Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State by Barton Gellman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Barton Gellman, formerly of The Washington Post, was one of three journalists — including filmmaker Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, who Snowden contacted after a fairly lengthy vetting process. He wanted and needed journalists of the highest integrity.
Gellman himself was rather an interesting choice. From his own book, he was rather lukewarm to Snowden and made some serious errors of judgment when it came to leaking Snowden's online identity, burning him in the process, but it became water under the bridge, later.
Having watched documentaries and having read Snowden's autobiography, I'm pretty on top of the whole subject, so while there wasn't a lot of new material here: Snowden's early life, how he was trusted by the NSA and how he could, scarily, research almost anything on anyone and tell you how it was accomplished, and to his ethical decision to reveal to the public just how EVERYONE was spied on.
This isn't new. We all know by now that the agencies grab ALL the information, whether you're a US citizen or not. It's basically the end of privacy and it's only the fact that the people in those positions of power SAY they're not using it for nefarious reasons that we have any desire to TAKE THEM AT THEIR WORD.
There's no transparency, and that's the meaning behind the title in this book. They can see anything anyone else does, but THEY are shrouded in secrecy.
This book takes a very middle-of-the-road approach. It insists on nothing other than objectivity and proof -- but that was never really in doubt. Compared to any day in public political discourse, the revelations from Snowden shines like a happy beacon of truth rising high above the poisoned apples littering the ditch of Facebook. It's not hyperbole. Snowden was a whistleblower who took, and then judiciously released, after much deliberation, damning information.
Gellman gives voice to the OTHER side of the coin, the coin that says that rulebreakers should all be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But he does it while also making sure that Snowden's ethical concerns were given full credence. It's the universal question: We need watchdogs, yes, but who watches the watchdogs?
What happens when the NSA can pull up -- everything -- on the Supreme Court? The protections against that are almost nonexistent. You have to trust in the inherent goodness of everyone in the NSA. If a certain administration with a massive disregard for rules manages to find someone with hawk-tendencies in the NSA, what is to say that they can't use the full might of the NSA to quash all his political enemies?
Who is to say it hasn't already happened?
This is why we need transparency. And this is why Snowden is important. We need a light shone on these things.
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