Monday, October 13, 2014

These Are the Emails Snowden Sent to First Introduce His Epic NSA Leaks


Six months before the world knew the National Security Agency’s most prolific leaker of secrets as Edward Joseph Snowden, Laura Poitras knew him as Citizenfour. For months, Poitras communicated with an unknown “senior government employee” under that pseudonym via encrypted emails, as he prepared her to receive an unprecedented leak of classified documents that he would ask her to expose to the world.

Poitras’ remarkable new film, Citizenfour, premiered Friday at the New York Film Festival, and opens in theaters on October 24. It is a haunting, historic document of Snowden’s motivations and personality, the sort of revelatory filmmaking that could only have been achieved by a director who was herself at the center of the story; Poitras lived out the NSA drama almost as completely as Snowden himself.

When Citizenfour begins, the camera is speeding through a traffic tunnel in Hong Kong, as dark as the secure channel that connects Poitras and her anonymous source. The film’s first words come from that source’s emails, read by Poitras. And throughout the film, she reads aloud more of Snowden’s encrypted correspondence, which serves as much of the story’s narration. 

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