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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 43, Issue 3, July 2017

Eric R. Boot
Pages 541-567
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract20178213

Classified Public Whistleblowing
How to Justify a Pro Tanto Wrong

Though whistleblowing is quickly becoming an accepted means of addressing wrongdoing, whistleblower protection laws and the relevant case law are either awkwardly silent, unclear or mutually inconsistent concerning public disclosures of classified government information. I remedy this problem by first arguing that such disclosures constitute a pro tanto wrong as they violate (1) promissory obligations, (2) role obligations and (3) the obligation to respect the democratic allocation of power. However, they may be justified if (1) the information disclosed concerns grave government wrongdoing, (2) alternative channels of disclosure are first exhausted and (3) steps are taken to minimize harm.

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