1. The Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg
In the summer of 1971, the New York Times started publishing portions of what was later deemed the “Pentagon Papers”. Leaked by a former analyst for the Defense Department named Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers included classified documents revealing an unflattering side of the military’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Although Ellsberg was prosecuted by government officials who cited the Espionage Act, he was later exonerated when White House agents were found to have tapped Ellsberg’s phone and broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in an attempt to discredit him.
2. The Watergate Scandal
Receiving information from “Deep Throat” about the Nixon administrating breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein leaked what has been called one of the biggest scandals in politics. The ensuing round of Senate hearings in 1974 found that President Nixon knew of the break-in and attempted cover-ups and resulted in “Tricky Dick” becoming the first U.S president in history to resign from office.
3. The WikiLeaks Scandal
Charged with providing the website WikiLeaks with over 700,000 military and government files that included sensitive diplomatic messages and videos showing civilians being killed by U.S. airstrikes, Bradley Manning, PFC, was eventually acquitted of the crime of “aiding the enemy” but court-martialed and sent to prison in 2013 for 20+ crimes associated with leaking classified government and military material
4. Snowden and PRISM
National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified documents to the public that exposed ongoing massive surveillance programs targeting the phones and Internet activity of millions of Americans. Code named “PRISM”, these programs began in 2007 after the Bush Administration passed the Protect America Act in an ongoing effort to track terrorists and terroristic activity.
5. Linda Tripp
Once a White House staff member, Linda Tripp pretended to be friends with White Hous
e intern Monica Lewinsky in order to record Lewinsky’s involvement with then President Clinton. Tripp got the recordings she wanted, leaked them to the press and sent attorney Kenneth Starr on a mission–to get President Clinton impeached. Although Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice, he was later acquitted by the Senate in 1999 and served out the remainder of his second term in office.
6. Benjamin Franklin, the first whistle blower?
Never one to bore people with his writings or his behavior, Benjamin Franklin decided to leak the contents of letters written by the Royal Governor of Massachusetts in 1772–Thomas Hutchinson. The letters primarily discussed how restless colonists could be quieted down by simply depriving them of their freedoms.Disturbed by the realization that Hutchinson planned to take away individual liberties, Franklin passed the contents on to the newspapers. Ultimately publishing these letters provoked the colonists into what would later become a defining moment in American history–the Revolutionary War.