“Mr. Obama could pardon him, and we hope so. We hope Mr. Obama has a stroke of lightning, and he sees the way,” the Oscar-winning director said at a Toronto International Film Festival press conference for his latest film, Snowden, the morning after its world premiere Friday night at Roy Thomson Hall.
But Stone’s plea for Snowden’s pardon came despite his belief that President Obama has prosecuted a record number of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act during his administration, and oversees an expanding global surveillance network overseen by the NSA. “He’s been one of the most efficient managers of this surveillance world. His is the most extensive, invasive surveillance world that has ever existed. He created it, built it,” Stone told reporters in Toronto.
“So rationally it doesn’t figure [a pardon is possible], but we hope, we hope,” he added. The cast of Snowden, led by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, had much to say during the presser about surveillance in a world of computers and digital devices tracking our online activities and searches.
Woodley told reporters everyone has to be vigilant to protect their personal privacy in an increasingly digital and monitored world. “[Privacy] is not something you inherently have as a human being in 2016,” she warned.
The actress said social media allows users to be aware of what information they are sharing. But online websites and social media platforms call for giving up personal privacy when you click on any agreement box.
“When you’re signing up for Facebook, or any website, you’re agreeing to a whole list of information that I don’t read — haven’t read. So it’s just an awareness thing,” she said. Co-star Melissa Leo, a product of the 1970s who grew up in New York’s Lower East Side, said she grew up mistrusting “gadgets” of any kind in the shadow of Richard Nixon and his Watergate affair.
“I need to use them for work, but that’s about all I do, get some email. I pretend it’s a telephone, even though it’s so much more than that,” said Leo.
Fellow actor Zachary Quinto also said working on Snowden has him taking measures to protect his privacy online. He recounted recently searching online for consumer reports for a washer and dryer he was shopping for, only to virtually instantly receive pop-up advertisements for washers and dryers. “What we are willing to just sacrifice in our privacy, just for convenience’s sake, without really thinking about it, to give up of our own freedoms … is shocking,” he said.
But Gordon-Levitt, taking note of the alarms raised by his fellow castmembers, chose to strike a more optimistic note about creeping surveillance in the digital world. “It’s worth being critical of some of the actions of the American government, but I choose to remain optimistic about living in a country where we can raise our voices and not allow things to go in a bad way,” he said. “I’m not giving up.”