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National Bird (2017)National Bird (2017)

This disturbing 85-minute documentary debuted at the Tribeca and Berlin film festivals, and then in May of 2017 aired as part of the PBS "Independent Lens" series (I watched it from the PBS website).  The movie follows three whistle blower military veterans (one of whom had top secret clearance) who have tried to shine a light on America's secret programs of "unmanned aerial vehicles" — that is, drones, which have become a controversial and extremely common weapon of war and surveillance all around the world.  The military recruitment videos and the archival footage of the drone perspectives are chilling.  Of special interest are the human stories told here, of the collateral damage to innocent civilians, of the moral guilt and psychological trauma that these veterans bear (including suicidal ideation), and of the personal risks they took in telling their stories.  In fact, during the production of this film, the FBI raided the home of one of the whistle blowers and charged him with espionage. "I thought I was going to be on the right side of history," one of them says, "but now I don't think I was.  It's frightening. I lost part of my humanity working in the drone program."

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