The term whistleblower has come front, and center stage after a whistleblower started an investigation into President Trump’s handling of Ukranian affairs concerning a political opponent, Joe Biden, and his potential corruption.
Some called the whistleblower a hero. Others called the whistleblower a fraud – it just depends on what side of the fence one sits. Regardless of the specifics of this case, and given all the media circus around this whistleblower, News Forecasters asks, what is the future in terms of the usefulness of whistleblowers to expose nefarious acts in government or private organizations in the future?
What is the definition of a whistleblower? A whistleblower is a person who exposes secretive information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within a private or public organization. The information on alleged wrongdoing can be classified in many ways: violation of company policy/rules, law, regulation, or threat to public interest/national security, as well as fraud and corruption. Whistleblowers, however, take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing. Here are a few famous cases of whistleblowers, but there are many others:
- Julian Assange, an Australian editor, publisher, and activist who founded WikiLeaks in 2006. WikiLeaks came to international attention in 2010 when it published a series of leaks provided by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. These leaks included the Collateral Murder video (April 2010), the Afghanistan war logs (July 2010), the Iraq war logs (October 2010), and CableGate (November 2010). After the 2010 leaks, the United States government launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks. During the 2016 US Democratic Party presidential primaries, WikiLeaks hosted emails sent or received by candidate Hillary Clinton from her private email server when she was Secretary of State.
- Jeffrey Sterling, a CIA case officer who filed an internal complaint about Operation Merlin, a half-baked CIA scheme that had tried to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons development.
- Edward Joseph Snowden, an American whistleblower who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 when he was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and subcontractor. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments, and prompted a cultural discussion about national security and individual privacy.
For these whistleblowers, it is not ending well. Here are some statistics results once one becomes a whistleblower:
- 62% of whistleblowers have been fired, demoted, or given a lower task.
- 94% of whistleblowers suffered stress-related emotional problems, the most frequent being anger, anxiety, and disillusionment.
- A UK report found in private organizations that only 10% of the cases they reviewed from 2012 were resolved by the employer. In 37% of cases, the employer denied that there was a concern and that in 26% of cases, the employer ignored the concern.
- Another report said that in 2011, 31% of whistleblowers experienced physical attacks on their property, versus only 4% in 2009.
With results like this, would you want to be a whistleblower? The chances are, your whistleblower efforts will boomerang back at you are high, and the results that it will have any effect are low. One supposes that it depends on the severity and the level of proofs you have to offer. After all, people don’t necessarily like snitches. But the landscape has changed. Nowadays, politics have weaponized whistleblowers. Without strong validating evidence, no one believes them anymore. People will believe you have a hidden agenda. If you think you are helping the organization you are reporting against … think twice before you do (sorry to say).
This brings News Forecasters to make the forecast that there will be fewer valid whistleblowers in the future, and many claiming to be whistleblowers. Society, for now, has turned whistleblowers into a dirty word.