Before you disclose: The Do’s and Don’ts of Talking to the Press, Congress, and the Path to Blowing the Whistle

A Conversation for Government Employees, Contractors, and Military Personnel

This episode is produced in partnership with the Women’s Foreign Policy Network, which you can follow on Facebook or Twitter at @WomensFPNetwork.

Project On Government Oversight Executive Director Danielle Brian testifies at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Inspectors General vacancies.

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan organization that works towards a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government. Since 1981, POGO has worked with federal insiders and whistleblowers to expose waste, fraud, abuse, and other wrongdoing in the federal government.

Many federal and contractor employees have questions regarding their whistleblower rights to disclose wrongdoing related to their work as well as their First Amendment rights off duty. POGO’s Federal Employee Rights Training Program aims to educate federal employees about tactics to safely and meaningfully disclose information through protected channels and the protections that exist if an employee is illegally retaliated against. Federal sector employee speech is more likely to be chilled if those employees do not know their rights.

 

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Topics covered in this episode: 

  • 5:38 – Overview of protections available – Do you want to disclose openly or anonymously?
  • 7:55 – What does the process of going to the Project on Government Oversight look like?
  • 10: 45 – What if I work with classified documents or information?
  • 12:40 – Should I go to the press? What should I consider before going to the press?
  • 15:30 – Appropriate entities to whom a whistleblower can disclose, if they would like to have the protection of the Whistleblower Protection Act
  • 19:03  – How are military and intel employees different? What are their first steps?
  • 22:00 – Are sensitive, but not classified, materials treated differently?
  • 24:50 – What does all this mean, in a post-Wikileaks era?
  • 29:07 – What can I say on social media about politics or policy? What are our personal first amendment rights when it comes to the Hatch Act?
  • 34:08 – What are your responsibilities if you’re the supervisor someone is disclosing to?
  • 35:51 – What if you don’t agree with policy?
  • 39:35 – What does Abraham Lincoln have to do with false claims and bounty laws??
  • 40:46 – Details on the dissent channel available at the U.S. State Department
  • 42:22 – Are women prosecuted differently?
  • 43:30 – Disclosing & your security clearance
  • 50:50  – What tools can you use to encrypt your communications?

Terminology in this episode: 

  • Hatch Act
  • False Claims Act
  • Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA)
  • Presidential Policy Directive 19
  • Merit System Protection Board
  • Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
  • Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
  • SCIF = Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility

 

Guests for this episode: 

 

DANIELLE BRIAN

Executive Director, Project On Government Oversight

 

Danielle has worked with federal whistleblowers and others inside the federal government for 35 years on investigations ranging from the $13 billion Superconducting Super Collider to uncovering billions of dollars in fraud committed by the oil and gas industry. She frequently testifies before Congress and regularly meets with Members of Congress and officials at the White House and federal agencies to discuss how to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

 

MANDY SMITHBERGER

Director, Straus Military Reform Project at the Project On Government Oversight

 

Mandy is a former national security policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), where she managed the Congresswoman’s whistleblower hotline and worked on passing key provisions of the Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act into law.

 

ARI WILKENFELD

Civil Rights Attorney

 

 

Ari is a Partner at Wilkenfeld, Herendeen & Atkinson in Washington, DC. He is a seasoned employment law litigator and trial attorney who has worked as both a management-side labor lawyer, and, for the past 18 years, as a plaintiffs’-side employment attorney. He has extensive experience litigating in federal and state courts, as well as before the EEOC, the Merit System Protection Board and various arbitration groups. He has represented thousands of individuals in cases against their former or current employers. His clients come from all walks of life and from a broad range of industries. He has represented professionals such as high level executives, investment bankers, hair salon stylists, fencing and dance instructors, commission-based sales professionals, human resources professionals, University professors, and a wide range of federal employees, including everything from Custom Border Protection officers to food and safety inspectors.

Special Guest Host: JENNA BEN-YEHUDA

Founder, Women’s Foreign Policy Network

 

 

As a seasoned national security professional with nearly two decades in government and management consulting, Jenna is the founder of the Women’s Foreign Policy Network, a membership organization of 1,600 female professionals in over 60 countries dedicated to advancing women’s leadership in foreign affairs.  Jenna developed programming for Secretary of State Clinton and accompanied her on foreign travel and led intelligence briefings for and traveled with Secretary Powell. She has written for President Obama and five Secretaries of State and represented the State Department in numerous interagency fora, including at the National Security Council. An adjunct professor of international affairs at The George Washington University, she is a frequent contributor to conversations on U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, global women’s issues, and diversity and inclusion in the workplace.