What Is a Federal Whistleblower?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

A federal whistleblower is a person who works within the federal government of a country and reports perceived wrongdoing or illegal actions taken by that government or its employees. Whistleblowers, in general, are people who work within a company or agency and report any type of wrongdoing by someone within that group. Many countries pass laws to help protect those who do make such reports from retribution by coworkers, managers, or the agency involved in the report.

The term “whistleblower” comes from the tradition of police officers in some areas, as well as referees in many sports, using a whistle to indicate that someone has violated a law or rule. There are a number of different instances in which a federal whistleblower might be involved with a news story or criminal investigation. Typically, however, a federal whistleblower becomes the focal point because he or she brings the wrongdoing of a person or agency to the attention of others. While someone looking into misconduct can potentially find a whistleblower, it is quite common for the whistleblower to instead approach others prior to an investigation.

If a politician is behaving in a way that is not in the public good or is illegal, such as receiving illegal financing, then a federal whistleblower might report such activity to others. While this can be done purely for attention, such as reports made to media or watchdog groups, the reports of a whistleblower can also be made to law enforcement agencies. Such reports can assist with an investigation that may result in serious consequences, both professionally and legally, for the accused.

Being a federal whistleblower can also have some fairly serious negative consequences for the whistleblower. Depending on the outcome of the report made by the whistleblower, it is possible that a number of people can be negatively impacted. The whistleblower is then likely to continue working with people who are friends with those who may have been fired or jailed. This can lead to potential dismissal or other negative actions against the federal whistleblower by managers or other employees, though a number of federal laws exist to try to protect whistleblowers from action intended as a reprisal for the “whistle blowing.”

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