This is what a Tor Supporter looks like: Laura Poitras
“There’s no way I would have been able to protect the initial source without using Tor,” she says. “Fundamentally, without Tor and other free software tools I wouldn’t have been able to do the reporting, and the story would not have been broken.”
Laura also recalls her own learning process around encryption that allowed her to communicate easily with Snowden when he first contacted her. “I’ve been on a government watch list since 2006,” she says. “In 2010, I was interested in reaching out to Jake Appelbaum around the work he was doing with Tor. I got up to speed on encryption just to contact him, and he taught me far more. Then Snowden came along and taught me even more. So I’ve had good teachers.”
She references her first exchange with Snowden that dramatically shifted her methods of communication.
“He contacted me through Micah Lee initially,” she recalls. “And of course Micah sent the encrypted email to me. The problem was that my key was still attached to my actual identity at the time and Ed quickly encouraged me to change that. By my third email from him, I was communicating on Tails with a computer that I bought with cash, checking it only from public places. I was using the Tor Browser for all of my research, and to verify the information I was hearing. It was essential in moving the whole story forward.”
Laura is heartened by feedback she has received that Citizenfour, by so compellingly telling Snowden’s story, has helped make mass surveillance a topic for public debate.
“Before Snowden, as a journalist, I knew that I had to be careful, but didn’t quite know how to protect myself,” she remembers. “I knew I needed anonymity, but didn’t know what tools to use.”
And she encourages everyone to use, and to support Tor.
“There are so many reasons…that we want to protect our privacy and not broadcast every move we make online. Tor is an essential tool that is needed by people to do what they do. It fosters free speech and independent voices.”