Response to the Film

Daniel Ellsberg

Pentagon Papers Whistleblower

“As it becomes clear that we are being drawn into an actual enactment of Collateral Murder (nothing “collateral” about it, any more than in Chelsea Manning’s video, direct and deliberate reckless homicide of casually misidentified victims, “depraved heart murder”) with a transcript of the ongoing heartless repartee of the perpetrators, this time delivered from thousands of miles away rather than from a helicopter overhead… the unfolding scene becomes almost unbearable to watch, both gripping and horrifying.

From that point on, all the ordinariness of the lives of the ex-drone operators serves to underline the extraordinariness of their predicaments and their conscientious efforts to make amends and to awaken their fellow citizens.

Yes, forced viewers of this sort of catastrophe – over and over – who feel implicated, are obvious candidates for PTSD. But we are all implicated, all of us who vote or don’t vote in America, who pay taxes, who tolerate this being in our name, “to keep us safe…”

As the ex-drone operators admirably acknowledge, they – and we – have participated both in tragedies and crimes. It is unfair for them to bear that burden alone. Let alone for any of them to face prosecution for speaking their truth – like Sterling, Kiriakou, Drake, Manning, Snowden – and for exposing criminality.

The last half of this film, showing the real-time murders – unjustified homicides – alongside the stories and faces and mutilated bodies of the victims, is astonishing. Those in the dock at Nuremberg were forced to watch films of the death camps. The high-level directors of this program will never be in a dock; but this film should be seen in the Oval Office. And by every American.”

(photo by Christopher Michel)

Thomas Drake

Whistleblower and Former Senior Executive of the National Security Agency

National Bird is an extraordinary first person perspective that is starkly riveting, deeply compelling, and a signature eyewitness portrayal of three drone whistleblowers confronted by the remote killing fields of American foreign policy as well as the tragedy experienced by the people of Afghanistan at the everyday level.

The film seamlessly juxtaposes the fateful moral choices and consequences the whistleblowers faced dealing with the deeply personal impact on their lives (including PTSD), as they confronted the horror of extinguishing the lives of people declared enemies of the U.S., contrasted by giving voice to anguishing on-the-ground personal interviews in Afghanistan with survivors and families of those killed and maimed by drones.

The documentary includes an interview with Jesselyn Radack, the fearless and peerless attorney representing the three whistleblowers, who provides them critical advocacy and legal support when exposing the treacherous and perilous fields of national security by speaking truth to power.

There is also a telling interaction between one of the drone whistleblowers, Lisa, and the former commander of forces in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, that should give viewers pause regarding the strategic tragedy and fallout when indiscriminately using drones as instruments of projected national power – and that eventually come home to roost (and abroad) with such negative consequences.”

(photo by Mike Castle)

Wim Wenders

Executive Producer

“This is a truly amazing and eye-opening film about the drone program of the U.S. Air Force and some courageous people who realized what sort of threat these unmanned warplanes represent and who decided to speak out about their experiences.

You will see and hear things you’ve never seen or heard, and you will leave the theater with insight, in the true sense of the word, you did not have before.”

Errol Morris

Executive Producer

National Bird is a one-of-a-kind film. It’s nothing short of miraculous that Sonia Kennebeck was able to secure the cooperation of multiple analysts recently active in the U.S. drone program. The film offers an unparalleled glimpse into the surreal landscape of automated murder.

Who are these people, who sit in windowless rooms and make life-and-death decisions based on blurry images flickering on computer screens? On paper, it’s a seemingly smooth, uncomplicated job. Except there’s a conspicuous lack of moral clarity about who is targeted and why.

Even if the true identity of the victims is known, National Bird reminds us that we’re living in an electronic haze, where life and death are decided on the basis of, as often as not, caprice. Detachment and a lack of accountability are rewarded where responsibility and compassion are shunned. For many servicemen, time in service may be little different than a video game gone mad (or come to life).”