WASHINGTON- The anonymous senior Trump administration whistleblower who wrote the recent New York Times op-ed has sounded an alarm that we as a nation now face an unprecedented national emergency. Some commentators insist the only honorable course is for the anonymous whistleblower to expose him or herself, and resign. Not surprisingly, President Trump has gone further. He accused the whistleblower of “treason” and is demanding that the newspaper turn the author over to the government. But equating freedom of speech and lawful whistleblowing about fundamental threats to our democracy with aiding and abetting the nation’s enemies during the time of war—the definition of treason—threatens democracy’s foundation that depends on the flow of truth and information.

Anonymous whistleblowers are typically closet patriots who sound the alarm on abuses of power that betray the public trust. Frequently the flow of truth is the only way to warn the public and spur reform through investigations, hearings, congressional action, lawsuits, public demonstrations and voting.

If the allegations in this op-ed and Bob Woodward’s new book are accurate, it is essential that anonymous whistleblowers do not quit and give up. By doing so, they can continue to describe what is actually going on within the White House, decline to carry out illegal orders, or stop actions that pose threats to national security.

Frequently at the Government Accountability Project, potential whistleblowers contact us about violations of law, abuses of authority, public health dangers and national security threats. They almost invariably raise these concerns internally before going public. It takes tremendous courage to take that next step and go public, whether they ultimately speak anonymously or publicly. When they do go public, they directly confront bosses who often try to characterize the whistleblowing as illegal or criminal—or treasonous. This “smokescreen” tactic attempts to deliberately shift the focus to the messenger and their motives rather than their message. But for the public, the only thing that counts is the truth, not who delivers it.

As we ourselves wrote in our joint publication, The Art of Anonymous Activism: Serving the Public While Surviving Public Service,[1] with the Project On Government Oversight and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

“A fundamental precept of our system is that the people’s business should be conducted so that the people can learn what is being done in their name. Invariably, when an agency is under heightened public scrutiny, it seeks to appear as if it is doing ‘the right thing.” Activists within the agency can ensure that anything happening within the agency can and will appear on the front page of the next morning’s newspaper without agency managers knowing how it got there. Once agency management comes to expect that its inner workings will be routinely exposed that agency will be drawn towards the path to reform.”

As dissatisfying as it might be to have to rely on allegations from anonymous sources, that is all we have to go on for now. If we ignore this alarm, focusing on outing the source or guessing at their motives for speaking out rather than working to save the Republic, we do so at our peril. The public and Congress must draw this country back from the brink and on to a path to reform before it’s too late.

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 202-457-0034 ext. 156

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.


[1]New edition forthcoming.
Executive Director and CEO Louis Clark