Most of the governments and bureaucratic organizations loathe the probability of a whistleblower appearance. The whistleblowers often have to deal with the possibility of a denouncement or they are also disregarded as individuals who are imbalanced and incapable of viewing issues based on an objective perspective. Smear campaigns are always orchestrated to invalidate the whistleblowers and reduce the chance of any credibility being assigned to the individuals (Greenwald, 2014). The reaction of the government and bureaucracy targeted in the whistleblowing often follows the level of seriousness of the information sent to the people. The denouncement of the whistleblowers makes little promises on the part of the government while increasing the risk of the denouncement that is used as an additional accusation platform of the government for more offences. Citizenfour covers the extent of the government surveillance of the world population.
Citizenfour also accounts the trials and tribulations of Edward Snowden while he was holded-up in a Hong Kong hotel. He represents a daring breed of whistleblowers who are willing to tackle the government using draconian ways in a bold manner (Poitras, Bonnefoy, & Wilutzky, 2014). Snowden presents the demeanor of an individual who is unwilling to take the center stage, but exposes the government for their continued surveillance of the Americans and the other people in the world. The surveillance activities are conducted in conjunction with the British intelligence services. During the interviews, Snowden appears as a camera shy individual who is unwilling to take the spot for the sake of glory unlike other whistleblowers in history who seek fame. He is seemingly condemned by his nature and convinced that the best way of dealing with the issues can be made through the confession and outlining of the government actions. (Greenwald, 2014).
The story tends to center on his information as opposed to the source. Snowden seeks to distance himself as an individual while pushing for his points of contention to be aired in the media. He may have been breaking numerous laws through his confession, but there is a question of the written law’s superiority over the moral compass in the determination of who is right and wrong in a given context. He is an individual who is willing to stand up and be counted as a justice tower and the respect measure of the human rights while embracing them. The candor in the film can reflect the genuineness of the move to expose a government that had by all standards taken good care of his needs through a good remuneration package and other additional benefits (Greenwald, 2014). He comes across as a selfless individual hoping to use the media as a way of protecting the people from the dangers of the government surveillance period.
Snowden is not an attention seeker since he opts to dump the files on the reporter’s laps and let them make the decisions on what bits of the information ought to be released and what are to be kept private. He is, therefore, less egoistic with the driving force to utilize his freedom of speech as is manifested in the universal declaration of human rights (Klein & Bamford, 2009). Series of clandestine meetings lead to the real events filming behind the release of the information. The documentary covers the limitations of speech freedom and association that are operationalized in order to secure their clandestine and illegal surveillance of the American citizens and any other individual by the government.
To highlight the issues in the film using an accurate perspective, it is imperative that one revisits the history. The risk of the whistleblowers can be traced back to the Watergate scandal. The scandal centered on the republican surveillance of the democrats campaign headquarters. Since the release of the information, the media was never gagged. There was genuine exposure of the issues underlying the surveillance argument in the media. As a result of media coverage, there was a genuine release of the information on the issues to the public that was increasing the genuineness of the government. However, this issue can be perceived to be a major detriment to the intelligence community since it was left to them; they would prefer unsanctioned surveillance to the people. The mocking modus operandi was evaluated in the recent works since the intelligence community was not in any way validated or allowed to air in the free media (Poitras et al., 2014).
The results of the Church Committee, that was formed to regulate the surveillance activities on operatives in the United States, led to the formulation of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act identification (Klein & Bamford, 2009). The act was formulated targeting on the foreign operatives who were in the country illegally to collect information. The provisions of the act allowed unwarranted surveillance on the foreigners requiring a warrant to be issued by a judge to make it possible for the intelligence services to collect information from the Americans. The government had to present the probable cause for them to have an effective warrant to survey the citizens (Lucas, 2014). The probable cause was only valid if the government could indicate that the individual was possibly in any way connected to the foreign powers or was aiding an operative. The warrant was to be granted by a bench of at least three judges. This was not the case in the NSA surveillance.
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The 9/11 attacks led to the complete revolution of all the modes of operation that were dealing with the surveillance. Essentially, what seemed unacceptable was the new norm. The government was involved in ambitious surveillance programs that targeted any one similar to the Project Minaret, the one rolled out during the Vietnam War. Before Snowden gained the access to the media, the Bush administration had applied different intimidation tactics to ensure that the former analyst could not access the media (Klein & Bamford, 2009). Most of the tactics were geared towards the access denial to media while threatening the news houses into refusal of the story, even when it was important for the people to know about the actions of the government. The mainstay of the government had been the external threats surveillance alone. The Bush administration had applied numerous intimidation tactics to ensure that the perception of the mainstay NSA operation was sustained. The threats included the emotional intimidation, assuming the form of blame apportionment to be a successful attack on the different Pentagon Suits. Eventually, the Times magazine published the story without the fear of potential embarrassment if the information was released by another outlet since they were aware of the story for a significantly long period.
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The universal declaration of human rights and the Geneva Convention are the guild lines on the main human rights (Lucas, 2014). The access to the information is allowed to all the people. The Snowden saga indicates the difficulties in the access to media in the period when every action is put under strict surveillance by the government in blatant contravention of the rules that were developed to protect the people from the same issues that the system failed to handle effectively.
The need to use a pseudonym in the communication indicates the inability of the reporters to act as they prefer in the dissemination of information concerning themselves and any other relevant activity (Klein & Bamford, 2009). The government does not come across as a major source of security and it does not necessarily present the united front in the matters of civil liberties.
The film echoes the concerns voiced by the Church Committee decades before the saga had been unfolded (Poitras et al., 2014). The propensity of the government to use the military and intelligence mechanisms for the violation of human rights is eventually manifested in the movie. As the reporters reach out to Snowden, there is palpable fear that they are eyes and ears of the government through the NSA surveillance satellites. The cost of truth and journalistic freedom is manifested in the movie as it progresses. The movie is capable of painting the accurate picture of America. Instead of the movie focusing on the individual, it has an adept way of depicting the reality of the whistleblower, whose main dream was to make sure that the people understood the extent of governmental betrayal of their trust through constant surveillance and blatant disregard of the FISA provisions.
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From one of the scenes in the movie one can see secret meetings held in a Hong Kong hotel that lead to the uncovering of the real image behind the NSA surveillance and its extent in the degeneration of the situation. Secrecy starts from the onset with Laura Poitras reading emails from Citizenfour in the back of a cab as it heads into a Hong Kong tunnel, where Snowden discloses his selection criteria for the journalist who was to interview him (Poitras et al., 2014). The journalists as well as the whistleblowers tend to operate in a state of anticipatory secrecy with the tension and possibility of their expression freedoms being manifested in the real life. The threat of the military industrial complex and absolutism seem to have been operating right under the unnoticing eyes of the Americans (Klein & Bamford, 2009). The government seems to have focused more on the sustenance of the military interventions and other supportive activities, such as collection of intelligence as opposed to the fundamental rights of all the people that had been an instrument in the definition of the United States as a country and a global human rights champion. In one scene in the hotel room, Snowden explains that any analyst can target any other individual and his or her communications depending on the security clearance and the strength of the sensors. He further states that the surveillance is focused on each individual and saved in a repository (Poitras et al., 2014).
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However, even as the defense for Snowden leaks on governmental valid surveillance on its citizens, there are fewer aspects surrounding the time that may have warranted the adoption of extreme measures (Verble, 2014). Firstly, the government was reacting to the largest attack on domestic soil ever. This meant that there was nothing that could be adopted to reduce the impact of the action. It also means that the government was at liberty to use any other applicable law to protect the people.
From the ethical standpoint, the government was acting in the interests of the majority. Given the surprising nature of the attack, the government was concerned over the validity of any intervention that was both delayed and potentially unviable (Greenwald, 2014). For instance, the government could have followed the provisions laid by FISA. However, the interventions were not necessarily sealed and left behind. Since the media could have taken up the information on warrant hearing sessions, the targets of the surveillance could have been invalidated (Van Cleave, 2013). The best way of dealing with the issues was uncertain with the majority of the government mechanisms being incapable of meeting the urgency and secrecy needed in the given situation. As a result, the government intervention was mandated and justified even if its implementation and covering up attempts that followed, including silencing Snowden, were in contravention of the universal declaration of human rights; specifically on matters including the right for information and freedom of the press.
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In conclusion, Citizenfour outlines the struggle for a chance to be heard by all concerned parties against the strong arm of a well-meaning government. It indicates the numerous violations of human rights and the risk of loss that affects all the people. It also connotes the inability of the government to fully meet the security needs of all the people while staying within the limits of the law. In defense of the government, the changes in the nature of terror have prompted the revisiting of the rules. For instance, FISA was enacted at a period when terror and crime was slow and comparatively easier to stop. However, with the advent of mobile and internet technology, the time between planning and execution is significantly reduced. To make the law enforcement agencies protect the people, the traditional rules have to be blurred. The bureaucratic processes set by the laws may curtail the effectiveness of the enforcement agencies since an attack can occur before the wiretap warrant is granted.
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