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Not Secret Anymore
Discuss the NSA and Snowden's disclosures

Since June 2013, Laura Poitras has reported extensively on the National Security Agency (NSA) and Edward Snowden's disclosures. Her NSA reporting has been published in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Der Spiegel, The Intercept, and shared in the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Find Laura Poitra’s NSA reporting on her website:

a. With your students, view and discuss this interview, filmed by Laura Poitras, in which Edward Snowden talks to lawyer, journalist, and author Glenn Greenwald about his motives to leak NSA intelligence:

b. By leaking NSA information , Snowden revealed that the United States government was acting illegally according to the Fourth Amendment. In response to the interview question: “Do you view Edward Snowden as a hero? The film [CITIZENFOUR) seems to suggest that you do.” for the Hollywood Blog for The New York Times, Poitras said:

A lot of people have asked me that, and it’s a question I have tried not to answer. It’s a bit reductive, and I’ve tried not to make a reductive film. So I guess what I’d say is that I’m interested not just in him but people taking the risk of whistleblowing and to sacrifice their own personal freedom for something larger. I have no doubt that what he did was motivated by the fact that he profoundly believes that the public has a right to know these things and that the intelligence agencies have grown out of control. Generally, in the type of filmmaking I do, I’m interested in actions rather than descriptions. So I would describe what he did as heroic.

—Laura Poitras

Ask your students to discuss Poitras’s response and use the following resources to research different views of Snowden and his actions. Ask students to consider who gets to decide what is public or private information. Ask them to debate Snowden’s actions and the risks he took. For example, discuss his actions in terms of choice, risk, conscience, heroism, patriotism, loyalty, rights, freedom, sacrifices, secrecy, accountability, responsibility.

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