Writing in Wired, Kim Zetter reviews Glenn Greenwald's much-anticipated memoir,
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State
, which tells the inside story of his involvement with Edward Snowden and the most significant story about technology, networks and surveillance in human history. Zetter makes the book sound like a cross between a spy thriller and 1984, and Snowden himself apparently comes out sounding like a pretty amazing and clever person, which jibes with existing accounts of his character. I've just bought a copy to start reading at lunch — I'm setting aside Piketty for now.
For the next sixteen hours, Greenwald sat on the plane to Hong Kong poring over the files, completely unmolested, while the stewardesses passed out cocktails and snacks around him.
Remarkably, the man who had become one of the government's biggest agitators over its warrantless wiretapping program and other constitutional breaches held within his hands a weapon with the power to bring down the surveillance state and there was no one around to stop him.
Greenwald was amazed at how organized the documents were. Snowden had arranged them all carefully in folders, sub-folders and sub-sub-folders according to issue and importance, clearly indicating that he had read and understood each one. He had even provided glossaries of acronyms and program names as well as supporting documents that weren't meant to be published but were included simply to provide context.
One of the last files Greenwald examined, right before he landed, was the file he should have read first. The file, named "README_FIRST," contained Snowden's full name, his Social Security number, CIA alias, and agency ID number.
Snowden, he soon learned, was more than a systems administrator for the intelligence community. During his stint with the CIA in Switzerland, he was considered the top technical and cybersecurity expert in the region and had been chosen to provide President Obama with support at the 2008 NATO summit in Romania. He had trained to become a high-level cyber operator and had seen things that few see.
"I could watch drones in real time as they surveilled the people they might kill," he told Greenwald during their meeting in Hong Kong. "You could watch entire villages and see what everyone was doing. I watched NSA tracking people's Internet activities as they typed. I became aware of just how invasive US surveillance capabilities had become. I realized the true breadth of this system. And almost nobody knew it was happening."
Glenn Greenwald's Pulse-Pounding Tale of Breaking the Snowden Leaks [Kim Zetter/Wired]