Why Edward Snowden chose a documentary filmmaker and a British journalist to leak classified information about the NSA’s surveillance programs — and how he communicated with them — is an angle little covered in the saga of the epic whistleblowing thus far.
But this is exactly what Peter Maass for the New York Times Magazine delves into in his feature about how filmmaker Laura Poitras “helped Snowden spill his secrets.” Although there’s a whole profile as to how Snowden, Poritras and The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald interacted, Maass also has a revealing Q&A with Snowden as well.
In the Q&A session, which was facilitated through Poitras via an encrypted service, Maass asked why Poitras and Greenwald?
Snowden wrote that although “many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power” of the government after 9/11, these two “reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period.”
Snowden wrote that in continuing to do so, Poitras herself was “targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures,” which revealed surveillance programs lead by the NSA collecting communications data domestically. Maass’ full profile details how Poitras was put on a travel watch list, which resulted in countless airport interrogations, after documenting the war in Iraq. It’s for these reasons and assuming that her communications weren’t secure that Poitras began using an encrypted communication service in 2011.
After deciding who to reach out to with the secrets, Snowden made contact. He reached out first to Greenwald, who initially ignored his requests for encrypted communication to share sensitive information. So Snowden turned to Poitras.
Poitras recalls being contacted by an anonymous individual wanting to communicate with her via an encrypted network and even going through the process of making sure it was even more secure, according to Maass’ article.
When Poitras finally decrypted an email from the man we now know as Snowden, she told Maass she thought “my life just changed.” But she was skeptical of him too.
“I said either you have this information and you are taking huge risks or you are trying to entrap me and the people I know, or you’re crazy,” Poitras said of her exchange with Snowden after reading his claims.
It’s this skepticism that gained Snowden’s trust.
“We came to a point in the verification and vetting process where I discovered Laura was more suspicious of me than I was of her, and I’m famously paranoid,” Snowden told Maass through the facilitated Q&A.
Eventually, these communications would lead to a meeting in Hong Kong between Snowden, Poitras and Greenwald, and the rest is history. Since The Guardian first published information leaked to it about the programs in June, it has steadily continued to release more documents revealing details about the surveillance programs.
Be sure to read Peter Maass’ full profile in the New York Times Magazine.
(H/T: The Hill)