The right of the people to know, and the ability to hold government accountable, rests on an open and transparent government and a free press.
Congress has largely abdicated its oversight responsibility. Instead, journalists, advocates and muckrakers must dig for the truth, using the Freedom of Information Act and state and local Public Records laws to liberate government documents. Whistleblowers play a vital role exposing government wrong-doing and ineptitude, but are often prosecuted. In recent years, the war on transparency has escalated as more government workers are prohibited from speaking with the media, and retaliation against whistleblowers gets ever more vicious.
The rule of law has been turned on its head, when crimes are made public (such as the war crimes exposed by Chelsea Manning, the CIA torture program exposed by John Kiriakou, or the NSA/FBI mass surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden), it is the whistleblower, not the war criminals and torturers who are prosecuted.
Reality Winner has received the longest sentence ever given in federal court for leaking information to the media. Winner is a whistleblower and this outrageous sentence, which the prosecution has boasted is meant to send a message to would be whistleblowers, is just the latest escalation in the US government’s war on whistleblowers.
The 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act is a law that will require technology corporations, such as Google and Facebook, to drastically alter their business models regarding data collection and privacy regulations. Despite the bill’s strong language, it has many shortcomings.
We believe that whistleblowers who alert the public or the media to matters of public concern are heroes, not criminals. As such, we oppose the use of the Espionage Act in Winner’s case and would have opposed any criminal charges brought against the whistleblower.
Both major parties are supporting legislation that breathes life into the misguided belief that police are under attack, and that protesters or criticism of aggressive policing put police officers’ lives in danger.
Defending Rights and Dissent has joined a coalition of 20 other civil liberties organizations in demanding that the Justice Department Inspector General review how the incorrect figure of 7,800 unlockable devices originally came to be. The coalition of groups is also pushing for an investigation into why Justice Department officials and Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued to cite this statistic even after it was discovered that the FBI had made an error in their calculations.