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.
Laura Poitras pictured in 2012. Poitras' role as the first point-person for disclosures about U.S. surveillance programs has drawn attention to the independent filmmaker who, abruptly, has pushed documentaries deeper into the realm of journalistic immediacy. (Photo: AP/Sean Gallup)
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."
This handout file photo taken on Friday, July 12, 2013, and made available by Human Rights Watch shows NSA leaker Edward Snowden during his meeting with Russian activists and officials at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow, Russia . Russian state news agency says Snowden has been granted a document that allows him to leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport and enter Russia. Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Rusia last week after his attempts to leave the airport were thwarted. The United States wants him sent home to face prosecution for espionage. (Photo: AP/Tatyana Lokshina, Human Rights Watch , file)
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.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 14, 2013. Greenwald, The Guardian journalist who first reported Edward Snowden's disclosures of U.S. surveillance programs says the former National Security Agency analyst has "very specific blueprints of how the NSA do what they do." (Photo: AP/Silvia Izquierdo)
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.
Demonstrators hold placards featuring an image of former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden as they take part in a protest against the US National Security Agency (NSA) collecting German emails, online chats and phone calls and sharing some of it with the country's intelligence services in Berlin on July 27, 2013. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images/JOHN MACDOUGALL)
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)