National security experts and advocates for whistleblower protection condemn publication of identifying information
The New York Times is facing criticism over its decision to publish revealing details about the whistleblower whose explosive complaint, which raised concerns about Donald Trumps conversation with the Ukrainian president and the White Houses apparent attempts to cover it up, was made public on Thursday.
Readers, including those who work with or within the intelligence community, national security experts and advocates for whistleblower protection, expressed concern that the decision compromised the individuals safety.
The newspaper reported the whistleblowers employer as the CIA and details on their expertise, citing three unnamed people familiar with the individuals identity. Since the articles publication online on Thursday, the newspaper has added the context that the White House already knew where the whistleblower was employed.
Identifying information published in the paper recklessly narrows that universe of suspected whistleblowers to a very few people, said Jesselyn Radack, the director of national security and human rights at the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program. This has a very chilling effect on anyone who is even thinking of blowing the whistle and thinking of doing so through the proper channels.
The individual is especially at risk given that Trump lashed out atthose who informed the whistleblower, comparing them to spies, and alluded to retaliation. In audio obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Trump can be heard asking: Whos the person that gave the whistleblower the information? Because thats close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days, when we were smart, right? The spies and treason? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.
Radack, who has represented national security and intelligence community employees including Edward Snowden and John Kiriakou who have been investigated and charged under the Espionage Act, said the New York Times had left the whistleblower particularly vulnerable because they are up against the full force of the entire executive branch.
The whistleblower and former NSA agent Thomas Drake, another of Radacks clients who leaked information about the agencys data-gathering in 2006, echoed concerns that the newspaper had endangered the Trump whistleblower.
The New York Times executive editor, Dean Baquet, defended the publications decision. The president and some of his supporters have attacked the credibility of the whistle-blower, who has presented information that has touched off a landmark impeachment proceeding, Baquet said in a statement. We wanted to provide information to readers that allows them to make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible.
Danielle Brian, the executive director of the not-for-profit watchdog Project On Government Oversight, argued that the move was unnecessary because the whistleblowers credibility was already stabilized by the Inspector General and the Department of National Intelligence, which recognized the complaint as urgent and credible. We didnt need the New York Times to tell us what agency this person came from, Brian said.
Mark Zaid, an attorney representing the whistleblower, wrote on Twitter: Publishing details about whistleblower will only lead to identification of someone, whether our client or wrong person, as whistleblower. This will place individual in much more dangerous situation, not only in their professional world but also their possible personal safety.
The whistleblowers legal team did not provide additional comment to the Guardian.
The New York Times did not immediately respond to the Guardians request for additional comment.