Blowing the Whistle on Drone Warfare

November 1st, 2023

The Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy invites you to a screening and discussion of National Bird (2016) with the filmmaker, one of the whistleblowers featured in the film, and their attorney.

National Bird follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers who are determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial current affairs issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war. At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, they decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences.
Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption. National Bird gives rare insight into the U.S. drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors, connecting their stories as never seen before in a documentary. Its images haunt the audience and bring a faraway issue close to home.
National Bird official poster
Film Screening

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Student Union

Second Floor, Cape Cod Lounge

3:30 – 5:00 PM ET


7:00 – 8:30 PM ET

Sonia Kennebeck
Sonia Kennebeck

Sonia Kennebeck is an award-winning director, producer, and investigative journalist. Her most recent feature documentary is REALITY WINNER, and her documentary thriller ENEMIES OF THE STATE was one of only 50 films in the official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival 2020. 

ENEMIES OF THE STATE was released by IFC Films in theaters and online, reaching top indie film and documentary in the iTunes charts. The film received outstanding reviews, including in the New York Times (Critic’s Pick) and Los Angeles Times, is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for Best Political Documentary of 2021 by Critics Choice Documentary Awards. It is now streaming on Hulu.

Kennebeck’s debut feature about the U.S. drone war, NATIONAL BIRD (executive produced by Wim Wenders and Errol Morris), premiered in the Special Section of the Berlin Film Festival 2016, was selected for Tribeca, Sheffield, and IDFA festivals, and received the prestigious Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize and a 2018 Emmy-nomination for Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary. It was released in select theaters in the US, Europe, and Australia, was broadcast on PBS and ARD German TV, and streamed on Netflix.

Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling began her military career in the early 1990s as a medic, surgical technician, and a nurse. She transferred from Army Nurse to Air Force Combat Communications where she participated in operations, maintenance, and security of networked communications systems. On July 6th 2004 her unit was redesignated as the 234th Intelligence Squadron. Shortly after that she began working and training on different aspects of the Drone program. Throughout her career she deployed to various sites working on related technical systems; her last active-duty assignment was at Beale Air Force Base in California where she worked on a Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS). This weapon system produces intelligence collected by the U-2 Dragonlady, RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper and the MQ-1 Predator drone. She was featured in the film National Bird Directed by Sonia Kennebeck, has a BA in History from UC Berkeley and plans to continue research on Network Centric Warfare, Drones, and AI.

Jesselyn Radack

Jesselyn Radack

Jesselyn Radack heads the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts. Radack has been at the forefront of challenging the U.S. government’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers, which has become a war on journalists. Radack has represented dozens of national security employees who have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information, including Daniel Hale, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, and John Kiriakou.

Ms. Radack has testified before the U.S. Congress, European Parliament, Council of Europe and Germany’s Bundestag. The author of TRAITOR: The Whistleblower & the “American Taliban,” Ms. Radack has written prominent opinion pieces and academic articles, and was named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Leading Global Thinkers of 2013.”