Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Comparative Plight of Whistleblowers

When President Obama took office many lawyers expected that the federal government's hostility towards whistleblowers would end or at least abate.  Yet, the opposite has occurred as the Obama Administration has aggressively sought to punish, rather than encourage, whistleblowers. From the FBI's persecution of reporter James Risen, to the efforts to discredit the pre-Snowden NSA whistleblowers, the Administration has been relentless in cracking down on government whistleblowers. The latest victim is former TSA air marshal, Robert MacLean, who went to the press after the Administration moved to cancel several months of missions for cost-cutting reasons in the midst of a hijacking alert. In an Orwellian move, it was only after members of Congress forced the Administration to reconsider its actions that the government decided to classify the leaked information as "security sensitive information" and thus set MacLean up for dismissal.
    As a comparativist, I was curious about the state of whistleblower protections in Europe. The news across the ocean is no brighter. According to a 2013 report by Transparency International, only four European countries-Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom (UK)-currently have in place advanced whistleblower protections. In October of last year, the European Parliament did call on the European Commission to draft a comprehensive legislative proposal to establish community wide whistleblowing protections. One would hope that the  recent and anticipated moves in some European countries might eventually serve as an antidote to the American government's current hypersensitive persecution of public servants who seek to speak out for the common good.

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