If You Care About Privacy, You'll Be Outraged By What President Obama Just Said

Here's what Obama just said about whistlebowing: "If you blow the whistle, you should be thanked. You should be protected for doing the right thing. You shouldn't be ignored and you certainly shouldn't be punished."

And no, this was not in response to Edward Snowden, the world's most well-known whistleblower. Snowden's still in Russia, and Obama, despite his strong words, isn't exactly pushing to bring him back.

The real reason: Obama's statement was in response to the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal that left veterans with inordinate wait times for health care. It led to at least 35 deaths and dozens of investigations.

Obama spoke on Thursday after signing a bill passed by Congress in July that allocates $16 billion to the VA to clear up its waitlists and hire more doctors. The whistleblower section came in praise of the former VA officials who reached out to the press after seeing waitlists get fudged.

The bill also gives new VA Chief Robert McDonald the ability to fire anyone who is conducting in unethical behavior.


Image Credit: American Legion via Vox

But what about Snowden? The NSA whistleblower has said multiple times that he would prefer to come back to the U.S. rather than live in Russia. He even told the Guardian that he would understand receiving a prison sentence.

"Regardless of what happens, if I end up in chains in Guantanamo, I can live with that," he said.


A president who thinks whistleblowers should be "protected for doing the right thing" would never allow Snowden to go to prison though, right? Depends on your definition of the right thing. NSA officials and others in government would argue that by publicizing NSA initiatives and stealing files, Snowden actively harmed our national security. (Some would even argue that he's a spy.)

Of course, the government that decides whether to protect a whistleblower like Snowden is the same government that decides whether his actions are deserving of that protection. When Obama or other high-ranking officials get idealistic about open government, keep that in mind.

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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