Laura Poitras is an American documentary film director and producer. She resided in New York City. She is a 2012 MacArthur Fellow and one of the initial supporters of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. According to Glenn Greenwald, Poitras and Greenwald are the only two people with full archives of the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures leaked by the NSAcontractor Edward Snowden.
Poitras has been subject to monitoring by the US Government. After completing My Country, My Country, Poitras claims, “I’ve been placed on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) watch list” and to have been notified by airport security “that my ‘threat rating’ was the highest the Department of Homeland Security assigns”.
Poitras says her work has been hampered by constant harassment by border agents during more than three dozen border crossings into and out of the United States. She has been detained for hours and interrogated and agents have seized her computer, cell phone and reporters notes and not returned them for weeks. Once she was threatened with being refused entry back into the United States. In response to a Glenn Greenwald article about this, a group of film directors started a petition to protest the government’s actions against her. In April 2012 Poitras was interviewed about surveillance on Democracy Now and called elected leaders’ behavior “shameful.”
praxis film site:
jan 31, 2014 panel:
transmediale 2014 keynote: Art as Evidence
Published on Jan 31, 2014
Art as Evidence. A panel with Trevor Paglen, Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras. Moderated by Tatiana Bazzichelli.
Friday January 30, 2014, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.
Documentary film director Laura Poitras, independent security analyst Jacob Appelbaum and artist and geographer Trevor Paglen reflect on upcoming frontiers of action and awareness for hackers, activists and artists in the present context of geopolitical surveillance and control. This conversation aims to trace a possible path towards investigating the deconstruction of power structures through experiencing them from within, critically reflecting on the role of art and activism today in the context of the post-9/11 politics and society. Crossing various practices and disciplines, from film documentary, computer security, hacking, experimental geography, photography, this talk reveals the role of art as evidence, as a practice of making people regain and reclaim their autonomy, have agency and live consciously in a networked world. Reconnecting with the courageous practice of whistleblowing and ethical resistance, Appelbaum, Paglen and Poitras highlight contradictions between public visibility and individual privacy, information disclosure and data protection in the digital and physical info-sphere.
techniques of feeling – war on terror
how do you translate info you know – into action/experience
implicate the audience in some way
images represent a path not taken – what we didn’t respond to
8 min – contradiction of us body counts.. exact # and names.. to those in iraq.. no names.. no body count
nobody picked it up – it was all print
Poitras and Greenwald expressed their appreciation for the award Sunday night, and said they are weighing their options on the question of return.
“I would love to accept the Polk award in person with Glenn and Ewen, but I’m not sure I feel safe to travel to the U.S.,” Poitras said in an email. “Listening to senior members of the government describe reporters working on the NSA story as ‘accomplices’ concerns me. On the other hand, receiving this award for the NSA reporting might be the perfect moment to confront this kind of intimidation.”
Laura’s citizen four.. on Snowden et al
Poitras says that there is nothing she’d “rather do than be behind the camera with people, in real time, confronting life decisions.”
Snowden wrote to Poitras, “You asked why I chose you. I didn’t. You chose yourself.” He was referring to films of hers that were critical of the war on terror—in particular, a short piece on an N.S.A. whistle-blower named William Binney.
“She’s been kind to me, but there’s something deeper in her,” Scoggin said. “It’s this urgency to tell stories, to be a voice that is crying out, saying, ‘Wait, look at what is happening.’ It’s not yelling, it’s not strident, but it’s done with great conviction and force.”
She was exploring the idea of a movie with no plot, something nonlinear and indeterminate—a “Zeitgeist” film. “Plot is so relentless,” she said. “It’s totally unforgiving, and it also can be simplifying. It can provide resolution where there should be none. It can provide false catharsis.”
I’m interested in how people understand things in present tense, and not how they tell the story back to themselves in the past. That’s why I’m not that interested in interviews. People create these narratives of themselves, and it becomes a kind of locked path. All the uncertainty and danger and risk and decision-making are ripped from the telling.”
oct 2014 – interview on democracynow about citizen four:
oct 2014 – interview by Astra Taylor about citizen four:
So I find when I’m sitting down at my computer to actually write something—say I’ve been asked to write an essay—then I start to write and I realize, Jesus, I’m not sure whether my keystrokes are being documented. It sort of hinders my ability just to be creative, to have that space you need to express yourself. I actually reread 1984 when I was getting Snowden’s e-mails and there’s a moment where the protagonist wants to write in a journal. He’s not sure where he can do it in his room because everything is surveilled, and he ends up in the corner of the room because that is, maybe, the one private space. And then he finds he can’t even write. That echoes in my mind when I’m working on this material. You internalize the sense of being watched. As Foucault describes in his writing about the panopticon, it doesn’t really matter if there’s somebody sitting in the tower, watching you, so long as you think that there could be somebody sitting in the tower.
whoa – Ed – and the need of spaces of permission
Oscar Nominations 2015: Laura Poitras on the Uncertainties Surrounding ‘Citizenfour’ http://t.co/OBYzGjDyzd
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/KirstiItameri/status/555833857128148992
feb 12 2015:
then so sad, he collapses in studio shortly afterward.
feb 2015 –
A highlight from Amy Goodman’s interview with filmmaker Laura Poitras about the making of Citizenfour, which is nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. Watch the entire interview here:http://owl.li/JpCPk
“There are people that allow me to document and who put their lives on the line,” Poitras says. “I hope that the film shows the risk that these people take and that people should stand up for them and that this is information that the public should know. And it’s people who are having to take personal sacrifice to share information that the public should know.”
– – – –
some first tweets upon the win:
‘@Citizenfour’ wins the Oscar for best documentary! Congrats to Laura Poitras and her whole team. Your work has changed the world.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/FreedomofPress/status/569705909452214273
Congratulations to cofounder Laura Poitras on her Best Documentary Oscar for @citizenfour.http://t.co/GXw8FipdUw
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/the_intercept/status/569705927017926656
Amazing!!!!!!!!!!! Wooooooo Laura!
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/jeremyscahill/status/569706692209987584
heaven smiles when a talented woman–journalist/filmmaker Laura Poitras–gets the recognition she deserves #CITIZENFOUR #Oscars2015
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/joseiswriting/status/569707708082995200
Laura Poitras: The disclosures that Snowden revealed expose a threat not only to our privacy but our democracy itself. YES. #Oscars15
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/nikhilgoya_l/status/569708784005844993
Irony w/CitizenFour win is Laura Poitras now has Oscar, she & Glenn Greenwald share a Pulitzer…& Edward Snowden can’t come home. #Oscars
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/orgchaosmedia/status/569708696630140928
Just got an email from the ACLU passing along Edward Snowden’s congratulations to Laura Poitras on CITIZENFOUR’s Oscar win. 100% serious.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/ScottFeinberg/status/569707958226915328
Edward Snowden just won an Oscar, y’all.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/BuzzFeedEnt/status/569706021456711680
citizenfour (1:53:13) via thought maybe site:
in 2006 – placed on watch list after making film about iraq war. next film about guantánamo and war on terror. this is 3rd of trilogy about america post 9-11
exec producers: jeff skoll, …
5 min – william binney
6 min – a few days/week after 9-11 began spying on everyone in this country… telecom data – at&t 320 mill records everyday.. reauthorized every 45 days..stellar wind
8 min – we naively kept thinking that could happen.. bit it didn’t. sot ey started raiding us.
10 min – we are building the greatest structure of oppression. the surveillance we live under is the highest privilege compared to how we treat the rest of the world.
13 min – so long as everyone is surveilled, no one has standing to sue (in court)
15 min – judge ferguson – judicial system to just get out of the way.. is that it..? .. defense that risk of national security
15 min – jacob – (occupy wall street security training) – you guys are actually.. the canaries in the coal mine. key concept: linkability – metro/credit – can track your steps… add cell and get metadata. made up of facts but not necessarily true. perceptions follow you rest of your life .. when resist policy changes and try to protest
21 min – took 8 days to film – day 1 – jun 3 2013
23 min – why – comes down to state power against people’s ability to meaningly oppose that power. i’m designing methods to refine that state power – realizing you can’t oppose that. to oppose that – no one could… as i saw obama be betrayed and actually get worse… particularly drone strikes..
25 min – i remember what the internet was like.. nothing like it. it was free and unrestrained. we’ve seen the chilling of that ie: name ends up on list.. it’s become an expectation that we’re being watched. .. limits boundaries of intellectual exploration. i’m more willing to risk imprisonment that to risk the curtailment of my intellectual freedom and that of those around me. not self-sacrificing because i feel good in helping others
27 min – infrastructure in place.. worldwide that nsa has built in coop w/other govts that intercepts every communication.. i can input selection and it will put future scrutiny and alert in real time as well as past
33 min – using journalists… in order to remove my bias..
34 min – tempora … world’s first full take on everything.. in uk
43 min – it’s not science fiction .. it’s happening right now.. this needs to get out.. we should be having debates..
44 min – the law this was done under – the patriot act – after 9-11. this court order.. is not directed.. it’s every single customer .. verizon
53 min – i’m sure they will launch an investigation into who leaked – not into the crime itself – nsa
58 min – an unusal feeling.. hard to convey in words.. but not knowing what’s going to happen – scary but liberating. makes planning easier because not so many variables. you can only act and then act again
1:00 – i’ll come out.. because this isn’t about me. it’s about everybody. i’ not afraid of you. like the internet version of the hydra – you can’t stomp one person but there’s going to be 7 more of us.
1:03 – on coming out – i’m not afraid ness matters..
1:04 – on inverting the model of skulking around – the fearless ness – you don’t have to investigate.. there’s nothing to investigate.. here i am
1:06 – taping disclosure interview
1:22 – collecting cia prism.. through facebook, skype, et al.
1:24 – publishing tempora (nsa love that program) uk lets quiry all day long. undersea cables intercept site for tempora, bude uk
1:25 – u.s. govt charges snowden with 3 felonies, 2 under espionage act, and asks hong kong to extradite him. wikileaks organizes his departure from hong kong to seek political asylum. julian – wikileaks getting ed out of hong kong.. sarah harrison accompanying him from moscow to ecuador or venezuela or iceland… where he would be safe.
1:27 – glen reporting in brazil – u.s. justification for everything since 9-11 is terrorism… everything in name of national security. actually it’s the opposite.. little of documentation is about security/terrorism.. but with competition between countries, and with companies’ industrial, financial, or economic issues… x keystore .. just taking metadata.. .. but if i know who your communicating with and who they are communicating with and when and where and for how long.. that’s telling of your personality.. major invasion of privacy… and defense of it is totally false… getting metadata and content. ability to organize weakened w/o privacy
1:30 – international group of lawyers (for snowden pro bono meet up) espionage act ….only used for spies not whisteblowers. .. govt doesn’t have to defend the classification or demo harm from release… when we say trial wouldn’t be fair.. the law/statute itself eliminates any defense might be able to make. any defense he would make would equate him with a spy.. i think we’d all agree this represents how it’s probably 95% politics and 5% law is how this will be resolved.
1:32 – fbi gets authorization.. for all appropriate means including govt pressure.. for finding snowden.. and for blocking reporting
1:33 – white house spokesman – snowden has been charged with very serious crimes.. and he should be returned to u.s. where he will be granted full due process and every right available to him under our justice system as citizen under constitution
after 40 days spent in transit zone of moscow airport.. snowden receives political asylum in russia for one year
1:34 – obama: no – i don’t think mr snowden was a patriot. … i called for thorough review before mr snowden made these leaks. my preference and i think the american people’s preference would have been for a lawful orderly examination of these laws, a thoughtful fact based debate.. that would then lead us to a better place.
1:35 – explanation from uk govt – for detaining david
1:26 – brussels, belgium, sept 2013 – european parliament begins hearings.. to investigate nsa on eu citizens and companies. jacob there.
on lava bit – (founder – email service) – because i couldn’t give up info on that user.. i would be forced to give up ssl keys and let fbi at it.. only ethical choice was to shut down. think about that. …it’s supposed to be too difficult to invade someone’s privacy. what good is right to free speech if it’s not protected.
jacob: what we used to call liberty and freedom we now call privacy. and we say that privacy is dead. when we lose privacy we lose agency we lose liberty itself… what is surveillance except control.
1:39 – der speigel, berlin – chancellor merkel’s phone intercepted. codename for assets not targets.
nsa surveillance base in germany. .. mar 2014 germany begins parliamentary inquiry to investigate nsa spying. asked to testify – binney: all these programs.. ways to acquire info. every dictatorship throughout history has done this .. one of first things need to do is to acquire knowledge of their population. that’s exactly what these programs do. i see this as the most major threat to democracies all around the world.
1:42 – binney’s testimony is interrupted when news breaks that the cia has a double agent spying on the german nsa inquiry
1:43 – jeremy asking about journalists that work directly with snowden docs.. binney: you’re on the cast iron cover list.. use data to find your sources..and if they find them… (j: so if there was a whistleblower – someone w/in govt that leaked to me.. and worried about violations of constitution..) .. and if he starting passing data – they’d take them off the street.
1:45 – if our methods work.. perhaps will embolden more to come forward
1:48 – 1.2 mill people on various stages of watch list
this could raise profile of this whole political situation of whistleblowing to a whole new level..
july 2015 – suing govt to find out why border stops
She said she hopes to draw attention to how other people, who aren’t as well known, “are also subjected to years of Kafkaesque harassment at the borders.”
Exciting: Laura Poitras & team just unveiled their new @the_intercept visual journalism project. Coming soon!: http://t.co/KOM1fRaOsZ
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/jeremyscahill/status/641695736162353152
At the New York Film Festival in late September, she previewed her next film project, Asylum, which has been edited into thirteen short episodes and chronicles the plight of controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whom Poitras has been filming off and on since 2011.
Despite the hubbub and occasional glitz of the last year, Poitras remains solidly devoted to documentary filmmaking. “It’s a way to express who people are and also bigger things—what situation they are in—and that’s really powerful,” she says. “I love it. Like, I really, really love it.” She seems wistful, recalling how working onFlag Wars initially seized hold of her. “It was a surprise. I’d just assumed that as an artist or a creative person, I would always work in a solitary way.”
Francesco Carollo (@Innovandiamo) tweeted at 6:19 AM on Sun, Jul 02, 2017:
Laura Poitras on her WikiLeaks film Risk: ‘I knew Julian Assange was going to be furious’ https://t.co/BKIhzZwPQ3