Washington, D.C., June 1, 2005. The following statement was issued by Stephen M. Kohn, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Whistleblowers Center in regards to the controversy surrounding the public disclosure of the Watergate-whistleblower’s identity.
This whistleblower, commonly known as “Deep Throat,” was credited with
providing the public with information directly related to illegal
conduct within the White House:
The current controversy surrounding Mr. W. Mark Felt’s confidential
disclosures to the news media regarding illegal conduct in the Nixon
White House is misplaced. The law on whistleblowing was intended to
protect government employees who make disclosures to the news media.
The very first United States Supreme Court case upholding the right of
government employees to ”blow the whistle” on misconduct (Pickering v.
Board of Education) concerned an employee who made his disclosures to
the news media. That decision, issued over 35 years ago, has been
repeatedly followed by nearly every court in the United States.
The reasoning behind protecting employees who “blow the whistle” to the
news media is well established. On the one hand, whistleblowers who
report their concerns only to their bosses are often ignored or
retaliated against. On the other hand, reporting allegations to the
press is often the best way to force the government to do its job.
Public exposure is absolutely critical in initiating objective
investigations into misconduct, which have led to significant reforms
and have protected the public interest.
A government employee swears his or her allegiance to the Constitution
of the United States, not to the White House or any government
bureaucrat. The American public has the “right to know” about illegal
conduct by high ranking officials. In the case of Mr. Felt, his
disclosure options were very limited. He had good cause to believe that
his chain of command would not properly address the allegations. For
example, the Attorney General and Director of the FBI were both
appointed by President Nixon and, at the time of the initial
disclosures, were loyal to the President. In fact, Mr. Felt’s third
line supervisor, President Nixon, was directly implicated in the