Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
The Whistleblower Protection Act was put into place for the stated purpose of fighting waste and mismanagement in the civil service. It’s a controversial piece of legislation, but its purpose is clear.
As a Senate report on the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act put it, “What is needed is a means to protect the Pentagon employee who discloses billions of dollars in cost overruns, the GSA employee who discloses widespread fraud, and the nuclear engineer who questions the safety of certain nuclear plants. These conscientious civil servants deserve statutory protection rather than bureaucratic harassment and intimidation.” This does not cover a partisan effort to undermine the President of the United States.
It does not mean a government employee taking issue with a president’s foreign policy.
A whistleblower exposes structural waste, mismanagement and abuse within the civil service, among government contractors and in varied ways within the private sector. This is meant to protect employees who blow the whistle on misbehavior, not to serve as cover for assorted political agendas.
In the Trump era, whistleblowing and partisan leaks to the media have been conflated by the media. Partisan government workers, some openly aligning with the “resistance” and participating in partisan groups within government agencies, have sought to undermine administration policies through leaks. These leaks were in turn meant to generate congressional investigations of cabinet officials.
The impeachment effort against President Trump takes that ongoing tactic to the ultimate extreme.
The politicization of the civil service is a deeply troubling phenomenon. Efforts by members of the civil service to undermine elected officials is a threat to our entire system of representative government.
This problem goes beyond the ‘Deep State’ and has shown up in a wide variety of government agencies. But its appearance in national security agencies is deeply troubling because these agencies have the infrastructure to act as a police state. The existence of national security agencies in a free country is contingent on their subservience to elected officials. Anything else isn’t whistleblowing, it’s a coup.
Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 19 opened the door by expanding whistleblowing protection to members of the “intelligence community” and other personnel handling classified information.
A few years earlier, Bradley Manning had ushered in a new era of espionage by enemy state actors using front groups to solicit spies as whistleblowers. While the court threw the book at Manning, Obama commuted his sentence. PPD19 was supposed to avoid another Manning case, which it utterly failed to do when Edward Snowden repeated Manning’s treason on a larger scale before escaping to Russia.
But PPD19 was never really meant to help the likes of Manning and Snowden. Instead it was part of a larger pattern of politicizing national security organizations that led directly to the current crisis.
While the Russians were soliciting whistleblowers from inside the national security sphere to act as spies, which was exactly what they had been doing throughout the Cold War, Obama’s people were building partisan networks within the national security infrastructure to act as their political agents.
Both the Russians and the Democrats understood that whistleblowers were a strategic vulnerability. Whistleblowers were seen as sympathetic underdogs who were trying to do the right thing. That was the perfect camouflage for an enemy agent or the agent of a police state. Astroturfing, the practice of manufacturing grass roots efforts and building causes around individual protesters, like Greta Thunberg or David Hogg, had moved into the national security infrastructure before going off like a bomb.
PPD19 was issued on October 10, 2012.
The presidential debates were underway and the election was up in the air. In the weeks before PPD19, Mitt Romney had begun to lead in a number of polls. It is striking that PPD19 came out during the exact same period that Romney was leading in as many polls as he ever would in that election.
On October 9, the day before PPD19, even a DailyKos/SEIU poll showed Romney in the lead. After Obama’s disastrous debate performance, his people had to be worried about the possibility of defeat.
The real purpose of PPD19 was to aid Obama loyalists is undermining a Romney administration.
The Obama administration would not have been too worried about Romney reversing its social policies. But Romney had run sharply against Obama on national security. And Obama’s cronies knew that there would be significant foreign policy differences there. PPD19 may have been their answer.
Romney lost. PPD19 remained obscure.
By the time Trump won, the weaponization of the national security infrastructure in national politics was complete with national security organs spying on Trump associates, investigating his campaign, entrapping his associates, leaking his phone calls, and now setting the stage for impeachment.
The Russia conspiracy theory was not a counterintelligence investigation. And Ukraine impeachment isn’t whistleblowing. Investigating the domestic political opposition is only a counterintelligence investigation in China, Russia or Cuba. Launching such an effort is the hallmark of a police state.
And whistleblowers don’t have partisan political agendas aimed at elected officials.
Until now, the two worst cases of activists and spies pretending to be whistleblowers were Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden. The Ukraine case has some similarities to the Pentagon Papers case, but there isn’t even the pretense that this fake whistleblowing is about anything other than going directly for the President of the United States, not indirectly through his policies, but directly aimed at him.
Whistleblowers aren’t supposed to have any agenda except the law and organizational standards.
And whistleblowing protections are absolutely not meant to serve as cover for partisan fights or assaults on elected officials. Whistleblowing protections are meant to protect government employees in the civil service from retaliation by their supervisors in the civil service when they report waste or abuse.
They are not meant to allow an anonymous government employee to assist in a partisan campaign to remove the President of the United States as part of a ploy orchestrated by the opposition party.
That is a breathtaking abuse that will damage whistleblower protections indefinitely.
Whistleblower protections have traditionally been a bipartisan project. But courts have repeatedly limited the scope of how and what a whistleblower can disclose. It appears that they were wise to do so.
The eavesdropping and entrapment of Trump allies in the last election was the ultimate nightmarish abuse of national security. The same folks who brought you that violation have now contrived to produce the worst possible abuse of whistleblower protections. The abuse of the NSA has dealt a fatal blow to Republican support for national security measures used to fight enemy nations and terrorists. The abuse of whistleblowing will lead to an identical loss of support for whistleblower protections.
The Obama administration and its allies have tried to turn government agencies into bear traps, seeking to retain control of policymaking through a network of lefty loyalists in agencies and activist judges in the courts, and, beyond that, to force out Trump appointees and to even force out President Trump.
At the heart of this crisis is the conflict between representative government and the infrastructure of government, between the will of the voters and the will of D.C., between the taxpayers and officials, that is the breaking point of any free country. Some countries lose their freedom through violent revolutions. Others ossify into an oligarchy of government officials and elites who call all the shots.
This is not about the Ukraine. Just as it wasn’t about Russia. It’s about whether our governments are elected or selected.
Elected government requires that government officials be neutral and non-partisan. When partisan factions use the machinery of government to wage war on their opponents, that’s a coup.
A day after President Trump survived one coup, the deep state debuted a second coup.