THE ABSURD TIMES
THE ABSURD TIMESWell that settles that!Pardon my SnowdenByWarum NichtWe really don't have to go into a great deal here, but the film is opening in so many places today, Friday, so here is the entire story.Just one comment: Snowden did nothing to tell us anything – he just proved what we all already knew. Just look back at the 1998 film ENEMY OF THE STATE, before 9/11 made all this more "acceptable".Here is a longish interview with Oliver Stone, and a bunch of others on it. It had to be filmed in Germany, of course.As the much-anticipated movie "Snowden," about one of the most wanted men in the world, hits theaters, we spend the hour with its director, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, and the actor who played Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and feature clips from the film that tells the story of how NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed massive surveillance programs by U.S. and British intelligence agencies. "Our goal was to humanize the man, to bring you … the feeling of his life," Stone says of Snowden, who he notes was originally politically conservative and tried to enlist in the military to serve in Iraq but joined the CIA instead.
TRANSCRIPTThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today we spend the hour with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, director of the much-anticipated film Snowden, that hits theaters this Friday.DR. STILLWELL: [played by Robert Firth] The best I could tell, you've been walking around on two broken legs for weeks.EDWARD SNOWDEN: [played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt] When do I go back?DR. STILLWELL: If you ever again land on those legs of yours, those bones will turn to powder. Plenty other ways to serve your country.CORBIN O'BRIAN: [played by Rhys Ifans] You wanted to be Special Forces?EDWARD SNOWDEN: Yes, sir.CORBIN O'BRIAN: Why do you want to join the CIA?EDWARD SNOWDEN: I'd like to help my country make a difference in the world.CORBIN O'BRIAN: The average test time is five hours.EDWARD SNOWDEN: I'm done, sir.CORBIN O'BRIAN: It's been 40 minutes.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Thirty-eight minutes? What should I do now?CORBIN O'BRIAN: Whatever you want.EDWARD SNOWDEN: The deputy director of the NSA offered me a new position.LINDSAY MILLS: [played by Shailene Woodley] Can you tell me anything about it?EDWARD SNOWDEN: You know I can't.HANK FORRESTER: [played by Nicolas Cage] Find the terrorist in the internet haystack.CIA AGENT GENEVA: [played by Timothy Olyphant] You're making people very happy.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Thank you.CIA AGENT GENEVA: You ready for a little action?GABRIEL SOL: [played by Ben Schnetzer] Oh, this looks cheesy.EDWARD SNOWDEN: How is this all possible?GABRIEL SOL: Think of it as a Google search, except instead of searching only what people make public, we're also looking at everything they don't—emails, chats, SMS, whatever.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Yeah, but which people?GABRIEL SOL: The whole kingdom, Snow White.EDWARD SNOWDEN: The NSA is really tracking every cellphone in the world.UNIDENTIFIED: Most Americans don't want freedom. They want security.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Except people, they don't even know they've made that bargain.LINDSAY MILLS: Are they watching us?EDWARD SNOWDEN: There's something going on inside the government that's really wrong, and I can't ignore it. I just want to get this data to the world.Hey.GUARD: Hey.EDWARD SNOWDEN: I feel like I'm made to do this. And if I don't do it, then—I don't know anybody else that can. This is everything I have. They're going to figure out what I've done.CORBIN O'BRIAN: Did you access an unauthorized program?GLENN GREENWALD: [played by Zachary Quinto] The government knows that we have these documents now.EWEN MACASKILL: [played by Tom Wilkinson] You're looking at a possible death sentence.EDWARD SNOWDEN: I can't turn back from this.CIA AGENT GENEVA: Watch yourself.UNIDENTIFIED: We are running out of time.EDWARD SNOWDEN: They're going to come for me. They're going to come for all of you, too.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That's the trailer to the new film Snowden, directed by Oliver Stone, about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who exposed sweeping surveillance programs by U.S. intelligence agencies and became one of the most wanted men in the world. The film recreates what transpired in a Hong Kong hotel room over eight days in June 2013 when Snowden first met with now Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Guardian reporter Ewen MacAskill to leak a trove of secret documents about how the United States had built a massive surveillance apparatus to spy on Americans and people across the globe. It also tells the story of Snowden's longtime relationship with his partner Lindsay Mills.AMY GOODMAN: Through flashbacks, the film chronicles Snowden's career in national security as a staffer and contractor with the CIA and NSA, and shows his eventual realization of the extent of the U.S. mass surveillance program, as illustrated in this scene with an NSA hacker, whom he later befriends.GABRIEL SOL: [played by Ben Schnetzer] What I will be providing you and the fine gentlemen at Secret Service is a list of every threat made about the president since February 3rd and a profile of every threat maker.EDWARD SNOWDEN: [played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt] And these are like existing targets?GABRIEL SOL: Ninety-nine percent are going to come from the bulk collection program, so Upstream, MUSCULAR, Tempora, PRISM.EDWARD SNOWDEN: PRISM?GABRIEL SOL: You got a little Snow White in you, which makes me feel like the witch bringing you a poison apple. Here, exhibit A. Oakland resident Justin Pinsky posted on a message board, "Romania has a storied history of executing their leaders, couldn't they do us a solid and take out Bush?" Oh, this looks cheesy. It's from a Gchat: "with the biggest python you've ever seen." Hmm.EDWARD SNOWDEN: How is this all possible?GABRIEL SOL: Keyword selectors: "attack," "take out Bush." So think of it—think of it as a Google search, except instead of searching only what people make public, we're also looking at everything they don't, so emails, chats, SMS, whatever.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Yeah, but which people?GABRIEL SOL: The whole kingdom, Snow White.AMY GOODMAN: That's a clip from the new film Snowden. The film's release comes amidst a stepped-up campaign for President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden before he leaves office in January. Snowden is charged with theft of state secrets and is accused of violating the Espionage Act. He faces at least 30 years in prison, but argues his disclosure of mass surveillance by the U.S. and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right, but left citizens better off. The ACLU is coordinating the campaign with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other groups. Full-page ads are running today in Politico and The Washington Post.Well, for more, we're joined right now by the director of Snowden. Oliver Stone is a three-time Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter. He's made nearly two dozen acclaimed Hollywood films, including Platoon, Wall Street, Salvador, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Nixon, W., South of the Border and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. He joins us in studio today along with the star of his latest film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who stars in Oliver Stone's film as the character Edward Snowden. Gordon-Levitt is an actor and filmmaker, known for his roles in 3rd Rock from the Sun, 500 Days of Summer, Inceptionand other films.We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Congratulations, Oliver. You have just released this film. Tonight, in 800 theaters across the country, you will not only show the film, but project a conversation with Ed Snowden, who is in political exile in Russia.OLIVER STONE: That's correct. Yes, tonight.AMY GOODMAN: Talk about why you chose this as the subject of your latest film.OLIVER STONE: Well, as you know, Amy, it's an important story. When it broke, it was very hot, and I didn't want anything to do with it, because I just don't think movies can chase the news. We're always about a year or two behind. You know, things change in a case like this. But I went over to Moscow. His lawyer invited me, Anatoly Kucherena. And I met with Ed, and he was wary of a movie, and I was wary of the whole situation. I went back two more times. And by the third visit in June of 2015, we agreed to go ahead and do as realistic a version as possible of his life.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the decision to make a feature film? Obviously, Laura Poitras's filmCitizenfour had just won the Academy—had won the Academy Award.OLIVER STONE: Yeah.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Your decision to make a feature film and concentrate so much more on the story of his journey?OLIVER STONE: Yes, one's a documentary, a fine film, and this is a drama and is—it's two different genres. I mean, sometimes they're compared, but I think falsely. No, our goal was to humanize the man, to bring you behind the eyes, behind the feeling of his life, what he was about, why he did it. You'll remember, he was a conservative young man. He joined the military at a young age. He wanted to go to Iraq at the most dangerous time to fight that war. He couldn't serve because he was frail, frankly, physically, and he ended up joining the CIA instead. He was a—his father, grandfather were both in the service. So, it's an interesting—like, remember my film Born on the Fourth of July, where you—Ron Kovic turns? You see an interesting turn in personality, and through his relationship, partly, with Lindsay Mills.AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to break, then come back. Oliver Stone and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are our guests. Sarah Harrison will be joining us later in the show, the investigative editor for WikiLeaks who accompanied Edward Snowden on his flight from Hong Kong to Moscow and ended up spending four months in the Russian airport with him. This is Democracy Now! Snowden is being released this week—well, that's the film, not the man. Stay with us.[break]AMY GOODMAN: "The Veil" by Peter Gabriel, who composed this song for the new filmSnowden. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we're speaking with the director of Snowden, Oliver Stone. Let's go to another clip from the film Snowden.HANK FORRESTER: [played by Nicolas Cage] Hank Forrester. Where did you study, Snowden?EDWARD SNOWDEN: [played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt] Mostly I'm self-taught. You can tell me if you're busy, but that is a Cray-1?HANK FORRESTER: Why, yes. Yes, it is. The first supercomputer. We get all of this on a cellphone now.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Yeah. So, you're an engineer?HANK FORRESTER: Am I an engineer? Instructor and counselor, too. I'm supposed to keep an eye on you CTs, make sure you don't buckle under the pressure, turn to drugs and booze.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Well, you won't have that problem with me. I don't drink or do drugs.HANK FORRESTER: What is your sin of choice?EDWARD SNOWDEN: Computers.HANK FORRESTER: Well, then, Snowden, you've come to the right little whorehouse.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we're joined by the director of Snowden, Oliver Stone, and the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played Snowden, who stars in the film as the main character. I'd like to ask you about, one, the times you were able to meet with Ed Snowden to get into—get your sense of the character, and what most surprised you about the man you were portraying.JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: Sure. Well, as Oliver said, he and his co-writer, Kieran Fitzgerald, took a number of trips to Moscow to meet with Mr. Snowden, and he was really generous with his time and gave a lot of input on the script. And then they brought me once. And I had a chance to sit with him for about four hours. And it was me and him, as well as his longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, who is played in the movie by Shailene Woodley. And the thing is, he's—he's always trying to take the attention off himself personally and put the attention on the issues that he's trying to bring up. And I think that's proper; I admire him for it. However, because I'm an actor and I was getting ready to play him in a movie, I was focused on him personally, on the little nuances that you can—you know, that you can pick up when you shake someone's hand or you see how they sit or stand or walk or talk or eat, even, when, you know, we ate lunch together. And those little details are really valuable for me.AMY GOODMAN: You have an interesting background, especially for our viewers and listeners.JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: Yes.AMY GOODMAN: Your parents met at the Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles?JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: That's right, yeah. My dad was the news editor at KPFK in the early '70s, and my mom was working there, too. And that is where they met.AMY GOODMAN: And your mom ran for Congress on the Peace and Freedom ticket.JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: That's right.AMY GOODMAN: And your grandfather was a blacklisted director?JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: That's right. My mom's dad, his name was Michael Gordon. And he had just directed a movie called Cyrano de Bergerac, which was a very, you know, lauded movie. The actor, José Ferrer, had just won the Oscar. And he had been to, you know, some meetings, which were basically people gathering at homes and generally talking about, you know, the kind of things that you talk about on this program—rights for workers, poverty around the world, things like that. But at that time, the U.S. government, you know, mostly led by Senator McCarthy, considered that un-American, and a lot of people were put on a list, called the blacklist, and not allowed to work. So, my mom's family, they actually had to move because my grandpa couldn't work.AMY GOODMAN: Issues that are un-American, that—considered by some, considered by so many others as patriotic. I think you could sort of talk about Edward Snowden the same way. I want to turn to another clip from the new film Snowden, where the character you play, Joe, Edward Snowden, reveals the extent of data collection worldwide.GABRIEL SOL: [played by Ben Schnetzer] What is this?EDWARD SNOWDEN: [played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt] OK, so this is data collection for the month of March worldwide, emails and Skype calls. So, France, 70 million; Germany, 500 million; Brazil, 2 billion; inside the U.S., 3.1 billion emails and calls. That's not including any of the telcom company data.PATRICK HAYNES: [played by Keith Stanfield] OK, so what's the collection of Russia?EDWARD SNOWDEN: Russia is 1.5 billion.PATRICK HAYNES: Wait. So, we're collecting twice as much in the U.S. as we are in Russia?MALE DRONE PILOT: [played by Logan Marshall-Green] Yeah, I figured it was a lot, but—GABRIEL SOL: This is out of hand, man.MALE DRONE PILOT: Have you shown this to anyone else?EDWARD SNOWDEN: No, you guys are the first.PATRICK HAYNES: Yeah, yeah, you know, I'd be careful about that. You know, it could seem like you're rocking the boat.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Yeah, you're right. No, I just—I needed to know if I was the only one that thought this was crazy.PATRICK HAYNES: Right.TREVOR JAMES: [played by Scott Eastwood] What the [bleep]'s going on?EDWARD SNOWDEN: Hey, Trev.TREVOR JAMES: What are you doing in here?EDWARD SNOWDEN: It's nothing. I was just showing them this one slide.MALE DRONE PILOT: My bad, Trev. Made a bet with Ed about which country we were collecting the most signals from.GABRIEL SOL: Yeah, I need to head out. I'll see you guys.MALE DRONE PILOT: You're going down next time, man.EDWARD SNOWDEN: OK.TREVOR JAMES: I don't want anyone unauthorized in here again, especially not with Heartbeat.EDWARD SNOWDEN: You're right. Won't happen again.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That's a clip from Snowden where Edward Snowden is talking about, to the other members of the team, the extent of the surveillance that he has managed to pull together because he developed a program called Heartbeat, right?OLIVER STONE: That's correct.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And that was an interesting aspect of your film, because, in essence, the Heartbeat program that he created, which was an index of the surveillance programs, made it easier when he finally decided to download the material to be able to do it in a more efficient manner.OLIVER STONE: Actually very few people know that, and some technical people, who know a lot about the case, have pointed that out. It's a revelation. Of course, the NSA has 150 programs. Their names are insane. But in there—it hasn't come out yet—I think you'll find Heartbeat. Of course, they'll cover it up when they release it, or they'll do something. But it was planned to—offense and defense. The last thing that Ed did was to work on offensive capabilities in cyberwarfare out of Hawaii, in his second position there with Booz—Booz Allen—is that the correct?AMY GOODMAN: Mm-hmm.OLIVER STONE: And anyway, that's—he learned a lot. He combined the offensive and the—and that's one of his major points, is: Why are we waging offensive warfare, when we can't secure our homeland without defensive capabilities?AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the process of making the film and the elaborate security protocols that you went through, using code words, handwritten notes, so they can't be picked up on the internet.OLIVER STONE: Yeah. I'm going to answer that in a sec; I just want to point out one more little thing. It's if Michael Hayden was the head of the NSA at 9/11, and they failed to do their job. That's very important, that Americans don't sometimes realize the extent of that failure, that he had good information that led to two of the hijackers who were in San Diego. That was through a safe house they owned. I mean, they didn't own it; they had spied on it for a long time. It was in Sana'a, in Yemen. So, in other words, they haven't really utilized those tools for defense.As to our protocols, we were—we were suspicious that there would be interferences, and—but I can't say that it happened. I don't know. We did go offline and off the grid as much as possible—meetings in person, we checked the phones, debugged the computers. We really tried to be wise about it. Whenever a script had to go out, we'd cut it up into sections and put it on a device and encrypt it and send it off to whoever was reading it in the world.AMY GOODMAN: And you didn't film here; you filmed in Germany?OLIVER STONE: We filmed—we started in Germany. We built most of the America out of Germany. And then we came here for one week only to Washington, D.C. And we—Joe and Shailene walked right in front of the White House with Mr. Obama, who came in and out once or twice, and we had to suspend filming. There was a blackout that day. And we also moved on to Hawaii and shot near that base. We shot actually in the home—close to the home that Ed had in Hawaii next to that golf course. And then we moved to Hong Kong and on back to Germany and then to Moscow.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I'd like to ask Joe about this issue of—this is not only a tale of international espionage and intrigue; it's also a love story. And the love story is not only crucial to holding the audience, but also to the development of the character that you portray, Edward Snowden. Can you talk about that, as well?JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: Sure, well, that's just the thing, is the real-life story of Edward Snowden's life these nine years, between 2004 and 2013, which is really the bulk of the film—the real-life story is the perfect material for a drama, because a drama is always focused on a character who changes. And, you know, as Oliver pointed out, Snowden enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2004. He's the kind of guy that wants to go fight for his country, and he's a certain kind of patriot. And I almost think he kind of evolves into a new kind of patriotism—one kind where you just believe that everything your country does is right no matter what and you don't ask any questions, and then a new kind, where you do ask those questions and view that questioning as patriotic. So, a big part of that development, from one kind of patriotism to another, is due to his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, who was brought up in a really different environment than he was. Whereas, you know, Ed's father and grandfather were in the service, as Oliver mentioned, Lindsay came from a very different upbringing.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, let's go to a clip from the film, which features Snowden and his girlfriend, Lindsay, as they walk through a protest in Washington, D.C., against the Iraq War.PROTESTER: Excuse me, ma'am, would you like to sign?LINDSAY MILLS: [played by Shailene Woodley] I actually just signed.PROTESTER: OK, thank you very much.LINDSAY MILLS: Thank you. Too much independent spirit for you?EDWARD SNOWDEN: [played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt] No, I just don't really like bashing my country.LINDSAY MILLS: It's my country, too, and right now it has blood on its hands.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Sorry, I just—I have friends who are over there right now.LINDSAY MILLS: I'm not talking about the troops. I'm talking about the moron sending them to war.EDWARD SNOWDEN: Mm-hmm, you mean our commander-in-chief?LINDSAY MILLS: Yeah, whatever you want to call him, he's still wrong.EDWARD SNOWDEN: How do you know he's wrong? You're just lashing out.LINDSAY MILLS: No, I'm not lashing out. I'm questioning our government. That's what we do in this country. That is the principle that we are founded on.EDWARD SNOWDEN: OK, but how about questioning the liberal media? I mean, you're just buying into what one side is saying.LINDSAY MILLS: Maybe I am, because my side is right.EDWARD SNOWDEN: See, that's funny, because my side's right. So—LINDSAY MILLS: Oh, really?EDWARD SNOWDEN: Yeah.LINDSAY MILLS: Huh, why is it smart conservatives always make me so mad?EDWARD SNOWDEN: Probably because you don't like hearing the truth.LINDSAY MILLS: You are a very frustrating individual, you know that? How am I going to make you see?EDWARD SNOWDEN: I can see just fine, thank you.AMY GOODMAN: That's Edward Snowden, played by our guest here today, Joe Gordon-Levitt, and Shailene Woodley playing the longtime girlfriend of Ed Snowden, Lindsay Mills. Talk about what happens in Hawaii when Ed has come to this decision that the American people should understand what's happening to them, being surveilled.OLIVER STONE: In movie terms or in real life?AMY GOODMAN: Both.OLIVER STONE: Because in real life, you know, it's hard for Ed to define the moment. It's a growing phenomenon. It starts in Geneva, when he serves, and then it increases through Japan, goes through Maryland, and then he ends up in Hawaii, because he wants to go there. He has a case of epilepsy that comes up late in the movie, which is accurate to that time period. It was quite shocking, when you're that age, 29, to encounter the limits of your life. A mortality sets in. So, you have to make your decisions, to a certain degree. His relationship with Shailene has turned—in a sense, she's brought him to a new awareness against his previous conditioning.And when he gets to Hawaii, he sees the worst of it, some of the worst of the offensive cyberwarfare particularly, not just the eavesdropping. We're past the eavesdropping at that point, because he's seen plenty of that in Japan and Geneva. But in Hawaii, he sees the capability. It's always pictured to the American public as a defensive capability, but it's not. It's an offensive one. The Chinese are always hacking us, per the news. In reality, people like this were hacking them, and quite efficiently. So, in Hawaii, he comes to this—you'll see. I mean, I don't want to spoil the movie, but there comes to be—when he lifted these materials and helped get them out to the public, it is not done in the realistic way that it was done. It was—we gave it a little juice, because it's a drama, and because, frankly, it's probably much more banal than you think, the way he did it.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What about the process of getting the film made, when you first went to the folks in Hollywood to try to talk about this film, and you ended up going with an independent—with an independent distributor?OLIVER STONE: No luck, no luck. We really were disappointed. No, we really—you know, the film required some hardware and some budget, and we had a good cast, and it made sense at the price. They all said no. We don't know why; you never do. But we suspect it did go up to corporate boards, because the heads of the studios liked the script, for the most part. It went upstairs, you know, three or four days go by, you don't hear anything. So, the lawyers—as I said, you know, "no" is the easiest word in the English language, and it's—they passed. We were—we went to Open Road, is a brave, young distributor, new in the business. Spotlight last year, Spotlight, the movie. And they've done a terrific job. Very, very courageous of them.The release of Oliver Stone's film "Snowden" comes amid a stepped-up campaign by the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden before he leaves office in January. Snowden is charged with theft of state secrets and is accused of violating the Espionage Act. He faces at least 30 years in prison, but argues his disclosure of mass surveillance by the U.S. and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right, but left citizens better off. "I think it would be a great choice for our country to turn back on the road it's on," says Stone. Joseph Gordon-Levitt adds, "The truth [is] that Snowden's disclosures did not do any harm … There was … a responsible process to make sure that no harm would be done."
TRANSCRIPTThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: So, let's go to another clip. And this one features the initial discussions between Glenn Greenwald and an editor at The Guardian about publishing the findings from Snowden's NSA leaks.EWEN MACASKILL: [played by Tom Wilkinson] Janine, how did the White House conversation go?JANINE GIBSON: [played by Joely Richardson] I made it quite clear that we were in possession of an authentic FISA court order. They wanted to see it. We refused. Now I just pray that it's actually authentic.GLENN GREENWALD: [played by Zachary Quinto] Are you actually questioning that?JANINE GIBSON: Glenn, no one has ever seen a FISA court order. There's no precedent here.GLENN GREENWALD: Our source risked his life for that document. It's real. Tell us, did the White House make any specific claims about national security that would prevent you from publishing?JANINE GIBSON: No. I asked them repeatedly, and they had no substantive answer.GLENN GREENWALD: Then there you go. What more do you want? You can go out and know that you're safe.JANINE GIBSON: Glenn, I'd like to talk to Alan before we go any further.EWEN MACASKILL: When does he land?ASSISTANT EDITOR: [played by Nicholas Rowe] In six hours.GLENN GREENWALD: No, absolutely not. We're sitting ducks here, Janine. No, it's 1:00 p.m. in New York. If you don't get this out in the next four hours, you'll miss the evening news on the East Coast.JANINE GIBSON: But we can post later tonight. I'm sorry, Glenn, but Alan's our editor-in-chief, and I—GLENN GREENWALD: Bull [bleep]! The government knows that we have these documents now. The CIA could barge through this door any minute, and you want more time. Act like a [bleep] journalist and stop stringing us along!AMY GOODMAN: OK, that's a clip from Snowden.OLIVER STONE: Yeah.AMY GOODMAN: And it also goes to what's happening today, the launching of a campaign to pardon Edward Snowden. Can you talk, Oliver Stone, about what's happening?OLIVER STONE: About this scene?AMY GOODMAN: The scene, but also about this campaign to get President Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves.OLIVER STONE: Oh, yeah, that is a—that's been initiated by the ACLU, and they're running with it. As you said, Amnesty and other organizations are involved. I didn't do this film for those purposes, but certainly I think it would be a great choice for our country to turn back on the road it's on. I think that he would certainly take some prison time. He said so. But he cannot defend himself in court under the Espionage Act. It's just impermissible to bring evidence of any kind about the security state. So, he's in a bind. And he would like to come back. He loves his country.JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: One thing I'd add about the scene we just saw, as far as the pardon campaign, is, an important part, I think, of him being pardoned is the truth that Snowden's disclosures didn't do any harm to anybody or to the country, because that's a claim that gets said a lot, that, you know, he's going to harm national security, that certain individuals were uncovered. There's just—there's no facts behind that at all. And, in fact, what you see in that scene of the journalists checking with the White House about what they're about to leak and directly asking the White House, "Tell us, specifically, how does this harm national security? We'll redact what you want us to redact," the White House couldn't specify anything. So, there was really a process, I would say, a responsible process, to make sure that no harm would be done. And I think that's really an important thing, when considering, you know, the value of what he did.OLIVER STONE: This scene is based on, you know, Janine Gibson's conversations with me and Kieran. She went through—she had a hard 24 hours.AMY GOODMAN: And Janine Gibson was the editor of The Guardian USA.OLIVER STONE: She was the American editor—the American editor of the online. And she did it because the editor was truly in the air on his way to New York. Glenn Greenwald—and who you've interviewed several times—definitely brought the pressure on her, because he said he was going to go independently and publish it himself on his own site, which was—I guess it didn't happen, because she actually—in that scene, you saw her agree.AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, they ended up winning—The Guardian won the Pulitzer for his reporting.OLIVER STONE: Yeah, yeah.AMY GOODMAN: Well, we're going to go to break, then come back to this discussion, and we'll be joined by Sarah Harrison, who was part of a middle leg of the trip, going with Ed Snowden from Hong Kong to Russia, though he didn't intend to stay there, hoping to make his way to Latin America. Sarah Harrison, an editor with WikiLeaks. We're talking to Oliver Stone, the three-time award-winning filmmaker, who is this week celebrating his 70th birthday, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is the star of the film. He plays Ed Snowden in the film Snowden. Stay with us.On the release of Oliver Stone's new film, "Snowden," we speak with WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison, who accompanied NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on his flight from Hong Kong to Moscow and spent four months with him in the airport in Russia. She describes how Snowden reached out to the Courage Foundation, which she directs and which raises defense funds for Snowden and other whistleblowers. "We really wanted to try and show the world that there are people who will stand up" and help whistleblowers, says Harrison.
TRANSCRIPTThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We're spending the hour talking about the new film that tells the story of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. It's called Snowden. While speaking on Monday video a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Edward Snowden made a case for a presidential pardon by Barack Obama. This is Snowden speaking with The Guardian's Ewen MacAskill.EDWARD SNOWDEN: If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off. Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but perhaps this is why the pardon power exists, for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page, but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, and when we look at the results, it seems obvious that these were necessary things, these were vital things.AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we're joined by three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Edward Snowden in Stone's new filmSnowden; and I want to bring into the conversation Sarah Harrison, investigative editor of WikiLeaks. In 2013, she accompanied NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden on his flight from Hong Kong to Moscow and spent four months with him in Russia at the airport.Sarah, it's great to have you back with us on Democracy Now! I you when we were both in Germany. But right now, if you can talk about the effects of the release of the documents that Ed did on where you are now, Germany—you can't go back to Britain, afraid what would happen to you if you went back there, just as Ed is in Russia right now—and on the world, why you got involved?SARAH HARRISON: Well, having worked with quite a number of sources before for my work with WikiLeaks, this was obviously a large issue for me. When Edward Snowden reached out to us, asking for assistance when he was in Hong Kong, having understood that he was now in an obviously very complex legal and political situation and needed some people to assist with technical and operational security expertise, he reached out to us as an organization. And I went over there, as the person on the ground in Hong Kong, to help him, not only for him, himself, because he had clearly done something so brave and deserved the protection, I felt, but also for the larger objective to try and show that despite Obama's war on whistleblowers, that actually there was another option. At the time, the Obama administration was intent upon putting alleged source Chelsea Manning into prison for decades—as she is now in prison for 35 years—and we really wanted to try and show the world that there are people that will stand up, there are people that will help. And The Guardian, for example, when—did not give any additional help to Edward Snowden as a source, as a person there, and we wanted to show there are publishers that will help in these scenarios.With regards to the effects of the documents and revelations that Edward Snowden gave, I think that it has become obvious to so many people in the world that this is, at the very least, a public debate that needed to be happened—that needed to happen. In Germany, it sparked an inquiry into not only the NSA surveillance on this soil, but also with the collaboration with the intelligence services here. And there have been some amazing revelations that have come out through the documents and this inquiry about how strong that cooperation is, with essentially the intel services here being more beholden to the United States than they are to their own government. And we've seen similar sorts of revelations and beginnings of change around the world. A number of corporations are understanding they actually have to give better services with regards to encryption and privacy to their customers and are changing their products accordingly.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Sarah, what about this argument by some here in the United States that Snowden should have pursued normal whistleblower challenges as somebody—or complaints to supervisors within the institutions that he worked in? But you've dealt with many whistleblowers through the years. Your response to that?SARAH HARRISON: I would say that we can actually see, through some quite recent examples—Thomas Drake, a previous NSA whistleblower, being one—that where these channels are attempted to be used, A, not only do they fail, but there is combative persecution that comes back in retaliation from the U.S. government. Thomas Drake lost his job, essentially his life, ended up having to take a very expensive legal case. He is—he was cleared in the end through some very good defense work, but it essentially ruined his life. And the whistleblowing acts that he tried to take were not taken seriously through these proper channels. So they clearly don't work.And particularly in the national security industry, I think there is no hope that Edward Snowden could have taken the right channels. Now, he actually did try, right at the beginning, did try these channels. He is, as been mentioned a number of times in this program, a patriot and a believer of the U.S. systems and justice system. But, sadly, as has been proven in the attempts he tried with this, and we've seen re. fair trials for whistleblowers, etc., that justice system isn't always fair, and he was unable to blow the whistle and get this information into the public domain or try any reforms in the other ways, other than to go public in the manner in which he did to U.S. media.AMY GOODMAN: Sarah, can you return home to Britain?SARAH HARRISON: Ah, well, I'm sorry that you just said that before. I actually was very—had a great summer, where I was actually able to go home, actually, in part thanks to David Miranda, a journalist that was working with Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian at the time. When he transited through the U.K., he was stopped under the Terrorism Act, where you have no right to silence when you're stopped like this at airports. And he was forced to give up passwords, etc. My legal team was very certain that I would be stopped for my work with WikiLeaks and with Snowden, under this Terrorism Act, despite being a journalist, and would—they knew my ethics: I would not answer some questions, and would therefore be at risk of charges of terrorism. David Miranda, rightfully, said that journalists should not be stopped under this act. We have a belief in the U.K. of freedom of press. And in an attempt to try and protect all journalists, he took a case against this act being used against journalists, and finally won earlier this year at the High Court in the U.K. After this win, my legal team took a reassessment of the risks of the situation, and, very happily, I was able to return home to the U.K. this summer.AMY GOODMAN: Well, congratulations, and I happily correct what I said.Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said Edward Snowden "stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands." We get reaction from WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison and filmmaker Oliver Stone. "She misses the point that no spy gives his story to the newspapers for free, which is what he did," Stone says. "He handed over all the information." Harrison adds, "To me, this is all just rhetorical spin trying to deflect from the real situation."
TRANSCRIPTThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: Let's go, though, to the Democratic presidential debate last year, one of the primary debates. Hillary Clinton was asked if she viewed NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden as a hero or a traitor. This excerpt begins with Hillary Clinton and CNN's Anderson Cooper.HILLARY CLINTON: He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.ANDERSON COOPER: Should he do jail time?HILLARY CLINTON: In addition—in addition, he stole very important information that has, unfortunately, fallen into a lot of the wrong hands.ANDERSON COOPER: Governor O'Malley?HILLARY CLINTON: So, I don't think he should be brought home without facing the music.AMY GOODMAN: So, that's Hillary Clinton. Well, in May, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden performed a, quote, "public service" by leaking documents revealing NSA mass surveillance. Holder made the comment during a podcast hosted by David Axelrod.ERIC HOLDER: We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made.AMY GOODMAN: So, Sarah Harrison, can you respond to what Hillary Clinton said about getting information into the hands of wrong people? And then, Oliver, I'd like you to respond, as well.SARAH HARRISON: Well, also, with regard—I'll come to that in just a second. But also, just with regards to what she said, I think it's important to note that at the time that Snowden blew the whistle, he was also at a government contractor, where there are different—different rules, and the paths she is presumably talking about weren't actually open to him anyway, albeit if they had been, they clearly didn't work, as we can see from Drake's case. So, it is just rhetorical spin that she is using there to try and say he had any other options.And as you can see from the Holder quote and many other quotes from government officials, and just the public response, this is clearly a debate that needed to happen. I think, therefore, we can see in Snowden's situation that, as Snowden was alluding to in the conversation he had with MacAskill, his case is essentially a very good test case, in that we, despite Obama campaigning on protecting more whistleblowers—he has put more in prison—we do have more and more whistleblowers coming forward, post-Snowden, as well. Courage is contagious. And yet the laws clearly don't protect them. There are no paths for them that are workable beforehand. The laws don't protect them afterwards. As well as what Oliver was talking about with regards to a fair trial or not for Snowden, he also would not be able to mount a public interest defense. He would not be able to explain, as you are with other sorts of alleged crimes, the public debate he had started and how, from an ethical standpoint, actually what he did was right. So, essentially, whether before or after, he has so few options open to him.And I think that this spin that we've—we have from Clinton, and including this harm done, well, there's actually no examples of that. From my work with WikiLeaks, we've had years of these attacks, and still the U.S. government has not come up with any examples of this. So, to me, this is all just rhetorical spin trying to deflect from the real situation, that we clearly need whistleblowers as part of our democratic processes. And at the moment, protections for them do not exist at all, and they clearly must be built. And I think that the campaign for pardoning that has begun will hopefully spark this element of the public debate a lot, to see how we can move forward in that area, as well as the protections of privacy.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Oliver Stone, your reaction to Hillary, as well as also Donald Trump has raised the possibility of execution for Edward Snowden?OLIVER STONE: Well said by Sarah. When Mrs. Clinton said "into the wrong hands," she clearly meant the Russians. And she misses the point that no spy gives his story to the newspapers for free, which is what he did, and we show it very clearly in the Hong Kong hotel room. On top of it, you remember the scene when Snowden—JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And turns over all the records to the journalists—OLIVER STONE: Yeah.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —and doesn't keep any.OLIVER STONE: And we made a point in the scene, is he kills the—he destroys, deletes all the information that he has. He says, "I have no more information. I'm traveling with no baggage," because he knew—he had no exit plan. I mean, it was really kind of a—he wanted just to get this information out. And he risked, basically, everything. He felt like it was over with his life. He was willing to accept arrest or death or—it was over. And that's what the point of that scene was. He deletes it. It's your responsibility now.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you mentioned during break that also that Snowden has quite a bit of support among more libertarian Republicans, as well.OLIVER STONE: I did, yeah. When you showed the scene of Joe and Shailene walking in front of the White House, they're talking. His early views were very libertarian about—Joe's views—I'm sorry, Ed's views. And the point is that many Republicans are supporting that view. I think 50 of them voted for the Freedom Act. And a lot of them actually are in sympathy with this idea of—that the NSA has gone way too far.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you also, you are—have a next project of Vladimir Putin in the works?OLIVER STONE: I'm working on a—it's for next year, though. There's a documentary. He talks very forthrightly and gives a chance to the American people to actually hear him, as opposed to hear the insults that are directed at him.AMY GOODMAN: Sarah, very quickly, Julian Assange still in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, and Chelsea Manning has just announced she's ending her hunger strike, because she's getting the medications and the support she feels that she has been demanding through this strike. But where they both are today? She's serving, what, 35 years in prison.OLIVER STONE: And let us see him. Show him to us.AMY GOODMAN: Say that again, Oliver.OLIVER STONE: Let us see him, Chelsea Manning.AMY GOODMAN: You want to see—see her?OLIVER STONE: Yeah, let's—yes, her. Sorry. Let us see her. I mean, put her on TV. Let's have an open discussion on it. She's a prisoner. She has rights.AMY GOODMAN: And Sarah?SARAH HARRISON: Yeah, I mean, it is great news that Manning has felt she is able to end her hunger strike and that her demands are starting to be met, her demands for basic human rights. It is sad and, I think, an obvious—these are two other obvious examples of this persecution of these truth tellers, these people bringing information into the public domain. Just again referring to the Hillary clip, as Oliver was explaining, Ed very much was working with U.S. journalists to bring this information to the U.S. public. So one can only assume, in Hillary's quote, she's talking about the wrong hands being supposedly the American public understanding what their government is up to. And—AMY GOODMAN: Well, that's a very interesting analysis, Sarah. We're going to have to leave it there, but I want to leave it on this note of the significant development this week: the 70th birthday of Oliver Stone. Oliver, enjoy. Make a wish and blow out your candle.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And congratulations on a long and distinguished career.AMY GOODMAN: What are you most proud of, Oliver?OLIVER STONE: The body of films. Thank you.AMY GOODMAN: And that does it for our show. Three-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, thank you for joining us, playing Ed Snowden. Sarah Harrison, for joining us from Berlin. The new film is called Snowden.
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