law should not be news or grounds for applause. We elect presidents to execute the laws.
What’s newsworthy is why it took 35 years to get to this point.