No 'illegal spying' or 'misuse of power': Sony amends wording on Snowden biopic description – leaked emails

Reuters/Yuya Shino
Internal Sony emails, released by WikiLeaks, confirm that the company edited the press release announcing its Edward Snowden biopic to be less critical of the US government and NSA surveillance, following input from Sony’s VP for Government Affairs.

Sony announced it had obtained the film rights to Glenn Greenwald’s book “No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State” on May 14, 2014. According to emails acquired by WikiLeaks, Keith Weaver, the company’s Executive Vice-President for Worldwide Government Affairs proposed edits to the release that would remove “illegal spying” and “misuse of power” from the original.

Responding to Sony’s senior VP for media relations, Jean Guerin, at 6:49pm on May 13, Weaver wrote:

"I have a few concerns/edits:

2nd paragraph, 1st sentence: Instead of ‘U.S. government’s illegal spying operations,’ I’d propose ‘US government’s controversial intelligence gathering’

2nd paragraph, last sentence: I would replace ‘misuse of power’ with ‘actions.’

Best,

KW"

(source: WikiLeaks)

The final press release dropped the word “controversial” as well:

"Greenwald's highly-anticipated book examines the journalist's personal involvement in working with Snowden to break numerous stories about the US government's intelligence gathering operations. The book is both a thrilling personal narrative of the events as they unfolded, and an important historical reflection on the broader implications of the NSA's activities."

The edits were first brought up in December last year by the Intercept. At the time, Greenwald said he was “not surprised, that an internal Sony lobbyist diluted the press release draft in order to avoid upsetting the government.”

By then, Oliver Stone had already secured the rights to the books from Snowden’s Russian lawyer and the Guardian reporter Luke Harding, and stated his intentions to film a rival biopic. Titled simply 'Snowden', the film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role, with Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson and Timothy Olyphant rounding off the rest of the cast. The film is scheduled for release in December 2015.

Read More: Joseph Gordon-Levitt slated to play Snowden in Oliver Stone film

This will beat our Snowden project to market and therefore ours is unlikely to happen,” wrote Sony executive Doug Belgrad, according to the Intercept. The company has not officially abandoned its Snowden movie, but its fate remains unknown.