Snowden Challenges Perceptions of Right and Wrong

Snowden Challenges Perceptions of Right and Wrong

Emily Breidenbach - Reporter

A few weeks ago, without any extensive prior knowledge of the Snowden controversy, I went to the theater and saw Oliver Stone’s Snowden with my mother. What I did know, however, was that anything Oliver Stone would not be without cause célèbre.

Let’s start off with some background. Edward Snowden, now thirty-three years old, was a former NSA contractor who leaked secret information without permission from the U.S. government. The focus of the leaks which he made to Glenn Greenwald, a journalist at the Guardian, was primarily on U.S. government surveillance programs which he deemed to be condemnable and invasive. The leaks to Greenwald occurred in late 2012.

Now back to the film. The film itself made sure to not be lacking in tech-y terminology and thus made it difficult for someone such as myself (not at all a techie) to understand the weight of the unfolding situation.

From beginning to end, the audience sees Edward Snowden (as portrayed by Joseph Gordon Levitt) transform from being a conservative, government trusting individual to a liberalized, government questioning (and arguably, fearing) one. This transition is in part due to his expanding knowledge of the sketchy activity of the U.S. government, but it is also shown to be a result of his liberal photographer girlfriend’s persuasive nature.

If the film proved to be wholly accurate of Snowden’s story, the once abhorred whistle-blower becomes the revered informant as he exposes the invasive surveillance practices of the U.S. government. The question is, however, is the film accurate to history?

Edward Snowden himself seems to think so- but do others agree? CIA Director James Woolsey, for one, does not. Woolsey has openly stated that Snowden has “blood on his hands” for his actions. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper emits the same sentiment, arguing that Snowden’s disclosure of government information caused a U.S. intelligence program in Afghanistan to close which was the “single most important source of force protection” for American troops in Afghanistan.

That being said, those opposing of Snowden’s leak do, however, have a clear bias.

A Newsweek poll reports that 55% of respondents side with Snowden while only 29% believe he committed a crime- the other 16% had no opinion.

What do you think? Is Snowden a deplorable whistle-blower or is he a hero? Watch Oliver Stone’s Snowden and decide for yourself.