Book Review: No Place to Hide, by Glenn Greenwald

By:  Bob Adelmann
Book Review: No Place to Hide, by Glenn Greenwald

Greenwald makes his connection with Edward Snowden sound like a John Grisham thriller, with this difference: The NSA's surveillance state is no fantasy.

Glenn Greenwald, the facilitator in bringing to light Edward Snowden’s staggering revelations over the NSA’s surveillance of Americans, titled his book from a comment made by Senator Frank Church back in 1975. As head of the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, Church said:

The United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables [them] to monitor the messages that go through the air….

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left. Such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.

There would be no place to hide.

Greenwald opens his book as if it were a John Grisham thriller, giving his reader a running start toward the reluctant connection he almost missed with Cincinnatus, the code name Snowden used in his first attempt to reach Greenwald on December 1, 2012. Greenwald ignored Snowden’s e-mail, partly because of scheduling and deadlines as a writer for The Guardian, and partly because he was put off by Snowden’s demand that all communications be encrypted, using PGP, with which Greenwald was unfamiliar.

The story gets traction with his first meeting with Snowden in Hong Kong in May 2013, using all manner of techniques and strategies (a la James Bond) to keep NSA’s listening ears from tracking and recording their five-hour conversation.

By June the first of Snowden’s disclosures was published. On June 14 the Department of Justice charged Snowden with espionage, and a few days later the State Department revoked his passport.

Greenwald discovered that the documents provided by Snowden revealed that the agency has an ability to monitor and collect information from hundreds of millions of people around the globe, that it has broken into the communications links of major data centers across the world, that it has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption that protects sensitive data on the Internet, and that, according to its own records, it has broken privacy laws or exceeded its authority thousands of times a year.

It took some time to build the trust between Greenwald and Snowden. Said Snowden:

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