Fact Check: What’s Missing from the Adulatory Coverage of Obama’s Whistleblower Protections

U.S. Constitution

U.S. Constitution

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.

9 thoughts on “Fact Check: What’s Missing from the Adulatory Coverage of Obama’s Whistleblower Protections

  1. It’s all rigged and all oversight authority, including POGO, GAP, and other “watchdog” non-profits know it.


  2. Just in time. GAP’s Jesselyn Radack calls bullsh*t on GAP colleague Tom Devine’s tortured Obama defense:

    My learned colleague at the Government Accountability Project, Tom Devine, said the language of Obama’s objections could have been much worse:

    The president’s expressions of concerns were a milquetoast version of traditional Pentagon fretting about whistleblowers . . . We all considered them so muted that it was almost like tacit support for making those rights, expanding those rights.

    Huh?Tacit support for these provisions would have been to let them stand, rather than making them unenforceable.


  3. One more:

    * [new] I am a director at the Govt Accountability Proj, (1+ / 0-)
    am one of the foremost whistleblowing experts in the country, and represent a number of whistleblowers who’ve been prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

    My colleague Tom and I disagree with respect to Obama’s effects on whistleblowing. Tom is in charge of lobbying for legislation to help whistleblowers and needs to stay on the good side of the Administration. I am in charge of the National Security and Human Rights and call the Administration’s destructive campaign against whistleblowers and empty legislation as I see it.

    My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE “AMERICAN TALIBAN,” is Amazon’s #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

    by Jesselyn Radack on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 09:34:10 AM PST

  4. It gets even better: now Devine is calling the signing statement language, which finds its roots in right wing “unitary executive” theory (aka imperial presidency pretensions) “mere background noise that repeats timeless government boilerplate about executive branch powers.”


    Obama could personally waterboard an American on the lawn of the White House on live TV and this guy would find a way to downplay it.

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