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When It’s Time to Blow the Whistle


The following is an excerpt from PETER VAN BUREN | February 18, 2017 | Nytimes.com |

“The spotlight has finally been put on the lowlife leakers! They will be caught!” So tweeted President Trump on Thursday morning after a week when his administration had been shaken by reports based on information from anonymous sources inside the government and intelligence agencies. On Monday, such revelations had led to the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser.

Further reports about repeated contacts between members of the Trump campaign team and Russian officials also caused the president to reverse his pre-election stance — “I love WikiLeaks!” — and issue tirades against “illegal” leaks and the “criminal action” of leakers. It’s no surprise that Mr. Trump, in office, wants to stem this flow with threatened retaliation, but if you’re a government employee who knows something, what are you thinking?

To leak or not to leak? Will you blow the whistle and expose wrongdoing?

I know something about the decision you’re weighing. With 21 years of service at the State Department as a foreign service officer, I was assigned to wartime Iraq from 2009 to 2010 to manage two provincial reconstruction teams. Their purpose was to help rebuild the country, in hopes that the young men then joining the insurgency would cease fighting and discover that they had a stake in a Pax Americana.

It was a difficult task, perhaps naïvely optimistic from the start. I quickly learned that despite the good intentions, the extraordinary amount of money spent and the importance of the project, it was not well thought out.

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