Whistleblower advocates warned the New York Times’ decision Thursday to publish identifying details about the official who filed a complaint on President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader may have put the anonymous individual in danger and could deter other potential whistleblowers from coming forward in the future.
Jesselyn Radack, a human rights lawyer who represented government whistleblowers Edward Snowden and John Kiriakou, said the Times story “recklessly narrows the universe of suspected whistleblowers” by identifying the person as a CIA officer with expertise on Ukraine who was assigned to work at the White House.
“This has a very chilling effect on anyone who is even thinking of blowing the whistle and thinking of doing so through the proper channels,” said Radack.
The Times story came just hours before the Los Angeles Times published leaked audio of Trump suggesting the whistleblower and officials who informed the person are “spies” guilty of “treason,” a crime punishable by death.
Bloomberg on Thursday night published a video of the president’s remarks, which came during a private meeting with world diplomats in New York:
On the heels of the Times story, right-wing provocateurs and notorious scam artists Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl offered a $50,000 reward for more information about the whistleblower.
Danielle Brian, director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), said the series of events highlights the dire need for strong whistleblower protections in the United States.
“First the NYT gratuitously put a target on the whistleblower’s back, then the president threatens to go medieval punishing the ‘traitor,’ and finally some goons offer a bounty to ‘out’ him/her,” said Brian. “Still wonder why we need real national security whistleblower protections?”
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