With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Q: What is a whistleblower and why do we need them?
A: Whistleblowers are people, often in government, who come forward to expose fraud, waste or abuse in an effort to help improve the status quo. They often are in a position to have unique knowledge or firsthand experience with a problem, and may even be one of only a few people who can bring it to light. Without whistleblowers, problems can remain hidden and allowed to fester.
When our Founding Fathers created a government accountable to the people, they specifically included tools, like checks and balances, to prevent government from running amok. In that same spirit, they wanted government employees to be the people’s eyes and ears in government, and to speak out when they encounter problems or opportunities for improvement. So on July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution empowering government whistleblowers. It said that government whistleblowing was not only encouraged; it was a duty for Americans. Today, we still have laws on the books to protect and encourage whistleblowers, and I am still working to strengthen those protections.
Q: Why do whistleblowers need protection?
A: Government whistleblowers shouldn’t need additional protections. But unfortunately, they are often the target of retaliation, simply for reporting the truth. Because the information whistleblowers share could be embarrassing or even incriminating for their bosses, their agency or the administration, they are often treated like skunks at a picnic. Whistleblowers have been transferred, demoted, harassed and even fired for simply shedding light on a problem. Some have seen their security clearance revoked, and even their personal property destroyed in retaliation for their work. Reprisal not only hurts the whistleblower, but it also has a chilling effect on others who may consider blowing the whistle about a problem.
Q: What is being done to protect and encourage whistleblowers?
A: Whistleblowers should be praised, not punished, for their patriotic acts to improve government. The Senate recently affirmed this belief when it unanimously approved a resolution I introduced designating July 30, 2016, as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The resolution commemorates the anniversary of our nation’s earliest whistleblower law. It also encourages all federal agencies to acknowledge the patriotic employees who shed light on flaws within government and remind them of their legal rights as whistleblowers.
I also helped to establish the bipartisan Whistleblower Protection Caucus to help lawmakers better respond to disclosures of fraud, waste or abuse, or reports of reprisal by government employees. I recently led through the Judiciary Committee a bill I introduced to clarify and improve policies for FBI whistleblowers and am working to expand whistleblower protections to the legislative branch. A bill I authored to encourage whistleblowers to report fraud against the government has been credited for recovering more than $48 billion in taxpayer dollars.
More can be done. By publicly honoring whistleblowers for their service, our president can send a message from the very top of our government that retaliation will not be tolerated. In fact, I’ve urged every president since Ronald Reagan to hold a Rose Garden ceremony honoring these patriotic Americans.
Our government has a responsibility to serve the people. When it falls short, the people have a right to know. Without the brave and patriotic work of individuals who bring failures to light, our government would be even less accountable to the people. So we must continue working to keep the promise made by our founders to support whistleblowers 238 years ago.