Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

No Place to Hide

I sped through Glenn Greenwald’s new book, “No Place to Hide”, over the past day or so, and it’s as much of a spy thriller as you’d like, except it’s entirely real. Emily Bazelon of Slate reviewed it:

“No Place to Hide” doesn’t offer an in-depth portrait of the leaker. In Greenwald’s protective hands, Snowden is a two-dimensional hero, ever brave and calm, sleeping soundly every night even during the tense initial phase of collaboration a year ago, when Greenwald and Poitras flew to meet him in Hong Kong. If you want to get under Snowden’s skin, read the Vanity Fair profile of him. But if you want to get a handle on what was at stake when he downloaded the government’s most precious secrets onto a thumb drive, this book is your primer.

For most of its length, “No Place to Hide” is a mix of rehashed and new, specific details of the NSA’s surveillance efforts. By sequencing these leaks in a singular narrative instead of spreading the leaks across several months and multiple newspapers, Greenwald has created an environment in which we can get a better idea of the breadth and depth of electronic surveillance.

The final chapter of the book is where it degrades into something approaching a rant against the newspapers and television programs that often wish to receive clearance or comment from the government prior to running a story. By doing so, the press may create an environment wherein it is impossible for the public to be fully informed. However, as Reuters’ Jack Shafer explains, this critique is misguided:

Greenwald seems to want to damn national security reporters for talking to national security officials about national security issues, thinking that it compromises them somehow or prevents them from publishing empire-shaking scoops. But talking to the government isn’t the same thing as taking orders from it. National security reporters can write more insightful and more accurate stories by discussing the leaks they obtain. They can also avoid publishing stories that are detrimental to my immediate safety, your immediate safety, the immediate safety of Glenn Greenwald’s life as well as the lives of U.S. troops. The cartoon Greenwald paints of a weakling press taking orders from the government clashes with the well-documented accounts of how contentious and brutal the reporting and publishing process can get.

Greenwald’s book is insightful, compelling, and absolutely shocking, but don’t forget to exercise your skeptical muscles. This is, after all, a long-form essay from a single writer. It has, of course, been vetted and edited, but it is still one part of a broader picture.

To promote the book and provide some additional context, Greenwald granted interviews to GQ magazine and NPR’s “Fresh Air”. Ominously, in the GQ interview, Greenwald is insistent that the biggest stuff is still to come:

We published the first article [about the NSA collecting Verizon phone records] while I was in Hong Kong last June and won’t stop until we’re done. I think we will end the big stories in about three months or so [June or July 2014]. I like to think of it as a fireworks show: You want to save your best for last. There’s a story that from the beginning I thought would be our biggest, and I’m saving that. The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicolored hues. This will be the finale, a big missing piece. Snowden knows about it and is excited about it.

I guess that’s something to look forward to, or be slightly afraid of.

“No Place to Hide” is available on Amazon and the iBookstore. Both of those are affiliate links, so if you like my little corner of the internet and would like to support it financially, please consider purchasing through one of those links. I won’t hold it against you if you don’t, though.