Laura Poitras may not be as famous as Edward Snowden, but the documentarian is one of the reasons Americans even know who the whistleblower is. Snowden worked with her and journalist Glenn Greenwald to expose the federal government's surveillance on its own citizens. Poitras won an Academy award for Citizenfour, her movie about Snowden's leak.
The filmmaker has had her own miserable experiences with the post-9/11 security state. For six years, from 2006 to 2012, Poitras found herself on a Department of Homeland Security watchlist, being detained and interrogated by officials whenever she attempted to fly. She's not entirely certain why she was singled out, but even before Citizenfour she made films about the war on terror, about life under occupation in Iraq, and about men who worked with Osama bin Laden.
Because of the federal government's secretive policies, Poitras received no formal explanation for why she was frequently being pulled aside for questioning. The treatment eventually ended in 2012, after Greenwald wrote about her situation at Salon. She attempted to learn more by filing Freedom of Information Act queries with several federal agencies, but she has gotten almost no information from them. A couple of agencies didn't even respond. So with the assistance of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Poitras filed a lawsuit in July demanding answers.