Whistleblower Protection Laws


ANNCR: Whistleblower Protection Laws – on Today's Congressional Moment.

It's not hard to think of moments when history was changed by someone who blew the whistle on government missteps. Daniel Ellsburg, for instance, leaked the Pentagon's secret history of its involvement in Vietnam to the New York Times and hastened public disillusion with that war. FBI official Mark Felt, known to the world as Deep Throat, helped bring down the Nixon administration after the Watergate scandal.

Most “whistleblowers,” though, never get much fame or public notice. As a result, they're vulnerable to being fired or silenced. As far back as 1912, Congress recognized that in our democracy, public knowledge of government wrongdoing — or waste — is vital to society's welfare. Its broadest protection for whistleblowers came in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act, which guard most federal employees who step forward from retaliation for their actions.

These laws aren't perfect, but they've helped ordinary Americans serve their fellow citizens. Whistleblowers have disclosed a cover–up of airplane near–misses at Dallas–Fort Worth airport, revealed toxic emissions by Federal Prison Industries, and laid bare repeated violations of nuclear safety laws at a plant in Ohio — misdeeds we might never have known about, were it not for the protection Congress gave them.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress website at congress.indiana.edu.