Saturday, September 17, 2016

Oliver Stone and Snowden

Fred Kaplan reviews "Snowden" for Slate (The leaky myths of Snowden):

Oliver Stone’s Snowden is a bad movie, stuffed with myth, short on drama. Stone has always been a tendentious writer but he was once a terrific director. JFK ranks among the most exasperating movies of all time for portraying Jim Garrison, one of the battier Kennedy-assassination conspiracy-mongers, as a truth-telling hero. But it was still rollicking, spooky fun—so crazy entertaining I could almost excuse its crazy script. 

In Snowden, Stone has another self-styled hero on his hands, but this time he dispenses with the high-flying style and instead spends two hours shrouding his protagonist with the aura of a holy martyr...

...The fact is many of Snowden’s documents bore no resemblance to whistle-blowing as the phrase is broadly understood. Judging from Snowden-inspired stories in the Washington Post and the Guardian, they revealed details about the NSA’s interception of email and cellphone calls by the Taliban in Pakistan’s northwest territories; an operation to gauge the loyalties of CIA recruits in Pakistan; intelligence assessments inside Iran; and NSA surveillance of cellphone calls “worldwide,” an effort that (in the Post’s words) “allows it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.” In his first interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden revealed that the NSA routinely hacks into hundreds of computers in China and Hong Kong. None of this is noted in Stone’s film.

Whatever one’s views of U.S. foreign policy in those parts of the world, these activities are legitimate aspects of the NSA’s charter, which involves intercepting communications of foreign powers. They have nothing to do with domestic surveillance or spying on allies. Exposing these intercepts is not whistle-blowing: It’s an attempt to blow U.S. intelligence operations (emphasis added). 

And while Snowden has since acknowledged that other countries do this sort of thing too, not least China and his host at the moment, Russia. He never leaked documents revealing their hacking programs even though, in his job at the NSA, he would have had access to reports (and possibly raw data) about them as well...

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