Fact Check: Does Federal Law Really Protect Whistleblower Anonymity?

Fact Check: Does Federal Law Really Protect Whistleblowers' Anonymity?

Impeacher-in-chief Adam Schiff made a big deal of the “whistleblower’s” anonymity recently at the increasingly farcical House hearings. Schiff decided he was going to cut off a whole line of questioning because it just might let someone deduce who the whistleblower was, and according to the self-important congressman, that’s against the law. Considering how central this whistleblower is to the whole process, it’s worth looking into whether or not this is actually true.

Highlights

  • Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) has emerged as the main driver behind the impeachment process. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he’s linked to the “whistleblower” who claims to have knowledge of a quid pro quo discussion between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, and he’s using his position to both protect the source and inflate the value of the leak.
  • On the third day of the hearing, witness LTC Alexander Vindman referred to the whistleblower as “an individual in the intelligence community.” At that point, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) asked which agency the individual worked for.
  • Schiff immediately jumped in, saying “We need to protect the whistleblower…I want to make sure that there’s no effort to out the whistleblower.” He then allowed Nunes to continue cross-examining the colonel — but not for long.
  • When Nunes kept asking intelligence-related questions, Schiff interjected again, saying “The whistleblower has the right — a statutory right to anonymity.” A statutory right, of course, is one granted by law.
  • As soon as this was reported, President Trump’s team issued a correction, telling the media, “there is NO LAW that gives the whistleblower a ‘statutory right to anonymity,’ as Schiff claims.”
  • Schiff was later challenged to name the statute that grants this right. His office referred journalists to the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 and the Inspector General Act of 1978.
  • However, these acts — together or separately — do not grant whistleblowers anonymity, and they certainly don’t protect them from being discussed in a congressional hearing.
  • All these acts do is set out how whistleblowers should make complaints that protect classified information, and specifically bar inspectors general from releasing their names. It doesn’t prohibit anyone else from knowing their names.
  • The Ukraine whistleblower is now at the center of a campaign to bring down an elected president, and they’re doing it all from behind a cloak of anonymity that the law doesn’t actually give them. Now members of Congress want to know who these allegations are coming from. It’s time Schiff stopped playing political games and became more cooperative.

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