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PEN releases whistleblower protection report

Free expression and literary organization PEN America released a new report called ‘Secret Sources,’ criticizing the US government for its failure to properly protect whistleblowers and advocating for a public-interest defence for those who disclose national security wrongdoing.

After “ interviews with leakers, lawyers, scholars, journalists, and government representatives,” PEN argues that gaps in whistleblower protection put potential leakers at risk and undermine the journalism that source documents enable.

Read the full report here.

PEN lists its key recommendations:

1) Ensure strong, clear protections for government whistleblowers that apply across agencies and to all categories of workers, including contractors;

2) Reform the impenetrable Espionage Act to allow defendants to raise a public interest defense in cases of disclosure to the public, and limit prosecutions under the Act to offenders intending to harm U.S. national defense;

3) Implement protections against employment retaliation and criminal prosecution of whistleblowers, including access to courts for recourse.

Last year, Harvard Law Professor Yochai Bencher outlined a “public accountability defence” that would allow people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning to properly defend themselves in court.

To accompany the report, PEN is hosting a discussion on whistleblowers and the laws ostensibly designed to protect them with NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden, whistleblower lawyer Jesselyn Radack, and New York Times reporter James Risen.

That event begins at 2:30pm EST and will stream live here.