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Anthem Film Festival – Yes, the NSA is Listening

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If you thought Edward Snowden was the first NSA whistle blower, you need to see this film.

Although Snowden garnered all the headlines, he is only one of a string of people who have revealed the constitutionally questionable activities of our nation’s spy agencies. In Before Snowden: Behind the Curtain, filmmakers Bill and Tricia Owen interview former NSA employees who have revealed the agency’s spying activities targeting Americans.

Before Snowden PosterThe film, which is not yet in distribution, was shown July 9, during the Anthem Film Festival, part of 2014 FreedomFest in Las Vegas, a libertarian gathering which bills itself as “The World’s Largest Gathering of Free Minds.”

The Owens, with a decade of experience in various roles at CNN, decided to document what happens to people who reveal NSA secrets. They interviewed three whistle blowers just six days before Snowden announced what he had done.

The stories the men told make Snowden’s decision to leave the country appear to be a wise one. They had been harassed, lost careers and, in one case, arrested and threatened with life-time imprisonment.

Bill and Tricia Owen were joined by Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks for the Q&A after the film.

Filmmakers Tricia and Bill Owen tell whistle blower stories

Filmmakers Tricia and Bill Owen tell whistle blower stories

An audience member asked Tricia Owen if the film had distribution. She recalled that CNN had at first expressed interest and excitement in their project. Then, for reasons never revealed, they changed their mind.

Another viewer asked if there was some way to communicate that the NSA couldn’t monitor, such as writing letters. Bill Owen said that the only thing outside their scope were hand-held short range radios. “As for letters,” he said, “since 9-11 every envelope is photographed. It’s hard to get off the grid.”

Another question focused on what people could do to fight against all this spying and whether there was some reliable encryption method. Matt Kibbe suggested, “The problem is the solution. We need to figure out how to use the same tools that they’re using against us, against them. FreedomWorks has about six million people in various social networks and they’re very responsive to our requests.”

“Any solution,” he continued, “has to be open source. Tyranny survives in the shadows. Liberty thrives in the light. This situation can only be resolved if the American people are educated about the problem and raise a big enough objection with their elected officials. We need to find everyone online and connect them.”

Another viewer asked whether the NSA surveillance was having an effect on the press. Tricia Owen said that all reporters have to assume they are monitored. “How then,” she asked, “do you protect your sources? People are scared. A reporter’s job is harder than ever before.”

Bill Owen cited the case of former CBS and CNN reporter Sharyl Attkisson who said that her computer had been hacked because of her active investigations of Benghazi and other Obama administration issues.

Matt Kibbe pointed out that the tools and techniques that are being used by the Obama administration originated with previous presidents. “They have, however, turbocharged the use of these,” he claimed.

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About LeoOfMars

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.