- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2015

A freedom fighter against Big Brother or a traitor to the United States, Edward Snowden became a vilified and celebrated figure after his security leaking exploits in 2013.

The 2014 Academy Award-winning documentary about his polarizing activities Citizenfour (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment, rated R, $34.99) arrives on Blu-ray to give viewers plenty of fodder to understand his stealing of classified documents and revealing the National Security Agency’s technology that can ingest and analyze near every piece of digital communication of U.S. citizens and their contacts worldwide.

Laura Poitras — the director, producer and camera person — began to capture the events after she received an encrypted, ominous message from Mr. Snowden in January of 2013 and agreed to help him expose the NSA domestic surveillance program.

She enlists the help of investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian intelligence reporter Ewen MacAskill to bring the story to the public.

During the almost two hours of action, mostly resigned to a hotel room in Hong Kong, Mr. Snowden clearly and calmly explains his motivations and the process of the data collection while his story breaks around the world and U.S. officials turn up the extradition heat.

Near the end of the journey, infamous Wikileaks founder Julian Assange appears on camera as he works to get Mr. Snowden out of Hong Kong and secure him refugee status. Mr. Snowden eventually gets stuck in Russia, where he remains to this day.

The documentary has been offered ad nauseam via HBO, so a Blu-ray purchase is not critical as I am sure it will continue to be available to viewers.

However, the disk does offer a trio of tempting features culled from previously released material.

First, an hourlong discussion on the film, before it won an Oscar, with Miss Poitras, Mr. Greenwald and Mr. Snowden (appearing from a live video feed) and moderated by New York Times’ media journalist David Carr.

I found the journalists and filmmaker a bit too self-congratulatory during the lengthy discussion but Mr. Snowden was, once again, a very humble, focused and articulate individual who truly felt he made the right decisions.

Next, Miss Poitras appears at the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a near 30-minute, question-and-answer session with journalist Dennis Lim as she deconstructs the pivotal points of the creation of the documentary.

Best of the bunch is an 8-minute documentary from Miss Poitras featuring the brilliant former NSA mathematician and cryptologist William Binney, currently classified as a whistleblower, who developed the original snooping program Stellar Wind to spy on the Soviets.

That system was eventually adapted to capture digital data on Americans. Mr. Binney’s interview in this succinct narrative is near as informative as the entire “Citizenfour” main feature.

The most poignant moment is when he apologizes to an audience at a security conference for developing the program in the first place.

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