Just the other day, there was President Barack Obama on the telly, giving his farewell address to the American people. "Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted," he said gravely. "It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy. ... I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours."

A grand speech it was, but the irony was more than a little bitter, since earlier that day I had just watched Oliver Stone's new film "Snowden," about the rogue NSA contractor who in 2013, believing in his ability to bring about change, revealed to the press the existence of a secret and often extra-legal mass surveillance program known as PRISM. Suddenly people realized that the government had total access to their emails, cellphones and information shared on social networks, all with the cooperation of Big Tech.

Included in the film is a 2008 stump speech by then-presidential-candidate Obama, calling for "no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens." But Edward Snowden stood up and exposed precisely that, and as a reward for his efforts, he's now living in exile in Moscow, under threat of being "disappeared" into a windowless cell. Indeed, contrary to his rhetoric, Obama waged a relentless campaign against whistleblowers, using the Espionage Act to prosecute any who dared to question the excesses of the security state. (See the excellent documentary "Silenced.")