POGO: Holder Comments on Snowden Highlight Need for Public Interest Balancing Test for Whistleblowers

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June 1, 2016

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is responding to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments that Edward Snowden performed a “public service” by triggering a debate over surveillance measures, but still deserves to be punished for leaking classified information.

Liz Hempowicz, a Public Policy Associate at POGO, says:

“Holder's comments illustrate the importance of some form of a public interest balancing test when determining how the government should treat whistleblowers who handle sensitive or classified information.

In response to Snowden's revelations, there have been a number of policy improvements, including increased whistleblower protections for the intelligence community and the end of one bulk collection program. These types of public interest reforms should be considered in any prosecution for the release of classified information.  

POGO is encouraged by Former Attorney General Holder's comments that Edward Snowden's disclosures performed a public service. However, we would have been more excited if this took place while he was still at the Department of Justice, and hope his former deputies and the administration reflect this shift to a more nuanced approach to the debate that Snowden started two years ago. In particular, we hope this will discourage the use of the insider threat program to weed out and silence whistleblowers.”

SEE ALSO: 21 Organizations Demand Investigation of Insider Threat Program

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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