HONG KONG, June 27: A lone hero is on the run, eluding a spy-hunt across a globe-trotting storyboard as he strives to expose wrongdoing at the heart of Washington's vengeful intelligence apparatus.

The script's ending is not yet written but that, for his supporters at least, is the Jason Bourne-style narrative of Edward Snowden. For them, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor's exposure of a many-tentacled eavesdropping campaign represents the made-for-Hollywood stand of one man fighting impossible odds.

For the US government, the leaks made by the 30-year-old IT specialist risk allowing extremists to plot and maim unhindered.

While Snowden has won sympathy internationally, Washington has cast him at best as a misguided fool, at worst as a traitorous villain in the pay of hostile powers.

Whatever the validity of his actions, the scene-shifting drama has made for a riveting spectacle that observers believe will eventually end up on the big screen.

The plot at times has strained credulity, but it is all real, starting with Snowden's decision in May to abandon his pole-dancing girlfriend in Hawaii for Hong Kong and a life on the run.

“Every spy novelist in the world is not writing at the moment, because they are glued to this—it is the biggest spy case there has been in decades,” Jeremy Duns, the author of three novels about a turncoat British agent in the Cold War, said.

Like other observers, Duns expects a movie or book tie-in before long to explore the nuances of a story that seems ripped from the pages of John le Carre, dwelling on themes of moral ambiguity, conflicted loyalties and outright betrayal.

Any adaptation of the Snowden saga will have to give prominent billing to the NSA, an organisation so secretive that it was once dubbed “No Such Agency”.

The NSA emerged from the shadows in the 1998 film “Enemy of the State”, featuring Will Smith and Gene Hackman.

Well before the 9/11 attacks, it covered the encroaching reach of the surveillance machine—one that in the movie's telling would stop at nothing, not even murder, to expand its powers and shield its secrets.

In comments dismissed by his critics as paranoid ravings, Snowden on June 17 evoked the threat of the US government “murdering me”, but said his stream of revelations could not be dammed.

“Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” he told Guardian readers, in what could pass for the tag line of a Hollywood film.

Snowden has injected a twist into the traditional plot. The unglamorous IT guy, munching on pizza as he beavers away at his laptop, is now the leading man.

“The geek in the van has become the Bourne,” said Duns, who has also written a history of the 1960s Soviet spy Oleg Penkovsky published this month.

A very modern American story: In fact, according to the Hollywood trade press, A-list director Michael Mann is working on a project tentatively called “Cyber” that will portray the US and Chinese militaries coming together to thwart a dangerous hacking conspiracy. Mann has been scouting locations in Hong Kong.

The Chinese territory was the setting for a month-long stay by Snowden that took in endless room-service meals at a boutique hotel in bustling Kowloon before he decamped in the dead of night to the homes of local supporters.—AFP

Opinion

The curse of irrelevance
24 Jul 2021

The curse of irrelevance

Fear, in essence, is a powerful de-motivator for those who believe their success lies in lazy public validation...
Good & bad Muslims
Updated 24 Jul 2021

Good & bad Muslims

It is essential to interrogate the wider epidemic of violence.
The Afghan stalemate
Updated 21 Jul 2021

The Afghan stalemate

The Taliban cannot think of ruling Afghanistan without international legitimacy.

Editorial

Cyberattack on rights
Updated 24 Jul 2021

Cyberattack on rights

A COLLABORATIVE investigation into a data leak of software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group has ...
24 Jul 2021

Sleeper cells

THERE was a time not too long ago when militant groups had unleashed a reign of terror in Pakistan, resulting in...
24 Jul 2021

Prisoners’ return

THE families of 62 Pakistani prisoners who had been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia had reason to rejoice this Eid as...
India’s admission
Updated 24 Jul 2021

India’s admission

It was no secret that India had been manoeuvring behind the scenes to ensure that Pakistan remained on the grey list.
EU headscarf ban
Updated 23 Jul 2021

EU headscarf ban

Moves by the EU to curtail the religious freedoms of Muslims and others in the bloc need to be reviewed.
Disposal of offal
Updated 22 Jul 2021

Disposal of offal

The least people can do is to make an effort and dump entrails in designated areas.