Whistleblowers place their own careers and lives on the line for the common good. After exhausting internal channels for reporting irregularities, government whistleblowers feel compelled to break their oaths and corporate whistleblowers defy their non-disclosure agreements and reach out to outside channels to make their concerns known.

To some they are heroes. To gatekeepers of the National Security State and the corporatocracy, they are traitors.

Major General Smedley Butler and the Business Plot

US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler testifies to the Special Committee on Un-American Activities Congressional Committee of the existence of a plot by wealthy Americans to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt and install a fascist dictatorship.

Butler was first approached by Gerald McGuire, a bond salesman, and Bill Doyle of the American Legion. After a series of meetings including one with heir of the Singer Corporation fortune Robert S. Clark, Butler was asked to lead an army of 500 000 veterans in a coup against the President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Butler first played along with the conspirators to learn more details of the plot. Unfortunately for the plotters, they had picked the wrong man. He had grown disillusioned with the military and felt used for having protected Standard Oil’s property in China during the Boxer Rebellion. He eventually brought in his own man, Paul Comly French, a journalist for the Philadelphia Reporter. French met with McGuire and was able to confirm all of Butler’s allegations. He broke the story on November 21st, 1934 in his Philadelphia Reporter and the New York Post. The very next day, the New York Times called the story a “gigantic hoax”.

Whistleblowers Butler and French both testify to the McCormack–Dickstein Committee that powerful men at Goodyear, JP Morgan, DuPont, Remington Arms, General Motors, US Steel and other prominent individuals, including Prescott Bush were discontent with FDR’s New Deal and the Gold Reserve Act which put an end to the Gold Standard. The Gold Standard enabled the Gold clause common to most contract at the time allowing lenders to demand repayment in gold. Lenders who had borrowed money before the Great Depression were thus unable to pay off their debts.

The committee accepted Smedley and French’s testimonies and was able to confirm their allegations that powerful men were plotting to install a fascism Mussolini-style dictatorship. They were also able to confirm Smedley’s most pertinent statements. Despite this, the Committee opted to remove all prominent names from the final report as hearsay. None were called to testify and as in the case of the 2008 financial crisis, none were ever indicted of any crimes.

On December 28th 1935, Butler called a press conference and described details of the plot to the American people. The conspiracy itself is now referred to as “The Business Plot”, “The Plot Against FDR” or “The White House Putsch”.

Sources and further information:

War is a Racket (book)

War is a Racket Speech Full Speech (8 min 54 sec)

The Fascist Plot to Overthrow FDR (40 min 49 sec)

Executive Order 6102

The New Deal

Smedley Butler

Public Statement on Preliminary findings of HUAC, November 24, 1934

American Corporation fondness for Fascism:

“American investments in Nazi Germany at the time of Pearl Harbor. These amounted to an estimated total of $475 million. Standard Oil of New Jersey had $120 million invested there; General Motors had $35 million.”

Trading with the Enemy

Universal Newsreel, 28 December 1935 (1 min 25 sec)

Peter Buxtun and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

From 1932 to 1972, The United States Public Health Service studied the natural, untreated progression syphilis on 600 poor African Americans.

Peter Buxtun

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study began in 1932 to settle the issue of whether or not blacks reacted differently to syphilis than whites. The investigators enrolled impoverished blacks from the rural area of Macon County, Alabama. By the late 1940s, Penicillin had become a standard and effective treatment for syphilis. Despite this the Surgeon General himself determined that the study should continue.

Six hundred and twenty-four men were initially targeted and lured in with the promise of free medical treatment for their “bad blood”. Three hundred and ninety-nine men were initially infected with syphilis and an additional 201 men were deliberately infected. Forty of their wives were also infected and 10 children were born with congenital syphilis.

Whistleblower Peter Buxtun, deeply concerned with the morality of the study, initially tried to go through the proper channel and alerted the Center of Disease Control about the study who simply stated that the study had to be completed. In the early 70s, Buxtun went to the press and the story was finally picked up in 1972 by the Washington Star leading to Congressional hearings that ordered the immediate termination of the study. On May 16, 1997 President Clinton issued an apology for the forty-year study.

Sources and further information:

1997 – Clinton Apology

U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee – Timeline

Final Report of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee – May 20, 1996

Top Ten Government Conspiracies (includes the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment)

Syphilis experiments in Guatemala

Edward Snowden and NSA Surveillance

Edward Snowden releases classified information on massive surveillance programs involving intelligence agencies from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand and other European countries.

Edward Snowden was a system Administrator for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden was appalled from what he saw and felt that he was witness to multiple and serious infractions of the 4th and 5th Amendments of the US Constitution and Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Not trusting his own judgment in releasing the information directly to the public, Snowden chose to work with the Guardian and the Washington Post, who would in turn work with NSA officials before releasing the information to the public.

Snowden flew to Hong Kong in May 2013 and made his historic interview with Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian.

Beginning in June 2013 and thorough media intermediaries such as the Guardian, The Washington Post and other publishers, Edward Snowden eventually revealed massive worldwide surveillance:

PRISM: The program directly targets Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Skype, Apple and other tech giants’ servers. The NSA is then able to search the stored data using keywords. Microsoft worked directly with the NSA in given them access to Hotmail before messages were encrypted and sent out.


Tempera: Electronic surveillance operated by the GCHQ (British Intelligence) and shared with the NSA. Tempera taps directly into the fiber-optic cables making up the Internet backbone and retrieves and stores data. (Other programs process the data.) Commercial partners, or intercept companies include:

British Telecommunications (codename: Remedy); Global Crossing (codename: Pinnage) Verizon (codename: Dacron); Viatel (codename: Vitreous); Vodafone (codename: Gerontic)

Whistleblower Joseph Nacchio claimed that Qwest was denied government contracts for refusing to hand over customer data without a FISA court order

MUSCULAR: An NSA tap on internal traffic between Google and Yahoo data centers going through undersea cables. Google has since begun encrypting its internal data. Yahoo should be encrypted by now. (?)

BOUNDLESS INFORMANT: Tool used by the NSA to visualized Internet and telephone data collected in other programs.



XKEYSCORE: Another analytic tool used by the NSA to tag individual elements from other databases and connecting these elements allowing for tracking of individuals. See XKEYSCORE At a Glance, The Intercept_ – 2015


DISHFIRE: A joint NSA- GCHQ operation to collect text messages from around the world. The information is analyzed by PREFER which extracts messages and outputs visual data.

Snowden leaked documents revealed that the NSA spied on high profile politicians. The NSA has been monitoring telephone conversations of 35 world leaders, including (possibly), German leader Angela Merkel. They were reading the emails of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón and president Enrique Peña Nieto.

Following Snowden’s revelations, the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom began reviews of their intelligence agencies. Department of Defense officials point out some serious security leaks such as Snowden’s release of collection partners. Terrorists and human traffickers using these carriers and email addresses have completely stopped using these services.

On June 23rd, Snowden flew to Moscow where he was stranded due to his US passport being revoked. On July 1st Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane was rerouted to Austria after France, Italy and Spain denied his plane passage through their airspace

Snowden stayed at the airport for 39 days until being granted asylum in Russia on August 1st. His fate is still undetermined.

Sources and further information:

A Trail of Evidence Leading to AT&T’s Partnership with the NSA, ProPublica – 2015

Leaked Documents Reveal AT&T’s ‘Extreme Willingness’ to Help With NSA Spying, VICE News – 2015

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The 4th, 5th and other first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution make up the Bill of Rights:

Was Snowden Justified?– Intelligence Squared Debate:

Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s impact on Canada

Obama lying – Jon Stewart slams Obama’s domestic spying program

Cabinet noir (Black Chamber)
French King Louis XV had rooms built for the purpose of intercepting, opening, copying, resealing diplomatic communications.

Trailblazer Project and its replacement Turbulence

NSA Whistleblower Perry Fellwock
Blew the whistle on the existence of the NSA and its worldwide covert surveillance network (ECHELON) to Ramparts Magazine in 1971.

Chelsea Manning Exposes US War Crimes

After coming across evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan US Army Intelligence analyst uploads documents and videos to whistleblowing site Wikileaks

Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley) was a US Army intelligence analyst. Dismayed with what she perceived to be war crimes, she downloaded the documents now known as the Iraqi and Afghan War logs in January 2010. She initially contacted The Washington Post and the New York Times, but instead opted to upload the file anonymously to Wikileaks in early February.

That same month she uploaded the diplomatic cables (Secret US Embassy Cables) and eventually leaked the infamous Baghdad airstrike video (Collateral Murder) and the Guantanamo Bay files (Guantánamo Detainee Assessment Briefs, Gitmo DABs). She also uploaded video of the Granai Airstrike, but this was destroyed by a Wikileaks defector.

Wikileaks released the Collateral Murder video at a press conference in April 2019. The helicopter gun-sight footage from a July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike shows a crew of a US Apache helicopter gunning down 12 civilians, including two Reuters war correspondents. Victims include an Iraqi man driving a van on his way to take his two children to school who stopped to help the helpless Reuters journalist attempting to crawl away to safety. A Washington Post journalist embedded with the troops went on to write a book giving the team and the war glamorous reviews.

Unfortunately the documents revealed even more gruesome US troops atrocities in a 2006 incident when US troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians and then called in an airstrike to cover up their crime. The victims included a 5-month-old infant and a 70-year old woman. Subsequent autopsies revealed that nine of the victims (5 children and 4 women) were handcuffed and shot in the head.

Manning was arrested in May 2010. She admitted to releasing the Collateral Murder video, Department of State cables, Afghanistan and Iraq war logs to Wikileaks. She is presently serving a 35-year prison sentence.

Gary Webb, the C.I.A. and the Crack Epidemic

Unable to provide direct assistance to rebel Nicaraguan Contras, the C.I.A. backs and protects cocaine smugglers fueling the L.A. crack epidemic.

The early 1980s Boland Amendment placed severe restrictions on the C.I.A.’s ability to wage its secret wars against the Nicaraguan government. The Boland Amendment had also lead to the Iran-Contra affair, in which the Senior officials of the US government were involved in a plot to sell weapons to Iran in order to secretly fund the Contras.

The C.I.A. and the Reagan White House were aware that the Contras were smuggling cocaine into the United States which was transformed into crack flooding the streets of Los Angeles and other major metropolis with cheap cocaine and causing the crack cocaine epidemic.

Gary Webb

Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance detailing the plot was printed in the San Jose Mercury News series In August 1996. Webb determined that the drugs were coming from one source and that the money was used to finance a guerrilla war in South America. He also documented that the C.I.A. was aware of the Contras’ activities but failed to report them to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It was later revealed that the CIA had a get-out-of-jail card in the form of a 1982 secret agreement to allow their assets to break certain laws, including drug smuggling

Initially there was public outrage. The government reacted by not reacting and let their gatekeepers at the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and at the New York Times do the talking. (See Operation Mockingbird) San Jose Mercury News could not take the pressure and eventually backed down.

From that point on, Gary Webb was persona non grata and unable to work for a daily newspaper again. He made all his information available on his Dark Alliance website so that anyone could verify his research for themselves.

In 1998 the Justice Department published a report revealing that the Reagan White House was aware of the trafficking and that the CIA had directly interfered in DEA investigation to protect Contra smugglers.

That same year, the CIA Inspector General published his internal investigation in which he describes how the Reagan White House gave protection to 50 Contra smugglers with the full knowledge of the National Security Council and Oliver North.

Whistleblower Gary Webb was found dead in December 2004 with two gun shots to the head. His death was ruled a suicide.

Jeffrey Wigand Vs. Big Tobacco

Big Tobacco is completely aware of the carcinogenic and addictive properties of cigarettes and deliberately manipulates their products to make them more addictive.

Biochemist Jeffrey Wigand worked at Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and other health care companies until accepting a position as head of the research department at Tobacco giant Brown & Williamson. Under the lure of designing a safer cigarette, Wigand accepted the cushy $300k a year post. From the get go, B&W’s legal team imposed severe restrictions on Dr. Wigand’s newly-formed team. For instance, they were forbidden from using the words “safer” or “less hazardous” in writing. The company line was that cigarettes were not addictive and not health-threatening.

Jeffrey Wigand

Inside the industry, it was widely known that cigarette were nothing more than a “delivery device for Nicotine”. The more potent the Nicotine, the quicker the addict could get his fix. They called this “impact boosting“.

Realizing that his dream of developing a safer cigarette would never pan out, Dr. Wigand moved on to trying to reduce the negative effect of chemicals used in the manufacturing of cigarettes. He discovered that B&W still used Coumarin, despite its links with lung Cancer being proven. After pointing out that it would save between 800 to 1000 lives a year and trying to get it removed from the product line, he was once again unsuccessful and eventually fired.

Despite a binding non-disclosure agreement, Dr. Wigand chose to testify in court and to record the now famous 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace exposing to the world the hidden secrets of Big Tobacco.

Wigand not only revealed that, despite repetitive denials of the negative effect of smoking, Big Tobacco CEOs and other executives were fully aware that cigarettes were addictive and caused Cancer. It had been common knowledge within the industry since the 1950s. He also explained how Big Tobacco deliberately manipulates, adjusts, and enhances the effect of Nicotine in order to make it more addictive.

Wigand received numerous death threats and CBS (producers of 60 Minutes) provided armed security for Jeffrey and his family. Brown & Williamson used legal bullying tactics to pressure CBS into not airing the program, but after the story broke in the Wall Street Journal, CBS aired the segment.

The story eventually led to 46 states winning a $368 billion settlement in damages against the tobacco industry.

Sources and further information:

Jeffrey Wigand Testimony – Whistleblower Protection Hearing

60 Minutes: Jeffrey Wigand – Original 60 minutes interview

60 Minutes interview transcript

Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement

Brown & Williamson merged with R.J. Reynolds in 2004 to form Reynolds American Inc, the United States’ 2nd largest tobacco company.

Karen Silkwood Vs. Big Energy

Karen Silkwood was a plutonium lab technician at nuclear energy giant Kerr-McGee who revealed blatant security and health violations, frequent worker contamination due to faulty equipment and fraud to conceal defective plutonium rods.

Silkwood joined Kerr-McGee in 1972 and quickly noticed safety violations which led her to join the local union. She began compiling a list of violations and met with her union’s legal team in Washington to turn in her findings. The whistleblower testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about being contaminated and the lacks in safety standards at Kerr-McGee. She was task by her national union with discovering more evidence, in particular, for her claim that the company doctored fuel rod photo negatives.

Unbeknownst to Silkwood, her spying activities were an open secret at the plant and she was also being carefully observed. In the beginning of November 1974, she began setting off contamination sensors at the plant and found to be dangerously contaminated. The source of the contamination was later traced to cheese and baloney in her fridge at home.

A week later she was killed in a car crash on her way to deliver her bulging folder of evidence to a New York Times journalist. Her evidence was never found, although Kerr-McGee representatives visited the garage where Silkwood’s car had been towed under the pretense of testing the car for contamination. Despite being involved in a frontal collision, her car showed damaged to the rear indicating that she might have been forced off the road.

Kerr-McGee closed its Oklahoma plant in 1976. In 1984 a jury found Kerr-McGee guilty and had to pay $10 million in punitive damage because it had lied to its employees about the dangers of plutonium, it had defrauded the government by producing and selling faulty fuel rods, it had lost more than 40 lbs. of plutonium. However, this judgment was overturned on appeal in federal court. The US Supreme Court then reaffirmed the original verdict but after Kerr-McGee said it would appeal, Silkwood’s family settled out of court with Silkwood’s family for $1.38 million.

Sources and further information:

News Report following the $10 million judgment:

The Killing of Karen Silkwood: The Story Behind the Kerr-McGee Plutonium Case

GE Three

Mark Felt – Watergate’s Deep Throat

Mark Felt was the anonymous source known as Deep Throat that led Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post to establish direct links between the Watergate break-ins and the Nixon White House.

In the early morning of June 17, 1972, four smartly dressed burglars were arrested while breaking into the offices of the National Democratic Committee. The ensuing scandal came to be known as Watergate.

Two reporters for the Washington Post, Robert Bernstein and Bob Woodward were instrumental in bringing down the presidency of Richard Nixon. They did not do it alone; they had an anonymous source known in the press as Deep Throat.

The identity of Deep Throat had always been a mystery and many individuals were proposed over the years as being the Post’s anonymous source. It wasn’t until 2005 that Mark Felt, then 91 years-old, was revealed as Deep Throat, the source of Woodward and Bernstein’s revelations.

Felt, the number 2 man at the FBI, had learned of the break-in at 7 o’clock that very morning and was privy to every piece of information the FBI uncovered it its investigation of the break ins and its finances. Felt suspected White House involvement after being told that pursuing lead that could establish links between a Mexican bank and the Plumbers could jeopardize a CIA operation. (It was later revealed that White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman had instructed the CIA to halt any FBI investigation into Watergate finances.)

Woodward had used Felt as an anonymous source in previous stories and a week after the break-in, Felt informed Woodward of the White House’s E. Howard Hunt connection to the Plumbers. Felt knew that Hunt ran a secret team inside the White House involved in illegal wiretapping because he and the FBI had refused to approve similar operations when requested to do so by the White House. (Ironically, Felt was himself accused of illegal wiretapping is his investigations against the Weathermen. In 1981, he was pardoned for his role in COINTELPRO by President Ronald Reagan.)

After the FBI’s refusal to play ball with the White House, Nixon and his team created a group made up mostly of ex-CIA agents known as the Plumbers. They had a slush fund to gather covert information of Democrats and used bribery, blackmail, tax audits and legal actions to silence opponents.

By mid-October ‘72, Haldeman had figured out that Felt was leaking information to the press, but because rousing Felt could cause him to reveal a lot more, they chose to leave it alone. In January of 1973, Felt’s boss at the FBI confronted him about the allegations that he was Woodward and Bernstein‘s source, but Felt flatly denied it. That June, Felt retired from the FBI.

Some believe that Felt’s motives weren’t so patriotic, but rather that he was disgruntled from being passed over for the top FBI position following Hoover’s death. That perhaps this was not a case of two young reporters reestablishing democracy in America, but rather, a case of the FBI’s Old Guard using the Washington Post to get back at Nixon.

Sources and further information:

The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’ (BBC)

Watergate Timeline

LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason’

Bob Woodward remembers W. Mark Felt

“The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat

Porn film namesake for the codename Deep Throat

I’m the Guy They Called Deep Throat” Vanity Fair article

Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Pentagon analyst leaks the Pentagon Papers, a secret report revealing that the US Government had no intentions of pulling out of Vietnam despite public statements. It also documented secret wars in neighboring countries Laos and Cambodia.

In June of 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned a secret report giving a true picture of the war in Vietnam compiled from classified material. The report, officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense was not completed until McNamara had left his post. One of the recipients of the secret report was the RAND Corporation where military analyst Daniel Ellsberg was given clearance to read the report.

Outraged that Nixon continued the lies of the previous administrations of intending to pull out of Vietnam, Ellsberg leaks part of the papers to the New York Times. After 3 months of meetings the Times decides to publish parts of the documents in June of 1971.

Containment of China – Real objective of the Vietnam War
Containment of China – Real objective of the Vietnam War

Nixon calls foul and invokes National Security. The Attorney General orders the paper to stop printing material related to the Pentagon Paper and eventually wins a restraining order against the New York Times. For the first time since the US civil war, a newspaper is prevented by law from printing a story.

Ellsberg then releases the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post where Katherine Graham also decides to print them. The Washington Post is also blocked. Ellsberg then gives the papers to the Boston Globe. Newspaper after newspaper defied the order and printed sections and revelations from the Pentagon Papers.

The case quickly makes its way to the Supreme Court where 6 of the 9 judges rule in favor of the press. It determines that the ban has less to do with National Security than protecting the reputation of politicians involved. (Nixon wasn’t happy)

Ellsberg is charged under the Espionage Act and faces up to 115 years in jail. However, revelations that Nixon’s team of White House Plumbers had illegally installed wiretaps on Ellsberg caused the judge to call a mistrial.

Ellsberg has since supported a number of whistleblowers, including Manning and Snowden.

Sources and further information:

Nixon Tapes: Nixon first learning about the Pentagon Papers from Haig. He is at first unconcerned since the documents concern mostly Kennedy but he is convinced by Kissinger that failure to act could set a dangerous precedent for future presidencies.

Pentagon Papers (declassified in 2011)

Frank Serpico and NYPD Corruption

Police detective Frank Serpico crosses the infamous Blue Wall and testifies to widespread police corruption within the New York Police Department.

Whistleblower Frank Serpico joined the NYPD at the age of 23 following 2 years in the army. Soon after beginning to work undercover, he discovered that police corruption was widespread and endemic throughout the NYPD. In August 1966, all of Serpico suspicions were proven when he received an envelope with $300 in cash.

Serpico had stumbled into a police-protection racket in which officers received a monthly payoff (the “Pad”) in exchange for turning a blind eye to illegal gambling (clean money) and drug dealers (dirty money). Police officers on the Pad received around $800 month.

In 1967, he chose to come forward and reported the corruption through the proper channels to no avail. After all his efforts to fight the corruption in the NYPD had been thwarted, Serpico had no choice but to break the “Blue Wall” and blow the whistle on his fellow officers.

He leaked his story to the New York Times who in April of 1970 published a front page story on police corruption. The story pressured New York’s mayor into forming the Knapp Commission, a 5-member investigative panel. Serpico testified to the committee becoming the first NYPD officer to ever voluntarily testify on police corruption in court.

A year following his testimony, Serpico was shot in a routine drug bust that had suspiciously gone wrong. His backup ignored his pleas for help and failed to call in the incident leaving a neighbor to call 911 and await the ambulance with the severely wounded Serpico. The incident finally put an end to Serpico’s 5 year struggle to expose NYPD corruption.

Sources and further information:

They Wished They Were Honest – The Knapp Commission

True Crime Authors: Frank Serpico with Peter Maas

Lords of Discipline – secret society within the New Jersey State Troopers brought to light
by Justin Hopson in 2002

Serpico (1973 movie starring Al Pacino)

This list is by no means exhaustive and there are quite a number of whistleblowers which have taken great risk and revealed information which they judged to be in the public’s interest. Generally, government whistleblowers are severely punish as the government uses the full force of the law in prosecuting whistleblowers, a trend continued with the current President.

Corporate whistleblowers have also been prosecuted but usually fare much better. Cheryl Eckard received $96 million after GlaxoSmithKline was found guilty of knowingly selling contaminated products. American banker Bradley Birkenfeld received $104 million from the IRS after Swiss bank UBS AG was found guilty of enabling tax evasion for its clients. However, Birkenfeld has been the only one to serve any jail time in connection to the massive fraud.