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A whistleblower (also written as whistle-blower or whistle blower)[1] is a person, usually an employee, who exposes information or activity within a private, public, or government organization that is deemed illegal, illicit, unsafe, or a waste, fraud, or abuse of taxpayer funds. Those who become whistleblowers can choose to bring information or allegations to surface either internally or externally. Over 83% of whistleblowers report internally to a supervisor, human resources, compliance or a neutral third party within the company, with the thought that the company will address and correct the issues. Externally, a whistleblower can bring allegations to light by contacting a third party outside of the organization such as the media, government, or law enforcement.[citation needed] Even though it is illegal in many countries, including the United States, over 90% of whistleblowers report being retaliated against from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing, on behalf of the company.[citation needed] The most common type of retaliation reported is being abruptly terminated. However, there are several other activities that are considered retaliatory, such as sudden extreme increase in workloads, having hours cut drastically, making task completion impossible or otherwise bullying measures. [2]Because of this, a number of laws exist to protect whistleblowers. Some third-party groups even offer protection to whistleblowers, but that protection can only go so far. Two other classifications of whistleblowing are private and public. The classifications relate to the type of organizations the whistleblower works in: private sector, or public sector. Depending on many factors, both can have varying results. About 20% of whistleblowers are successful in stopping the illegal behaviors, usually through the legal system, with the help of a whistleblower attorney. In order for the whistleblowers claims to be credible and successful, the whistleblower must have compelling evidence to support their claims, that the government or regulating body can use or investigate to "prove" such claims and hold corrupt companies, government agencies and or accountable. A whistleblower case would never continue on legally, or ever be reported via the news, without substantial and compelling evidence.

Deeper questions and theories of whistleblowing and why people choose to do so can be studied through an ethical approach. Whistleblowing is a topic of several myths and inaccurate definitions. Leading arguments in the ideological camp, maintain that whistleblowing is the most basic of ethical traits and simply telling the truth in order to stop illegal harmful activities, or fraud against the government/taxpayers.[3][4] In the opposite camp, many corporations and corporate or government leaders see whistleblowing as being disloyal for breaching confidentiality, especially in industries that handle sensitive client or patient information.[5] Legal counteractive measures exist to protect whistleblowers, but that protection is subject to many stipulations. Hundreds of laws grant protection to whistleblowers, but stipulations can easily cloud that protection and leave whistleblowers vulnerable to retaliation, sometimes even threats and physical harm. However, the decision and action has become far more complicated with recent advancements in technology and communication.[3]

Whistleblowing tradition in what would soon become the United States had a start in 1773 with Benjamin Franklin leaking a few letters in the Benjamin Franklin leaking a few letters in the Hutchinson affair. The release of the communications from royal governor Thomas Hutchinson to Thomas Whately led to a firing, a duel and arguably, both through the many general impacts of the leak and its role in convincing Franklin to join the radicals' cause, the taking of another important final step toward the American Revolution.

The first act of the Continental Congress in favor of what later came to be called whistleblowing came in the 1777-8 case of Samuel Shaw and Richard Marven. The two seamen accused Commander in Chief of the Contin

The first act of the Continental Congress in favor of what later came to be called whistleblowing came in the 1777-8 case of Samuel Shaw and Richard Marven. The two seamen accused Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy Esek Hopkins of torturing British prisoners of war. The Congress dismissed Hopkins and then agreed to cover the defense cost of the pair after Hopkins filed a libel suit against them under which they were imprisoned. Shaw and Marven were subsequently cleared in a jury trial.

To be considered a whistleblower in the United States, most federal whistleblower statutes require that federal employees have reason to believe their employer violated some law, rule, or regulation; testify or commence a legal proceeding on the legally protected matter; or refuse to violate the law.

In cases where whistleblowing on a specified topic is protected by statute, U.S. courts have generally held that such whistleblowers are protected from retaliation.[92] However, a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court decision, Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006) held that the First Amendment free speech guarantees for government employees do not protect disclosures made within the scope of the employees' duties.

In the United States, legal protections vary according to the subject matter of the whistleblowing, and sometimes the state where the case arises.[93] In passing the 2002 Sarbanes–Oxley Act, the Senate Judiciary Committee found that whistleblower protections were dependent on the "patchwork and vagaries" of varying state statutes.[94] Still, a wide variety of federal and state laws protect employees who call attention to violations, help with enforcement proceedings, or refuse to obey unlawful directions. While this patchwork approach has often been criticized, it also responsible for the United States having more dedicated whistleblowing laws than any other country.[95]

The first US law adopted specifically to protect whistleblowers was the 1863 United States False Claims Act (revised in 1986), which tried to combat fraud by suppliers of the United States government during the American Civil War. The Act encourages whistleblowers by promising them a percentage of the money recovered by the government and by protecting them from employment retaliation.[96]

Another US law that specifically protects whistleblowers is the Lloyd–La Follette Act of 1912. It guaranteed the right of federal employees to furnish information to the United States Congress. The first US environmental law to include an employee protection was the Clean Water Act of 1972. Similar protections were included in subsequent federal environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976), Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (through 1978 amendment to protect nuclear whistleblowers), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, or the Superfund Law) (1980), and the Clean Air Act (1990). Similar employee protections enforced through OSHA are included in the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (1982) to protect truck drivers, the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA) of 2002, the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century ("AIR 21"), and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, enacted on July 30, 2002 (for corporate fraud whistleblowers). More recent laws with some whistleblower protection include the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA", the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act ("CPSIA"), the Seamans Protection Act as amended by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 ("SPA"), the Consumer Financial Protection Act ("CFPA"), the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act ("FSMA"), the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act ("MAP-21"), and the Taxpayer First Act ("TFA").

Investigation of retaliation against whistleblowers under 23 federal statutes falls under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Program[97] of the United States Department of Labor's[98] Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).[99] New whistleblower statutes enacted by Congress, which are to be enforced by the Secretary of Labor, are generally delegated by a Secretary's Order[100] to OSHA's Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Program (DWPP).

The patchwork of laws means that victims of retaliation need to be aware of the laws at issue to determine the deadlines and means for making proper complaints. Some deadlines are as short as 10 days (Arizona State Employees have 10 days to file a "Prohibited Personnel Practice" Complaint before the Arizona State Personnel Board), while others are up to 300 days.

Those who report a false claim against the federal government, and suffer adverse employment actions as a result, may have up to six years (depending on state law) to file a civil suit for remedies under the US False Claims Act (FCA).[101] Under a qui tam provision, the "original source" for the report may be entitled to a percentage of what the government recovers from the offenders. However, the "original source" must also be the first to file a federal civil complaint for recovery of the federal funds fraudulently obtained, and must avoid publicizing the claim of fraud until the US Justice Department decides whether to prosecute the claim itself. Such qui tam lawsuits must be filed under seal, using special procedures to keep the claim from becoming public until the federal government makes its decision on direct prosecution.

The Espionage Act of 1917 has been used to prosecute whistleblowers in the United States including Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. In 2013, Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking sensitive military documents to WikiLeaks.[102] The same year, Snowden was charged with violating the Espionage Act for releasing confidential documents belonging to the NSA.[103]

Section 922 of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) in the United States incentivizes and protects whistleblowers.[104] By Dodd-Frank, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) financially rewards whistleblowers for providing original information about violations of federal securities laws that results in sanctions of at least $1M.[105]Section 922 of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) in the United States incentivizes and protects whistleblowers.[104] By Dodd-Frank, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) financially rewards whistleblowers for providing original information about violations of federal securities laws that results in sanctions of at least $1M.[105][106] Additionally, Dodd-Frank offers job security to whistleblowers by illegalizing termination or discrimination due to whistleblowing.[105][107][108] The whistleblower provision has proven successful; after the enactment of Dodd-Frank, the SEC charged KBR (company) and BlueLinx Holdings Inc. (company) with violating the whistleblower protection Rule 21F-17 by having employees sign confidentiality agreements that threatened repercussions for discussing internal matters with outside parties.[109][110] As of his election, President Donald Trump has announced plans to dismantle Dodd-Frank, which may negatively impact whistleblower protection in the United States.[111]

The federally recognized National Whistleblower Appreciation Day is observed annually on July 30, on the anniversary of the country's original 1778 whistleblower protection law.

There are comprehensive laws in New Zealand and South Africa. A number of other countries have recently[when?] adopted comprehensive whistleblower laws including Ghana, South Korea, and Uganda. They are also being considered in Kenya and Rwanda. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2008 that whistleblowing was protected as freedom of expression. And in February 2017, Nigeria also set up the whistleblowing policy against corruption and other ills in the country.[112]

Advocacy for whistleblower rights and protections

Whistleblowers who may be at risk from those they are exposing are now using encryption methods and anonymous content sharing software to protect their identity. Tor, a highly accessible anonymity network, is one that is frequently used by whistleblowers around the world.[115] Tor has undergone a number of large security updates to protect the identities of potential whistleblowers who may wish to anonymously leak information.[116]

Recently[when?] specialized whistleblowing software like SecureD

Recently[when?] specialized whistleblowing software like SecureDrop and GlobaLeaks has been built on top of the Tor technology in order to incentivize and simplify its adoption for secure whistleblowing.[117][118]

In business, whistleblowing hotlines are usually deployed as a way of mitigating risk, with the intention of providing secure, anonymous reporting for employees or third party suppliers who may otherwise be fearful of reprisals from their employer. As such, implementing a corporate whistleblowing hotline is often seen as a step towards compliance, and can also highlight an organization's stance on ethics.[119] It is widely agreed that implementing a dedicated service for whistleblowers has a positive effect on an organizational culture.[120]

A whistleblowing hotline is sometimes also referred to as an ethics hotline or 'Speak Up' hotline and is often facilitated by an outsourced service provider to encourage potential disclosers to come forward.[

A whistleblowing hotline is sometimes also referred to as an ethics hotline or 'Speak Up' hotline and is often facilitated by an outsourced service provider to encourage potential disclosers to come forward.[121] Navex Global and Expolink are examples of global third party whistleblower services.[122]

In 2018, the Harvard Business Review published findings to support the idea that whistleblowing hotlines are crucial to keeping companies healthy, stating "More whistles blown are a sign of health, not illness."[123]

One of the subplots for season 6 of the popular American TV show The Office focused on Andy Bernard, a salesman, discovering the printers of his company catch on fire, struggling with how to deal with the news, and the company's response to the whistleblower going public.

In 2014, the rock/industrial band Laibach in is eighth studio album Spectre (Laibach album) released a song titled "The Whistleblowers" . It was released on March 3, 2014 under Mute Records.

In 2016, the

In 2014, the rock/industrial band Laibach in is eighth studio album Spectre (Laibach album) released a song titled "The Whistleblowers" . It was released on March 3, 2014 under Mute Records.

In 2016, the rock band Thrice released a song titled "Whistleblower" off of the album To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere. The song is written from the perspective of Snowden.[124]

In July 2018, CBS debuted a new reality television show entitled Whistleblower, hosted by lawyer, former judge and police officer Alex Ferrer which covers qui tam suits under the False Claims Act against companies that have allegedly defrauded the federal government.[125]