The Washington Post is joining Crazy Pete Hoekstra in his opposition to having whistleblower protection in the stimulus bill. To oppose whistleblower protection, they’re reduced to poo-pooing the notion that it’s sort of important to have oversight when you give $800 billion in government funds out.
The $800 billion stimulus package making its way through Congress is supposed to include measures to jump-start the economy — extension of unemployment benefits and food stamps, infrastructure programs to create jobs. But whistleblower protections?
But attaching the bill to the stimulus package under the pretext that stronger whistleblower protections will enhance fiscal accountability is disingenuous.
Uh, yeah. The last eight years of widespread fraud really proves that protecting whistleblowers before you give away billions and billions is just a "pretext."
But what the WaPo is really worried about is the same thing Crazy Pete is worried about: if you give whistleblower protection to federal employees, that means you give whistleblower protection to federal intelligence employees. And, the WaPo argues, you can’t have federal intelligence employees revealing fraud and wrong-doing if the President doesn’t want them to.
The measure extends such protections to employees who work in the intelligence arena, including those at the FBI, and would give such employees the unilateral right to disclose to congressional overseers classified material. The measure also calls for federal court review of executive branch decisions to revoke an employee’s security clearance.
The executive branch is constitutionally charged with protecting and controlling classified information. A legislative attempt to override the executive could very well be unconstitutional. It is, in any event, irresponsible to condone and essentially immunize an employee’s unilateral breach.
The Justice Department, as long ago as the Clinton administration, has vigorously opposed expanding whistleblower protections to national security employees.
Now, set aside the question of whether, at a time when we’re privatizing intelligence functions on a massive scale, it would be a good thing to make sure intelligence professionals have some means to report wrong-doing. Put aside the question of whether or not you’d like someone to be able blow the whistle if all that data the government has collected on you were used in improper ways.
Consider the fact that this is a newspaper attacking whistleblower protections.
There are two ways to think about this phenomenon, a newspaper attacking whistleblower protections. Perhaps this is just an indication that the WaPo no longer cares about exposing wrong-doing. The paper that broke Watergate–a story about FBI and CIA (as well as presidential) wrong-doing–is taking a stance against breaking such stories in the future.
Alternately, it could be that the WaPo is just trying to protect its own turf. Dana Priest could never have gotten her Pulitzer prize winning story on the CIA’s black sites without intelligence professionals coming to her instead of Congress. I’m betting the Pulitzer prize winning Angler series relied on intelligence professionals who might have gone to Congress before going to the WaPo if it wouldn’t mean losing their job. So maybe the WaPo is just trying to ensure it remains a privileged outlet for these kind of stories. It’s protecting its turf! (Never mind that the reporter shield law the WaPo is championing would make it a lot harder for Priest and Gellman to protect just these kinds of sources.)
Whatever the motive, it says something about the culture of journalism today that the WaPo would come out against exposing wrong-doing in our intelligence functions.