Laura Poitras on the Post-9/11 Moral Vacuum and How Snowden Will Go Down in History

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Laura Poitras on the Post-9/11 Moral Vacuum and How Snowden Will Go Down in History

In interview with CBC, Citizenfour filmmaker says Snowden 'did something that was a public service.'

Journalist and filmmaker Laura Poitras speaking in Maine in 2010. (Photo:  kris krüg/flickr/cc)

"...it's easy to forget it all began with Poitras... the first person Snowden made contact with."

That's CBC News referring to Laura Poitras, the journalist and filmmaker behind the Oscar-nominated documentary Citizenfour, which offers a look at NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's first meetings with journalists.

Poitras, who's been detained and questioned by federal agents dozens of times since she began working on films exploring the post-9/11 era, spoke with CBC's Amanda Lang about the film, Snowden, and post 9/11 violations.

In the interview published Wednesday evening, Poitras said that when she first received anonymous contact from Snowden, she said she realized if the shocking claims proved to be true, then this mysterious person was taking enormous personal risks.

Describing her first meeting with Snowden, which took place in Hong Kong along with journalist Glenn Greenwald, she said, "We were both taken aback that we met somebody so young."

But, she added, "it retrospect it makes a lot of sense, given the fact that he's, sort of, of the generation... growing up with the Internet and seeing it becoming more commercialized, more militarized, more surveiled and remembering a time when that was not the case."

As for the eloquence many have noted that Snowden seems to possess, Poitras said, "He's incredibly articulate," adding, "It's not just that we've edited the film to pick those moments where he speaks very eloquently. He does that all the time."

She stopped using a cell phone since the Hong Kong trip, not an unreasonable move, she said, given that she's a journalist and thanks to documents revealed by Snowden, "we know that our phones can be switched into microphones."

"In the post-9/11 era, I think there has been a moral vacuum," she said. "There have been things that have happened that are fundamentally violations of our principles."

"As a citizen, as an artist, as a filmmaker I do want to express those things."

Snowden, who clearly "thought about this decision a long time," did the right thing, she said.

"I really think that we live in a democracy... and these kinds of decisions shouldn't happen in secret. Our elected officials should be accountable to citizens and we should know what our government is doing, so I do think that he did something that was a public service. And I think history will reflect that."

People will look back and see "that we're at a crossroads, that technology is outpacing what we're able to do in terms of democratic oversight."

"He's giving us a moment to sort of reflect and make decisions and I think historically that that will be recognized as being a very valuable thing," she said.

Watch the full interview below:

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