The Biden Administration has a historic opportunity to reverse the executive branch’s long-standing war on whistleblowers, and end the all-too-common (and sadly bipartisan) practice of villainizing whistleblowers and leakers to avoid accountability for government wrongdoing revealed by these actors.
There is no better test for the Biden Administration’s commitment to transparency and justice than in the Environmental Protection Agency, where four scientists alleged that managers and career staff in the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention tampered with agency assessments of “dozens of chemicals” to delete potential hazards and make the chemicals appear safer than they were. Although each of the scientists first filed official complaints with the EPA’s Inspector General and the Office of Science Integrity, their concerns were not addressed and the scientists came forward as a matter of public safety. One week after The Intercept published the first piece in a series about the scientists’ concerns, EPA Administrator Michael Regan sent a memo to EPA employees warning them against engaging with the press.
The whistleblowers’ revelations are a major test for the Biden Administration, which is also carrying on the Trump Administration’s litigation position against EPA whistleblower Kevin Chmielewski (Chmielewski exposed Trump-appointee Scott Pruitt’s “chronic abuse of taxpayer dollars”). Choosing whether whistleblower concerns are a serious matter of public health and government wrongdoing, as opposed to meddlesome leakers in the federal government, is a key test for Biden and Attorney General Garland. Public health, and faith in the federal government, depends on their response.