Myth #1: Whistleblowing is a crime.
FACT: Disclosing evidence of wrongdoing is not a crime. It is a legally protected right. The aggressive prosecution of intelligence community employees who have released classified information to expose illegal acts by the government and abuses of its authority has fueled a widespread belief that whistleblowing is a crime. It’s not.Whether or not you agree with the actions taken by Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, national security employees who have released classified information dominate the public narrative about whistleblowing. Like Daniel Ellsberg releasing the Pentagon Papers, these individuals were whistleblowers who, because the government did not have appropriate policies in place to allow intelligence employees and contractors to disclose important information, chose to commit a possible crime—revealing clearly marked classified documents—in order to report what they consider far more significant crimes.Intelligence whistleblowers are unique, as they have very few legal protections and immense vulnerabilities. Most whistleblowers are not forced to risk breaking the law by disclosing classified information to expose wrongdoing because only a small percentage of whistleblowers work in the intelligence community.As a rule, unless public release is barred by statute, whistleblowers who disclose evidence of wrongdoing are engaging in a legally-protected activity. Most whistleblowers disclose information about financial fraud, public health or consumer safety threats, environmental dangers, or other misconduct—information that is not classified. They are not operating in a national security context and have legal rights to report wrongdoing. In fact, since 1978, there has been a unanimous, bipartisan legislative mandate for every whistleblower law enacted in the United States to encourage disclosures of serious concerns.