Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who won an Oscar for her Snowden Documentary CITIZENFOUR, is suing different U.S. governmental agencies for allegedly harassing her over a six-year period.
Poitras, represented by lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation or EFF, is demanding for the government to release official records documenting the 50 instances where she was searched, questioned and subjected to hours-long security screenings at different U.S. airports.
Poitras’ filmography includes the 2006 Oscar-nominated “My Country, My Country” which dwells about the Iraq war through the perspective of an Iraqi doctor and political candidate in Baghdad who is a known anti-America critic. She also directed and produced the Emmy-nominated “The Oath” which documented the Guantanamo Bay prison and the interrogation of Osama bin laden’s former bodyguard days after 9/11.
Poitras sues US for injunctive relief
Poitras is suing the Department of Homeland security, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of national Intelligence.
“I’m filing this lawsuit because the government uses the U.S. border to bypass the rule of law. This simply should not be tolerated in a democracy. I am also filing this suit in support of the countless other less high-profile people who have also been subjected to years of Kafkaesque harassment at the borders. We have a right to know how this system works and why we are targeted,” Poitras said in a statement.
The U.S. government has had many excuses to detain her every time she sets foot in the country. She was told by airport security agents that she had a criminal record, that her name appeared on a national security threat database, and, on one occasion, that she was on the U.S. government’s No Fly List. Each time, her laptop, camera, mobile phone and reporter notebooks were sequestered. At one point, she was threatened though handcuffing to stop her from using a pen which authorities said could be used as a weapon.
Poitras noted that each searches were done without warrants and each ended without a single case filed against her. She had endured this kind of treatment for six years that she finally requested for the government to release all evidences of which her many detentions were based. All agencies refused, saying they have no records. At one point, the agencies began ignoring her requests. Hence, she decided to sue the government.
US targets Poitras in the name of national security
“The government used its power to detain people at airports, in the name of national security, to target a journalist whose work has focused on the effects of the U.S. war on terror,” said David Sobel, EFF senior counsel.
“In refusing to respond to Poitras’ FOIA requests and wrongfully withholding the documents about her it has located, the government is flouting its responsibility to explain and defend why it subjected a law-abiding citizen—whose work has shone a light on post-9/11 military and intelligence activities—to interrogations and searches every time she entered her country,” Sobel said.
“We are suing the government to force it to disclose any records that would show why security officials targeted Poitras for six years, even though she had no criminal record and there was no indication that she posed any security risk,” said Jamie Lee Williams, an EFF attorney.
“By spurning Poitras’ FOIA requests, the government leaves the impression that her detentions were a form of retaliation and harassment of a journalist whose work has focused on U.S. policy in the post-9/11 world,” Williams said.
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