William (Bill) Binney is a former high-level National Security Agency and intelligence official who, after 30 years of service, blew the whistle on NSA surveillance programs. His outspoken criticism of the NSA during the George W. Bush administration made him the subject of FBI investigations that included an armed raid on his home in 2007. Even before Edward Snowden’s NSA whistleblowing, Binney publicly revealed that NSA had access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international phone records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted at least some 15 to 20 trillion communications. The Snowden disclosures confirmed many of the surveillance dangers Binney — without the benefit of documents — had been warning about under both the Bush and Obama administrations. Binney is featured in the documentaries “A Good American” and “CitizenFour.”
Brandon Bryant served in the United States Air Force Active Duty as an MQ1B Predator Sensor Operator and Reserves SERE Instructor Trainee. From 2005 to 2011 he was trained as an Imagery Intelligence Analyst, was drafted into flying MQ-1B Predator Drones and flew for Air Combat Command’s 15th Reconnaissance Squadron and the Joint Special Operations Command’s 3rd Special Operations Squadron. He was Honorably Discharged as an E-5 Staff Sergeant and has had missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. In 2012, he suffered massive physical trauma during a training exercise and has been fighting with the Veteran’s Administration for physical and mental healthcare ever since. As of October 2015, Bryant was the latest recipient of the Whistleblower of the Year Award given by the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) and the German Federation of Scientists. Previous recipients include Chelsea Manning in 2011 and Edward Snowden in 2013.
Thomas Drake is a former senior executive at the National Security Agency where he blew the whistle on massive multi-billion dollar fraud, waste and abuse; the widespread violations of the rights of citizens through secret mass surveillance programs after 9/11; and critical 9/11 intelligence failures. As retaliation and reprisal, the Obama Administration indicted Drake in 2010 in a signature criminal case as the first whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg charged with espionage, turning him into an “Enemy of the State.” Drake faced 35 years in prison, for keeping allegiance to his oath to support and defend the US Constitution and the inalienable rights and freedoms of citizens. In 2011, the US government’s case against him collapsed and he went free in a plea deal. The US joint DoJ/DNI National Insider Threat Task Force recently labeled Mr. Drake “self-radicalized.” He is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Truth Telling Prize, a joint recipient with Jesselyn Radack of the 2011 Sam Adams Associates Integrity in Intelligence Award and the 2012 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. He is now dedicated to the defense of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
John Kiriakou is a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and counterterrorism operations officer. He became chief of counterterrorist operations in Pakistan following the 9/11 attacks acting as a senior operations officer. His tour culminated in March 2002 with the capture of Abu Zubaydah, then thought to be al-Qa’ida’s third-ranking official. When he returned from Pakistan, Kiriakou was named Executive Assistant to the CIA’s Deputy Director for Operations. In that capacity, Kiriakou was the principal Iraq briefer for the Director of Central Intelligence. Kiriakou then became senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after a brief time in the private sector, where he focused on international terrorism, piracy and counternarcotics. Additionally, he served as senior intelligence advisor to the Committee’s chairman, Senator John Kerry. Following his service on the Hill, Kiriakou became an intelligence and counterterrorism consultant and author.
In 2007, he became the first current or former CIA officer to confirm the use of waterboarding and revealed that waterboard was official government policy. The CIA filed six crimes reports against him, and eventually was indicted under the draconian Espionage Act. Faced with decades away from his five children, Kiriakou pleaded guilty to one non-Espionage Act count and served a 30-month prison sentence. While in prison, he penned “Letters from Loretto,” a series of essays that won the prestigious Pen Center’s First Amendment Award, and a forthcoming book. In 2012, Kiriakou won the Joe A. Callaway Award of Civic Courage. He continues to speak out against torture and human rights abuses to this day.
Lisa Ling joined the military in 1991, serving as an army medic and nurse before transferring to the Air National Guard (ANG). In the ANG, she became a communications technician working on various types of electronic equipment. Besides her overseas deployments, Ling was mobilized, during a partial unit mobilization of the 234th intelligence Squadron to the 48th Intelligence Squadron at Beale Air Force Base from October 2007 to September 2009. The 48th Intelligence Squadron provides in-garrison and deployed communications and logistics maintenance for the. Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS). She served six years on active duty and more than 14 years as both active and inactive guard. She has served during peacetime and supported operations from the first Gulf War through the Global War on Terror. Ling was honorably discharged in September 2012.
Edward Loomis began working for the NSA during the Vietnam War in 1964 until his retirement in 2001. He worked as one of the NSA’s top software engineers, and prior to 9/11 pushed for the implementation of ThinThread, a data collection program Loomis created that would have kept American’s information encrypted and could have prevented 9/11. Following the catastrophe, Loomis, along with Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe, retired from the NSA. In 2007, his home was raided by the FBI in retaliation for submitting an Inspector General Complaint about billions of wasted dollars and contractor fraud related to Trailblazer.
Lieutenant Colonel John Parkinson is a Marines Corps officer and former FBI special agent. While working the Sacramento division he blew the whistle on FBI pilots taking government surveillance aircraft to solicit prostitutes and viewing pornography on secure government computers. Four years later, Parkinson was fired by the FBI in retaliation for his whistle-blowing efforts. In 2016, the federal appeals court, in a landmark and precedential decision, overruled the termination, and held that Parkinson be allowed to present a whistleblower defense.
Diane Roark served as a congressional staffer from 1985 to 2002. At the time of 9/11, she was the House Intelligence Committee senior staffer tasked with oversight of the NSA. Together with Ed Loomis, Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe, she filed a complaint regarding NSA’s secret Trailblazer project with the Department of Defense’s Inspector General. Following James Risen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times article in December of 2005 revealing NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, Roark’s home was raided in 2007 by the FBI in retaliation for the IG complaint. In 2012, she sued the government for neglecting to clear her name and return her desktop computer, which to date has not been returned.
Edward Snowden worked for the National Security Agency through subcontractor Booz Allen in the organization’s Oahu office. During his time there, Snowden discovered the NSA was engaged in mass surveillance operations that needlessly compromised the privacy of hundreds of millions of innocent people. Knowing he had to leave the U.S. to safely expose government wrongdoing, Snowden met with Guardian journalists in Hong Kong. After the story broke, the State Department rescinded his passport, stranding him in the Moscow airport transit zone, and later began Espionage Act proceedings against him. Snowden obtained political asylum in Russia and, from there, continues to participate in the global debate he created. A documentary on his story, CitizenFour, won an Oscar in 2015, with a 2016 biopic also in the pipeline.
Peter Van Buren, a 24-year veteran of the State Department, spent a year serving in Iraq. Following his book, “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,” the Department of State began proceedings against him. After a legal battle, Van Buren instead retired from the State Department on his own terms. Peter’s commentary has been featured in The New York Times, Reuters, Salon, NPR, The Nation, TomDispatch, Antiwar.com, AmLe Monde, The Guardian (UK) and Daily Kos among others. He has appeared on the BBC World Service, NPR’s All Things Considered and Fresh Air, Britain’s Channel 4 Viewpoint, Dutch Television and more.
Cian Westmoreland is a former Air Force RF/SATCOM Technician who served in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan at the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron. While there, he assisted in building a signal relay station that was used for transmitting and receiving data, radio and radar picture for manned and unmanned missions for approximately 250,000 square miles over Afghanistan. After a mortar landed nearby, he began to intensely feel the weight of his actions and experienced reoccurring nightmares of innocent civilians getting bombed through communications he established. In a report provided to him after his tour, it stated that he assisted in 2,400 Close Air Support Missions and 200+ enemy kills. The UNAMA Report for that year in 2009 claimed however that this number also included 359 civilians killed in airstrikes.
J. Kirk Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for more than 32 years. During his tenure there, he received the Director CIA’s Meritorious Unit Award and the NSA’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award – that Agency’s second highest distinction – for work against foreign strategic weapons systems. Wiebe’s colleague William Binney developed the ThinThread information processing system that, arguably, could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NSA officials, though, ignored the program in favor of Trailblazer, a program that ended in total failure in 2005 that cost billions of dollars. Wiebe, together with Binney and his other colleagues Diane Roark (former HPSCI senior staffer), and Ed Loomis (former NSA computer systems analyst) blew the whistle on NSA mismanagement and the waste of billions of dollars on Trailblazer in a complaint to the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG), but to no avail. Post 9/11, the NSA used ThinThread to illegally spy on US citizens’ communications. Unable to stay at NSA any longer in good conscience, Wiebe, along with Binney and Loomis retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe has made several key public disclosures regarding NSA’s massive surveillance program subverting the U.S. Constitution. in 2012, Wiebe, with Binney, won the Joe A. Callaway Award of Civic Courage.