Snowden impressed by film portrayal, says Stone’s movie ‘as close to real as can get’ – FT interview

© Andrew Kelly
US exile Edward Snowden was impressed by how he is portrayed in his namesake film by Oliver Stone that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on Friday night. In an interview with the Financial Times, Snowden, said it’s “as close to real as you can get.”

The NSA whistleblower also admitted to the Financial Times his disappointment with the choice of candidates in the upcoming US presidential election and how Britain is becoming an “authoritarian” state.

Snowden sat down with FT journalist Alan Rusbridger in Moscow, where he has been residing since 2013.

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With reports circulating that his lawyers are working to petition Barack Obama on a pardon before the end of his term on January 20, 2017, he’s aware it may be something that’s left to the 45th president of the US to decide.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton believes Snowden is a “traitor” with “blood on his hands,”according to Daily Caller, despite her own controversial handling of classified information.

In an interview with Re/Code in 2015, she said she could "never condone what he did."

READ MORE: FBI recommends no charges against Clinton, but Snowden & others didn’t get off so easy

Republican Donald Trump also condemned Snowden, describing him as "a terrible guy" and a "traitor."

He tweeted in 2013 that he was "a spy who should be executed."

When asked about Clinton and Trump, Snowden said he believes “we should have better choices.”

“We’re a country of 330m people and we seem to be being asked to make a choice between individuals whose lives are defined by scandal,” he said. “I simply think we should be capable of more.”

READ MORE: ‘Most wanted man in the world is in my house!’ How Hong Kong refugees sheltered Edward Snowden

Speaking about the new eponymous film set for release on September 16, Snowden admits “it was a scary thing” to be told it was being made, adding that he’s “cautiously optimistic” it will help his cause.

“On the policy questions, which I think are the most important thing for the public understanding, it’s as close to real as you can get in a film,” he says, adding that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s characterization of Snowden made him feel “uncomfortable” because of its accuracy.

Looking back on infamous NSA data leak showing how the agency spied on people around the globe, including world leaders, Snowden says it has changed politics for the better, even if he’s one of the US government’s most hated men.

“We can actually start to impose more oversight on spies, rather than giving them a free pass to do whatever simply because we’re scared, which is understandable but clearly not ethical,” he told Rusbridger.

There is a downside, however, Snowden admits, adding that certain countries have become more rigid in their lawmaking.

“The laws have gotten worse in some countries. France has gone very far, so too, of course, countries like Russia, China,” he says, before then branding Britain as “an authoritarian trend.”

“We don’t allow police to enter and search any home. We don’t typically reorder the operation of a free society for the convenience of the police — because that is the definition of a police state,” he says. “And yet some spies and officials are trying to persuade us that we should.”

Snowden is often criticized for leaking the NSA’s secrets on the ground that it has helped terrorists, although the 33-year-old doesn’t see it this way.

He argues that if newspapers had decided against publishing his leaks and “the intelligence services had been able to continue using these programs in secret,” Snowden questions whether “it [would] have stopped any of the terrorist attacks that have occurred in the last three years?”

“There’s no public evidence that that’s the case,” he answers. “In fact, there’s no classified evidence that that’s the case, or else we’d be reading it in the newspapers.”

Snowden says it was “not surprising” that the Democratic National Committee was hacked as the US is “hacking political parties around the world, so is every country.”

When asked about who might have hacked the DNC, Snowden believes it “doesn’t strike [him] as a whistleblower.”

“That strikes me as a warning. It’s political messaging being carried out through information disclosure,” he says.

The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed the conspiracy theories that suggest it is responsible for the DNC hack - and Snowden told FT he also has doubts.

“Let’s say, the NSA has the smoking gun that says the Russians hacked the DNC, and they tell us the Russians hacked the DNC, how can we be sure?” Snowden asks. “It presumes a level of trust that no longer exists.”

Looking to the future, Snowden admits he still plans to return to his home in America.

“I don’t have a lot of ties to Russia. That’s by design because, as crazy as it sounds, I still plan to leave,” Snowden says, explaining that he misses the “sense of home” he had in America.

Snowden is used to be away from home though, as he worked oversea for both the CIA and NSA, explaining that “it’s really not that much different from the postings that I had for the US.”

“The only difference is that I’m still posted overseas and I work for the US, but they don’t realize it,” he added.