For this reason, the majority of federal whistleblower programs allow people to file reports of fraud under seal. The whistleblower’s confidentiality is preserved even as the government investigates the claim.

At no time during the government’s investigation into a company or individuals accused of wrongdoing is the target of the investigation entitled or allowed to “face” the accuser. Nor is the whistleblower allowed to discuss the matter with anyone other than his or her attorney.

As part of its investigation, the government may confidentially interview the whistleblower, interview other witnesses or try to corroborate the report with other evidence. The emphasis throughout the investigation is on the credibility of the whistleblower’s allegations, rather than the identity of the person reporting wrongdoing.

Intelligence community whistleblowers are in an especially precarious position. They have far fewer retaliation and safety protections than private sector whistleblowers. And the heightened media attention often makes them more vulnerable to threats from members of the public.