Last week, James Sandler’s investigation on whistleblower protections—or lack of—was published by Salon. Within hours the story was picked up by blogs, including IRE’s Extra Extra and the FedBlog of

Salon’s comments forum was also pinging with responses. Many were from people who were whistleblowers themselves. The U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch, the man in charge of investigating whistleblower cases for the federal government, posted a lengthy response to Sandler’s article. Excerpts from the Salon comments are below.

Bloch responds:

I have tried to protect whistleblowers every chance I could. I have taken it on the chin from advocacy groups who profit from trying to stir up trouble and make everyone else but themselves look bad. I tried to file on behalf of Ms. Chambers, but her attorney with PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) filed on her behalf before we could, and this deprived her of our ability to pursue her case. She lost our presumption of a stay of termination. If we had been allowed to file on behalf of Ms. Chambers, I believe we would have obtained the stay we were going to seek and the case would have been settled favorably for her. As it was, the court denied the stay requested by her and she has lost at every stage.

And an anonymous response to Bloch’s post:

What Special Counsel Bloch says:
“I tried to file on behalf of Ms. Chambers, but her attorney with PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) filed on her behalf before we could, and this deprived her of our ability to pursue her case.”

What the law says:
“If an employee . . . seeks a corrective action from the Board under section 1221 . . . the Special Counsel may continue to seek corrective action personal to such employee . . . with the consent of such employee. . .”
5 U.S.C. 1214(a)(4)

Other comments:

obviously whistleblowing is a fools errand. however that’s what the press is for.
—david sugarman

My advice to potential whistleblowers — based on my personal experience — is that if you blow the whistle you might as well pack up your shit and wait to be escorted out the door or to the basement. Period. Your performance is irrelevant. Your length of service is irrelevant. The fact that you have a “really good case” is irrelevant.

I’ve “blown the whistle” twice, once while working for the federal government, once while working for a private corporation.
Results: good.
Retribution: none.
How is this possible?
If your goal is to correct a problem (rather than take personal credit and glory) there are a thousand ways to shed an embarrassing light, which cannot be ignored, on a problem – anonymously.
Get smart before you take any action and you need not fear punishment. In fact, the entire exercise can be great entertainment (watching them scurry to fix the problem, while not quite understanding how they came to be on the defensive).

I am a long-serving Navy attorney and have done significant work in the area of complaints on both the civilian and uniformed side of the house. This is a good story in that it points out issues in our system of resolving these types of complaints, but it is not the full story.
One can read this and walk away with the impression that anybody that complains is subjected to retaliation and of those retaliated against, only a small number ultimately receive protection and/or justice. What it does not do is give you the numbers of people who report issues and are never retaliated against or the numbers of people who report issues, are retaliated against and receive some form of protection and/or justice before it goes to the MSPB obviating the need for a MSPB hearing.

>> Read more comments on “The War on Whistleblowers” on Salon’s website.

>> Read blog responses to “The War on Whistleblowers” on Technorati.

Carrie Ching

Carrie Ching is an award-winning, independent multimedia journalist and producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For six years, she led digital storytelling projects at the Center for Investigative Reporting as senior multimedia producer. Her multimedia reports have been featured by, The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, Grist,, Fast Company, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, KQED, PBS NewsHour,, Mother Jones, Public Radio International, Poynter, Columbia Journalism Review and many other publications. Her specialty is crafting digital narratives and exploring ways to use video, audio, photography, animation and interactive graphics to push the boundaries of storytelling on the Web, tablets and mobile. Her work has been honored with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Best of the West, the Online News Association, Scripps Howard, The Gracies, and was part of the entry in a Pulitzer-finalist project. Prior to her time at CIR she was a magazine and book editor, video journalist, newspaper reporter and TV comedy scriptwriter. She was on the 2010 Eddie Adams Workshop faculty as a multimedia producer working with MediaStorm to teach digital storytelling techniques to photojournalists. She completed a master’s degree in journalism at UC Berkeley in 2005.