The War on Whistleblowers

University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Public Affairs, Volume 6 (Forthcoming)

36 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2020

See all articles by Nancy M. Modesitt

Nancy M. Modesitt

University of Baltimore - School of Law

Date Written: September 2020


In the last few decades, Congress has passed a variety of statutes to improve legal protections for federal employee-whistleblowers, with the dual goals of promoting disclosure of wrongdoing and prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers. However, these statutes and goals are being undermined in the current administration. This Article argues that President Trump’s administration has conducted multi-faceted attacks against federal employee-whistleblowers in order to deter disclosure of the administration’s wrongdoing. Since these efforts began, there has been a decrease in whistleblower disclosures of wrongdoing in the federal government. In order to stop this trend, immediate action is needed, including amending federal laws to reduce the possibility of retaliation by administration officials against whistleblowers, increasing funding and staffing at the federal agencies tasked with protecting whistleblowers and adjudicating their retaliation claims, and promoting greater outreach by Congressional committees to federal employees within agencies over which such committees have oversight authority. If these steps are not taken, there is a significant risk that the culture of promoting whistleblowing that has been cultivated within the federal government will collapse, leaving the American public in the dark about future misconduct within the Executive branch of the government - not just in this administration, but also in future ones.

Keywords: whistleblower, federal employees

JEL Classification: K10,K23,K31

Suggested Citation

Modesitt, Nancy M., The War on Whistleblowers (September 2020). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Public Affairs, Volume 6 (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: or

Nancy M. Modesitt (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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