A critical flaw in the Oscar award-winning documentary featuring Edward Snowden has been further exposed by one of the film’s central characters.
“Citizenfour” includes extensive footage of filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald meeting with the former NSA contractor in Hong Kong.
The film sets the stage for Snowden’s collaboration with Poitras by telling the story of NSA whistleblower William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the US intelligence community and one of the most respected code breakers in NSA history.
Binney tells Poitras how he built a program called “Stellarwind” that served as a pervasive domestic spying apparatus after the 9/11 attacks. The mathematician is shown praising Snowden’s actions throughout the film.
But the film lacks the context that Binney doesn’t agree with all of Snowden actions.
“Among the leaked documents are details of foreign-intelligence gathering that do not fall under the heading of unlawful threats to American democracy — what Snowden described as his only concern,” George Packer of The New Yorker, who spent time with Poitras and co. in Germany, wrote in his detailed review of the film. “Binney, generally a fervent Snowden supporter, told USA Today that Snowden’s references to ‘hacking into China’ went too far: ‘So he is transitioning from whistle-blower to a traitor.”
Binney recently discussed his ‘traitor’ comments with Business Insider.
He reiterated that he believed Snowden did not act in the public’s interest when he revealed “operational details of specific attacks on computers, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely” to Lana Lam of the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
“As I have said in the past, revealing specific targets or successes of US intelligence activities is not in the public interest,” Binney told Business Insider over email after discussing the topic at a private luncheon.
He then confirmed that he stands by what he said to USA Today after the SCMP leaks: “You have fairly quoted me on USA Today.”
Greenwald, for his part, agrees with Binney. He told the Daily Beast in June 2013 that he would not have “disclosed the specific IP addresses in China and Hong Kong the NSA is hacking.”
The comments by Binney are an issue for “Citizenfour” and its supporters: An NSA legend-turned-whistleblower asserts that Snowden clearly crossed a line when he began leaking information on legitimate NSA activities.
One of Snowden’s legal advisors weighed in on Business Insider’s interview, apparently without realising that Binney confirmed that he was quoted accurately.
Snowden allegedly stole up to 1.77 million NSA document while working at two consecutive jobs for US government contractors in Hawaii from March 2012 to May 2013.
The 31-year-old gave an estimated 200,000 documents to Poitras and Greenwald in early June 2013.
The whereabouts of the rest of the documents, besides the ones he showed to SCMP, are unknown.