Whistleblowing laws to protect federal employees and contractors from retaliation for providing information that is illegal, immoral, or generally malfeasant have been around in some form or fashion as long as this country has been in existence. The laws are not categorized into one neat-pocketed body. Instead, they are spread out and often included in other Acts, which cover specific industry, such as securities. Some provisions deal with whistleblowing on classified material, some do not cover government contractors, and others do. It can be confusing, so it’s good to know where to go to find your whistle-blowing rights.
Key Resources for Whistleblowers
For starting point advice on whistleblower procedures and rules, check out the following websites:
- Key Practices for Congress to Consider When Receiving and Referring Information (very helpful table on pages 6 and 7)
- Compilation of Federal Whistleblower Protection Statutes (this will give you a headache but should at least skim it)
- Intelligence Community Whistleblower Provisions (specifically dealing with Intel Community and recently updated)
Once you figure out what act controls your whistleblowing activity, it may be wise to seek out some guidance on how to proceed. My first piece of advice is to start with a reputable non-profit organization that can give you assistance pro bono (free or with minor expenses) as a starting point. Most of these nonprofits are made up of skilled attorneys, paralegals, and lobbyists who understand the ins and outs of the federal system. They can do things such as campaign for law changes at a macro level, represent clients in the early stages of the process, and even represent clients in litigated matters, especially under the False Claims Act (specific article forthcoming). They are also expert navigators through the muddy waters of the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act. If you are a whistleblower on a classified matter, several of the organizations have attorneys with security clearances.
Key Organizations for Whistleblowers
In no particular order, here are some of those organizations with insights on whistleblower laws, rights and procedural gates:
1. Government Accountability Project
Government Accountability Project has a very diverse set of specialties ranging from OSHA to FDA to ICE litigators and investigators. If you are not a big booster club member for Edward Snowden, then you may get angry at what they say about him, but they seem to be tenacious advocates for their clients.
2. National Security Counselors
National Security Counselors has a website that is currently under construction, so the information about their organization is limited. However, they, as their title indicates, are specialists in representing whistleblowers on matters involving classified documents or national security. Their Board of Advisors is quite impressive, and includes security clearance litigation specialist Mark Zaid, and several other retired military and FBI personnel.
3. National Whistleblower Center
National Whistleblower Center has a domain name that is remarkably close to that of the Government Accountability Project, but they are a different organization. Their website has a well-organized bank of information on many of their lobbying accomplishments (Did you know they were the engine behind National Whistleblower Day held in July?) and general whistleblowing information. The group is tuned into current events and public education as it relates to whistleblowing. Their mission is a bit more varied than the other two organizations.
How to Choose an Organization to Help
One thing that should be worthwhile to read on the websites of these organizations are their yearly audit reports. They should be available for review and up to date. Funding should be shown through contributions, grants, and fees recognized as well as miscellaneous income. In addition, just because the company is a nonprofit doesn’t mean their personnel don’t get paid, so salaries should be available somewhere in the report, albeit even if only total amounts. While you can draw your own conclusions as to these audits, it may give you some basis for whom you choose to help you.