As anyone who has ever seen an episode of Law & Order knows, prosecutors must often rely upon information and testimony provided by informants, whistleblowers, and even accomplices to help prosecute the most dangerous criminals. After all, who better knows the inner workings of a crime than one of the perpetrators? While using one thief to catch another is seen as distasteful by some, most people realize that this is the only way to secure convictions for the most dangerous criminals; for example, using a small-time drug dealer to help convict the kingpin, or the co-conspiring accountant to testify against the CEO’s embezzlement.
However, the situation becomes much more complicated when the whistleblower is a federal employee and they are blowing the whistle on the federal government. Federal employees work for the government, and parts of their job might require them to keep information about dangerous, unethical, or even illegal activity by the federal government away from the general public. This creates a difficult balancing act: when should a federal employee maintain the secrecy of such information, and when should they provide leaks to the press? Does it matter whether the federal employee is in a position of power? Are their motives relevant?