A Guide : Top Whistleblowing Heroes

The Guardian Guide to Whistleblowers


Edward Snowden – Is the Man
Snowden, a former NSA consultant working for Booz Allen Hamilton, has given top secret NSA documents to the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, independent documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and theWashington Post’s Barton Gellman. To date, these documents have revealed a nationwide order to Verizon to turn over all metadata, a technical program to access data called ‘Prism’ and other information.
Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong before outing himself, was fired from his job with Booz Allen Hamilton within days of leaking the documents. The NSA has requested a criminal probe into Snowden’s actions.
Bradley Manning
Manning, a US Army soldier, is accused of passing hundreds of thousands of documents to the website WikiLeaks. These documents included the Afghan War Logs, the Iraq War Logs, US diplomatic cables and videos of airstrikes.
Manning was arrested on May 27, 2010 and charged in 2011 with 22 charges including violations of the Espionage Act. In 2013 Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges. The trial for the remaining ten charges began on June 3.
Shamai K. Leibowitz
Concerned over the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, Leibowitz gave secret FBI transcripts of conversations recorded at the Israeli Embassy to a blogger.
In 2010 Leibowitz was sentenced to 20 months in prison after admitting to disclosing classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States.
John Kiriakou
In an ABC news television interview in 2007, Kiriakou discussed the governments use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. Kiriakou also admitted to disclosing the name of a former colleague involved in the interrogations to a reporter.
In 2012 the Justice Department charged Kiriakou with disclosing classified information. Kiriakou pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months.
Thomas Drake
Drake shared information regarding NSA technologies with a Baltimore Sun reporter. Specifically Drake was motivated by the NSA rejecting a program named ThinThread in favor of a much more expensive program called Trailblazer.
In 2011, Drake pleaded guilty to a single count of exceeding his authorized use of an agency computer in 2006 and 2007. Under a plea deal, ten more serious charges were dropped. Drake had faced a possible 35 years in prison if successfully prosecuted on charges under the Espionage Act. He was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and one year’s probation.
Joseph Darby
After discovering photos of the prisoner abuse occuring at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Specialist Darby wrote an anonymous letter to Army investigators and included the photographs.
After Donald Rumsfeld publicly thanked him, Darby and his wife were the subjects of threats and harassment. They have since entered military protective custody.
Katharine Gun
Gun, a translator for British intelligence, learned of a US plan to spy on UN delegations with the goal of winning support for an invasion of Iraq. The plans were outlined in a classified NSA memo. The US was seeking British help with the plan.
Gun was fired from her job and arrested for violating the Official Secrets Act under British law. In 2004 the British goverment decided not to prosecute.

William Binney
Bill Binney, a NSA official, alongside software developer Edward Loomis, developed a program named ThinThread designed to track enemies outside the US. After senior officials at the NSA decided to forgo ThinThread and instead pursued a much more expensive, and potentially invasive program called Trailblazer, Binney resigned. Along with others he filed a complaint with the Pentagon’s Inspector General in 2002 regarding the agency’s decision to pursue Trailblazer in place of ThinThread.

Binney’s house was raided by federal authorities in 2007 and his security clearance was revoked.

Coleen Rowley
An FBI agent based in Minneapolis, Rowley wrote a memo in 2002 to director Robert Mueller documenting how she felt the bureau had mishandled the investigation of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. Rowley also testified in front of the 9/11 commission and the Senate Judiciary Committee.


In 2004 Rowley retired from the FBI.

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