DAUK Film Night CitizenFour
was held on November 20, 2015
Thanks to and licensed by Dogwoof Film distributors
About the Character
The Film Night
HBO’s synopsis of Citizenfour describes it as “a real-life international thriller that unfolds by the minute. With unprecedented access, this gripping behind-the-scenes chronicle follows [Laura] Poitras [the director] and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s remarkable encounters with Edward Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room as he hands over classified documents that provide evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency.”
This film gets under the skin of just who Edward Snowden is and why he has put himself in this position.
In his review of Citizenfour in The New York Times on 23 October 2014, A.O. Scott said that “…What makes Mr. Snowden fascinating—a great movie character whatever you think of his cause—is the combination of diffidence, resolve and unpretentious intelligence that makes him so familiar. Slightly hipsterish, vaguely nerdy, with a trace of coastal South in his voice (he was born in North Carolina and grew up in Maryland), he is someone you might have seen at Starbucks…. One of us, you might say.”
After the screening the floor was open to discussion: Snowden – whistle-blower or traitor? In what situations can concerns about national security override citizens’ right to privacy? Who decides? How do democracies manage these issues in the new, complex world of information technology, when even our legislators are often in the dark? What is the role of the media in these events?
The after-screening discussion was initiated by Ewen MacAskill, the journalist who played a pivotal role in The Guardian’s publication of Edward Snowden’s disclosures of NSA surveillance activities.
About the film night speakers
Ewen MacAskill is The Guardian‘s Defence and Intelligence correspondent and played a central role in preparing the publication of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about NSA surveillance activities. He was political editor of The Scotsman from (1990–96) before becoming chief political correspondent for The Guardian. From 2007 to 2013, he served as The Guardian‘s Washington DC bureau chief.
As a result of his reporting on global surveillance issues, he was a co-recipient of the 2013 George Polk Award; this reporting also contributed to the joint awarding of The Pulitzer Prize for Public Service to The Guardian and The Washington Post in April 2014.
Robert Carolina is Executive Director of the Institute for Cyber Security Innovation at Royal Holloway College, University of London; Director of Origin Ltd, an intellectual property and technology law firm based in London and General Counsel for the Institute of Information Security Professionals and Information Systems Security Association. In 2014 in a talk for Royal Holloway he addressed the issue of “Ethics in the light of Snowden” for the information and cybersecurity professions.
He served as Chair of Democrats Abroad – UK from 20011 – 2015 and Co-chair of Obama London from 2008 -2014 and member of the DAUK Executive Committee.
Bill Barnard is a historian and has been a very active Democrat in both Alabama and the U.K. He has attended five Democratic conventions (including Chicago in 1968), two as a member of the anti-Wallace faction of the Alabama state delegation, three as a commentator for the state-wide PBS network; he also attended two Republican conventions as a PBS commentator. His academic career included serving as Chair of the Department of History at the University of Alabama and in various academic policy leadership roles within the University of Alabama system and with professional associations of historians. He is the author of Dixiecrats and Democrats (1974).
Since coming to the U.K., he has served as Chair of Democrats Abroad from 2007 to 2011, was a founding member of the Oxford chapter of DAUK and is a long-standing member of the Executive Committee; he is a DAUK representative on the DPCA (Democrats Abroad International) and has served as DPCA Treasurer.
About Edward Snowden
drawing from Wikipedia
Edward Snowden, born in 1983 was hired in 2013 by an NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, after previous employment with Dell and the CIA. Snowden says he gradually became disillusioned with the programs with which he was involved and that he tried to raise his ethical concerns through internal channels but was ignored. On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and in early June he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill. Snowden came to international attention after stories based on the material appeared in The Guardian and The Washington Post. Further disclosures were made by other publications including Der Spiegel and The New York Times.
On June 21, 2013, the United States Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden on two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property, following which the Department of State revoked his passport. Two days later, he flew into Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where Russian authorities noted that his U.S. passport had been cancelled, and he was restricted to the airport terminal for over one month. Russia later granted Snowden the right of asylum with an initial visa for residence for one year, and repeated extensions have permitted him to stay at least until 2020. In early 2016, he became the president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that states its purpose is to protect journalists from hacking and government surveillance.
His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments, and prompted a wide-ranging discussion about national security and individual privacy.
More about the Film
Scheib, Ronnie “Film Review: Citizen Four.” Variety. October 11, 2014 wrote “No amount of familiarity with whistleblower Edward Snowden and his shocking revelations of the U.S. government’s wholesale spying on its own citizens can prepare one for the impact of Laura Poitras’s extraordinary documentary Citizenfour… far from reconstructing or analyzing a fait accompli, the film tersely records the deed in real time, as Poitras and fellow journalist Glenn Greenwald meet Snowden over an eight-day period in a Hong Kong hotel room to plot how and when they will unleash the bombshell that shook the world. Adapting the cold language of data encryption to recount a dramatic saga of abuse of power and justified paranoia, Poitras brilliantly demonstrates that information is a weapon that cuts both ways.”
President Obama on Edward Snowden – October 2013
The files and programs disclosed by Edward Snowden
The Guardian articles and materials based on Snowden’s disclosure are here: The NSA Files
A timeline of the disclosures is published here.
Greenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA and the Surveillance State. Penguin Books, 2014.
Archives of published material such as that created by the Americana Civil Liberties Union: NSA Archives appear not to have been updated.
Packer, George . The errors of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald: The NSA disclosures are disturbing but they don’t portend a totalitarian state. Prospect Magazine May 22, 2014
Interviews with Snowden
BBC Panorama interview with Edward Snowden, October 5, 2015.
John Oliver Last Week Tonight interview with Snowden: April 5, 2015, offered with all the warnings that a John Oliver performance requires!
Executive Branch: key reports and Executive Orders
The full transcript of President Obama’s speech on the NSA data collection, (June 2013) is published here.
The full transcript of President Obama’s speech on the NSA (January 2014) is published here
Reports and Reviews on related issues
Liberty and Security in a Changing World. Report and Recommendations of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. December 2013, This review of the NSA was commissioned by President Obama in August 2013.
Director of National Intelligence. Signals Intelligence Reform. Anniversary Report 2015.
Reports from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – an independent and bipartisan panel appointed by the president to advise the government on ensuring privacy and civil liberties.
Rusbridger, Alan. “Obama’s NSA review gives the lie to Britain’s timid platitudes: a debate is possible.” The Guardian. December 19, 2013
Legislative Branch; key legislation and oversight
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence are charged with oversight of the US intelligence community. You can find out about proposed and pending legislation at their sites.
The USA Freedom Act was enacted on June 2, 2015 that restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act, which had expired the day before. The act imposes some new limits on the bulk collection of telecommunication metadata on U.S. citizens by American intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency. The title of the act originally stood for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act.” Details of the act are here and a Wikipedia exposition is here.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – enacted in 1978 and amended 2008). A Wikipedia comment on this is available here.
Disclaimer:The screening of this film does not constitute an endorsement or promotion of the film, nor of any views expressed therein or any association with The Film Committee, DAUK, Democrats Abroad or the Democratic Party. Screenings are solely conceived as educational activities: offering an opportunity for members to discuss issues.
Links to other organizations or publications imply neither endorsement of their policies nor any association with the Democratic Party or Democrats Abroad UK.