UK

Matt Damon Praises 'Conscientious' NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden For Doing A 'Great Thing' (VIDEO)

27/08/2013 15:37 BST | Updated 27/08/2013 16:06 BST

Matt Damon has entered the NSA surveillance row by speaking out in favour of whistleblower Edward Snowden. In an interview for the Alternate Cinema show, broadcast on BBC Arabic, the Jason Bourne star said Snowden did a "great thing" exposing the NSA PRISM programme.

Snowden, currently in exile in Russia after President Putin granted the former spy temporary asylum, stole the top secret documents pertaining to the surveillance programme while working as a contractor for the NSA. He subsequently leaked the sensitive materials to the Guardian newspaper.

"He certainly seems like a very conscientious guy and these revelations are pretty incredible and pretty shocking and kind of fly in the face of public statements that all these officials have made," said Damon.

"On balance, I think it's a great thing that he did," Damon added, while praising Snowden for sparking a debate on the tensions between civil liberties and national security.

"If we're going to trade our civil liberties for our security, then that should be a decision that we collectively make," he told the broadcast.

Damon’s views are likely to further rile the American right, with the actor heavily criticised for pushing a "liberal political agenda" through his movies, most recently the sci-fi parable Elysium, which was criticised in the US for its pro-immigration themes. Likewise The Good Shepherd (2006), in which Damon played a CIA executive in a less than flattering portrayal of the agency.

On Sunday, using information leaked by Snowden, German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had bugged the video conferencing facilities within the United Nations building, a revelation that has caused further disquiet between Washington and Berlin. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was also targeted, according to the newspaper.

On Monday, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who helped Snowden leak the documentation, said that there was a "risk" in him returning to the US after his partner, David Miranda, was detained for nine hours by British police at Heathrow airport.

In an interview with the website Truthout, the journalist said he would travel to the US (he currently lives in Brazil) as he would not "be kept out of my country for doing journalism," but admitted there was a "risk".