We can all be whistleblowers

Written by Common Cause Interns on July 30, 2013

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By Ben Resnik

Today is National Whistleblowers' Day, or at least it should be.

On July 30, 1778, 235 years ago today, the Continental Congress enacted the nation's first whistleblower protection law, declaring that every citizen has a duty to report the abuses of those in authority.

So it's ironic that today, July 30, 2013, Pfc. Bradley Manning was convicted of multiple violations of the Espionage Act. A military court found that Manning revealed classified information about the military's management of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including a video of two Reuters journalists being killed in an American attack. While he was acquitted of the most serious charge, "aiding the enemy," Manning could still get more than 100 years in prison.

Private Manning's case highlights the sometimes uneasy relationship between personal morality and national security. The two need not be mutually exclusive however, and in fact the second can hardly exist without the first. National security is the defense against all threats, foreign and domestic. The bombs still exploding in Baghdad are one threat, but ultimately just as dangerous are decisions by lawmakers and military commanders that go unquestioned in the name of defense. Whether we accept or reject Bradley Manning's assertion that he was driven by moral concerns, the important matter now is how the nation employs the information he revealed in the service of a more open and accountable government. Whistleblowing is not an action reserved for larger-than-life figures with special information; it is a willingness by every citizen to ask difficult questions of their government.

Click here to read more about the Bradley Manning case.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Ethics

Tags: Congressional Ethics

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