A federal judge declared unconstitutional Monday an anti-whistleblower law in Idaho that criminalized audiovisual recordings of agricultural production facilities. In the decision, Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote that Idaho Code § 18-7042 “not only restricts more speech than necessary, it poses a particularly serious threat to whistleblowers’ free speech rights” under the First Amendment.
[T}he statute circumvents long-established defamation law and whistleblowing statutes by punishing employees for publishing true and accurate recordings on matters of public concern. The expansive reach of this statute is hard to reconcile with basic speech, whistleblower, and press rights.
[Cross-posted from Whistleblower Support Fund] At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations committee Thursday, whistleblowers testified on Veterans Affair’s investigation of the concerns about healthcare deficiencies at Veterans Affairs hospitals–investigations they characterized as a collective whitewash.
The success of Edward Snowden’s disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance hinged on measures he took to prevent government detection of his communications with journalists. His contact, Laura Poitras, describes using similar measures to avoid tipping off authorities, who would have arrested Snowden and seized the evidence he collected from NSA computers.
Other federal agencies, state and local governments, and businesses also conduct surveillance. Our movements, communications and transactions are monitored in great detail, making it essential for whistleblowers who desire anonymity to develop cyber security skills and a bit of spycraft. It’s especially important for national security and qui tam whistleblowers, but potentially beneficial to others, too.
A Senate hearing in the Dirksen Office Building ended abruptly after someone called in a bomb threat to U.S. Capitol Police. Reportedly, a bomb had been placed in the room next to the hearing room. When word came to evacuate the hearing room, members of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs were listening to testimony from whistleblower Robert MacLean about TSA management failures that threatened aviation security. Sen. Ron Johnson, who chaired the hearing, later said the threat was determined to be false.
When facing the prospect of criminal prosecution for leaking highly classified material to his mistress and later lying about it to the FBI, General David Petraeus found unlikely allies on Capitol Hill. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) have all spoken out against criminally prosecuting the four-star general, in part because they feel he has “suffered enough.” This is not the first time that a high-ranking individual may skirt punishment for infractions that would land a subordinate in jail for years. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was also recently allegedly involved in highly classified leaks to the film producers of Zero Dark Thirty and treated with near impunity.
At an April 13 hearing, members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs heard testimony from whistleblowers who confirmed that retaliation continues at medical facilities operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. At a previous hearing, on July 8, 2014, whistleblowers described retaliation for reporting inadequate medical services to veterans.
Dr. Maryann Hooker, a VA neurologist, described reprisals that targeted individuals who spoke favorably about whistleblowers as well as the whistleblowers themselves.