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Citizenfour: A must see for U.S. activists

By Conor Munro |
April 21, 2015
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Fort Lauderdale, FL - 20 anti-war activists gathered here, April 19, to watch and discuss Citizenfour, the critically acclaimed documentary. The movie tells the story of courageous National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden. In 2013, Snowden went into hiding and then revealed the shocking extent to which the U.S. government spies on people. Snowden also revealed the U.S. government is using illegal spying methods for the purpose of political repression.

Most of the documentary takes place in a Hong Kong hotel room, where Snowden spent eight days meeting with progressive journalist Glenn Greenwald. Together they plan both Snowden’s escape and how to publish the top-secret information collected while working at the NSA.

The journalists struggle to hide their surprise and horror as Snowden unloads revelation after revelation. One key point is that the government conspires with all the major telephone and Internet corporations to collect every phone call, text message and email in the U.S. Another is that U.S. intelligence agencies have an almost unlimited ability to hack into any personal electronic device and take whatever information is on it.

Perhaps the most chilling part of the film came when Snowden talked about the NSA/CIA program of drone surveillance abroad. Snowden described sitting at his computer in Hawaii and being able to scroll through a list of hundreds of live-streaming videos from U.S. drones around the world. By selecting one of them he could see live video from a drone spying on a man and his children for hours and hours, waiting for the right moment to send a rocket to kill him. The U.S. government targets people for drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, killing hundreds of civilians as well.

After the movie, Bruce Wayne Stanley of Occupy Miami gave a talked about the need for activists to develop better security practices. Given the recent increase in political repression – as in the cases of Rasmea Odeh and the Anti-War 23 – Stanley explained that is important that activists protect themselves and others, suggesting that some political conversations remain confidential.

Fortunately there are simple steps that activists can take to protect themselves from government spying and electronic eavesdropping. Stanley observed, “Security is no longer a problem of technology. We have the tools keep our communications confidential. What we have is a problem of culture.” Those in attendance resolved to build a culture of security so that we can better fight back against injustice and oppression.

People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism (POWIR) organized the event.