Snowden (film)  

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"The NSA is really tracking every cell phone in the world."--Snowden (film) (2016)

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Snowden is a 2016 biographical thriller film directed by Oliver Stone and written by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald. Based on the books The Snowden Files (2014) by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus (2015) by Anatoly Kucherena, the film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) subcontractor and whistleblower who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) beginning in 2013. In addition to Gordon-Levitt, the film features an ensemble cast including Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Logan Marshall-Green, Timothy Olyphant, Ben Schnetzer, LaKeith Lee Stanfield, Rhys Ifans and Nicolas Cage. An international co-production of Germany, France, and the United States, principal photography began on February 16, 2015 in Munich.

Snowden screened at San Diego Comic-Con on July 21, 2016, before premiering at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2016. The film was theatrically released in the United States on September 16, 2016, by Open Road Films and on September 22 in Germany.

Plot

In 2013, Edward Snowden arranges a clandestine meeting in Hong Kong with documentarian Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald. They discuss releasing the classified information in the former’s possession regarding illegal mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). Poitras later released a documentary about this meeting titled Citizenfour, this in turn was used in a scene within the film Snowden.

In 2004, Snowden is undergoing basic training, having enlisted in the U.S. Army with intentions of matriculating to the Special Forces. He eventually fractures his tibia, and is informed that he will be receiving an administrative discharge and that he may serve his country in other ways.

Snowden applies for a position at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and subsequently undergoes the screening process. Initially, his answers to the screening questions are insufficient, but Deputy Director Corbin O'Brian decides to take a chance on him, given the demands of such extraordinary times. Snowden is then brought to "The Hill" where he is educated and tested on cyberwarfare. He learns about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which circumvents the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens by allowing warrant requests to be approved by a panel of judges that were appointed by the Chief Justice. Snowden and his peers are each tasked with building a covert communications network in their hometown, deleting it, and then rebuilding it in eight hours or less, with five hours being the average time taken. Snowden impresses O'Brian when he completes the exercise in 38 minutes.

Meanwhile, Snowden meets Lindsay Mills via a dating website. The two bond, despite sharply contrasting political ideologies. Snowden acquires his first post abroad working with diplomatic cover in Geneva in 2007, taking Mills with him. He meets Gabriel Sol, who has ample experience in electronic surveillance. Snowden begins questioning the ethical implications of their assignment. After his superior decides to set up their target on a DUI charge in order to coerce information from him, Snowden resigns from the CIA.

Snowden later takes a position with the NSA in Japan, initially under the pretense of building a program that would allow the government to back up all critical data from the Middle East in an emergency, a program which he names "Epic Shelter". Snowden learns of the practices the NSA and other U.S. government agencies are using not just in Japan, but in most countries which the U.S. is currently allied with, which include planting malware in different computers that manage government, infrastructure and financial sectors so that, in the event that any allies turn against the US, that country can effectively be shut down in retaliation. The stress associated with the job results in the end of his relationship with Mills, who moves back with her family in Maryland.

Three months later, Snowden has left his post with the NSA and returned to Maryland where he and Mills resume their relationship and he takes a position consulting for the CIA. During a hunting trip, O'Brian reveals an operation in Oahu that revolves around counterattacking Chinese hackers. After Snowden is diagnosed with epilepsy, Mills agrees that he should join the operation for she believes the environment in Hawaii may be beneficial for his health. Upon beginning his new job in "The Tunnel", an underground World War II bunker that has been re-purposed for massive electronic surveillance and SIGINT operations, Snowden learns that Epic Shelter is actually providing real-time data that assists U.S. drone pilots in launching lethal strikes against terror suspects in Pakistan.

Snowden ultimately becomes disillusioned with what he is a part of. It culminates in Snowden smuggling a microSD card into his office by way of a Rubik's Cube, and loading all relevant data. He then tells his colleagues he is feeling ill and departs. He advises Mills to fly home to Maryland, after which he contacts Poitras and Greenwald to schedule the meeting.

With the help of journalist Ewen MacAskill, the information is disseminated to the press on June 5, 2013, with additional leaks published in the following days. In the aftermath, with the help of MacAskill, Greenwald and Poitras, Snowden is smuggled out of Hong Kong on a flight bound for Latin America by way of Russia. However, the U.S. government revokes his passport, forcing him to remain in Moscow indefinitely. He is eventually granted asylum for three years, with Mills joining him at a later date. Snowden continues his activism.


See also




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