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Secrets and LeaksThe Dilemma of State Secrecy$
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Rahul Sagar

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691168180

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691168180.001.0001

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Should We Rely on Whistleblowers?

Should We Rely on Whistleblowers?

Disobedience and the Problem of Retaliation

(p.127) Chapter 5 Should We Rely on Whistleblowers?
Secrets and Leaks

Rahul Sagar

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the circumstances under which an official will be justified in violating laws that prohibit unauthorized disclosures of classified information. It explains why we cannot rely on the practice of whistleblowing to counter the misuse of state secrecy. It argues that an official may “blow the whistle” if he/she encounters classified information that clearly reveals wrongdoing posing an immediate and serious threat to the public interest, and if he/she makes a good faith effort to minimize the harm that the publication of this information may cause national security. It also asserts that the official must identify himself/herself so that we can assess whether his/her view of what constitutes a wrongful exercise of executive power is a disinterested one. Finally, it shows that would-be whistleblowers have little incentive to disclose their identity, because doing so makes them vulnerable to retaliation from their managers and colleagues.

Keywords:   unauthorized disclosure, classified information, whistleblowing, state secrecy, wrongdoing, public interest, national security, executive power, whistleblowers, retaliation

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