Edward Snowden - the movie

I’ll be watching you…

Edward Snowden - the movie

Last week, the trailer for Oliver Stone's upcoming movie about Edward Snowden hit the internet.

The movie, entitled "Snowden", is said to be a fact-based thriller following Edward Snowden from his discharge from the United States Army Reserve (after breaking both his legs in training) to ultimately ending up as a systems administrator at the NSA's Threat Operation Center, and then beyond...

In the trailer you see Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden, sneaking secret files out of the NSA on an SD card hidden inside a Rubik's cube.

With its car explosions, sinister gravelly-voiced CIA recruiter, Rubik's cube action, and... umm... Nicolas Cage, the trailer certainly makes a good job of making attractive what could appear to some to be a dry subject.

But, of course, it's not a boring topic. The over-reaching covert surveillance and hacking undertaken by the NSA and other intelligence agencies around the world should be of concern to all of us who value our privacy and liberty.

If we don't care about our freedom, and what governments are doing in our name without our knowledge or acquiescence then what is there to care about?

Last year saw the release of Laura Poitras' Oscar-winning documentary, "CitizenFour", showing the inside story of Edward Snowden's whistle-blowing and its immediate aftermath. I would highly recommend you seek it out - it's a gripping piece of work.

I find it hard to believe that Oliver Stone's "Snowden" will be as good a movie as "CitizenFour", but it potentially could have more of an important on the general public.

Despite its critical success, relatively few people have seen the "CitizenFour" documentary compared to the typical cinema blockbuster.

We don't know yet what liberties "Snowden" might take with the facts in the pursuit of drama. I hope they are few, because this is a story that is important and shocking enough as it is in reality.

But what it might do is bring one of the most important stories of the 21st century to a wider audience. And that has to be a good thing.

"Snowden" is due for release on September 16, 2016.

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6 Responses

  1. SteveG

    May 3, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    Totally agree, If it can brings the attention to a greater audience, all the better.

  2. Monica Dumone

    May 4, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    Obviously, each of us has an individual view of this. I personally think he was a traitor to his country. that doesn't blind me to acknowledge that the excesses exposed are potentially dangerous to personal liberty but in my world view, the ends never justify the means. Hollywood has a history of perverting reality for entertainment purposes. The reality of Robert Stroud and the fantasy of the film "Birdman from Alcatraz" is a good example. A recent bird expert said that his concoctions probably killed and maimed more birds than helped them, he slaughtered an innocent guard with his bare hands and never kept a bird in Alcatraz. It will be interesting the spin they put on it. If they had of had a Snowden with his ethics working in Bletchley park, stealing secrets and heading for Germany it could have easily prolonged the war and he would have rightly been branded a traitor and shot if caught.

    • Bob in reply to Monica Dumone.

      May 4, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

      Monica, how can somebody who exposes serious corruption (lying to the public) be a traitor?

      The Snowden revelations would have had much less impact if the public knew that everybody was being spied upon. What we learned instead was that:

      1: the NSA were getting cheap thrills as bon voyeurs (which had no part of their official duties)

      2: their Director General LIED to Congress (he could have just given the evidence in secret)

      3: Congress and Senators are democratically elected (i.e. represent the people) so they should be told the truth – especially when they ask a direct question

      4: it is accepted that NONE of the NSA's activities prevented a single act of terrorism – instead they sent the FBI on dozens of wild goose chases. The FBI got so annoyed at having their resources wasted that they complained to the NSA!

      5: ironically, and unfortunately, they were/are so wrapped up with pointless data mining that they've missed a multitude of golden opportunities to stop horrific acts against the public

      6: by subverting cryptographic protocols they damaged worldwide trust in American technology companies and even weakened their own national security

      7: by failing to follow due legal process (which could have been done in secret) they failed to represent the people they are supposed to serve

      8: the data collected is now being used for routine investigations; well beyond the scope of what it was originally intended for

      9: the NSA can't have been that responsible at keeping the data secure because Snowden managed to get out with it. Now imagine if he'd been a bad guy secretly passing that information onto terrorists!

      10: Shall I go on Monica or can you really not see why the world needed to know about this scandalous activity?

      Most reasonable people don't mind genuine targets being monitored and they even understand when innocent people are sometimes caught up in investigations. What can't be countenanced is the whole scale surveillance of an entire population.

      If this had happened in the 1970's (remember that the NSA were/are spying on USA politicians) then it'd have brought down the government. Surely spying on elected representatives isn't part of their 'mission'. Have you forgotten about the Watergate Scandal?

    • coyote in reply to Monica Dumone.

      May 6, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

      'I personally think he was a traitor to his country.'
      I guess the members of the White Rose were also traitors… Of course that's only one example of the era. I grant you that they weren't revealing secrets of espionage as such but the idea is the same.

      'that doesn't blind me to acknowledge that the excesses exposed are potentially dangerous to personal liberty but in my world view, the ends never justify the means.'

      Congratulations on calling out all who stand up for liberties, rise against corruption, etc.; essentially you're saying raising awareness and trying to resist corruption is wrong. You could have been great friends with Ernst Kaltenbrunner (barring certain prejudices, of course), if the name means anything to you? After all, you're defending the extreme espionage of the NSA even if indirectly (by calling those who expose them a traitor); the analogy isn't all that far off: you're supporting espionage even though you try to say otherwise (through a false pretence) – criticising those who reveal the secrets and then saying you aren't blind to the problems (of said espionage).

      Oh, as for prolonging the war? Certain events would have dictated (and still did) the duration. Like let's see… the air strikes on the oil fields (you do know, I hope, that Nazi Germany relied a lot on synthetic fuel, right?). The Allied air campaign in the later years caused them a lot of problems (including oil), once they (the Allies) figured out some mistakes (or maybe you could say they improved their methods). Or what about Hitler insisting on The Battle of Stalingrad (and stating Stalingrad was strategically important rather than what it really was – an ideal) which was a huge mistake? His entire plan (in the first place) of breaking that pact was a very big mistake. Or what about Operation Overlord (including the falsified intelligence Fortitude that something much worse was to come elsewhere)? The list goes on and on. In the end any number of things could have (and did) change the duration of the war and to say 'stealing secrets and heading for Germany it could have easily prolonged the war' is a very weak argument; the fact remains espionage occurred on both sides and both sides had traitors (not even considering the July 20 plot! – which, by the way, if it had succeeded it would have likely changed the duration too, for better or worse). Even Julius Caesar used (weak as it is) encryption. There was a reason he did that and it is relevant.

      No. Snowden isn't a traitor. Besides, to say this was the first of the NSA's actions is ignorance. The mass awareness (including of specific programmes) is the big component. Oh, and the NSA did this long before 2001/9/11. See also export-grade encryption standards.

  3. Monica Dumone

    May 8, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    The simple answer is the USA is engaged in a war, sometimes in war countries need to do this that are objectionable. The United Kingdom under the command of Winston Churchill bombed and destroyed the french fleet, Agents have had to be sacrificed to the most brutal interrogations known by the Gestapo (well beyond waterboarding or Abu grab) . They did things under any normal view would have considered too morally objectionable. Snowdon took the secrets of his country and he fled abroad to a country interested in harming the united states. You can never whistle blow to your country's enemies to save your country. If you want to know what a traitor looks like posting his face up on a wall, by any measure he is a traitor to his country.

    So the question is this can somebody who exposes serious corruption i.e lying to the public be a traitor?

    I think the answer to that is yes, it was not his call as an individual to make. He bypassed the democratic systems put in place by the people, through elections . He took secrets entrusted to him and he gave what he had to a longstanding potential foe to save his own skin.

    I don't think that Snowden revelations would have had much less impact if the public knew that everybody was being spied upon. I admit the NSA went beyond their brief but they genuinely were attempting to infiltrate and frustrate those that wanted to harm the USA.

    I think that the NSA was trusted with getting digital intelligence to defend the united states perhaps even at any cost. perhaps some rogue individuals were getting cheap thrills as bon voyeurs as you mention but they had been caught napping in September the 11th and they had been tasked with stopping it. to date no major action has been taken on this scale on US soil. So something was working.

    2: You say the Director General LIED to Congress (he could have just given the evidence in secret). What evidence did he lie about and if he lied was he prosecuted for it? “His lawyer states "If you read his answer it is perfectly clear that he was thinking about the 702 program,” Litt said. “When he is talking about not wittingly collecting, he is talking about an incidental collection. None of that justified Snowden unilaterally handing state secrets over to an adversary (friends like the K don't artificially dive bomb your destroyers for publicity)

    3: Congress and Senators are democratically elected (i.e. represent the people) so they should be told the truth – especially when they ask a direct question. to a man, none of them would expect however even if he had of lied until he was blue in the face (rather than the mistake he insists he made) it wouldn;t justify any one of his staff running off spilling secrets. If Snowden had sent a letter to each member of congress perhaps with the information that would have been whistleblowing. not running across the world to anyone that would have had him. Julian Assange is not a friend to the united states or his people but that is who he would have sought solace from.

    Who has accepted that NONE of the NSA's activities prevented a single act of terrorism? Any successful missions would be protected (rightly) and a secret – They may have sent the FBI on dozens of wild goose chases because they became sensitive to the task given to them. Underactivity rather than overactivity caused 9/11, The FBI got so annoyed at having their resources wasted that they complained to the NSA, The FBI probably complained to the CIA and any number of organisations, all of them wanted to stop another attack almost at any cost. They are not the enemy, the enemy is anyone that would on a whim leak state secrets. So far nothing happened.They succeed, had there been any attempts. Numerous.from lone wolf to organised attacks. They needed a thank you , a pat on the back , not vilification.

    5: You say that ironically, and unfortunately, they were/are so wrapped up with pointless data mining that they've missed a multitude of golden opportunities to stop horrific acts against the public. How do you know what they foiled, what they disrupted or how? Thankfully those systems may have been protected even against leaks like Snowdon.

  4. coyote

    May 8, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

    'of Winston Churchill bombed and destroyed the french fleet'
    Fire bombing! Don't forget that. Dresden for example? You think that's acceptable even in war? (Though I seem to recall he did eventually question it…) But actually no the United States is not at war unless you mean the 'war on "terror"' which is essentially the 'war on an ideal' i.e. At least, not in a relevant war.

    'You can never whistle blow to your country's enemies to save your country.'

    You mean the United States of America's enemies who they themselves create? Incidentally, the United States of America was spying on Americans in addition to its allies in addition to everyone. Someone else brought this up on another thread on the website: why was Frau Merkel spied on? Your analogy is flawed. It's ironic that a spying agency can't keep their own secrets, too. Yet what then happens when your information is compromised due to their ineptitude (and/or simply making a mistake)? Privacy XOR security.

    ' Snowdon took the secrets of his country and he fled abroad to a country interested in harming the united states.'
    He took the secrets to the USA's enemy? Okay I grant you that you could say there is a cold war going on but the thing is he didn't only reveal secrets 'to Russia'; that was not his goal. Did you forget he also revealed secrets about the GCHQ ? And he handed the secrets to media outlets, not countries themselves. If the American media is an enemy then I suppose you're right.

    'Agents have had to be sacrificed to the most brutal interrogations known by the Gestapo (well beyond waterboarding or Abu grab) .'

    a) inexcusable no matter what; b) perhaps you should go back to the history books. Hanns Scharff mean anything to you? Since you seem to be somewhat of a WWII buff (seems more you just reference things here and there without understanding it all) I'm surprised you don't know about him. Torture is never acceptable and America torturing people is at the same time showing just how many lies America tells. Maybe you should also look into the actual report released about exactly what the CIA programme entailed (and how much more extreme it is than you make it seem to be)… rather than make excuses for torture; torture can never be excused at unless you don't have a moral compass in which case you're no better than those they are supposedly trying to stop harming innocents (i.e. now those behind the torture are guilty). Does the Nuremberg Code mean anything to you? Hypocrisy?

    'had been caught napping in September the 11th and they had been tasked with stopping it. to date no major action has been taken on this scale on US soil. So something was working. '

    a) Ah, so there really is a Boston in Colombia! Did you forget about the Boston Marathon bombing and shoot out or are you just trying to come up with arguments without the full picture (and/or being able to put it all together)? Did you forget the shooting in California late last year? Indeed I think you really do not understand this all but you're attempting to demonstrate otherwise. Ironically, as I recall, the month before (the Boston bombing) a jihad e-zine (reported by a news outlet; no I cannot recall which so take this with a pinch of salt … or rice) had plans for the same kind of device the Boston bomb was…. Funny that they missed that.
    b) post hoc ergo propter hoc.
    Look it up if you don't know what it means. It's a logical fallacy. Even if nothing happened since then it doesn't mean it's because of the spying; that is utterly absurd AND for the record: the NSA has a much longer record in this than just 2001. You actually think this is new? Espionage is older than mankind (it's not just humans that watch their enemies). The NSA and export-grade encryption mean anything to you?

    Your arguments are still flawed and your moral compass seems to have malfunctioned.

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