Op-ed: Chuck Schumer wrong about whistleblower’s right to anonymity

The current “impeachment inquiry” being pursued by the Democrat-controlled House is based on a so-called whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and despite tidbits of information which suggest the complainant is less of a whistleblower than a partisan leaker, Democrats have gone to great lengths to keep that individual’s identity a secret.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has even gone so far as to claim that the anonymity of the “whistleblower” is protected by law, but Eddie Scarry of the Washington Examiner argues that Schumer is wrong, and there are no real legal prohibitions against public disclosure of the whistleblower’s identity.

Schumer’s claim

Schumer sent a letter on Monday to National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire and Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson demanding to know what “specific steps” they were taking to protect the identity of the whistleblower, given the fact that President Trump had made it clear in public remarks and tweets that he believed he had the right to “confront” his accuser and was “trying to find out” who the accuser was.

The senator also asserted in the letter that the whistleblower’s identity was “protected by law” and placed the responsibility on those two officials for protecting that individual from a “workplace reprisal” or “threats” to their personal safety.

But Scarry argued that the notion that any whistleblower’s anonymity was “protected by law” was a misconception and suggested that Schumer, as well as other Democrats making the same assertion, were either “desperately uninformed” or were simply lying to further their own narrative.

Anonymity not protected

Scarry first pointed to the actual Whistleblower Protection Act and subsequent enhancements to show that the law simply protected a whistleblower against being “discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against” for filing a complaint.

In fact, there is nothing within the statute that even pertains to the anonymity of a whistleblower, despite what Schumer and other Democrats may claim.

Scarry even directed his readers to commentary from an attorney from the firm representing the whistleblower, Bradley P. Moss, made in an interview with The Washington Post in September, in which it was admitted that there was little, if any, protection in the law to guard against disclosure of a complainant’s identity.

Trump’s choice

The Post noted that President Trump and his allies would likely not face any consequences, at least not in the legal realm, for outing the whistleblower to the public.

“If [Trump] wants to destroy this person’s life,” Moss told the Post, “there’s not a lot to stop him right now.”

At best for Schumer and the Democrats, the Post noted that if the whistleblower’s identity was deemed a government secret, then anybody who disclosed it could face prosecution for leaking national security information or violating the Privacy Act, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here, and even Moss admitted the law is rarely enforced and doesn’t apply to members of Congress.

“This is all very, very fragile, and a lot of the protections that we understand to exist are based more on courtesy and custom than anything written down in law,” Moss said. In other words, Schumer is wrong, and the anonymity of the whistleblower is, in fact, not protected by law.

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