Snowden’s Chronicler Reveals Her Own Life Under Surveillance – ANDY GREENBERG 02.04.16. 9:03 AM

Laura Poitras has a talent for disappearing. In her early documentaries like My Country, My Country and The Oath, her camera seems to float invisibly in rooms where subjects carry on intimate conversations as if they’re not being observed. Even in Citizenfour, the Oscar-winning film that tracks her personal journey from first contact with Edward Snowden to releasing his top secret NSA leaks to the world, she rarely offers a word of narration. She appears in that film exactly once, caught as if by accident in the mirror of Snowden’s Hong Kong hotel room.

Now, with the opening of her multi-media solo exhibit, Astro Noise, at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art this week, Snowden’s chronicler has finally turned her lens onto herself. And she’s given us a glimpse into one of the darkest stretches of her life, when she wasn’t yet the revelator of modern American surveillance but instead its target.

The exhibit is vast and unsettling, ranging from films to documents that can be viewed only through wooden slits to a video expanse of Yemeni sky which visitors are invited to lie beneath. But the most personal parts of the show are documents that lay bare how excruciating life was for Poitras as a target of government surveillance—and how her subsequent paranoia made her the ideal collaborator in Snowden’s mission to expose America’s surveillance state. First, she’s installed a wall of papers that she received in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information lawsuit the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed on her behalf against the FBI. The documents definitively show why Poitras was tracked and repeatedly searched at the US border for years, and even that she was the subject of a grand jury investigation. And second, a book she’s publishing to accompany the exhibit includes her journal from the height of that surveillance, recording her first-person experience of becoming a spying subject, along with her inner monologue as she first corresponded with the secret NSA leaker she then knew only as “Citizenfour.”

Poitras says she initially intended to use only a few quotes from her journal in that book. But as she was transcribing it, she “realized that it was a primary source document about navigating a certain reality,” she says. The finished book, which includes a biographical piece by Guantanamo detainee Lakhdar Boumediene, a photo collection from Ai Weiwei, and a short essay by Snowden on using radio waves from stars to generate random data for encryption, is subtitled “A Survival Guide for Living Under Total Surveillance.” It will be published widely on February 23.

“I’ve asked people for a long time to reveal a lot in my films,” Poitras says. But telling her own story, even in limited glimpses, “provides a concrete example of how the process works we don’t usually see.”

That process, for Poitras, is the experience of being unwittingly ingested into the American surveillance system.

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Snowden’s Girlfriend Lives With Him in Moscow (and His Life Isn’t Awful) – By Daniel Politi – OCT. 11 2014 7:33 AM

When Edward Snowden first started leaking NSA secrets last year one bit of the story that had nothing to do with national intelligence got lots of attention: he supposedly abandoned his girlfriend. Stories from the time noted how Snowden had lied to his girlfriend about the purpose of his Hong Kong trip, where he would eventually become the subject of an intense manhunt by media and U.S. officials alike. Her father, Jonathan Mills, even talked to media about how Snowden had left his daughter “to fend for herself.”

Fast forward a year and it turns out things are a bit more complicated. It seems Mills ended up reconciling with Snowden and she’s been living with him in Moscow since July, according to a new documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night. “The surprise revelation … upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US,” notes the Guardian.

Citizenfour, which was filmed by Laura Poitras and uses all first-hand footage to tell Snowden’s tale, provides a rare glimpse into the whistleblower’s personal life, which he has long been reluctant to talk about. So why should we care about his girlfriend, who described herself as a “pole-dancing superhero” in a blog she took down shortly after Snowden started leaking information? Because it shows his life isn’t as awful as some might want to believe. Glenn Greenwald explains at the Intercept:

The fact that he is now living in domestic bliss as well, with his long-term girlfriend whom he loves, should forever put to rest the absurd campaign to depict his life as grim and dank. Snowden not only changed how the world thinks about a number of profoundly important political issues by defying its most powerful government, but then was able to build a happy, healthy and fulfilling life for himself. And if he can do that, so can other whistleblowers, which is precisely why so much effort has been devoted to depicting him in all sorts of false lights.

‘Nation’ Exclusive: Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras Take on America’s Runaway Surveillance State – Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras May 7, 2014

Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden

(Laura Poitras: AP Images. Edward Snowden: Courtesy, The Guardian)

On April 30, in a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, the Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation awarded their annual Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and filmmaker Laura Poitras. The bestselling author and journalist James Bamford, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the US intelligence community, presented the award to Snowden and Poitras, who were present by live video link. Here are excerpts from their remarks.

James Bamford: I’m very honored to be here to introduce two extraordinary people, Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden.

Many years ago when my first book about the NSA, The Puzzle Palace, was published, the joke was that “NSA” stood for “No Such Agency” or, for those on the inside, “Never Say Anything.” Recently I’ve heard from some of my deep-cover sources up at Fort Meade that the old joke has changed. “NSA,” they say, now stands for “Not Secret Anymore.” Having warned of the dangers of the NSA for the past three decades, I very much prefer the latest definition. And no one is more responsible for that than Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras.

I first met Laura several years ago in London. I had just returned to England after working on the defense team for Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower and a previous Ridenhour award winner. Laura told me the extraordinary story of how nearly every time she flew into or out of the United States—dozens and dozens of times—she was pulled aside by Homeland Security, searched, interrogated for hours and often had her electronic equipment seized.

Treated like a suspected terrorist, she was an even greater threat to the Bush and Obama administrations. Instead of a bomb, she carried a video camera and was producing an explosive trilogy of feature-length films documenting the country’s tragic post-9/11 descent into bloody wars, civil liberties abuses and mass surveillance. She had completed the first two—My Country, My Country, a compelling and courageous story about life for Iraqis under US occupation, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and The Oath, a moving account of two Yemeni men caught up in America’s “war on terror,” which won at Sundance. Now, she told me, she wanted to turn her focus to the third film, the one on NSA surveillance.

Then, in January 2013, she received an anonymous message: “I am a senior member of the intelligence community,” it said. “This won’t be a waste of your time.” Sent by Edward Snowden, it would be the understatement of the century.

Years earlier, Ed Snowden enlisted in the Army Reserve as a Special Forces recruit, broke both legs in a training accident, and later joined the CIA and then became a contractor at Dell and Booz Allen for the NSA. Soon the documents crossing his computer screen began to greatly trouble him. Rather than hunting for terrorists, the agency was hunting for virtually everyone, everywhere, all the time, and conducting dragnet surveillance, often with little regard for the law or the Constitution.

The NSA had become a runaway surveillance train. Without an emergency brake on the inside, Ed Snowden hoped to stop it the only way he could, on the outside, and thus passed the evidence to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. He knew that without the documents, the agency would simply make every effort to discredit the information, as they tried to do with previous NSA whistleblowers, including Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe and Tom Drake.

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