Home Movies Exclusive: Call Him “Ed”: Snowden Used PC, Not Mac, for His NSA...

Here’s a little more about the documentary “CitizenFour,” about Edward Snowden and his takedown of the NSA. Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald’s documentary goes right to the top of the Oscar shortlist for docs. It’s absolutely revelatory, and so damning of the government that I do think people will be stunned. You think you know Snowden’s story but we don’t. There’s a real explanation here of how he did what he did, and what he he really found.

One thing that surprised me: he used a black PC that looks like either a Lenovo or IBM laptop. He didn’t use an Apple product from the looks of things. What a surprise considering how PC’s are constantly put down by Apple’s cult like enthusiasts. Greenwald never asks him about his choice of gadgets, so we don’t know why he thought Lenovo-IBM was better than MacBook.

During his interviews with Greenwald in Hong Kong, Snowden has one book out that he seems to be reading. That’s “Homeland” by Cory Doctorow (not related to E.L. Doctorow, btw). The novel was released in February 2013. It includes essays by computer experts Jacob Applebaum (famed hacker) and the late Aaron Swartz.

News orgs may call him “Edward,” but Snowden now prefers “Ed.”

Toward the end of the film, Greenwald visits Snowden in a Moscow hotel. He writes several communications on a pad, which Snowden eventually shows to the camera. One page such a bunch of arrows pointing to each other, culminating in the word POTUS. Greenwald rips up all the papers into small pieces until just the word POTUS is seen by itself in close up.

It’s clear that the filmmakers, who are certainly working with Snowden, are pointing the finger at President Obama. Obama supporters may find this part of the movie the most surprising, because it’s usually films and books made by conservatives that attack Obama.

One thing that becomes abundantly clear: Snowden was not just some low level guy who snitched and ran. His description of his clearance at the NSA– “higher clearance than most”– is actually described as “Top Secret.” Considering how he got there– through Booz Allen Hamilton as a consultant– it does seem like Snowden worked the system like a pro. He is no wide eyed naif.

The best part of “CitizenFour,” I think, is watching the real time experience of Snowden’s information being published by Greenwald. He calls home to find that the NSA is slowly realizing he’s their mole. His girlfriend says his rent check hasn’t been cashed. She also says that their street is now “filled with construction trucks” which he infers is the FBI or CIA setting up shop on his block to find him. He says about his bosses and co-workers, “They’re going to have a heart attack.”


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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
3 replies to this post
  1. Seriously? Snowden used a PC and not a Mac as a headliner? Anyone with technical knowledge knows Lenovo laptops are easier to work with because of swappable parts and Linux compatibility… Snowden most likely swap laptops routinely for security purposes. (Not to mention throwing away laptops)

    Each operating system has it’s pros/cons but this article actively exploits the Mac vs PC debate without any ground. I’m going to make a strong assumption that Ed runs Linux from his technical background. There is no “better” operating system but this article could have been written “better.”

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