Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reignited the terror-supporting-traitor vs. freedom-loving-patriot debate last night when he made a surprise appearance on HBO’s comedy/news program Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. Oliver devoted the episode to U.S. government surveillance programs and the upcoming June 1st deadline for the renewal of the Patriot Act.
Oliver’s crew visited Times Square to find out if random tourists knew who Snowden is. Most didn’t and the few who had a clue mostly had him confused with the WikiLeaks guy, Julian Assange.
As seems to be the case a lot these days, the comedian (Oliver) presents the story with less of a political agenda than the “real” newscasters at MSNBC or Fox, conceding up front that perfect privacy and perfect safety are mutually exclusive. He also gives Snowden a hard time, forcing him to admit that he didn’t read all of the documents he chose to leak and that he has some culpability for mistakenly revealing the names of U.S. intelligence agents. Oliver also showed him an image he said was his own crotch and Snowden insisted the government has the capability to capture and catalog images of everyone’s junk if they’re sharing their privates online. Maybe Snowden thought agreeing to an “Oliver interview” meant Oliver Stone, director of the upcoming movie about his life.
Even though Oliver’s got some sympathies with Snowden’s intent and stated principles (and traveled to Russia to conduct the interview in person), it’s a far different take on the subject than what we got from the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour (which is also screening on the network). HBO is pretty generous with their John Oliver content. We’ve embedded the entire episode below.