Today marks five years since the Guardian published Verizon’s FISA court order, the first story based on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. At the time this story appeared, the whistleblower’s name was not known. It was three days and several enormous stories later that Snowden finally stepped out of the shadows, the source of the biggest public archive of top secret documents in history.
Laura Poitras’ documentary about Edward Snowden, CITIZENFOUR, was awarded an Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on 22 February 2014.
In her acceptance speech, standing alongside Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, Laura Poitras paid tribute to Edward Snowden:
The disclosures that Edward Snowden revealed don’t only expose the threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the most important decisions being made that affect all of us are being made in secret, we lose our ability to control. Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and to the many other whistleblowers. I share this with Glenn Greenwald and the other journalists that are exposing truth.
Snowden himself released a statement via the ACLU:
When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant. I’m grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honor and recognition it has received. My 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.
Courage, the organisation that runs Edward Snowden’s defence fund and this website, also released a statement, which emphasises the “dangerous gap in protections for whistleblowers” demonstrated in the film.
The Courage Foundation is delighted that CITIZENFOUR has been awarded the Oscar for the Best Documentary Feature of 2014.
The film shows that after journalists left Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, awaiting the United States’ charges and extradition request, Snowden relied on WikiLeaks to secure him asylum. As Laura Poitras’ film depicts, Snowden is now safe, living comfortably with his girlfriend in Moscow, but the film demonstrates the dangerous gap in protections for whistleblowers. WikiLeaks’ rescue – and the need it demonstrated – was the inception of Courage, devoted to providing protections, defence and safety nets for whistleblowers in the highest-risk situations, when others can’t or won’t help.
Courage, which hosts Edward Snowden’s only official defence fund, is establishing international networks ready to provide future Snowdens with logistical and legal help, in addition to assisting journalistic sources at risk before the investigation stage. But we need your help. Fighting legal battles against the most powerful governments in the world is expensive, yet essential. Courage’s Acting Director Sarah Harrison said: “Governments are ramping up their efforts to persecute those who expose the truth, and we must do the same if we’re going to keep our truth-tellers safe. Donate to Courage to ensure we are there when we are needed most.”
More than sixty celebrities and thinkers have signed a statement pledging their support for Edward Snowden and encouraging donations to his official defence fund. Signed by Susan Sarandon, Russell Brand, Peter Sarsgaard, M.I.A., Thurston Moore, David Berman, Vivienne Westwood, Alfonso Cuaròn and several other artists and intellectuals, the statement praises the work of Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers, highlighting the need to support these individuals as they face social and legal persecution for their revelations to the public.
In an interview published on Tuesday by the German press agency dpa, Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas suggested that Edward Snowden’s best option would be to return to the US to face trial:
He is only in his early thirties and would definitely not want to spend the rest of his life being chased around the world or applying for one asylum after another.
Maas’ statement has been roundly criticised in Germany, where a majority of the population is in favour of granting Edward Snowden asylum. Opposition politicians, who are trying to arrange for Edward Snowden to testify to the ongoing Bundestag Committee of Inquiry into surveillance, have deemed Maas’ intervention as “cynical.” The German government has gone to considerable lengths to frustrate the desire of the Bundestag committee to receive Edward Snowden as a witness and the matter is likely to be challenged in Germany’s constitutional court.
Tuesday 24 June saw Edward Snowden’s second appearance before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In April, he spoke to the assembly of Parliamentarians from 47 countries about mass surveillance. The topic of yesterdays’s session was improving protection of whistleblowers; reports on both subjects are being prepared for consideration by the Assembly before the end of the year.
Truthtellers should be protected, not persecuted or prosecuted. Edward Snowden’s safety lies in the hands of governments who have the power to make the offers of asylum he needs – but political leaders will not act unless they feel the popular pressure to do so. Here’s how we can show governments around the world that their citizens want a safe haven for Edward Snowden.
Courage – the organisation that runs Edward Snowden’s official defence fund and this website – held its launch event in Berlin on 11 June 2014.
Edward Snowden sent a message to the event, in which he recognised the importance of “a new and growing level of solidarity among civil liberties groups” in generating momentum against mass surveillance and for the prorection of truthtellers.
Announced on 5 May 2014, awarded on 22 June 2014
Edward Snowden has been named as the first recipient of the Berliner Prize for Civic Courage, which recognises his “courageous advocacy of democracy and civil rights.” Mr Snowden has said he is “very honoured” to have been chosen for the Prize, which was formally awarded at a public ceremony in Berlin on 22 June 2014, the day after his birthday. Courage Acting Director Sarah Harrison accepted the award on Mr Snowden’s behalf.