In today’s headlines, we’ve been greeted with news from the increasingly-Orwellian UK government, that Ed Snowden’s encrypted files have been cracked by the Russian and the Chinese, forcing the clandestine services of the UK to recall their agents from “hostile countries,” albeit noting that “there was no evidence of anyone being harmed.”
This announcement was made, in conjunction with PM David Cameron’s promise to enact a swathe of new security measures, including more power to monitor Britons’ communications and online activity, which critics have rightly dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter.”
In this film, Sarah Harrison, the WikiLeaks legal advisor who helped Snowden make his escape, she claims that there was no way that any of his information was willfully given to either the Chinese or the Russians. Harrison says “I’d stake my life on it.”
Moreover, Snowden had, as a security measure released his sensitive computers to the journalists who met him in Hong Kong. One of these was destroyed under the watch of British Intelligence officials at the office of the UK Guardian in July of 2013, as seen, here:
Many people have wondered how Ed Snowden was able to escape Hong Kong and evade capture for 39 days at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, before finally being granted temporary asylum in Russia. Some find these circumstances to be fishy.
The film reconstructs this period, using cinema verite’ and candid interviews with a remarkable cast, including Michael Hayden, former Director of the National Security Agency.
‘Terminal F/Chasing Edward Snowden’ by Danish Director, Poul-Erik Heilbuth was just released in April 2015 and it’s received virtually zero publicity, unlike the Academy-Award-winning ‘Citizenfour,’ which received lots of publicity, thanks to the ample funding enjoyed by Poitras and Greenwald, in their First Look venture with Pierre Omidyar.
This film was produced with an EU crew but apart from the Danish credits, this version is entirely in English. It tells the white-knuckle story of how a combination of savvy out-maneuvering by the WikiLeaks staff and its supporters plus a fortuitous mistake in the US Goverment’s extradition papers (they flubbed his middle name!) enabled Ed Snowden to escape capture in Hong Kong and to board a plane to Russia, alongside WikiLeaks legal advisor, a young woman from the UK, Sarah Harrison.
Using a mix of what often appear to be real cellphone grabs of the actual scenes at the airports and not reenactments, in combination with compelling interviews, this film documents the details of their escape, as told by Ed Snowden, Sarah Harrison, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, Snowden’s father and a remarkably candid Michael Hayden.
After escaping from Hong Kong (who really didn’t want anything to do with the situation and were all too happy to let him escape), Snowden’s deactivated passport prevented him from boarding his connecting flight to Cuba, for which his tickets were checked through. Snowden has remarked that it was an odd choice, for the State Department to choose to strand him in Russia, with whom relations have only been getting increasingly strained, ever since.
At first, Russia’s President Putin, likely, none too thrilled about this hot potato, left the two of them to fend for themeselves in the transit area of Terminal F, at Moscow’s International airport. The two escapees were given a windowless room, with two bunk beds, where they stayed without running water for over a month, until Putin finally decided to grant Snowden temporary asylum. This was extended last year and now expires in August of 2017.
This period of limbo at the airport coincided with a state meeting of gas-producing countries in Moscow, which included Bolivia.
Since Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua had already offered asylum to Snowden, the Russian press asked Bolivian President, Evo
Morales if he would be willing to offer asylum to Snowden. He said, “Yes, why not?”
His casual response led to the US State Department making a flurry of calls to its European allies, ordering them to not allow Morales’ plane to refuel on his return to South America, as planned. In fact, his Presidential plane was escorted to the ground by the French military and a search was conducted of his aircraft, where there was no Snowden to be found – the second of two major embarrassments to the US National Security establishment in a week.
In addition, Snowden and his dad reflect on another gonzo plan, hatched by the FBI, to take a small CIA plane (normally used to
transport targets of “Extraordinary rendition,” to be tortured offshore), using the father as bait, in a cockamamie cowboy plan to kidnap Ed onto the rendition plane…and presumably, to leave his father stranded at Sheremetyevo Airport. Although that plan didn’t jump off, it is believed that the plane managed to arrive there and was lurking around.
‘Terminal F/Chasing Edward Snowden’ is a compelling European docudrama. The apparent intimacy that the director was able to evoke from his hard-to-access interviewees is impressive.
Although the Jon Rappaports of the world would still maintain that the whole Snowden melodrama is a limited hangout of unfathomable proportions, I can’t help but be impressed with Snowden’s manifest patriotism and righteousness, whenever I see him speak. Yes, I can understand why Hayden and other members of the clandestine agencies would see Snowden as a traitor and arrogant beyond belief. However, Ed claims, here that he was hardly alone, among his former peers, in his misgivings about how NSA was slipping into a fatal pit of lawlessness.
He says of Hayden, “What kind of man is this? How can he justify the violation of the rights of an entire nation, without even a law to lean on? How do we come back from a situation, in which the most senior officials in a Democracy are acting against the interests of the public – in secret?”
More details about their escape in Vogue Magazine: