Citizenfour asks is Edward Snowden a hero or traitor?
The new documentary ‘Citizenfour’ peels back the curtain on what life was like for Edward Snowden and the journalists who risked all to reveal some unsettling government secrets.
In May 2013 Laura Poitras, award winning director, producer and cinematographer, began receiving encrypted anonymous emails from someone calling himself Citizenfour. She became intrigued by allegations that the NSA along with other government entities were monitoring communications worldwide. US communications giants like Verizon and AT&T were also involved by giving access to their customer records. Was there risk in finding out the truth to these allegations? Yes there was. Was Laura Poitras willing to take these risks? Hell Yes.
Citizenfour tells the incredible true story of Edward Snowden, the infamous whistleblower who blew the lid off of the United States’ covert monitoring operations, and the journalists, including Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, who risked everything to verify and report the story even as Snowden was being labeled an enemy of the United States.
The film follows the journalists as they travel the world to obtain the proof of Snowden’s monumental allegations, and while some viewers may find these moments tedious, I found it fascinating to see what someone on the run does (the same every day things we do but with a large target drawn squarely on each of their backs), the near paranoia of thinking at any moment someone will burst in the door with guns drawn. I could feel the intensity of it all.
We also learn that government of the United States had publicly supported a policy of transparency all the while carrying out various covert and dangerous activities in the name of “national security.” When Snowden leaked classified NSA documents, Poitras, Greenwald and fellow journalist Jeremy Scahill were instrumental in getting many of them published on their on-line media venture called The Intercept. I found it interesting that these people were willing to put their lives on the line to stand up for what they believed in. Their perfect use of mass and social media made sure that they could not be silenced nor discredited.
I liked the way the director laid out the movie. It was strong, it was gritty, it was in your face. This man had to make a life changing decision to report to the world the secret surveillance of the American public and the rest of the world. Poitras had to comb through hundreds of hours of footage to get it just right without taking away the real nature of what it was like to be on the run from the United States of America while trying to pursue truth and justice. She achieved that goal.
Prior to seeing this movie I was of the opinion that Edward Snowden was a traitor to the United States of America. Now I am not so sure. Snowden couldn’t live with the fact that this atrocity was happening and sit by and do nothing. He felt the American public and the world had a right to know. Watching the film, I saw strength of purpose and integrity in the man they called a traitor. Instead of hiding behind the pseudonym Citizenfour, he wanted his name put front and center so the journalists could not get in trouble for withholding information from the US government. You could hear the strain and fear in his voice and the voices of the others who put themselves in harm’s way to get the story out. Would I have the courage to stand up for what I believe in if it meant jail time or never coming back to the shores of the land I love? To lose it all to stand up for your principles, I know this decision Snowden made was not an easy one. I call this man a hero. After viewing this film, you will never look at using your phone, credit cards, Facebook, and Twitter the same way.
As a bonus, at our screening a non-descript elderly man was wheeled into the auditorium. Little did I know the importance of this man till the end of the film. He was a very important man in the NSA, William Binney. I was happy that he came to support the film. After Laura Poitras introduced him, he received a standing ovation from the crowd. Gave me goose bumps! I was in the midst of a hero!