Personalized account by Greenwald (With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, 2011, etc.) regarding his encounters with Edward Snowden and their exposure of the National Security Agency's program of “indiscriminate mass surveillance.”
The author’s crisp, comprehensible outrage reflects the profound issues raised by Snowden’s whistle-blowing: “Thanks to Snowden’s bravery…we have an unparalleled firsthand look at the details of how the surveillance system actually operates.” Greenwald first examines how the secretive Snowden reached out to him due to his experience in writing about the NSA. After contentious negotiations with his Guardian editors, Greenwald traveled to Hong Kong to interview Snowden prior to the first articles revealing the NSA’s telephone and Internet monitoring endeavors: “He exuded an extraordinary equanimity when talking about what the US government might do to him,” writes the author. Next, Greenwald delves into a healthy selection of the NSA documents, providing excerpts and interpretations of PowerPoint presentations, training manuals and internal memos that demonstrate the chilling literality of the NSA’s unofficial motto, “Collect It All.” The author portrays the NSA as the epitome of Orwellian overreach, "the definitive rogue agency: empowered to do whatever it wants with very little control, transparency, or accountability." Greenwald then narrates the response to these revelations, which included Snowden and himself being slandered as rabble-rousers. The author’s partner was even detained at Heathrow Airport, while journalists like David Gregory suggested that Greenwald should face criminal charges. He depicts these responses to the legitimacy of his reporting for the Guardian as both menacing and absurd, while the “attacks on Snowden were of course far more virulent.” Greenwald’s caustic assessment of this response, and his close analysis of NSA documents and tactics, go a long way to support his assessment that “[g]iven the actual surveillance the NSA does, stopping terror is clearly a pretext.”
Greenwald’s polemical tone does not lessen the disturbing quality of these revelations.