Some consider them to be traitors, while others call them heroes. Whatever, whistleblowers have had a massive impact in the history of the whole human race. They are the people who risked their careers and lives to expose the wrongs they witnessed. They leaked sensitive information to the public which changed their perception of governments and private firms forever. It is a subject of debate whether whistleblowers are to be celebrated or not. But no one can deny the influence they had or have. Check out this list of 10 most famous whistleblowers.
10. Linda Tripp
Linda Tripp was a former White House and Pentagon employee who uncovered the scandal involving President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in 1998. The revelations resulted in an attempt to remove the president from office. Tripp was dismissed from her job in 2001 but after legal battle she was compensated with a large sum.
9. Coleen Rowley
The World Trade Center attack on the morning of September 11th, 2001 is one of the horrific episodes in the American history. It was the first time the signs of terrorism manifested in the American soil. But FBI field agent Coleen Rowley had already reported her suspicion about Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the suicide attackers, and had requested permission to search his home. Her request was denied, and it led to a tragedy that could have avoided. She submitted her evidence to the 9/11 commission, leading to a considerable improvement in counter-terrorism measures. Today Rowley is ranked among the most famous whistleblowers.
8. Mark Whitacre
Whitacre was the president of the Bioproducts Division of food industry behemoth Archers Daniel Midland. He became aware of the illegal price fixing of food additives by his company and went to the FBI. He worked for the FBI to expose the crime and it led to the company having fined millions. But Whitacre was also busy stealing money from the company for which he was caught and jailed. He became subject of the movie The Informant!, in which he was played by Matt Damon.
7. Peter Buxtun
An employee of United States Public Health Service, Buxtun was instrumental in exposing and ending the Tuskegee syphilis experiment following which he became one of the most famous whistleblowers in the world. As a part of the study, numerous poor people afflicted with the disease were kept untreated. They were misled and subjected to experiments for four decades. After several unsuccessful protests to his superiors, Buxtun went to the press with his findings. It led to the exposure of one of the cruelest experiments in medical history.
6. Chelsea Manning (Bradley Manning)
Manning was a soldier of US Army who was revealed to be the source of information for the website Wikileaks. A trans woman, she leaked many classified military documents, including those related to Iraq and Afghan wars, to the website founded by Julian Assange. Manning was court-martialed in 2013 and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
5. Frank Serpico
This New York City police officer was the subject of the 1973 movie Serpico, in which he was played by Al Pacino. His story is a fascinating one, of courage and determination to expose the wrongs of people surrounding him. Appalled by the corruption in the department, he reported to his superiors but with no result, he went to the New York Times. The story prompted some curative measures. Serpico had to pay the price for his act however, when he was shot in the face during a raid. He survived the attack, and retired and moved out of the country.
4. Karen Silkwood
Ranked among the most famous whistleblowers, Karen Silkwood had to pay with her life for exposing what she believed was wrong. She was a worker at the Kerr-McGee nuclear power plant in Oklahoma. She found out various violations in safety regulations and reported it to the Atomic Energy Commission. However, soon she was subjected to a massive plutonium exposure mysteriously. Her house was contaminated with huge amount of the radioactive metal. Later Silkwood decided to submit her evidence to newspapers but she was found dead in her car midway, with no documents to be found.
3. Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden is the Daniel Ellsberg of the 21st century. The former National Security Agency contractor shot into limelight when he leaked classified information regarding the mass surveillance program by the US governmental agencies, invading privacy of its citizens. Having been charged with sedition, he is now living in Russia as a political refugee.
2. Mark Felt
The Watergate scandal is one of the most notorious episodes in American politics. It led to the end of presidency of Richard Nixon in 1974, making him the only US president to have resigned. The secret informant, known in the codename Deep Throat, who was the secret informant for the articles published in Washington Post by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, was a former FBI Associated Director. His identity was only revealed in 2005 as Mark Felt. Mark today is counted among the most famous whistleblowers.
1. Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg is the most popular whistleblower of our time. The Vietnam War is one of the episodes the American forces would like to forget. They were defeated both politically and militarily by the Viet guerrillas. Before that, the US government played many dirty tricks to justify their military intervention in the South East Asian country. Ellsberg was a military analyst who leaked the information regarding the truths about these plans. Known as Pentagon Papers, these documents were published by The New York Times and The Washington Post. He was charged with sedition, but it was dropped.
10 Most Famous Whistleblowers of our Time
- Daniel Ellsberg
- Mark Felt
- Edward Snowden
- Karen Silkwood
- Frank Serpico
- Chelsea Manning (Bradley Manning)
- Peter Buxtun
- Mark Whitacre
- Coleen Rowley
- Linda Tripp
Written by: Nikhil Rajagopalan