President Obama has broken all records with respect to prosecuting whistleblowers, despite his promise to be more open that the previous administration.  He has used the Espionage Act seven times, and use other punitive measures against leakers, many of whom are seen as whistleblowers.  For all his good qualities, Obama behaves as if he works for the CIA, as he does their bidding at every opportunity. Evidently, enough people watch the TV show “The Biggest Loser” to keep it on the air. But which of the prosecuted whistleblowers is the biggest loser?

Jeffrey Sterling: The most recent loser is Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking information to reporter James Risen. Sterling has been convicted, based on circumstantial evidence, of leaking information on what appears to be a CIA misadventure called operation Merlin, in which the CIA gave flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran. Sterling was also charged with leaking a document that was never found, in his possession or anyone else's. Assuming that Sterling did indeed leak some information about “Merlin” to Risen, it is because he believed the operation to be dead on arrival. Sterling was able to see that the plans delivered did not match the inventory list, which is something the Iranians would certainly notice. In the process, the CIA would have been giving Iran some useful information. The only way this could operation could be effective is if the Iranians bought it hook, line and sinker, but Sterling himself could easily see the subterfuge. Sterling had also filed a Civil Rights complaint against the CIA, which may have influenced the extreme retaliation. For this, Sterling is facing up to 80 years in prison. The long potential prison sentence makes Sterling a prime candidate for “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”.

John Kiriakou: Former CIA officer John Kiriakou is the only CIA employee connected to its torture (enhanced interrogation) program to go to prison. Not only have George W Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington and others avoid prosecution for war crimes, no one at the CIA has been prosecuted either. Former CIA director George Tenet is of course the most culpable. But officially, John Kiriakou did go to prison for providing information to reporters on the torture program. Kiriakou revealed his information publicly in 2007, long after the disclosure of torture at Abu Ghraib. Kiriakou is serving 30 months in prison, and has lost his pension in the process of telling America the truth. Although he was convicted of revealing the name of another CIA operative, Kirakou wrote “In truth, this is my punishment for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program and for telling the public that torture was official U.S. government policy”. So in the United States of America, no one has been charged or prosecuted for the torture program, nor is their even an official movement afoot to do so. President Obama, acting a proxy protector of the CIA, has admitted that “We tortured some folks” but refuses to prosecute. Kiriakou however is serving 30 months in addition to having his family destroyed financially. Kiriakou is certainly an excellent candidate for “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”.

Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) is an excellent case for “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”. While serving in the United States Army, Manning downloaded the 400,000 documents that became known as the Iraq War logs. On January 8 she downloaded 91,000 documents from the Afghanistan database, the Afghan War logs. This information was allegedly given to Wikileaks for publication. Material included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, referred to as Collateral Murder, and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables; and 500,000 Army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs as well as the Afghan War logs. Manning said that the diplomatic documents exposed "almost criminal political back dealings" and that they explained "how the First World exploits the Third, in detail”. For revealing war crimes, Manning was tortured using a “Prevention of Injury” policy which resulted in nudity, isolation, harassment, sleep-deprivation being used against him, all while still awaiting trail. Manning was finally convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Given the use of torture against him and the long prison sentence, Manning is certainly a candidate for “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”.

Julian Assange is editor-in-chief of the website Wikileaks, which published Chelsea Manning's Iraq War logs, and many other documents that would be otherwise hidden from public consumption. Facing trumped up “honey trap” charges of rape, Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The building is surrounded by British police, intent on arresting him upon exit, which would then likely result in extradition to the USA. So Assange has been a prisoner of sorts for several years. The US government has done everything possible to destroy Wikileaks financially, and are waiting to pounce on Assange if he walks out of his own prison. Assange is a candidate for “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”.

Edward Snowden, probably the most famous of the whistleblowers. Snowden's leaked documents revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many of them run by the NSA and with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments. His disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy. Snowden has been called a traitor and public officials like Michael Hayden have even called for his assassination. Snowden has so far avoided being killed, but has been denied asylum and has been forced to take up residence in Russia. Of all the whistleblowers, Snowden arguably took the greatest risk, but the reward has been great for the rest of us. Although politically active America citizens have suspected that they are being spied upon, the government had consistently denied this fact prior to Snowden's disclosures.

Sibel Edmonds was enlisted as a translator in the FBI language division In the wake of 9/11, to interpret wiretaps conducted inside the United States, having been born in Turkey and speaking several languages. She describes the language division as "the highest security unit in the FBI." She has since become the most classified woman in history, and her efforts to uncover FBI criminality that included, "money laundering, narcotic activities, and nuclear black market converg(ing) with terrorist activities" led her to be pursued and persecuted to an incredible degree by the Justice Department under John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller invoking "state secrets." Her story is harrowing, to say the least; however, she sparked serious doubts among the general population regarding the 9/11 Commission Report -- and she hasn't stopped. Her work can be found at Boiling Frogs. Edmonds also set up the National Security Whisleblower Coalition.

Although her knowledge is still heavily censored, she has revealed information about Operation Gladio. Operation Gladio B is an FBI codename adopted in 1997 for ongoing relations between US intelligence, the Pentagon, and Al Qaeda. The name refers to the original Operation Gladio, in which US intelligence had relations with anti-communist groups in Europe. According to Edmonds, Gladio B identified, among other things, regular meetings between senior US intelligence and current leader of Al Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri at the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan between 1997 and 2001, with al-Zawahiri and other mujahideen being transported by NATO aircraft to Central Asia and the Balkans to participate in Pentagon-backed destabilization operations. Still alive and not completely financially destroyed, Edmonds is probably not the “biggest loser”.

Susan Lindauer was a former CIA asset who worked with the Libyan and Iraqi embassies prior to 9/11. Following that day, she began to reveal CIA complicity in Middle East heroin trafficking. Lindauer also talked about how Israel tried to buy U.S. Intelligence officers and Assets. According to Jesselyn Radack's blog, she revealed that a known Mossad agent tried to bribe her into handing over Iraq’s collection of banking records on Al Qaeda’s financial pipeline by phoning her home in Maryland while she was traveling in Baghdad, and promising to deliver a suitcase full of cash to any city in the world in exchange for the papers.

Susan subsequently became the second non-Arab citizen to be arrested under the Patriot Act, which culminated in a five-year indictment and near total prison lockdown for one year. While in prison Susan was subjected to harsh conditions that would be considered torture in multiple countries. Contrary to what most Americans think, Susan and the other inmates in solitary confinement were only allowed outside once every ten days. Based on prison time and torture, Susan is an excellent candidate for “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”.

Aaron Swartz work also focused on sociology, civic awareness and activism. According to Wikileaks, Swartz “helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism. In 2010 he became a research fellow at Harvard University's Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption. He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act. “ For his good work, Swartz was arrested on state breaking-and-entering charges, after systematically downloading academic journal articles from JSTOR. Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release.

Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison, and hanged himself two days later. Given that Swartz is one whistleblower who is dead, he is an excellent candidate for “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”.

William Binney is a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency (NSA) turned whistleblower. Binney resigned on October 31, 2001, after more than 30 years with the agency. Binney has also been publicly critical of the NSA for spying on U.S. citizens, saying of its expanded surveillance after the 9/11 attacks that "it's better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo ever had". He challenged Trailblazer's ineffectiveness and unjustified high cost compared to the far less intrusive ThinThread. After he left the NSA in 2001, Binney was one of several people investigated as part of an inquiry into the 2005 New York Times exposé on the agency’s warrantless spying program. Binney was cleared of wrongdoing after three interviews with FBI agents beginning in March 2007, but one morning in July 2007, a dozen agents armed with rifles appeared at his house, one of whom entered the bathroom and pointed his gun at Binney, still toweling off from a shower. In that raid, the FBI confiscated a desktop computer, disks, and personal and business records. The NSA revoked his security clearance, forcing him to close a business he ran with former colleagues at a loss of a reported $300,000 in annual income. Binney spent more than $7,000 on legal fees. Due to lack of jail time and smaller financial loss, Binney is probably a poor candidate for “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”.

Thomas Drake, a National Security Agency employee was charged with violating the Espionage Act in 2010 for retaining classified documents for “unauthorized disclosure”. He was suspected to have leaked information on the agency’s surveillance program. Drake had challenged the Trailbazer project because he believed it violated the 4th amendment against unwarranted search. By 2003, the NSA Inspector General had declared Trailblazer an expensive failure. Trailblazer cost more than 1 billion dollars. Although Drake avoided prison when the government dropped all charges on the eve of trial, Drake had been financially devastated, losing his $150,000 job at the NSA and his pension. “Biggest Whistleblower Loser”?

Jesselyn Radack, herself a whistleblower, runs the Governent Accountablility Project, has posted this list of whistleblowers, which includes Mark Klein, Col. Anthony Shaffer, and Joe Banister. Other whistleblowers of note are Shamai Leibowitz and Stephen Kim. Radack's excellent “top ten list” is found here:

It is difficult to write an article about whistleblowers without mentioning imprisoned ex-Governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman. Siegelman is serving prison based on extreme political prosecution by Karl Rove and his minions. Siegelman's story is told here and here. Siegelman's family certainly deserve consideration as the biggest loser with respect to political prosecution.

So who is the biggest loser? The choice is unclear. What is clear is that the American public is the winner as the result of the courageous acts of these whistleblowers. It is them that I think about when I hear the words “land of the free, home of the brave”.