The Courage of Truth Tellers

AWTT portrait subjects Chelsea Manning, Coleen Rowley and Jesselyn Radack all have December birthdays, giving us the opportunity to reflect on their courageous lives. Of the three, most people have heard of Manning but not Rowley or Radack.  But all three of these heroes risked their careers by telling the truth. They are know as whistleblowers. Many whistleblowers are never acknowledged publicly, making their personal sacrifices all the more admirable.

Colleen Rowley was born December 20, 1954. In mid-August 2001, acting as Chief Division Council for the FBI in Minneapolis, she received word that suspected 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui had paid for flight lessons with large amounts of cash. Already deemed a potential terrorist threat, Moussauoi remained in custody due to a lapsed visa as Rowley´s team, collaborating with the French Intelligence Service, confirmed within days his connections to radical fundamentalist Islamic groups and to Osama bin Laden. Even with this knowledge, the FBI denied Rowley a warrant to search Moussaoui's computer for information until the day of the attacks. Shocked by the FBI's refusal to believe that Moussaoui posed a threat sufficient enough to justify a timely warrant, she became an outspoken critic of the agency's inaction. 

Jesseylyn Radack, born December 12, 1970, blew the whistle on the Justice Department's dishonest and unconstitutional tactics in the prosecution of John Walker Lindt, accused of being an American member of the Taliban.  In retaliation, the government unleashed the full force of the entire Executive branch against Radack. Among other things, the Justice Department placed her under criminal investigation, though she was never told what charges she was facing.  Based on a secret report she was not allowed to see, the Justice Department also referred her for discipline to the state bar associations where was licensed to practice law, and placed her on the "No-Fly List." 

The controversy surrounding former U.S. Army intelligence agent Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, born December 17, 1987, is well-known to many for her release of classified information to WikiLeaks - actions that catapulted her into the public view.  Manning's AWTT quote: If you had free reign over classified networks and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain -- what would you do? God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… I want people to see the truth. Because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.

AWTT portrait of Coleen Rowley
AWTT portrait of Jesselyn Radack
AWTT portrait of Pfc. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning