The United States government has successfully utilized whistleblowers to fight a litany of crimes and misconduct, ranging from corporate fraud to bribery of foreign officials. Now, the federal government is enlisting whistleblowers to fight foreign interference in U.S. elections.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is offering up to $10 million whistleblower rewards to any individual who provides “information leading to the identification or location of any person who, while acting at the direction of or under the control of a foreign government, interferes with any United States federal, state, or local election.”
The whistleblower reward offering is part of the DOJ’s Rewards for Justice program. Established in 1984, the program rewards individuals who provide information leading to the arrest of persons engaged in terrorism. The program “has paid more than $150 million in rewards to over 100 whistleblowers,” according to Forbes.
“Whistleblowers can and should play a key role in protecting U.S. elections from foreign interference,” says Stephen M. Kohn, partner at qui tam whistleblower law firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto and Chairman of the Board of the National Whistleblower Center. “However, potential whistleblowers should consult with experienced whistleblower attorneys before making a disclosure to ensure they are protected and that they are eligible for a reward.”
The largest Rewards for Justice reward issued to date was $30 million paid to an individual who provided information on the whereabouts of Uday and Qusay Hussein. The DOJ does not reveal the identity of rewarded whistleblowers, however, and in most cases, does not even publicly disclose that an award has been paid.
According to the Rewards for Justice FAQ page, “anyone who provides actionable information that will either help us prevent or favorably resolve acts of international terrorism against the U.S. anywhere in the world may potentially be eligible for a reward.” Additionally, “anyone with information regarding the identification or location of a key leader in an international terrorist organization may be eligible for a reward.”
In regards to election interference, the DOJ states that “the ability of persons, as well as foreign powers, to interfere in or undermine public confidence in United States elections, including through the unauthorized accessing of election and campaign infrastructure, constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” Specifically, the DOJ is seeking information on violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, “which criminalizes unauthorized computer intrusions and other forms of fraud related to computers.”