Tom Englehardt Interviews Laura Poitras on Snowden and the Total Information Capture Approach to Surveillance

Yves here. This interview with Laura Poitras is a reminder of how the world has, and more important, hasn’t changed since the explosive revelations made by Edward Snowden less than a year and a half ago. Even though his disclosures produced a great uproar, with demands in the US, UK, and Europe for explanations and more information about the nature and range of spying programs, actual changes have been few indeed. Fittingly, the biggest consequence may be economic, as foreign countries and companies have become leery of US dominated cloud computing, and are also correctly fearful that NSA trapdoors are embedded in hardware made by American tech vendors. But the knowledge of the range of surveillance activities is almost paralyzing. It remains hard for non-technical mere mortals to do much to limit the most intrusive forms of snooping (IMHO, the worst is geolocation, followed closely by how much law enforcement officials can glean if they get access to your smartphone).

Even worse, laying bare information to the surveillance apparatus is increasingly becoming tied to employment. Employers demand access to Facebook accounts of young hires. Those who say they don’t use Facebook are deemed to be social deviants and are scratched off the list of possible hires. I’m told that older candidates are similarly judged by how many links and references they have on LinkedIn. Ugh. Lambert discusses in a related post tonight how LinkedIn plans to make itself an even better employment Stasi.

By Tom Engelhardt, a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute’s His new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books), has just been published. Originally posted at TomDispatch

Here’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! stat from our new age of national security. How many Americans have security clearances? The answer: 5.1 million, a figure that reflects the explosive growth of the national security state in the post-9/11 era. Imagine the kind of system needed just to vet that many people for access to our secret world (to the tune of billions of dollars). We’re talking here about the total population of Norway and significantly more people than you can find in Costa Rica, Ireland, or New Zealand. And yet it’s only about 1.6% of the American population, while on ever more matters, the unvetted 98.4% of us are meant to be left in the dark.

For our own safety, of course. That goes without saying.

All of this offers a new definition of democracy in which we, the people, are to know only what the national security state cares to tell us.  Under this system, ignorance is the necessary, legally enforced prerequisite for feeling protected.  In this sense, it is telling that the only crime for which those inside the national security state can be held accountable in post-9/11 Washington is not potential perjury before Congress, or the destruction of evidence of a crime, or torture, or kidnapping, or assassination, or the deaths of prisoners in an extralegal prison system, but whistleblowing; that is, telling the American people something about what their government is actually doing.  And that crime, and only that crime, has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law (and beyond) with a vigor unmatched in American history.  To offer a single example, the only American to go to jail for the CIA’s Bush-era torture program was John Kiriakou, a CIA whistleblower who revealed the name of an agent involved in the program to a reporter.

In these years, as power drained from Congress, an increasingly imperial White House has launched various wars (redefined by its lawyers as anything but), as well as a global assassination campaign in which the White House has its own “kill list” and the president himself decides on global hits.  Then, without regard for national sovereignty or the fact that someone is an American citizen (and upon the secret invocation of legal mumbo-jumbo), the drones are sent off to do the necessary killing.

And yet that doesn’t mean that we, the people, know nothing.  Against increasing odds, there has been some fine reporting in the mainstream media by the likes of James Risen and Barton Gellman on the security state’s post-legal activities and above all, despite the Obama administration’s regular use of the World War I era Espionage Act, whistleblowers have stepped forward from within the government to offer us sometimes staggering amounts of information about the system that has been set up in our name but without our knowledge.

Among them, one young man, whose name is now known worldwide, stands out.  In June of last year, thanks to journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, Edward Snowden, a contractor for the NSA and previously the CIA, stepped into our lives from a hotel room in Hong Kong.  With a treasure trove of documents that are still being released, he changed the way just about all of us view our world.  He has been charged under the Espionage Act.  If indeed he was a “spy,” then the spying he did was for us, for the American people and for the world.  What he revealed to a stunned planet was a global surveillance state whose reach and ambitions were unique, a system based on a single premise: that privacy was no more and that no one was, in theory (and to a remarkable extent in practice), unsurveillable.

Its builders imagined only one exemption: themselves.  This was undoubtedly at least part of the reason why, when Snowden let us peek in on them, they reacted with such over-the-top venom.  Whatever they felt at a policy level, it’s clear that they also felt violated, something that, as far as we can tell, left them with no empathy whatsoever for the rest of us.  One thing that Snowden proved, however, was that the system they built was ready-made for blowback.

Sixteen months after his NSA documents began to be released by the Guardian and the Washington Post, I think it may be possible to speak of the Snowden Era.  And now, a remarkable new film, Citizenfour, which had its premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 10th and will open in select theaters nationwide on October 24th, offers us a window into just how it all happened.  It is already being mentioned as a possible Oscar winner.

Director Laura Poitras, like reporter Glenn Greenwald, is now known almost as widely as Snowden himself, for helping facilitate his entry into the world.  Her new film, the last in a trilogy she’s completed (the previous two being My Country, My Country on the Iraq War and The Oath on Guantanamo), takes you back to June 2013 and locks you in that Hong Kong hotel room with Snowden, Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian, and Poitras herself for eight days that changed the world.  It’s a riveting, surprisingly unclaustrophic, and unforgettable experience.

Before that moment, we were quite literally in the dark.  After it, we have a better sense, at least, of the nature of the darkness that envelops us. Having seen her film in a packed house at the New York Film Festival, I sat down with Poitras in a tiny conference room at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City to discuss just how our world has changed and her part in it.

Tom Engelhardt: Could you start by laying out briefly what you think we’ve learned from Edward Snowden about how our world really works?

Laura Poitras: The most striking thing Snowden has revealed is the depth of what the NSA and the Five Eyes countries [Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the U.S.] are doing, their hunger for all data, for total bulk dragnet surveillance where they try to collect all communications and do it all sorts of different ways. Their ethos is “collect it all.” I worked on a story with Jim Risen of the New York Times about a document — a four-year plan for signals intelligence — in which they describe the era as being “the golden age of signals intelligence.”  For them, that’s what the Internet is: the basis for a golden age to spy on everyone.

This focus on bulk, dragnet, suspicionless surveillance of the planet is certainly what’s most staggering.  There were many programs that did that.  In addition, you have both the NSA and the GCHQ [British intelligence] doing things like targeting engineers at telecoms.  There was an article published at The Intercept that cited an NSA document Snowden provided, part of which was titled “I Hunt Sysadmins” [systems administrators].  They try to find the custodians of information, the people who are the gateway to customer data, and target them.  So there’s this passive collection of everything, and then things that they can’t get that way, they go after in other ways.

I think one of the most shocking things is how little our elected officials knew about what the NSA was doing.  Congress is learning from the reporting and that’s staggering.  Snowden and [former NSA employee] William Binney, who’s also in the film as a whistleblower from a different generation, are technical people who understand the dangers.  We laypeople may have some understanding of these technologies, but they really grasp the dangers of how they can be used.  One of the most frightening things, I think, is the capacity for retroactive searching, so you can go back in time and trace who someone is in contact with and where they’ve been.  Certainly, when it comes to my profession as a journalist, that allows the government to trace what you’re reporting, who you’re talking to, and where you’ve been.  So no matter whether or not I have a commitment to protect my sources, the government may still have information that might allow them to identify whom I’m talking to.

TE: To ask the same question another way, what would the world be like without Edward Snowden?  After all, it seems to me that, in some sense, we are now in the Snowden era.

LP: I agree that Snowden has presented us with choices on how we want to move forward into the future.  We’re at a crossroads and we still don’t quite know which path we’re going to take.  Without Snowden, just about everyone would still be in the dark about the amount of information the government is collecting. I think that Snowden has changed consciousness about the dangers of surveillance.  We see lawyers who take their phones out of meetings now.  People are starting to understand that the devices we carry with us reveal our location, who we’re talking to, and all kinds of other information.  So you have a genuine shift of consciousness post the Snowden revelations.

TE: There’s clearly been no evidence of a shift in governmental consciousness, though.

LP: Those who are experts in the fields of surveillance, privacy, and technology say that there need to be two tracks: a policy track and a technology track.  The technology track is encryption.  It works and if you want privacy, then you should use it.  We’ve already seen shifts happening in some of the big companies — Google, Apple — that now understand how vulnerable their customer data is, and that if it’s vulnerable, then their business is, too, and so you see a beefing up of encryption technologies.  At the same time, no programs have been dismantled at the governmental level, despite international pressure.

TE: In Citizenfour, we spend what must be an hour essentially locked in a room in a Hong Kong hotel with Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Ewan MacAskill, and you, and it’s riveting.  Snowden is almost preternaturally prepossessing and self-possessed.  I think of a novelist whose dream character just walks into his or her head.  It must have been like that with you and Snowden.  But what if he’d been a graying guy with the same documents and far less intelligent things to say about them?  In other words, how exactly did who he was make your movie and remake our world?

LP: Those are two questions.  One is: What was my initial experience?  The other: How do I think it impacted the movie?  We’ve been editing it and showing it to small groups, and I had no doubt that he’s articulate and genuine on screen.  But to see him in a full room [at the New York Film Festival premiere on the night of October 10th], I’m like, wow!  He really commands the screen! And I experienced the film in a new way with a packed house.

TE: But how did you experience him the first time yourself?  I mean you didn’t know who you were going to meet, right?

LP: So I was in correspondence with an anonymous source for about five months and in the process of developing a dialogue you build ideas, of course, about who that person might be.  My idea was that he was in his late forties, early fifties.  I figured he must be Internet generation because he was super tech-savvy, but I thought that, given the level of access and information he was able to discuss, he had to be older.  And so my first experience was that I had to do a reboot of my expectations.  Like fantastic, great, he’s young and charismatic and I was like wow, this is so disorienting, I have to reboot.  In retrospect, I can see that it’s really powerful that somebody so smart, so young, and with so much to lose risked so much.

He was so at peace with the choice he had made and knowing that the consequences could mean the end of his life and that this was still the right decision.  He believed in it, and whatever the consequences, he was willing to accept them.  To meet somebody who has made those kinds of decisions is extraordinary.  And to be able to document that and also how Glenn [Greenwald] stepped in and pushed for this reporting to happen in an aggressive way changed the narrative. Because Glenn and I come at it from an outsider’s perspective, the narrative unfolded in a way that nobody quite knew how to respond to.  That’s why I think the government was initially on its heels.  You know, it’s not everyday that a whistleblower is actually willing to be identified.

TE: My guess is that Snowden has given us the feeling that we now grasp the nature of the global surveillance state that is watching us, but I always think to myself, well, he was just one guy coming out of one of 17 interlocked intelligence outfits. Given the remarkable way your film ends — the punch line, you might say — with another source or sources coming forward from somewhere inside that world to reveal, among other things, information about the enormous watchlist that you yourself are on, I’m curious: What do you think is still to be known?  I suspect that if whistleblowers were to emerge from the top five or six agencies, the CIA, the DIA, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and so on, with similar documentation to Snowden’s, we would simply be staggered by the system that’s been created in our name.

LP: I can’t speculate on what we don’t know, but I think you’re right in terms of the scale and scope of things and the need for that information to be made public. I mean, just consider the CIA and its effort to suppress the Senate’s review of its torture program. Take in the fact that we live in a country that a) legalized torture and b) where no one was ever held to account for it, and now the government’s internal look at what happened is being suppressed by the CIA.  That’s a frightening landscape to be in.

In terms of sources coming forward, I really reject this idea of talking about one, two, three sources.  There are many sources that have informed the reporting we’ve done and I think that Americans owe them a debt of gratitude for taking the risk they do.  From a personal perspective, because I’m on a watchlist and went through years of trying to find out why, of having the government refuse to confirm or deny the very existence of such a list, it’s so meaningful to have its existence brought into the open so that the public knows there is a watchlist, and so that the courts can now address the legality of it.  I mean, the person who revealed this has done a huge public service and I’m personally thankful.

TE: You’re referring to the unknown leaker who’s mentioned visually and elliptically at the end of your movie and who revealed that the major watchlist your on has more than 1.2 million names on it.  In that context, what’s it like to travel as Laura Poitras today?  How do you embody the new national security state?

LP: In 2012, I was ready to edit and I chose to leave the U.S. because I didn’t feel I could protect my source footage when I crossed the U.S. border.  The decision was based on six years of being stopped and questioned every time I returned to the United States.  And I just did the math and realized that the risks were too high to edit in the U.S., so I started working in Berlin in 2012.  And then, in January 2013, I got the first email from Snowden.

TE: So you were protecting…

LP: …other footage.  I had been filming with NSA whistleblower William Binney, with Julian Assange, with Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project, people who have also been targeted by the U.S., and I felt that this material I had was not safe.  I was put on a watchlist in 2006.  I was detained and questioned at the border returning to the U.S. probably around 40 times.  If I counted domestic stops and every time I was stopped at European transit points, you’re probably getting closer to 80 to 100 times. It became a regular thing, being asked where I’d been and who I’d met with. I found myself caught up in a system you can’t ever seem to get out of, this Kafkaesque watchlist that the U.S. doesn’t even acknowledge.

TE: Were you stopped this time coming in?

LP: I was not. The detentions stopped in 2012 after a pretty extraordinary incident.

I was coming back in through Newark Airport and I was stopped.  I took out my notebook because I always take notes on what time I’m stopped and who the agents are and stuff like that.  This time, they threatened to handcuff me for taking notes.  They said, “Put the pen down!” They claimed my pen could be a weapon and hurt someone. 

“Put the pen down! The pen is dangerous!” And I’m like, you’re not… you’ve got to be crazy. Several people yelled at me every time I moved my pen down to take notes as if it were a knife. After that, I decided this has gotten crazy, I’d better do something and I called Glenn. He wrote a piece about my experiences. In response to his article, they actually backed off.

TE:  Snowden has told us a lot about the global surveillance structure that’s been built.  We know a lot less about what they are doing with all this information.  I’m struck at how poorly they’ve been able to use such information in, for example, their war on terror.  I mean, they always seem to be a step behind in the Middle East — not just behind events but behind what I think someone using purely open source information could tell them.  This I find startling.  What sense do you have of what they’re doing with the reams, the yottabytes, of data they’re pulling in?

LP: Snowden and many other people, including Bill Binney, have said that this mentality — of trying to suck up everything they can — has left them drowning in information and so they miss what would be considered more obvious leads.  In the end, the system they’ve created doesn’t lead to what they describe as their goal, which is security, because they have too much information to process.

I don’t quite know how to fully understand it.  I think about this a lot because I made a film about the Iraq War and one about Guantanamo.  From my perspective, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. took a small, very radical group of terrorists and engaged in activities that have created two generations of anti-American sentiment motivated by things like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.  Instead of figuring out a way to respond to a small group of people, we’ve created generations of people who are really angry and hate us.  And then I think, if the goal is security, how do these two things align, because there are more people who hate the United States right now, more people intent on doing us harm?  So either the goal that they proclaim is not the goal or they’re just unable to come to terms with the fact that we’ve made huge mistakes in how we’ve responded.

TE: I’m struck by the fact that failure has, in its own way, been a launching pad for success.  I mean, the building of an unparallelled intelligence apparatus and the greatest explosion of intelligence gathering in history came out of the 9/11 failure.  Nobody was held accountable, nobody was punished, nobody was demoted or anything, and every similar failure, including the one on the White House lawn recently, simply leads to the bolstering of the system.

LP: So how do you understand that?

TE: I don’t think that these are people who are thinking: we need to fail to succeed. I’m not conspiratorial in that way, but I do think that, strangely, failure has built the system and I find that odd. More than that I don’t know.

LP: I don’t disagree. The fact that the CIA knew that two of the 9/11 hijackers were entering the United States and didn’t notify the FBI and that nobody lost their job is shocking.  Instead, we occupied Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.  I mean, how did those choices get made?

Laura Poitras is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, and artist.  She has just finished Citizenfour, the third in a trilogy of films about post-9/11 America that includes My Country, My Country, nominated for an Academy Award, and The Oath, which received two Emmy nominations. In June 2013, she traveled to Hong Kong with Glenn Greenwald to interview Edward Snowden and made history. She has reported on Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA for a variety of news outlets, including the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the New York Times. Her NSA reporting received a George Polk award for National Security Reporting and the Henri Nannen Prize for Services to Press Freedom.  

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  1. jgordon

    Another thing I saw came to pass: the Snowden revelations came out and nothing changed. Not that I’m happy about it, but it is one of those signs that the collapse of the empire is not only close at hand, but also sorely needed. A people who have abandoned dignity and self-respect for bread, circuses and “security” will be treated with contempt and tossed in the trash whenever it suits the powers that be. At least with a collapse the powers that be will be going down with everyone else.

    1. Tom Allen

      The Snowden revelations didn’t “come out”. They were and are being released one at a time by Greenwald, Poitras, and crew, who make much of the fact that they’re being more cautious than Chelsea Manning, who remains in prison. In the meantime Greenwald et al. are making loads of money, selling books, starring in films, and were purchased by an internet billionaire to front his boutique web project. Who knew “adversarial journalism” could be so lucrative?

      According to Greenwald, nearly 98-99% of the material Snowden leaked to him hasn’t been released to the public yet. Maybe after he, Poitras, Scahill and Omidyar have squeezed every ounce of fame and profit out the trove of documents, they’ll deign to let the rest of us in on them? Or be asked to defend the way they’ve handled the release — which, as is pointed out here, has mostly resulted in (as some of us predicted at the time) merely normalizing surveillance.

      1. bruno marr

        What rock have you been under? Snowden made it clear to Greenwald that he wanted the information in his NSA cache to be vetted. Since much of the NSA info is in “geek speech” it has taken awhile for it to be deciphered and reported on. You would prefer a large “data dump”? Because you have the time and expertise to comprehend it all in one sitting? Large crania there, pal.

        Actually, the slow release method of NSA bulk spying revelations is most effective. It keeps the spooks on edge and gives the public time to digest the info.

      2. Xelcho

        I agree with you Tom. Perhaps you have not visited Tarzie’s site that addresses that issue in spades, check it out at I do note that those that replied to your comments chose not to take issue with your comments but apply new “issues”.

        The vetting: Wikileaks uses large teams to vet data as quickly as possible so as to get it out to the public as quickly as possible. The opposite has happened here. Wikileaks makes it clear that it is not a typical western media monster hell-bent on control and/or manipulation. The whole GG thing reeks of self-interest. Hell even his explanations on what he is doing are dismantled by his very arguments against others.

        If one has followed his various posts, they would be aware that he has promised some massive scoop or release a couple of months ago… But it never happened, nor has any reasonable excuse for the delay be offered.

        To rely on a small cabal of people to make decisions on what should and should not be released and when is exactly what we are bitching about with the US govnt. Why would we trust one group over another?

        Change: What is there not to get, why should they change, as I see it only congress is a threat to them. Has congress stripped the president of most of his powers? Has congress done anything to indicate that they have the stomach or organization to do anything to alter this? Until the bewildered herd, Walter Lippmann’s words, decides that the conditions are so bad that all of congress is voted out, good luck with any hope of change, the payola system is great for them. They will continue to gerrymander and disenfranchise the lower half, or 2/3s of us. Did any of you contemplate that all of this payment is “good” for the economy and oh so effective in buying votes and filling campaign coffers and such?

  2. John B.

    Thanks for a very interesting interview. I agree with jgordon that it is somehow surprising that nothing has changed that much – at least in terms of public response to released files. Similar things happened before – one of the best examples was Daniel Ellsberg and Pentagon Papers that he gave to the American press. And guess what – nothing happened. Some heads felt off and it was all. So I would be careful about making some future predictions about the current empire.

    1. tawal

      See this why we have to go on offense. We have to name names and show where these effers live. Google map them. They’re criminals and have to be brought to account. The other day Ian wrote a post on his blog about serial water table polluters in Central Valley, CA. Two of these polluters are Redbank Oil Co. and R&R Resources, LLC. R&R is located in Camarillo, CA. Who are the principals of these polluters and what are there addresses?

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      You are right about the longevity of the Empire. It will indeed topple by it’s own weight, but short of external calamity, that will be a long and painful process.

      But your implication that the Pentagon Papers and the Snowden revelations have had the same result; nothing, is incorrect. True, little officially was done, but the Pentagon Papers changed the way a generation of people viewed Vietnam in particular and their government in general. People are still scratching their heads and writing scholarly papers as to why the Snowden revelations, among many others prior to them, not to mention torture, Abu-Gharib, Guantanamo, Presidential assassinations, Habeas Corpus, the whole notion of property ownership being toppled, have had so little effect on the public.

      1. Nathanael

        It’ll topple very, very soon. Within 50 years.

        The death throes of the Roman Empire lasted for several hundred years, so I feel justified in calling this “very very soon”.

  3. Roquentin

    There was the joke about East Germany towards the end, that they were paying one half of the population to spy on the other. How far away from that are we really? The GDR was openly derided as totalitarian too. So much of that Cold War rhetoric looks extremely self-serving and a little absurd in hindsight.

    1. Dino Reno

      Now we are getting somewhere. Making the right life choices will allow anyone with enough devotion and loyalty to get a security clearance and become a member of the The Party. Their reward is knowing and seeing all as they go about their business monitoring the other 99%. Unlike the official system of government we know is a complete sham, this one makes perfect sense and seems to be very effective at rolling out its agenda. That’s why the Snowden case was so huge and why his escape set off a series of geopolitical encounters that rivaled those of the cold war. Nothing is now more important than spying on Americans. Even multinational U.S. tech businesses are being sacrificed. That tells you how important The Party is and why you should hope and pray your sons and daughters are smart and loyal enough to join the 5 million elites who now rule the world because of their security clearance.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      We no longer need half the population to spy on the other half; technology does it for us and keeps the data juicy rotten for human vultures to sample when they feel they need it.

      Humans don’t evolve as fast as they come up with new technology to do their nastiness for them and though this time difference appears but a detail, it may be the death of the species.

  4. ScottW

    5.1 million security clearances out of how many working Americans who would actually qualify for such a job? And we wonder why nothing changes. Too many people and their families are economically beholden to the security state.

    In the communist era you might have been killed for being a traitor. In America, you are economically and socially cut off–a much slower and in some ways crueler death.

    1. DJG

      ScottW: Bingo. 5.1 million clearances out of a work force estimated at 155 million. That’s 3 percent. Give each a spouse, the 2.0 kids, and 1.5 dog, and you have a core of 20 million people dependent financially on the surveillance state. That’s 6 to 7 percent of the populace. Hence, no action on this matter.

      1. different clue

        And maybe that is where the Uncleared Majority may have to use every Plan D tool in the Plan D toolbox to augment and support their own and eachother’s brute economic survival. And out of that leaderless mass-move to mass survivalism may emerge a Self-and-Other Co-Aware Movement which may then go on to do . . . something.

  5. Eureka Springs

    Well this is rather unsettling. I just searched for info on the movie in effort to find out when and if it will show in my neck of the woods. Look at the movie site and tell me it isn’t exactly the kind of web page one who is remotely interested in maintaining basic privacy wouldn’t close instantly. Why TF do they need peoples email addys? Do they really think their potential audience wont be alarmed by this?

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Good point. People wonder why users are reluctant to give their email address or other identifying information. True, any web site one browses to gets your ip address during the “session” among a lot of other information (which ends -in theory- as soon as the page is returned except for JavaScript and other types of “backdoors”), but there is no requirement that they store or use it beyond session scope. If they would like privacy for themselves, they can understand why others would like the same.

      Anonymity should be the default on the web; it should be a goal we all strive for, and the Snowden revelations along with so many others simply underscores why. If technology is so good at stripping people of their privacy, it should be equally good at restoring it. We need better faster software for comment sections and automated monitoring, for instance – preferably open source. But none of that makes any difference without a different attitude about why privacy is so important and why it can not be guaranteed simply by good intentions. That, btw, is not a criticism of NC. Yves and Lambert are fully aware of the issues, though I agree with others that a default https would be a good thing for those who comment at NC.

    2. Light A Candle

      I had the exact same reaction. Yikes they want my email before I can get information?

      Living in a corner of the world with sporadic access to good films, I was hoping to organize a screening here. If that’s an option, I just want unimpeded access to information on how to do that.

    3. TedWa

      Like the NSA phony cell phone towers, it could be a mock-up of the real website that exists at a different address.

      1. Light A Candle

        Thanks that helped, still very, very clunky though. Ms Poitras should have her web team do some user testing a la Jakob Nielsen.

  6. Xavier DuCharme

    Greetings nakedcaptalist commenters, I am a pass-through reader, and this is my 1st post here. Great site with obvious potential and sustainability. I aways read the abstract and then head for the comments section first and many times never make it back to the story (though sometimes they’re entertaining enough to hold your attention). For me, a huge plus here at NC is that I can, like our founding fathers did on a regular basis, author my opinion with anonymity (I’m 60 and I come from a generation which would argue that my real name, when it comes to my opinion, is none of your fucking business). Now, our founding fathers used anonymity because the importance of the message outweighed its author which theoretically shouldn’t have mattered. Maybe the next generation will have no choice, and you will ‘automatically’ be required to use your real identity. For me, I’m siding with the anonymous of the 1770s.

    You guys carry on a pretty good conversation here, keep it up. It’s all about free speech. I have always been inspired by the fact that political speech, next to revolution, is our most sacred right. If I want to call a politician a whore, I have a constitutional right to do so. If I want to call politician a Nazi SOB, that too should be allowed – though it would help to define, if asked.

    So, as they said in the 60s, keep on truckin on. Its gonna be your world, turn it into your generation wants it to become (we tried but were overwhelmed by the 20th cent. fascist take-over).

    Be fair. That should be the motto of the 21st century.

  7. Nathanael

    The thing which gets to me about the “Total Information Capture Approach to Surveillance” is that they really can’t sift through this stuff — even Google can’t — so despite all the data they collected, they know absolutely nothing. They wouldn’t notice if there were a revolution; the first they’d hear of it was when their power was cut off or when their building was bombed.

    It’s worthless as spying.

    It’s only useful as blackmail material, for attacking people who the Surveillance Fanatics have taken a dislike to. Even then, it doesn’t work if those people are clean as a whistle, then they have to resort to inventing lies to spread.

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