The recent anti-privacy scandals surfacing in the mainstream media are both alarming and unsurprising.
One thing that’s worth mentioning is that this kind of news is very difficult to talk about accurately. Issues involving national security and surveillance are almost always classified. To have a real discussion about these things would require you to be working within the department or have access to leaked documents. So in reality, the only way the public could ever have any knowledge about such information is if it is leaked.
The content that is leaked, however, is almost always up to the state unless an individual (known as a whistleblower) leaks the documents. Julian Assange, Michael Isikoff, Glenn Greenwald(?) and Bill Binney come to mind when we talk about the exposure of hidden stories.
There is both love and hate from the public for whistleblowers. The critics argue that by doing what they do, they threaten the country’s security by leaking information to anyone with a computer, including the dangerous. They cause panic to the public and telling the people things they are not capable of handling (so it would seem)
Praise is given to whistleblowers because what they do is a way of keeping the state accountable for their actions to the people. The public has the opportunity to control the state if, at any given moment; documents about their activities (whether legal or otherwise) are exposed.
Whistleblowers are immune to most kinds of violence from the government due to protection programs and laws that allow them to properly exercise their First Amendment right. These programs apply to journalists, federal employees, federal agents, and military personnel. I do stress, however, that their job is still incredibly dangerous despite what bills are in effect.
This is a huge and complicated topic and there are a lot of dangers to whistle blowing (both from the state and through individual action) that I have not mentioned so I would encourage you to do your own research regarding the matter as it is crucial to issues regarding civil liberty and foreign policy. I do not endorse all of these organizations or programs because some of them, particularly the ones about Wiki-leaks are incredibly biased.
See here for more info: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/30/wikileaks-documentary-we-steal-secrets