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The agency in question does not have to follow IG recommendations, even if the IG confirms your disclosures. Even if an IG does not disclose your identity, it may give away information to management or conduct its inquiry in a way that makes your identity patently obvious. In particular, the agreement should provide that, in consultation with you or counsel, the IG will not communicate any identifiable information that can be traced back to you.

Further, you should lock in a commitment to provide you with advance notice if the IG decides that release of your identity truly is unavoidable. An IG can investigate or ignore your reports of wrongdoing at its leisure. The IG controls the investigation; you do not. Thus, an IG can take years to investigate a disclosure of wrongdoing. You may believe that problems within your agency would be solved if only Congress knew about them. In reality, a Congressional solution on its own is the exception rather than the rule.

While Congress sometimes conducts investigations and investigative hearings, in many cases the bulk of the investigative work was done elsewhere, such as by an inspector general, the Government Accountability Office GAO, an arm of Congress , or an agency. A federal survey shows that federal employees have far less faith that Congress will protect their identity than an inspector general or the Office of Special Counsel. Congress is an unquestionably political entity. It is made up of hundreds of offices led by Representatives and Senators, each with their own stakeholders and political commitments, as well as dozens of committees with different, sometimes overlapping jurisdictions over the parts of the federal government.

Capitol Hill is awash with activity and intrigue where short-attention-spans and one-page summaries are common because of overwhelming workloads and a lack of time. If you seek to wade into the swirling eddies of Congress, you face risks such as having your identity inadvertently exposed to your agency. A federal survey shows that federal employees have far less faith that Congress will protect their identity than an inspector general or the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency empowered to receive whistleblower disclosures from most federal civilian employees.

However, Members of Congress can be great allies, and sometimes you can appeal to legislators who want to act against bureaucratic breakdowns. Legislators have access to the media and can shine a national spotlight on problems. It can be far more difficult for your organization to retaliate against you if a Member of Congress supports you. The first way many public employees contact a Member of Congress is by writing a letter laying out a problem or issue in their agency.

Chapter 9. Conscience

That can be a mistake. What sometimes happens with letters from public employees is that the Congressional office sends a copy to the agency for a response. Before sending sensitive material to a Congressional office, you should do preliminary research and have informal discussions to pin down ground rules.

Things to consider are:. If a Member of Congress or, even better, a committee chairperson, takes up your cause it is potentially a huge asset. However, be aware that no individual Member has direct authority over the executive branch. Thus, even in the face of Congressional opposition, an executive agency can still proceed to engage in the concerning activity you have blown the whistle on. That means your best ally is often one with appropriations or oversight authority over the agency in question.

As discussed in greater detail in Chapter 6, the Office of Special Counsel OSC is the main place where federal civilian whistleblowers can lodge complaints of retaliation. In order to report a problem to OSC, you must do the following: first, file a disclosure with OSC detailing the wrongdoing. OSC then has 45 days to review your disclosure and determine whether further investigation is necessary note that OSC often does not meet this day deadline.

That agency head is required to conduct a proper investigation into the disclosed matter. The agency head has 60 days unless OSC grants an extension to submit a written report outlining the findings. Upon receiving the agency report, OSC is required to review it and determine if it contains the required information and whether the findings are reasonable. OSC has to transmit a copy of the agency report to you unless it referred the matter to the Justice Department as a potential criminal case.

You have 15 days after receiving a copy of the agency report to submit comments on it to OSC. The Special Counsel then grades the report. If dissatisfied, the OSC either can direct the agency to provide more information, or simply flunk the effort. OSC transmits the agency report, your comments, and its own evaluation to the president, Congressional leadership, and the Congressional committee s with jurisdiction over the agency. OSC also makes these materials available to the public online. An agency may try to ignore threatening whistleblowing disclosures as long as possible, simply not acknowledging their existence and hoping the issue will blow over.

When OSC orders an investigation, the agency no longer has that choice. Outside of the OSC process, when an agency acknowledges the existence of your concerns, it may respond with a quick report that rewrites or brushes aside hard issues and ignores significant evidence. This allows the agency to declare the issue was investigated and to let itself off the hook. Moreover, your contributions and evidence are often not recognized in the official record.

The OSC disclosure process, which gives you a formal opportunity to provide input on the investigation they spark, makes it harder for an agency to brush your disclosures aside.

The law requires the agency to investigate your allegations and detail all material evidence it uncovered during its investigation in its report. The report also must include findings that take a stand on whether misconduct occurred, and what if anything the agency will do about it. Your story becomes less of an editorial risk to publish or broadcast once it has been validated to a certain extent by a government agency. Also, it can be easier to successfully claim retaliation if agency management takes adverse employment actions against you in the wake of the disclosure referred by OSC.

OSC is not allowed to disclose your identity unless you consent or it feels disclosure of identity is necessary due to an imminent danger to the public or an imminent violation of criminal law. The small OSC disclosure unit is hopelessly backlogged.

A Case of Conscience - Wikipedia

That means that scores of agency-employee disclosures languish for months and even years without action. OSC and inspectors general cannot compel individuals who are not currently government employees to cooperate. While the OSC disclosure process may be an excellent transparency tool to highlight wrongdoing, OSC has no corrective power to force the agency to desist from waste, fraud, or abuse. An agency may figure out your identity even if you requested confidentiality from OSC because the agency will associate you with the issues OSC is requiring that the agency investigate.

If you have non-public information that a company is defrauding taxpayers in Medicare or a government contract or grant, you may be able to sue under the False Claims Act to recover taxpayer dollars. If False Claims Act lawsuits are successful, whistleblowers are entitled to a percentage of the funds recovered for the U. Treasury, from a ten percent minimum to a 30 percent maximum of the monetary penalties enforced.

There are certain requirements that must be met in these lawsuits, also known as qui tam actions: the individual filing the suit must be an original source basing the disclosure on non-public information. The False Claims Act contains anti-retaliation provisions as well, which are discussed briefly in Chapter 6. There are also bounty programs in some federal agencies. The Dodd-Frank law, which was modeled partly on the False Claims Act, created bounty programs for those disclosing violations of law that lead to enforcement penalties greater than one million dollars at two agencies responsible for protecting financial markets—the Securities and Exchange Commission SEC and the Commodities Future Trading Commission CFTC.

They are rewarded merely for giving evidence to the government. Most significant for this guide are the carefully constructed provisions in Dodd-Frank and its implementing regulations for anonymous and confidential disclosures. Whistleblowers can make anonymous disclosures, but they have to do so through counsel if they want to be eligible for an award. As with False Claims Act lawsuits, government employees can make disclosures through these bounty programs.

Also similar to the False Claims Act, the disclosures must involve company misconduct, not government misconduct. One of the most effective tools for influencing decision-makers is the media. It can bring transparency to government agencies and shape public opinion. Government leaders are both senders and recipients of messages via the media. For these reasons, the media alternately is respected, exploited, and feared by politicians and heads of agencies. The media can play the role of a leveler. It can bring disputes about misconduct out of the secret world of bureaucrats and into the glare of public attention.

But media exposure can also cause an agency to change its stance on negotiations with an employee from constructive and open-minded to antagonistic and closed as it finds itself on the defensive in an embarrassing public fight. Media attention is often fleeting. While the media can be powerful, the effects of its coverage can be evanescent. The attention span of the public and our leaders can be distressingly short, especially in this era of the hour news cycle where people consume information immediately through fast-paced social media and online news outlets, but rarely have time to digest everything they consume.

Try not to let the excitement or ego boost from media coverage undercut the point of your publicity—exposing and fixing problems. The news media frequently focuses its stories on individuals, and any stories about you may not stress the issues you are raising. And media attention is often fleeting. New distractions compete daily for media attention, and the news media is a competitive business, driven by financial as well as informational dynamics, so you want to make the most of its attention while you have it. And telling those stories in a compelling and succinct way can be challenging, particularly on television.

Only occasionally do internal agency stories cross over from specialized publications or websites into mainstream news coverage. This means that the interest in any story about an internal agency scandal may be limited to a handful of journalists. In order to identify that limited pool and work with them effectively to educate their readers, consider the following tips:.

Professional journalists need to feel confident that their sources are solid and that the documents they provide are real. Do not contact a reporter until you have made up your mind about whether you want to be quoted in the story or to be an unnamed source. It is vital that you know which ground rules you want to govern the interaction. Be prepared to explain why you want to be anonymous if you do, and consider whether there may be other people you can recommend the reporter talk to in order to substantiate your concerns, on or off the record.

Also think about whether to let even the reporter know your identity. Try to figure out whether national or local outlets are the best fit for what you are trying to accomplish. The newspaper or other outlet may have business ties such as substantial advertising buys or sponsored events to the entity whose misconduct you are trying to expose. Research what kind of coverage, if any, your issue has garnered in the past. Look at whether that outlet has done investigative work in the past, and whether it carries critical stories that challenge agency statements.

Read several articles by the reporter written over time about this or a related issue and look at their social media profiles to see what interests or biases they may have. See whether your concerns are similar to issues that the reporter has highlighted, and whether that reporter does follow-up work.

While the facts may all appear in the story, the tone can lead the reader toward one side of the story or the other. Reporters generally accept information on three levels: off the record, on background, and on the record. Unless you negotiate a different condition in advance, a reporter will assume everything you tell them is on the record and they can use it however they want.

It is too late if you wait until after an interview or other interaction with the reporter to set the ground rules. If you try to place restrictions after sharing the information, the reporter may cooperate as a favor but they are not bound to do so. Make sure you both share an understanding of what each of the levels means and entails before you share sensitive information. Asserting something is on background or off the record in an email, without the journalist agreeing to those terms, may not be sufficient. The definitions below largely reflect how they are interpreted by the Associated Press.

It also means that journalists cannot publish the information you provide unless a different source independently provides the information to them. This information can help a journalist climb the learning curve, but it cannot be exposed or referenced in reporting.


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You should go off the record if the information you tell the reporter—regardless of whether your name or general information about your position was mentioned—would likely identify you as the source if the information were it to be published or relayed to your agency. You should let the reporter know up front whether and how, if they use the information you give them to ask questions to other sources, they could inadvertently tip off an agency that a whistleblower is talking to the reporter.

Would you rather a reporter simply use the information to get official confirmation or confirmation from other insider sources? Most serious news organizations will not base reporting on a sole anonymous source. It can be easy to assume all conversations are covered by a previous agreement, especially if you talk to the reporter repeatedly. Such mishaps occur, and once that media bell is rung, it cannot be un-rung. Even if you are clear about the ground rules, you are always taking a risk that your identity will be compromised when you go directly to the press.

In rare cases, an overzealous or sloppy journalist mistakenly has named an off-the-record source. More frequently, the identity of the whistleblower becomes known through a revealing description of the unnamed source. Talking to a reporter about how to protect your confidentiality can also help them avoid inadvertent mistakes when trying to verify documents. Start by visualizing the headline and lead paragraph of the news story you would like the reporter to write, including why the information you are providing matters to a broader audience.

Start with your bottom line. Write a short, to-the-point summary and back it up with definitive documentation. Respect that the reporter has limited time, so make the research as easy as possible. The key to publicizing problems within an agency is to make the story interesting and clear, so present reporters with a compelling description of the problems and their ramifications for the media audience. That means emphasizing consequences in language that will create an image for readers.

But it is news if a town could become rubble or a crater. Remember to keep the emphasis on the story, not on yourself. Try not to leave the timing completely up to the reporter; if you do, you may find yourself frustrated. By then, however, the abuse of power may be a fait accompli.

If the information is time-sensitive for instance, you are trying to prevent a likely accident or tragedy, or affect an upcoming agency action or decision , you should make that clear to the reporter in your first interaction. Try to get a commitment, or find someone else whose schedule will make the story relevant as more than a history lesson. If there is a pending action, that usually helps a reporter prioritize your story and make the case to their editor about the news value of your disclosures.

Most reporters have no shortage of items competing for their attention. You may have access to trustworthy journalists and choose to contact them on your own, but it is usually much easier and more effective to partner with an advocate who can make those contacts on your behalf. Keep in mind that following these steps does not guarantee a news story. Not every internal agency dispute or problem will merit media coverage. Moreover, even if the issue is covered, you may not like the result. The best reporters add value and context to information that whistleblowers provide to them.

They can also bring information to the attention of senior leaders more effectively than more-junior public servants. In some instances, by refusing to take no for an answer or a non-answer for an answer , a reporter can take a story far deeper and have much greater impact than you ever thought possible. They can also be invaluable resources for sharing or trading evidence, and referring other whistleblowers to you or your advocacy-organization partners. That said, the reporter is not your friend, advocate, or supporter.

The reporter is just supposed to report the news accurately and fairly. Part of that process is likely to include challenging or fact-checking your allegations. Reporters working for news organizations are not free agents. They work in a business with a chain of command and idiosyncrasies, perhaps just like your agency.

An editor may veto or cut a story. A reporter who tells you they are committed to writing a story cannot actually guarantee when it will be printed, that it will be printed in its entirety, or that it will be printed at all. Further, reporters usually do not write the headlines; a hard-hitting story may be introduced with a painfully boring—or worse, inaccurate—headline.

The agency may get equal time. In almost all cases, reporters and their editor will want to include the agency reaction or explanation as part of any story. This is where your familiarity with the tone of the outlet is particularly valuable. The agency may be able to preempt your story. As the government, the agency has the advantage of being able to, on occasion, make news through an announcement or other action.

Astute agencies have been known to release an announcement or other breaking news out the front door of their public affairs office to distract from the bad news coming out the back door from employees. In addition, some reporters like to add drama to their stories. For example, a reporter may think that the tortured-whistleblower angle adds the desired human dimension to a story about internal agency conflict. While this approach is sometimes justified, do not allow yourself to be lured into a profile at the expense of the issue.

If the story needs a hook, try to avoid having it buried in your back. Rarely is media coverage an end unto itself. Rather, it is just one component of a larger effort. Sometimes the moment of greatest leverage with an agency is just before a news story runs because the agency may be willing to take steps it would otherwise not take in order to avoid or mitigate the media exposure. Conversely, the day after the story runs, the agency may be set in a defensive posture, unwilling to take any steps that imply an admission of guilt. If your goal is to correct a problem, you should have a strategy for how to accomplish that and precisely what role media coverage will play.

In other words, it is important to think of the process in terms of a campaign. This is another reason why it can be to your advantage to partner with advocacy groups that can help ensure your story reaches the audiences necessary to effect change. Very few problems within agencies evaporate simply because they have been the subject of one article in a newspaper. It may take sustained media exposure to effect change. If sustained coverage is necessary, you must plan for an entire campaign and not just the first step or a single story.

It can be very difficult to garner sustained media attention. Reporters may think your concerns merit only one or a handful of stories based on the information you give them. In this scenario, you need a strategy to keep up the pressure. That may include working with advocacy groups or a Member of Congress to spark an official investigation or audit of an agency, or to question the agency during a hearing.

See a Problem?

These actions may help you make your case that an agency needs to rectify the issue, especially since agencies can often waive off news reports alone as biased and slanted. The key to earning public solidarity is sustained exposure of steadily accumulating evidence. That means pacing your releases of evidence. In order to generate a series of stories in any scenario, you must assemble a lot of raw material and then refine it down to individual stories. Similarly, you can intersperse releases of new evidence with other developments such as letters or expressions of support from political leaders, which can be their own complementary news hooks.

If you conduct your campaign successfully, the deepest wounds to the agency will be self-inflicted. It may be that a single journalist will be interested in every piece of ammunition, but if that single journalist loses steam, approaching other outlets can increase pressure on an agency. That said, recognize that journalism is a very competitive field and a reporter may feel burned if they feel like the source is playing them against their competitors.

Sustained media attention also tends to spawn official investigations see Chapter 4 that put even more pressure on agency leadership. Each investigation not only becomes a new, separate story, but each may provide a new forum to air allegations and be a magnet for new witnesses who are starting to hope that something can be done.

Each new story will recount the previous developments, like an arrest rap sheet, so that the allegations continue to build toward a climax. Media attention can also backfire. If you are still working inside an agency and are thinking about working with the press, extreme caution is in order. The agency leadership will correctly see its professional survival at stake and critical coverage can get deeply under their skin.

Breaking ranks to go public often is viewed as an act of unforgivable betrayal. When you experience, witness, or hear about a practice at work that you believe violates the public trust, you may feel a sort of fight or flight response: Do I tell someone with power about this in the hope of changing it, or do I look the other way? But what if such anonymity is impossible because your disclosures are easily tied to you or your identity is exposed some other way? What kind of protections exist if you face retaliation? And what does a retaliation investigation look for?

This chapter is an introductory menu for answers to these questions. First the good news: In the almost 20 years since the last edition of this book, Congress and the executive branch have strengthened whistleblower rights and protections for federal employees and contractors, as well as for corporate workers. Employees of government contractors, intelligence agencies, and the FBI, and uniformed members of the military have all seen improvements in their legal protections, and there has been a legal revolution in corporate free-speech rights.

But, despite these and other major victories advancing whistleblower protections, there are still critical flaws in existing laws. In addition, barriers like bureaucratic red tape, partisan squabbles in Congress, resource limitations, and timid officials who are unwilling to make waves can and do hold up access to justice, sometimes well within their discretionary authority under the law.

And the sobering truth is that even where the strongest possible protections exist, there will always be people who violate them and get away with it. Whistleblowers themselves regularly become the subject of retaliatory actions or criminal investigations, even though most of them were merely trying to right a wrong. This chapter focuses mainly on the laws that protect most career federal civil-service employees working in the executive branch. The chapter will also outline protections for federal contractors, intelligence community employees and contractors, FBI employees, and members of the armed services.

All have distinct protections and processes for blowing the whistle separate from the WPA. They include political appointees and employees in the legislative and judicial branches of government. They also include executive branch employees still in their probationary period, who have curtailed employment appeal rights under the WPA. If you are a covered employee and file a retaliation complaint, an investigation into your complaint will focus on four key questions regardless of whether you are a federal civilian, FBI or intelligence community, or contractor employee, or a uniformed member of the armed services.

Those five key questions are:. This chapter will walk you through what the answers to these questions must be in order to win a retaliation claim. It will also discuss how the different laws and regulations covering other types of federal-sector employees affect these questions. For instance, to defend itself against a retaliation claim, the military can produce weaker evidence to show it had a legitimate, non-whistleblowing reason to discipline a uniformed military whistleblower than civilian or intelligence agencies, the FBI, or contractors have to show to defend themselves.

When deciding whether to blow the whistle, your best bet is to remain realistic in your expectations, know your rights, and speak with a knowledgeable attorney. The scope of what qualifies as a protected disclosure varies to some degree, too: for example, unclassified disclosures by most civilian federal employees to the press can receive protection, whereas unclassified disclosures by FBI and intelligence employees or uniformed members of the armed forces to the press do not.

Nobody is protected for disclosing classified information to the press or public, period. When deciding whether to blow the whistle, your best bet is to remain realistic in your expectations, know your rights, and speak with a knowledgeable whistleblower-law attorney before pressing forward. Your situation will likely have many nuances.

And the law is not always as straightforward as it sometimes seems. For instance, case law—binding decisions by judges—makes legal analysis even more complex. This guide is just a starting point. Many employees communicate concerns without thinking of their communications as whistleblowing or of themselves as whistleblowers. Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, a protected disclosure is a formal or informal communication or transmission of information that a covered employee, former employee, or applicant reasonably believes evidences:. This means that you must have believed that the information evidenced a prohibited activity, and your belief must be objectively reasonable, meaning it would be reasonable for someone in your position to draw the same conclusion that you did.

There are, however, explicit exceptions. If your disclosure includes classified information, you are protected by the law only if you disclose that information to a relevant Office of Inspector General, the Office of Special Counsel OSC , or other authorized channel that can legally receive classified material the role of inspectors general and OSC in accepting disclosures is discussed in Chapter 4. There are no protections for disclosing classified information to the press, the public, or to any other parties not listed in the channels for making a protected disclosure.

Such disclosures are grounds for discipline up to and including termination, and possibly for criminal prosecution. The same goes for other information that statutory law restricts from public dissemination, such as private medical information and confidential tax and financial records. You will not receive protection if you disclose that information to the public or the press.

In addition to the protected disclosures mentioned above, the law also protects employees who take certain actions from employer retaliation. For example, these rights protect against retaliation resulting from a covered employee filing discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC. Note that OSC typically refers these retaliation complaints to the EEOC to investigate, but the act of filing a disclosure is protected as a complaint right.

After you and your attorney, if you have one, determine that your disclosure falls into one of the protected categories, your next decision is to choose the recipient of your disclosure. Most federal civilian employees protected under the WPA have a wide array of people and offices they can make protected disclosures to.

For instance, you can choose to make disclosures internally to a supervisor or to someone else in your agency. However, the law does not require that you do this, and internal disclosures are not always safe or effective. After all, your supervisors could very well be the subject of your disclosure or become messengers to warn the wrongdoer. You can also choose to make your disclosure externally to an Inspector General, the Office of Special Counsel, Congress, advocacy groups, or the press.

As noted above, if your disclosure involves classified information or other information prohibited by statute from public dissemination, you are not protected for those disclosures made to the press, the public, or anyone else not legally authorized to receive that material. Most other types of federal workers who are excluded from the WPA—such as those in the intelligence community, the military, and the FBI—do not have the same array of outlets they can disclose to and still receive protection.

For more on filing an initial disclosure, see Chapter 4, which details the main official oversight bodies you can bring your disclosure to: Offices of Inspectors General, the Office of Special Counsel, and Congress. Chapter 2 discusses non-governmental organizations as potential recipients for disclosures, and Chapter 5 discusses working with the press.

An unfortunate reality is that whistleblowers often become subjects of retaliatory civil and criminal investigations. After opening such an investigation, the agency then offers the whistleblower a choice of facing criminal prosecution, or resigning and dropping the retaliation claim. The employee is powerless until the investigation leads to a subsequent personnel action. If you have an attorney, speak with them before blowing the whistle. After considering whether you made a protected disclosure and faced a retaliatory action under the law, investigators will look at management knowledge of your disclosure.

Note that it is not necessary that the proposing or deciding official on the personnel action have knowledge if some management official who influenced the decision had such knowledge. Direct evidence can be things like emails, confessions, testimony or documents that tie the personnel action taken against you to your disclosure.

Circumstantial evidence can also be used either instead of or in addition to direct evidence to prove that management knew about your disclosure and retaliated. Circumstantial evidence looks at the circumstances around your disclosure and the personnel action, such as coincidental timing you made a disclosure on Friday and were fired on Monday or disparate treatment where all of your co-workers get some work-related reward except you, to draw logical conclusions connecting the two. In retaliation cases, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that you made a protected disclosure, faced an adverse employment action, and that there is evidence the action was taken when management knew, should have known, or suspected you blew the whistle.

If you meet that burden, the agency is then put on the defensive. Did it have a legitimate, non-whistleblowing-related reason to take action against you? Basically, the agency has to show that it would have taken the same personnel action even if there had not been whistleblowing. Agencies can do this by showing that their treatment of you was the same as that of other employees, that they had no motive to retaliate, that their action was put in motion before the whistleblowing, that your purported poor performance or misconduct was real, or similar valid justifications. For this reason, you should always remember that you need to be cautious about maintaining quality performance at work.

Even if you are being retaliated against, you should always try to perform your job to the best of your ability and with professionalism. Whistleblowers who face retaliation at work and a newly and unreasonably difficult work environment may feel tempted to start using all of their sick leave or otherwise refuse to perform their job function.

But underperforming would only provide ammunition to employers who will be looking for anything legitimate to use against you to defend against your claim of retaliation. While it may be frustrating, you should strive to still provide your best work and be as professional as possible. Agencies have explicit rules limiting unofficial or personal use of government resources, facilities, and time.

A whistleblower caught with private correspondence to a civil society group or faxing or emailing documents to a reporter will often be disciplined for misuse of the equipment or misappropriation of government resources. You should assume that any information on your work computer s or devices is open to management review.

This includes work and personal email, documents saved, programs accessed or downloaded, and messages sent. You should also forgo whistleblowing telephone conversations conducted over workplace telephone lines or on government-issued cellphones. That can not only lead to termination, but some agencies such as certain law enforcement agencies have regulations that allow them to monitor conversations or record all telephone calls.

Furthermore, most government agencies keep a computer log of all incoming and outgoing telephone numbers dialed to or from agency telephones. These logs are frequently reviewed to find out who employees are talking with. Similarly, agency fax machines, copiers, and scanners keep logs of all sent and received documents and may have the capacity to keep electronic copies of documents. These logs may be used to prove that an employee improperly used government equipment.

Finally, avoid using government facilities for personal purposes. But who do you file your claim with? This chapter focuses on their roles in investigating retaliation claims. Remember that if you are an intelligence community employee, you have unique protections that will be described in detail later in this chapter.

The Office of Special Counsel is specifically authorized by Congress to, among other things, investigate claims of retaliation. Federal civilian employees can file whistleblower retaliation claims directly with the MSPB only if they involve unpaid suspensions of more than 14 days, terminations, or other serious employment actions.

For other actions, as well as action by probationary employees who cannot otherwise bring a case to MSPB, federal civilian employees must go to OSC first. Offices of Inspectors General IGs are internal federal agency watchdogs. Under the WPA, IGs can receive claims of whistleblower retaliation, and the Inspector General Act, as amended, dictates IG staff training and the creation of best practices for whistleblower intake and investigations. Each IG office must have a whistleblower coordinator who makes sure that the office is trained in whistleblower law, and to assist the IG with investigations.

They cannot negotiate relief for a whistleblower or pursue enforcement, even if they find retaliation occurred. They work for the IG. Further, whistleblower coordinators do not investigate retaliation cases. Some federal employees can also use a union process to adjudicate their claims of prohibited whistleblower retaliation.

You and your attorney, if you have one, should choose your outlet for relief based on your needs. But be cautious in doing so, as exercising one right could permanently eliminate the other options. For example, if an employee goes to MSPB first with a claim that they were fired in retaliation and they lose that case, they cannot later go to OSC with that claim. Employees who are a part of a union may have the option of participating in arbitration with the agency.

The union is the party in an arbitration, not the employee. Before arbitration hearings begin, unions can and frequently do drop cases that the whistleblower wants to pursue. Further, someone who elects arbitration can no longer seek relief through the Office of Special Counsel or Merit Systems Protection Board. For most federal employees, the OSC and MSPB adjudication processes are the only way to seek legal relief when facing retaliation for blowing the whistle without losing control over their rights. The first step for most federal employees when they are subjected to whistleblower retaliation will be filing a claim with the OSC.

After receiving your retaliation claim, OSC must acknowledge receipt and assign the claim to an OSC contact within 15 days. If OSC decides to terminate the investigation immediately, it must notify you within 30 days of termination. If, in the course of the investigation, OSC determines that reasonable grounds of a prohibited personnel practice do not exist, it must notify you 10 days before terminating the case.

If OSC still decides to terminate the investigation, you have 65 days to take their case directly to the MSPB to seek relief on their own. If OSC ultimately finds that retaliation has occurred, it will send notice to the relevant parties, with recommendations to the agency on how to correct the retaliation. If the petition is not resolved, it triggers a formal hearing process at the MSPB. Know that the OSC has extremely limited resources compared to the number of claims it receives, and for that reason is slow to act and is only able to bring a small percentage of cases in front of the MSPB.

As a result, the cases it does bring are typically high-stakes or legally significant. Filing first with OSC gives you two bites at the apple and also gives you an option of formal mediation through its alternative dispute resolution program, which has been highly effective this program is discussed in more detail below. The Merit Systems Protection Board is a quasi-judicial entity in the executive branch made up of administrative judges AJs and a three-member bipartisan Board, whose members are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.

That is a low bar: it covers any factor which, alone or in combination with other factors, tends to affect the outcome in any way. However, the agency has an ace in the hole: If it can prove by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the personnel action regardless of your disclosure, the MSPB cannot order corrective action. First, usually after an evidentiary hearing, administrative judges make initial decisions on allegations of prohibited personnel practices.

Ethics for A-Level

The losing side can appeal the case to the three-member Board. However, whistleblowers have the additional option of appealing the case to a federal appeals court. But there are downsides to this process. This is true, too, if the agency appeals the case to the board. While AJs have only days to complete their review of a case, the Board can take as long as it wants. Appeals to the Board are particularly a problem at the time this book went to press. In order to make decisions on cases, the Board needs at least two active members, but, as of March , it has lacked the necessary quorum for over two years, largely due to politics, since the president must nominate and the Senate must confirm the members.

Although it is highly unlikely that a whistleblower will win at that level, this bypasses the perhaps years-long wait for a final decision from the Board. However, going straight to federal court is not without its pitfalls. By cutting out the three-member Board and instead going to federal court, you may save time but will run up your bill and give up an additional bite at the appeals apple.

Further, the appellate court could remand your case back to the MSPB, placing you back where you started. If you first file a petition for review with the Board but later want to try your case at the federal court instead, you have the option to request a withdrawal of their petition. With no Board, this decision to approve the withdraw request is now made by the clerk of the Board. However, any objection by the agency would kill the request to withdraw because there is no Board to review it. So, if the agency fired you, you are still fired while your appeal is heard. This relatively new program sidesteps the investigative and adjudication process, which can be lengthy and expensive, and replaces it with mediation between you and the agency.

If you and the agency fail to settle, you can then seek relief through the investigative process described above. As always, however, we strongly advise that you speak with an experienced attorney before moving forward. Federal civil-service-employee whistleblowers are now the only major sector of the workforce who are not able to enforce their legal rights before a jury in federal court. As a result, federal-employee whistleblower-retaliation cases lack the extra layer of insulation from politics that typical jury trials would.

Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act June : Created the position of whistleblower coordinator within each federal inspector general office, and requires the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency CIGIE to issue best practices on how IGs should communicate and work with whistleblowers. Follow the Rules Act June : Extended retaliation protections to employees who refuse to comply with an order that would violate a law, rule, or regulation.

FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of December : Expanded the list of officials to whom FBI employees may make a protected disclosure, to include their supervisors or someone within their managerial chain of command. Act to Enhance Whistleblower Protection for Contractor and Grantee Employees December : Permanently extended retaliation protections to personal service contractors, grantees, and sub-grantees. It also included provisions allowing government employees to blow the whistle on censorship or suppression of their peer-reviewed research, codified protections against Nondisclosure Agreements and other gag orders or policies; and began the whistleblower-coordinator and appellate-review pilot programs that were later made permanent in the All Circuits Review Act and Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act.

The Whistleblower Protection Act excludes a large cross section of the federal workforce, including employees of private companies that contract with the federal government, employees of intelligence agencies, and members of the military. There is a collection of statutory and regulatory rules and protections that dictate the whistleblowing options for those sectors.

Many federal agencies utilize contract workers—individuals who are employed by companies that contract with the federal government to perform certain jobs. Contractors and recipients of federal grants are covered under a separate law that aims to encourage employees who work for contractors or grantees that are defrauding the federal government to blow the whistle. You must file that claim within three years of the date of the retaliation. After filing, the inspector general must investigate and submit a report of the findings to you, your employer, and the head of the agency.

The head of the agency must then decide if there is sufficient basis to find retaliation. Note that this law does not protect federal contractors working in the intelligence community. Their protections are discussed below. Importantly, IC whistleblower protections under this patchwork only apply to disclosures made to very specific audiences. As a result, while you might have rights on paper that protect you from retaliation, those rights are only enforced sporadically in practice—and implementation of the enforcement mechanisms vary widely across the IC.

Congress has passed several laws over the years making it illegal to retaliate against IC whistleblowers. Specifically, the Intelligence Authorization Acts of Fiscal Year and were significant leaps forward, creating an inspector general for the intelligence community and making it unlawful to retaliate against IC employees for making protected whistleblowing disclosures, respectively. Under the overarching law prohibiting whistleblower retaliation, it is illegal to retaliate against a covered IC employee by taking or failing to take certain personnel actions against the employee as reprisal for their lawful whistleblowing disclosures.

This means that until Congress modifies that law to provide for enforcement within the statute, IC whistleblowers must rely on agency policies and presidential directives for enforcement of their rights. Created by President Obama in , PPD lays out general enforcement mechanisms protecting IC employees from retaliation for making protected disclosures and requires each IC element to create a more specific process within their own agency. PPD is broken into several sections. Section A prohibits retaliation against covered employees for making protected disclosures and provides a method of enforcement through review by an inspector General.

Section B outlines protections for retaliatory clearance revocation, and Section C creates a three-inspector-general panel to hear appeals from those covered under Sections A and B. Part A of PPD prohibits retaliation against whistleblowing disclosures and establishes a review process but excludes certain IC employees.

The review panel must complete their review within days. Once the review panel reaches a decision and recommends corrective action, it sends its recommendation back to the agency head. Importantly, because PPD and the agency policies created under its mandate are not laws passed by Congress, they could be revoked by any sitting president at any time without approval by Congress.

Also, Section A of PPD does not expressly protect IC contractor, subcontractor, grantee, subgrantee, or personal services contractor employees, although the Obama Administration interpreted Section B to cover retaliatory security clearance actions against them security clearance protections will be discussed later in the chapter. This means that if you are a covered IC contractor employee who blows the whistle, while you are technically protected from retaliation under the law, you are not explicitly entitled to enforcement under PPD as of this writing.

But unless PPD is amended to explicitly include contractors, there is no IC-wide mechanism to enforce your statutory protection against retaliation. Proceed with great caution, and consult with your attorney, if you have one, at every step. For further reading, the Intelligence Community Inspector General maintains a helpful guide on IC whistleblowing on its website. FBI whistleblowers have protections, but despite recent improvements, they are still much weaker than the protections for most of the rest of the federal civilian workforce.

When Congress passed the Civil Service Reform Act of , the FBI convinced Members to omit statutory rights in favor of requiring the Bureau to issue regulations creating equivalent protections for its employees. The burdens of proof considered in an FBI whistleblower retaliation case are similar to those in federal civilian cases.

The Office can also hold a hearing on the evidence in your case. However, this process is not as independent for the one for most other federal civilians. This is in contrast to Merit Systems Protection Board, where most federal civilians can have their retaliation claims heard. The MSPB is independent of the agencies whose actions it is reviewing. The Military Whistleblower Protection Act makes it illegal to restrict a service member from making lawful communications to Congress or an inspector general. The burden of proof is placed differently in military whistleblower retaliation cases than it is in civilian cases.

Military whistleblowers must prove that they were illegally retaliated against, whereas in civilian cases the agency must prove that they did not retaliate. Retaliation claims under this law must be filed with the Defense Department Inspector General or, for the Coast Guard, the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security , or the inspector general for the relevant branch of the military.

Importantly, there is a statute of limitations for retaliation claims: the IG is only required to investigate a claim of retaliation if you file that claim within one year of when you first learned about the prohibited retaliation. Within days, the IG must report the status of your retaliation claim to you, to the secretary of defense, and the secretary of the relevant military branch.

The IG must continue to send updates every days until the investigation is complete. If the IG makes a preliminary finding that it is more likely than not that prohibited retaliation occurred and will result in an immediate hardship to you, the IG must immediately notify the head of the military branch concerned. After investigating your retaliation claim and, where applicable, your underlying disclosure, the inspector general must send a detailed report outlining its findings to the secretary of defense, the secretary of the relevant branch of the military, and to you.

In addition to this review process on retaliation, there may be a secondary investigation by a statutory board that corrects military records through which a service member can request a formal correction to their record. Unfortunately, this due process option is discretionary, and in practice has been dormant. It felt like two completely separate stories, and I would have preferred As I read the first part of this novel I really enjoyed the thought put into world of Lithia, the debate between the 4 scientists about how to classify the planet and the deception of one of those scientists.

It felt like two completely separate stories, and I would have preferred to go deeper into the first part. Jul 14, Jeff F rated it did not like it Shelves: hugo-winners. I hated this book. Perhaps because I couldn't understand how anyone could make the repulsive statement that morality is impossible without religion. I found that concept insulting. Since so many like it and it won a Hugo, perhaps the fault lies within myself.

So be it.

Article 1. Whether after the resurrection every one will know what sins he has committed?

Feb 24, Sable rated it it was amazing. This book won the Hugo Award. I loved this book! I have noticed a lot of mixed reviews here. In general, the consensus appears to be that the first half, which was a novella, is superior to the second half. I disagree, but perhaps you have to be a person of faith to grasp the implications.

I am not a Catholic, which is the faith of the man suffering the theological crisis that is central to the story, but I am a dedicated Pagan priestess, and I can say that if I were in the position of this Jesuit priest, and if my theology were the same, I would see the theological conflict and the signs of affirmation of faith that I'm sure he saw. I might see what he saw; a planet of temptation by the Adversary, an anti-Christ sort of figure, and the fulfillment of God's will as detailed by my faith and my church.

On the other hand, from a purely rational point of view which I also hold, being a rational Pagan, this is clearly a situation of self-fulfilling prophecy, and humans are the force of darkness in this piece. Could both things be true? I believe in contradictory truths in faith.

My faith would not have seen the things this Jesuit priest saw. I would share the opinion of one of the other members of the original expedition, which viewed the Lithians as a good example that humanity could use to emulate. There are reasons I am not a Christian; the direct belief in the wrath of God, and the necessity of evil, are among those reasons. I really don't want to say anything more, because I don't want to spoil the book for anyone.

But it's well worth contemplating, and I think something that is worth reading and extensively debating in this time when faith so often seems to be in direct conflict to rationality. In Blish's book, it most certainly was. For those who read the book through the eyes of a rationalist, I would urge you to read the book again with empathy for the protagonist, reserving your moral judgment until after you have seriously contemplated his point of view.

For those who read the book through the eyes of faith, I would urge you to read the book again, keeping in mind how blind adherence to faith may ultimately have led to atrocity.


  1. 2. Conscience as self-knowledge and self-assessment.
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  5. The Argument from Conscience.
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  7. If you're a philosopher, I urge you to read it and offer your opinion through a philosophical lens. I didn't know much about this book before I began. After beginning, I expected something along the lines of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel wherein a Catholic priest is an early visitor to another planet with intelligent life Lithia in this case and returns to Earth to face inquisition and possible excommunication. Then the flavor of the story changes. If book 2 of this novel had been written by Philip K Dick, I didn't know much about this book before I began. If book 2 of this novel had been written by Philip K Dick, I perhaps would have been better prepared for the weirdness of events that occurred after the crew returned view spoiler [bringing with them the fetus of a Lithian.

    There is a surreal party hosted by a countess, which is crashed by Egtverchi, the Earth born alien whose name I could never remember who has matured so quickly that we never get to know him. He then becomes a celebrity with his own '3-V' show, foments a riotous rebellion, and tries to escape by stowing away on a spaceship to his native planet.

    It's been on my to-read list for a long time and it was something of a disappointment. Jan 27, Koeur rated it liked it. Review: An oldy but a goody. Still a meh for me. The writing was good, the aliens were kind of alien but not, the moral dilemma conceived by one man was not enough to astound or even develop a belief that could shake ones foundations to the extent portrayed. The Jesuit's inclinations and thoughtful summaries were plagued with biased world views which was the foundation of the novel.

    And that's me meh. Apr 18, Apatt rated it really liked it Shelves: pres-sf , sci-fi. In the first half, it tells the story of a four-man expedition to planet Lithia where the dominant species, the Lithians, are civilized, intelligent, peaceful, and just so damned nice. The objective of the expedition is primarily to determine whether Earth should start up a permanent diplomatic relati Interesting!

    The objective of the expedition is primarily to determine whether Earth should start up a permanent diplomatic relationship with Lithia. After studying the planet and the inhabitants the physicist wants to exploit the planet for its lithium—possibly enslaving the natives—the geologist wants a trading relationship, the chemist is ambivalent, but the biologist, a Jesuit called Father Ruiz-Sanchez, has the most startling recommendation of all.

    You see, the planet is lush and beautiful, there is no crime, no warfare, no poverty etc. Unfortunately, Father Ruiz-Sanchez is not a Lennon fan and he concludes that this impossible utopia must be the work of Satan! According to him, it is too perfect, it achieves all the Christian ideals, but that is not OK because there is no religion! Therefore, mankind should shun this hateful evil but nice and virtuous planet: "What we have here on Lithia is very clear indeed.

    We have—and now I'm prepared to be blunt—a planet and a people propped up by the Ultimate Enemy. It is a gigantic trap prepared for all of us—for every man on Earth and off it. We can do nothing with it but reject it, nothing but say to it, Retro me, Sathanas. If we compromise with it in any way, we are damned. The second half of the book shifts the narrative to a dystopian Earth, where most people live decadent lives—but underground—just in case there is a nuclear attack. The little Lithian egg from Part 1 has grown to an adult called Egtverchi.

    He is something of a celeb, with a huge and dedicated fandom who will do anything he suggests on his daily TV show! So basically he is Damien the Antichrist. Egtverchi uses his influence to cause chaos, death, and destruction on Earth. As you can see from my uncharacteristically long synopsis this is one odd book. It is clearly a thought experiment, but I am not sure whether it is an allegory about Christianity. The climactic end of the book seems to point that way, but Blish did leave a wiggle room for an alternate secular explanation.

    No aliens were harmed in the making of this novel view spoiler [well, OK, quite a few are harmed, loads of them really, but it's not portrayed as a thrilling scene. The aliens are satisfyingly weird, though, especially their biology, culture, and even architecture. The moral or religious issues raised are thought provoking but you would have to come to your conclusion about the meaning of what transpires in the narrative.

    The first half of the book is more interesting in sci-fi terms, with the world building and depiction of an alien culture. It reads a lot like hard SF, eccentric philosophical argument notwithstanding. The second half is more concerned with the idea of a false messiah, decadence and the gullibility of the masses. The narrative is thoughtfully and slowly paced, there is very little in the way of action or thrill, not much humour, except for the social and showbiz satire in part 2. If you are in the market for an intellectually stimulating read, but not necessarily a huge bundle of fun A Case of Conscience may be the very thing.

    But if you place scientific standards first, and exclude belief, admit nothing that's not proven, then what you have is a series of empty gestures. For me, biology is an act of religion, because I know that all creatures are God's—each new planet, with all its manifestations, is an affirmation of God's power.

    The new houses assumed thousands of fantastic, quasi-biological shapes, not quite amorphous but not quite resembling any form in experience, either; they looked a little like the dream constructions once made by an Earth painter named Dali out of such materials as boiled beans.

    Shelves: literature , science-fiction. It is sci fi with a strong grounding in science, but it is more interested in social and personal conflict than in gadgets, astronomy, or space warfare. This certainly was not the case here. Blish manages to take Catholic specifically Jesuit theology very seriously, and to demonstrate a profound conflict of faith in a believer without trying to force his audience to agree with the character. Blish apparently wants readers to decide for themselves, and I respect that.

    The basic premise of the book is that humanity has begun to explore space and has found one world, Lithia, with another sentient life form. They also have highly logical minds, little intra-species conflict, and no apparent mental illness. Their society is nearly Utopian, with each individual enjoying both freedom and abundance, and acting on what appears to be an innate sense of morality.

    They also have no religion, or even a concept of God, which is what sets up the conflict for the Priest. Are they pure, un-fallen beings, like Adam and Eve in the Garden? Or are they, as the secular nickname for them would have it, snakes? If they are servants of the Devil, how can this be reconciled with the dogma that Satan cannot create, only deceive? These questions might not seem all that interesting to a sci fi fan looking for rollicking action, but for those with an intellectual temperament, Blish handles the conflict well.

    And, you will be surprised at how much action shows up by the climax, though it does build slowly at first. He also projects a future post-Cold-War Earth that still suffers from the neuroses established during the standoff, and shows how those neuroses could create a population ready to accept demagoguery. This seemed pretty relevant in the world of Brexit, AfD, and Trump, but it struck me that, writing in , he was also giving a pretty accurate prediction of the s, especially in terms of the susceptibility of youth to emotional criticisms of an establishment that built a world they never wanted.

    In all, a very interesting and enjoyable read. Sep 12, thecryptile rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction , science-fiction. A book literally of two halves, the first and better being originally published as a novella, and the second added to expand it to novel length in , when it won the prestigious Hugo award. In Part 1, we have a setup rather like that in Black Easter, volume 2 of the After Such Knowledge sequence, of which A Case of Conscience forms the fourth and final part. Four men have been sent to Lithia, a planet 50 light years from Earth, to investigate and deliver a report to the United Nations as A book literally of two halves, the first and better being originally published as a novella, and the second added to expand it to novel length in , when it won the prestigious Hugo award.

    Four men have been sent to Lithia, a planet 50 light years from Earth, to investigate and deliver a report to the United Nations as to how the planet should be exploited or whether it should be closed to humans. As in Black Easter, one of the men is a Catholic priest, a Jesuit, and also a biologist. Up to now, he has been an enthusiastic supporter of the planet and its sentient species, 12 foot tall marsupial reptiles, though puzzled as to how they maintain a society free of crime or conflict. Because of planetary differences, such as a lack of iron, the Lithians lack certain aspects of human technology and scientific knowledge, although they are far in advance with others, such as genetics.

    Ruiz-Sanchez's colleagues have differing opinions. One, a chemist, admires the peaceful lifestyle of the Lithians and wants to open the planet for mutual trade and knowledge transfer. The geologist has no firm opinion and vacillates between those of his colleagues. The physicist turns out to want to turn the place into a bomb factory, with the Lithians forced into slave labour.

    As book 1 develops and these opinions are expressed, Ruis-Sanchez drops a bombshell. Apart from the chauvinism of a view that another world is only valid for its relationship and effect on humans, Lithians don't really live in a Utopia. They lack all creativity including art, writing, even simple story telling, and presumably also the serendipitous leaps of understanding that have led to so many scientific discoveries on Earth.

    And my own reaction to this revelation was that it demonstrated a callousness to their own young - these have to fend entirely for themselves, in danger from different predators at each stage of the life cycle, so that only the "fittest" survive, which struck me as eugenist and even Nazi in attitude. For this reason, Father Ruis-Sanchez votes for quarantine, though aware that his recorded decision will land him in big trouble with the Vatican because it is the heresy of Manichaeism view spoiler [imputing equal creative power to Satan as to God hide spoiler ].

    As the Earthmen prepare to leave at the end of Part 1, the priest's Lithian friend presents him with his own son in egg form to be a kind of ambassador. Part 2 deals with the raising of the Lithian child or rather his misraising, as the Father goes off to Rome to face the music, leaving him with the chemist and a young woman scientist.

    Due to basic lack of common sense, they do not give him an environment anything like the one required, not even periods of darkness for sleep, and he grows up mentally as well as physically wrong, with no inbuilt moral compass, unlike the other Lithians. Although the chemist can speak Lithian, he doesn't bother to teach the child and gets him accepted as a citizen because he finds him odd and uncomfortable to be around, and wants to shrug off responsibility for him.

    Most of Earth has been turned into huge underground shelters because of the now past threat of nuclear war, and as a result, many people are borderline or actual schizophrenics. The young Lithian grows quickly, ends up as a media celebrity and uses his TV show to incite civil disobedience, which rapidly escalates into major riots. He eventually escapes authority by stowing away on a ship back to Lithia despite stating earlier that he had no interest in the place or his people. Meanwhile, the priest view spoiler [ is not excommunicated but is instructed to exorcise Lithia, which he eventually gets a chance to do over a new superduper telescope which shows the planet in real time.

    The physicist has been backed by the UN to carry out nuclear experiments - and destroy the Lithians unique communications system, illogically -and it seems he ignores a message sent aboard the same ship used by the returning Lithian to stow away on, to warn him of a serious error in his calculations. At least, when the Father performs an exorcism over the telescope, Lithia blows up and it is left open as to the cause,: whether the physicist's faulty equipment did it or whether the priest is right to believe he has destroyed a whole planet which was truly the devil's snare hide spoiler ].

    Read as part of the After Such Knowledge omnibus and posted as an individual review as all the other GT reviews are under the individual books. I like reading them and wish more were available. I charge speculative fiction with exploring the question of " What if? There are two broad approaches: 1 begin with something presently unobtainable and explore the implications of having it.

    In the first approach, you don't explain why it is that you have faster than light travel, you simply assume it, and then explore what it means for humanity. In the second, you make the discovery of the mechanics of faster than light travel the source of anticipation and drama in your tale. What it means for humanity is learned in the process of that discovery. In A Case of Conscience we get a speculative fiction puzzle: What happens when an extraterrestrial discovery threatens deeply held religious convictions.

    That is an excellent speculative fiction question. What Blish does then is to conclude that it would be a very puzzling situation. If that sounds circular, there's a reason for that; his conclusion is a restatement of his question. At times, Blish seems to employ the first approach to speculative fiction: generate a scientific discovery irreconcilable with religious doctrine. Fine, that is a good starting point to understand what happens to the religious, the secular, the ignorant, or humanity in general.

    This is what Heinlein did in Stranger in a Strange Land view spoiler [ Take a Martian, put him on Earth, and gauge his reaction to Earth customs and Earthlings reactions to him. The quandary for the religious matters little to anyone - including the religious! What little adventure is contained herein is not a consequence of the setup. It has its own sense of urgency and justice, but it was disconnected from the premise. Elsewhere, Blish clearly wants to employ the second approach to speculative fiction: investigate the inner workings of faith and doctrine and their incongruity with newfound science.

    Blish, however, doesn't know religion. It is like purporting to write a hard science fiction novel without any knowledge of mechanics or physics. Sure, you can write a novel without science - I like those as well - but it won't be hard science fiction. I could find nothing in any biographies of Blish that suggested he was personally religious. One doesn't have to be personally religious to speculate about being a religious person, of course, but he would have to acquire an expertise in some other manner. My reading of the novel was that he knew very little on the topic. Science fiction author Jo Walton recently took this a step further and asked an actual Jesuit scientist his opinion, and it was far more devastating to Blish's account than my casual criticism had been.

    The problem for the novel generally - and the religious question specifically - was that the essential elements to make this account believable were entirely missing. The mission parameters of our four original human characters does not make sense. Blish makes only the barest effort to provide a justification, and then gives us a lot of reasons to treat it with suspicion.

    It only gets worse after than: the identity of our protagonist contradicts itself. He is presented as one thing view spoiler [ comfortably able to separate and appropriately integrate the scientific and the metaphysical spheres hide spoiler ] only to come to a decision that such a character could never possibly conclude view spoiler [ Despite a total lack of scientific evidence, despite that he himself has grappled with complex moral questions for years before coming to conclusion, despite contradicting his own doctrinal beliefs in pursuit of a doctrinal solution, and despite making a religious determination that he was unauthorized to make, our protagonist decides instantly and authoritatively to entirely rule out science in favor of a very convoluted interpretation of a corollary of an only recently established doctrine hide spoiler ].

    None of the parts of the novel fit together. The puzzle never generated inferable problems, the setup was never reasonably justified, and character behaviors were inconsistent with their backgrounds. In small defense of Blish, however, the grande finale does resolve the dilemma originally presented.

    There is one exception in which I can see how I am wrong with almost everything written above and actually, I'll point you to a second exception. Mike Moore's review offers a perspective that is at right angles to mine, depends on a very different idea of how a novel functions, and permits one to redeem a lot more from book.

    His interpretation is definitely the one to follow if you want to enjoy yourself - and perhaps be correct with your reading. But back to my efforts to make something coherent out of this mess. Everything works quite differently if this was satire. I came to think that it was at several moments in the book: the behaviors were simply too caricatured, the events too bizarre, the connection between scenes so wildly ill-fitting. I found it difficult to believe that anyone aiming for a serious novel could so put together something so burlesque.

    There were small clues as well that made me seriously consider the satire label view spoiler [The most striking was the UN communications officer that always presented with a hat. After disaster strikes, and the UN has lost control, he contacts Ruiz and then - only then - does our protagonist realize that the officer's hat is a creatively disguised hearing aid; that the fellow is deaf. The UN employing a deaf communications officer would be ironic in itself, but it connects rather well with all the middle section describing widespread social anomie hide spoiler ].

    But this did not scream satire from the beginning, so I was reluctant to judge it so after I was deep in the story. It might be worth rereading with an eye to it being satire, but none of the reviews I sought out- across a wide range of times - regard it so. The consensus of professional and lay opinion of a small and very non-random sample, admittedly seems to be that this was supposed to be taken seriously.

    I have real doubts about that but have permitted the masses to sway my opinion. In this reading, we are not supposed to sympathize with Ruiz's heartfelt struggle with science and doctrine, but we are supposed to mock it. Similarly with the conclusion, we are not supposed to cheer his ability to reconcile empiricism with faith, but again, mock him for such a patently convenient solution. Ruiz's faith would then connect with the middle of the novel by being a manifestation of disconnectedness.


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    He had lost his place in the church and was doomed to self-destruction without it - just as a third of society had become disconnected with the UN presumably because of a lack of access to nature? I never fully understood the mechanics of this, but the point was clear , resulting in both destruction to themselves and to human civilization. That Ruiz is only able to resituate himself and the church protect itself through delusion says something, I'm sure, just like society and the governing system failing because of a confrontation with truth. There could be something deep there.

    But I might just be stringing all this together to make sense of it as well I can see how that might have been significant in I can also see value in this as a sociological book - very Ursula K. Le Guin and well before the sociological Le Guin - in sections. The portions featuring Egtverchi were prescient, playing with a scenario Heinlein would make famous only a few years later.

    I also did like the speculation on the trajectory of the Cold War, with Blish's emphasis on a defense race that entirely overwhelms the arms race. Not without its good moments, it was an awful mashup, however. Sep 10, CS Barron rated it really liked it. This richly imagined story is a complex parable, with characters to symbolize different world views, and it's ripe for various interpretations by readers. Appointed by the Earth government to assess an alien race on another planet, Ruiz-Sanchez the Jesuit concludes the Lithians are too perfect to be the work of his God because they lack original sin.

    Nor do the Lithians have religious faith as he defines it, although they live in an innately moral and social way. Ruiz-Sanchez declares the Lithians are the work of Satan. In the process he commits heresy against his Church by granting Satan the power of creation. This story supposedly continues with Ruiz-Sanchez's doubts about his judgment in this case of conscience. Fortunately other engaging plot lines appear in the book to keep up the action.

    Ruiz-Sanchez didn't seem that doubtful or conflicted about his choice to me. As far as I could tell, he didn't make any obvious mistakes in reasoning from Church doctrine, which appears to be his major concern. But--my opinion--he did make the colossal error of applying finite human judgment to one of the infinite manifestations of God. He assumes that his Church is the one true faith to express the will of God, to the exclusion of other peoples and their way of being.

    This assumption has profound ramifications for the fate of the Lithians. Love, which I believe is primary to the best expression of all the world's major religions, is often lacking in the characters of this book. Maybe that's the fundamental problem with these Earthmen and their dystopic world. Forget about the scientist-capitalists, Cleaver and Agronski, and their selfish ambitions for Lithia. Michelis the humanist, a precursor to the Star Trek hero, is capable of personal and concerned love for others yet fails to act.

    Ruiz-Sanchez the Jesuit feels a dispassionate love, but he is constrained by the orthodoxy of his Church. How each of these men feels love or not and defines Good versus Evil depends on his world view. Ruiz-Sanchez, a sympathetic figure, accepts his role as the instrument of good in his Church's eyes.

    But is he really good? Neither his assumed sanctity nor the power of science, as represented by Cleaver, come off well in this book, nor do they provide satisfying answers. This is still a conundrum in today's world, isn't it? Dec 05, Joe Santoro rated it it was amazing. Wow, this book was really amazing. One of the most thought-provoking novels I've read.

    I don't think a mere summary would do it any sort of justice, but I'll give it a shot. The Lithians seem to be a perfect society There's also no art, no leisure, no religion Four humans are there to decide how Earth with interact with them One the 'ugly American' trope wants to harvest the Wow, this book was really amazing. One the 'ugly American' trope wants to harvest the world's metals The 3rd, a geologist, doesn't seem to have an opinion. Then there's Father Ruiz-Sanchez, a Jesuit priest and the resident biologist. He thinks that the Lithians are a trap laid by Satan Of course, thinking so is heresy, as it ascribes too much creativity to Satan, but he feels so strongly he commits the opinion to tape to attempt to keep the planet closed.

    The 4 men are split, so the verdict is undecided. The Lithians happily give a parting gift They do so, and he Egtverchi by name turns out to be a rabble rouser of the first order, touching off the powder keg that Earth had become As Father Ruiz from Earth watches the ship land Divine intervention?

    Or did letting Egtverchi return home insert the Serpent into Eden.. Jun 29, Tony rated it it was ok. Written in and taking place almost a century later, the predicted technology could not have been farther off. It was like taking one of the old scifi movies, say Forbidden Planet and comparing it to something more modern, even Star Wars.

    The premise is that Earth has found a planet inhabited by intelligent beings in this case 12 foot tall lizards who have the technology for intercontinental flight, but almost no metal. These beings live on a perfect planet, and the main Jesuit question is whether it is a Garden of Eden planet without Original Sin or whether it is all an aspect of Satan.

    The Catholic theology is all based on ancient theology first "invented" by primitive men more than years before the heliocentric theory was even considered. Its arguments are as germane as the Medieval question of how many angels could fit on the head of a pin. My favorite line: "Ruiz-Sanchez [the main character] did not understand a word of it," not unlike this reader. When I read a book I'm looking first of all for a good story, then interesting characters, followed by an interesting story and things happening. This story left me empty on all three counts.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I loved the idea behind this book - what happens when a Christian, a Jesuit no less, finds a new planet of aliens who live without sin - yet have no knowledge of God. How would it affect his faith? How would he deal with them? If he set up a mission, how would he convince the aliens of God's existence?

    All the great ideas that this sparks were not really followed up. Instead the priest decides that the planet was created by Satan to shake peoples' faith in God. The Pope on earth tells him to exo I loved the idea behind this book - what happens when a Christian, a Jesuit no less, finds a new planet of aliens who live without sin - yet have no knowledge of God.

    The Pope on earth tells him to exorcise the whole planet - a fun idea, but not taken anywhere interesting, as at the very end of the book he does exorcise the planet, the planet explodes, thus the planet must have been the work of the devil. If the paradise planet really was a creation of the devil, then there are a lot more interesting stories could have come out of it - actually, thinking back on it, the demonic alien talk show host was also a nice idea, but you don't realize he really is an agent of the devil till the end of the book.

    But another kind of novel the kind I was expecting would just look at the Jesuit priest as a man, how he deals with his reality, how this discovery affects his faith. There's no need for a planet to explode. The book was written in , which means that I should cut it a lot more slack than I am - it is an amazing piece of work for its time.

    And as it is it is still a very readable story. Just it has such a great premise, I wish more was done with it. Mar 20, Badseedgirl rated it liked it Shelves: read-in , hugo-winners. This is a cautionary tale about mans second expulsion from the "Garden of Eden. Dec 22, Rachel Kalanadi rated it liked it Shelves: winners-hugos , science-fiction. Excellent part one, fumbled and strange part two. Oct 29, Vince rated it it was ok. The only thing that dashed my expectations more thoroughly than this book did was the Y2K disaster prediction.

    I say this without humor; A Case of Conscience built itself up to be one of the most engaging reads I've ever wrapped my hands around and, in one quick turn of events, spiraled downward into an absurdly predictable mess of all usual tropes one would expect to find in a book about religion applying to aliens.

    The first half of t The only thing that dashed my expectations more thoroughly than this book did was the Y2K disaster prediction. The first half of this book is what made me so excited. It begins with four men on an alien planet populated with life so vastly intelligent they can harness the power of piezo-electric stone to communicate with an entire planet without altering the environment. Holy marbles, right? So I was hooked. Father Ramon is a very interesting character in his own right. It's not often I come across a religious official portrayed with common sense and understanding in literature.

    Usually I get the usual serving of 'well meaning but blind' that so many authors shoehorn priests and church officials into. That was hook number two for me. The other three men are so wildly diverse a hate-mongering physicist, a semi-clueless geologist, and a stern but sensical chemist that I was almost giddy with the anticipation of their final debate on whether or not Lithia was a planet they wanted to interact with. What really struck me was the interactions of the four men and Father Ramon with the Lithians.

    Cleaver the physicist was not fond of them. Agronsky the geologist had no strong opinion and stuck with his own devices, constantly suspicious and usually stumbling over Cleaver's suggestive anger. Michelis the chemist was the most balanced of the four, having enough insight and acceptance to weigh in the positives of the Lithians rather than dwell on the negatives.

    After Agronsky siding with Cleaver's ridiculous suggestion of "turn the place into a bomb factory so we can blow up aliens" along with a long, LONG trail of deception and Michelis's suggestion of "open it wide and let's teach them about quantum mechanics," Father Ramon goes in a third direction. Having witnessed that Lithians, once born, experience every stage of evolution and every environment on their planet, Father Ramon decides that Lithia is too perfect. It's not only without crime or consumption, but the entire planet's inner mechanisms are on display.

    This leads him to decree that Lithia is a setup; a staged attempt to get mankind to let its guard down, perpetrated by The Adversary Satan, for those of you at home. The other three men are stunned by this claim, and further stunned by Father Ramon's suggestion that they revisit Lithia and keep it quarantined until a time after he spends some time in the church and clears his head of heretical ideas brought about by his visit to the alien world.

    Before they leave, however, Father Ramon's Lithian friend Chtexa who introduced him to strange and beautiful things when they met offers him a new gift: His son. He humbly asks the Father to take his son to Earth, and to teach him the "many wonderful things" that Earth has to offer. Father Ramon is horrified, but he accepts. The book, in my opinion, should have ended right then. Not only would this have made for a great semi-short story, but it would have made a terrific cliffhanger of endless possibilities. But it doesn't end there. It continues, and it gets weird in ways I couldn't have predicted.

    The second half of the book begins by following Chtexa's son, Egtverchi, as he grows into an adult Lithian. His 'surrogate' parents are Doctor Lu and Michelis, who get married in a sort of "why don't we just throw this in here" sort of way a few chapters later. Lu and Michelis deprive Egtverchi of a proper Lithian growth, and he ends up being for lack of a better term an enormous jerk with an anarchy complex.

    This is made apparent in the most off-track segment of the book: The Dinner Party. The Dinner Party comes so far out of left field that I wondered if maybe two separate authors had written this book. Earth's society, having been only marginally hinted at in the first half, turns out to be a complete dystopia that would make Brave New World look like a high tea ceremony. Everyone lives underground, does horrendous amounts of drugs, and participate in orgies that leave them with two week hangovers.

    None of this was even remotely hinted at in the first half of the book. The party begins with an intolerable third-person account of the party's butler or chef, or waiter or something, his role is never really made clear in such a pompous tone that I very nearly stopped reading. Once the book breaks away from the hollow character of Arestide it focuses on Egtverchi, who enters in a way I can't really remember because it made no sense. He then offends the party's host and exclaims that he can "see genetics like humans see color," which wasn't hinted at by any Lithian in the first half.

    The party ends via chapter ending and it's proclaimed that Egtverchi trashed the party by breaking down some walls and interrupting a few political officials wrapped up in a sea of sex workers. Egtverchi, through a very short montage of "look what he's doing now" paragraphs, winds up with his own TV show. This is where the book became even more difficult to read for me. Blish began doing what I absolutely hate in an author: He began to list and refer to things as if they'd been made apparent earlier in the book. The genetic sight was excusable; the Lithians are aliens after all.

    But Blish began tossing out company names, historical events, and even political policies as if they just made sense and the reader should know about them. I had to reread these chapters just to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I hadn't. Michelis and Father Ramon deduce that Egtverchi is going to incite mass riots by pandering to the schizophrenic people in the underground, which apparently number so high that they make up a good third of the population.

    If you ventured a guess that this wasn't mentioned until now, you'd be right. Apparently people are crazy on Earth and Egtverchi is the fuse that'll light them up like a stick of dynamite. Father Ramon enlists the help of a scientist and they call Lithia so Egtverchi can talk to Chtexa. They hope that daddy might be able to stop the prodigal son from turning Earth into a warzone. Long story short: Egtverchi acts like a spoiled two year old something hard to believe seeing as Blish painted the Lithians as painfully logical and swears off going to Lithia, also swearing off Chtexa as his father.

    Melbourne University Law Review

    He then goes on to use his TV show to incite the riots everyone was worried about. Somewhere in the middle of all this the UN threatens to arrest Michelis on a bogus claim of parental responsibility; this is quickly turned around by the author as if he thought it was a bad idea but didn't want to rewrite it the UN literally says "Sorry, we didn't mean that" and drops the charge.

    Following this is a chapter about how Agronsky is depressed. It goes on for what feels like forever. Surprise, he gets killed by bees the size of hummingbirds right in front of Father Ramon, fulfilling some prophecy the Jesuit made up in his head while the reader wasn't looking. I can't remember when it happened this book was such a jumble to read , but Father Ramon pays a visit to the Vatican to have his heretical views assessed by the Pope. The Pope tells him that he made a big mistake and that he should have exorcised the entire planet.

    Father Ramon agrees, and until he does so the Pope decrees him excommunicated. No big deal, Father, just exorcise the planet! Michelis bursts in to the next chapter mentioning how Cleaver the physicist managed to pull off his idea of using Lithia for bombs, and that he had some "special experiment" to do.

    I immediately predicted what was going to happen: Cleaver was going to blow up Lithia right when the Father tries to exorcise it. Sure enough, Egtverchi stows away on a ship with "very delicate devices bound for Cleaver" and arrives on Lithia. The scientist who set up the communication manages to make a video feed of the planet, stating that the equipment had just arrived for Cleaver. Uh oh. Father Ramon, in a semi-hysterical fashion, stands up and proceeds to exorcise the holographic representation of Lithia. As he does, the planet ignites in blue light and the screen goes dark, proving my prediction and hammering home the "man should keep his nose out of other people's business" trope that books like these so often fall into.

    End book. When the four men leave Lithia, put the book down and only reflect on what you've read so far. The second half will ruin it for you.