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A Good American

A documentary about William Binney, a system analyst for the NSA, whose ‘Thin Thread’ program might have prevented 9/11 without violating the population’s privacy and about why he quit his job.


There has already been a big action thriiller about the date collection methods of the NSA this year, namely Oliver Stone’s SNOWDEN. A GOOD AMERICAN is a prequel of sorts, a film about the absolute opposite. It’s about William Binney. He begins his military career in the 1960s as a code cracker and data analyst, gets promoted, and is soon the in the leading position of the NSA. Binney’s special idea was tackling the “meta data” and not the content of information while decoding it. This comes right on cue for the spies as the old “chronicle and evaluate everything” method cannot be implemented in the era of the internet and cellphones. The archives show that Binney’s “Thin Thread” program may have had clues about 9/11 that were overlooked. The program makes the gathered connections anonymous so innocents can’t be needlessly spied on. But ever since CITIZEN FOUR came out we know that isn’t the case. And Binney soon finds out, what the NSA does with whistleblowers…
Though the plot sounds like a thriller, the documentary (which was produced in Austria for obvious reasons) is more matter-of-fact. Never losing itself in technological details, A GOOD AMERICAN has interviews, archival images, and animations that give a good look into the history and methods of military espionage and the conceptual world behind it and makes you want to inform yourself more about the background. You can actually intervene and perhaps ensure there’s a happy end, which wouldn’t be possible if this were a thriller. The film’s official website,, gives you that possibility.

Christian Klose

Translation: Elinor Lewy


Österreich 2015, 100 min
Director: Friedrich Moser
Author: Friedrich Moser
DOP: Friedrich Moser
Montage: Kirk von Heflin
Music: Guy Farley, Christopher Slaski
Distributor: dropout Cinema
Release: 03.11.2016

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