This chapter is perhaps the most relevant to Citizenfour. Snowden’s main motivation for whistleblowing was the invasion of privacy that many government programs were committing with little oversight or lawful grounds.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):

One of the programs Snowden leaked information about was the NSA’s Personal Record Information System Methodology program, or PRISM. It enabled the NSA to obtain text correspondence and live video without first obtaining search warrants. It was alleged that the NSA was working with many Internet giants including Skype, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. [1]

Another program Snowden revealed information on is the Special Services Ops, or SSO. Snowden describes SSO as a, “… worldwide passive collection [of communication] on networks, domestic to the U.S. and international.” The government collects this data primarily through secret corporate alliances in which they pay companies to share data, and “bi-laterally, with the assistance of certain governments,” in which they help foreign governments set up monitoring systems in exchange for the information gathered. [2]

Long-Standing NSA Access to Telephone Records:

Snowden was responsible for leaking information about the FBI’s requests to Verizon for telephone metadata. Metadata only includes identifying information about a call, such as the phone numbers, and date and time of the call. [3]


[1] Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill “NSA Prism Program Taps In to User Data of Apple, Google, and Others.” (Guardian, 2013) (Accessed 04/23/2017)

[2] “Citizenfour” (HBO Films, 2014)

[3] Glenn Greenwald “NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers Daily” (Guardian, 2013) (Accessed 04/23/2017)