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A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Q&A with Laura Poitras on Edward Snowden and Citizen Four

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Astra Taylor has a good interview of Laura Poitras in The Nation, pointed out by Kevin Drum. It begins:

When Laura Poitras helped Edward Snowden turn thousands of classified documents into headline news, word spread that he would be the focus of the third installment of her trilogy of documentaries about post-9/11 America. Citizenfour captures Snowden and a small group of intrepid journalists, including Poitras behind the camera, as the NSA scandal breaks. The heroism and resolve required to act under the government’s gaze drive the film. Poitras herself was a surveillance target well before Snowden, detained in US airports some forty times between 2006 and 2012. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

—Astra Taylor

Astra Taylor: When Snowden first contacted you last year, you took an amazing leap of faith. Why did you trust that these messages weren’t entrapment?

Laura Poitras: My gut told me it was legitimate, but I was very cautious in our correspondence. At some point I actually asked him, “How do I know that you’re legitimate, that you’re not trying to entrap me, that you’re not crazy?” And his response was, well, you’ll know when you ask officials for comment on these documents—their response will show that I’m legitimate. You’ll know it’s not entrapment because I’m never going to ask anything of you. I’m just going to tell you things.

But other journalists were afraid to work with Snowden.

There’s a strong culture of fear among journalists right now, because the government is cracking down on both journalists and sources. We see this, for example, with [New York Times reporter] James Risen being subpoenaed and pressured to give up confidential sources. We involved [Washington Post journalist] Bart Gellman when Snowden wanted to release one document early, and Gellman used the Snowden archive to break the PRISM story about mass electronic surveillance. He was going to come with me to Hong Kong to meet Snowden, and the Post became very nervous and pulled out. They told me not to go. I felt like I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t go, so I went.

Why did Snowden meet you in Hong Kong and agree to be filmed? . . .

Continue reading.

I think it’s important to recognize the fear among journalists, another sign of the direction the US is going (along with the increasing bold civil asset forfeiture, the militarization of the police, the way some police departments (NYPD) defy the authority supposedly controlling them, etc.). For example, later in the article,

The NSA is supposed to be focused on foreign threats. Does the fact that they’re spying on everyone mean that we’re effectively the enemy?

[Whistleblower and former NSA official] William Binney talks about how dictatorships have surveilled their populations. When the government starts monitoring its own population, there’s a chilling effect; people become afraid. But there are other types of intelligence-gathering being deployed that’s not NSA. Look at Occupy—you have the NYPD, who have IMSI catchers [devices for intercepting cellphone calls]. Activists and journalists are going to be the canaries in the coal mine. They’ll feel the impact of state surveillance first.

Emphasis added. Who feels first the authoritarian wind? Activists and journalists: dissenters and those who write about them. If you can silence the latter, you can then have a free hand in mopping up the former.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2014 at 12:50 pm

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