The Snowden Movie: What Do Officials Think About Edward Snowden of the Movie Versus The Real Life Fugitive?

With the release of Oliver Stone’s new Snowden movie, it’s probably safe to assume that the debate about Edward Snowden and his release of classified information regarding United States surveillance activities will re-intensify. While the film itself is receiving – at best – lackluster reviews, just what do government officials and politicians think about the movie and the man it’s based on?

This movie is somewhat unusual for a biopic, in that Edward Snowden only carried out the actions for which he later became infamous in 2013. Usually, when biopic’s come out, there is a slightly greater stretch of time between the movie and the event. In this case, it’s particularly jarring – given that Snowden is still in Russia and events are still unfolding.

For example, there were decades separating Oliver Stone’s movie JFK and the actual assassination of Kennedy. In many ways, this film by Stone – regardless of how poorly received it is by the critics and audiences – seems like a propaganda piece designed to influence public opinion about Snowden himself.

Certainly, from the perspective of government officials, politicians, and national security experts, Snowden is anything but the hero that Oliver Stone’s movie paints him to be. Of course, Stone isn’t exactly known for objective analysis in his films.

At the same time, many people in the United States and elsewhere around the world do consider Snowden a crusader for freedom and a martyr to his beliefs. But in the view of the United States government, Snowden was – and still is – a traitor to the country and an ongoing threat to national security.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt portrays Edward Snowden as a smart, sympathetic figure who in the end simply wanted to do the right thing. But as reported by NPR, Chris Inglis – former deputy director of the NSA – feels that the portrayal of Snowden in this movie is far from accurate. For instance, Inglis points out that during one scene in the movie an individual who is supposed to be the deputy director of the NSA orders Snowden to go to Hawaii.

But since – at the time – Inglis himself was the deputy director, he is able to say with some confidence that this conversation never took place outside of the movie. Inglis goes on to point out that it would be ridiculous for the deputy director of the NSA to reach out to a low-level contractor and send him on what amounts to a Jason Bourne mission.

Director Oliver Stone attends The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts an official Academy screening of "Snowden." [Image by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]
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As reported by Wired, the ACLU and several other groups are using the release of the Snowden movie as an opportunity to petition the United States government for a full pardon for Edward’s Snowden. But in a clear preemptive response to the release of the movie and its depiction of Snowden in a positive light, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a brief report on the government’s view of Edward Snowden.

As one might expect, the report is hardly complementary. This document essentially calls Snowden a lying traitor who has endangered the security of the United States and who deserves to be returned there for trial.

Whether the American people themselves will ultimately agree with the government that Snowden’s theft of 1.5 million documents and his release of classified information makes him a traitor – or whether they will view him as a hero – is unlikely to be determined by this one movie. Of course, it might have had more of an impact if it were actually an entertaining film.

Unfortunately for those hoping to promote the cause of Edward Snowden, this movie might not be the vehicle for doing so. Aside from the enormous plot holes and improbable scenes that – according to some – never took place, most reviewers seem to think the film is plodding and unexciting. But of course, spy films like James Bond or Mission Impossible are more likely to provide excitement than a movie about a computer geek.

[Featured Image by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]