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Eight things we would not have known without whistleblowers

From Israel's nuclear programme to the affair that almost brought down the White House

In the wake of William McNeilly's allegations surrounding the Royal Navy, what other claims have whistleblowers brought to our attention?
In the wake of William McNeilly's allegations surrounding the Royal Navy, what other claims have whistleblowers brought to our attention?


A Royal Navy submariner's claim that the UK’s Trident nuclear programme is a “disaster waiting to happen” has seemingly placed him in the ranks of whistleblowers who put everything on the line to expose a wider truth.

Seaman William McNeilly, whose claims are strongly denied by the Navy, is now being held by police after handing himself in.

Here are seven other notable whistleblowers - and the stories that might otherwise have remained untold.

Richard Nixon's abuses of presidential power

Possibly the most famous case of whistleblowing, In the early 1970s Mark Felt leaked highly classified documents to two young journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the Washington Post, in a expose that would become the world-famous Watergate.

Mr Felt’s disclosures would eventually lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, exposing a myriad of political abuses, and triggered what Vanity Fair described in 2005 as “the most serious constitutional crisis since the 1868 impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson”.

Israel’s nuclear programme

Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician, released details of Israel’s secret nuclear reactor, next to the desert town of Dimona, to the Sunday Times in the 1980s. Vanunu was abducted by Israeli security agents after publication.

He subsequently spent 18 years in jail (11 years of which were reportedly in solitary confinement) before his release in 2004. He spent an additional three months for violating his release terms.

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Bill Clinton's 'relations' with Monica Lewinsky

The affair that almost brought down the White House was partially exposed by whistleblower Linda Tripp who secretly recorded conversation with Monica Lewinsky in 1998.

She later told the Office of Independent Counsel that Ms Lewinsky had committed perjury when Ms Lewinsky claimed she had not had an affair with Mr Clinton.

Failed attempt on Muammar Gaddafi’s life

MI5 officer David Shayler, along with girlfriend Annie Machon, resigned from the British Secret Service in 1996 to expose information alleging criminal activity by the service.

Among the information – some of which was later upheld in court – Mr Shayler claimed that MI6 was involved in an attempt to kill Gaddafi without the permission of then foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The plot allegedly failed but did kill several civilians.

NSA’s illegal wiretaps

Although other – better known – whistleblowers also spoke out about the NSA’s (National Security Agency) violations, Russ Tice was the first to do so.

In 2005 he was the major source for a New York Times expose on the agency’s unconstitutional wiretaps, a piece that later was built on by Edward Snowdon’s extensive revelations.

Systematic NYPD corruption

Over 11 years working for the New York City Police Department Frank Serpico – later immortalised by Al Pacino – uncovered widespread evidence of systematic corruption.

Although Mr Serpico attempted for years to work within the system to prevent changes (making himself hugely unpopular within the NYPD) it was a front page New York Times expose in 1970 that prompted an official investigation.

HSBC helped clients evade millions of dollars in tax

Former computer systems analyst Herve Falciani exposed the fraud in the Swiss arm of HSBC by carrying out one of the biggest data leaks in the history of banking.

Mr Falciani used the confidential data of over 106,000 customers across 200 countries, collected between 2006 and 2007, to expose the bank's actions.

The Swiss authorities have accused Mr Falciani of attempting to sell off the data, but he maintains he exposed a "broken" system.

Chelsea Manning leaks Baghdad attack video to Wikileaks

Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning), the former military intelligence analyst gave classified information to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks in 2010. He was acquitted of aiding the enemy, the gravest charge laid against him by the US government. He was, however, found guilty of 19 other charges including espionage, theft and computer fraud.

Following the verdict, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused President Barack Obama of "national security extremism," referring to Manning "the most important journalistic source the world has ever seen".

"The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to break him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial," Assange said from inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

"It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short-sighted judgment that cannot be tolerated and it must be reversed."

“It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning's trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you,” Amnesty International noted.

Making a statement in alongside his guilty pleas in 2013, Manning said he wanted to reveal the “bloodlust” of the US military and so-called disregard for human life.

He transmitted his first batch of papers to WikiLeaks, founded by Assange, on 3 February 2001 with an attached note. “This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war, and revealing the true nature of the 21st century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day.”

Thereafter he handed over more than 700,000 documents, including battlefield notes from Iraq and Afghanistan and a video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad. Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the release of the 'Collateral Murder' video which showed a July 12, 2007 US Apache attack helicopter attack upon individuals in a Baghdad suburb.

The attack killed twelve people including a Reuters photographer and his driver.

On August 21, 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. On the day after her sentencing, Manning announced via a statement on the morning talk show Today that she is transgender and wanted to be known as Chelsea.

The whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has called Manning a 'hero'.

Further reading

Trident whistle-blower William McNeilly deserves more than the 'hero or coward' treatment

Trident sailor held by Navy police

Former CIA director David Petraeus handed two years’ probation and a $100K fine for leaking classified information

WikiLeaks: Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information

WikiLeaks: Bradley Manning's cell life - no naps, no clothes in bed

WikiLeaks: Bradley Manning 'in increasingly fragile condition'

US vice-president claims WikiLeaks Julian Assange is ‘high-tech terrorist’

Independent News Service


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