Monday, January 24, 2011

Labor Issues Redux – Anonymity

I have been contacted, again anonymously, by another chemical facility security inspector with concerns about how inspectors have been treated. I won’t go into the new issues that have been raised right now as I want to address an important question that was posed to me that I believe deserves a public answer.

Insider2 asked: “How anonymous can one expect to be when contacting you, as there are many people familiar with this program who have been treated unfairly with the way these issues have affected them and their families and all of them fear retaliation?”

The simple answer is that I have no intention of disclosing the identities of anyone that requests anonymity when providing me with information. There are some caveats to that. First if you tell me that you committed a felony or other serious crime, I’m sorry, my moral code demands that I inform the appropriate authorities.

Second, I am a blogger and various jurisdictions do not consider that to be a journalist, thus shield laws may not apply. Since I have a wife, five dogs and two birds that depend upon me, I cannot afford to spend an extended amount of time in jail on a contempt of court/congress charge. Remember the only money I’m receiving for this blog is a rare contribution from my readers.

Third, if someone becomes convinced that my blog is a threat to national security, I may not know that my computer records have become compromised. I don’t think that that is likely any more than I think I’ll be hauled into court to be told to disclose my sources. But if one is paranoid (legitimately or otherwise), you have to take these things into account.

Now, having said all of that, there are a couple of fairly simple techniques to prevent me from being able to disclose your identity. The easiest is to post a comment to the blog from a computer that is not easily traced to you and make your post anonymously. I would prefer that you use a nom de guerre instead of “Anonymous”, but if your job is potentially on the line I can certainly understand why you might want to join those particular ranks. I have no way of tracing back the identity of those comment posters (though GOOGLE certainly may) so I can’t disclose any identifying information.

NOTE: DO NOT INCLUDE CVI in any comment posted to my blog. I will not allow it to go public.

The next best way would be to contact me by email using a free email address (AOL, YAHOO, GOOGLE, HOTMAIL, etc) that isn’t directly traceable to you (don’t use your name…). Again, I would have no way of knowing who you are, though government investigators may.

The most secure way to contact me if you are really worried about this is to do it through a legally protected intermediary like a lawyer, clergy member and in some cases a labor organizer. Remember though that those individuals do not have absolute protection against disclosing your identify. There are exceptions and rules covering them as well. They do have more protections than I do.

FAIR ACCESS DISCLAIMER: I will again note that I am always interested in hearing from the other side of this issues, either from ISCD management (on or off the record), or even dissenting CFSI). I have never run into an issue that where wasn’t a different opinion on what constituted ‘the facts’ of the case. Neither side needs to be ‘lying’ they just see things from a different perspective; perspectives do color facts, every time.

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