In amongst the plethora of real-world name-drops and verisimilitude, this week’s exciting episode of Mr Robot brought us Mr Edward Snowden’s thoughts on F_Society hacking the FBI, so we thought it was high time we looked at the close link between hackers and whistleblowers.
With Angela climbing the career ladder at E-Corp, still hopefully intent on revealing the Washington Township chemical leak cover up, plus Elliot’s hacking exploits and Darlene and F_Society going public with the FBI’s Berenstain surveillance program… Mr Robot owes almost as much to whistleblowing as it does to hacking.
Whistleblowers are nothing new, all it takes is one brave person to stand up and, just like Twisted Sister said “No. We’re not gonna take it anymore” and these people have pervaded history and storytelling forever.
In storytelling, almost every film featuring a hero is about one man standing up to and ultimately leading a rebellion against a tyrannical government; from Luke Skywalker v The Galactic Empire, Oscar Schindler v The Third Reich, Jesus v The Romans, Frodo v Sauron, Leonidas v The Persian Army, Neo v The Machines, Simba v Ska and the hyenas… you get my point!
Historically, between 1515 and 1552, Bartolomé de las Casas advocated rights for slaves.
In 1776, the tyrannical, tax-greedy British government were overthrown, thus creating the great nation of America. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hale and Revere have rightly gone down in history as heroes, but if you were across the pond in England at the time, these rowdy rebels were traitors and terrorists, not freedom fighters.
Just one year later sailor Samuel Shaw and his shipmates blew the whistle on notorious Commodore Esek Hopkins who “treated (British) prisoners in the most inhuman and barbarous manner” On July 30th, 1778, the first Whistleblower’s Protection Law was passed, with Congress stating:
“It is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States… to give the earliest information to Congress or any other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”
…how times have changed. Now “The Land of the Free” has become the very monster it was fighting against and the modern-day men and women who should be treated as heroes are criminalized, imprisoned or worse…
33 year old, former NSA computer programmer Snowden is the Daddy of Whistleblowers and with good reason. The government fears we may find something they don’t want us to find in the estimated 1.7 million files he leaked.
In December 2012, Snowden leaked classified NSA documents to The WashingtonPost and Guardian newspapers and the biggest leak of government secrets in history was set in motion. Most pertinent to our privacy (and most similar to Mr Robot’s storyline) Snowden blew the lid on operation PRISM – a secret surveillance program that meant the NSA tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, (Evil-Corp!) and its UK counterpart, Operation Tempora.
Snowden has been on the run since 2013, granted asylum by the Russian government. Treated as an outlaw celebrity by some, he has dedicated his life to opening up debate on surveillance and privacy. He is still wanted by U.S. Authorities.
In 1987, Australian Assange began hacking under the name Mendax and formed a group called International Subversives and began hacking The Pentagon, MILNET, the US Navy, NASA among many others. Jump to 2016 and his company, WikiLeaks has so far published more than 10 million sensitive documents from anonymous sources.
From Bilderberg Group Meeting Reports to Iraq War logs and corporations avoiding tax to the current, ongoing DNC e-mail scandal, if there’s a leak you can bet Assange has something to do with it!
Spending the last four years self-exiled in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, Assange is also wanted by U.S. Authorities, and since 2010 is the subject of Swedish rape and sexual molestation charges. I’m not going to say anything about whether I think he sexually molested two women, but just keep your eyes peeled for any patterns of character-assassination throughout the rest of this article and make your own minds up…
Together with Snowden and Assange, Manning is viewed as the third in the “Holy Trinity of Whistleblowers” – he was a US Soldier who disclosed to WikiLeaks nearly “three-quarters of a million classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents”. Seen as some as a catalyst for the Arab Spring revolutions, he was court-martialed on espionage charges and is now serving a 35-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth military correctional facility in Kansas.
But funnily enough, the day after this Iraq war veteran was sentenced, he announced he wanted to be known as Chelsea Elizabeth Manning and had “felt female” since childhood.
Using their hacking, programming and spy skills, these three whistleblowers have shaped the real world and the half-fictionalized universe that Elliot inhabits.
They’re the whistleblowers most in the news and the ones you’ve definitely heard of, but be sure to tune in next week, when we’ll introduce a few you may not have heard of who paid the ultimate price and an eerily similar transgender story from a British MI5 operative turned whistleblower.
What do you think, are these men and women traitors for releasing sensitive documents, or will the history books of the future tell a different tale and treat them as patriots?
Over in Berlin, Germany they’ve already made up their minds and are writing those history books already. The fourth chair stands empty so you can stand up and make your voice heard.
When the shit hits the fan, will you stand up and be counted?