Protecting Whistleblowers

March 31, 2006 • Volume 16, Issue 12
Do employees who speak out need better protection?
By Peter Katel

Introduction

Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracts supervisor, was demoted in 2005 after challenging Iraq war contracts awarded to a subsidiary of the Halliburton Co. She is contesting her demotion.  (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)
Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracts supervisor, was demoted in 2005 after challenging Iraq war contracts awarded to a subsidiary of the Halliburton Co. She is contesting her demotion. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

From prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison to fraud at Enron, some of the most dramatic revelations of corporate and government wrongdoing have come from insiders. The Whistleblower Protection Act and other laws are designed to shield employees who reveal wrongdoing from retaliation by vengeful bosses. But federal employees who claim they were harassed after blowing the whistle lose their cases far more often than they win. They lose so often, in fact, that some whistleblower advocates urge potential whistleblowers to become anonymous sources for reporters instead. National-security employees are in an especially delicate position, because what they want to disclose may involve secret information. Several bills now before Congress aim to strengthen protections for whistleblowers, including those in intelligence agencies.

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