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Meet 'citizen four' and learn why we should fear mass surveillance

In January 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras was several years into the making of a film about abuses of national security in post-9/11 America. She started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as ‘citizen four’, who claimed he was ready to blow the whistle on massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA in the US and GCHQ in the UK.

Laura had recently released a short film called The Program featuring another NSA whistle-blower called William Binney. You can find it on the New York Times website - Snowden did and decided to approach her.

In June 2013, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She took her camera with her and the following days, months and years have resulted in a one of the biggest news stories of the century.

Laura’s documentary, Citizen Four, reaches cinema screens at the end of the month, but on the 17 October there’s a one-off chance to see it first at the UK premiere, with a live Q+A with Laura herself. The film is entirely observational - a work of cinema and a work of journalism – something I encourage people to watch on a big screen.

The Snowden revelations have not yet generated the same level of debate in the UK as in the US. Despite learning for the first time that our government collects huge quantities of our emails, Facebook posts, mobile phone data and internet search histories the general response from many citizens has been ‘I did nothing wrong so I’ve got nothing to worry about’. In the face of new upheaval in Iraq and Syria, British national crime and security agencies have called for even more surveillance powers and many people are unsure of their response.

Through Citizen Four, we wanted as many people as possible to meet the characters involved, and to contemplate the level of surveillance we are all now subjected to and what this means for our democracy.

Surveillance an issue that affects every member of society and it’s time for citizens to talk about where they think the line should be drawn.

On 17 October, please join us and that debate on where surveillance should start and end. As well as the premiere, we’ll be live-screening the Q&A in cinemas around the country; we want as many people as possible to be able to get involved. Find out where you can watch at

Luke Moody is the Film Manager at BritDoc, one of the co-producers of Citizen Four

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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America is a Republic not a Democracy.

pacman7331 9 years ago

Heavy controls on government surveillance has been one traditional method of keeping abuses of governmental power in check. Today, however, technology gives individuals (terrorists, crazies, violent criminals) much more power (than in the past) to inflict harm on others. I can think of no other method of protecting the general population from this THAN surveillance.

We need to think of other institutional methods of hamstringing government overreach.

thirtythirtyguy 9 years ago

People should stop being so paranoid and fearing the government. The government is mostly full of good people with good intentions. We need to protect society. If that means losing a few individual freedoms to protect the many, then so be it.

AdeleJustice 9 years ago

There are maniacs out there who want to kill us. We rely on the security services to help keep us safe. Provided there is democratic scrutiny and the laws passed by parliament are followed, then I want them to do the best job they can. But only last week the head of GCHQ said it's taking them three times as long to decipher jihadist message traffic thanks to the Snowden revelations.

I have no reason to doubt that what he says is true. That means we're all in greater danger thanks to dear Edward.

Jeremyr1 9 years ago