By SAM NAUJOKAS, 15
HEALDSBURG HIGH SCHOOL

The words patriotism and freedom are commonly tossed around, from living room discussions all the way to the White House. But only a select group of American citizens truly know the meaning of the word, and even fewer truly defend it or use it as a tool.

Sam Naujokas

In the past few decades, many powerful people and organizations have been toppled by only a few who realize the grievous mistakes the said groups are making.

Those people are whistle-blowers, citizens who release classified information about crimes to the world. From Harry Markopolos, who alerted the world to Bernie Madoff’s scam, to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, whistle-blowers have protected the ideals of true freedom and the American people at large. In fact, whistle-blowers are crucial to modern society’s clean function.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is a tool to protect stock market investors, a type of law enforcement agency similar to the FBI that is supposed to shield investors from fraudsters.

It took broker turned rogue journalist Markopolos not only to blow the whistle on Bernie Madoff, who stole billions of dollars from helpless investors, but also to alert the world to problems within the SEC’s law enforcement branch.

Markopolos went to the SEC first with his rock-solid evidence against Madoff, but he didn’t get a response as to whether they were going to take action. When the investigator’s theories were later proven correct once Madoff’s family contacted the FBI, it was revealed that the SEC overlooked Markopolos’ sound data without any basis.

Another world-changing whistle-blower is Julian Assange, who engineered the legendary WikiLeaks organization. Assange and his world-class team of hackers and disruptors have collected a trove of sensitive diplomatic wires, classified documents and hidden videos that have the power to change the world.

An interesting example of WikiLeaks’ power to change the world is a set of documents the group released incriminating former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi.

A security contracting firm sent WikiLeaks hundreds of pages of documents proving the former president had been stealing millions from the state’s funds for years. WikiLeaks promptly posted this online for the world to see.

This provoked widespread demonstrations, which coincided with 2007’s disputed presidential election in which Moi’s former vice president and successor, Mwai Kibaki, was declared the winner over Raila Odinga.

As a direct result of the protests, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan helped broker a coalition government and power-sharing agreement that saw Odinga named to the new post of prime minister, while Kibaki continued serving as president.

Remember that when you see governments or individuals attack whistle-blowers, it is merely because they are scared of what those dissidents are saying.

Sam Naujokas is a sophomore at Healdsburg High School. Adapted from the Hound’s Bark student newspaper.