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Sorry Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg: If Daniel Ellsberg Is a Hero, So Is Edward Snowden

The crew of The Post celebrates leaking the Pentagon Papers but gets all touchy when Obama's secret surveillance is mentioned.

If you need more proof that baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, aren't quite up to living in the 21st century, look no further than this BBC interview with Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Meryl Streep, about the new movie The Post, which details the Washington Post brave and precedent-setting commitment to publishing the Pentagon's secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, a.k.a. "The Pentagon Papers." Despite massive political and legal pressure not to do so, Ben Bradlee and Kay Graham (played by Hanks and Streep), pushed ahead with printing secret documents stolen by Daniel Ellsberg, winning a massive victory for press freedom and almost certainly shortening the Vietnam War.

Of course that was the right thing to do, Hanks tells Sam Asi. But when Asi brings up Edward Snowden, who in 2013 revealed massive, warrantless, secret surveillance of all sorts of electronic communications among American citizens, Hanks gets tongue-tied. Skip to about the five-minute mark:

After brushing aside the Snowden revelations—"I wasn't that surprised" that the government was spying, says Hanks—the Oscar winner plays social-media whataboutism. "Facebook makes money off of us based on what we're interested in," he says. "Do you think it's wrong that Google has an algorithm that can essentially you know, say, hey, Sam only likes black suits, so we're going to start sending you advertisements for black clothing." When asked whether Snowden is "a traitor or not," Hanks waves off the question, joking that it's above his "pay grade."

Asi makes the point that Hanks, along with Spielberg and the movie's other star, Meryl Streep, were public supporters of Barack Obama, whose secret programs Snowden opposed, and Hillary Clinton, who called Snowden a traitor. He then asks Spielberg why Hollywood was silent during Obama's unprecedented reliance on the World War I–era Espionage Act. Obama pursued nine prosecutions, compared to just three since the law's start under Woodrow Wilson. Snowden's revelations were "different for me," says Spielberg, because Snowden simply had information about agencies with the capabilities of spying on individuals and infringing on our privacy, while "Daniel Ellsberg was trying to stop the Vietnam War." Ellsberg was a "hero," says Spielberg, who refuses to call Snowden by the same term. "I don't have the same information." Streep, speaking at the end of the clip, at least grants that it's good and "valid" that the programs and activities Snowden unmasked are now in public view.

Asi ends his segment by asking whether The Post is actually intended as a defense of a free press or "a warning" to President Trump that, you know, the media took down Richard Nixon, so watch out.

That's a provocative question precisely because Barack Obama was, in the words of one of the journalists prosecuted by him, "the greatest enemy of press freedom" to hold the Oval Office. Of course Hanks, Spielberg, and Streep are simply representative Hollywood liberals ready to give Democrats a pass regardless of their actual policies. But more important, they are also aging baby boomers who are quick to fetishize outlaw heroes of their youth while throwing shade on younger mavericks. To the extent that they are self-absorbed and morally certain about events from their own past, baby boomers are simply playing to type. Indeed, while promoting Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg reduced World War II to a footnote to the birth of his own generation, calling it the "key, the turning point of the whole century...It was as simple as this: The century either was going to produce the baby boomers or it was not going to produce the baby boomers."

20th Century Fox20th Century FoxBut such generational solipsism also renders them un-serious, if not next to useless, in a 21st-century in which Millennials now outnumber boomers. Although the circumstances in which Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers will never be repeated exactly, there was nothing unique about what he did, and what's called for by all men and women of good will. What exactly has changed about the ways in which government, especially the surveillance state, functions since Lyndon Johnson opened up the "credibility gap" and today? In the wake of Vietnam, Watergate, the Church Committee, Iran-Contra, the revelations of William Binney, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, Snowden, and others, is there any reason to believe that the federal government is not duplicitous? Not at all, and it's a shame to see three articulate, thoughtful people stumble on the altar of partisan loyalty when it comes to such a question. If they don't have enough information on which to evaluate Snowden, that's on them (read and watch his interview with Reason here).

To his credit, Daniel Ellsberg calls Snowden "a hero of mine." Speaking to Reason in our December 2017 issue, he said he hopes his legacy is something like this: "I would like others to believe that they have the power—and the obligation, really—as patriots, as human beings, to reveal what they themselves know are unjustified dangers to human existence. And not simply, for reasons of career and promises to superiors, to conceal dangers of that nature. In other words, to be truth tellers."

As a boomer myself (born near the end, in 1963), I understand that resisting generational and moral nostalgia is no easy thing. The past is past and it's easier and quieter not to worry so much about the current moment, I suppose. But for those of us who not only want to see the future but participate in it, keeping up is the first business of the day and partisanship should be left off the to-do list altogether. If Ellsberg is a hero (and he is), so too is Snowden and all the others who put their lives on hold in order to rein in powers that dare not show their hands.

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    The century either was going to produce the baby boomers or it was not going to produce the baby boomers.

    Jesus.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    He's right you know. Though you can say this about anything. The century was either going to produce Crusty, or this century was not going to produce Crusty.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I am not sure "produce" is the best way to describe Crusty.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    There is nothing fruity about me.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Yes, we know your game works best on vegetables.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Crusty got all his romance tips from Habla Con Ella.

    (For those of you who are not Almodóvar fans, this is a brilliant burn.)

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Say what you want about the baby boomers, but at least it's an ethos.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Whereas this century is pretty much guaranteed to consume the baby boomers.

  • Don't look at me.||

    At some point, each and every one.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Of course Hanks, Spielberg, and Streep are simply representative Hollywood liberals ready to give Democrats a pass regardless of their actual policies.

    Had Snowden absconded with proof that the Trump administration - instead of the Obama administration - was systemically violating America's 4th Amendment protections, these three champions of the little people would not be prevaricating on the man's worth in the cause of liberty.

  • ||

    EXACTLY.

    They can go fuck themselves.

    They will lay away their personal principles - assuming they have any - for that guy?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Why do we resist in expecting the political opinions of filmmakers and actors to be important? The vast majority of them have a very limited array of talents, and as for their thought processes, they would be out of their depth on damp pavement. There have been honorable exceptions, but we rally need to start asking them to prove themselves first.

    Mr. Spielberg should be asked to go back to making entertainments like RAIDERS. Every time he has tried to include a Lesson, the result has been an awful lot like B grade rah rah films from the WWII era; superficially exciting, but factually stupid. As for Mr. Hanks, his acting has gone downhill as he has tried to reach for 'relevance'. Tom, my boy, everybody remembers Chaplin and Keaton. Few people remember the 'relevant' actors of that age.

  • Trollificus||

    Mike Rowe (of "Dirty Jobs" and ex-opera singer) put it best when called out for NOT being a dutiful celebrity lib-drone: "I know the political thoughts of hundreds of celebrities and find I respect none of them. Why should my positions be treated any differently?"

    Actors are, in general, as well-educated as baseball players.

  • cgr2727||

    Alt-text for the screen-grab of the video featured in this story:

    "Hey, Woody Allen doesn't look half bad for 82..."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Does the First Amendment allow Edward Snowden or Julian Assange to release those documents?

    SPIELBERG
    If it is not a crime.

    Someone doesn't quite understand how the Bill of Rights works.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    It isn't a first amendment issue, the problem for Snowden is that he signed contracts stipulating no how those documents were to be handled,

  • Eidde||

    He had a contract and he had an oath to the Constitution. He had to pick one to obey, he couldn't obey both.

  • Eidde||

    Now, he was naive signing the contract and simply assuming they were only going to ask him to do Constitutional stuff.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Defense contractors (and most federal employees for that matter) don't swear an oath to uphold the constitution.

    And of course it is very much in question whether any of the exposed activities were actually unconstitutional.

  • Eek Barba Durkle||

    "And of course it is very much in question whether any of the exposed activities were actually unconstitutional."

    I mean... I guess, if you just pretend that it doesn't explicitly say exactly what it says.

  • tlapp||

    Exactly!

  • Deflator Mouse||

    The better question would be whether Glenn Greenwald had a first amendment right to publish them.

  • DiegoF||

    The 1A is a joke if the government (or private parties) can hold liable anyone but the actual leakers.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    It's been tried. During WW2 the government tried to forcibly prevent newspapers from publishing leaked troop movement information and lost in SCOTUS.

    There are enough exceptions to the freedom of speech that a national security exception wouldn't be hard to sneak in, though.

  • Sevo||

    "It's been tried. During WW2 the government tried to forcibly prevent newspapers from publishing leaked troop movement information and lost in SCOTUS."
    I'll need a cite for that.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That exchange is like declaring that the 4th Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches so long as the government doesn't decide to conduct an unreasonable search.

  • Timothy Archer||

    That's true. Someone doesn't quite understand how the Bill of Rights works. There are no absolute privileges afforded to anyone publishing illegally obtained, classified military documents. The First Amendment protections of speech and press in cases like this are qualified privileges. In the case of Snowden, he violated the law just by removing the documents and can be prosecuted for that, without the First Amendment being an issue. He can be prosecuted for releasing defense department documents without the guarantee of First Amendment protections. If a court agrees with the government that it was a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917, then he goes to jail. It's not clear what documents are being referred to regarding Assange, but the bottom line is there is no absolute privilege enshrined in the First Amendment that protects the release of government documents. Comparing Snowden to Ellsburg is a gross false equivalence. Comparing an attempt to end a war that cost the lives of over 1 million people to exposing a completely legal surveillance program under the supervision of the judiciary, that not one single instance of harm has ever been attributed to, just to defend some stupid ideological position reveals an embarrassing lack of critical thinking and an emotional attachment to one's own viewpoint. this article sucked.

  • adopte||

    Nick
    You are also my " hero" .
    Of course Mr Snowden IS a Hero as is Mr Ellsberg.
    But why bother to have the 3 actors's opinion ? as if they were to say something to antigonize the "fans"
    do I care about people who spend their adult life by disguising themselves and putting makeup ? to make money .
    do I care about the raconteur enriching himself so people have "something to do"
    on weekends to distract themselves from their workdays ?
    Be serious write about somebody I'd care to know about their "valued opinion

  • Elias Fakaname||

    This article is a waste of time. Who gives a shit what the dancing mo key and his owner have to say? Their opinion is even less noteworthy than mine.

  • DiegoF||

    Yeah. This is a good Gillespie article but it's a puff piece. In a way, I don't blame Spielberg, Hanks, and Streep for their reluctance to comment on Snowden. They're not intellectuals or policy analysts; they probably have learned a bit about Ellsberg to research the film, but know no more about Snowden than some random guy off the street because they are not particularly well informed or curious about such things in general. It's actually commendable that you say you don't know if you don't!
    .
    The real thing to expose in juxtaposition to their ignorance about Snowden is not their admiration of their film subject Ellsberg, but all the opinions they sound off on in contemporary politics. "You mean you...the very same person who's been shrieking to everyone about the importance of supporting a particular president and candidate and resisting another...you can't even hold a conversation on the basic facts of one of the most important, prominent, and well-covered current issues pertaining to the Executive Branch?" Expose them that way; expose the bizarre and extended folly we seem to have of thinking that people who make pretty art are somehow possessed of some sort of general wisdom and knowledge about things like how we govern ourselves.
    .
    But what the interviewer did was pretty awesome too!

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Considering that they blast Republicans on topics they know next to nothing about, it seems unlikely that their motivation is to avoid commenting on subjects they haven't studied thoroughly.

  • DiegoF||

    Indeed. That was my (long winded) point. Hassle them by juxtaposing their political ignorance with their political loudmouthery, not with their discussion of the topic of their film.

  • Rhywun||

    Yeah, they might not know much about anything - but they know the correct opinions to hold.

  • ||

    Principals over principles.

  • Number 2||

    Wow. Who is this Sam Asi, and how is it that he still has a job at the BBC?

    Good thing Asi didn't ask the Three Stooges about Obama's secret assassination-by-drone program.

  • SIV||

    Barack Obama was, in the words of one of the journalists prosecuted by him, "the greatest enemy of press freedom" to hold the Oval Office

    Up until Trump began beating up the CNN logo and squashing it like a bug with his shoe.

  • DiegoF||

    That put many brave journalists' lives in danger. You hush.

  • Trollificus||

    That virtual violence was literally actual violence!!

    (feeling unsafe=being unsafe, imaginary possibility of assault=actual assault, etc., etc we all know the drill by now, right?)

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Except the Vietnam War was actually killing lots of people, while the stuff Snowden exposed was not harming anybody in any concrete sense. That's a big diff.

    Of course Hanks, Spielberg, and Streep are simply representative Hollywood liberals ready to give Democrats a pass regardless of their actual policies.

    Didn't the Pentagon Papers primarily deal with the misdeeds of the (Democratic) Kennedy and Johnson administrations?

  • Eidde||

    Yeah, but the guy trying to suppress the Pentagon Papers was Nixon, so he sort of assimilated the guilt for what his Dem predecessors had done. /sarc

  • ||

    Every single Administration ever would have behaved exactly as the Nixon Administration did during the events of The Post.

  • Widhalm19||

    Yes, you are 100% correct.

  • juris imprudent||

    Yes, the Pentagon Papers only ran up through 1967, so Ellsburg was exposing the lies of the last New Dealer. Funny how Nixon assumed all fault, as though the Presidency isn't partisan when convenient.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    I think Nick is referring to Hollywood Liberals in the Obama era not the Ellsburg era. Obama/HRC get a pass. Johnson/Daley did not (JFK got a pass because he was dead, can't speak ill of people in that condition. I sometimes do, but not where I might be overheard). Google 1968 Democrat Chicago convention if you're too young to remember. The progressive perception of the evil party has changed a lot in the interim.
    And while I agree killing people is a big diff, progressives shitting on the constitution is at least worthy of mention.

  • Trollificus||

    And is not dead-soldier-dependent.

  • DajjaI||

    WaPo is a terrific newspaper. But a year ago they published a propaganda piece about Russian interference which they never retracted. The agenda of 'PropOrNot' is to infringe on the free press. Which they succeeded in doing partly by requiring RT to register as a foreign agent last month. Also just today they published pure propaganda on how BitCoin is enabling the alt-right. It was the same author - Craig Timberg.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Is "terrific" a neologism for "terrible fiction"?

  • Leader Desslok||

    I thought terrific was a mash up of terrible and horrific.

  • DajjaI||

    No it's a great newspaper. Lots of interesting articles and just yesterday they did a good piece defending free speech on twitter. Still, a little criticism. I've even criticized Reason once or twice.

  • Enemy of the State||

    The WaPo is to great journalism what Blue Nun is to great wine...

  • Trollificus||

    The WaPo is to great journalism what Annie Green Springs was to great wine...

    (speaking of Boomer experiences-once had a gal who played recorder in the park with her sister and her tongue was chow-dog-purple from the amount of that candy-flavored shit she drank. Cute though.)

  • Widhalm19||

    Are you the same left-wing moron that makes stupendously dumb comments over at The Atlantic?

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    So RT stands for Russian Television? Well I'm taking it off my favorites list.

  • Tony||

    Lots of people cared about the Vietnam war, and elections were decided on that issue. The American people, as they are entitled to, seem not to mind so much about the US having a robust intelligence apparatus. Perhaps they're aware that the Russians, into whose soft arms Snowden fled after his "heroic" act, have even less compunction about the goings-on of espionage, so we had better keep up.

  • juris imprudent||

    Shameless as ever T-boy.

  • Tony||

    Why aren't elections being won and lost on this issue?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Tony sets his moral compass based on the will of the masses. That's why he didn't care about legalizing gay marriage until it became cool and politicians started to express their support, after the polls told them it was safe to do so and would help them win an election.

  • Tony||

    I have my own opinion on the surveillance state. I don't like being told I have to marry it to my opinion of the Vietnam war because there were whistleblowers in both cases. That's illogical.

  • Trollificus||

    The US has a "robust intelligence operation" in the same sense Tomás de Torquemada headed a robust organization to encourage standardized religious practice. But a gift for euphemism should never go to waste.

  • Timothy Archer||

    Yeah, because the government knowing what telephone numbers you've dialed is the same thing as ethnic cleansing and murdering 2000 of your political adversaries. Who needs euphemism when you have hyperbole?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Jesus.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    You've really gotten into the Christmas spirit today.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    So, lefties voted for Democrats and then when the lefties get us neck deep into Vietnam, its not just the Democrat's fault?

    That is why lefty propaganda is so laughable.

    Same thing with domestic surveillance. Authoritarian lovers vote in authoritarians and are surprised when these Democrats and RINOs institute unconstitutional authoritarian policies.

    You are a joke Tony. A joke.

  • Tony||

    Unlike fucking pickle-brained morons like you who get all their opinions from sweaty fat DJs, I actually have real opinions about specific things. Now keep trying to sell Trump to the 70% of the country who think he's a dangerous buffoon.

  • epsilon given||

    Yes, Tony, you have real opinions. But they are *very funny* real opinions.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Post an example of a false opinion.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Tony, LovesCon is your better in every way. Now you apologize for being an impertinent little bitch.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony, your response further proves that you are a joke. A joke Tony.

  • Eek Barba Durkle||

    Tony, you really are the most shameless sockpuppet I have ever encountered.

    You're the guy whistling on his way to the gulags, convinced that his death will bring about the glorious revolution.

    I hope someone has the good sense to put a bullet in your head the moment the fighting starts. It's people like you who truly created the holocausts of human history.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Careful. When Tony had a problem with me I suggested he come to visit. He freaked out, whining about 'threats'. He's just a massive putrid pussy

  • Eek Barba Durkle||

    I'm making no threat - I'm a pacifist, even as a combat veteran.

    I'm just saying - the moment fighting starts in the streets, you want to execute those who gleefully lay down their neighbor for subjugation. Tony is as far in that direction as I can imagine.

  • Tony||

    I got you morons arguing on another thread that if employers decide that sweatshop conditions are the most profitable, workers should suck it up and deal with it and probably think the boss while they're at it. You people endorse the only type of subjugation likely to happen in this country, and enthusiastically. You are cheering on every billionaire tax cut and workplace freedom limitation that comes along to that end. The US government isn't the only thing that can kill freedom. That you ignore all others in the world is why your belief system is so stupid, among other reasons.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Employees are free to quit.

  • Tony||

    And go work someone equally or more of a shithole. Liberals built a world in which they are free to quit and go find a job with minimum standards of humane treatment. Oh, the death of freedom that was.

  • epsilon given||

    Liberals never built such a world. They merely forced the people who would otherwise work in sweatshops in the US to be dependent on welfare instead, and then pushed the sweatshop work off into places like China and South America.

    Ironically enough, people are flocking to these sweatshops, because however horrible the conditions are there, it's better than the subsistence farming they have been doing for generations.

    (Which, incidentally, liberals want to preserve, because it's ethnic and cultural and what-not.)

  • Elias Fakaname||

    "And go work someone equally or more of a shithole. Liberals built a world in which they are free to quit and go find a job with minimum standards of humane treatment. Oh, the death of freedom that was"

    Tony, you profs build nothing except government, which is parasitic. Which makes sense as you are all parasites to begin with. No, you attach yourselves to a healthy host. Something a real person created through hard work. Then you steal it, and slowly destroy it.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Tony is a professor??
    Holy shit, why am I just learning this now?
    It all makes sense all of a sudden.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony's not a professor of anything in a university.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "Employees are free to quit."

    Lefties will never admit to this power of the people to just quit or form a guild.

    There are no quitters or unions in Communist countries. These worker's right don't exist.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Who would want to quit in a workers' paradise?

  • Lucius Fergeson||

    >MUH RUSSIANS
    >Forget about the fact that we have a President directly violating the 4th Amendment. Focus on this shit-tier Post-Soviet state that's always a convenient boogeyman for all the US' problems

  • JoeBlow123||

    "Perhaps they're aware that the Russians, into whose soft arms Snowden fled after his "heroic" act, have even less compunction about the goings-on of espionage"

    Civil libertarians seem to always ignore this when they rush to celebrate Snowden as a hero. Rather odd. I do like the imagery of the soft arms of the Russians!

  • esteve7||

    It's almost as if they are partisan hacks who are dumb as a rock. Why anyone would give a damn what they think is beyond me

  • juris imprudent||

    Credit to Asi for having some sport and making them squirm a little.

  • adopte||

    the wallstreet journal says How Ivanka Trump Is a Walking Billboard for Her Namesake Fashion Business...
    I BET she eats the food she makes herself TOO !

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I bet you 1k she doesn't cook !

  • loveconstitution1789||

    In the White House or for her family eva?

    The White House staff cooks for the residents and guests.

    I am sure she learned to cook Slovenian cuisine growing up.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Ivanka Trumo is a walking billboard for awesome tits.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    *burns knit tie*

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    " Of course Hanks, Spielberg, and Streep are simply representative Hollywood liberals ready to give Democrats a pass regardless of their actual policies. But more important, they are also aging baby boomers who are quick to fetishize outlaw heroes of their youth while throwing shade on younger mavericks."

    The problem is not that they are ageing boomers. It's that their underlying political belief system (to the extent that they have one) is not liberalism in the classical sense. They are progressives. They don't have a problem with government assaults on individual liberty as long as the right people are in charge. As an ageing boomer myself, I've come to believe that opposition to the war in Viet Nam had a lot more to do with the draft than anything else. Watching friends and relatives come home in body bags or just fucked up (we didn't have the PTS label back then) was a powerful incentive to oppose that war. So Ellsburg was a utilitarian hero. They didn't give a shit when volunteers prosecuted the GHWB, WJC, GWB, BHO wars. They didn't give a shit when reputed coke snorter Gw and admitted dope smokers Clinton and Obama put some insignificant trailer trash or ghetto dweller in a federal penitentiary. And the 4th amendment? Hey it's a living document. If Barry has a problem with it we'll just have to modify it, because when he speaks I get a tingle up my leg. And he's black. Sorta.

  • Number 2||

    "As an ageing boomer myself, I've come to believe that opposition to the war in Viet Nam had a lot more to do with the draft than anything else."

    There was a scene in the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam in which an antiwar activist said that the antiwar movement was small and essentially ignored until the college draft deferment was eliminated and college students started being drafted, and only then did college students decide that war is bad and Vietnam was immoral. So your point is well taken.

    "They don't have a problem with government assaults on individual liberty as long as the right people are in charge."

    I'd add this: "...as long as the right people are in charge, and the right other people are having their individual liberties assaulted."

  • Trollificus||

    Top Men-ism.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Another lefty propaganda piece that I won't be watching.

    Spielberg is know for putting garbage propaganda in his works. Band of Brothers was great but could have been better. Luckily, it was joint project with other people besides Spielberg to make the HBO special what it was.

    Spielberg decided to make an entire episode about the holocaust, titled "Why we fight". As if the entire reason Americans fought the Germans was because we found a few concentration camps where inmates were starving or dead.

  • cgr2727||

    And one of those other people on the joint project was Hanks, IIRC.

    Good point nonetheless. Great series that did a good job of bringing Ambrose's writing to the screen, but that particular episode was jarringly out of sync with the others.

  • sarcasmic||

    Nixon = Republican = bad => leaking information good

    Obama = Democrat = good => leaking information bad

    QED

  • John B. Egan||

    Irrespective of Tom Hanks, Spielberg, et al.. Anyone who read a paper knew that the NSA has been overstepping its authority, based on the 9-11 response by Bush Jr. And the NSA is not the only organization doing so. Snowden is a hero to many, and is to me.

    The NSA warrantless surveillance controversy ("warrantless wiretapping") concerns surveillance of persons within the United States during the collection of allegedly foreign intelligence by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) as part of the touted war on terror. Under this program, referred to by the Bush administration as the terrorist surveillance program, part of the broader President's Surveillance Program, the NSA was authorized by executive order to monitor, without search warrants, the phone calls, Internet activity (Web, e-mail, etc.), text messaging, and other communication involving any party believed by the NSA to be outside the U.S., even if the other end of the communication lies within the U.S. However, it has been discovered that all U.S. communications have been digitally cloned by government agencies, in apparent violation of unreasonable search and seizure

  • Enemy of the State||

    What asshole would be so stupid as to paint all baby-boomers as fucking nostalgic liberals?

    Boomer "class" of 1960...

  • texexpatriate||

    Hanks is a talented man but his thinking is screwy or he is a phony. Either he does not know or does know and acts as if he does not know that Democrats today are America's Fascists, no different than the Nazis of Hitler or Mussolini except that they don't have control of the military. Yet.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    The problem with actors is that they can be enormously talented at acting and still be incredibly stupid people. Robert Deniro is an example of that.

  • Rockabilly||

    Barack Obama is a GOD and no bad things must be said to blaspheme Him!!!

  • ||

    FFS. Are these Hollywood liberals for real?

    Obama could have personally handed over secrets to the Iranians and they'd still defend the clown.

    Obama's presidency was a failed one. His BS in the Mid-east and attacks against the press and spying should be enough for Hanks and Spielberg to question this man. But no. Instead, they feign knowledge in their pseudo-intellectual rationalizations in an effort to stand by their guy.

    It's pathetic and so obvious.

  • Clint O||

    Is it fair to call Snowden's surveillance revelations an "Obama thing?" It was my understanding that this system predates his administration. Sure he was in charge at the time. It seems to be a bi-partisan problem ala The Patriot Act.

  • IMissLiberty||

    Collectivist nonsense: "If you need more proof that baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, aren't quite up to living in the 21st century..." I was born in 1955, one year to the day after (or before--we're one year apart, I recall) Tom Hanks. We were both born to fathers in the Air Force in California, he in Modesto, I in Merced; we remember "Silicon Valley" when it was still full of walnut and prune orchards, and lived or worked in Concord, Oakland, and other places in California. After participating in high school stage productions, we worked in the entertainment industry. (Where Spielberg once said to me in passing, "cheer up, it's Friday," at the end of a very long week.)
    Give Hanks a break: people our age did not grow up with computers. My experience selling PC's (all brands and operating systems) during the 1980's gave me a leg up on the internet and privacy. My libertarian politics also caused me to stop relying on the MSM much sooner than most, so my news sources are less scripted, too (e.g., REASON).
    I'm inclined to give Hanks the benefit of the doubt; perhaps he'll go home and check out Citizen Four. Hanks could have played Snowden--portraying both his patriotism and his dilemma--it's not fair to expect him to be versed in privacy issues for what appears to be a press event. (It's entirely probable they are contractually limited in what they can talk about, too.)
    Don't blame a whole generation! We don't deserve it.

  • IMissLiberty||

    P.S., Congress is full of those older than we, even less well-versed. (Thank goodness, or else they'd have gotten around to regulating the Internet before it escaped into cyberspace.)

  • Don't look at me.||

    Every single one of those old farts in office need to be voted out of a job at each election.

  • Tilting at Windmills||

    Well said! This is why I value the input of the Reason commenters- we help balance the agenda of lots of articles and opinion pieces on this website. Yes, these Hollywood stars are liberal/progressives, but 1) They are VERY career-oriented; just focusing on their current project/next payday 2) They are not gonna piss in their own collective trough 3) We are libertarians, not conservatives, and can gain a lot more ground with people who believe in the ideas of the popular American "left" by positively identifying with the issues we agree on rather than the ideas that divide us. Also, as a member of "Gen X" (not a fan of that term, or "Millenials"), I don't paint with a broad brush everyone who is a "Boomer"; is it not a major libertarian principle to view everyone as an individual?

  • Widhalm19||

    Er ... For-the-most-part, I am a Libertarian-Conservative with a splash of Green thrown into the mix. Your words simply describe your own opinions not those of "Libertarians".

  • San Diego||

    Why in the fuck would you be an apologist for Hanks. Who gives a shit where you grew up or what your father did for a living or your understanding of computers. I'm a boomer older than you, and if someone is going to voice their opinion on Ellsberg, they better dam well understand privacy issues and be consistent with their ideas and concepts, or be rebuked.

  • epsilon given||

    I have seen people come down hard on Snowden, and they offer good reasons: namely, that he should have redacted parts that were important to national security, but had nothing to do with the surveillance. Agree with such reasons or not, they are nonetheless good reasons to consider.

    It would have been nice if actors would bring up such reasons to consider when evaluating whether or not Snowden should be considered a hero, though, rather than to just mumble and ramble on...

  • Don't look at me.||

    The fewer secrets that exist, the better off we are.

  • Tony||

    The simpler the rules are, the better.

    --Every libertarian, because they need things to be simple to understand them

  • Earth Skeptic||

    The more rules, the better.

    --Every progressive, because they just know better than everyone else.

  • epsilon given||

    --Every libertarian, because they need things to be simple to understand them

    Because everyone but those simpleton Libertarians have the entire Federal Code 100% memorized, so they could live up to those 100% unambiguous statutes 100% perfectly, amirite?

  • Trollificus||

    See? This is why we need a "Like" or thumbs up button. Or a "good sarcasm" or "top kek" button or something...

  • epsilon given||

    As someone who is a firm believer that "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" is a Great Lie, and that every individual has important things they should hide from others, I cannot claim to support "the fewer secrets that exist, the better off we are".

    And I would extend that, to some extent, even to Government, even though I'm a so-called anarcho-capitalist. It's not hard to see how an uncovered secret can demolish negotiations with a national power interested in hurting us if it furthers their own power, or how releasing the names of spies and locations of soldiers can endanger the lives of people trying to understand a hostile power, and what we can do to defend our lives against such powers. Thus, the argument that Snowden should have redacted information that had nothing to do with surveillance resonates *strongly* with me.

    We *needed* to know about Government Surveillance. Snowden could have released one or two further bits of information as a warning to the Government that he can do severe damage if they come after him. But he didn't need to release *everything*. (And to my knowledge, if I recall correctly, he claims he *still* hasn't -- which makes his previous lack of retraction of unrelated material even more damning.)

    But even if those making this argument is wrong, it makes sense to put forth the argument. The fact that these actors didn't even suggest the possibility is an indication that they haven't thought about Snowden all that much.

  • JoeBlow123||

    THANK YOU!

    This is by far the most reasoned, fair assessment of the situation I have seen anyone write in some time. The people that are quick to call Snowden a hero need to at least make an attempt to reconcile for the fact he released and stole a tremendous amount of unrelated information and then ran to Russia and China.

    I firmly believe Snowden is a traitor and a charlatan of the highest order but it is impossible to not admit some/much of the information he released is sketchy in the extreme and likely infringes on our individual liberties, namely the 4th Amendment.

    Libertarians, not everything the government does is bad just as not everything someone "exposing" what the government does is acting from just, heroic motives. Please avoid your simplistic reasoning, examine all the facts, avoid dumb labels like hero that force you to stop thinking.

  • josh||

    "I have seen people come down hard on Snowden, and they offer good reasons..."

    I agree. To me he's somewhere between a hero and a traitor.

  • JoeBlow123||

    He seems like a very self absorbed charlatan that likes to pontificate. That does not mean he did not act in a useful manner, I just find his personality and lies obnoxious.

  • Paco||

    Tom Hanks is a very good actor who plies his trade (pretending to be someone he is not) by reciting lines written by someone else in a manner directed by yet another.

    Not a convincing source of opinion for me.

  • Sevo||

    Exactly.
    We get lectures from those who spend their careers pretending to be someone else, and then parading in front of others who do the same in expensive clothes, to deliver those lectures.
    One response comes to mind:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....ation.html
    My goodness! How could I ignore such advice?

  • ||

    In Spielberg's case and others like him, they think because they get to make a movie about a historical figure they know enough are sufficiently learned to lecture.

    They don't get that it's a HUGE jump from making a flick while getting to consult a historian or read books and LECTURING about it. To me, judging by how SS and TH view things, they're not as clever as they think.

    Some of us ARE well-read and educated enough to spot their intellectual shortcomings.

    And don't get me going on Popovich. Lord me, if anyone thinks that passes off for intellectualism....

  • Widhalm19||

    Yes, well-written comment. Thank you!

  • Widhalm19||

    Wait a darn minute ... I'm a baby-boomer and I oppose Leftist Hollywood celebrity politics like the trio featured in this essay. Don't paint us all with the same broad brush of condemnation, please. Remember, these Hollywood morons earn their living pretending to be other people. How can you ever know if these self-promoters are honest of just acting?

  • Heraclitus||

    I'm not a boomer and normally I am very critical of all this fawning over that generation, however, I don't think applying a generational analysis to this is appropriate. This is more of a partisan issue. Liberals don't want to celebrate Snowden under Obama just like conservatives don't want to celebrate the Pentagon Papers under Nixon. There is enough hypocrisy to go around to both sides. The boomers will gladly get on board if there are leaks under the Trump administration just as Trump will turn on wiki-leaks as soon as they are no longer useful to him. Millennials will act the same way and so too will generation Yers or Zers or whatever stupid overgeneralized tag we give a group of people born in some arbitrary range of years.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Team Red vs. Team Blue, and who gets and gives blow jobs at any given moment.

    Same as it ever was.

  • JoeGoins||

    The idiocy of Reason is quite apparent in this article. Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden both disclosed classified information, but they should not be viewed in the same light. When Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, he damaged America's standing in both domestic and foreign relations by showing that the real classified US policy was immoral and contrary to the public record. By contrast, Snowden disclosed the sources and methods of (and by extension, ways to defeat) the nation's signals intelligence gathering. It's the same action but with two totally different circumstances similar to how a executioner isn't a murderer even though they both take a life. By equating the two, the author insults his own intelligence.

    I will also point out that Ellsberg stayed in the United States to face his criminal charges whereas Snowden went to the hostile countries he helped, debriefed them, and received asylum. Ellsberg was a man; Snowden was a coward.

  • San Diego||

    Snowden is the hero as he did not have the liberal press at his back! And why do you assume that "sources and methods" are not the bigger problem?

  • JoeGoins||

    @SanDiego — Snowden is the hero as he did not have the liberal press at his back!
    Are you saying that Snowden is a hero simply because liberals didn't back him? You have pretty low standard for what makes a hero. It's almost as low as when liberals praise gays coming out of the closet.

    And why do you assume that "sources and methods" are not the bigger problem?
    When did I "assume that 'sources and methods' are not the bigger problem?" You are the one assuming, and when you did, you made an ass out of you and me. What Snowden revealed is a serious issue that he handled in a criminal fashion. He could have become a whistleblower and went to Congress. Instead, he went to foreign intelligence services.

  • San Diego||

    Look you were the one making a lame value judgment that Snowden was less of a "man" than Ellsberg for seeking asylum when you said "Ellsberg was a man; Snowden was a coward," and I was only pointing out that Snowden was the one with his life on the line for his beliefs as he was likely to spend the rest of that life in jail, where as Ellsbergs was predictably going to be supported by the liberal left. And yes someone sacrificing their life for what they believe in, especially if they are exposing the "sources and methods" of the NSA, is a hero in my book. That's my standard, what is yours?

    And when you said, "When did I "assume that 'sources and methods' are not the bigger problem?" don't you even read your own posts? You said in your first post "By contrast, Snowden disclosed the 'sources and methods' of (and by extension, ways to defeat) the nation's signals intelligence gathering." And when you say "By contrast" aren't you implying that what Snowden did was the bigger problem by virtue of your analogy of the executioner? And do you really think he could have exposed the NSA by becoming a whistleblower? I think you are the one that is naive.

  • Trollificus||

    Snowden had seen up close how well-intentioned whistleblowers who "stayed to face the music" were treated*. Despite rules and laws purporting to protect said whistleblowers, they were DESTROYED by a vindictive intelligence community. He knew, and it's hardly his fault if only Russia and China refused to be bullied into extradition agreements by the US.

    *-ref Bill Binney, Thomas Drake

  • JoeBlow123||

    Amen!

    I have tried to argue this same thing around here and have been ignored or dumped on for the most part by libertarians. Almost line for line. I still cannot understand the cognitive dissonance around stealing tons of information then running to China/Russia and calling him a hero. China and Russia are authoritarian shitholes with interests inimical to the West/United States, dude betrayed the USA for safety and freedom from prosecution. If his motives are righteous he should have stayed.

  • waw75231||

    Another Snowden apologist, another recap, urban legend Snowden manipulated his peers to get their access and then gathered the information he did not have access to. This is fact, period. Then as the NSA was closing in he runs to Hong Kong and gives files to the PRC and onto Moscow and gives them files as well.

    So Snowden was protecting US democracy by committing espionage, given NSA secrets to both the Chinese and Russians? That is an outright lie. No evidence yet of his financial gain but stealing US intel secrets to just be a good guy?

    Ellsberg was just releasing classified anyone who watched Cronkite knew, the war was a lie, it was an internal civil war between a nation's people but also an imperialist domination ending war. We after WWII sought to support and help Uncle Ho, it was not a threat to US national security, that both the Russian's and the PRC knew the truth, as did the PRC. They both were supporting Ho.

    The Nixon admin wanted to avoid embarrassment, not keep the PRC, or KGB from knowing something they saw in the area around Hanoi everyday.

    Snowden will have to someday be held accountable, better sooner then later. Watch Trumpland get Snowden to return to the US before the 2020 election. Thank you again Hillary for being such a putz and a weak candidate.
    I would try Snowden and see what comes of a trial. If found guilty, the death penalty must be an option. He is a clear and present danger to the US. Not apparently as much as Trumpland and his buddy Putin.

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  • Timothy Archer||

    What a stupid false equivalent. Are you really going to compare an attempt to stop a war that killed over 1 million people to some delusional geek that "exposed" a totally legal surveillance program that is under the supervision of the judiciary? I like a lot of the articles I read in Reason, but this cultish infatuation with ideology has sapped your ability to think critically and results in garbage like this article. Who gives a shit what people in Hollywood think? Who gives a shit about your stupid, binary separation of "boomers" and "millenials"? Banal and insipid labeling and you're not saying anything. Preach to the choir, identify enemies and allow everybody to get worked up and fawn because you really showed those Hollywood elites. Ooooo, I just love it when you take on the man like that. Pffft. This shit is lame.

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