Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has introduced legislation that would make it a criminal offense for a state or federal employee, including members of Congress, to reveal the name of a government whistleblower.
“Whistleblowers are critical to rooting out waste, fraud, abuse, and illegal conduct, especially as this administration strives to block congressional oversight at every turn,” Swalwell said in a news release.
“Threatening and trying to reveal whistleblowers’ identities is wrong and undercuts long-established policy, endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans for decades, to encourage people to come forward with allegations of wrongdoing.”
Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said he began drafting HR-7185, the “Enhancing Protections for Whistleblower Anonymity Act,” last year after President Trump and others threatened to expose a whistleblower who raised concerns about potential abuse of power.
The president was accused of withholding military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating the involvement of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, with Burisma, a Ukrainian oil and gas company. The president was eventually impeached by the House, 229-198, largely along partisan lines, but was acquitted of both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, also largely along party lines, in the Senate.
Swalwell said current law prevents some federal officials from revealing a whistleblower’s identity, but there is no penalty for violating the law. His bill, Swalwell said, would impose criminal penalties on any state or federal employee who “knowingly” communicates the identity of a whistleblower, or information which would reveal a whistleblower’s identity, except to other government officials when permitted by existing law.
The bill, which has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, would also let whistleblowers whose identities are illegally disclosed sue for actual and punitive damages.