When talking about impeaching Trump, everyone mentions a whistleblower. I am under the impression that this means that who he is is not public information. If he knew such sensitive information, was he required by law to turn it over?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's clearly a question about law rather than the process of governing. It belongs on law.SE much more than it does on politics.SE.
    – grovkin
    Sep 26, 2019 at 23:16
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    I think that in general we can not answer this question because we do not know who the whistle blower is.
    – emory
    Sep 27, 2019 at 17:28
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    @emory Why would you need to know who they are? It might be necessary to know their general role in the government, but not their specific identity.
    – Barmar
    Sep 27, 2019 at 22:47
  • @Barmar I think we could answer the question if we knew their general role in the government but not their specific identity. All I know is that the whistle blower used a channel available to government employees - which suggests but does not imply a government employee.
    – emory
    Sep 28, 2019 at 12:29
  • @emory The complaint says that he learned of the information in the course of his official duties. It's hard to imagine how that could be true of someone who doesn't work for the government, although I suppose it could be a government contractor.
    – Barmar
    Sep 28, 2019 at 12:32

2 Answers 2


At the very least there is an ethical obligation to report.

Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch:

§ 2635.101 Basic obligation of public service.

(b) General principles. The following general principles apply to every employee and may form the basis for the standards contained in this part.

(11) Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.

However, there is, apparently, no legal requirement, except for certain individuals. (Note that the following applies to felonies.)

In the article Misprision of felony, specifically:

United States federal law:

"Misprision of felony" is still an offense under United States federal law after being codified in 1909 under 18 U.S.C. § 4:

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This offense, however, requires active concealment of a known felony rather than merely failing to report it.


The federal misprision of felony statute is usually used only in prosecutions against defendants who have a special duty to report a crime, such as a government official.

It appears that, if the whistleblower is a government official, there is a legal obligation to report; otherwise, no.

Additional information - Employees of the Intelligence Community.
(This relates to matters of urgent concern.)

§ 8H. Additional provisions with respect to Inspectors General of the Intelligence Community



(A) An employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, or the National Security Agency, or of a contractor of any of those Agencies, who intends to report to Congress a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern may report the complaint or information to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense (or designee).

(B) An employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or of a contractor of the Bureau, who intends to report to Congress a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern may report the complaint or information to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice (or designee).

(C) Any other employee of, or contractor to, an executive agency, or element or unit thereof, determined by the President under section 2302 (a)(2)(C)(ii) of title 5, United States Code, to have as its principal function the conduct of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence activities, who intends to report to Congress a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern may report the complaint or information to the appropriate Inspector General (or designee) under this Act or section 17 of the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 [50 U.S.C. 403q].

[Emphasis added.]

For employees of the Intelligence Community, reporting is not legally required.

  • You infer and assume that section 11 criteria have been met. No analysis there at all. And there is no attempt to even analyze the motivations of the whistleblower, (the IG indicated he was politically motivated), circumstances surrounding the complaint (the whistleblower had lawyered up prior, and the lawyer he chose) and the complaint itself was mostly policy based.
    – user9790
    Sep 27, 2019 at 16:28
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    @KDog - I wrote a neutral answer that applies whether it involves the theft of toilet paper or a billion dollars of diverted funds or whatever the president or others may have done. The motivation of the whistleblower or the details of the complaint are irrelevant. I neither know nor care (and have not read the news articles) about the whistleblower that others are so focused on. I am only aware of the whistleblower because of the headlines and questions asked here.
    – Rick Smith
    Sep 27, 2019 at 17:24
  • I see what you are getting at now. It's neutral, but also context free. Unfortunately the OP is very context specific. I would clarify that in your answer.
    – user9790
    Sep 27, 2019 at 18:02
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    @KDog - There is a context: Employees of the Executive Branch. Were the whistleblower military, the complaint would not have gone to the IG; it would have gone through the military chain-of-command. This is how we get to the question of whether one is a government official at the end -- and the conclusion.
    – Rick Smith
    Sep 27, 2019 at 18:32
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    @reirab - As I recall from some headline, that employee received the information second-hand. That would expand the OP's question to whether those with first-hand knowledge were legally required to report. That makes the required answer more general. I supplied a general answer. The whistleblower complaint, annotated - CNN.com, The whistleblower appears to be reporting second-hand information. (I didn't read the article. This is copied from a search page.) I believe the answer is still no.
    – Rick Smith
    Sep 27, 2019 at 20:40

Reportedly the whistle-blower is a CIA officer.

CIA officers take the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office, which requires them to defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

If they bore witness to something that they swore to protect the Constitution against, it would be a violation of their oath of office not to report it.

It's tough to say if they would face specific charges for failing to serve that oath, but it's not something to be take lightly and failing to serve that oath could be grounds for being removed from office.

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    They didn't bear witness to anything. This was all second hand information. The question is did this person illegally (they were excluded from the distribution lists for a reason) seek out this information? More importantly there was nothing in the complaint about a potential Constitutional crisis. It was mostly second guessing Trump's policy positions. Not something the CIA should be doing.
    – user9790
    Sep 27, 2019 at 16:15
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    @KDog So if I heard second hand information that there was an official who was supporting a foreign enemy (from the position of a foreign entity potentially taking action against our electoral process), then I have no requirement to investigate this threat, simply because the information was second hand? Seems a little thin. Sep 27, 2019 at 17:03
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    @NateDiamond The second hand point is just pointing out a factual error. If this person sought the information though, that points to something all together different.
    – user9790
    Sep 27, 2019 at 18:04
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    @KDog The whistle blower encountered evidence of a very serious crime, and lawfully turned it over to investigators, privately. They did so in accordance with their oath of office. Anyone who pretends there is anything wrong about this is only tarnishing their very own reputation. Yes, there is a possibility of the whistle blower breaking laws at any point in the past, or of the whistleblower being a dolphin, but there isn't any evidence of that so far.
    – Peter
    Oct 9, 2019 at 1:11
  • @peter bs, the guy is closely tied to one of the campaign's. It was a phone call of no import, we know this because to show how "bad" it was Schiff had to totally lie about it and ABC had to cut 540 words in Trump's testimony to try to do the same.
    – user9790
    Oct 9, 2019 at 2:08

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