Reading Diary: No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. surveillance state by Glenn Greenwald

Sep 30 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

This is one scary book. Never mind The Exorcist or Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain trilogy, this is the real thing. And that's because unlike those authors' fevered dreams of gods and devils and vampires and plagues, the nightmare that all of our governments are spying on is really real.

And we can thank Edward Snowden for uncovering and releasing information about the extent of the spying and Glenn Greenwald (and others) for spreading the word far and wide.

Glenn Greenwald's book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State is the story of Edward Snowden's startling revelations about the extent of NSA spying on American citizens as well as the story of how he approached Glenn Greenwald to break the story in the media. The first part of the book is very much a story of skulduggery and secrecy and skulking around hotels as Greenwald tells the tale of his initial contact and later first meetings with Snowden in various locations. The dealing and back and forth and hedging and the bravery and cowardice of the media in publishing Snowden's story via Greenwald is also a huge focus. Not too many players in media or government come out of this tale smelling like roses.

It is the narrative drive and Le Carre spookiness of the first part of the book that are in many ways the most compelling. The story of Greenwald and Snowden orchestrating the leaks and convincing and getting agreement to publish is fascinating. The rest of the book goes into much more detail about what the documents that Snowden leaked actually contained -- in other words, the who what and where of the government's spying apparatus. This part is obviously shocking and appalling but not as engrossing as the "spy novel" sections.

In the last part of the book, Greenwald makes his case for why it is wrong for a democracy to spy on it's citizens in this way and especially the role of the media to keep our governments accountable on the surveillance it does perform.

And I do mean governments. While this book is mostly about the US government, it does definitely implicate the other nations of the "Five Eyes" partnership in the same kinds of surveillance. They are all of one mind in so many ways. Greenwald essentially argues that the kind of comprehensive transparency these governments are forcing upon us is destructive to our way of life.

We deserve our privacy. Our governments serve us, we do not serve them. If anything, government should champion our privacy rights against the big corporate technology players rather than getting into bed with them to gather more and more information about us.

I recommend this book without hesitation to all academic and pubic library collections, even high school libraries. I would imagine that most academic libraries would find a home for this book in multiple branches as it it equally applicable to people in computing and engineering as it is to people in history, sociology, politics or business. Not to mention that this book is vital reading to anyone interested in the relationship between citizens and their governments.

Greenwald, Glenn, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014. 272pp. ISBN-13: 978-1627790734

One response so far

  • Pete A says:

    FBI boss 'concerned' by smartphone encryption plans:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-29378172

    Well, I am very concerned that an FBI boss remains gainfully employed in US security services despite demonstrating such an escalated level of arrogance that it borders on an attempt to gain worldwide public subservience and total submission to his wishes.

    Although I well understand the needs for international security, I also understand that neither James Comey nor anyone else has a right to read my private and deeply personal e-mails and text messages exchanged with my close friends. Just as I would never invite James Comey nor anyone else to share lunch or dinner with my close friends.

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