Press Statement: Department of Justice Press Conference to Address Leaks of Classified Material Threatening National Security
Trump Administration Announces Ongoing Leak Investigations
Today the Attorney General announced an ongoing investigation into administration leaks, despite White House efforts to internally curb them, a continuation of the Insider Threat Program in place since 2011.
These kinds of investigations may inappropriately and illegally target whistleblowers, which POGO and others have repeatedly raised concerns about in the past. Targeting whistleblowers will undermine the administration’s ability to expose and fix wrongdoing.
POGO has worked for decades to ensure that whistleblowers are afforded strong protections when reporting through proper channels and urge the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct these investigations with a firm commitment to not target, discourage, or detect legally protected whistleblowing in the process. This commitment is written into the Executive Order creating the Insider Threat Program, and must be adhered to. It is also important to note, that when information is not classified or otherwise specifically barred by statute from disclosure, most federal employees are protected for disclosing wrongdoing to the media.
POGO’s Danielle Brian issued the comment below:
“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse, and illegality within the federal government, the last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks. This administration must carefully tailor the parameters for this investigation with this important consideration in mind. While I appreciate the distinction between whistleblowers and leakers at today's press conference, the commitment to strong whistleblower protections must be more than just lip service.
In the public discourse, the lines regularly become blurred between leaking and whistleblowing. While not all leaks are whistleblowing disclosures, it is often impossible to distinguish between the two activities without understanding all the facts in each instance. It is especially difficult when discussing ‘leaks’ of unclassified information.
Whistleblowers will be allies to this administration if the White House embraces them and their disclosures, which often are an early warning system that can spotlight problems before they metastasize. Such disclosure help save taxpayer dollars, prevent loss of life, and curb abuses. Overzealous investigations will chill legitimate whistleblowing and drive whistleblowers away from proper government channels to the press. ”
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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.