USA: Secrecy Superpower
Play • 50 min

Welcome to a special series of the Whistleblowing Now and Then podcast, called:

The Public Interest and National Security Whistleblowing: Looking Back, Thinking Forward.

This 3-part series is a collaboration between Whistleblowing International Network and Kaeten Mistry, Associate Professor of History at the University of East Anglia, and co-author of the book Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and Cult of State Secrecy.

This week’s episode looks at the United States. A nation founded on the principles of free speech and open government, is today home to the largest state secrecy regime in human history. A country that does not permit national security officials making public interest disclosures, has nonetheless produced some of the most famous cases of national security whistleblowing that have made history such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Daniel Ellsberg.

Such cases have generated widespread debate about security and liberty, secrecy, and transparency, in the U.S. and internationally. Yet while public interest disclosures are commonly seen as whistleblowing in the public sphere, they are deemed to be “unauthorized disclosures” by the US government. 

To unpack this, we sit down with two leading experts of whistleblowing and secrecy in the United States. Tom Devine, Legal Director at the Government Accountability Project and Sam Lebovic, Associate Professor of History at George Mason University, author of the prize-winning book Free Speech and Unfree News. 

 Additional Reading

Citizenfour (2014)


A documentary concerning Edward Snowden and the NSA surveillance program.


National Bird (2016)


A documentary following 3 whistleblowers including Daniel Hale who was a former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst who sent classified information about drone warfare to the press.


United States v. Reality Winner (2021)


A documentary exploring story of 25-year-old NSA contractor Reality Winner who disclosed a document about Russian election interference to the media and became a target of the Trump administration.


TOP SECRET: Our Classified Documents System Is [Redacted] | The Problem With Jon Stewart Podcast

Jon Stewart and Matt Connelly discuss the U.S. classification system and system of secrecy.


Whistleblowing and the Press  Panel


The keynote panel on ‘Whistleblowing and the Press’ at the conference Exposing Secrets: The Past, Present & Future of US National Security Whistleblowing and Government Secrecy, featured US intelligence community whistleblowers, Edward Snowden and John Kiriakou, and The Guardian journalist Ewen MacAskill, in conversation with Kaeten Mistry. 


The Espionage Act Has Been Abused — But Not in Trump’s Case | Politico 

Opinion piece by Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, on the Espionage Act and the need for reform. 


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