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2021 Whistleblower of the Year Goes to... Reality Winner

Posted  February 1, 2022

The results are in, and Constantine Cannon’s 2021 Whistleblower of the Year award goes to Reality Winner.  She is the former military contractor who publicly released a top-secret NSA intelligence report about Russia’s attempt to infiltrate the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.  For doing so, Winner was ordered to serve the longest sentence (five years and three months) ever imposed for disclosing classified information.  Last summer, Winner was released into home confinement in Texas where she currently remains.

You can read her full story here.

Winner’s whistleblower crusade has been especially notable because it has directly impacted all of us.  In a recent interview, Winner shared why she felt there was no choice but to release the report to protect a core tenet of this country, one that remains under attack: democracy.  “I knew it was top secret, but I also knew that I had pledged service to the American people.  I am not a traitor.  I am not a spy.  I am somebody who only acted out of love for what this country stands for.”

In the months since Winner’s release, the public has been gripped by her story, with an ever-increasing recognition of the critical role she played and the need for more whistleblowers like her.  There even has been a social media blitz urging President Biden to honor her courage and sacrifice with a full-scale pardon.

Winner’s noble act of putting country before self and bringing much-needed attention to the vital role of whistleblowers led our voters to pick her to join the ranks of our previous Whistleblower of the Year winners, which include Rebekah Jones, Siobhan O’Connor, James Comey, LeAnne Walters, Craig Watts, Mary Willingham, Taylor Radig—all incandescent models of bravery and sacrifice in pursuit of the common good.

And as with these previous contests, our voters were passionate in what motivated their decision.  Here are just a few of their comments on why Winner was their top pick:

  • “Reality Winner – for doing the right thing for her country, while knowing that personal consequences could be dire.”
  • “Reality Winner displayed a level of bravery and deep love of her country. I admire her.”
  • “Ms. Winner sacrificed her freedom for the country she served and that she continues to serve in the Air Force and as a civilian.   Honor.  Country.”
  • “My vote is for Reality Winner. Willing to put it all on the line for the rest of us. That’s strength and courage!”

While the support for Winner was strong, she faced off against several praiseworthy nominees, including:

  • Alex Vlasov – The former Black Box security officer who came forward to report that the company illegally surveilled Britney Spears for years.
  • Phil Saviano – The victim of sex abuse that helped the Boston Globe uncover a widespread practice of sexual abuse within the Catholic clergy.
  • Ifeoma Ozoma – The former Pinterest public policy manager who blew the whistle on the company’s discriminatory practices and spearheaded the Silenced No More Act.
  • Frances Haugen – The former Facebook data scientist who sounded the alarm on the company’s efforts to safeguard misinformation.
  • Daniel Ellsberg and The GroundTruth Project – The former U.S. Marine and military analyst and the non-profit news organization promoting his whistleblower legacy.

That Reality Winner is voted this year’s winner over this inspiring group of nominees makes her victory all the more remarkable.  We commend Reality Winner, and all of this year’s candidates, for their sacrifice and courage to make the world a better place for all of us.  And a very special congratulations to Reality Winner.  We hope her commitment to truth and transparency despite significant personal cost inspires others to stand up for justice and accountability.


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