Transparency International

This Anti-Corruption Helpdesk brief was produced in response to a query from one of Transparency International’s national chapters. The Anti-Corruption Helpdesk is operated by Transparency International and funded by the European Union


Please provide an overview of best practices for civilian oversight and control mechanisms of armed forces. In particular, please consider whistleblower protection measures that apply to members of the armed forces.


Whistleblowing in the armed forces is mostly considered in terms of national security exemptions to whistleblower protection, on which there is a great deal of literature (see OECD 2014). However, there are specificities to the security forces that merit greater attention to ensure that whistleblowers are afforded sufficient opportunities and protection to report wrongdoing. Effective civilian oversight of and whistleblowing channels in the security services are crucial not only to identify corruption, abuse and other malfeasance, but to protect legitimate national security interests being damaged by uncontrolled leaks of sensitive information to outsiders.

Main points

  • There exist tensions between protecting national security and transparency that make whistleblowing in the security sector more risky than in other sectors.
  • There should be at least one oversight institution that is independent of the security sector and the executive that can receive whistleblower disclosures.
  • Employees need clear protocol for internal and external reporting and rules for how to report sensitive information.
  • The disclosures need to be investigated, acted on, and the whistleblower protected from employer reprisal.   


  1. Overview of civilian oversight of armed forces
  2. Best practices for civilian oversight and whistleblower protection of armed forces
  3. Key players working on civilian oversight of armed forces
  4. References


Jessie Bullock, [email protected]


Matthew Jenkins, Transparency International




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