"Snowden still holds out hope that he will someday be allowed to return to the US. 'I [Snowden] told the government I'd volunteer for prison, as long as it served the right purpose.'" - James Bamford in article "The most wanted man in the world," published in Wired, for September 2014 issue. Here you can read the entire article.
Since she was an Enron whistleblower, Sherron Watkins also has had plenty of time to reflect. One reason is that her supposed courage had negative impacts on her career, at least initially.
By now, it seems that she has landed on her feet, professionally and emotionally. Last March, Watkins expressed what she came to realize about whistleblowing. It was as a keynote speaker at the Beyond Rubies conference. In The Gazette, George Ford reports that Wakins warned the audience that whistleblowing has consequences. She would have done it over again, though. Only she wouldn't have done it utilaterally.
"Most people think they'll do the right thing. If you see unethical practices at your company, your career is forever changed. You're either going along with it, or on the flipside, protesting, and be labeled a troublemaker."
Here is that The Gazette coverage.
Many of us have had the experience of being a whistleblower in a much less grandiose way than Snowden or Watkins. We might have felt compelled to disclose to Human Resources or simply a higher-up alleged wrongdoing in our unit in a corporation. Often the result was not praise and perhaps even reward for our commitment to what we perceived as ethically and legally right. Instead there could have been blatant or subtle retaliation, internally and outside the organization.
After that kind of negative experience, many of us "grow up." We don't rock the boat ever again. Should we then feel admiration about those who do stick with the courage of their convictions? Or should we write them off as immature and reckless. Also, should we do a deep dive into their possible motivations in turning up the ugly underbelly of what is?