1…2…3…Citizen Four. The film that showed the account of Ed Snowden and his relationship with the media that resulted in an expose. Both Poitras and Greenwald, journalists involved in the exposure, fit into the history of the efforts to “speak truth to power.” It was their way of trying to out abuses of power with the truth; by doing so they risked their own reputation and possibly their safety. This is similar then to other journalists throughout history who felt obligated to get the truth out no matter the cost; therefore, both Greenwald and Poitras upheld the tradition of spreading the truth even in dangerous situations.
There are definitely similarities between the NSA document leak and other government leaks such as the Pentagon Papers. In both instances, the people were lulled into a sense of security when in reality, they were being relentlessly lied to. Furthermore, the reaction to said leaks were similar in both examples because of the government denying and trying to silence the journalists responsible for reporting the lies that were being spread. It goes to show that while we ought to be able to trust what the government tells us, we must also maintain a level of skepticism and put forth the effort to verify everything we have been told.
While the First Amendment has been used to protect journalists and their sources, it has constantly been tested and questioned. There have been a number of examples in our history where the amendment has not been upheld and as a result, journalists have been persecuted. However, it seems to give both journalists and their sources the confidence to potentially risk their reputation and/or safety so that they can publish the truth. In the NSA case, Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald all ended up fleeing the country so as to avoid persecution from the government. Unfortunately, this is something that some journalists must fear when reporting the truth; in an example with ag-gags, one journalist was arrested and although he was cleared is often subject to interrogation because of his record.
Citizen Four’s impact fits in with the current presidential administration’s hostility almost effortlessly. In both the film and the current political climate, it is difficult to be a journalist because of the near constant potential for persecution. The journalists in the film risked everything from their job to their safety, and I fear that there are a number of journalists today with similar fears. There have been too many times when I’ve heard people doubting the purpose and legitimacy of the press, even saying that we don’t need it when we have sites like WikiLeaks. These people claim that the press is biased and doesn’t tell the truth, not realizing that sites that leak documents may or may not choose to expose what benefits them—wouldn’t that then be lying through omission? Isn’t this form of lying almost more harmful? The press may rely on more leaks in the future, but it will still rely on the bravery of its journalists and their commitment to the truth.