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A riveting, timely book sure to be one of the most significant of the year.

A three-time Pulitzer winner digs deep into “the surveillance state that rose up after [9/11], when the U.S. government came to believe it could not spy on enemies without turning its gaze on Americans as well.

In 2010, Gellman left the investigative team of the Washington Post, where he had developed journalistic expertise in national security issues and topics related to surveillance and digital encryption. By 2013, as he was figuring out his career as a freelance author, his life changed dramatically: He was visited by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who had been approached by a then-anonymous whistleblower with alleged access to evidence of surveillance conducted illegally on American citizens by federal government agencies. Gellman’s masterful narrative proceeds along two primary tracks. One relates the life story of the whistleblower, the now-famous Edward Snowden. The other is a primer about investigative journalism regarding one of the highest-risk exposés in U.S. history. As the author unspools his own saga, he also delivers an endlessly insightful narrative about the practice of investigative journalism, a book that deserves its place alongside All the President’s Men, Five Days at Memorial, Nickel and Dimed, and other classics of the genre. Gellman sets both skillful narrative tracks within the vital context of how a panicky network of federal government officials asserted their authority to break seemingly any privacy law or regulation in the wake of 9/11. The author does not view his role as advocate or dissenter. Rather, throughout the book, he sees his mission as informing all readers about the extent of government overreach into private lives. “The reader is entitled to know up front that I think Snowden did substantially more good than harm,” writes Gellman, “even though I am prepared to accept (as he is not) that his disclosures must have exacted a price in lost intelligence.” Explaining the illegal government surveillance requires cutting through a mountain of technological jargon, a task the author handles expertly.

A riveting, timely book sure to be one of the most significant of the year.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59420-601-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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