Whistleblowers uncover deep state affairs and illegal practices that threaten the status quo of politics, private business, and multi-international enterprises. Not all whistleblowers receive front-page headline coverage, but their voice and actions are just as explosive, and the institutions they expose would like them to disappear. Here are few whistleblowers who stood up for honor and truth, despite the consequences. Some are well-known, the others should be.
Victor Carlström was the most sought-out financial broker in Sweden with personal and professional relationships with the world’s leading banks and highest-profile citizens. At the high point of his career, Victor was offered a partnership deal with Folksam – among the most prominent financial company in Sweden.
Victor’s success at Folksam was short-lived as he discovered a global system of corruption and fraud that would change his life forever. As Carlström investigated suspicious activities, he quickly learned the levels of corruption had infiltrated the highest executives. Upon reporting his concerns to Jens Henriksson, CEO of Swedbank, Victor was blacklisted and terminated. Henriksson didn’t stop there and set out to destroy Victor by stealing his clients, launching a smear campaign, and refusing to pay millions of dollars in fully earned commissions.
Victor fled to the United States to seek protective asylum and turned to the legal system to help in fighting corruption. Victor filed a $4.2B lawsuit in the Southern District of New York City detailing allegations of RICO Act crimes against powerful Swedish banks, banking executives, and government officials. Today, Victor lives a life on the run awaiting acceptance on the U.S. asylum application while his lawsuit moves through the legal system.
Victor’s story, though complex, is simple in that whistleblowers are treated like pariahs. In many cases, they are stripped of dignity, exiled from society, and vilified for speaking up. A look at other high-profile instances in which whistleblowers were largely rejected by society:
U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, released the most extensive set of classified documents in U.S. history. The materials – nearly 750,000 classified or unclassified but sensitive, military, and diplomatic documents – were mostly published by WikiLeaks and their media partners. The highly sensitive materials included videos of the July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 250,000 United States diplomatic cables; and 500,000 army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs. Manning faced insurmountable disciplinary and legal action, including aiding the enemy, which could have resulted in a death sentence.
Edward Snowden is likely among the most famous whistleblowers in American history. Working as a CIA employee and sub-contractor, he became increasingly disillusioned with programs he was working on and attempted to raise the ethical concerns through appropriate channels. Realizing he was being ignored, Snowden copied highly classified information from the National Security Agency and left the NSA facility in Hawaii for Hong Kong, where he eventually revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs operated by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments. The revelations of Snowden’s actions prompted cultural discussions about national security and individual privacy rights. Today, Edward Snowden resides in Russia while still facing persecution from the United States.