Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked classified details of U.S. government’s surveillance programs, has been reunited in Russia with his long-time girlfriend.
Lindsay Mills, a pole dancer who lived with Snowden, 31, before he fled the United States, moved to Moscow, Russia, to join him in July this year.
Mills had initially stayed behind in Hawaii, where the two had lived together, in the wake of the political firestorm unleashed by the Snowden leaks last summer, a new documentary showed.
The film shows the two cooking together in an apartment in Moscow, where he was given political asylum by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Snowden now has a three-year residency permit. Snowden is currently wanted in the United States under the Espionage Act.
Mills had remained silent and her whereabouts were largely unknown after Snowden’s release of tens of thousands of classified U.S. intelligence documents in 2013. Citizenfour, made by U.S. film maker Laura Poitras, premiered on Friday in New York, revealing Mills’s location in the process. The film also suggests that there could be a second NSA leaker waiting in the wings, who had access to far more information that Snowden.
It came as a top spy revealed how Snowden’s leaked documents have made the job of monitoring terrorists far more difficult.
Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing head of the British government’s NSA equivalent, GCHQ, revealed that since the revelations it now takes three times as long to complete routine monitoring tasks.
An unnamed employee made the revelation as part of the interview and profile of the GCHQ service in the Daily Telegraph.
The new film is a fly-on-the wall account of Snowden’s tense days in a Hong Kong hotel and his encounters with journalists from the Washington Post and the Guardian as they prepared to print protected information on NSA activities.
It puts a Hollywood glamour on the former contractor, who is shown wearing contact lenses rather than his traditional glasses, and wearing mousse in his hair.
It also shows scenes of his relationship with Mills immediately after the links. She is shown telling him about agents showing up at their house after he didn’t go to work – and also asking why his rent checks have stopped.
At one point he tells the camera ‘she has no idea’ – but claims he used the cover of going to Hong Kong on vacation to protect her.
Citizenfour takes its title from the email alias that Snowden used when he first approached Poitras in early 2013 through a series of encrypted emails – with a view to leaking details of the top-secret programs to the media.
Marketed as a ‘real-life thriller,’ it is the first of several films in the works about Snowden, who is wanted by the United States on charges brought under the Espionage Act.
Speaking in the film, Snowden says: ‘I already know how this will end for me, and I accept the risk
Poitras, speaking after the screening, said: ‘This was a film we had to make as privately and secretly as we could.’
‘We very much wanted to communicate in this film that [it] was about people who take risks and come forward at huge personal sacrifice.’
Poitras, an American, now lives in Berlin, Germany. She has been stopped and questioned when entering the U.S. numerous times in the past 10 years.
Snowden’s revelations sparked a global debate on the limits of privacy versus the needs of national security.
His critics view him as a traitor who refuses to face trial in the U.S. for his actions, while supports see him as a hero who spoke up for civil liberties.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who along with Poitras was Snowden’s first points of contact with the media, said he hoped that Citizenfour would allow the public to form their own opinion about the man and his motives.
He said: ‘So much has been said about Ed Snowden, a lot of it bad but a lot of it really good.
‘I felt like this was really the first time that people got to see who he really is so that they could make up their own mind.
‘I always felt… that the most powerful part of the story was not going to be the documents and the revelations but the power of the story and the acts of this very, kind of ordinary young man, who decided very consciously to sacrifice his whole life for a political principle.’
Poitras said she had shown the documentary to Snowden on a trip to Russia about three weeks ago, when the brief scenes with his girlfriend were filmed.