President Trump has demanded that the whistleblower in the Ukraine investigation, which has morphed into a formal impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, identify himself because he gave false information.
Now Senator Rand Paul (R-KS) and Donald Trump, Jr. have tweeted a link to an article that claims to have unmasked the person in question.
Media outlets have piled on Senator Paul and Trump, Jr. for their actions, and called out the president for wanting to remove the whistleblower’s anonymity.
Most of the rules surrounding protecting a whistleblower’s identity involve shielding them from future retribution or harm at work, which is why the law contemplates protecting their anonymity in that setting. But beyond his employer and the inspector general to whom the complaint was made, the law doesn’t afford the whistleblower any identity protections.
According to Kel McClanahan, a national security lawyer in Washington, there is only one provision in the law that deals specifically with whistleblower anonymity in the intelligence community.
That provision says the inspector general should not disclose the whistleblower’s identity without their consent, unless the watchdog determines that “such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of the investigation.”
But once the compliant moves from the inspector general to other departments and branches of government, all bets are off. The law is silent.
Congress maintains rules that can include protecting a witness’s identity. If a member of Congress broke the rule, he or she could be censured, but that carries very little weight and fall under Congressional matters, not legal protections for whistleblowers.
But just because others legally can identify the person doesn’t mean they should. That’s a separate question to be considered.
The whistleblower’s lawyers said in a statement on Wednesday that efforts to identify their client “will place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm” and will deter future whistleblowers.