Snowden the new Oliver Stone political thriller was screened by the ACLU of New Jersey on Tues. Sept. 13 for ACLU-NJ supporters and other members of the public four days before the film debuted nationwide. For the rest of the nation, The Snowden movie will leave you angry and thankful for the ACLU.
I urge my readers to help in securing the pardon by adding their name to the petition to President Obama at www.PardonSnowden.org
The Clairidge Cinema in Montclair hosted the 7 P.M. showing presented by the New Jersey state affiliate of the ACLU. Tickets for the event sold out in just a few hours after the announcement was made. Cell phones were required to be surrendered at the door because the film was not yet released to theaters nationwide, which would happen four days later on Fri. Sept. 16.
The screening was followed by a Q & A session with Ashley Gorski, a staff attorney in the ACLU‘s National Security Project, who has sued the NSA, about the First Amendment, privacy rights, and whistleblowers, and Ari Rosmarin, the public policy director at the ACLU of New Jersey. After the movie we were reminded that Verizon silently and willingly complied with the government’s secret order to hand over all cell phone calling records for over 10 years until Snowden released his information, which initiated reforms, but likely didn’t stop warrant-less surveillance. Snowden’s release of the secret court order to Verizon was a watershed event for privacy groups such as the ACLU because without that document privacy advocates would not have had standing to sue about the secret spying. Ari posed the question: “ After watching the movie, how many of you will now cover your computer’s camera?” Many, but not all raised their hands. Unbeknownst to most of the attendees, still today the Director of the FBI, James Comey, with all his inside information on what the government is and can do, still covers his computer’s camera with a piece of tape.
The back story is already well known in that Edward Snowden released his files to the world via the The Guardian and The Washington Post the proof that the U.S. was spying on the entirety of the world’s population. Snowden took responsibility for the release at great cost to himself and his family. Snowden has been in exile ever since. For their part The Guardian and The Washington Post were honored with the highest accolade in journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for public service.
The Guardian’s web page and files can be found on their site here. This site tells the complete story of one of the most important events in world history.
Beyond the release and subsequent fall out the story takes two divergent paths. On one side is the U.S. government in collusion with big media have rolled out their version of the event as a lone traitor, anti-american worthy of a secret-speedy trial for espionage under the 1917 Espionage Act. This version has been trumped loudly and frequently to drive home the narrative into the very community who will sit in judgment over Snowden. A well worn process used most recently by the U.S. Department of State to pin the blame for the Benghazi embassy attack and murders on a Youtube video and away from the Secretary of State and terrorists responsible. On the other hand, is the world’s collective of privacy advocates, independent minded media and the social and civil justice defenders such as the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and hundreds of others.
The government has effectively used the well worn public relations tactic of presenting the event in such a manner wherein the details are confusing, using terms few readers can relate to and legalese language that makes the eyes glaze over. All followed quickly by the rescuing statement “The basic story is…” and “ Here is the gist of what has happened…” essentially the headline is and what you need to take away from all this is that “Snowden is a traitor and harmed his country for personal gain” The public has always just accepted this method which is why it works so well.
Oliver Stone and co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald have perfectly cut through all the confusing terms, government technical jargon, legalese and misinformation to present the true facts of the event, Snowden’s rational, the enabling medias protective and judicious release of the information and the ultimate costs to Snowden and his family.
Unfortunately on Friday when the film is released to the world Americans will regrettably feel ashamed and angry that our government deliberately, carelessly and callously created the tools and used them to spy on the entirety of the world’s populations without the necessary controls in place to prevent the abuse of the secrets learned for personal and political gain. We have allowed our reputation, and our stature on the world stage to be sullied simply because we allowed those in our employ to act without controls or oversight.
What is clearer now, after reviewing the film, is that Ed Snowden did not act for personal gain and did not act to benefit any other group or foreign government. Snowden could have sold off his information and spent the rest of his days in luxury and comfort while the U.S. government was blackmailed into submission. The likes of which would have made the $33 billion dollars secretly paid to the Iranians by our current administration look like chump change. Snowden irrevocably handed over all of his files to the only media outlets he trusted empathically, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Der Spiegel, The New York Times, et. al. at no financial benefit to himself. For their part the media properly and judiciously released the documents in such a way that the release would not harm anyone who could be compromised by the exposure. Of course the U.S. government would need to own up to and change their ways. Therein lies the singular purpose for Snowden’s actions.
Should Edward Snowden be tried for treason and espionage? Not if the U.S. government stays with the defense du jour wherein “Intent” is the deciding factor. It was never Edward Snowden’s ‘Intent’ to help or aid a foreign entity nor personally gain from his actions. To the contrary Snowden’s intent was to help his country find its way out of the ill fated course it was on. That intent started with the tough-love provided by the exposure of our nefarious ways. Not unlike the 12 step process the fix begins with the honest exposure to which there must be a first bold step.
The ACLU has taken on the Snowden defense as it has on so many occasions where the government has overstepped its bounds. The costs for these defenses are considerable and are born by the ACLU, which is supported by its members dues and donations. To Join the ACLU follow this link.
The ACLU along with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and hundreds of other prominent advocates are seeking a pardon for Snowden from the U.S. government. A pardon would be inline with the healing process and go along way to restoring the reputation the U.S. has compromised with its actions.
Readers can help in securing the Pardon by adding their name to the petition to President Obama at www.PardonSnowden.org