A more recent case is former Ambassador Joe Wilson. Wilson burst into the limelight when he accused President Bush of lying in his 2003 State of the Union by saying that, according to British intelligence, Iraq had sought uranium in Niger. Whatever Wilson's initial motives for attacking Bush's "16 words" may have been, two truths are now obvious.
The first is that Wilson was wrong and Bush was right (and the White House was foolish for saying otherwise). Britain's Butler Commission famously reinvestigated that allegation and found that it was "well-founded." France - no fan of the war or Bush - stood by the allegation as well. Journalist Christopher Hitchens and others have cataloged how Iraq had dispatched an envoy to Africa to inquire about acquiring uranium "yellowcake." Indeed, Wilson's own verbal report to the CIA confirmed to his debriefers that Iraq sought the stuff. But the press continues to call Wilson a "whistleblower," no doubt largely because Wilson's message is damaging to Bush and undercuts the rationale for the war.
The second truth is that there is nothing noble about Wilson's "whistleblower" schtick. These days, he slumps further and further into asininity, hurling insults at his critics. In one recent speech, detailed on the blog Daily Kos, Wilson said that the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol is a "drunk" and that he wants to punch America's ambassador to Iraq in the face. He even snidely insinuated that some prominent Republicans are closeted homosexuals. Even The New Republic's Jason Zengerle felt compelled to declare recently "Experts agree: Wilson's a pig."
Meanwhile, led by the New York Times, the press has created a perverse double standard. When Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, had her identity as a CIA employee leaked to the press, media Brahmins demanded that a special prosecutor force journalists to divulge their sources in order to punish the leakers. But when other, vastly more sensitive, classified information was leaked - the existence of secret prisons in Europe, the NSA's wiretapping program, etc. - the press gasped with outrage at the suggestion that such leaks should be investigated. When President Bush declassifies information and gives it to the press - as he has the unique authority to do - press chin-strokers are gobsmacked by Bush's "hypocritical" leaking.
So, if you want to decode what the press means when they salute a whistleblower for delivering news "America needs to hear," just remember that what they're really saying is, "This is news the press wants you to hear."