UPDATED: Norway’s failure to provide exiled whistle-blower Edward Snowden with a guarantee against extradition to his US homeland, if he visits Oslo to accept another prize, is a “shame,” according to US filmmaker Oliver Stone. The Oscar-winning Stone was in Norway this week for the premiere of his new film about Snowden, and he claims Norwegian officials are even undermining the country’s sovereignty by opting to honour its extradition treaty with the US instead of upholding principles regarding freedom of expression.
Snowden is now seeking a guarantee against extradition to the US from Norway’s Supreme Court in order to come to Norway to accept a prize from Norsk PEN, which champions freedom of expression. When government officials failed to offer any guarantee, Norsk PEN sought a court order on Snowden’s behalf. Both a city court and an appeals court also failed to act, prompting Norsk PEN and Snowden to take the case to the Supreme Court this week.
Stone told newspaper Dagsavisen on Friday that he thinks it’s “sad” that neither Norwegian government officials nor the Norwegian courts so far have shown their “own will or sovereignty” in the Snowden case, and are instead more afraid of offending their US allies. Stone also told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he thinks that it would be “great” if Snowden wins the Nobel Peace Prize next week. That could leave another “empty chair” at the Nobel awards ceremony in December, with Norway and the US as the reason instead of China.
Snowden has been nominated for the Peace Prize in earlier years as well and remains a popular candidate amongst other supporters in Norway. While US officials view him as a traitor and fugitive after he revealed how the US engages in cyber- and drone warfare and spies on its own citizens as well as others abroad, organizations like Norsk PEN view Snowden as a champion of freedom of expression for exposing highly controversial surveillance and war tactics. Stone claims Snowden is anything but a traitor, since he not only received no personal financial gain for revealing the classified information but has suffered hardship as well. “No traitor would give away information like the kind Snowden was sitting on for free,” Stone told Dagsavisen. “A traitor would have demanded money. Snowden is an idealist on behalf of all of us ordinary people.”
The Snowden case has put the Norwegian government, and others, in a highly awkward and uncomfortable position, since Norway normally supports freedom of expression and whistle-blowing. Norway is also a firm ally of the US government, however, and Norwegian authorities have thus been seeking every means of staying out of the conflict between Snowden and his government. They’ve been tested twice now when Norwegian organizations have awarded Snowden prizes and invited him to Norway, but sought protection for him from extradition. It’s proven difficult for Norway to uphold its own principles and remain a loyal US ally.
Snowden stayed in exile in Moscow when he won an earlier prize in the name of Norwegian freedom and independence champion Bjørstjerne Bjørnson, because the Norwegian government wouldn’t guarantee to protect him against extradition. When he won the Ossietzky Prize that’s awarded annually by Norsk PEN, in the name of another brave revealer of wrongdoing during the Nazi German government in the 1930s, a local Norwegian court refused to hear the case. It then went to an appeals court, where a government lawyer has now successfully argued that no protection for Snowden was necessary “if he’s right that any extradition would be a political violation.” US attorneys and officials, meanwhile, vigorously claim Snowden is a fugitive from the law and would expect the Norwegians to turn him over if he lands on Norwegian soil.
The appeals court went along with the government attorney’s argument and wouldn’t take a stand or assume any risk for whether Snowden can come to Norway without being extradited to the US. Norsk PEN has thus appealed to the Supreme Court to protect Snowden from extradition during the planned November 18 prize ceremony. If no decision is forthcoming by then, the ceremony will be postponed and Norsk PEN will instead honour jailed authors on that day. Norsk PEN’s leader William Nygaard, who was the subject of an assassination attempt in the 1990s for publishing the Satanic Verses in Norwegian, said Snowden will also be interviewed from Moscow by Skype.
Stone, renowned for his films including JFK, Nixon, The Doors and a documentary on Fidel Castro, remains indignant and disappointed in Norway. “For me, the Scandinavian countries have always stood for independence and protected their own sovereignty,” he told Dagsavisen. “I can’t understand how this has changed, apart from the US tightening its grip on its allies.” Stone noted that Snowden has also criticizzed Russia for having boosted its own surveillance and spying in line with the US’, thus risking his own exile in Moscow.
Stone’s new film is a sympathetic portrait of Snowden that was opening at Norwegian cinemas on Friday. Stone made nine trips to Moscow to make the film, and described Snowden himself a difficult subject because he’s introverted and wasn’t keen on having the film made. “But he’s also smart, resolute and has principles,” said Stone, who’s still hoping that US President Barack Obama will ultimately pardon Snowden before leaving office. “That would be the perfect ending to his presidential period,” Stone said.