I thought Citizenfour was quite powerful as a humanizing portrayal of Snowden. I didn’t learn anything new particularly about NSA programs, since I’ve been reading each story I come across, but the film quite effectively transported me into Snowden’s hotel room in Hong Kong and into conversations with Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras and MacAskill. Snowden comes off as a completely responsible, quite sincere, thoughtful young man. He very clearly and explicitly says that he does not want to be the story, and one believes him. Whereas Assange can impress people as narcissistic and Bradley/Chelsea Manning’s sexual confusion was only one of a number of facets which distracted from Cablegate, Snowden sounds like a young Ellsberg – very intelligent and well-spoken.
Poitras’s style was interesting, I thought. The camera a number of times holds for lengthy periods on fairly static shots of architecture, which served to impress the viewer with the monolithic, pervasive nature of the NSA’s networks. There’s a long disorienting shot out the window of a train at night or going through a tunnel, which draws you into the dark network Snowden’s revealing.
The film successfully touches on a number of different aspects of the surveillance state, bringing in the idea that when we talk about “privacy” we’re talking about security, about our constitutional right to freedom from unlawful search and seizure. I think this is a hard sell for too many viewers. I don’t fault the film here. I saw it with a friend who was a few minutes late because she was watching the Giants’ game. In discussing the movie afterwards she questioned just how important some of the issues raised were. Greenwald and others speak passionately about the dangers of the surveillance state, but my date pointed out that she can’t feel much fear that the NSA is going to be breaking down her door because of anything she’s said on the phone or in e-mail. My own experience is that friends and colleagues on the one hand self-censure, and don’t mention politics, drugs, Bittorrent use, etc. in e-mail or social media for fear of the all-knowing eye, or on the other hand seem oblivious to any danger – why worry about Google programmatically reading every single e-mail sent or received, if it means free e-mail and potentially more accurate search results when shopping?
Snowden at one point convincingly says he doesn’t think it is possible for anyone no matter how brilliant and educated to individually fight all the electronic surveillance systems in existence. We’re told of the multitude of methods of surveillance and repeatedly shown NSA officials blatantly lying to Congress about their existence. The lack of accountability for this last has been personally troubling to me – I remember Watergate and Iran-Contra – how is it that the heads of the NSA can with impunity flat out lie to Congress about spying on American citizens? What will viewers come away with when walking out of the theater after Citizenfour? I’m wondering how many will see it as a call to action, and how many as a well-executed depiction of Edward Snowden’s experience, which may not be seen as intersecting our own.
Watched The 5ifth Estate yesterday on disc, and found it to be largely a character assassination of Assange. I enjoyed Daniel Brühl, liked seeing Berlin, and was glad to see a movie depicting the Collateral Murder incident, but overall found the piece largely a study of Assange’s narcissism and Berg’s doe-like altruism. Looking forward to Mediastan and We Steal Secrets.
I just received this invitation and am in something of a quandary: should I stay in San Francisco, or take a job with Booz Allen getting my hands dirty defending our nation with mission focused work in Fort Meade, MD? Decisions, decisions … Just how dirty might my hands get? One wonders.
October 13, 2014 10:06 AM
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Booz Allen Hamilton Recruiting Services Team
Reading through on-line profiles of single women my age I’ve come across several women who list their favorite movie as Forrest Gump. I kid you not, Forrest Gump.
Getting towards the bottom of a margarita and looking forward to Citizen Four.
Casey won the GID’s [General Intelligence Department of Saudi Arabia] personal loyalty to the extent that Saudi intelligence, with permission from King Fahd, agreed to secretly fund Casey’s riskiest anticommunist adventures in Central America.
— Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, (New York: Penguin, 2004), 93.
“Anticommunist adventures.” Boy, that takes me back some thirty years. As it happens I was thinking of Casey’s anticommunist adventures just a couple months ago when consulting a doctor about mild arthritis in my knee. The visit took me back to the 1980s and another doctor’s office, where I’d explained that my knee was so swollen because the SFPD had cracked it with a nightstick. I’d tried to explain to the officers that I had a First Amendment right to be on the sidewalk protesting the solicitation of money for the contras who Americas Watch charged with programmatic rape, torture, and murder of civilians, that the International Court of Justice in The Hague had ruled against Ronald Reagan and the US, making Reagan an international war criminal, and that under the Nuremberg Principles I had not simply a right but a duty to resist my government’s sponsorship of the contras, but the boys in blue had been unimpressed and continued their clubbing. I remember the pain had been so intense I’d have fallen if a colleague hadn’t supported me.
So now I find myself reading about Casey’s collusion with, among other noble anti-communists, Osama bin Laden, and Coll throws off an aside about anticommunist adventures in Central America, while Barack Obama vows to destroy Isis’s “brand of evil”. Bill Casey where are you now?
Started Coll’s Ghost Wars, on the rise of the Taliban and US activities in Afghanistan between the Soviet invasion and 9/11/2001. This morning came across this Guardian editorial on Obama’s rationale for arming ISIS:
I went to forward someone my Facebook link to the SF Gate article on this study this morning and found the SF Gate link is broken. Jesus, the Chronicle is an embarrassing outfit… Anyway, wanted to get the link down for my own records: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/26/social-media-and-the-spiral-of-silence/.
Just finished reading Michael Hastings’s The Operators last night. This morning LinkedIn has an article by McChrystal, The Hunt for al Zarqawi and the Power of “We”, purporting to offer leadership lessons applicable to business. I remember the mid-1970s and people like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Kissinger, going from serving a criminal Nixon into the Ford administration. The International Court of Justice found the contra war in violation of international law and Reagan’s got a Washington airport. Bush Jr.’s in the news for having a bucket not of Iraqi blood but of ice water dumped on him. McChrystal’s on LinkedIn.
Finishing Michael Hastings’ The Operators. Here’s the Rolling Stone article on McChrystal: