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A Good American: Unveiling the Truth Behind U.S. Surveillance

"A Good American" is a riveting exploration of a groundbreaking surveillance program and the controversial decisions that marked a pivotal moment in U.S. history.

Keywords: Surveillance, National Security, Privacy Rights, Government Decisions, 9/11


"A Good American", directed by Friedrich Moser and released in 2015, is a riveting documentary that delves into the depths of a groundbreaking surveillance program, shelved by the U.S.' National Security Agency (NSA) for financial reasons, shortly before the tragic events of 9/11. In an era where privacy and surveillance are hotly debated topics, this documentary brings to light critical questions about national security, privacy rights, and government decision-making.


"A Good American" tells the story of a code-breaker and his innovative surveillance program that could reportedly have prevented 9/11. However, with the program abandoned for money, the documentary raises pressing questions about the priorities of those in power.

More film analysis:


The documentary adopts an investigative approach, delving deep into the complex world of the NSA and the controversial decisions that marked a pivotal moment in U.S. history. The depth of research and subject exploration is commendable, presenting a complex issue in an accessible manner.

Historical and Factual Context:

The documentary is set against the backdrop of pre-9/11 America, a critical period in the nation's history. Understanding the events leading up to 9/11 is crucial in comprehending the gravity of the decisions made by the NSA.

Key themes in the film:

  • The conflict between national security and personal privacy
  • The implications of government decisions on public safety
  • The need for transparency and accountability in public institutions

Film Comparisons:

Unlike other films on iWonder that explore the theme of surveillance, "A Good American" provides a unique perspective by focusing on a specific, lesser-known surveillance program and its potential impact on national security.

Noteworthy Moments:

One significant revelation is the assertion that 9/11 could have been prevented if the surveillance program had not been shelved - a claim that invites viewers to question and challenge the decisions made by government institutions.


With an IMDB score of 7.3, "A Good American" was well received by audiences and critics alike, who praised the film's gripping narrative and thought-provoking content.


"A Good American" is a must-watch for anyone interested in the intersection of national security, government decision-making, and personal privacy. Its exploration of a pivotal moment in U.S. history offers viewers a greater understanding of the complex issues at play.

Watch A Good American - Streaming Online | iwonder (Free Trial)
The extra-ordinary story of an extra-ordinary spy. The story of how we ended up in the surveillance state. The story of Bill Binney and a program called ThinThread.

More film information:

IMDB: 7.3 | Rotten Tomatoes: 82% | Metacritic: 66
Awards: 1 win & 7 nominations: CPH:DOX, DOC NYC, Cleveland International Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Austrian Film Award

Bill Binney: A former high-ranking intelligence official turned whistleblower.
Diane Roark: A former staff member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Ed Loomis: A former NSA employee and colleague of Binney.

Maryland, USA: NSA headquarters
Washington D.C., USA: US congress

Links for further exploration:

Key Questions Raised by the Film:

Could the NSA's surveillance program have prevented 9/11?

How are decisions about surveillance and national security made?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form:

"1984" by George Orwell - if it was a famous book, for its exploration of surveillance and government control.

"Every Breath You Take" by The Police - if it was a famous song, due to its theme of constant surveillance.

"CCTV" by Banksy - if it was a famous piece of art, a critique of surveillance culture

Edward Snowden - if it was a famous celebrity, as a prominent whistleblower who revealed information about NSA surveillance programs.

Grey - if it was a colour, reflecting the moral ambiguities and murky decisions in the world of surveillance.

Hard rock - if it was a music style, for its intense, hard-hitting narrative.