The Important Difference Between “Whistle-blowers” and “Leakers”

In an excellent LA Times Opinion piece by Jesselyn Radack concerning the indictment of Thomas Drake for providing information to a then Baltimore Sun reporter, Siobhan Gorman, now with the Wall Street Journal (and my favorite reporter on national security issues), there is a short explanation of the difference between whistle-blowers and leakers as well as a point we should notice about how the government tends to treat them equally despite laws distinguishing them.  See:  http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-radack-20100427,0,754088.story

“Unfortunately, the terms “leaking” and “whistle-blowing” are often used synonymously to describe the public disclosure of information that is otherwise secret. Both acts have the effect of damaging the subject of the revelation. But leaking is quite different from blowing the whistle. The difference turns on the substance of the information disclosed. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects the disclosure of information that a government employee reasonably believes evidences fraud, waste, abuse or a danger to public health or safety. But far too often, whistle-blowers are retaliated against, with criminal prosecution being one of the sharpest weapons in the government’s arsenal.”

Telling a reporter about the waste of billions by the NSA is not revealing anything that negatively effects national security; it is the waste itself, a good subject for investigation, not the whistle-blower.

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