Freedom Requires Whistleblowers: The Importance of Transparency

James Otteson,

Release Date
August 23, 2013


Civil Liberties

Are you concerned about the activities government agencies are engaging in? Does it bother you to think the government is spying on you? If not, what reason do you have to be complacent? Professor James Otteson says we may feel secure today because we know we haven’t done anything wrong. But this is short-sighted.
The powers we give to the people in office today will transfer to the people who are elected tomorrow. Maybe you trust, support, or voted for the current president. But what if the next president were someone you couldn’t agree with? Would you still want that leader to have the same powers?
The government should have to get permission from citizens for everything it does, not the other way around. The government must be accountable to citizens, transparent, and unable to act in ways the citizenry would not condone. This is why we need whistleblowers. We need people to take a stand and point out when the government in not acting in the people’s interest. We need the government to answer to us.

Edward Snowden is a Whistleblower [blog]: Michael German writes about the lack of protection for whistleblowers to speak out about government wrongdoing
A Whistleblower’s Argument  (video): Tomas Drake, a former NSA whistleblower, makes his case for his actions as a whistleblower and what the role of a whistleblower is
Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA: Mass Spying “Not Something I’m Willing to Live Under” (video): Democracy Now discusses the implications of the US spying program as Edward Snowden explains why he has devoted his life to expose the NSA
Edward Snowden NSA Scandal: Why We Need a Whistleblower Protection Program [article]: How whistleblowers help to expose government abuses and decentralize power
Edward Snowden Blows It [article]: The implications of Snowden’s decision to released classified NSA information

Freedom Requires Whistleblowers: The Importance of Transparency
A free society requires a government limited to protecting its citizens’ freedoms. It has to be accountable to them. The government of a free society needs to ask its citizens’ permission for everything it does, not the other way around.
Maybe you’re not concerned about the invasions of privacy that the federal government agencies are engaging in because you think, “Well, I haven’t done anything wrong. What do I have to fear?” Maybe you think, “I like and support this president. I voted for him.” But what about the next president?
The powers that we let the government have under one president are the same powers that the next president will have, too. What if the next president is one you don’t support? Maybe you think he’s wrong on everything. He, too, will have all the power that you were willing to give the president you now support.
If we let our freedom be dependent on particular people, then those freedoms can be taken away if the wrong people get in charge. We need instead to have our freedom protected by law that operates regardless of who the particular people in office are. That’s why it’s so important to demand transparency and to maintain that the government must answer to us, the citizens, for all that it does. It is our servant.
So we need whistleblowers. We need people who are willing to take a principled stand and say, “No. The government here is overstepping its bounds.” The government owes us that transparency.