With Edward Snowden being the most recent leaker to have ousted potentially sensitive information about America spying on its citizens as well as hacking into China’s computer databases, we are left wondering as to how exactly these leakers should be treated. Do they need to be treated as heroes for telling the truth in your face? Or do they need to be considered traitors because they gave away their country’s secrets in the process? And along with Snowden, here are some people who would go down in history as the most notorious leakers on earth.
The Rosenbergs – The Cold War Espionage
America and Russia have never been the best of friends. That is probably why, back in 1950, when the US government came to discover about a couple leaking potential military information and secrets (including the working mechanism of the atom bomb) to the Soviet Union, they denied them any mercy and sentenced them to death by electrocution (carried out in 1953).
The Rosenbergs worked along with Morton Sobell, another conspirator, and managed to leak several military documents to the Soviet Union throughout the Second World War. Sobell was also tried along with the Rosenbergs, and served 18 years in federal prisons located around the country, including Alcatraz.
Peter Buxtun – The Tuskegee Experiment
Peter Buxtun was just a normal 28 year old individual working for the U.S. Public Health Service in 1972, when he decided to come clean about a practice that would send shockwaves through the country, and continue causing aftershocks for many more decades to come.
In the story that he leaked to the Associated Press, Buxtun revealed how his colleagues at the Public Health Service office would withhold government sanctioned medical treatments from underprivileged, syphilis patients (mostly blacks) in order to perform several experimental medications and treatments on them.
The article published by the Associated Press kicked up such a furor that the government decided to intervene. Buxtun testified against the university and colleagues before the Congress, bringing to an end several years of silent torture suffered by the unwitting syphilis patients who either succumbed to the disease or were raged by the side effects of the medications and treatments administered to them at the university.
W. Mark Felt – The Watergate Scandal
The Watergate scandal can very well be considered as the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon’s government. And it all happened because an officer at the FBI was passed over for a promotion.
Being the associate director of the FBI, W. Mark Felt was pretty upset when he was sidelined for a top job in the organization. And he retaliated by secretly staging several break-ins at the national committee offices run by the Democratic Party (the first open reportedly at the Watergate Hotel located in Washington D.C.).
Naming himself as ‘Deep Throat’, Felt passed on sensitive information about government espionage in the form of wiretapping and political spying to two journalists named Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward who published the same in their respective papers, creating a worldwide backlash at the Nixon government.
Felt also followed the scandal with more break-ins (all of them unauthorized) at several homes owned by Vietnam protesters. He was eventually tried in a court for these break-ins in 1980 and was sentenced to life imprisonment. After being pardoned by Ronald Reagan just months later, Felt apparently disappeared from public view, although he was secretly drilled by the FBI for his illegal acts. Nearly 30 years after the scandal, Felt finally admitted his secret identity in 2005, and died three years later.
Julian Assange – Wikileaks
The entire world went into shock when Wikileaks founder Julian Assange decided to go public about various secret military documents pertaining to the way in Iraq. In addition to sharing these files with several media outlets, Assange published them on the Wikileaks website.
Around 391,832 classified documents were published on the site. And despite the U.S. governments’ best efforts to bring down the Wikileaks website, the documents became viral and were quickly shared across multiple platforms on the internet. Assange also revealed that he had other secret documents with him, some of them related to the U.S.s’ relation with other countries as well.
Following the leak, Assange was placed under house arrest in London’s Ecuador embassy. After his plea against deportation to Sweden was rejected, Assange found political asylum in Ecuador.
Edward Snowden –NSA Surveillance Scandal
The most recent scandal to hit the U.S. was in the form of several reports about the country’s oppressive surveillance methods being made public by college dropout Edward Snowden who was briefly employed with the NSA.
Many reports released by Snowden to the press revealed how the U.S. government obtained personal records of U.S. citizens via the internet giant Verizon. These include phone transactions, recorded phone calls, personal messages, credit card numbers, social security numbers and even bank balances etc. The reports also revealed how the U.S. was keeping a check on its allies by wiretapping several foreign embassies located in the country, and hacking computer databases in China for several years.
Following the leak, Snowden was declared a national traitor and fled the U.S. Although the countries of Bolivia and Venezuela have offered him political asylum, he is currently settled in Russia on a temporary basis on the condition of not leaking any more information that may harm the U.S.