In January 2013, an anonymous source contacted filmmaker Laura Poitras through encrypted emails. He called himself Citizenfour and promised to reveal sensitive information of secret surveillance programs run by the government.
By June, the stranger agreed to meet up with Poitras and reporting partner Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong. Here they learned of his true identity: Edward Snowden.
In the hotel room, Snowden reveals to Greenwald and The Guardian intelligence reporter, Ewen MacAskill, the numerous ways in which the NSA has been spying on American citizens. On June 6th, Greenwald broke his first story on the NSA’s collection of millions of phone records.
“I am more willing to risk imprisonment than I am willing to risk curtailment of intellectual freedom and that of those around me.” – Edward Snowden
The next day, Poitras published a second story in The Washington Post revealing how the NSA and FBI have been tapping into U.S. Internet servers. This included Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Skype, to name a few.
Greenwald published a follow up on the defense of whistleblowers and their role in government scandals. According to Greenwald, whistleblowers are fundamental to our democracy.
On June 11, Edward Snowden’s identity was revealed at his request in an article in The Guardian. Despite his decision to be publicly revealed, Snowden insisted that he wanted to avoid media spotlight. According to Snowden, he does not want the story not be about him, but about the NSA scandal.
On June 21st, The United States Government charged Snowden with three felonies, two falling under the Espionage Act, and asked Hong Kong to extradite him. Two days later, Wikileaks organized Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong to seek political asylum in Russia. Snowden has been there since.
“What people used to call freedom and liberty we now call privacy.” -Citizenfour
Poitras documented the entire ordeal in her documentary, Citizenfour, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2015 Oscars.