- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2016

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who portrays Edward Snowden in the new Oliver Stone film titled “Snowden,” offered effusive praise for the NSA leaker as an “extreme” patriot, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter published Friday.

“What did you want to make sure came across in your portrayal of Snowden?” the Hollywood Reporter asked Mr. Gordon-Levitt.

The 35-year-old actor answered that it was “[p]robably … how much he really loves the United States of America.”

“I think that people describe him as harmful to the country or as betraying the country, but he doesn’t see it that way. And I personally don’t, either,” Mr. Gordon-Levitt said. “I think there’s two different kinds of patriotism and, you know, we were talking a second ago about how a drama shows an evolution of somebody. One kind of patriot just believes that everything their country does is right, no matter what, without asking any questions. But there is another kind of patriot which can only exist in a free country like the United States of America who holds the government accountable and who will ask questions. And this is what Edward Snowden has done in the most extreme of ways.”

“Not everybody in the world does have that privilege and that’s what democracy is and that’s what our founders were protecting when they wrote the Bill of Rights. This is why they gave us the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press,” the actor, who had a supporting role in the 2012 Spielberg film “Lincoln,” continued.

“So we could hold the government accountable. I think [Snowden] put his life at risk in order to hold the government accountable and to say this thing the government is doing is important. So I consider him, the most extreme of patriots and that was something that I wanted to incorporate into the character that I played.”

While Mr. Snowden may count various Hollywood celebrities among his defenders, legal experts regardless of ideology tend to view him far less charitably.

For example, shortly after the Snowden leaks in 2013, liberal CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote a piece in the New Yorker titled, “Edward Snowden Is No Hero,” denouncing him as “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.”

“[O]ur system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work,” Mr. Toobin explained. “But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air — and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. We all now have to hope that he’s right.”

The film “Snowden” will be released on Sept. 16.

• Ken Shepherd can be reached at kshepherd@washingtontimes.com.

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