I just saw Citizenfour, the documentary about Edward Snowden and his terrific revelations about just how pervasively the Federal government is violating our constitutional privacy protections as secured by the Fourth Amendment. The title comes from the email handle Snowden used when he first contacted journalist and filmmaker Laura Poitras. The documentary features no satisfying explosions, car chases or crashes, and no gun battles in which the bullets never run out. Nevertheless, it is riveting. From Kurt Loder's incisive Reason review of the movie:
Snowden documents a world in which the NSA routinely collects cellphone conversations from millions of Americans, along with their email and records of their other online activities, and consigns all of it to a huge NSA data-storage lair in Bluffdale, Utah. Woven together, this information tells highly detailed stories about blameless private citizens, to be used later, perhaps, for purposes not yet devised. "It's not science-fiction," Snowden says. "This stuff is happening right now." And the only arbiters of such behavior – the only bulwark against abuse—are secret intelligence courts and fully-briefed but unobjecting politicians. "I remember what the Internet was like before it was being watched," Snowden says. "Now people make jokes about being watched. They accept it." (Poitras brings in Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project to expand upon this thought: "What people used to call liberty," Appelbaum says, "we now call privacy.")
My review: Edward Snowden is a patriot.
During the Thanksgiving holidays, Americans traditionally flock to the multiplexes to enjoy the latest blockbusters. I, for one, intend to join the throngs at the cineplex to watch Mockingjay, the latest installment of The Hunger Games series. The books and the movies are the story of how the citizens of Panem ultimately rebel against a tyrannical government that pervasively spies on and controls their lives.
So a modest proposal: This Thanksgiving, go enjoy the story of Katniss Everdeen's fight for freedom. And then, for an interesting and chilling juxtaposition, go see Edward Snowden's struggle to protect our liberty in Citizenfour.
At the risk of being melodramatic, here's hoping that America never needs a Katniss Everdeen.