• An email is spoken aloud which is from someone who refers to themselves as “Citizenfour” (presumably Snowden) to Laura Poitras. He explains to her how to create a PGP key so that they can encrypt their future communications.
  • In December 2012, Citizenfour reaches out to Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for The Guardian. He requests that Greenwald takes similar steps as Poitras to secure their communications. Greenwald is annoyed by the process, as it seems difficult to him. [1] He doesn’t bother to follow the steps because Snowden refuses to divulge anything until Greenwald secures his email.
  • Poitras moves to Berlin, as she is worried about the US seizing her footage.
  • After months of communication, Poitras and Greenwald agree to meet Snowden. They don’t know his name at this point.
  • Snowden meets Poitras, Greenwald, and Ewen MacAskill, also of The Guardian, in Hong Kong.
  • Greenwald and MacAskill interview Snowden over eight days in their hotel rooms in Hong Kong. Afterwards, Greenwald publishes his first article. [2]
  • Snowden is revealed as the whistleblower, and he begins to discuss his options with human rights activist Jonathan Man.
  • Poitras returns to Berlin to protect her work.
  • A text conversation between Snowden and Poitras is shown. Snowden is in hiding with an unnamed group of people. He mentions that his profile is so high that he can’t speak out loud for fear of having the door kicked in.
  • “On June 21, 2013, the US government charges Snowden with three felonies, two under the Espionage Act, and asks Hong Kong to extradite him.” [3]
  • “Two days later, Wikileaks organizes his departure from Hong Kong to seek political asylum.” [3]
  • Snowden attempts to fly to Ecuador through Moscow. However, the US revokes his passport while he is in Moscow.
  • “After 40 days spent in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Snowden receives political asylum in Russia for one year.” [3]
  • “In July 2014, Edward Snowden’s longtime partner, Lindsay Mills, moves to Moscow to be with him.” [3]
  • Snowden’s asylum has been extended, and he continues to reside in Moscow with Mills to today.


[1] Peter Maass, “How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets” (New York Times, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/magazine/laura-poitras-snowden.html (Accessed 04/26/2017)

[2] Glenn Greenwald, “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily” (The Guardian, 2013) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order (Accessed 04/24/2017)

[3] “Citizenfour” (HBO Films, 2014)