The conceptual protection that is offered for whistle blowers under the protection of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is recognized by every industry that operates under the United States Department of Labor. Provisions have been made to include specifics for each of these industries and the processes in which employees of these industries must follow in order to be protected from retaliation. According to the website, “rights afforded by these whistle blower acts include, but are not limited to, worker participation in safety and health activities, reporting a work related injury, illness or fatality, or reporting a violation of the statutes” (The Whistle Blowing Protection Programs, 2014).The violation of the statutes was the element of protection in which Thomas Drake rested his claims and trusted his career and freedom.
Under the Whistle Blowing Protection Programs, as previously stated, individuals must go through certain channels in order to receive such protection. Thomas Drake, made notorious for leaking government mismanagement to the press, did not begin his attempt to put a stop to this mismanagement by gaining notoriety and displaying such acts to the public. Before he ever spoke to the press, “Drake complained to his superiors. Then, privately, he informed the intelligence committees on Capitol Hill. He sought out Diane Roark, the top Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee who was responsible for overseeing the NSA” (“The Espionage Acts: Why Tom Drake was indicted,” 2011). Having gone through every channel that he thought possible, Thomas Drake was left only with the option of outing the wrongdoings to the public through the press.
His reasoning and ethical decision came from several concepts of right and wrong. First, the mismanagement of funds extended what he thought to be excessive and unjustifiable as “Contractors burned through hundreds of millions of dollars” (“The Espionage Acts: Why Tom Drake was indicted,” 2011). Additionally, the usage of the equipment that the excessive funds included invading the privacy of the American citizens and that “NSA was simply being turned on its own country under the banner,label of an excuse, justification of 9/11” (“Thomas Drake,” 2014). When asked why he went to the press instead of continuing to go through the channels of the government, Drake’s answer explained his reasoning for the process by stating that “The final option was to go to the press under the First Amendment as an American citizen, because I had grave concerns about the future of the republic” (“Thomas Drake,” 2014).
Before this “final option” was explored, however, Thomas Drake did what any employee in any industry would or at least should do. His direct superiors were notified of his concerns in regards to the mismanagement of funds and equipment. Diane Roark, the individual responsible for overseeing the NSA, was reported to state that “’”First he tried internally trying to get things changed. He went to Congress. He went to the Senate as well as the House’” (“The Espionage Acts: Why Tom Drake was indicted,” 2011). Roark continued to add that Drake went through the proper internal channels and did not receive the solutions which he thought were appropriate. At this point, Thomas Drake was following all of the guidelines which constituted him as being a whistle blower.
However, as his proper channels did not stop the mismanagement and the rights of the American public was still being violated, Thomas Drake decided to go outside of the channels and very carefully meet with the press in an effort to bring public awareness to the wrongdoings of the NSA. As an American citizen, Thomas Drake held the right to speak to the press. However, the question as to his rights are not in reference to his citizenry but rather to his role as an employee of the federal government. His actions were justified under the First Amendment Right which is granted to citizens of the United States, but the authorities found that he was acting as a federal employee and was therefore held to different levels of accountability.
The differences were addressed not only due to his position, but because of “Thomas Drake’s use of encrypted email accounts and his efforts to gather information from unwitting NSA colleagues” (Pozen, 2013). Although several employees were investigated and in a modern day witch hunt,the“FBI raided the homes of all the people who had filed that confidential complaint with the Defense of Department inspector general asking for the Trailblazer investigation” (“The Espionage Acts: Why Tom Drake was indicted,” 2011). However, being seen as the leader in the questioning of the policies, only Thomas Drake was charged under the Espionage Act. According to Washington attorney Abbe Lowell when an employee of the federal government has signed a confidentiality agreement and has security clearance, that employee no longer has the right to decide when to expose a secret of the government regardless of whether the government is doing right or wrong (“The Espionage Acts: Why Tom Drake was indicted,” 2011). The government charged Thomas Drake under a different set of laws in order to take the Whistle Blower Protection Program out of the equation and in an attempt to send a message to other potential whistle blowers.
As this case came to a head and the government was under scrutiny for its mishandling of the situation, Pub.L. 112-199 was introduced to Congress and amended the Whistle Blower Protection Program to include “federal personnel law relating to whistle blower protections to provide that such protections shall apply to a disclosure of any violation of law” (S. 743 (112th): Whistle blower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, 2012). This amendment, coming after-the-fact for Thomas Drake, did not exonerate him from the charges brought by the court, but did eliminate some of the fears for future whistle blowers. Thomas Drake ultimately took a misdemeanor plea and did not get sentenced to the potential 35 years in prison that he originally faced. However, the poor manner in which his direct supervisors handled his claims made this a cause for the public to question the federal government. Management, in any field, is to make decisions that will ultimately protect the interests of the department in which they are granted supervisory duties. Should the issues have been addressed during the time period in which Thomas Drake was still utilizing the proper channels, then the public would not have the negative opinion of the department that this case has brought. This offers a substantial lesson to all of those in supervisory positions. If an employee is concerned enough to bring an issue to the attention of their supervisor, then they are most likely concerned enough to take it further if it becomes necessary.