How the New Whistleblower Law Might Help the Administration Keep a Lid on Leaks

The Obama administration has been notoriously hostile towards leaks, and has been accused of doing “more than any modern executive to wage war on whistleblowers.” Why, then, would the administration go out of its way to not only sign the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act in December, but also to write a Presidential Policy Directive explicitly creating protections for whistleblowers in the intelligence community?

The answer likely lies in understanding the 2006 Supreme Court decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos. That decision carved out a peculiar exception to the First Amendment for certain public employees, essentially giving them an incentive to go public with any concerns about corruption or abuse, rather than complaining internally, up the chain of command. For an administration intent on preventing public leaks, this incentive structure is entirely backward.
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