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Robert Greenwald Exposes the War on Whistleblowers and the Rise of Our National Security State

A new film directed by Robert Greenwald looks at four whistleblowers who had their lives practically destroyed after they went to the press with evidence of government wrongdoing.

Photo Credit: Oleg Golovnev/


AMY GOODMAN: This is  Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m  Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to  whistleblowers and the unprecedented attack they’ve come under during the  Obama administration. Evoking the Espionage Act of 1917, the administration has pressed criminal charges against no fewer than six government employees, more than all previous presidential administrations combined.

AMY GOODMAN: A new  film directed by  Robert Greenwald looks at four whistleblowers who had their lives practically destroyed after they went to the press with evidence of government wrongdoing. They are Michael DeKort,  Thomas Drake, Franz Gayl and  Thomas Tamm. In the film, Greenwald also interviews government oversight experts and investigative journalists who warn about the chilling effect prosecutions may have on potential whistleblowers and the journalists who help them. This is the trailer of the film,  War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State.

FRANZ GAYL: I had to do something. If not me, then who? I said, "This needs to be fixed."

THOMAS DRAKE: I thought about various investigative reporters that I would try and contact.

THOMAS TAMM: Once I put the phone down, I was pretty confident that my life would never be quite the same.

MICHAEL DEKORT: I mean, at the end of the day, right, when you make a decision like this, if you’re not prepared to have the worst happen, then really don’t do it at all.

JANE MAYER: These people face a terrifying situation.

REPORTER: Thomas Drake, accused of leaking classified information. Agents raiding his home in Howard County.

THOMAS DRAKE: Eighteen agents, some of them in body armor, had been banging on our front door.

UNIDENTIFIED: Any time anyone takes a step like that, you know that they’ve probably got something important to say, because they are basically wiping away their career.

DANA PRIEST: There are close to a million people who have top-secret clearance.

MICHAEL DEKORT: The Obama administration had cracked down on whistleblowers.

WILLIAM KELLER: They have indicted more people for violating secrecy than all of the previous administrations put together.

UNIDENTIFIED: The number of people who indicated to us they wish they could talk, but they can’t, because they’re so afraid of what could happen to them, it’s a terrible thing for our  democracy.

THOMAS DRAKE: So speaking truth to power is now a criminal act.

AMY GOODMAN: Some of those voices, Thomas Drake and William Keller of  The New York Times, as well as  Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. This is  Democracy Now! The trailer of the new documentary,  War on Whistleblowers is what you just watched. We’re joined now by its director, Robert Greenwald, and founder and president of Brave New Films, producer, director and activist.

Why did you make this film? You’ve looked at so many other issues. Why whistleblowers, Robert?

ROBERT GREENWALD: Well, there were a few things that came together. What we always try to do in our films is connect the dots and explore how the system is working. So we had the crackdown on whistleblowers, number one, but it wasn’t without reason. It’s very deeply connected to the growth and power of the national security state, which believes completely in secrets. So we had the whistleblowers. We had the national security state. And then we had some incredible investigative journalists being attacked, investigated, threatened, their careers at stake also. So we put all three of those together and made a film which allows people to understand what’s going on and how deeply threatening it is to us, in a kind of drip-drip way, where you don’t always see or understand what’s happening.

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