Edward Snowden

Snowden documentary wins Oscar

Life
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

23 February 2015

Citizenfour, a documentary on whistleblower Edward Snowden won the Oscar for the best documentary feature at the 87th Academy Awards were held last night.

Snowden, a former contractor of the US National Security Agency, shook up the security establishment starting in June 2013, when he disclosed through newspapers that the agency was collecting in bulk phone data of Verizon’s US customers, the first of many revelations by him.

Subsequent disclosures also alleged that the US had real-time access to content on the servers of Internet companies, which the tech firms denied, and also spied on top world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Last week, The Intercept cited documents from Snowden to allege that US and British spies had hacked into the network of SIM card maker Gemalto to steal encryption keys used to protect the privacy of mobile phone communications.

Snowden went into hiding to avoid extradition and arrest, and is currently in Russia where he has obtained asylum. Citizenfour, titled after the pseudonym used by Snowden to contact director Laura Poitras, is the story of Snowden’s disclosures from her eyes and that of journalist Glenn Greenwald.

In the wake of the outcry following Snowden’s revelations, US President Barack Obama called for changes to NSA surveillance in January last year, with new privacy advocates assigned to a surveillance court and a move away from the bulk collection of telephone records.

But the changes have been slow, including because of delays by Congress to pass the necessary legislation. The USA Freedom Act, which would leave the data with telecommunications companies and restrict the search terms used by the NSA, was stalled last year in the Senate, despite White House backing for the legislation.

In a message released through the American Civil Liberties Union, Snowden said his hope “is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

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