Treasury watchdog subpoenas Google to identify whistleblower

By Victoria Finkle,

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department’s office of the inspector general has gone to court to identify an anonymous employee at the Office of Financial Research who produced several critical online videos.

The employee reportedly posted five YouTube videos that raised concerns about discrimination and diversity problems at the research office, which is an independent bureau within Treasury.

The inspector general’s office subpoenaed Google, which owns YouTube, in February, asking for identifying information about the employee as well as for the content of two of the videos. All of the videos were removed from public view by the employee last fall, according to court filings. They were posted between May 2016 and October 2017.

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Some observers noted that the Treasury inspector general’s subpoena was somewhat surprising given the content of the videos, as described by the employee.

“It strikes me as unusual that Treasury would issue this type of subpoena that would more normally be reserved for a matter of security or significant government operations that require confidentiality, not just complaints about the atmosphere,” said Justin Brooks, a founding partner at the law firm Guttman, Buschner & Brooks who works on whistleblower and employment litigation.

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