Not so long ago there wasn’t an internet at all, at least not for the general public. The military used the fledgling system to protect itself from strategic sites being wiped out. Today the majority of people carry a little bit of it around with them feeding it nearly every minute of the day like the magic mirror smart-phone of our souls. At the current rate of societal devolution having such a device will soon be declared a human right, paid for by the state (ie ourselves), newlyborns will be presented with it at birth, and tracked for life.
It may all sound outlandish, but there is nothing bizarre enough that I could write that will prepare you for Laura Poitras’ outstanding and terrifying (Academy Award winning) documentary Citizenfour (2014) available now on DVD. In it’s most binary form it is the first major interview given by NSA (American National Security Agency) ex-employee and whistle blower Edward Snowden to investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and intelligence reporter Ewen MacAskill after he escaped to Hong Kong having cloned for evidence some of the outlandish practices of the NSA.
As the story unfolds it feels like a powerful Stephen King novel in where an everyday seemingly benign object, thing or event blossoms into an infinity of absolute horrors. The very object we are all conveniently addicted to, a gateway to a world of helpful services and information, but few realise it is also literally staring right back at us, and recording EVERYTHING! It’s not just restricted to smart phones either, any and ALL activity on the internet (globally) is indiscriminately hoovered up by a vast amount of covert systems to enormous storage farms where it is indefinitely kept, ready to be mined later by the NSA (or their partners around the world) should the need arise. That throw away drunken flippant comment you made 5 years ago could be deliberately made to come back to destroy your life.
What is equally frightening is the amount of information Snowden isn’t saying. He states many times he has been quite selective on the practices that he is willing to name. They in themselves are so invasive that it beggars belief what else can be done, but there’s clearly no end to where they are prepared to go. Whatever the justification, it’s certainly not for our benefit, and with the forthcoming deliberately ultra secret global implementation of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) by American corporations which will effectively give them governance over countries (all supported by state leaders around the world against the best interests of their populations), it really is the case that democracy needs to be returned to the place we got it from as it’s not what we ordered, the ads have lied to us.
Continuing this incisive level of excellent journalism by Poitras they have combined in this boxset a couple of other previous documentaries she has made which phenomenally expands the landscape of practices that are carried in the name of democracy by the USA since the 9/11 attack. Starting with My Country, My Country (2006) which follows the build up to the first Iraqi elections being held since the country was invaded. With an established local doctor (Dr. Riyadh) and his truly lovely family being the focal point as the nation was forced to be reborn in the fires of it’s stolen oil fields. As with Citizenfour there are many moments of utter disbelief as how the populace is being treated, where it is the norm for 9 year olds to be imprisoned by occupying forces, while foreign private security firms are paid $40 million to carry out the election itself. To her absolute credit Laura has some wonderful moments also captured such as Riyadh’s daughter excitedly looking at her recent voting ink marked finger, dreaming of a better Iraq.
And finally (depending on the order you watch them) in the trilogy we have The Oath (2010) which introduces us to Abu Jandal, a former bodyguard of Osama Bin Ladin. Again broadening our spectrum of the entire middle eastern world and story by showing mostly ordinary folk being forced in extraordinary situations. Again a family man who’s priorities have fundamentally changed over the years, we get an insight into where and how various people ended up or were pushed out of circumstance.
From being at the side of Osama for a number of years, he now drives a taxi. At the same time his brother in-law (Salim Hamdan) who he helped get a job as a driver for Osama has ended up in Guantanamo Bay prison. Salim eventually stands trail and rightfully declared innocent, only for the American Congress to deliberately invent and introduce new laws to put him into custody again.
The three films are hugely complementary to each other building an enormous picture of what is basically insanity on a global level. Added to the madness is the fact that Laura herself has been put on the Homeland Security watch list for her covering of all these stories, that in itself should prove that these are essential viewings for everyone that doesn’t willingly have their heads buried in the sand. And here are plenty of excellent bonus features on all the films to give even further depth to the chaos.
9/11 Trilogy Box Set includes three feature documentaries from Oscar-winning director Laura Poitras – Citizenfour, The Oath and My Country out now by dogwoof.
Read Steve Clarke’s review of movie Sicario >