Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Introduces Bill to Reform the Espionage Act and Strengthen Whistleblower Protections

October 2, 2020
Press Release
Washington, DCThis week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) introduced H.R.8452, the Protect Brave Whistleblowers Act, a bill intended to reform the Espionage Act to better protect whistleblowers. This week, she also introduced a resolution defending the actions of Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who exposed illegal and unconstitutional surveillance programs run by the U.S. government, and calling for charges against him to be dropped. 
This legislation is supported by Daniel Ellsberg, best known for his crucial work in 1971 to expose the U.S. government conduct in the Vietnam War by releasing a top-secret Pentagon study known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1973, he was charged under the Espionage Act along with other charges of theft and conspiracy. 
“When brave whistleblowers come forward to expose wrongdoing within our government, they must have the confidence that they, and the press who publishes this information, will be protected from government retaliation,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “People like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, among others, acted in the public interest to expose information that impacted the American people. They are being persecuted for doing so, and under current law, are legally unable to defend themselves in court because they are prohibited from speaking about their intent for disclosing information. All charges against them and extradition efforts should be dropped. We must ensure that whistleblowers charged under the Espionage Act are treated fairly under our judicial system and able to mount a just, legal defense.”
“If this long-overdue revision of the 1917 Espionage Act had been law half a century ago, I myself could have had a fair trial for releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971: justice under law unavailable to me and to every other national security whistleblower indicted and prosecuted since then.  I applaud, congratulate and thank Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for protecting our First Amendment against growing and unprecedented assault, and providing a legal defense for unauthorized disclosures in the public interest, the lifeblood of a republic,” said Daniel Ellsberg.
The bill is also supported by Defending Rights & Dissent (DRD).
Background: H.R.8452, the Protect Brave Whistleblowers Act would create additional protections for whistleblowers tried for violations of the Espionage Act:
  • Allow defendants in Espionage Act cases to speak to their intent in their defense. Currently, those who are tried under the Espionage Act are not afforded the opportunity to speak towards their intent or motive during their defense as they could under a normal court case. 
  • Add a public interest defense that would permit defendants to raise the defense that their disclosures were in the public interest.
The bill is supported by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as well as Defending Rights & Dissent (DRD).
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been a consistent champion of whistleblowers throughout her time in Congress.
She also introduced a resolution, H.Res.1162, calling for charges to be dropped against Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who exposed illegal and unconstitutional acts of abuse within our government. The resolution also calls for Congress to do more to protect whistleblowers who expose illegal and unconstitutional acts of abuse within our government.
She has previously spoken in support of Julian Assange and applauded a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which determined that the warrantless telephone surveillance program that secretly collected phone records of millions of Americans violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The NSA program in question was exposed by Edward Snowden, who leaked details about it to the press.
In August, she was joined at a press conference by three medical experts, including a Department of Health employee whistleblower, exposing the lies coming from the Department of Health leadership regarding contact tracing efforts in Hawai’i. She has continued to demand answers and transparency from the State after the whistleblower’s exposure.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has also been an outspoken leader on freedom of speech and technology privacy issues. She has earned an A+ legislative scorecard rating from the Restore the Fourth and Fight for the Future.
Rep. Gabbard fought against U.S. intelligence agencies’ actions that threatened the privacy of American citizens. Drawing on her military service and constitutional protections, she admonished the National Security Administration for its sweeping collection of personal data, supported legislation to curtail it, and voiced her support for court decisions aiming to rein in executive overreach.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for over 17 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major in the Army Reserves. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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