The biggest story in the world right now is probably Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, the Ukraine scandal is one of the biggest scandals in history. The question on everyone’s lips has to be “who is the whistleblower?” While we may never know the answer, let’s take a look at some of the world’s biggest whistleblowers and how they shaped history.
5. Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg, a former U.S military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation, leaked a highly classified Pentagon study that detailed the United States government’s reasons behind its decisions in Vietnam. These documents were called the Pentagon Papers, and were published all over the world.
In an interview from 1998, Ellsberg argued that, “The public is lied to every day by the President, by his spokespeople, by his officers. If you can’t handle the thought that the President lies to the public for all kinds of reasons, you couldn’t stay in the government at that level.”
Since the release of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg has gone on to become an activist, winning the Right Livelihood Award in 2006. He’s also spoken out in support of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, and Chelsea Manning.
4. Mark Felt
Mark Felt, also known as Deep Throat, was an FBI agent who leaked information pertaining to the Watergate scandal. Although Felt denied his role as the whistleblower following President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, he later revealed himself to be the whistleblower to Vanity Fair in 2005. Felt was quoted as saying “I’m the guy they called Deep Throat.” He was already 91 years old.
3. Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning is a former US Army Pvt. who downloaded and leaked over 500,000 army reports and classified combat videos to WikiLeaks while in Iraq. One of these videos, shows a U.S Apache helicopter opening fire on unarmed civilians in Baghdad, including two journalists employed by Reuters. The attack killed 12 people.
Manning’s leaks, which began in 2010, caused a political uproar in the US and in the Middle East, where they formed part of the catalyst for the Arab Spring. Manning was subsequently jailed for 19 charges, including 1 charge of theft and 6 charges of espionage.
Manning was originally given 35 years, but was released in 2017 after President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.
2. Julian Assange
Julian Assange is the founder and editor of Wikileaks, the infamous whistleblowing website that was launched in 2006. Wikileaks first came to international attention in 2010, following its collaboration with Chelsea Manning.
In November 2019, Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange, who was wanted for questioning in regards to allegations of an alleged sexual assault. Assange denied these allegations, and argued that they were being used as a pretext for him to be extradited to the US from Sweden, because of his role in leaking top secret US government documents. Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador in August 2012, and remained in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for 7 years.
- Edward Snowden
Possibly the most famous of the world’s biggest whistleblowers is Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden is a US citizen, who formerly served as an employee and subcontractor of the Central Intelligence Agency. He leaked information pertaining to the NSA and its intelligence partners’ top secret mass surveillance programs and capabilities in 2013. These revelations garnered mass attention around the world, and launched a global debate on privacy intrusions by government entities and digital security.
The US government has charged Snowden with theft of government property, as well as espionage. Snowden is currently living in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum. The US continues to pursue his extradition.
The world’s biggest whistleblowers have collectively had an enormous impact on the course of history. The whistleblower that leaked the information surrounding Trump’s Ukraine call will undoubtedly be a target of mass suspicion by Trump’s supporters. However, they’ve done a vital service both to the American public and the world as a whole. How the impeachment proceedings play out is anyone’s guess, but this truly is one of the biggest scandals in global history.