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By , the scientists forecast, changes in rainfall and hotter temperatures will reduce the agricultural productivity of the Midwest to levels last seen in the s. See how days at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit have changed in your lifetime and how much hotter it could get. The risks, the report noted, depend on the ability of producers to adapt to changes. During the Midwestern drought, farmers who incorporated conservation practices fared better, said Robert Bonnie, a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke University who worked in the Agriculture Department during the Obama administration.

But federal programs designed to help farmers cope with climate change have stalled because the farm bill, the primary legislation for agricultural subsidies, expired this fall. The report says the Midwest, as well as the Northeast, will also experience more flooding when it rains, like the Missouri River flood that inundated a nuclear power plant near Omaha, forcing it to shut down for years. Other parts of the country, including much of the Southwest, will endure worsening droughts, further taxing limited groundwater supplies. Those droughts can lead to fires, a phenomenon that played out this fall in California as the most destructive wildfire in state history killed dozens of people.

The report predicts that frequent wildfires, long a plague of the Western United States, will also become more common in other regions, including the Southeast. The Great Smoky Mountains wildfires, which killed 14 people and burned more than 17, acres in Tennessee, may have been just the beginning. We know. Global warming is daunting.

Towards Data Science

Climate change is taking the United States into uncharted territory, the report concludes. The variable going forward, the report says, is the amount of carbon emissions humans produce. Coral Davenport covers energy and environmental policy, with a focus on climate change, from the Washington bureau. Kendra Pierre-Louis is a reporter on the climate team. Before joining The Times in , she covered science and the environment for Popular Science. Climate U. Log In. Whistleblowing is always dangerous, but embarking on that path without preparation and thoughtful consideration of the consequences can be a recipe for disaster.

For those contemplating or maybe unable to avoid being identified as a whistleblower, we sketch out some considerations and potential negative consequences in the following pages.

It takes individuals to deliver the truth about wrongdoing and sometimes the only individuals in a position to do so work within the very organizations committing wrongdoing. But few paths are more professionally treacherous than challenging abuses by your own employer. If you are thinking of publicly opposing an action by your agency or openly reporting wrongdoing in the workplace, here are some considerations to think about before acting.

One person against a government agency is inherently a David-versus-Goliath struggle. The organization holds most of the cards. People who speak out loudly and publicly against their organization can face repercussions in their jobs. Not all of these repercussions are immediately obvious. Some whistleblowers are given lateral transfers to isolated or unpopular offices. When agency employees go public with tales of malfeasance or other information of public concern, the media spotlight may focus on the personality at the expense of the issue.

Whistleblowers may find that they become the story. Government agencies often find it easier to distract from their misconduct by attacking the messenger than addressing the message. Women can face misogynistic accusations and racial minorities can face racist allegations. This allows the agency to turn the tables and put the employee, or their motives, on trial: Is the whistleblower a good employee? Does the whistleblower have a hidden agenda like revenge or ambition?

In instances where the employee is fighting to obtain a remedy for retaliation, the case turns on questions of employment law see Chapter 6 such as: Was the termination lawful? Is there a legitimate reason for the transfer? Did the agency abuse its discretion? The concern the employee raised becomes a subsidiary issue in a reprisal case. This means whistleblowers must fight on two fronts—to defend themselves, and to convince government authorities to address the problems they raised.

Good professionals are often casualties of whistleblower conflicts. Even vindicated whistleblowers leave agencies as a matter of survival, or are too disheartened to continue in their chosen career. At a minimum, agency managers will likely shy away from giving whistleblowers sensitive or potentially controversial assignments—in other words, the most significant work where integrity counts the most. But conscientious employees who take career risks to address problems are precisely the people who best serve the public, and are the employees we need to keep in government agencies.

The human dimension to these risks should not be overlooked. Being a whistleblower is stressful. As employees are transferred to less-interesting projects or have their responsibilities removed, boredom and frustration can set in. Notwithstanding the above, you may choose to blow the whistle. As we explain in later chapters, often employees do not even think they are engaging in dissent, believing they are just doing their jobs. But then they wake up one day to find that they somehow made the transition from valued worker to Public Enemy Number One. In other instances, the employee is in a situation where they have nothing to lose by fighting.

Media Releases

When that moment of realization or decision arrives, pause for a moment to review the following survival tips that apply to whistleblowers who choose not to act anonymously. Blowing the whistle can impact your entire family. Before taking any irreversible steps, talk to your spouse, significant other, family, or close friends—the support group you will need in the coming days, months, or years—about your decision to blow the whistle. If they are not with you, you may want to rethink this path. Any personal vulnerability or peccadillo can be used against you by your agency.

If there is something in your past you do not want to see on the front page of the newspaper or shared with the world on social media, reconsider blowing the whistle. Keep copious records and a daily diary of relevant information to memorialize conversations and developments. Forward or print relevant work emails and maintain copies of records in case you are cut off from evidence in your workplace that can assist you in proving your allegations. Your chances of success will likely depend on how powerful a paper trail you produce.

Be warned, however. Proving your charges with institutional records can be extremely dangerous. It can mean criminal prosecutions for unlawfully copying or removing government records. There have even been cases where federal employees have been threatened with prosecution for sharing non-classified information. Depending on the potential legal liabilities involved, whistleblowers should store their copies of evidence in a secure, independent location away from their homes, preferably through an attorney where confidentiality is generally protected by attorney-client privilege.

Copies of electronic records can be stored under misleading folder names or in locations that are unlikely to be discovered see Chapters 2 and 3 for more discussion of the risks of moving agency records. That way the whistleblower can be a navigator for law enforcement authorities, instructing them on what records to seek, and then where to find them if an employer denies their existence. Time is also an institutional resource. Depending on the circumstances, you could end up enabling your organization to make the argument that you committed time fraud, misappropriated agency time or resources, or simply are a poor performer.

Even off the clock, you also should make it clear that you do not speak for the agency—especially if you are communicating concerns to the press. Solidarity is important for your ability to make a difference and survive professionally. Do not wait to be cut off by your agency. Without exposing yourself as a threat to the organization, gauge the level of support among your co-workers for the concerns you might raise. See if others share your concerns. This is important for quality control, not just for your sense of solidarity.

They may have knowledge to which you were not privy, and that could change your mind or modify or expand your concerns. Get a sense of whether key people will back up your account. Try to stay on good terms with administrative staff who may be in a position to know of impending agency actions.

Predictive Analytics in Government Decisions

Seek out potential allies before your situation heats up, and work through intermediaries when possible. Enlist the assistance of sympathetic interest groups, elected officials, or journalists. The strength of your support coalition is often key to making the legal rights you have on paper work for you in reality. As with preventative medicine, getting a little legal advice up front can protect against the need for extensive intervention later. Be careful to find an attorney who respects your goals as a whistleblower, and who is willing to safeguard your evidence.

Many attorneys see their duty as preventing you from incurring the liability you are willing to risk but that you should be prepared for. This will be an intimate professional partnership, so make sure you trust and are compatible with your lawyer. One reason some whistleblowers hire attorneys is because they can make disclosures on behalf of an anonymous client, legally shielded by attorney-client privilege.

If possible, pick a time and set of circumstances where you will have the most impact with your disclosure. The timing of your disclosure, particularly to the press, is a serious strategic decision that can affect the chances your disclosure will receive attention. Timing can also affect whether you face retaliation. Press coverage can cut both ways: it could shield you from immediate retaliation while you remain in the media spotlight, but it could also anger your management more than if your disclosures were more discreet.

If you do decide to disclose your evidence to the press, it may be wise to release your evidence incrementally rather than all at once. This can spark repeated stories that sustain the spotlight, and provide a chance to call the bluffs of overly broad institutional denials. See Chapter 5 for an extended discussion of working with the press. Those who are abusing their power must be reacting to you, not vice versa. Be clear-headed about precisely what you expect to accomplish and how. Do not premise your actions on the vague notion that the truth will prevail.

As part of your advance work, get information into the hands of key potential organizational and political allies, and earn their commitment to reinforce your disclosure. The tenor of this first exchange may determine if the immediate battle with your organization will be quick or drawn-out. Map out where your actions will leave you a year from now, two years from now, five years, and further on. Plan out the route you want to take and how you reasonably expect your professional path to proceed.

There is little doubt that you are about to embark upon a journey that will have a significant impact on your professional and personal life, and you should be prepared with a realistic roadmap of how you might get where you want to go in your career.


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However, you should also have contingency plans since once you make a disclosure, particularly if it becomes public, your career and life may change in unexpected ways. Throwing away your entire career, particularly if there are other ways to air the problem, can be imprudent and counterproductive. The longer you can keep the spotlight on the issue and not on you, the greater the chance the problem will be addressed, the longer you will maintain access to evidence necessary to prove your concerns, and the greater the chance you can keep your job and avoid retaliation.

The best way to do this is by providing powerful evidence to those who can expose the wrongdoing and take action without leaving an obvious trail for managers to trace back to you. One way you can spur change at your agency is by releasing information about wrongdoing while staying under the radar. In order to be anonymous, you must shield all of the identifying information that can be traced back to you, not just your name, from public disclosure and from your management.

Your desire to remain anonymous may force you to make some high-stakes choices on what information to disclose. In some instances, the evidence that reveals agency misconduct also inherently reveals the whistleblower source, such as a sensitive memo with an extremely limited circulation or an email sent to only a few recipients. In other words, when few people know the truth, the facts can be the equivalent of your signature. In these cases, you could suffer career damage if your agency learns that you were the employee who released the information.

The key then is to stay undercover and work on your own time with others, such as an advocacy group or journalist, to share the critical information in a way that leaves no fingerprints or as few as reasonably possible. Strict confidentiality procedures coupled with ready legal assistance can help maximize your protection.

In short, anonymity prevents retaliation. Anonymity does not necessarily mean that reporters, advocacy partners, or Congressional staffers you choose to work with will not know your identity. Being anonymous also allows you to keep your job and to access a sustained flow of information from your agency. If you are able to maintain your anonymity, you may get advance access to any organizational strategy to deny or cover up your anonymous disclosures. This can keep authorities or the public a step ahead of government attempts to perpetrate a cover-up. Techniques that have been effective at shielding identities and getting the truth out for past whistleblowers include working with advocacy partners, using the Freedom of Information Act to get documents released, and working through collective action to shield individual whistleblowers.

Some groups less sensitive to the plight of whistleblowers may choose to risk exposing your identity for what they believe is the greater good. Congressional staff may not realize they are exposing you when they demand answers from agencies by asking questions that sound like the points you are known to have made internally.

Because of the great risks that come with whistleblowing, it is important to make a plan with a trustworthy advocacy group or publishing partner to prevent your exposure. Sometimes developing and implementing such a plan takes weeks, months, or even years. Considering the alternatives, however, the wait and effort in planning are well worth it.


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  • Having external allies and public opinion on your side can help you safely and effectively bring the truth to light. Advocacy partners can be a networking lifeline to neutralize workplace isolation, whether you are a secret source for disclosures and thus cannot talk to anyone at work about what you are doing, or you become ostracized because management identified you as the source.

    An outside group can help provide you with resources, connections, and assistance in developing a constituency for the truth about abuses of power your agency is hiding. This outside affiliation can be key to effectively utilizing your limited time outside of work. An advocacy partner may be a union, nonprofit organization, or professional society. An advocacy partner can work with you, your attorney, reporters, or any other players relevant to getting the truth out, such as Congressional committees.

    The advocacy partner can act as both a shield to protect your identity and a conduit for your information to get to the outside world so that your concerns become known and hopefully acted-upon. This partner may also be able to identify allies within your organization. Take the classic example of a leaked document. A document detailing disconcerting information the public should know about has been broadly circulated within an organization.

    In other words, it helps to have friends. But remember, each advocacy organization has its own agenda. Even if your interests appear to be aligned, the organization has no formal obligation to be loyal to you. Thus, you may want to establish a formal attorney-client relationship with an attorney at an advocacy organization. The relationship is covered by the attorney-client privilege, 70 which generally requires the attorney not to disclose certain information you share with them.

    The privilege generally shields information from being released, but can be challenged in court if there is some factual basis showing that an attorney gave advice related to committing a future crime. You should be careful not to disclose any restricted information to the attorney until the attorney advises you regarding liability; as noted below, there are many scenarios in which a disclosure is protected only if it is made to certain recipients, which often does not include private attorneys.

    Not all advocacy organizations will legally represent whistleblowers, though.

    When that happens, one party or the other must waive its rights, and the advocacy organization may not want to hamper its options. So, another course is to seek out your own attorney who can act as an intermediary between you and an advocacy organization. The attorney can shield your identity, serve as a go-between for communications, and make sure your interests are not sacrificed. If you share information with an advocacy group or others anonymously and without legal representation, those communications are inherently less controlled.

    Unless you obtain an advance agreement on conditions for the material you provide, the organization has a blank check to use the information however it wants, without regard to or even knowledge of the consequences for you the whistleblower. So make sure you are comfortable with your partners and how little control you may have once you hand over information. They may point out considerations you have not thought of. There are some additional cautionary notes to consider before you hand over documents to an advocacy group.

    See Chapter 3 for details on how to minimize your digital fingerprints when moving evidence from your agency to an advocacy partner or anyone else. Before doing so, check to make sure there are not restrictions on emailing or otherwise moving the government documents you need. You need to be especially careful with how you handle classified information see the section below on the risks of classified information or information that the law specifically prohibits public release of, 85 such as material covered by the Privacy Act or medical-patient privacy protections.

    If you are not careful, your agency could target you for improperly taking possession of restricted information. Even this is not foolproof. Your agency may have rules on how government information must be secured even if the information does not leave the workplace, so you should consider that as well. If you decide that removing evidence is necessary, you may want to consider hiring your own lawyer and asking them if they can maintain the files, and if attorney-client privilege would shield the files.

    Smoking guns and proof of cover-ups make a difference. By working with an advocacy partner, you can inform the public of the existence of incriminating documents or other evidence of malfeasance. Public awareness is often the key to holding government entities accountable for malfeasance. Handing over evidence is only one of the ways you can work with advocacy partners. Another is educating them on the complicated bureaucratic issues, abuses of power, or violations of law that you have witnessed. While these problems can seem arcane to the general public, they often have profound impacts on public policy, and an advocacy group may be able to translate your specialized knowledge in a way that the public can easily understand.

    Another option for educating the public is to submit a public comment in a federal rule-making process, as long as you do so outside of work time and using non-governmental equipment. But some offices are so politicized that many employees dare not participate in that process. The result is a media- and public-friendly report that could only have come from an insider.

    These employee-written white papers have formed the basis of litigation, been the subject of legislative hearings, and helped shift the tide of policy. Similarly, you can anonymously draft public comments, administrative appeals, document requests, or letters for signature by the advocacy group. You remain anonymous, of course. But the advocacy partner works with you to ensure that the facts are well documented. This includes citing publicly available materials and referring to—or even appending—reproduced copies of internal memos not easily available to the public see Chapter 3 on how to minimize risks when using electronic communications and digital devices.

    Virtually all states also have some form of public records law. For employees inside an agency, FOIA can be a tremendous tool for putting the agency on the record. The whistleblower can tutor advocacy partners about which records to seek, or even ghostwrite FOIA requests. If you write documents as part of your job at an agency, you should try to minimize the chance these records can be withheld from public view under FOIA exemptions.

    For example, you could write a memo that includes a timeline of relevant facts in one section and legal analysis in another section. If you are receiving key records, you may consider circulating them as widely as possible without drawing unwanted attention to your action. Email is another asset in the war to make government business public. Many managers write candid thoughts in emails that they would never put into formal correspondence, yet an email is just as much a public record as an old-fashioned memo is.

    Anonymous whistleblowers can act as watchdogs for FOIA cover-ups. For example, during investigations of unsafe nuclear facilities, the Government Accountability Project worked with public employees to draft precisely targeted FOIA requests. These employees made copies of the records, and provided notice when documents were moved off-site, concealed, or destroyed.

    This appears to have happened with then-FBI agent Terry Albury, who pleaded guilty to providing classified information to The Intercept. Union organizers know that collective action provides both power and anonymity for members of groups. While bad managers can punish individual employees for simply bringing up problems, both retaliation and smears become more difficult to carry out when a group of employees speaks with one voice. The larger the group, the more the power imbalance is neutralized. For example, the Government Accountability Project recruited the president of the Food Inspectors Union to publicly speak in congressional testimony for a number of whistleblowers, providing cover for those concerned about harassment—a way to launder the truth on the record.

    A way to put this principle into action is to use employee surveys to document or dramatize problems within organizations without putting individual employees in the spotlight. With the help of an advocacy partner, surveys can be worded with employee input to expose the most important problems facing the organization. Once the survey is finalized, an advocacy partner works with employees to distribute the questions, encourage participation, and compile the results. There are other benefits to conducting employee surveys. Aside from diagnosing problems within organizations and holding leaders accountable, surveys can show individual employees that they are not alone in their concerns, reducing the sense of isolation.

    Best of all, if the survey is credibly designed to protect the identity of its participants, this can be accomplished without threatening the job security of any employees who participate. Technology can be a valuable tool for blowing the whistle, but it can also make it easier to identify those who expose wrongdoing. While you may be able to share information with the click of a button, chances are that click will be tracked. Luckily, there are tools that can help you remain anonymous when reaching out to advocacy groups, journalists, or other potential allies online.

    Digital security best practices are constantly evolving, as are detection technologies and techniques, so there are some general principles that are important to keep in mind while you decide whom and what to trust. State and private actors have the ability to infiltrate many digital devices. The good news is that if you do your homework and are careful, some tools can help maintain the security of your conversations even if all your communications have been intercepted. Basic lessons to keep in mind are summarized below, with references for more advanced homework.

    Taking precautions such as using multi-factor authentication to lock down online accounts and using strong unique passwords or better yet, a password manager can help reduce your exposure to online threats, such as criminal hackers, or government investigations seeking the source of leaked information. Even the best encryption will not help if you already have exposed yourself as a threat. Monitoring software is widely reported to be used by employers, both in and outside the government.

    Be careful about what information you access at work. Many organizations consider high-tech leakers to be like hackers, and use highly advanced specialists to uncover both. Employers usually maintain logs, keep careful track of who has access to information, and monitor for unusual patterns of access. For example, you could come under suspicion if logs show you were one of only a few people to print or email a document that later leaks.

    In some cases it may be advisable to avoid removing data from networks directly. Some organizations automatically identify which machine accessed a file, and removing information through a flash drive, for instance, may look suspicious or even immediately trigger alarms. Another approach is to transcribe the information word for word on paper. You may want to leave a physical copy of the information hidden somewhere secure inside the organization. If possible without revealing your identity, save an electronic copy of the file to a location where it is unlikely to be found, to safeguard against later erasure of the original.

    Many different entities, such as social networks, email providers, and the companies that actually provide internet access, also collect massive amounts of information about users in order to carry out their work and to fuel the online advertising market. While the government may not have immediate access to your online activities, online-service providers may be legally compelled to turn over records in certain circumstances, such as during the course of a criminal investigation.

    Consider only doing research about your next steps while using some of the tools described later in this section, such as the Tor Browser or Tails. Carefully consider if documents can identify you as the source before you share them. How many people within the agency have access to them? Is there identifying information built into the text such as timestamps, or tweaks to language or formatting unique to a certain version? If you plan to share digital files, you should strip that information when possible. Tips on how to strip the info from file types such as Word documents, PDFs, and images are readily available online.

    Research on ways to cover your digital footprints is best done via Tails or Tor, tools that will be discussed later in this chapter, because searching for this type of information could throw suspicion on you if uncovered later during a leak investigation. Scans of physical copies of documents may also include identifying information. For example, most printers leave tracking information in the form of dots not obvious to the human eye.

    These should be scrubbed before the document is shared, if at all possible, through methods such as converting the document to black and white and making repeated printed copies that can distort the trackers. Also avoid cloud storage services like iCloud or Google Drive that can be linked to you.

    Instead, keep them isolated and encrypted on new, securely stored flash drives that have never been used on a computer that can be traced to you. The best defense against digital snooping at this time is using technologies that incorporate strong encryption, both for communications and stored data. For communications, end-to-end encryption—encryption that applies throughout the process to help ensure that only the sender and receiver can read the contents—is currently the best tool to use.

    That means that even if communications are secured with the strongest options currently available, future advances in computing may make something that would take years or decades to crack now easier to crack in the future. Encryption can protect the content of different types of communications, including instant messages, email, and voice calls. Generally, metadata, such as when and who you contact, may still be observable because this information is necessary to deliver messages.

    Some encrypted-communication products mitigate that risk by retaining minimal records or logs of such data. Check the tools section of this chapter for more information. Be sure to verify the identity of contacts before sharing sensitive information.

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    Private information sent via unsecured sites may also be vulnerable to snooping by other people connected to your same network. The Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a web browser extension to assist in preventing this problem. Reality Winner was exposed when The Intercept shared her documents with a government agency to verify their authenticity.

    Before sharing records with a journalist or organization, make sure the recipient will be satisfied to authenticate the record by using other information or by proof such as supporting witnesses, not by running the document past its originating agency. Your communications may also be exposed if their or your devices are compromised, either through malicious hacking or a legal method, such as being forced to comply with a court order. If you have safely accessed information, one option is to transmit that information through a tech-savvy lawyer who uses encryption best practices.

    In addition to the technological safeguards, you may be shielded by the attorney-client privilege if you pursue this route. However, that protection may not hold up in all situations, such as when facing Congressional inquiry. Research the security track records of individuals and organizations before you reach out to them. Do they use recommended encrypted communication services? Will they commit to stripping any identifying information from documents, and explain to you their process for doing so?

    What is their policy on responding to government demands for information, and how have they responded to past demands? Have they been the victims of hacks before? If so, what was the fallout? Have sources been compromised due to their digital security failures? These questions and more will play into how much information you feel comfortable sharing with those you contact.

    If not, do you want them to know who you are? In some cases, in-person meetings may be less risky. When setting up a physical meeting, look for places without cameras and where neither you nor the person you are meeting have to sign in or are likely to be recognized. Examples include public parks, community centers, and trails. And remember: most people now carry an incredibly sophisticated digital snooping device around with them—their smartphone.

    If compromised, your phone could even be turned into a video- or audio-recording bug. Cars can also be easily scanned and tracked through methods such as automated license plate readers; if you are using a vehicle associated with you to travel to a meeting, assume it can be tracked. Similarly, public transit that you pay for with a reloadable card, and apps like Uber and Lyft, collect information about your travels that could potentially be turned over to law enforcement during the course of an investigation.

    In some cases, going old-school and using foot- or pedal-power to get to a meeting may be the best option. The tools and best practices laid out in this guide are recommendations based on what is known at the time of publication. But the rapid pace of innovation in information security and the increasing sophistication of digital attacks mean things may be different by the time you are reading this. What is digitally secure now may not stay that way forever.

    For example, encryption depends on the complexity of keys, but future developments in computing may make what are now considered secure keys easy to guess. Other surveillance technologies in development or on the rise may later uncover actions taken now. Just imagine future investigators using facial recognition technology against security-camera archives to look for who may have met with a particular whistleblower advocacy group or journalist.

    You should research recent security news about a tool before deciding to use it for sensitive communications. Note that in almost all cases, using a digital method will create some sort of data trail. However, the tools below can help minimize and hide that trail better than using ordinary communication methods. Click here to download the Chinese translation of the policy brief. Click here to download the Russian translation of the policy brief. Click here to download the Chinese translation of the Executive Summary. Click here to download Portugese translation of the Executive Summary.

    Click here to download the Russian translation of the Executive Summary. Click here to download the Korean highlights note. These were attended by experts in energy policy, climate science, technology, finance, international security, politics and economics. The report was commissioned by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an independent contribution to the climate change debate. Its contents represent the views of the authors, and should not be taken to represent the views of the UK Government.