Lesson Objectives:- Government transparency
- Curbs on information disclosure
The Government in the Sunshine Act is a law that requires all committee-directed federal agencies to conduct their business regularly in public sessions. This act included even informal meetings and conference telephone calls.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed in 1966 requiring federal agencies to divulge information in government files. It has led to the uncovering of waste, scandal, and incompetence in the government. One example of information acquired through FOIA were documents that showed that police had tried to establish a no-fly zone restricting news helicopters from flying over the riots in Ferguson in 2014.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the government has effectively gone the opposite way from being open and divulging information. They took down information from websites and removed certain documents from public libraries and other facilities where such information could be detrimental to national security.
Privatization is the replacement of government services with services provided by private firms. One example is the private prison system. Supporters of privatization say that the private sector can offer superior products and services with greater efficiency.
People have mixed emotions about Whistleblowers. In the context of government, a whistleblower is someone who brings gross governmental inefficiency or illegal action to the public's attention.
The 1978 Civil Service Reform Act prevents superiors from punishing employees who blow the whistle. There is also a hotline any employee can call and some of the complaints are followed up on.
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 resulted in the creation of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) that investigates complaints where an employee might have been fired, demoted, or otherwise punished as a result of blowing the whistle.
Also, the federal government will pay employees to blow the whistle. If they prosecute the case and win, the whistleblower can get between 15 and 25% of the decision.
In spite of the laws, whistleblowers are not really protected. The Acts that were put into place and the Office of Special Counsel have been unable to restrict punishments on employees when they blow the whistle. The protections generally afforded to government employees tend to disappear when the case involves a whistleblower.
For example, when Edward Snowden leaked information to journalists about NSA surveillance, he became the most famous whistleblower in recent history. He fled to China and then to Russia. Under the Obama Administration, the Espionage Act of 1917 was cited as the basis for his prosecution if the government could ever get their hands on him.