Was 2017 a year of whistleblowers versus patriotism?

Cody Davis,

What comes to mind when you hear the term whistleblower? Patriot, hero, role-model? Or do you associate that term with words like criminal, or even anarchist?

I, personally, see these people as heroes, and as beacons of light in this dark, cruel and unjust world. And as long as these actions are carried out with good intentions, I believe these types of people should have greater protection for their honorable acts.

Now there is a law in place, known as the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, which allows federal employees to speak up about wrongdoings and provides some form of protection for them. According to the act, “The purpose … is to strengthen and improve protection for the rights of Federal employees, to prevent reprisals, and to help eliminate wrongdoing within the Government.”

But this doesn’t apply to people dealing with classified information.

Today, many people seem to view whistleblowers, specifically those who expose classified intel, in a negative light, but why? What creates this frame work of thinking?

Some argue various points. For example, the jeopardization of lives like soldiers or undercover agents. They make the case of character assassination or even a breach of loyalty. And as a result, people have gone on to call whistleblowers unpatriotic or an enemy of the state.

But isn’t that what they are doing? Performing a noble and patriotic act? They are standing up against the powerful, alone, for the greater good, and sometimes even sacrifice their own well being for others.

If that is not patriotic, I don’t know what is.

And we have seen many recent examples of patriotic whistleblowers: Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. All of whom felt the need to expose the wrongdoings of an organization or government. It was all for the people and their right to be informed.
However, they all suffered some form of injustice.

Snowden was responsible for leaking information about the U.S. National Security Association (NSA) leading a secretive internet and phone surveillance program. This exposure resulted in Snowden exiling himself to Russia, as a form of protection against the possible backlash that could come from the hands of the U.S. government.

Assange has been responsible for the various releases of classified information on the website he created known as Wikileaks, as a way to get information into the public realm. But this resulted in Assange constantly hiding out in fear of some type of retaliation. In addition, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison after for releasing a trove of U.S. Army classified documents, and videos dealing with daunting matters of war in the Middle East.

All three of these people saw wrongdoing on the part of the powerful, and made an ethical decision to release this information to the public. Even if it meant breaching their confidentiality agreement. These three people are known as whistleblowers, but what does that term actually mean? Whistleblowers are people who inform on another or make public disclosures about corruption or wrongdoing. In other words, they are people who expose the hidden secrets of an organization or government. Which usually correlate with matters the general public should know about and would find abhorrent when they did find out.

These types of people who take it upon themselves and risk their lives or possible lengthy jail sentences, are role models I look up to. They challenge those in power and are the true voice of the people. Because they can determine when something is wrong. Instead of brushing it off as a minor incident they act on an issue. And make sure to get their voices heard in an attempt to hold those who commit the wrongdoing accountable for their actions.

Whistleblowers bring to light the secrets of the powerful, they are making sure people are aware of how the world really is, and how it operates. It’s funny how some people do not see that. They want to be lied to by their government and they don’t want to know the truth about the world, including horrific events like war.

We are being kept from the truth. However, with Snowden, Assange, and Manning, who break that censorship and become key factors in opening people’s eyes to truth. It becomes clear how necessary people like them are. They risk their livelihoods for all of us, which is why we should do the same and find ways to ensure their protection.

This can be achieved in various ways. For instance, in terms of creating more laws, having protests or even doing little things like changing the way people think of the word whistleblower. This can be done by making sure to praise whistleblowers, as well as associating the term as a sign of empowerment and positivity, instead of negativity.

We need whistleblowers as a form of checks and balances within our society. We need to look up to these individuals, and call them patriots of our, so called, free world.