Social Theory and Practice

Volume 41, Issue 1, January 2015

Candice Delmas
Pages 77-105

The Ethics of Government Whistleblowing

What is wrong with government whistleblowing and when can it be justified? In my view, “government whistleblowing,” that is, the unauthorized acquisition and disclosure of classified information about the state or government, is a form of “political vigilantism,” which involves transgressing the boundaries around state secrets, for the purpose of challenging the allocation or use of power. It may nonetheless be justified when it is suitably constrained and exposes some information that the public ought to know and deliberate about. Government whistleblowing should then be viewed, along the lines of civil disobedience, as a collective cognition- and legitimacy-enhancing device.