After the infamous whistleblower sent a letter to the Intelligence Community Inspector General in July of this year alleging transgressions by the U.S. government and specifically President Trump, involving dealings with Ukraine, his world became wrought with infamy and legal fees. In order to finance the proceedings, an individual named John Tye, formerly of the State Department, started a GoFundMe page on September 25. The request was blatantly straightforward if not unorthodox.  It states in part:

“This brave individual took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution.

We’re working with the whistleblower and launched a crowdfunding effort to support the whistleblower’s lawyers.

On October 6, 2019, it was announced that these lawyers represent a second anonymous intelligence community whistleblower who has made a protected disclosure involving first-hand knowledge of events described by the initial whistleblower. 

In a September 17, 2019, letter to the House Intelligence Committee, U.S. Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson described the initial whistleblower’s complaint as “credible” and “urgent.”

The disclosure relates to “one of the most significant and important of the [Director of National Intelligence]’s responsibilities to the American people,” he wrote

These brave public servants could face retaliation and need your support.

Donations will only be accepted from U.S. citizens.

All funds that remain after the conclusion of this matter will be returned to Whistleblower Aid’s budget to help other brave Americans make lawful disclosures about government wrongdoing.

These whistleblowers took great personal risks, not for politics or personal gain, but to defend our democracy. We need to have their backs. “

As of November 19, the account has raised over 228,000 for two different whistleblowers’ (same subject) legal fees.

This method of fee collection raised the ire of another individual who filed a complaint earlier this month with the same Intelligence Community Inspector General, citing potential violations government ethics regulations. The individual, through their attorney, Anthony Gallo noted:

“We are requesting you investigate whether [criminal statutes or regulations have] been violated by the federal employee you are protecting when they reportedly requested an investigation into a matter that they had no direct personal knowledge of, and on account of which they were able to obtain sizeable gifts from unknown persons because of their official duty,” 

Gallo also states:

“M]y client believes … that the federal employee you are protecting and their attorneys apparently have strategically weaponized their alleged whistleblowing activities into a very lucrative money-making enterprise using a charity incorporated under a different name than the trade name it is using for fund-raising purposes, which would appear to my client to be a clear abuse of the federal employee’s authority and access to classified information.”

 The two ethics citations Gallon listed are 5 CFR 2634.203(b) and 5 CFR 2634.203(d) concerning improper gifts and also improper sources as issues for the inspector general to look into. While former government employees have raised legal fees on GoFundMe pages, this appears to be a unique example of a current federal worker, through others, soliciting funds.

Attorneys for the initial whistleblower have told news sources that the fundraising is within compliance with the Joint Ethics Regulations. Of note to readers of this site is how the second whistleblower’s legal complaint includes the argument that the initial whistleblower is, at least in part, profiting by his access to classified information by generating funds through a GoFundMe page.

In this case, the whistleblower isn’t profiting by the sale of classified information, but Gallo raises questions about the motivation of the whistleblower – and specifically how his fundraising efforts are allowing him to profit or create privilege based on his position with the federal government. The argument Gallo seems to be making falls in line with the idea that whistleblowing by members of the intelligence community should be motivated by the allowable grounds set forth in the Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Protection Act, which includes:

A serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operations of an intelligence activity involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters;

A false statement to Congress, or a willful withholding from Congress, on an issue of material fact relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity; or

An action constituting reprisal or threat of reprisal in response to an employee’s reporting an urgent concern.

Gallo’s client is now taking the role of the whistleblower against the original whistleblower, citing abuse of authority and violation of the law. It will be interesting to see how this complaint turns out, and how GoFundMe sites started by agents of government employees are treated in the future.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.