News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Whistleblowers need time to digest high court's ruling

The immediate impact of this week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling against government whistleblowers is that the bureaucrats get a busman's holiday.

No longer, at least temporarily, will they have to fear a career employee taking his case against stupidity, corruption or favoritism directly to the public.

The court's 5-4 decision may not have totally sided with government against employees, but it weighs heavily in that direction, until someone successfully tests the ruling.

Stephen Kohn, chairman of the National Whistleblower Center, said the ruling is a "victory for every crooked politician in the United States."

Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in writing for the court majority, basically said whistleblowers still have the protection of the Constitution, but they had better be right.

The ruling came out of a Los Angeles County case in which prosecutor Richard Ceballos wrote a memo that questioned if a county sheriff's deputy lied in a search warrant affidavit. A lower court ruled the Constitution protected Mr. Ceballos in what he said was an effort to get to the truth.

In taking the government's side, Justice Kennedy said that if Mr. Ceballos' superiors thought the memo was inflammatory, they had the authority to punish him.

Without robust discussion and protection for participating in it, government employees become drones easily manipulated by political hacks who carry out their own missions.

Unfortunately, the ruling reflects the Bush administration's intolerance for dissent and a growing trend at all levels of government to deny the public open access to what they own as U.S. citizens.

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