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"Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning has spent years in federal prison for releasing classified documents regarding U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," writes Jennifer M. Pacella.

Intelligence whistleblowers often pay a severe price

Pacella is an assistant professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University.

When President Donald Trump likened a whistleblower's White House sources to spies and made a lightly veiled reference to execution, he highlighted a longstanding peril facing those who come forward to alert the public to governmental wrongdoing.

In many instances, whistleblowers find the abusive power they have revealed turned against them, both ending their careers and harming their personal lives.

In the private sector, whistleblowers are often ignored and told their concern is not part of their job description – and are commonly retaliated against by being demoted or fired.

When a whistleblower is in the U.S. intelligence and national security sphere, they're often speaking out about misdeeds by powerful figures – and, as a result, have frequently faced death threats, physical attacks, prosecution and prison.

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