The idea might not win approval with the rest of the Senate, but Republican lawmaker Chuck Grassley has put in a resolution for a new commemorative holiday for the United States – National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.
“Anything we can do to uphold whistleblowers and their protection is the right thing to keep government responsible,” said Grassley, who is famous for personally aiding whistleblowers in their battles against rule-breaking officials. “If you know laws are being violated and money’s being misspent, you have a patriotic duty to report it.”
30 July, the date suggested in the proposal, made jointly with Democratic Senator Carl Levin, is not accidental. It marks the 235th anniversary of what was one of the earliest whistleblowing regulations implemented anywhere – by the Founding Fathers in the Continental Congress in the midst of the Revolutionary War.
“[I]t is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge,” said the bill, resolved on July 30, 1778.
The violations in question are eerily reminiscent of those exposed this millennium in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
In 1777, the sailors present on the warship Warren complained that the commander of the entire Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, treated captured British soldiers in “the most inhuman and barbarous manner.” Congress suspended Hopkins, upheld their complaint, and when the disgraced commander-in-chief sued the whistleblowers for libel, he gave internal data to be used in the case. The defendants won a resounding victory.
Although Hopkins’ political unpopularity may have had something to do with the vigor which Congress supported the case against him, but the legislation produced as a result was a landmark.