“We are building the greatest weapon for oppression in the history of man, yet it’s directors exempt themselves from accountability” – Edward Snowden

I feel everyone on the planet should watch this movie. I’ve watched it twice to fully digest the revelations in the film. It’s like watching a Hollywood spy thriller, but it’s actually real life. It is truly frightening! Not horror movie frightening, more that it is shocking to learn how much we are being spied on by our elected governments.

Citizenfour is about the whistle blower Edward Snowden a remarkable young man, a former NSA intelligence analyst, and now exiled whistleblower, who in 2013 brought the world’s attention to the extent of government surveillance on it’s citizens.

In 2013, after months of encrypted email conversations between himself and the film-maker Laura Poitras, they met in a hotel room in Hong Kong where he was filmed being interviewed by journalist Glenn Greenwald. The interviews took place over the course of a week and despite all activity being confined to within the walls of a hotel room, the footage is gripping. The conversations with this young man and his disclosures are shocking and hard to comprehend. The fact that our right to privacy can no longer be assumed is frightening as government agencies abuse the laws for their own means in an effort to, in their words, make the world a safer place.

Listening to Edward Snowden one has to admire the conviction of this young man, a man who was prepared to give up his comfortable lifestyle, his family, everything that was familiar to him, to know that he could be imprisoned at any moment, because he felt that what he was doing for the government was wrong.

To all outward appearances Snowden is a skinny bespectacled computer geek, however he comes across as a confident and determined young man. At one point he says ,“I am more willing to risk imprisonment or any other negative outcome than risk the curtailment of my intellectual freedom or that of others.”  When I think back to the man I was at his age I know for a fact that I didn’t possess the maturity and conviction that he has, and I take my hat off to him.

Edward now lives in exile in Russia, unable to return to the country of his birth, or indeed no longer able to travel to many other countries for fear of imprisonment under draconian and outdated espionage laws.

The film-maker Laura Poitras is also no stranger to Government harassment, having been repeatedly stopped and searched by US Customs and Border Protection Agents  every time she re-entered the country. All this after making the film “My Country, My Country” about the Iraq War. The harassment was so much that she relocated to Berlin where she is now based.

Edward Snowden has been made out by the US Government to be a traitor, however evidence in the film shows that the Government cannot be trusted. Director of the NSA, Keith Alexander, and Director of Intelligence, James Clapper, are both shown lying to Congress under oath about the extent of the government’s spying on it’s citizens. Another whistleblower, former government intelligence analyst, William Binney, who features in the film, was raided by FBI agents with guns drawn after he protested government abuses that took place after 9/11. The Obama Administration has maintained that if Snowden had made his disclosures to the public through “proper channels,” everything would have been fine, but their treatment of William Binney indicates otherwise. Instead they are now ensuring that we live in fear, with the worry that we are always being watched, our conversations being monitored, our private lives no longer private.

Please watch Citizenfour. It’s a vital part of your education!

Worth reading in conjunction with Citizenfour is Glenn Greenwald’s book “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, and the US Surveillance State

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