Saturday, November 22, 2014

Glenn Greenwald's "No Place to Hide" is a shocking read; "Edward Snowden v. the NSA" is only part of the story of a challenge to journalists

Author: Glenn Greenwald

Title: No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State

Publication: 2014, Metropolitan Books (Henry Holt), ISBN 978-1-62779-073-4, 259 pages, hardcover (available in paper, Kindle, author download, MP3, 259 pages, five chapters, Introduction and Epilogue

The notes and index seem to be available online only at Greenwald's site, here I have never seen this done with a conventionally published book before. I have to say something for buying a hardcopy and reading it on the DC Metro or NYC subway. Doing so will attract attention and conversation from other passengers, who wouldn't notice what's on a Kindle or iPad.

The riveting film CitizenFour (Radius TWC, directed by Laura Poitras) presents the Hong Kong meeting with Snowden and is discussed on my Movies blog Oct. 27, 2014. But I suspect this book will become a film in its own right. The Weinstein Brothers must be pondering the idea.

So, let me get to my own review!

In fact, this book is a shocker. I could almost call it 'Do Ask, Do Tell IV' because it talks about many of the same kind of existential problems I covered in DADT III. Glennwald probes and reflects and argues with himself about things as if he were sitting on the Supreme Court. His writing style, sentence structure, logic flow and world view seem a lot like mine. I've noticed the same similarity with the work of two or three other men (artists) two generations younger than me. Lawyers notice these similarities among various people! Cognitive identity seems to be genetic.

It's not that I necessarily agree with everything Greenwald says. 'In fact, he attracted the ire of gay conservative writer Andrew Sullivan, with whom I share a lot of common views.

As part of the background, it's important note that Greenwald lives in Brazil because US law (not yet recognizing same-sex marriage at the federal level) prevents his marital partner David Miranda from getting a visa to live in the US (Wikipedia, link ). Change in marriage law may be an easier legal battle for him than the consequences of his participation in Edward Snowden's disclosures, although the exact status of the latter is likely to vary with time.

The most captivating parts of the work are the 'bookends'. In December 2012, Greenwald gets a mysterious email from 'Cincinnatus' and is told that there are folks who will share a lot more with him if he will learn to use encryption, particularly for email. That is difficult for those not proficient in shell script programming, and in fact Electronic Frontier Foundation has announced an initiative, called 'Let's Encrypt', to make encryption (related to PGP) more usable by everyone by the end of 2015.

Greenwald let this slide for a while, until he came into contact with documentary film-maker Laura Poitras. That led to the encounter in Edward Snowden in the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong at the end of May 2013. In the film, noted above, Snowden takes over, and seems charismatic. No one seems to have more integrity.

The details of the encounter, reported in the book, track to the film closely. ('Ten Days in Hong Kong', as a title, reminds me of the movie 'Seven Days in May'.) But what gets really interesting is the idea that Greenwald would have published Snowden's contents himself if the Guardian didn't meet his deadline. (How he could enforce that, I'll come back to.) He was going to use a new domain name ''. That domain name does exist now, and re-directs, here. The disclosures are in many pieces, including a program called PRISM, involving major US Internet and telecommunications companies, especially Verizon. Part of the shocker is the way the government had compelled the cooperation of Silicon Valley.