Citizenfour (2014) is a documentary which takes the viewer inside the events of Edward Snowden and his whistleblower activities. The documentary gives us a day-by-day account of what happened, while it was happening, in the life of Edward Snowden in those fateful summer days in 2013.
Edward Snowden leaked massive amounts of critical NSA (National Security Administration) documents and files. The documentary plays these events out like a great spy movie. Even James Bond would be impressed by the political intrigue. The reporter even references Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy by La Carrier.
A couple of things kept my attention. First, the extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the CIA and the NSA which Snowden revealed were fascinating. His knowledge led Snowden to a form of paranoia reaching levels as intense as X-Files’ FBI Agent Fox Mulder. His paranoia revealed an insight into encryption and security breaches which I had not previously known.
Second, this documentary taught me more about how to keep myself safe. Yet, Snowden’s actions seemed to show me that my desire for safety is misguided. One of the repeated phrases in the film is that we have traded liberty and freedom for security and we now have neither.
Third and most importantly, the film showed the real danger which journalists and whistleblowers go through to let people know what is going wrong. In this case, the extent of the danger was frightening. I was personally mesmerized by watching Snowden’s reaction as his leak was exposed simultaneously on the media. The documentary does an excellent job of showing the emotions and actual fear of Snowden while his whistleblower activities expose him. The United States government quickly goes after Snowden with a vengeance. His passport is revoked and they try to have him extradited from Hong Kong. He flees to Moscow with the help of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Commission). His lawyers, working pro bono, explain how difficult it will be for them to defend Snowden legally against the charges made by the United States government. The unfairness against Snowden is made very clear in this film. While many people will think that Snowden is a traitor, this film shows why doing what he did, Snowden turned out to be a hero to some people.
The acts of Snowden challenged me to think whether I should sit and accept what the government is doing or whether I should speak up. There is great danger in exposing wrongs in this society. The ending of the documentary revealed that there were more whistleblowers who had new revelations to share. The film alluded to Rammstein Air Force Base in Germany and its national security interests to the United States.
The film teased the viewer that the fight to overcome the corrupting power of eavesdropping is not over. As the film ended, I was still thinking about the implications of this kind of power the United States government now wields. Citizenfour rightly deserved the Oscar it received. Every person who wants to know how our government spies on us should see this film. For the Christian, this film shows us how close we are to a one-world government ruled by an antichrist. The transition will happen much easier than most people think.
- According to Revelation 13, there will be a one-world government ruled by an antichrist who will expect everyone to be monitored by his government. How close do you think the actions shown in this film put us to that end-times scenario?
- Jesus talked about the spheres of influence of the government versus the church. After watching this film, how much intrusion do you see that the government has imposed or can impose on Christians?
- In the New Testament, Romans 13 is contrasted with Revelation 13. Romans 13 tells us that the government is God’s servants. Revelation 13 tells us to oppose the government because it is evil. The film exposes the actions of the United States government with respect to the privacy of its citizens. After seeing this film, can you see the United States government as God’s servants? Why or why not?
- How should I as a Christian respond to this kind of activity?