US whistleblower laws offer no protection

(By Deutsche Welle) The White House says that Edward Snowden should have reported his concerns within the NSA, instead of revealing surveillance programs to the press. But who exactly do US whistleblower laws protect?

Some eight months before Edward Snowden leaked classified NSA programs to the press, US President Barack Obama issued an order extending whistleblower protections to employees of America’s intelligence agencies. The White House often cites this fact when addressing the three felony charges against Snowden, in total carrying a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Two of those charges fall under the 1917 US Espionage Act.

In his January speech on NSA reform, President Obama said that he did not want to “dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations.” But five months earlier, the US commander-in-chief had already made clear that he did not view the 30-year-old as a whistleblower or patriot, saying that Snowden had failed to use official, non-public “proper channels” to express his concerns about NSA surveillance.

But Snowden has said that Obama’s extension of whistleblower protections to the intelligence community, under Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19), does not cover government contractors. Before his disclosures, Snowden was an employee of the company Booz Allen Hamilton, which contracted with the National Security Agency.

“If I had revealed what I knew about these unconstitutional but classified programs to Congress, I could have been charged with a felony,” Snowden said in a live, online question and answer session last Thursday.

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