Oliver Stone’s new biopic of NSA leaker Edward Snowden leads viewers to believe Snowden’s entire document theft took about 4 minutes and only required dragging and dropping a few files.
The reality is Snowden’s theft took several months and required acquiring in-depth knowledge of key words, code names and search terms. He also had to code a complicated program to surreptitiously search for and copy those documents while he went about his normal daily tasks.
Meanwhile, Stone makes it seem like he was putting iTunes music on his cell phone.
Michael Kelley of Yahoo, who saw the film three times, notes:
The document theft in “Snowden” happens quickly: Snowden inserts an SD card into a computer, pulls up a number of folders — such as “Domestic surveillance,” “False statements” and “NSA mass surveillance projects” — and copies them onto the device. The whole sequence takes less than five minutes.
The file names alone almost put the scene in the realm of parody. The sequence’s implication, intended or not, is that the U.S. government’s most highly classified surveillance programs are consolidated into (laugh out loud) individually named files that can possibly even be duplicated with a right-click.
Even in the name of making things more palatable for a general audience, the deviation from reality perhaps stark enough to lower it from the likes of films like “Bridge of Spies” and “Tinker Tailer”
More from Kelley:
Snowden began downloading documents related to the NSA collecting information from transoceanic fiber optic cables while working as a contractor for Dell in April of 2012, according to Reuters, which cited U.S. officials and other sources. In March 2013, Snowden got a job as a systems administrator for Booz Allen Hamilton to gain better access to documents. At some point, he built a custom Web crawler to systematically scrape specific information from NSA systems while he went about his work as a computer security expert.
The timeline of Snowden’s leaks and key moments in history are rearranged as well, a subject Kelley unpacks in more detail.
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