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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.

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In this clip, DeKort talks about how he discovered that radios were not waterproof on Coast Guard boats.

MICHAEL DEKORT: One day, somebody came to me, and they said, "I’m going to tell you something just so my conscience is clear." The radios that they were putting on the smaller boats, that were exposed, were not waterproof. Some of the systems mounted on the outside of the boat wouldn’t survive harsh elements or harsh weather. The radios would have failed if they even got a little bit wet. And you need a radio to communicate, right? The backup for that radio not being on that small boat is a flare. If you could screw something up in that area, you’re pretty much open game for anything else.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Michael DeKort, the Lockheed Martin project manager who posted this whistleblowing video on YouTube objecting to the subpar emergency systems on board U.S. Coast Guard. Talk about what happened, Robert Greenwald, then.

ROBERT GREENWALD: Well, it’s almost—you know, it’s almost laughable, if it weren’t tragic—making radios that are not waterproof that go on Coast Guard boats. I mean, think about it for a moment. It’s out of Kafka or something. So, it was another example of why whistleblowers are important. And what we found in the film, every single whistleblower came up against the wall. And what did they do? They went to the media. And investigative reporters came through in each and every case—not accepting what they said—digging into it, researching it, getting the word out there, and then often that leading to real change—not enough change, but leading to some change.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the government going after the journalists, as well.

ROBERT GREENWALD: Yes. I mean, we’re seeing that more and more. We’re seeing that tragically with the Obama administration. And as journalists have been saying—we’ve been doing panels and discussions—it’s changed the  environment. They can’t get people on the phone that they used to be able to get on the phone, because journalists are threatened themselves, and the sources don’t want to talk as much. I mean, it’s never been easy. You know, every single one of the whistleblowers in the film paid a deep personal price—family, economic, reputation, career. All those things were affected. Now, on top of all that, you have this terrific and horrible powerful legal force coming after them, huge legal bills for everybody.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Let’s turn to another clip from the film,  War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State. Here, several prominent journalists explain that the more powerful the national security state becomes, the more we need whistleblowers. The clip begins with investigative journalist  Seymour Hersh, then  Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, and ends with Pentagon Papers whistleblower  Daniel Ellsberg.

SEYMOUR HERSH: There’s a huge architecture we don’t see in the secret world. And believe me, these guys can operate, and they are operating. And they operate with total impunity. There’s so much we don’t know and so much we can’t know, so much locked up in legal classification.

DANA PRIEST: The more powerful the national security state becomes, the more we need whistleblowers. It is all in the classified realm. What we discovered as a result of our research is that there are over 1,200 government organizations working at the top-secret level on counterterrorism. There are another close to 2,000 companies that work for the government on top-secret matters. And they’re all located in about 10,000 locations throughout the country. There are close to a million people who have top-secret clearance.

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