Think whistleblower protection is a recent concept? We did, until this morning when we learned it’s older than the Constitution and grounded in the seriousness of the Continental Congress, which protected those complaining of misconduct by the highest naval officer—and did so during not just wartime, but the war for our independence itself. The National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) asks you to take that as inspiration for urging today’s Congress to give national security whistleblowers the security they deserve.

This day marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times, and today, the Times ran an op-ed, “The Whistle-Blowers of 1777” by NWC Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn, that tells the story of the first-ever whistleblowers in the United States.

1777, a group of American sailors and marines blew the whistle on the first Commodore of the US Navy, accusing him of misconduct that included the torture of British soldiers. The Continental Congress did not throw the whistleblowers in solitary confinement, prosecute them, or execute them. Even in a time of war, the government did not use the “state secrets” privilege to hide these abuses. Instead, they passed a law that all whistleblowers should be protected, released all the records related to the whistleblowers’ concerns, and used funds from Congress’ meager treasury to protect the whistleblowers from retaliation.

As a country we have moved so far away from what the Founding Fathers recognized at the foundation of democracy – freedom of speech. The federal government should immediately drop the criminal investigations and prosecutions of national security whistleblowers, and President Obama should pardon NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake.

On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress enacted America’s first whistleblower protection law. We ask that Congress declare July 30th National Whistleblower Day, honoring whistleblowers for their contributions throughout history.

Please send a letter to Congress demanding that they honor what the Founding Fathers did on July 30, 1778, in the midst of the American Revolution. Then pass this alert on to your friends and family.

Original Congressional documents.