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<nettime> Gregory M Bernard's ThD thesis on 'Whistleblowing in a Wikilea
Patrice Riemens on Fri, 3 Aug 2012 14:12:01 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Gregory M Bernard's ThD thesis on 'Whistleblowing in a Wikileaks World' (ExecSum)

Gregory M Bernard
Whistleblowing in a Wikileaks World
A Model for Responsible Disclosure in Homeland Security
PhD thesis (March 2012)
Naval Postgraduate School (US Navy)
Monterey, California

Full text thru: http://calhoun.nps.edu/public/handle/10945/6769



A dramatic change in the information-sharing environment has occurred over
the last decade. New technologies, the rapid evolution of the Internet,
and innovations in social media have provided the ability to gather and
share information at an unprecedented level. The Executive Branch of the
U.S. Government touts the virtues of transparency, while Congress defines
whistleblowing and the disclosure of government fraud/waste/abuse as a
?civic duty?, and yet the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process is
broken, the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) is woefully inadequate, and
secrecy continues to run rampant. The disclosure of hundreds of thousands
of potentially classified documents to the organization Wikileaks may be
an example of what this contradiction has caused. The existence of
Wikileaks as an organization is irrelevant now, and their most significant
contribution is not the release of 1.2 million documents. Rather, the most
significant impact of Wikileaks is their successful demonstration and
validation of the ?Wikileaks model.? Wikileaks has demonstrated the power
of the Internet using web technologies to provide protections through
anonymity, while giving individuals access to a worldwide audience. The
current troubles faced by the organization may or may not portend the end
of Wikileaks; however, it does provide a glimpse into the future of
whistleblowing. Building upon the apparent success of the Wikileaks model,
the Wall Street Journal and Al-Jazeera have both implemented ?anonymous?
whistleblower submission sites. This new paradigm for communications, as
enabled by the innovative uses of the Internet and social media, provides
both opportunities and areas for concern regarding government

Problem Statement

Whistleblowing serves as a critical check and balance system to government
bureaucracy, helping to circumvent administrative roadblocks and to
provide a mechanism through which homeland security can monitor and
increase efficiency in its operations. Homeland security also deals with
information that can be of a sensitive or secret nature, the unauthorized
disclosure of which can cause damage to both homeland security efforts and
national security. Maintaining the balance between secrecy and
transparency is a difficult proposition; however, current government
efforts, particularly its handling of whistleblowers, places that balance
in jeopardy. The government has taken some steps to address some of these
problems; however, the government has also taken extreme measures to
prosecute any whistleblowers who stray outside the appropriate submission
process (i.e., deemed an unauthorized leak of sensitive/classified
information) or are not protected by the WPA. Instead of acknowledging
that current policy on whistleblowers is broken, the government?s current
course of action decreases the likelihood important fraud/waste/abuse
information will be received from whistleblowers, while possibly
influencing their decision and encouraging them to bypass authorized
channels and instead utilize the Internet to protect themselves from
identification and retaliation. The current lack of public trust in
government, and the existence of alternative avenues for disclosure that
provide greater protections than those currently offered by the U.S.
Government, serve to exacerbate the problem.

Research Question

What policy model and associated technological process could the U.S. DHS
implement that will encourage whistleblowers to submit information through
authorized channels as opposed to leaking information to unauthorized


To answer the research question, this thesis explores three primary areas.
The first is the whistleblowing environment, to include definitions,
applicable policies, laws (both domestic and international), authorized
and unauthorized processes, motivations, public trust, requirements, and
intentions of all parties involved. The second area of focus is
technology, specifically, the available options, best practices, and
vulnerabilities of potential technological solutions (e.g., phone, email,
web). The final portion of thesis serves to develop and evaluate policy
options based on the findings and conclusions identified in the first two
areas of analysis.

Those findings are as follows:

?	Overclassification is a problem

?	Information sharing is critical to both U.S. security and U.S democracy

?	Homeland security efforts require public (to include its employees and
partners) trust and support to succeed

?	The ability to keep secrets and maintain control of classified
information will continue to decrease

?	Decreasing overclassification will save the United States money

?	Whistleblowing is a civic duty xvi

?	The government is committed to providing whistleblower protections

?	Whistleblowers are in large part motivated by patriotism

?	Anonymity is a positive incentive for whistleblowers

?	Fourth and Fifth Estates (media and stateless news organizations)
provide alternatives to the government process

?	Public trust in the government has declined

?	Public trust can be increased through the use of third parties
?	Technology exists to provide anonymity to whistleblowers

?	Current options for whistleblowing are inadequate These premises form
the foundation and justification for the implementation of any solution.

Current legitimate/authorized processes, such as submission through
standard government channels, present significant risks	to
the	whistleblower. Clandestine/unauthorized processes, such as the
Internet (Wikileaks) and mainstream media, represent a clear breach of the
law, which is in conflict with the ?do the right thing? mindset of many
whistleblowers. If whistleblowers had a way to communicate identified
issues through an authorized third party that would serve as a proxy on
their behalf, it would undermine the current processes (both legitimate
and clandestine), potentially making them obsolete. It would reduce the
personal risk faced by whistleblowers by providing the anonymity that
makes the clandestine approach attractive, without clearly breaking the
law. The Department of Homeland Security has an opportunity to build upon
and improve the ?Wikileaks Model,? to harness its use of technology and
process to create a solution that would meet the needs of both
whistleblowers and the government. If implemented correctly, the number of
legitimate whistleblower complaints would increase (overall submissions
would increase), and the number of whistleblowers who choose unauthorized
avenues would be expected to decrease.


For any solution to be considered successful, it is critical to establish
a clear definition of success. This thesis proposes the following
definition of success for any whistleblowing solution. To promote the
voluntary disclosure of information by any man or woman who reasonably
believes that organizational wrongdoing has occurred, the facilitation of
corrective action to address the wrongdoing, and providing for the
protection of the submitter while maintaining information security, all
within the bounds of U.S. law.

Four key pillars create the foundation for success.

?	Whistleblowers must have the support of leadership

?	Legislation and policies must be clear and straightforward

?	Whistleblowing policies must enforce accountability

?	Authorized channels must provide at least as much protection as
unauthorized channels

The conclusions drawn in this thesis, including the policy model
ultimately recommended, is based on the research and the findings
identified above. Combined with a current understanding of the problem,
the evaluation criteria, and the potential solutions available, it is
recommended that the government establish a partnership with a non-
government organization (NGO) within U.S. legal jurisdiction, and
subsidize the establishment of a government sponsored whistleblower
submission website and virtual private network. This solution would allow
whistleblowers to submit information to the government with the protection
of anonymity, through the third party NGO. Establishing this policy
provides whistleblowers who truly believe in improving government
operations through the submission of information on fraud/waste/abuse or
other types of concerns, a legitimate way to achieve their goal without
risking their career and future on the weak whistleblower protections
currently in place. While it may not completely eliminate leaks to the
media or organizations, such as Wikileaks, the researcher believes those
leaks will decrease as more whistleblowers give the government an
opportunity to act on their submission.

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