Donald Trump showed us why whistleblowers need protection. He all but ordered a hit on the whistleblower who exposed his shakedown of the Ukraine and more when it became all too clear that his presidency is cooked.
His defenders will continue to insist that Trump ust does things differently. But here’s the reality: every president’s words matter. Even when that president is a narcissist with delusions of grandeur and has supporters who would rather quit than grow a spine.
Trump said the whistleblower is like a spy and nod, nod, wink, wink, and back when we were smart, you know what we did to spies. When Michael Cohen said Trump speaks in code, he was right. Even after three years of reading his tweets, listening to his speeches, I understand exactly what he means. I’ll bet those supporters who spend more time at “MAGA” rallies than with family know exactly what he means, too. Then there are the people who aren’t the most stable who are darn sure that Trump can walk on water and would do literally anything to “protect” him – even murder.
The deaths that were “inspired” by Trump’s words present an additional concern for the whistleblower, their family, and the people who are representing him or her. They know it. Trump is probably counting on it to keep anyone else in line who might get the idea that being patriotic means exposing his impeachable and/or criminal acts to public scrutiny.
I’ll bet the whistleblower is regretting the day she or he learned the things that made it absolutely necessary to go through the right channels to report their concerns. If they hadn’t known, there would have been no difficult position to regret being in. Hopefully, they’ll have solace in knowing they are doing the right thing by their country.
Trump is terrified primarily because no matter how much spin he throws at this, he can’t undo the fact that his initial response corroborated the whistleblower’s concerns.
Since the whistleblower came forward with news that will lead to Donald Trump’s impeachment, everyone wants to unmask them. Trump wants to charge them with treason. Some just want to be the first – for the clicks or if it’s television, the ratings. Whatever the reason, the consequences that could be borne by the whistleblower will be the same.
If or when they are unmasked, their career prospects will be ruined. It doesn’t matter if this person deserves a medal for showing more courage and patriotism than all Republican members of congress combined. Government and corporations don’t like whistleblowers.
As if losing one’s livelihood and potential for having one in the future isn’t enough, this whistleblower also has to worry about a crazy president who thinks whistleblowing is spying and his mentally unstable base who might take it on themselves to do something about it.
Now maybe by the time this gets published, someone else will have said something in opposition to the unmasking of this whistleblower. Maybe few will care. But sometimes you have to write something because it’s the right thing to do.
I’d love to know who this American hero is as much as anyone else. For me, this person is the closest we’ve ever come to seeing Teflon fail Donald Trump. This person makes the prospect of undoing the volume of obscenities done by Donald Trump seem possible. It also makes it possible for me to breathe a little easier. This is one person whose identity I don’t know, yet enjoys the prestige of being mentioned in my bucket list, which is more about the people I hope to meet than the things I hope to do.
And to be honest, taking this stand should go against everything writers are about: the curiosity, the desire to solve a mystery. Also, I used to see writing as this awesome privilege of knowing someone will read my thoughts, and maybe I might give someone something to think about.
Instead, the story of this whistleblower reminded me that as important as press freedom is, and as privileged as writers are, we also have responsibilities that exceed delivering information to our readers.
I’m not sure these responsibilities include unmasking every whistleblower, though there is no hypothetical that I can think of where I’d side with unmasking.
We have whistle blower protections for comparable reasons that press freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy. Without the ability to expose corruption, malfeasance or crimes done by people in government, and that includes the President, there is no accountability, no means of making wrongs right, addressing injustices or prosecuting crimes against humanity.
That quest for transparency and accountability is why Donald Trump hates whistleblowers and the press with equal disdain.
It’s why I find myself joining critics of media outlets that have published information that can lead to identifying the whistleblower. It’s why I’ve been applauding efforts to protect them. (Some disclosures are in order. My husband is a Facebook friend with one of the whistleblower’s attorneys and I’ve been vocal about this on social media. I’m not going to pretend to be “objective” where that means having no discernable views on this question.)
In my estimation, unmasking whistleblowers is a lot like outing anonymous sources. The odds of people speaking out are seriously diminished if your confidentiality isn’t assured and shining sunlight on corruption or on government wrongdoing means putting your life on the line.
No one benefits from unmasking whistleblowers except people like Donald Trump. Anonymity prevents him from being embarrassed about how he betrays the country and its people. If nothing else brings that home, there’s the fact that Trump wanted his discussions with leaders of other countries sealed off from the public out of fear of political embarrassment.
But that’s not a good enough reason
By declaring treasonous those who expose him for the corrupt man he is and the strongman he wants to be, Trump has all but ordered a hit on someone who doesn’t merely talk about being a patriot, but makes the sacrifices that go with being one. He knows that will have a chilling effect on anyone else who even thinks about shining sunlight on his secret wrongdoing.
However, democracy needs transparency and that means we need whistleblowers.
Instead of unmasking this person, the media should recommit themselves to protecting the anonymity of everyone comes shines a light where it needs to be shined.
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.