In this article we present 2 case studies of courageous whistleblowers who helped expose wrongdoing and promote positive changes in society and in the future of handling sensitive information.
One of the most notable whistleblower cases is that of Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971. This event played a key role in revealing irregularities and promoting significant changes.
Case Summary (1 of 2):
Daniel Ellsberg was a military analyst hired by the US Department of Defense during the Vietnam War. He had access to the “Pentagon Papers”, a set of secret government documents detailing the secret history of US political and military decision-making in Vietnam since the Second World War.
Ellsberg was deeply disturbed by the content of the documents, which revealed information about the conduct of the war that was inconsistent with what the government was releasing to the public.
The documents showed that several US presidents had deliberately misled the public about the war, and Ellsberg believed that these actions resulted in unnecessary deaths and suffering.
In 1971, after trying unsuccessfully to convince members of Congress to reveal the documents, Ellsberg decided to expose the “Pentagon Papers” to the press. He provided a copy of the documents to The New York Times, which began publishing a series of articles based on the information contained therein.
Impact and consequences:
The revelation of the “Pentagon Papers” had a seismic impact in the United States and around the world:
The release of the documents caused a major political scandal and shook public confidence in the US government.
Ellsberg was charged with violating the US Espionage Act and faced trial. However, the case against him was dismissed due to irregularities in the collection of evidence and the illegal disclosure of information about Ellsberg’s personal life.
Legacy of Transparency
Ellsberg’s case highlighted the importance of transparency and government accountability. He is often cited as an example of a courageous whistleblower who exposed the truth in the public interest.
Impact on the Vietnam War
Although the leak of the documents did not immediately end the Vietnam War, it contributed to growing public opposition to the war and helped speed up the process of withdrawing US troops.
Overall, the case of Daniel Ellsberg demonstrates how a courageous whistleblower can play a crucial role in exposing wrongdoing, strengthening democracy, and promoting positive changes in politics and society. His action has contributed to a more open and honest discussion about government policies and their impact on the population.
Another well-known whistleblower is Edward Snowden, a former third-party employee of the US National Security Agency (NSA). Although his actions are controversial and have sparked debates about national security and privacy, he is often cited as an example of a courageous whistleblower who exposed wrongdoing and promoted positive change.
Case Summary (2 of 2):
Edward Snowden, in 2013, revealed highly classified information about mass surveillance programs conducted by the US government in partnership with other intelligence agencies, such as the CIA.
Snowden’s main revelations included:
The existence of a program called PRISM, which allowed the NSA to access the personal data of individuals from large technology companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, without their knowledge or consent.
The bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, including information on calls made and received, as well as the duration of those calls.
The existence of a tool called XKeyscore, which allowed the NSA to collect and analyze internet communications on a large scale, with few restrictions.
The revelation that the NSA conducted mass surveillance operations not only in the United States, but all over the world, including in allied countries.
Edward Snowden claimed that his actions were intended to inform the public about the extent of government surveillance, which he considered a violation of civil liberties and privacy. He exposed this information to journalists, including Glenn Greenwald, and documented his concerns in papers that became known as the “Snowden documents.”
Snowden’s revelations sparked intense debates about national security, privacy, government transparency and the role of whistleblowers. He faced criminal charges in the United States and sought political asylum in several countries, including Russia, where he has remained since 2013.
Edward Snowden’s case remains highly controversial, with defenders praising him as a defender of privacy and critics calling him a traitor. Regardless of perspective, his actions have had a lasting impact on the debate about security and privacy in the digital age.
In conclusion, fortunately in these cases there was someone who had the courage, and the ability to face adversity, to expose cases of such relevance to everyone’s lives, in the public interest.
However, on the other hand and unfortunately, these cases did not have the anonymity they probably would have liked, nor the protection for whistleblowers that the current law 93/2021 confers, as we believe that with their protection it could have gone much better for them.
However, we believe that all the organizations concerned need to manage their whistleblowing channels properly and that all public and private bodies should comply with this European directive which, in the hopefully near future, will help us to build a more ethical and transparent society with a better reputation for organizations.
Published in: 2023.10.04