Laura Poitras speaks out

Laura Poitras has been a crucial figure in the Edward Snowden NSA revelations story but has preferred to stay in the background. But in a column in Der Spiegel she describes her end of the events that led to David Miranda being detained at Heathrow airport on his return to Brazil after visiting her in Berlin. She says that what happened to Miranda was a ‘blatant attack on press freedom’ and that she has experienced similar things.

David was traveling to meet me on behalf of the Guardian newspaper, which has taken the lead on publishing the NSA stories. We now know that David’s detention was ordered at the highest levels of the British government, including the Prime Minister. We also know the US government was given advance warning that David would be detained and interrogated.

Using border crossings to target journalism is not new to me. I experienced it for the first time in 2006 in Vienna, when I was traveling from the Sarajevo Film Festival back to New York. I was put in a van and driven to a security room, searched, and interrogated. The Austrian security agents told me I was stopped at the request of the US government. [My italcis-MS] When I landed in New York I was again searched and interrogated.

Since then I have lost count of how many times I have been interrogated at the US border all because of my reporting on post 9/11 issues. I’ve had electronics seized, notebooks photocopied, and have been threatened with handcuffs for taking notes. I moved to Berlin to edit my next film because I do not feel I can keep source material safe in my own country.

At the moment I live in what used to be East Berlin. It feels strange to come to the former home of the Stasi to expose the dangers of government surveillance, but being here gives me hope. There is a deep historical memory among Germans of what happens to societies when its government targets and spies on its own citizens. The public outcry in Germany to the NSA disclosures has been enormous.

David’s detention and the destruction of the hard drives in the Guardian‘s basement reveal one thing: Our governments do not want citizens to be informed when it comes to the topic of surveillance. The governments of the United States, Britain, Germany, and others would like this debate to go away. It won’t.

Yes, Poitras says she feels she has greater freedom to do her journalistic work in the former stronghold of the Stasi than in the US. Time for David Gregory, Jeffrey Toobin, and Michael Grunwald to call for her arrest and possibly drone strikes on her.


  1. Glenn says

    The Free World has moved east of the former Berlin wall.

    Is this the only way to transform a closed society into an open society?

    Maybe in 50 years revulsion against the past will work its change on the unAmericans that now dominate America.

  2. jimmyfromchicago says

    I was in Berlin this spring and was impressed at how the German historical museums and sites confronted their Nazi and Communist past.

    The United States and United Kingdom could learn a lot from the Germans in dealing with the less-seemly aspects of our histories.

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