As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to protect government whistleblowers from prosecution, but as President his administration has zealously pursued legal prosecution of these brave men and women.
After his election in 2008, Barack Obama posted to his administration’s new website — change.gov — that he would protect whistleblowers. The then-president-elect promised:
We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.
Not that politicians have a habit of keeping campaign promises, but President Obama’s policy of zealously pursuing, prosecuting, and punishing those who report abuses in government is remarkable for its relentlessness.
Edward Wasserman, speaking last month at the 6th Annual Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting at the University of California, Berkeley, powerfully chronicled the chilling effect that the Obama administration’s apparent vendetta against whistleblowers is having on such disclosures and against the journalists who report them.
Steven Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ government secrecy project, is quoted in a story published by Reason magazine online, explaining, “The administration’s aggressive pursuit of leaks represents a challenge to the practice of national security reporting, which depends on the availability of unauthorized sources if it is to produce something more than ‘authorized’ news.”
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Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor of Journalism Ethics at Washington & Lee University (photo)