Revealing state secrets have turned into Oscar acclaim for the makers of the Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour.”
Laura Poitras’ film documents her initial meeting in Hong Kong with Snowden, as well as journalist Glenn Greenwald. It’s an uncommonly intimate view of what became a historic and much debated act: Snowden leaking National Security Agency documents that revealed the previously undisclosed collection of Americans’ phone and email records.
“The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the most important decisions being made affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control,” Poitras said after accepting the best documentary Academy Award.
“Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage, and for the many other whistleblowers, and I share this with Glenn Greenwald and other journalists who are exposing truth,” Poitras said to rousing applause.
Greenwald stood at Poitras’ side as she spoke.
It is Poitras’ first Oscar win. She was previously nominated for her film, “My Country, My Country”
Snowden was charged under the federal Espionage Act and is currently living in asylum in Russia. Because of the sensitive nature of the footage, Poitras made “Citizenfour” under intense secrecy and edited it in Germany.
The film shows glimpses of the former NSA contractor’s paranoia. When room service calls his room, Snowden unplugs his phone and he ducks under a blanket to enter passwords on his laptop.
Yet Snowden says in the film, and has repeated his sentiment since, that he was willing to be the target of criticism and derision and branded a traitor.
“If you’re not willing to be called some bad names to serve your country, you really don’t care that much about your country,” Snowden said at a forum earlier this month. “So bring the names on.”
Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris obliged. As Poitras and her collaborators walked offstage Sunday night, Harris said, “The subject of ‘CitizenFour,’ Edward Snowden, could not be here tonight for some treason.” …
Regarding the phrase “glimpses of the former NSA contractor’s paranoia” in this AP article, I’d point out that paranoia is a irrational fear. As Snowden knows more than any of us about government spying abilities, the use of the word “paranoia” is most likely not justified. Visual spying on passwords by covert technology watching the person’s fingers on the keyboard is, I think we should assume, a real ability of the NSA. The writer of this, then, is suffering from denial, a typical response to uncomfortable truths.
Perhaps the only way the country we have will work is if we re-define treason as including the act of passively allowing the destruction of one’s country.
None of this should be about Snowden. The real issue is that our government has way too much unchecked power now and that the checks and balances that were intended from the start have been lost. We can either restore meaningful and real checks and balances our our democracy will fail and fall.
What have you done today to fix your broken country?