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Founder of new whistleblower group contrasts 'cowardly' leaking with whistleblowing

"[T]here is a difference between blowing the whistle, which is legal, and protected — and, arguably, your patriotic duty, right — and leaking," said Jason Foster, founder and president of EMPOWR.

Updated: July 13, 2021 - 10:31pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

There is an important difference between whistleblowing and leaking information that is often overlooked, according to Jason Foster, founder and president of Empower Oversight Whistleblowers & Research (EMPOWR).

People misunderstand that "there is a difference between blowing the whistle, which is legal, and protected — and, arguably, your patriotic duty, right — and leaking," Foster told the John Solomon Reports podcast. "Leaking is completely different ... leaking is illegal, a lot of the time, or against policy of the agency. And it's often the cowardly way out, as opposed to the patriotic thing to do."

Foster is the former chief investigative counsel to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. What he learned from Grassley "was the value of using whistleblowers to guide what you're doing" he said, "because they help point you to where the bodies are buried, the skeletons in the closet, they help you ask the right kinds of questions and dig deeper than just trying to grab a headline" now and then.

Whistleblowers "help keep you grounded" because "typically, they're not in it for any kind of partisan reason, and they're putting their neck on the line and their career on the line," said Foster. "And it's usually because it's something pretty important that everybody should care about, regardless of whether you're Republican, Democrat, conservative, or liberal."

When working with whistleblowers, "you're trying to help protect them, as well as actually use the information they've given you to make a difference and actually get something done," which "often gets lost in all the fights about retaliation and procedure and so forth," Foster said.

EMPOWR boasts an experienced, successful whistleblower team to help walk whistleblowers through the process, said Foster. Whistleblowers on staff include John Dodson and Peter Forcelli, who both worked for years at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and were involved in exposing the Fast and Furious scandal.

The EMPOWR team "includes people who have blown the whistle and who have survived, and not just survived, but have thrived," Foster said. It's important for whistleblowers to have experienced, successful allies so they won't feel alone and can be successful themselves, he explained.

EMPOWR, which launched on July 2, is already hearing from many people with potential whistleblower information, according to Foster. "We've already gotten a lot of intake from our website," he said. "I've actually been pleasantly surprised and a little overwhelmed by the folks contacting us already, because, you know, you got to do the hard work, and you got to go through them … and you gotta start researching them."

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