U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden said he believes the only way to prevent the government from spying on Americans is through the political process and forcing the presidential candidates to talk about privacy issues.
The former government contractor answered questions Thursday during a live broadcast from Moscow — where he now lives — following a screening of the upcoming Oliver Stone biography “Snowden” which hits theaters on Sept. 16.
CCTV America’s Jim Spellman reports:
Snowden's supporters hope Obama will give pardonU.S. fugitive Edward Snowden said he believes the only way to prevent the government from spying on Americans is through the political process and forcing the presidential candidates to talk about privacy issues. CCTV America's Jim Spellman reports
“You don’t have to be someone special to change things,” Snowden said. “Whistleblowers are ordinary and elected by circumstance. It’s not anything they do, it’s what they see.”
As a contractor for the National Security Agency, Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents in 2013 detailing the U.S. government’s warrantless surveillance program. He fled to Russia and now faces charges in the United States that could land him in prison for up to 30 years.
The film is directed by Oliver Stone and stars Joseph Gorden-Levitt as Snowden and Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend Lindsay Mills.
Gorden-Levitt said he wasn’t entirely sure who Snowden was when Stone offered him the role. But said he began to study Snowden’s story and urged others to as well. He also said that he was touched when Snowden’s parents thanked him for doing the film.
Stone’s biography was true to events that transpired in real life, Snowden said, but he joked that “it made me look like the world’s worst boyfriend.”
He said it was accurate that his girlfriend did not know what he was doing when he fled his job at the NSA for Hong Kong, and ultimately Russia. She has since joined him in Moscow.
He also did not confirm or deny that he smuggled government files out of the NSA in a Rubik’s Cube as the movie portrays.
“I can tell you that there were many Rubik’s Cubes at the facility,” he said.
To critics, Snowden disregarded the argument that those with nothing to hide shouldn’t be concerned about government surveillance.
“Arguing that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide, is like saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say,” Snowden said.
Snowden also praised other government whistleblowers including former NSA employee Thomas Drake, who was watching the interview from New York City, in one of the many theaters that broadcasted the live event.
“There are a number of people at the NSA who did everything right to raise awareness about what the government was doing. Many couldn’t prove their claims publicly. It would be illegal to try,” Snowden said.
“I’m only a continuation of what a lot of others did before me, so thank you Thomas Drake.”
This week, Snowden’s supporters have called for President Barack Obama to pardon him. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have launched thePardonSnowden.org, to urge people to sign a petition for his pardon.
“Edward Snowden’s case presents one for President Obama to use the presidential power of pardon proudly and unequivocally, in recognition of one of the most important acts of whistleblowing in modern history,” Executive Director of the ACLU Anthony Romero said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that the president believes Snowden should return to the U.S. to face charges. He said Obama’s position is that Snowden’s leaks harmed national security and put Americans at risk.
Story by CCTV America’s Lisa Chiu with information from the Associated Press.