Peter Maas of The New York Times has publisheda long article detailing how documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras helped Edward Snowden leak thousands of classified documents detailing the National Security Agency’s global surveillance apparatus.
What it makes clear is that Poitras’ experience protecting her information enabled Snowden to begin providing documents, and her skills as a filmmaker facilitated him identifying himself.
Basically, Poitras had a much larger role in Snowden’s leaks than previously known. Here’s what we learned:
- “I keep calling [Poitras] the Keyser Soze of the story, because she’s at once completely invisible and yet ubiquitous,” Greenwald, referring to the character in “The Usual Suspects” played by Kevin Spacey, a mastermind masquerading as a nobody, told Maas.
- When Greenwald began conversing with Snowden in April after he had met with Poitras in New York and installed encryption software on his computer. (Poitras began speaking with Snowden in January, and he got a job as a NSA contractor for Booz Allen in March.)
- At that point, Maas writes, their work “was organised like an intelligence operation, with Poitras as the mastermind.”
- Greenwald said of Poitras: “None of this would have happened with anything near the efficacy and impact it did, had she not been working with me in every sense and really taking the lead in coordinating most of it.”
- Poitras wouldn’t say when Snowden began sending her documents, but she initially received many more than Greenwald (who received about 20).
- In May “Snowden sent encrypted messages telling the two of them to go to Hong Kong” and told them that he wanted to go public with his identity.
- Glenn Greenwald discovered the top secret order compelling Verizon to hand over all of its call data to the government during the flight to Hong Kong.
- Poitras and Greenwald didn’t speak with Snowden between parting ways after he outed himself on June 9 in Hong Kong and early July. He had traveled to Moscow on June 23.
So it’s now clear that the Snowden saga wouldn’t have played out as it has without Poitras.
The article also indirectly touches on a primary mystery: What happened to Snowden between the time he outed himself and when he got on a plane to Moscow two weeks later?
On June 23, with the help of an Ecuadorian travel document obtained through WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Snowden landed in the jurisdiction of Russia’s intelligence services (i.e. FSB). He has since been granted temporary asylum and began establishing his life in Russia.
During this time he has been speaking with Poitras and Greenwald — he answered questions from Maas over encrypted chat — but otherwise he has been lying low while his FSB-linked Russian lawyer has been speaking for him.
Consequently, the significance of Snowden’s arrival in Russia is still unknown.
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