“We’re not going to talk about that,” said Sullivan, the public editor, who moderated the panel.

The panelists did discuss what security secrets should be kept under wraps, such as military movements. Gayl, who served as a Marine prior to his civilian career with the Corps, sympathized with Pfc. Bradley Manning, the WikiLeaks source who has been charged under the Espionage Act and could face life in prison.

“I can put myself in his shoes,” he said. “It comes down to intent.”

Greenwald hopes the film will serve as a rallying call to increase pressure on the Obama administration’s policies around transparency. As Politico reported last week, the government’s whistleblower protection policies are divisive even within the administration and have come under legal scrutiny.

Last year the president issued a directive extending protections to national security and intelligence workers who blow the whistle internally — they aren’t covered under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act — but critics note that it leaves those who talk to the press out in the cold.

“To the degree that lawyers in the Obama administration and the Bush administration, and lawyers in private contractors, are trying to silence those whistleblowers and threaten journalists, that’s not pleasant but it’s a real testament to their power,” Greenwald said.

 

Susan Armitage is a freelance reporter in New York City working on a master's degree at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism