Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Must-See Cinema: Citizenfour (2014)

Hey, kids, you wanna see something really scary?

By now everybody knows something about Edward Snowden -- wasn't he that traitor that sold out American secrets somebody?

Well, no, he was the guy who blew the whistle on NSA spying on, well, everybody!

Citizenfour is a documentary from filmmaker Laura Poitras that chronicles the Edward Snowden affair from the first tentative contact that he made with her all the way through to his exile in Russia. When you realize that the American government not only has the ability to spy on each and every digital communication not only here but worldwide, but actually does so, then you realize that any right to privacy that you thought you enjoyed was just an illusion.

Watch as The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald interviews Snowden in a hotel room in Hong Kong, where Snowden landed in hopes that the Chinese would not give him up to the US easily. The matter-of-fact approach that everyone seems to take to the NSA spying is in itself chilling.

Snowden was charged in absentia with four violations of the Espionage Act of 1917, which a rational person would think only applies to spies during wartime, passing information to the enemy, that sort of thing. Or, from the true intention of the Act, just being one of those adherents to a "foreign" ideology (i.e., Socialism, Communism).

If you thought that was all it covered you would be wrong. As a group of lawyers offering their services pro bono to Snowden take pains to point out, it's much broader than that -- anything the government says is "secret"  IS secret and you can be prosecuted for revealing it. Even if you can prove that the "secret" was unconstitutional and illegal. That is not a defense against prosecution and conviction.

So it's kind of a hollow reassurance to hear and see Obama in this movie say that Snowden should come home and face a "fair and impartial" prosecution by owning up to his "crimes"... Yeah, I wouldn't come back, either. The minute he sets foot on American soil -- or really anywhere within the reach of the long arm of American "justice" -- he'll be "disappeared" so fast that you wouldn't even know he was there. "Snowden? Snowden who?" will be the response if you have the temerity to ask. And then you will disappear as well.

Netflix doesn't have it yet, but they do have it listed so you can save it to your queue and watch it when it does come out on DVD. Of course the NSA will know that you have expressed an interest in it and you'll come up to the top of their "special list". Just as I'm sure I have for just recommending it.

Citizenfour won the Academy Award for Best Documentary at this year's Oscars. Of course the NSA knows how everyone voted, so don't be surprise if certain voting members of The Academy start mysteriously disappearing in the next few months...

Citizenfour on the IMDB.
The Snowden Saga: A Shadowland of Secrets and Light in the May 2014 issue of Vanity Fair.
NBC News Interview With Edward Snowden.