In Item #3 of this morning’s Warm-Up, I wrote, “The intelligence community quietly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings that had existed since May, 2018. The revised version of the whistleblower complaint form was not made public until after the transcript of the President’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. It had eliminated the first-hand knowledge requirement, allowing government employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they lack direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”
I now know that this description was misleading and incorrect, because my source had confused a change in the reporting form, which it documented with screen shots, with a change in the whistleblower law, which had remained the same. This was explained in a twitter thread by Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a technology and privacy expert. I will note that based on the Federalist’s screen shot above, one can understand their confusion.
Twitter is terrible format to make a substantive argument or explain anything, but I guess Sanchez doesn’t have a blog or a Facebook account, or something. He writes that he contacted the site’s editor Mollie Hemingway and she didn’t correct the post.
[Notice of Correction: I had written here, erroneously, that the Federalist doesn’t allow comments. It does: I missed the tiny link at the bottom of the page. In fact, there are a lot of comments to that post. They are not helpful…]
I considered trying to put the following in coherent chronological order, but I’m just going to post Sanchez’s tweets as they appear on his feed:
Got all that? What Sanchez is pointing out is that the original form, the one the Federalist and Sean Davis found was changed right around the time of the complaint to the Inspector General, was misleading, and might have incorrectly communicated that a report had to be based on first hand knowledge. That was never true, so the Federalist headline, “ Intel Community Secretly Gutted Requirement Of First-Hand Whistleblower Knowledge” is factually incorrect, and its subhead, “Federal records show that the intelligence community secretly revised the formal whistleblower complaint form in August 2019 to eliminate the requirement of direct, first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing” is half wrong. The form was clarified, but the requirement as stated in the relevant law didn’t change.
The Federalist should correct all of this, as I am doing now regarding my post based in part on its mistake.
However, part of the Federalist’s point, and mine, remains valid. Changing the form appears to be an advance effort to eliminate objections to the whistleblowers’ report against the President. Yes, it was , as Sanchez says, a valid clarification, but the timing is still suspicious.
I also find Sanchez’s statement that the transcript of the President’s phone call confirms the key points in the complaint untrue, and suggests bias or confusion. Sanchez is a confirmed NeverTrumper, and he’s not a lawyer. In that opinion, both show. The call transcript neither justifies nor substantiates the complaint. Sanchez is correct about the Federalist’s error however.
Special thanks is due to valkygrrl for the pointer.