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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 14th, 2013
05:36 PM ET

Why you should care about whistleblowers

As White House press secretary Jay Carney heard multiple times in Tuesday's press briefing, the Obama administration has been aggressive in pursuing leaks, and that's putting it lightly. Director Robert Greenwald took a critical look at the Obama administration's role in pursuing those who decide to go public with sensitive information in his latest documentary, "War on Whistleblowers"

"The impact of this administration's aggressiveness in the national security arena has had an extraordinary chilling effect. The number of people who have indicated to us that they wish they could talk but they can't because they're afraid of what could happen to them is a terrible thing for our democracy," Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, says in the documentary.

Greenwald said he was not surprised when he heard news that the Justice Department  secretly collected two months of telephone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press.

"This is a systemic, continuing problem, it's not a one-off, and it's not an accident, sadly, it has been policy by the White House, by the administration, and it's an effort to silence, scare whistleblowers and to get the press to be quiet," said Greenwald, who is also the president and founder of Brave New Foundation.

The Justice Department on Tuesday defended its decision to subpoena phone records from the Associated Press, saying the requests were limited and necessary to investigate a leak of classified information. Attorney General Eric Holder argued it was a very serious leak that put the American people in harm's way.

"This is unfortunately what the administration continues to do, it tells us a little bit, and it says, 'But we can't let you know anymore,'" said Greenwald. "They keep falling behind and using secrecy when it suits them."

"Let's be clear. There's a very substantive difference between whistleblowers and leakers," said Greenwald. "Leakers are for self-serving purposes, whistleblowers are people who come forward in an effort to tell the truth, and have no personal gain whatsoever."

Americans should care about whistleblowers because democracy is not a spectator sport, and people should get involved, said Greenwald.

"Whistleblowing and the secrecy of the military industrial complex affects us, and affects our real ability to be a democracy," said Greenwald.

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