We know the government is spying on us, we know the CIA tortures with waterboarding, and we know nuclear testing is dangerous. But are these just conspiracy theories that we have made up? Or is there some truth behind this? Who planted this thought into our minds and led us to be more informed? Whistleblowers; they are individuals who choose to risk their lives and reputation to inform to the public. Unfortunately, their brave gesture to protect the public from the overrule of government results in them in peril. They face legal and criminal actions, termination from their employment and social stigma. Whistleblower Edward Snowden risked his life and was forced to flee to Russia to seek asylum after revealing to the public that the NSA spies on our every move. He fled to Russia because he knew the acts and laws entitled to protect whistleblowers are not as effective as they should be today. The question then becomes, should the government pass laws to protect whistleblowers if they disclose evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse at their employment? There are many examples of whistleblowers that have publicly disowned themselves from their society or nation for the sake of the public. They go against their government’s rules to risk telling us what is being done right under our noses. Some may be against whistleblowers and say their actions are a threat to national security. But whistleblowers should be protected for revealing corruption found in our government.
The government itself becomes too powerful and cannot distinguish right from wrong. They believe their method is correct and the public should follow them blindly. But in the end, they are only humans, not machines. Their methods and ideas do not always lead to the greater good. Whistleblowers understand there are some acts that cannot be fathom in public and has no use for national security of the public. We, the people need to know so we can initiate control and balance in the government again. Government may become riddled with power and believe what they are doing is for the good of the public, when it in fact might lead to its destruction. But the problem is, they will not take responsibility for their misguided methods or actions. A case in point; Karen Silkwood. She was a plutonium-plant worker who was mysterious killed in a car crash, following after she started investigating the health and safety issue of the nuclear facility she worked for. On her way to prove her findings to be correct, she died. While it could be a conspiracy theory, after an investigation was done, it was discovered that Karen Silkwood was correct in her findings.
Due to Silkwood’s investigation, we are now aware of nuclear testing and how to safely handle them. But in the past, when information wasn’t revealed much, she was silenced by death while trying to give the public crucial information. Writing in the article “Citizenfour review: Edward Snowden in his own words,” Owen Gleiberman complains that “The NSA reacted to 9/11 by amassing records of every phone call, e-mail message, and data search made in the US” (Gleiberman). The essence of Gleiberman’s argument is that the government has also played a crucial role in decimating the public’s privacy and security. They believed it was for our well-being to stop terrorists and prevent national attacks, when the truth of the matter is the real crime is the public’s every move being monitored. We didn’t know about how little privacy we have until Edward Snowden revealed it for us; a famous whistleblower who used to work for the CIA before leaking NSA’s classified documents that told the story of how we were being tracked and our every move was monitored. In the movie Citizenfour, it can be seen how Snowden has to hide in a hotel room in fear of being dragged out and arrested while hiding out in Hong Kong. Snowden decided to leak the documents not for any credit. He didn’t reveal his identity until later. He did it for the public’s good. They needed to know that everything they do is being traced and monitored. While stopping the government may not be in our hands, it makes us more aware. We can make sure we are aware of what we type, of what we search and what we say around others. There was no protection for a man that let us know our every move is being watched. His family and his well-being were all in danger, but he revealed it to us before fleeing for his life.
Whistleblowers do not blurt out classified files for the fun of it. They understand what they are doing can hurt their nation and its reputation. But they understand it’s for the good of the public. In today’s news, an anonymous whistleblower has revealed crucial evidence between Ukraine and the United States that has jumpstarted the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump. The anonymous whistleblower states, “I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals.” If the whistleblower is right that Trump did use his power in office to win the next election as they are saying, then we need to reassess the popular assumption that the public trust in the government is not trustworthy. They are made of individuals with their own feelings and mindsets. They will not march in one line, due to their conflicted interests. In President Trump’s case, he solicited foreign interference in the United States election, which is illegal. Not to mention the White House tried to hide the record of the conversation in al electronic system that is used to hide classified information. They knew that this was something that shouldn’t ever be revealed in public, because it was wrong. But they covered it up anyways. This anonymous whistleblower revealed this information because they understood the crimes taken place behind White House doors and wanted to put a stop to it. They are now a political target and are being covered by every media and newspaper company. They are hidden from the public because they know the uproar that will reside once their name is revealed. Case in point, Edward Snowden. He didn’t reveal his identity for a month, but he knew what was coming. Snowden did not just decide to leak the information out of the blue. He went through the proper channels and raised these concerns to his superiors and colleagues, but they denied seeing the harm that the NSA spying programs were doing. “All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.” Snowden is trying to convey the fact that he has discovered systems such as PRISM, which allows the government to collect data from users such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and telecommunication providers. Snowden revealed this information about our privacy being non-existent so we can take action and we cannot take it lightly.
Of course, many will probably disagree with this assertion that whistleblowers are for our well-being and claim they could create wars and national security problems. They could claim that whistleblowers are just double agents with their own agendas. That all whistleblowers are just disgrace humans who decide, without anybody else’s assistance, that this information needs to be public, even though they sign an NDA and the files are classified and for military and national defense security use only. Chelsea Manning is an example of a government agent who was bullied and had a traumatic childhood and decided to leak military information. It could be argued that whistleblowers are just unstable people that decide to let their emotions cloud their work ethics and risk the national security of the government, the public and the nation. These whistleblowers are just spies and should be tried for treason. Former President Obama claimed that Snowden’s actions were unjustifiable. He claims that NSA employees listen to patrons for their security and to stop terrorist attacks. Obama says that Snowden did not render a “’public service’ by leaking thousands of classified national security documents in 2013” (Gass). If you look through the government’s eyes, this man violated their trust and their national security. The Ukraine whistleblower is just the same. As President Trump states, “Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call-heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw- they’re almost a spy.” President Trump’s point is that this whistleblower is not a hero, but rather a spy that let out government secrets, as every whistleblowers do. They are more double agents than servants for the public.
Proponents of President Trump and former President Obama are right to argue that whistleblowers expose classified secrets. But they exaggerate when they claim that they should be tried for treason. Whistleblowers are risking their lives by giving us the classified secrets of the government. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 protects government workers when they find corruption or abuse of authority. However, they don’t protect members of the military, or intelligent agency employees such as the CIA, FBI or NSA as well as if you are required by an executive order to keep hidden, such as classified secrets for the national defense. Edward Snowden and the anonymous Ukraine whistleblower, in this case, are not protected by the act. There aren’t a lot of options for whistleblowers except hiding in secrecy from family, friends and nation. Some are forced to seek asylum else where while others are found and tried. If Snowden ever returns to the United States or if his visa expires as it will in 2020, he has two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property. Not to mention the Department of State revoked his passport. Whistleblowers have no protection acts, have no rights and are tried in extreme ways. The Espionage Act of 1917 was designed to process spies who disclosed military secrets to foreign nations. Whistleblowers are not being paid or working for the enemy, nor do they disclose every single military secret. They inform citizens of the wrong doings or crimes that are behind closed doors in the government. They risk their lives while spies get protection from the enemy and a profit.
The upshot of all this is that whistleblowers know the risks they are facing when they decide to reveal a classified file to the public. But they also see the bigger picture; what will result in the end if they let their government or employment to continue this route? Unethical practices and misguided methods that are believed to help the public, but in truth harm them. Whistleblowers are the reason we are becoming more aware of our government and suspicious as to what we read online. There’s a reason many of us put a piece of tape over our web camera. There is a reason we restrict our searches and use incognito mode when searching something up or refrain from using the public Wi-Fi. We know the truth and are more aware. Consequently, whistleblowers want us to be aware and to speak up about the malpractice these institutions and the governments have implemented. Everything has a code of ethics and whistleblowers are to make sure they are instilled. They risk their lives and lifestyle to make sure we are aware and our security in this day and age is protected. Why can we not do the same and protect them?