If we go by convention, we may define a whistleblower as someone who surfaces any illegal information, private, public or a highly classified one, or report wrongdoing at work. Whistle-blowers have come forward as a great source of information about leaks and nuisances happening right under our nose. For years, these blowers have kept the authorities and the governments alarmed. Let’s go through a check of some famous whistleblower cases over the years.
12 Aaron Swartz
Swartz was an “Internet child” of early generations who grew up programming. At the age of 12 he surprised adults by developing the RSS or for example, professors like Lawrence Lessing (Harvard University) called for conceptualizing the now-known Creative Commons, authoring licenses that propose a different model to Copyright.
Aaron left school and learned from the Internet. He believed that by spreading information, the society would become more free and wise. He believed in the power of the network and used his knowledge to create pages like Reddit, Open Library or later Demand Progress, an online group known for its campaign to fight SOPA.
In 2010, Aaron, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, downloaded 4.8 million academic documents from the JSTOR portal. MIT denounced him and the federal prosecutor of Massachusetts threatened him with 35 years in prison and a fine of more than one million dollars. In January 2013, at the age of 26, Aaron committed suicide in his apartment in New York. His death saddened the entire hacking community.
11 Jeffrey Wigand
The present case “CBS Y LAS TABACALERAS” describes and analyses the main causes related to the tobacco market. It moved multimillion-dollar sums, and controversial strategies and tricks used by tobacco companies when it comes to the marketing of cigarettes. Brown & Williamson, one of the main tobacco companies of the world, was a center of biggest controversy.
It began with Jeffrey Wigand. He was a professional biochemist who became the vice-president of the Center of research and development of the company. Its main objective was to find a means by which it could reduce the damage caused by the chemical components of tobacco. In this way, consumers would ingest nicotine more safely. However, Wigand discovered that his investigations were ignored, leading to clashes with the CEO of the company Thomas Sandefur.
The point driving the collapse was the use of a flavour enhancer called coumarin. It produced cancer to the lungs. Sandefur knew but still used it as he couldn’t allow sales to go down. Wigand was thus dismissed and asked to force sign an agreement, asking him not to talk about the company or his work. Breaking this trust agreement would mean the loss of his compensation, legal suit, and health insurance. His daughter suffered from a chronic illness that required continued medical attention.
Wigand finally broke the silence. He visited Lowell Bergman, a journalist and producer of the “60 minutes” news program. Lowell offered an exclusive interview on the subject. Having many interests at stake, the truth was known in the end.
The Company continued to sue Wigand for theft, fraud and breach of the agreement and launched a campaign against him. Wigand’s statement was published by the Wall Street Journal, leaving the public surprised. On the other hand, about 40 states of the country filed a lawsuit against the industry for 368 billion dollars for damages against public health and against the tobacco industry.
10 Julian Assange
Julian Assange is an Australian journalist, programmer and the creator, director and Editor-in-chief of the WikiLeaks network. WikiLeaks is the non-profit organization that for years has published documents of public interest, provoking anger at governments and astonishment at citizenship. Assange has been granted political asylum by Ecuador, because he himself is in charge of preserving his privacy. He was born on July 3, 1971 in Queensland, Australia. He was programming since his adolescence.
In 1991, Assange was arrested in Melbourne for hacking computers from an Australian university and other institutions. He was pleaded guilty to 24 cybercrimes. He was arrested, but soon released for good conduct and after paying a fine. Although much of his knowledge is due to his self-education, he studied in several high schools and universities and specialized in mathematics, physics, neuroscience and philosophy.
Time magazine named him “Man of the Year” and was awarded several times for his defence of the right to information. Several collaborators of the WikiLeaks site referred to him as an authoritarian, paranoid man who put on himself an image of James Bond. The former WikiLeaks spokesman, German Daniel Domscheit-Berg, left the organization for differences with Assange and months later published the book “Inside WikiLeaks”, which reveals that things were changing on the network with the run of the years.
Domscheit-Berg writes in his book that at first there were no hierarchies in WikiLeaks, but that later Assange “created a hierarchy in which he is untouchable. In “Julian Assange: Unauthorized Biography,” he declares himself “somewhat autistic” and asserts that the US government wanted to set him up. The biography is unauthorized because Assange tried to break the contract with the publisher after reading the first draft. In that book, Assange categorically states: “Maybe it’s a chauvinist pig, but not a rapist.”
9 Frank Serpico
SERPICO Francisco “Paco” Vincent Serpico was born on April 14, 1936 in Brooklyn. He was the youngest son of an Italian immigrant from Naples. At 18, he enlisted in the army and served for two years in Korea. He then worked as a private investigator and social worker while attending university. He made a life-changing decision by joining the NYPD. He took the charge on September 11 and in March of 1960 was assigned to patrol by the 81st district. Once at his destination, he was assigned to Bureau of Criminal Identification for two years.
Serpico’s career against crime and drugs was hard and he therefore had serious problems with his companions who distrusted him. In 1967 he denounced to his superiors “credible evidence of systematic corruption by NYPD agents.” However, his efforts were put to the test by the bureaucracy and the little interest shown by his bosses.
Serpico met another integral man, David Durk. Durk helped him bear his burden. He was a veteran (sergeant), a hard worker who did not want to know anything about the dirty side of the law. Durk warned Serpico on multiple occasions to be careful. In 1970, with Serpico’s contribution, the first page of the New York Times echoed the serious problems of corruption present in the department since many years. Mayor Jhon V. Lindsay could no longer look away or apologize that he did not know anything.
He created a 5-member commission to investigate the NYP abuses and misconduct. The commission took the name of its highest representative, Federal Judge Whitman Knapp and opened way for future investigations.
Peter Serpico’s biographer said: “Frank Serpico is the first police officer, not only in the history of the NYPD but in the history of the entire American police, who has dared to step forward and therefore testify against.”
Serpico thought that the Knapp Commission could cleanse the NYPD. A part of it was true, but he had to pay a high price. On the night of February 3, 1971, he was going to know the price to be paid for being the last honest man. He was shot during a drug arrest attempt, weaved by his own colleagues to get him murdered. They even refused to make a “10-13” dispatch to police headquarters to pass the information of an official been shot. A man next door called the emergency and Serpico was sent to the Greenpoint Hospital and saved.
8 Karen Silkwood
Karen Gay Silkwood was an American chemical technician and a labour union activist known for raising concerns about health and safety practices. She worked at Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication in Oklahoma. The factory manufactured Plutonium pellets for fuel rods used in nuclear reactors.
The working conditions at the factory were horrible and unsafe. Karen mysteriously disappeared as she planned to meet with a New York Times reporter to brief about what was happening.
Her car was found later that night and seemed as if it was forced to fall into a manhole.
The front of the car was damaged and Karen was found dead. The information that she carried in her car disappeared completely.
It was later revealed that high dose of plutonium was tested on her- 400 times the legal limit of plutonium, for over 4 months. Her lungs exuded dangerous levels of plutonium. The kitchen, bathroom and major portion of her house was found contaminated.
The highest levels of government and international intelligence agencies- CIA, MI5, Israeli Mossad and a group of Iranians were involved in smuggling of plutonium pellets. The dark detail is that the US government murdered her to keep silence on secret smuggling.
Her story became the 1983 film Silkwood, starring Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood as well as Cher and Kurt Russel.
7 Mark Whitacre
Mark Whitacre is the vice-president of the division of Bio-products at Archer Daniels Midland, a giant corporation listed on the hundred largest companies of Fortune magazine. Whitacre drives a Porsche and earns $ 350,000 a year. Yet none of that prevents Whitacre from deciding to become an informant for the FBI in an investigation involving his company in one of the largest corporate corruption scandals in North America.
Whitacre lost his parents in an accident and was adopted by a philanthropist. He learned the value of honesty and always doing the right thing. However, what’s out is that Whitacre is a compulsive liar. He has the ability to interweave complex and genius deceptions.
Whitacre’s case is only the symptom of a disease. The disease grows non-stop in this world and in which the volume of information generated and distributed is so great that it has reached a point where it is almost impossible to distinguish the truth from the deception.
6 Coleen Rowley
Coleen Rowley was a former FBI agent in the Minneapolis office. Zaccharias Moussaoui was the alleged “20th Air Pirate”. He was detained on 16 August 2001 after the officials of a flying school in the United States warned him of taking Boeing 747. The local FBI office in Minneapolis immediately sought a warrant from their headquarters to allow them to search the personal belongings and Moussaoui’s laptop.
Moussaoui was suspected of preparing a suicide attack with the use of a plane as a flying bomb. The agent Greg Jones had even warned headquarters of Moussaoui might “to project a plane into the World Trade Centre.”
The search request that was rejected could have saved the 9/11 attacks.
5 Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg was a former Johnson Administration official. He worked in the think tank- Rand Corporation. In 1969, he pulled 7000 pages of a secret war history from the Department of Defence. In 1971 he gave them to The New York Times. Being the author of Pentagon papers, he exposed the lies of the US Government on Vietnam and its publication caused a clash between the executive and the press.
Ellsberg was introduced as an ancestor of Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, which has begun to spread 250,000 reports of US diplomacy.
4 Mark Felt a.k.a Deep Throat
Deep Throat has been the most famous anonymous source in the history of the United States and journalism. He uncovered the Watergate scandal that ended with the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
Mark Felt, the FBI’s number two in the 70s, denied his role for thirty years before revealing him in a 2005 Vanity Fair.
‘Deep Throat’ was born in 1913 in Twin Falls, Idaho. He graduated from the University of Idaho and became the president of his fraternity. He went on to study law at George Washington University and later married his running mate Audrey Robinson. His name was not known until after his death on December 18, 2008. He lived in Santa Rosa, California, with one of his daughters.
He joined the FBI in 1942 and became the number two with Nixon in the White House.
According to ABC, “His succinct style captivated FBI director J. Edgar Hoover”.
When Hoover died in May of that year, Felt was already number three of the FBI. Number two then was sick, so Felt thought it was his chance. However, Nixon appointed Patrick Gray as acting director. It came as a big disappointment for Deep Throat.
He wrote the book “All The President’s Men”. In it, Woodward and Bernstein described Deep Throat as a man “ready to recognize his weaknesses, aware of his mistakes. He could be rowdy, drink too much. It was not good disguising his feelings, something not recommended for a man in his position”.
Paradoxically, in 1980, Felt was convicted of authorizing nine burglaries against members and relatives of extreme leftist terrorist group Weather Underground. However, a year later he was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.
3 Bradley Manning
Bradley Manning was an American soldier. He was arrested by the United States on charges of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. Manning was assigned to Iraq as an intelligence analyst from November 2009. In May 2010, the hacker Adrian Lamo reported to the FBI that Manning had downloaded documents from the government classified databases and forwarded them to the WikiLeaks portal.
Manning collected more than 700,000 intelligence documents, diplomatic cables and classified videos of fighting. The most controversial one showed how a US Apache helicopter brutally attacked a group of ten civilians in a district of Kabul, under the false pretence of a fight against insurgents.
As a criminal penalty, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted his sentence to a total of seven years. He is scheduled to be free on May 17, 2017.
2 Linda Tripp
Monica Lewinsky had just completed a psychology degree at Clark & Lewis College. She was employed as an intern at the White House in 1995, during the first presidential term of Bill Clinton. She was then hired as an official in the office of legislative affairs, a position related to the US president. In the next April, her superiors relocated her to the Pentagon because they felt she was spending too much time with President. Bill Richardson was the UN ambassador at the time. He offered her a post in that organization but she flatly refused.
As confessed by her, between November 1995 and March 1997, she had had at least 9 sexual encounters with Bill Clinton. Several of these encounters took place in the Oval Office of the White House. Lewinsky told her friend Linda Tripp, an officer working at the Ministry of Defence. Linda recorded the conversations they held and persuaded Lewinsky to keep all the gifts Clinton had given him, as well as a blue semen-stained dress.
Lewinsky claimed that she had never had physical contact with the president. Linda passed the recordings to Kenneth Starr. In January of 1998, the Newsweek and Washington Post published the history of the affair between Clinton and Lewinsky. The news immediately exploded everywhere. Accompanied by his wife Hillary, Clinton publicly stated on the 26th of the same month-
“I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I will say this again: I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anyone to lie, not once. Never. These allegations are false. ”
The controversy persisted, but nothing could be definitively established beyond the recorded conversation. Lewinsky no longer wanted to discuss the romance or testify on him. On July 28, 1998, Lewinsky received witness protection in exchange for a grand jury testimony about her relationship with Clinton.
She handed the semen-stained blue dress to Starr’s investigators, thus providing DNA evidence that proved the relationship. On August 17, 1998, President Clinton admitted to recording in grand jury testimony that he had had an “improper physical relationship” with Lewinsky. He clarified that he had not had sexual relations but had only been engaged in oral sex.
President Bill Clinton was found guilty of contempt of court by Judge Susan Webber Wright. His license to practice law in Arkansas was suspended for five years by the United States Supreme Court. He was also fined $ 90,000 for giving false testimony. In Congress, he was acquitted of all charges and remained in his position. The Lewinsky scandal uncovered other similar sex scandals that affected several members of the Republican Party in Congress.
Monica Lewinsky moved on to write an autobiography, design bags, promote a line of weight-loss products and host a reality show. In 2006, she completed her degree in Social Psychology at the London School of Economics. She now delivers lectures dealing with harassment on the Internet or cyberbullying.
1 Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden’s name is worth remembering. He is a former US spy who leaked the biggest ever classified information from the US secret services. He now lives in exile in Russia. Snowden worked as an outsourced intelligence analyst for the National Security Agency. The documents released by him revealed to the world the scope of US espionage and violated the privacy of foreign citizens, leaders, and ordinary Americans.
The content of the documents began to emerge in the world press. Snowden fled to Hong Kong in May that year. He knew that the authorities would soon find out the leaker, so he publicly revealed his identity. He had applied for refugee status at a UN office in Hong Kong as he could not ask for refuge from the local government, against a valid passport and visa.
Snowden took help of his Canadian lawyers and disappeared for two weeks. On June 23, he reappeared on an Aeroflot flight to Moscow. How he managed to stay off the radar of the world’s most powerful intelligence service is a mystery.
The Canadian newspaper National Post reported that Snowden was hiding in the worst slums in Hong Kong. He was at the home of refugees who were awaiting approval of their asylum requests by the local government. The refugees gave their only bed to Snowden, and went on to buy him McDonalds hamburgers and electronic equipment.