Meet the 'Keyser Soze' of Snowden Stories

'NYT Magazine' details how Laura Poitras helped Glenn Greenwald get scoop

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 13, 2013 11:44 AM CDT

(Newser) – Those following the Edward Snowden case will probably recognize the name Glenn Greenwald as the journalist writing up all the resulting scoops. But Laura Poitras? She's a 49-year-old documentary filmmaker from the US who is working with Greenwald and is crucial to the Snowden saga, reports Peter Maass in a fascinating New York Times Magazine piece. Greenwald himself sums it up with a reference to the Kevin Spacey flick the Usual Suspects: “I keep calling her the Keyser Soze of the story, because she’s at once completely invisible and yet ubiquitous. She’s been at the center of all of this, and yet no one knows anything about her.”

Turns out that Greenwald initially ignored Snowden's "annoying and complicated" emails, prompting Snowden to turn to Poitras. He knew she was making a documentary about surveillance, and she used her expertise in encryption technology to begin a dialogue with him—and eventually sell Greenwald on the story. If the name rings a bell, it's because Poitras has made a number of controversial documentaries about Iraq and Abu Ghraib, earning herself a spot on a US watch list and thus dozens of airport interrogations. (Greenwald wrote about her travails in Salon.) The full Times piece details their first meetings with Snowden (they were shocked at how young he was) and the resulting chaos when the first stories appeared. “Our lives will never be the same,” says Poitras. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live someplace and feel like I have my privacy. That might be just completely gone.” Read the full story here.

A 2012 file photo of Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker central to the Edward Snowden revelations.
A 2012 file photo of Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker central to the Edward Snowden revelations.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of the?John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Sean Gallup)
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