It’s easy to feel a bit of information overload when you first learn about an information leak revealing that the NSA has spied on regular American citizens and that major Internet companies like Microsoft and Facebook have helped them do it.
Glenn Greenwald is the reporter who read through countless documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and wrote the first news articles bringing that information to the public’s attention.
Now, with his excellent book No Place to Hide, Greenwald offers an insightful and comprehensive discussion of the controversial documents. Greenwald clearly lays out the most significant revelations and why they matter to everyday people.
The first part reads like a spy novel, grabbing the reader from the first page with an exciting account of how Snowden first contacted Greenwald, their secret meeting in Hong Kong, and the ensuing behind-the-scenes drama to get the information into the newspapers. While some have criticized the Snowden leak as threatening national security, the book highlights the care and scrutiny with which Greenwald and his collaborator Laura Poitras handled the classified documents, seeking to shine light without putting anyone’s lives in danger.
The next two sections contain less narrative, spending more time explaining the most significant revelations and why surveillance is harmful to society. While they don’t read quite as fast as the thrilling opening, these parts are great for anyone who had trouble keeping up with the Snowden leaks and what they meant.
Greenwald closes with a critical and thought-provoking discussion of the American media and what he perceives as journalists’ growing sympathy to the government. In Greenwald’s view, journalism has lost its investigative edge, giving too much power to the government to decide what information is published — and perhaps more critically — what information is not.
As a journalist, I found this section fascinating. While it paints a dismal picture of corporate media, the book’s existence provides optimism for the rise of independent journalists to maintain the mantle of the Fourth Estate.