The whistleblower's dilemma: to risk retaliation by disclosing your identity? or to risk the investigatory brush off that almost always accompanies anonymous tips? Remember that not all tips become active cases, and not all cases become active immediately.
Two exceptions prove the rule. Tips about street crimes such as drug sales and thefts are readily investigated, especially where the tip includes specific information (such as describing the drug sale about to happen, the time, the individuals involved and their probable actions). The other exception is where the tip really is not anonymous. The agent may have considerable other information about the same matter (especially where witness interviews have already begun). In rare circumstances, the agent has the extra time to figure out who the cooperating source's identity, which of course also defeats anonymity.
Documented tips usually deserve and get the
most attention. A tip with a name and phone
number will usually get at least a phone
call in response. Any agent worth his or
her badge will honor a tipster's request
to call back at home or outside normal office
hours (federal agents get extra pay to compensate
them for this extra time). Confidentiality
is the root of the agent's profession, so
most try to honor requests for confidentiality
if at all possible.
Three more notes specific to the defense context. First, the Department of Defense hotline gives even anonymous tipsters a number for follow up. Also, DOD directive 7050.6 issued June 23, 2000 protects military whistleblowers, particularly where they allege reprisals for talking to their legislators or Congressional committees more generally. However, the armed services also have regulations saying that no investigation is required where more than 60 days have lapsed since a person became aware of the personnel action that is the subject of the allegation. MCO 5041.1; SECNAV 5370.7b.
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