Cécile and I have tickets to the premiere of Oliver Stone’s new movie, Snowden, for tonight. While it is already out in the US and has had some pretty average reviews, it doesn’t come out in France for a couple of months and I’m keen to see it. I’m a fan of Stone’s movie making when it is good (Platoon, Wall Street, JFK) and though I’ve read that this new film doesn’t really hit his high standards, I think the subject matter will keep it interesting enough.

I’m still in two minds as to what to think about the whole Edward Snowden situation.

On the one hand the documents that he stole and leaked did make clear that the US government was involved in some downright illegal surveillance of its own citizens as well as some not-so-illegal but damn intrusive surveillance of most everyone else. I wasn’t surprised to learn – officially – that governments listen in to the conversations of people around the world, or that technology has enabled that surveillance to expand in scope and scale to the point where you should just assume that anything unencrypted is being listened to or recorded by someone. But the illegal surveillance in the US of US citizens by the US government? That was something new and it is probably a good thing that it came out somehow.

On the other hand, Snowden didn’t just steal documents about the illegal surveillance in the US and he didn’t only leak the documents that would have pointed to some other wrongdoing by his government. He stole an enormous amount of information, released it, and likely resulted in the US being less safe than it was before. He clearly broke the law as it is written and while I can personally be happy to learn how I am being surveilled, I can’t on principle support the leaking of state secrets in this way.

Based on Stone’s politics, I’m guessing that the film is going to be sympathetic to Snowden and likely label him a whistleblower rather than a leaker. It’ll examine the impact of the leak on his life, the life of his family, and probably present him as ‘the little guy’ fighting against ‘big government’. I’ve heard those sorts of tales before and if this is all it is, then I am probably going to be disappointed by the movie. Alternatively, if Stone takes a more nuanced view and allows national security to be treated as something real rather than some sort of a bogeyman, it could be rather more interesting.

In any case, I’m looking forward to the movie and to seeing what Stone has managed this time – fingers crossed it’s a good flick.

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