In the face of potentially life-threatening dangers, they dare to speak truth to power. They’re the whistleblowers; the crusaders for truth who often stand as the lone link between corrupted corporate and governmental interests and the public’s right to know. The stirring film War on Whistleblowers, directed by acclaimed documentarian Robert Greenwald, outlines the challenges and sacrifices faced by these tireless activists, and calls attention to their increasing importance in a society where the powerful are more omniscient and unregulated than ever before.
Thanks to the efforts of Edward Snowden, the role of the whistleblower has gained a level of prominence in our culture unlike anything we’ve witnessed since the Watergate era. The formation of sweeping national security structures in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks begat a new wave of permissiveness in how intelligence was collected. As illustrated in the top-secret materials released by Snowden, this intelligence gathering included unprecedented invasions of privacy and instances of highly questionable electronic surveillance practices.
The film spotlights the frightening storm which followed as a result of Snowden’s actions in the form of a widespread government-sanctioned smear campaign. In the process, the public was urged to question whether Snowden was a patriot or a traitor.
“It’s extremely dangerous in America right now to be right as a whistleblower when the government is so wrong,” concedes Thomas Drake, a former senior executive of the United States National Security Agency and one of the film’s chief interview subjects. Drake is joined in the film by a panel of additional distinguished subjects who know the perils of whistleblowing all too well, including Daniel Ellsberg, a military advisor who leaked highly sensitive government documents related to the Vietnam War in 1971, and David Carr, the late New York Times journalist who built a career embodying the virtues of truth and transparency.
Whether working to silence the flow of information from a lone wolf or an entire news media, the increasingly inhospitable environment which works to subvert the efforts of our modern-day whistleblowers leaves us all vulnerable. With impassioned clarity, War on Whistleblowers shows us that our freedoms, our rights, and our very way of life may be at risk without the benefit of their brave acts of public advocacy.