Like most people, I was stunned to hear about the Edward Snowden incident and PRISM. That whole story was like an upside-down Escher painting. Snowden eventually immigrated to one of the most totalitarian, repressive nations on the planet. Isn't that just the craziest thing?

The disclosure of federal eavesdropping was a revelation that certainly grabbed our attention. Just think: At this very moment my every keystroke is being monitored. And if I get a phone call the NSA might find out that Maria wants to get back together again, but just for tonight.

Seriously? I could give a damn about Big Brother. The government can read my mail for all I care. The Snowden affair was compelling news, yes, but the only people who should really be concerned are terrorists and drug dealers. Possibly the governor of Illinois.

Without whistleblowers - employees within government and big business, at all levels, who risk their livelihoods and sometimes lives - the American public (and world) would have no knowledge about many of the most outrageous, dangerous, and covert activities perpetrated upon society. This includes everything from fabricating false pretenses for going to war to war crimes (including torture) against prisoners and innocent civilians to lethal environmental abuses to fraudulent financial schemes that have devastated millions of families' life savings. In the past, the exposure of these egregious acts has often (but not always) brought reform, exposed criminality resulting in prosecutions, and perhaps most importantly saved countless lives. Sadly, in today's political environment, it is the whistleblowers who are being penalized for telling Americans the truth.

But for the threat of whistleblowers, ill-intended politicians and bureaucrats and their crony-capitalist private-sector brethren would operate in an oversight vacuum - free to abuse their power and engage in criminal activity at will. The contributions that whistleblowers make to an open and free society cannot be overstated.

How many more thousands of lives would have been lost if it were not for Daniel Ellsberg's infamous Pentagon Papers that exposed the Department of Defense's lies and manipulation that propped up the Vietnam War (MostDangerousMan.org)? How much more abuse would citizens suffer at the hands of corrupt police departments if it were not for Frank Serpico testifying about the rampant corruption inside the New York police department? These are, or should be, just two of the household names in the whistleblower pantheon.