×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

High Court Trims Whistleblower Rights

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the dark-times-ahead dept.

718

iminplaya writes "In yet another blow against free speech rights, the Supreme Court decided that government employees who report wrongdoing do not enjoy 1st Amendment rights while on the job. From the article 'The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday, a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Samuel Alito cast the deciding vote [...] The ruling was perhaps the clearest sign yet of the Supreme Court's shift with the departure of moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the arrival of Alito. [...] Stephen Kohn, chairman of the National Whistleblower Center, said: "The ruling is a victory for every crooked politician in the United States."'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

718 comments

Unfortunate (4, Insightful)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433130)

Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays? It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

If TJ was brought to the future, he'd hate the government as it stands in this point in time, but then again, he'd hate alot of other things with the government now too, like how damned big it is.

Re:Unfortunate (4, Funny)

abscissa (136568) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433173)

Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays? It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

Please, what a lot of fearmongering and nonsense. Communist governments spend vast sums of nonexistant money, they tend to create an elite "politburo" class of elite rich while everyone else remains poor, they begin wars and conquor countries to control resources they otherwise wouldn't have and couldn't afford, and they promote lies in schools [sfgate.com] that run contrary to science and evidence.

Now tell me, HOW is America becoming to a pseudo-communist form of government??

Re:Unfortunate (1)

God of Lemmings (455435) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433194)

Someone mod parent +1 funny!. My points expired :(

Re:Unfortunate (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433208)

I would mod him up except I already posted here :(

As for a response to all of that; since the whole post was apparently a clump of sarcasm, I wont bother replying since it's all laid out in front of people. However, I'd love to see someone respond anyway.

Re:Unfortunate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433202)

Holy crap, that was brilliant! You're my new favorite person.

Re:Unfortunate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433256)

Shit, i cant decide if you are trolling or not. All the things you listec actually happens in USA today.. maybe not (yet) with the same intensity of the former URSS.

Re:Unfortunate (-1, Redundant)

idonthack (883680) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433293)

Communist governments spend vast sums of nonexistant money,
We're trillions in debt.
they tend to create an elite "politburo" class of elite rich while everyone else remains poor,
10% of the American population owns 80% of the wealth.
they begin wars and conquor countries to control resources they otherwise wouldn't have and couldn't afford,
Iraq.
and they promote lies in schools that run contrary to science and evidence.
Creationism.

I'm not sure if I should laugh, cry, or shoot the president. :-/

Re:Unfortunate (0, Troll)

protich (961854) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433319)

As per your creteria...USA fits. 1) Record Deficits...(spending vast sums of nonexistant money) 2) Tax cut for the rich...nothing for the poor. 3) IRAQ war?? (conquor countries to control resources they otherwise wouldn't) That said...you better lookup what communism means. It is darker than you imagine.

Not pseudo-communism. Fascism. (2, Interesting)

ag0ny (59629) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433179)

From the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]:

Fascism is a radical authoritarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, totalitarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism.

I think that this describes the current political situation in the USA pretty well.

Re:Not pseudo-communism. Fascism. (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433331)

Not quite. The central element of fascism is statism, going to the extremes of "cult of the State".

Anyway, Soviet-style communism and fascism are not the only two totalitarian ideologies, you know? Perhaps the US comes up with something original.

Re:Unfortunate (5, Insightful)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433180)

You have no idea what the word "communist" means. Why don't you go look it up?

The US is moving towards a police state, which China, to a large degree, already is. The US is more capitalistc than ever (capitalism is the opposite of communism).

Pseudo-communism (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433217)

You have no idea what the word "communist" means. Why don't you go look it up?

Read my post again next time :P

It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

Re:Unfortunate (4, Insightful)

jmv (93421) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433259)

Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays?

Yes.

It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

No, the thing is that China is becoming more and more capitalistic (despite the communist talk), while the US is becoming more and more repressive. Therefore both are becoming capitalistic, repressive regimes.

Re:Unfortunate (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433266)

It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(
I think you meant fascist. You should probably find out the definitions of communism and fascism.

you see? (4, Funny)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433131)

Democracy works!

Re:you see? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433159)

Can anyone prove to me we do not have an IMAGINED Democracy?

Re:you see? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433218)

Waah! they took all my rights away, waah!

Re:you see? (0, Flamebait)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433220)

Can you prove to me that you're not a script? Stupid

Re:you see? (0, Flamebait)

SloJohn (894738) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433268)

Stupid is as stupid does, accidentally hit the post anonymously box ass

Re:you see? (0, Offtopic)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433339)

Well, then I applaud you for paying such careful attention to the response from your anonymous post. That's quite a bit of scrolling to do. I didn't mean to call you personally stupid, but was noting that asking for proof of something like that is an excercise in futility. It's quite an abstract concept full of opinion and virtually devoid of fact. Proof is really a concept that doesn't apply to taxonomy, it's pretty subjective.

America is changing.... (4, Insightful)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433132)

Bit by bit, it seems, that America is changing into something quite different than I was taught in school. Like the supreme court ruling that allows local governments to sieze your land for a better purpose as just one of many examples.

Was it just that I was young and naive and believed in a good country that stuck to its principles? That principles meant something to this country?

Re:America is changing.... (4, Insightful)

spirality (188417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433172)

Funny thing about the eminent domain rulings, in particular the New London case. The conservatives, i.e. Scalia and Thomas oppossed the ruling, but Ginsberg and the liberal cliche, including O'Conner, I believe, supported it. Exactly the opposite of this decision.

On the surface this ruling might seem bad too, but I'm not so sure. From what I read it means that government employees can be fired for what they say at work. Just like me in my private sector job. This seems like a no brainer to me.

Re:America is changing.... (2, Insightful)

nickmalthus (972450) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433264)

Government workers are public servants who in the end work for the people. If they believe there is something wrong in the government and wish to report it to their ultimate boss, the people, they should feel free to do so. This ruling basically gives appointed officals total control of public servants to appointed officals and taking it away from the people whom they are suppose to serve.

Re:America is changing.... (1)

spirality (188417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433287)

It actually doesn't. I invite you to read the ruling [supremecourtus.gov]. The concurring opinion is like 16 of the 43 pages.

Re:America is changing.... (1)

TwinkieStix (571736) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433305)

Actually, the ruling is quite similar. In both cases, the same "wing" (right/left) stuck to either giving the government more or less power over corporate activities. In the case of whistleblowing, corporations would like to "deal with internal issues internally" which means that whistleblowing is bad for business. And it is when business is corrupt or the whistleblower is corrupt and anonymous. Extreme democrats will assume that the horrible corporations are out to get us and protect ever last whistleblower leaving the courts to shake out the liars; classical liberals would seek a common ground of simple law and restricted government for the greater good (attempting to protect the free market from liars and civil liberties from corporate corruption); and extreme modern republicans would blindly act pro-business. In the case of eminent domain, a similar situation occurs. Strong Eminent Domain laws are bad for business, but are a necessity to provide for increased infrastructure (roads for instance) and important for the common good when used in moderation. More government power over eminent domain means that there is a greater risk to business (and all land owners for that matter). Modern democrats give power to the government blindly assuming that government knows best; classical liberals seek a common ground of simple law and restricted government, and extreme modern mepublicans would blindly act pro-business assuming that businesses are smarter than beaucracies.

Re:America is changing.... (4, Interesting)

Vengie (533896) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433311)

Read Kyllo. (Not Kelo, which is the New London case you cited) Then get back to me when you understand what "conservative" and "liberal" mean in the supreme court context. Fourth and Fifth amendment law are good examples of where everything you know about "conservative" and "liberal" get shot to hell. (More or less: Scalia generally votes to free the felon, Ginsburg generally votes to lock them up.)

There is nothing at all "funny" about the eminent domain rulings if you understand where the "conservative" moniker comes from.


For 200 years, "social" and "constitutional" conservatives were basically one and the same. This stopped being the case 50 or so years ago, and has only grown profoundly since Reagan. This is not a "no brainer" and one of the dissents hits the nail on the head: A teacher protesting hiring decisions in a school would be protected, but a school HR employee protesting the same decisions would not be.

Re:America is changing.... (1)

Darth Liberus (874275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433177)

Bit by bit, it seems, that America is changing into something quite different than I was taught in school. Like the supreme court ruling that allows local governments to sieze your land for a better purpose as just one of many examples.

A city near me just used eminent domain to seize prime waterfront land owned by Wal*Mart and intended to be used for a Sam's Club... it will now be a mixture of small(er) businesses, restaurants, and apartments, with the waterfront set aside as a park. They cited the recent Supreme Court ruling in the process. [sfgate.com]

Re:America is changing.... (1)

Darth Liberus (874275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433195)

Now that I read the story again, it was set to be a ginormous Wal*Mart, not a Sam's Club... still, I think it shows that the ruling mostly shifts the decision making from the courts to local governments. Since it's a lot easier to boot out shitty local governments than shitty judges, it's probably a positive thing.

Re:America is changing.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433271)

If the government seized your land it wouldn't be for the first time. This land was taken from Native Americans in the first place. America has always done what is best for America even at the expense of other humans.

Sounds Fair in a way (0)

SloJohn (894738) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433137)

My only experience with federal employment is the military, and if you think we had any first amendment rights when it came to whistleblowing you are mistaken. Follow chain of command correctly, and get yourself singled out later on when you haven't done anything wrong. Granted civilians shouldn't really be treated like a volunteer military, they should be very careful on how they report wrong doing in the Federal Government. Lest they be singled out.

Bull's shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433138)

Supporters said that it will protect governments from lawsuits filed by disgruntled workers pretending to be legitimate whistleblowers.

Wow. That statement has more bullshit in it than bulls have up their ass.

and I quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433139)

"The ruling is a victory for every crooked politician in the United States." as opposed to?

FreeDumb of Speech (4, Funny)

packetmon (977047) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433144)

This country has been pushing out some of the strangest laws. Did the justices consider their ruling is likely to make someone think before reporting corruption. First it was the Bush administrations illegal wiretaps via the NSA, even though its not necessarily new news, now this. So what the current government has is a one two punch... If a whisteblower wants to report possible illegal activity, they may face the wraith of being tracked by the NSA, then the wrath of a justice system that's catering to criminals...

Re:FreeDumb of Speech (1)

gongsunlong (824794) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433167)

Did the justices consider their ruling is likely to make someone think before reporting corruption.

Surely that is the whole point.

The real shame (5, Insightful)

sxltrex (198448) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433152)

The real shame of the Bush regime isn't all the crap he's pulled during his presidency. The real shame, as demonstrated by this latest attack on our "inalienable rights, " is that it's going to take us at least 20 years to undo the damage. I still can't believe we had the opportunity to say goodbye after the first four years but brought him back for four more.

Re:The real shame (1)

GoLGY (9296) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433184)

No, the real shame is that the majority of the world tends to look to the US for guidance. Changes in which the US has tends to reflect in a number of other places, too.

Re:The real shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433252)

A decent Congress could fix this decision in a week by passing a whistleblower protection bill. Nothing in this bill says whistleblowers' jobs can't be protected.

This seems like a common sense decision by the court. The First Amendment protects you from prosecution for what you say. You can't be imprisoned for calling your boss a crook (or an asshole, or, unlike in some countries, a racial epithet), but you can be fired. Big deal.

It would be nice to have a law protecting government whistleblowers, but to have that we need to elect a Congress that will pass it.

Misconduct (5, Funny)

Mantrid42 (972953) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433156)

So... wait... if your superior is doing something wrong, you aren't allowed to talk about it? The Supreme Court just broke my mind.

Re:Misconduct (1)

SloJohn (894738) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433170)

Sounds to me like they are not protecting official communications from federal employees, not what they say to each other on a daily basis.

There's *legal* whistleblowing and illegal (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433224)

Thing is, and I'm no expert on this, but there is a *process* defined by law for whistleblowing. It's not going to your local neighborhood journalist to get your 15 minutes of fame for blowing the whistle to the press. Why? Because in blowing the whistle on illegal activity, you might also compromise perfectly *legitimate* state secrets. There is a chain of command, and if you feel you need to go outside the chain of command, there's other legitimate authorities to blow the whistle to (I suspect if you don't think you can blow the whistle to anyone in the executive branch, then you could go to a senator/congressperson from the minority party, and blow the whistle to them - I think congresspersons have a pretty bulletproof shield for then turning around and bringing it to the public's attention if necessary, or at least to the appropriate congressional committees for investigation; honestly, I don't know what is and isn't allowed, but there *are* whistleblower protection laws, for people who go about it properly).

If you really think the whole system top-to-bottom is so corrupt that *none* of the proper channels for internal government revue can be trusted, well, then I guess you have a choice to make. Practice civil disobedience (by going to the press) and (possibly) go to jail like a man, or not. See, people want to be all "I'm practicing civil disobedience" without *actually* breaking laws.

People might think this sounds crass, but what I'm saying is, in most cases, whistleblowers *can* and *should* work within the system, the legal framework, for whistleblowing without going to jail. If that is not possible, then by going to trial and going to jail, you will be shining a big old spotlight on the problem, and that too can serve the public good. But, if we said that anybody who claims to be whistleblowing can leak anything to the press, then we will be inviting an ever escalating flood of leaks.

This case would be about "legal" (2, Informative)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433283)

Cellabos got in trouble for sending a memo to his superiors with his findings after being assigned to investigate potential misconduct by the Sheriff's Department [northwestern.edu]. When his superiors proceeded with the prosecution anyway he contacted the defense attorney, which was certainly in the interests of justice and maybe even ethically required (any criminal lawyers out there to kill that "maybe" one way or the other?).

Re:This case would be about "legal" (2, Informative)

Vengie (533896) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433340)

He was ethically bound to report his belief and information that the warrant was facially invalid. There is a section in the dissent that replays the back-and-forth concerning the memo he would produce. (Ultimately his redacted memo.) As an officer of the court, he could not let abuse of process (i.e. a falsely obtained warrant) stand.

Re:Misconduct (1)

exley (221867) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433281)

No, you're allowed to talk about it, but that doesn't mean that the crook you're working for can't punish you for doing the right thing. I know, that doesn't exactly fix your mind.

Re:Misconduct (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433290)

you just made me realize.. they are the ones higher up than us.. and they (as far as i am conserned) are violating my rights (doing wrong) Soooooo.. i say they throw all the news people in jail and all the court clears that sent the letters to the news - because they are "whistleblowers"

Headline Is A Little Misleading (5, Insightful)

spirality (188417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433157)

You would think it was the end of the world by the headline. From what I understood of the article government employees should behave like private sector employees. That is, if I shoot my mouth off at work I might get fired. This seems like a no brainer. The speech seems to directly relate to what is said at work, not what is said in public about work. Big difference.

The thing about free speech is this. Your words have consequences, which might include you losing your job. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.

Dumbfuck moderators (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433171)

This isn't a troll. It was written by someone who clearly read the fine article before posting. Do we get downmodded for that now?

Before panicking over this decision, I'd wonder how many whistleblowing cases are actually affected by First Amendment law in the first place. Has a common defense been lost in such cases, or is it a relatively low-impact decision?

Re:Headline Is A Little Misleading (1, Insightful)

umbrellasd (876984) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433211)

There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.
There are a whole bunch of other laws that say what kind of action can and cannot be taken, however.

The quote from the article is:

The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday.
This is the beginning of the situation where a whole society sees a terrible wrongness and no one will say a word because they are terrified of reprisal. Eventually, even the people that have the job of punishing those that speak out are too terrified to not punish. And then you have a society of good people that are locked into a happy cycle of evil that they do not even want to be part of.

Anyway, that's the reason some people are saying this is so wrong. Whether it's a big jump from this to what I described or not, I do not know. Usually bad things are not nearly as far away as we think. And usually that's because we try to keep those bad things as far from our thoughts as possible, :-).

Re:Headline Is A Little Misleading (2, Insightful)

SQL Error (16383) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433320)

The quote from the article is:
The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday.

Yes, that is the quote from the article. The article is only very loosely connected to the actual ruling.

It's a newspaper. If you have ever read a newspaper article on a subject you are intimately familiar with, you would have found that they got most of the major facts wrong. The thing is, they do this to every story. Newspapers are just hopelessly inaccurate, not necessarily due to bias, but because reporters are incredibly lazy. And sub-editors - who have the job of creating the headlines - care about catching your attention, not about accurately summarising facts.

Tomorrow morning all the law-professor blogs will have picked the ruling apart line by line, and then you'll be able to see what it actually means. Or, as the parent poster did, you could read it yourself. But if you are going to announce the end of the world based on one line from an AP wire article, don't be surprised if everyone ignores you.

Re:Headline Is A Little Misleading (2, Insightful)

jmv (93421) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433216)

The thing about free speech is this. Your words have consequences, which might include you losing your job. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.

Sure, and think about it, your words have consequences, which might include you being jailed. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not jailing you because of your words.

Phew... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433248)

Mod parent up! Finally, someone with some reading comprehension skills...

But by all means, Slashdot Librulz, keep wallowing in your reactionary anti-US, Bush-hating ignorance.
Chicks dig it! Just ask Kasanova Kos!

Re:Headline Is A Little Misleading (1)

pintomp3 (882811) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433250)

it is a no brainer if you don't think about it. but the public has a right to know what crimes their govt is committing. it's not the same as private sector.

Re:Headline Is A Little Misleading (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433343)

Actually whats interesting is if you read the opinion http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/05pdf/04-47 3.pdf [supremecourtus.gov] you would see that more importantly they are seperating job related communications from whistleblower communications. Meaning if in our official capacity you regularly sent notices of the "official" opinion of your office, in which one day in it you added your personal opinion you could be fired. Versus, you using your off the clock time to send a whisleblower announcemnet concerning your personal opinions.

1875 law that gave blacks the right to vote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433175)

Was quickly destroyed by Crooked Goverment employees, look at what the indians endured time and again by the same goverment. Don't get all supprised now, watergate isn't exactly ancient news. Its all "Business as usual" when Big business gets in the White House. Look at what Fema was hiding. Its a long toride affair with the elected president appointing his cronies to positions they are not qualified for then abuse. It happens every 4 years. Or 8 if you start a war.

Look that last president reduced my power to hide stuff from the people, lets fix that!!!!

Freedom of speech (3, Insightful)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433178)

You can say whatever you like, unless the government really, really doesn't want you to say it.

Article summary is flamebait (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433183)

From the article, stripping away the spin and leaving in what Kennedy actually said:


"We reject, however, the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties," Kennedy said. ....
Kennedy said if the superiors thought the memo was inflammatory, they had the authority to punish him.

"Official communications have official consequences, creating a need for substantive consistency and clarity. Supervisors must ensure that their employees' official communications are accurate, demonstrate sound judgment, and promote the employer's mission," Kennedy wrote. .....
Kennedy said that government workers "retain the prospect of constitutional protection for their contributions to the civic discourse." They do not, Kennedy said, have "a right to perform their jobs however they see fit."


Should government workers really be able to pass around accusatory memos with no ability to be fired? I thought it was already enough of a joke that if you worked for the government you were in for life. Do we not want government employees to be accountable for what they say if it is false?

Speech will still be protected if it is truly whistleblowing, and not just bitching.

Re:Article summary is flamebait (2, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433244)

Should government workers really be able to pass around accusatory memos...?

Unless I'm mistaken, I thought we already had laws to prevent slander in the first place. The problem isn't that we don't laws already in place for issues such as this; the problem is that they aren't enforced.

Gee, sounds like the whole immigration issue in regards to enforcing existing laws. I'm starting to see a trend here...

Not slander though (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433341)

The thing is that "slander" in the legal sense is a very heavy hammer to use against someone, and not a tool an employer can use against an employee bitching about another employee (only the person being maligned can bring suit). If an employee is out of control it should be OK to fire them. What if an employee is just negatively gossiping about people all the time? That can be a huge productivity drain on workers.

After that point, if the firing was indeed because of something they said that was truly protected 1st amendment speech, then they can sue and they can win. If they were fired though and want to trump up a claim why should our court system have to suffer through it any more than we have a million idiotic MPAA cases cluttering court dockets. America needs to have FEWER, not MORE, lawsuits.

Re:Article summary is flamebait (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433345)

>Speech will still be protected if it is truly whistleblowing, and not just bitching.

That's not what the decision says, and I have yet to see an allegation that Mr. Cellabos was in error.

Re:Article summary is flamebait (4, Interesting)

Vengie (533896) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433352)

Read the opinion -- the entire opinon. The motion to suppress was denied on /other/ grounds. The warrant was facially invalid for the reasons he cited in his memo. The judge (in what some would call "judicial activism") denied the suppression motion based on other evidence in the record NOT in the warrant affidavit.

Basically, he blew the whistle that the government was using illegal tactics to catch a bad guy. The trial judge threw out the whistleblower by looking at the bad guy and saying "yeah, he's bad, so whatever." At the end of the day, this wasn't an accusatory memo. The majority glosses over the facts because they need to use the rhetoric. One of O'Connor's "totality of the circumstances" eleven pronged tests would have helped nicely here.

Eat my donut (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433192)

If you cut through The Constitution, you encircle it with lesser laws. What remains inside this "donut" therefore is rendered neutered and thus irrelevant.

Congress (2, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433196)

Congress, should it desire to do so, can pass legislation to protect government employees from retaliation for job-related speech that serves an important purpose.

The idea that the first amendment allows government employees to speak without fear of discipline or termination is a huge stretch.

Re:Congress (2, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433241)

In what way does it make any sense that an employee who has _legitimately_ reported the wrongdoings of his boss be fired for his trouble without even an iota of protection? All this will do is allow people that are doing something wrong to get away with it for a lot longer as employees stay hushed up for fear of losing their jobs.

I understand that they brought this about to try and reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits, but this is really throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater here.

This has nothing to do with the first amendment (4, Insightful)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433198)

The 1st amendment is a restriction preventing laws from being enacted which prevent freedom of speech. It does not, however, grant anybody a right to keep their jobs. It just means you won't be arrested after you're shown the door. The court ruling seems like common sense to me. It doesn't stop anybody from whistleblowing - but don't count on keeping your job if you do.

Re:This has nothing to do with the first amendment (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433223)

Yeah, let's just fire that guy because he belongs to political party/religion/group X. That stuff has never been protected. Oh wait.

Alito and the "deciding vote" (3, Insightful)

grammar fascist (239789) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433206)

Can someone clarify this for me?

The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday, a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Samuel Alito cast the deciding vote...

So did the other eight vote, and then hold off for Alito, or what? How can you definitively say that Alito cast the deciding vote?

This seems like anti-Alito flamebait to me.

Re:Alito and the "deciding vote" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433258)

Simple. The other eight were expected to vote a certain way; that is, the way they voted. Had O'Connor still been there, the vote would have been in support of "whistleblower's rights". With Alito there, the vote went against them.

Incidentally, I agree with a previous (not parent) poster; the decision was more against workplace trolls than against legitimate whistleblowers. Trust me as someone who interacts with govt. employees on a regular basis - they need to have some checks placed on their power.

The easiest way to piss off the building/planning depts. in Lane County, OR is by calling them "public servants". They're not public servants, they are government workers.

Re:Alito and the "deciding vote" (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433263)

Because they heard this case once before, after O'Conner retired, and before Alito was confirmed, or even named, and it resulted in a 4-4 tie. They reheard it with Alito on the bench, and apparently, the voting for the other eight remained the same.

Ergo, one could reasonably call Alito the deciding vote.

Re:Alito and the "deciding vote" (1)

numitor (978118) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433288)

it was argued while o'connor was still around but late enough that the decision would come out after she left and alito was on board. but that left it a 4-4 tie, so they reargued with alito on the Court.

Re:Alito and the "deciding vote" (1)

fluxrad (125130) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433291)

The case had been argued before the court in October, when O'Conner was on the bench and, based on her opinion, would have gone the other way had she stuck arround. So...O'Conner's replacement by Alito meant the court flipped and Alito cast what is concidered the deciding vote.

This was in TFA.

Spelling fix. (1)

fluxrad (125130) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433303)

Correction, her name is O'Connor, not O'Conner. Either way, I was talking about the one that wears the doiley around her neck.

Re:Alito and the "deciding vote" (1)

OO7david (159677) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433292)

Nina Totenberg on NPR [npr.org] explained it this afternoon. The gist of it is that Souter's dissent read much like an opinion as though he had been assigned to write it had O'Conner stayed around. It's explained better in the audio clip, though.

Re:Alito and the "deciding vote" (4, Informative)

schwaang (667808) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433312)

A self-described fascist said:
So did the other eight vote, and then hold off for Alito, or what? How can you definitively say that Alito cast the deciding vote?

From TFA you didn't read:
A year ago, O'Connor authored a 5-4 decision that encouraged whistleblowers to report sex discrimination in schools. The current case was argued in October but not resolved before her retirement in late January.

A new argument session was held in March with Alito on the bench. He joined the court's other conservatives in Tuesday's decision, which split along traditional conservative-liberal lines.

National Whistleblower Center (4, Insightful)

pintomp3 (882811) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433226)

when i read "National Whistleblower Center", i just had to google it. sounded like an SNL sketch. i know some of you will argue that noone has a right to keep their job, but this opens the door to legally squash anyone who might uncover your wrongdoing. also, it's not the same as a private company firing someone giving out trade secrets. we have a right to know what's going on in OUR govt. this point seems to be lost, the govt should be accountable to the public, not the other way around.

Don't beat around the bush. (2, Interesting)

AME (49105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433227)

Perhaps iminplaya should clear things up and tell us what he really thinks!

Nothing but news here. No editorializing in sight. Good thing Slashdot has standards.

cant help.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433240)

.. but laugh at the hypoKrisy of
anti-Komunist
ameriKa

mod flamebait if needed but the truth is Cartman was right, America was built upon saying one thing and doing another. We preaches liberty and equality among sexes, but look.. Asians who are regarded to be less liberated have had Women Presidents. Wheres the All American Girl preaching in front of the stars and stripes? Liberty to An American means "the right to screw whoever i want to". You made your bed. Nobody is going to take you seriously while you have different women in it at different times of the day.

I can't be fired!! (1)

prosphora (888114) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433245)

Heaven forbid we actually expect some personal responsiblity from people. The problem with many government employees is they usually cannot be fired without an enormous amount of wrangling. If they are reporting legitimate illegal/immoral/unethical activity, the evidence they present will put away the bad guys and allow them to keep their government jobs. Really I don't see how they have time for all that whistleblowin'. They have a full time job being annoyed with me for interrupting their daily routine with my request for a drivers license, permit, etc.

Re:I can't be fired!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433316)

You, sir, seem to have not met my friend. His name is "Politics."

The person who blows the whistle won't be fired for blowing the whistle. He'll be fired for "Inappropriate conduct" 6 months down the line because he forgot to say "Gehsundheit" when someone sneezed, or for some other similarly arbitrary and vague reason.

Slashdot is a mental toilet (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433253)

Boosh is murdering your children! Mwahahahaha.... Boosh is murdering .... he's killing all life on earth, burning up the planet itself... everyone is too dumb to realize... 'cept slashdot!

Freedom of Speech - George Tenent example (-1, Troll)

layer3switch (783864) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433257)

So lets say, claiming that WMD was covered under "Freedom of Speech", hence all of those who cry foul are saying George Tenent and the Administration shouldn't be held accountable.

I see, how you liberal dimwits think now. Thanks for playing "flamebait game". I'll take my troll karma now.

Re:Freedom of Speech - George Tenent example (2, Interesting)

nickmalthus (972450) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433314)

No, it is called libel. The downing street memos [downingstreetmemo.com] along with other government documents clearly shows the current administration knowingly deceived the public. Whistleblowers who wish to truthfully disclose government corruption are now at the mercy of corrupted.

Alito is full of shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433260)

I have more integrity in my left nut that Alito in his whole body, there you go, the man that pulled a con WITH HIS FAMILY present in front of a senate commision. Geez we need 4 more years with the republicans in power, Cheney + Whoever for 2008!!!!.

Article Itself is Misleading! (4, Insightful)

Vraeden (696461) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433261)

Reading the slip opinion, this case does not seem to be about retaliation for whistleblowing. A government employee was fired because his superiors believed his performance was inadequate, perhaps sparked by an argument over a possibly bad warrant.

All the Court seems to say here is that the memo that Ceballos wrote was not something he wrote as a civilian to "whistleblow," he wrote the memo as part of his job and could indeed be fired for it.

It'd be like getting fired for writing bad software...programmers can't claim their software is a communication protected by the 1st Amendment and then claim they can't be fired for it!

I suspect that one could still write "memos" and send them to journalists as a civilian and have those writings protected.

It's worth noting... (2, Insightful)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433275)

That whistleblower protection has been abused by employees. It's not uncommon for an employee catching wind of an upcoming termination to either fabricate or amplify some alledged wrongdoing then invoke whistleblower protection to save his/her ass.

Re:It's worth noting... (2, Insightful)

vykor (700819) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433313)

To draw an analogy, if people abuse a fire alarm, they are punished with appropriate measures. We do not remove fire alarms from our buildings entirely just because they have the potential to be false. The danger that the fire alarm protects us from is of enough consequence that we must risk the false positives.

Re:It's worth noting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433328)

Man, what a great idea!

The government and the people (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433279)

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. "We reject, however, the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties,"

But if Constitutional rights do not apply to employees of the government, then it is not a "government of the people". Up yours, Mr. Justice.

Someone screwed up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433321)

I say watch CNN and find out who's on the chopping block ...

Load off my mind! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15433329)

As a federal employee, for the DoD no less, I'm all for it. Now I too have an excuse when I see corrupt behavior from my superiors. Before I would think, "being a public servant is different than being a corporate shill, I have to stand up for the general good rather than the corporate bottom line". Now as many slashdotters have eloquentyl put it, government workers are not held to higher standards than company workers.

If I see fraud, waste or abuse, I'll just keep in mind my performance-based pay (read: "suck up to the boss", just like in corporate america) and happily ignore it.

thanks!

Loss of Rights (1)

Jeff Hunter (964363) | more than 7 years ago | (#15433351)

Yet another sign of our loss of rights. Since when was it a good idea for people to be afraid to let us know when their government or company was doing something wrong? Once, I thought this country was biased on freedom. Innocence dies hard.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...