Documentary Filmmaker Laura Poitras Helped Break NSA News

Laura Poitras - P 2013
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Laura Poitras - P 2013

With bylines in The Washington Post and The Guardian, she's helped reveal the scope of the government's data collection, and named the government contractor who leaked the information.

Meet Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker who's shared bylines in The Washington Post and The Guardian newspaper on stories that have revealed the government's shocking collection of online data.

Poitras helped longtime Post reporter Barton Gellman nail down a front-page story June 6 about the National Security Administration's PRISM program, which reportedly allows the U.S. government to tap the servers of several major Internet companies such as AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google. 

Two days later, Poitras shared a byline with The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald in revealing the newspaper's source for its own NSA data scoops: Booz Allen's Edward Snowden.

”She’s easily one of the bravest and most brilliant people I’ve ever met,” Greenwald tells Salon. 

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In 2012, the then-48-year-old Poitras won a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation. MacArthur Fellows are awarded $500,000 in a no-strings-attached grant, paid out over five years as "an investment in a person's originality, insight and potential," according to the site. 

In her MacArthur entry, Poitras is lauded as a "filmmaker whose elegant and illuminating documentaries capture the lives and intimate experiences of families and communities largely inaccessible to the American media. "

She was nominated for an Academy Award for 2006's My Country, My Country. The film explored the Iraq War's impact on the country's residents.

Along with Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, actor John Cusack, Greenwald and longtime Internet sage John Perry Barlow, Poitras sits on the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes and funds high-impact public service journalism. According to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, she's working on a documentary about his organization.

Her 2003 documentary, Flag Wars, won a Peabody Award and was nominated for an Independent Spirit award. According to Praxis Films, her production company, her films have been shown at a host of festivals including Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Edinburgh, the New Directors/New Films program at MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Her films are distributed by Zeitgeist Films.