“I’m just another guy who sits there day to day in the office, watches what’s happening and goes, ‘This is something that’s not our place to decide, the public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong.'” - Edward Snowden, 2013
It's been almost three years since Edward Snowden's face and name first appeared in headlines all over the world. He's the most wanted whistleblower in America, charged with espionage for publishing classified information about U.S. government surveillance. This Christmas, you'll be able to watch his story on the big screen in Snowden, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the man himself.
Check out the trailer here:
Laura Poitras first captured the polarizing story of the (in)famous whistleblower in her documentary Citizenfour, which features interview footage with Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and others. But will Snowden's story translate into a Hollywood film?
Here is a short breakdown of the real-life events behind Snowden.
Who Is Edward Snowden?
Edward Snowden was born in North Carolina on June 21, 1983. His family had always worked in the federal government: his father as an officer in the Coast Guard and his mother as chief deputy at the U.S. District Court of Maryland.
After obtaining a Master's degree from the University of Liverpool online, he enlisted in the Army Reserve, but unfortunately broke both his legs during training and was discharged several months after joining.
Snowden built up a reputation for technological genius while working as part of an elite team of computer and cybersecurity experts with the CIA from 2006 to 2009. In 2009 he started working for Dell computers, where he handled CIA and NSA accounts. Ultimately he left Dell to work with Booz Hamilton Systems, where he again handled classified government information.
What Did He Do?
While working as a contractor with the NSA, Snowden had access to highly classified information about the US surveillance systems both at home and abroad. He discovered that the NSA was engaged in mass surveillance of citizens around the world, as well as evidence of espionage — including bugging EU and UN buildings in order to gain further classified information that could be used to political and industrial advantage.
With the help of journalist Glenn Greenwald, Snowden went public with his findings on June 5, 2013. The documents were shared and published throughout the world, and Snowden became a wanted man.
What Crime Did He Commit?
Officially, Snowden faces charges for stealing government property, disclosing national defense information, and revealing classified intelligence information to an unauthorized person (well, millions of people). Under the Espionage Act, he faces a 30-year prison sentence if he returns to the US — he's currently in Russia where he received political asylum — and possibly further charges added to his case.
Glenn Greenwald said that Snowden originally shared 10,000 documents with him and Laura Poitras, but the NSA estimates that he has access to 1.5 million. If that's the case, it's possible the Snowden story is only just beginning.
What Can We Expect To See In Snowden?
The film will follow Snowden's life from the time he enlists in the Reserves through June 5, 2013 when he went public with his findings. In addition to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it will feature other major players from the Snowden files, including Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo). It hits theaters on December 25.
Watch the trailer again here.