|Reporting to Law Enforcement
Tips from concerned citizens, including federal employees, often begin investigations. Executive
agencies are supposed to enforce the laws, especially their inspector general (IG) office
or other investigative component. Because human beings make and enforce the rules,
slips happen. A tip to the wrong place can easily be lost. For example, city police
officers and guards in government buildings do not conduct complex investigations, and
so may not know what to do with disclosures about fraud or corruption (or even adopt
a "it's not my job" attitude). Plus, the Department of Justice and local
United States Attorneys never conduct investigations, but instead prosecute cases presented to
them by law enforcement agencies. This link explains the different types of law enforcement,
as well as issues when dealing with agents.
The relationship between unions and whistleblowers
can be complex, if not downright problematic. On the one hand, federal unions have raised
important employment issues in the courts--ranging from random drug tests to bans on outside
employment. A union may well support raising health and safety concerns common to many
members, or cite a whistleblower's case during an organizing campaign. However, union records
are far from unblemished. Certainly, no union has taxpayer protection as its prime goal.
Some may be most zealous in the comparative advancement of their own members. Perhaps
the whistleblower's cause seems too personal, rather than advancing the majority's interests.
Or, the status quo might benefit members in other ways.
Every American has a constitutional right
to petition Congress. Federal bureaucrats listen to Congressional requests because
Congress both makes the rules (passes the laws) and funds agency budgets. Of course,
executive agencies rarely appreciate employees approaching legislators directly. Congress
made Federal employees' right to petition legislators explicit in 1912, by adopting
what became 5 U.S.C. Section 7211. Even internal whistleblowers have often found it insufficient,
hence the WPA and other remedial legislation. Congress passed explicit authorization for
military members' right to petition their legislators in 1988. See 10 U.S.C. Section
1034. Recently, Congress passed the NoFEAR Act for federal employees and the Corporate
and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) for some private sector whistleblowers.
Most civil servants will not consult nongovernmental
organizations about potential whistleblowing matters until retaliation has started, both
out of loyalty to the agency and fearing reprisals should insiders learn of the outside
involvement. Clearly, if the author's reform-minded approach always worked, neither this web
page nor these advocacy organizations would need to exist.As it is, these outlets are
many and varied. Most have definite political or media agendas (even scandal-mongering
to attract attention and contributions). A few are near-fronts for lawyer referrals.
Be aware that privacy can be exchanged for various degrees of help, including often
a pig-in-the-poke, as going outside starts the retaliation cycle.
This whistleblowing route lies furthest outside
the civil service system, and includes the largest reprisal risk. Media contacts include
everything from press conferences to web pages. Bureaucratic problems are often unglamorous:
even multi-million dollar frauds are usually less "newsworthy" than murder,
natural disasters and sex scandals. Still, sometimes news coverage generates support
for necessary reforms. Some non-government organizations proclaim that media-oriented
whistleblowers do better, but secrecy means this remains unproven. Media contacts may
be self-serving or even discourage direct reports to law enforcement. Also, reporters
may not stay interested, so offended bureaucrats only need wait for revenge.