WikiLeaks Versus Whistleblowers
Despite thousands of recent print, broadcast and Internet reports about WikiLeaks, the renegade website’s alleged whistleblowing activities and certain documents it has “published,” qui tam remains the first name in whistleblower; “journalist” remains the first name in publishing; and Julian Assange is neither.
Under federal and state false claims acts, whistleblowers – known legally as “qui tam relators” from a Latin phrase first used in 13th century English law – reveal “inside” or otherwise secret information in an effort to expose corruption and fraud involving government purchases and contracts.
These relators are true whistleblowers who don’t jeopardize legitimate government operations by releasing classified documents. They retain attorneys who assist them in providing confidential information, initially under seal and under court supervision, in an effort to advance important societal goals, such as protecting the health and safety of Americans who take prescription drugs, and protecting the welfare of men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces.
True journalists don’t brandish doomsday weapons of more embarrassing leaks, which Assange has threatened if he were prosecuted for violating the law or killed. True journalists balance the need to provide information to their readers and viewers under the protections of the First Amendment with the need to provide confidentiality for certain critical government operations, or to protect lives that could be lost. Witness the recent efforts of journalists who communicated with the government regarding raw documents provided to them by WikiLeaks.
I prosecuted violent and white-collar criminals during 16 years as a Delaware deputy attorney general. After more than 125 jury trials, I was named director of the First State’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, where, along with my federal and state colleagues, I was responsible for pursuing civil whistleblower cases against drug manufacturers, which led to the recovery of billions of federal and state taxpayer dollars.
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