When faced with a difficult situation of morals, choice, and possible destruction of a person’s protection and survival, individuals find themselves in a formidable situation. This is a common occurrence for people who become known as a whistleblower. There is a problem in the United States with protection of individuals for whistleblowing in the workplace, and not enough is being done for these individuals. Whistleblowing is increasing and has become more common, more frequent, and sometimes dangerous.
Individuals could potentially face the inability of obtaining another job because they are stigmatized as a whistleblower. This paper will focus on two questions: How does the society’s view support whether someone will blow the whistle on a problem in the workplace? And, how might giving equal protection for all whistleblowers, including those who currently work with sensitive information, and are currently not protected, change how whistleblowing is acted on in the work environment? Whistleblowing is not an easy task for any one person to do.
It takes determination and understanding the risk of what can truly happen to individuals who are labeled as a whistleblower. When looking at whistleblowing to determine whether this act is necessary or not, it’s an act to be seen in the middle. What this means is that whistleblowing is not always going to be a good act or a bad act, but rather something that is going to be needed to be evaluated on both sides of the spectrum. This means that when reviewing a whistleblowing case, one must look at both what was positive about this act and what was the negative.
The purpose of this paper is to show that these acts of whistleblowing have both positive and negative results that need to be view simultaneously, not separately. There is a current problem that is not being recognized when talking about whistleblowing. Normally, the mediaand experts alike willnormally view whistleblowing as either a positive or negative event. This is a problem because whistleblowing is not one side or the other. It is an area that can be identified as the middle ground. Whistleblowing is more prevalent than ever before with current technology and large agencies that help with these kinds of situations.
When looking at the data reporting of whistleblowers, the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), who reports and records on these situations, found in that whistleblower tips are on the rise (2015, p. 21). For example, the SEC recorded that, in 2011 there were 334 tips, 2012 had 3,001 tips, 2013 had 3,238 tips, 2014 had 3,620 tips, and 2015 had 3,923 tips, or cases of whistleblowing (2015, p. 21). This research data collected by the SEC shows that whistleblowing is growing and is a prevalent problem. It is important to understand that there is an increase of whistleblowing in recent years.
Nothing New of Whistleblowers Whistleblowing can happen anywhere from public, private, military, and government institutions. Historically speaking, whistleblowing can be dated back even before the United States Constitution was written. Throughout history, whistleblowers have been there to report dishonesty, lapse in morale judgment, and systemic problems. Even one of the founding fathers of the United States was a whistleblower. Examples of whistleblowing continue to extend to the beginning of the United States becoming an independent country.
In fact, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) wrote A Timeline of US Whistleblowers that mentions whistleblowing acts. The GAP writes (n. d) that the first whistleblower can be dated back to 1773 when confidential letters were exposed by Benjamin Franklin who, by doing this, proved that the governor of Massachusetts falsified information to parliament (GAP). Another early example in U. S. history can be described from the GAP (n. d) that in 1777, two U. S naval officers exposed British POW’s being tortured by the commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy.
The Continental Congress unanimously made the first whistleblower protection law (n. d). These two events in history with whistleblowing helped create laws to protect these individuals. Whistleblowing did not occur suddenly or as a random phenomenon—it was rather something that continues to happen and steadily increasing over time. Whistleblowing does not apply to the government workplace only; it can extend to public and private institutions. Continuing down the GAP (n. d) timeline of whistleblowers: in 1872, Julius Chambers who was one of the United States investigative journalists, exposed the New
York Bloomingdale Insane Asylum’s abuse of the insane by admitting himself into the asylum. This is different from traditional whistleblowing because this person sought out a problem within an institution that they were not part of. Whistleblowing comes in all forms and situations. This example shows from the public level that there was an ethical problem within an insane asylum that needed to be addressed to the public. Military institutions also have the potential for whistleblowing to occur.
To give an example of a military related whistleblowing, in 971 GAP (n. d) mentions, Daniel Ellsberg who was a former US military analyst and government contractor disclosed what is now called the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers detailed the Presidential Administrations’ lying about information to Congress relating to the Vietnam War, which later forced Nixon to resign presidency due to its attempt to cover this information up. Whistleblowing can be damaging in that the information released could make the leader of a country resign from office. It is important to see both sides of the spectrum.
One side shows that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, while the other side shows the potential for damage inflicted by these decisions. These two whistleblowers brought to light the illegal things that were happening by government officials. Even investigative teams formed by the government are potential whistleblowers. To give an example of this, in 2001, Bogdan Dzakovic (who was a leader for the FAA’s Red Team) conducted mock raids on airports to figure out if airlines could fight off a potential high-jacking. The team found that there was an easy break of security issue in their investigations of airports.
The team repeatedly warned American Airports that they were vulnerable. One such airport was the Boston Logan Airport (which was used by hijackers a couple months later for the 9/11 attack). The FAA ordered the Red Team not to write up its reports until Dzakovic released the information after the 9/11 attack (GAP, n. d). This was controversial because senior officers were telling a team of individuals not to report their findings about the airports potential issues. Comparing Dzakovic and Chamber’s decisions to blow the whistle, they were part of investigating a problem that was happening.
When this was discovered, it created many controversial issues for this government agency, and for society. The final person to be mentioned about whistleblowing is a man named Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former intelligence contractor, exposed documents regarding the NSA’s surveillance of U. S citizens and foreign countries through a data-mining program, in 2013 (GAP, n. d). Snowden, along with the other whistleblowers mentioned, show that this can happen in any line of work. Whistleblowing is a continuing occurrence that has happened in the United States throughout its history.
These individuals who were whistleblowing were reporting a problem that was happening within their institution. Both Snowden and Ellsberg brought ethical and Constitutional problems to light for governments, and for society to see. This changed how whistleblowing would be seen viewed by governments, the military, and by society. These whistleblowers throughout American history have provided information on ethical issues that each decided to report. Each case provides a pivotal problem that was happening at that time, that society could not see from the outside.
It required these individuals reporting on these problems, to have them recognized by society. Study focused on Whistleblowers Research has been conducted to better understand why individuals decide to blow the whistle in the workplace. This opens a new range of views, ideas, and problems that people may not otherwise understand. When discussing whistleblower research, Adam Waytz, James Dugan, and Liane Young, (2013) conducted a study on the relationship between fairness and loyalty to a whistleblowers decision making, willingness, and the psychological view of whistleblowers.
The purpose of this study was to find out the tradeoff between fairness and loyalty in an individual’s willingness to report. Waytz et. Al (2013, p. 1031) found that in divided groups, participants in the fairness condition group engaged in more whistleblowing behavior than the individuals who were placed in the loyalty condition group. This study can contribute to the possible reasons why people decide to blow the whistle. This study shows the problems that whistleblowers have in decision making in regards to deciding between loyalty or fairness.
It is important that individuals understand that deciding to blow the whistle is not something as simple as saying yes I will, or no I won’t, but rather it is often a decision between fairness and loyalty. When referencing this to historic problems of whistleblowing, it provides some context as to what can lead someone to blowing the whistle and the potential personality of that individual. The Inevitable Consequence Whistleblowing can be seen as a controversial act to some individuals.
Blowing the whistle in the workplace can negatively impact certain groups and individuals’ future on either side of the spectrum. For example, Bob Toxen writes in his research article: The NSA and Snowden: Securing the All-Seeing Eye (2014, p. 44) about the actions of Edward Snowden taking 1. 7 million top-secret level and above documents, and then releasing them to the public. This leakage of documents caused allies and the American people to question the US government’s actions and lose trust which is something very important in today’s world.
To give context to this claim, Toxen (2014, p. 0) mentions the reasons why Snowden released the information he did based on constitutionality and morality, and by doing so has altered partnerships of allied countries and created mistrust with the Citizens of the United States (2014, p. 50). This is in direct conflict with the U. S. Constitution and was an international problem, which is why Snowden released this information. Although this program was a violation of the U. S. law; this did not protect Snowden from other laws that were in place which were to protect against espionage. Snowden’s actions exposed a presidential order, creating some negative legal ramifications for him.
To talk about this legal problem, Toxen also takes the Presidential Executive Order 12526 stating “Top Secret shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security” (2014, p. 44). With the information that Snowden released, it can be considered damaging to national security in the eyes of many. Snowden broke an executive order as stated by Toxen. This is also a workplace policy for agencies working with sensitive information not to release information under this order.