“Big brother is watching you.” That is no longer just the theme of a dystopian novel. It is the reality of today’s national security state. And it was Edward Snowden who opened our eyes to the extent of surveillance over our daily lives by the National Security Agency (NSA). In retaliation against this citizen whistleblower, Snowden is now “the most wanted man in the world” and living in exile in Russia.
“Citizen Four” documents the inside story of Snowden’s release of a treasure trove of information about NSAs illegal and nefarious spying on the public. The film is directed and produced by cinematographer Laura Poitras, whom he had first contacted anonymously under the name Citizen Four. She reveals her interviews with Snowden as he first tells her of what now the whole world knows.
Watching “Citizen Four” is disturbing. Chills run down the spine of the viewer as a piece of history appears on camera. It is fascinating to see the story unfold and to see the whistleblower realise that despite his best intentions, the story becomes about him. Before earning his notoriety and getting placed on the world’s most wanted list, Snowden and Poitras reveal just how “un” private the average citizen’s lives are. Viewers also find out that the NSA have never been above lying about their activities and just how much information this government organization has access to and how much it retrieves.
Perhaps more disturbing is the knowledge that the NSA uses social media, like Facebook, to gather information about people on their lists and Mr. and Mrs. Public. Last year, the world learned about PRISM and how companies like AT&T, Microsoft and Facebook, et al, willingly gave the government access to people’s private information on a regular basis. Prepare to be horrified at just how much privacy the average citizen does not have.
Citizen Four won the Academy Award for best documentary. 2014