WASHINGTON — Filmmaker Laura Poitras, whose documentary about fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden won an Oscar, is suing the U.S. government to find out why she was repeatedly detained at immigration checkpoints.
Poitras is seeking the release of six years of records that document how she was searched, questioned and sometimes held for hours at U.S. and foreign airports on more than 50 occasions between 2006 and 2012.
“I’m filing this lawsuit because the government uses the U.S. border to bypass the rule of law,” she said in a statement issued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit watchdog group that is representing her.
“This simply should not be tolerated in a democracy,” added Poitras, winner of this year’s best documentary feature Oscar for “Citizenfour,” which describes Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Poitras said her Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is also meant to benefit herself and others “who have been subjected to years of Kafkaesque harassment at the borders.”
“We have a right to know how this system works and how we are targeted,” she said.
Poitras alleged that, at immigration points, security agents told her she had a criminal record, which she denies, and that her name has appeared on a national security watch list and “no-fly” register.
She has also had her laptop, camera, mobile telephone and notebooks seized and copied without a warrant or explanation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said.
The detentions ended in 2012 after journalist and activist Glenn Greenwald, a collaborator on the Snowden story, wrote about her experiences, and after fellow documentary filmmakers sent off a petition of protest to the Department of Homeland Security.