In a Jesuit church hall at Georgetown University in April, a crowd gathers to listen to enemies of the state. The law school has invited half a dozen whistleblowers to speak, including the headliner, Daniel Ellsberg. In 1971, Ellsberg leaked The New York Times a copy of a secret Department of Defense war assessment, documents that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. Seated in a semicircle behind him are whistleblowers formerly of nearly every other government agency with secrets to keep: the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Justice. The audience is some professors, but mostly a recognizable array of earnest college kids: pre-law students, Ron Paul supporters, members of the feminist group Code Pink. Frescoed on the wall behind them, there’s a trio of beatific female figures labeled as Faith, Morality, and Patriotism.

Edward Snowden is on the cover of the May issue of Vanity Fair, and the crowd is humming about it. Ellsberg reads a Snowden quote from the story: “There’s a limit to the amount of incivility and inequality and inhumanity that each individual can tolerate. I crossed that line.” Ellsberg likes Snowden, but has a problem with that idea. “Humans have this self image: ‘There’s a line that I won’t cross’” he says. “What I’ve learned is that most officials, my colleagues, people in Congress, never do find a level of injustice that would lead them to cross the line … You have to be willing to be called names like traitor.”

Most everyone on the panel has been called that name. Ellsberg battled with prosecutors for years while the government tapped his phones and raided his psychiatrist’s office. Thomas Drake, sitting behind him, had his house raided and nearly went to prison for possessing classified documents. Another whistleblower, John Kiriakou, comes up in the panel’s conversation. He can’t be here tonight, as he’s serving time in federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Kiriakou worked for the CIA, and was one of the first government officials to publicly reveal that torture was being used in US interrogations. In 2012, he was convicted of confirming the name of a covert operative off the record to a Times reporter and sentenced to 30 months. His wife sits in the audience, looking on.

Kiriakou’s lawyer is here too. Jesselyn Radack sits on the right side of the stage with a black dress and unruly blonde hair, a mic pack clipped to the top of one of her calf-high leather boots. She’s here as Kirakou’s representative, but also represents Edward Snowden and Thomas Drake, and was once a whistleblower herself. When a Code Pinker from the audience asks what students like her can do to help Kirakou and those like him, Radack breaks into a friendly stump speech, her trial lawyer’s insistence softened by a slight Maryland accent. “Call Congress. It does matter to them,” she says. “Request clemency for John.” Her voice softens and begins to break. “He’s been in jail long enough.”

After the Q&A session, everyone is ushered into a hallway between classrooms where food and wine are waiting. The crowd thins out, and Radack trades her boots for a pair of pink New Balance sneakers. She starts plucking panelists out of the crowd for a photo. It’s the first time the whole group — Ray McGovern from the CIA, Coleen Rowley from the FBI, Drake from the NSA, and Radack herself — has been together since October, when they all visited Snowden in Moscow for a kind of whistleblower congress. “I don’t think I got a single picture,” she says, pulling McGovern out of his conversation. They find someone to man the camera and then gather into the frame, bunched together like in a class photo. Snowden, of course, is missing.