The Whistleblower Protection Act is not created equal

Updated
This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on Sunday,...
This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on Sunday,...
The Guardian/AP Photo

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Former CIA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified information to the public–and if he’s apprehended, as All In with Chris Hayes guest Senator Bernie Sanders said on Monday night, “He will pay the consequences, whatever that may be.”

No one seems to be debating Snowden’s fate. But why not? Is no one entitled to protection, under the law, for blowing a whistle on what they perceive to be wrongful or unjust conduct by the government?

It turns out that some government employees are protected, by way of The Whistleblower Protection Act.  According to the NSF, this Act affords: “confidentiality and protection from retaliation to federal employees, former employees, or applicants who report allegations of gross mismanagement, fraud, abuse of authority.” A whistleblower does have the right, under the law, to be protected for divulging information. So why is Sanders so confident Snowden will pay the consequences for his leak?

On Tuesday’s All In with Chris Hayes, former intelligence analyst Russell Tice shed some light on the harsh realities of being an NSA employee whistle-blower. Tice, who blew the whistle back in 2005 on the Bush administration’s wiretapping program, said:

“The Whistleblower Protection Act does not apply to the intelligence community. They’re exempt from it. And most people in the intelligence community don’t realize that. So, you can’t even go to the Office of Special Counsel because they’re exempt from that, too, and the merit system protection board. So even if you use the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, the only thing that gives you is the right to go to Congress. It doesn’t–it doesn’t have any teeth there to protect you against retribution from the agency that you’re reporting abuse on.”


So when private contractors and other members of the National Intelligence community blow the whistle on the CIA or FBI, they are, according to Tice, oftentimes unwittingly faced with a different fate than federal employees of countless other government agencies. According to the U.S. Merit Systems Protections Board: ”Employees specifically excluded from coverage are those in the Government Accountability Office, the FBI, and various intelligence agencies.”

The price to pay for leaking information is not created equal.

The Whistleblower Protection Act is not created equal

Updated