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Transparency Tools for Public Interest Activists

  • Open Gov Hub 1110 Vermont Avenue Northwest Suite 500 Washington, DC, 20005 United States (map)

Presented by the Government Accountability Project & Open The Government

Sponsored by Open Gov Hub & the Press Freedom Defense Fundas part of the Whistleblower Workshop Series (see other events in the series here).

This training workshop will offer insights to public interest activists on how to safely and effectively maximize the potential of two important tools for transparency: whistleblowers and FOIA.

Information about government or corporate abuses or dangerous practices can catalyze accountability and reform on issues of critical importance to public interest activists. Whistleblowers—employees who choose to disclose information about serious misconduct—can be important allies to public interest advocates. Whistleblowers have released powerful audio showing the effects of family separation of immigrants on the Southern border; exposed lavish spending and conflicts of interest by Administration cabinet heads; and revealed evidence of Russian interference with U.S. elections, all of which have galvanized Congressional oversight, hearings, investigations, and widespread citizen engagement. Information harnessed is essential to democracy.


Complimenting the power of inside information, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is also a critical investigative tool for journalists and organizations to amplify and expand on a whistleblower’s disclosures to advance policy advocacy.


Unsurprisingly, whistleblowers are at risk of reprisal for exposing abuses of power, as are the journalists and organizations who may work with them, with FOIA most recently being used as a way to identify employee sources. Thus while working with whistleblowers and using FOIA can leverage change, those who work with whistleblowers and use FOIA to investigate their claims must do so safely.


This training workshop will discuss the rights and vulnerabilities of employee sources while offering tactics to help leverage their information, including using FOIA, while minimizing their risk. Attendees will learn and discuss:

  • How whistleblowers have been critical to exposing abuses and helping advocacy campaigns

  • Basics about the legal rights and vulnerabilities of government and corporate whistleblowers

  • How to minimize reprisal risks to whistleblowers and to your organization

  • The pros and cons of keeping a source anonymous

  • How to use FOIA strategically and safely to expand on a whistleblower’s disclosure

  • How to use collaborative FOIA efforts to access information and fuel advocacy campaigns



Rick Blum, Policy Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Dana Gold, Director of Education at the Government Accountability Project

Jesse Franzblau, Policy Analyst with Open the Government

James Risen, Director, Press Freedom Defense Fund/Senior National Security Correspondent, The Intercept


About GAP: The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, having represented or advised over 8,000 whistleblowers since 1977. GAP serves as an important lifeline for whistleblowers, helping them hold government and corporate institutions accountable by verifying their concerns and presenting problems to public officials, advocacy groups and journalists, and seeking justice if they suffer reprisal. In addition, GAP has drafted, spearheaded the campaigns to pass or helped defend all the federal whistleblower protection laws that exist today, and have established best practice standards for domestic and international whistleblower policies.

About OTG: Open the Government is an inclusive, nonpartisan coalition that works to strengthen our democracy and empower the public by advancing policies that create a more open, accountable, and responsive government. OTG brings together groups to facilitate coordination between advocates and open government experts on ways to increase access to information and best utilize the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OTG regularly conducts coalition strategy meetings and roundtable discussions to identify secrecy challenges and plan collective calls for government transparency.