I've read two of Greenwald's previous books (How Would a Patriot Act, With Liberty and Justice for Some) before he became famous for his connection toI've read two of Greenwald's previous books (How Would a Patriot Act, With Liberty and Justice for Some) before he became famous for his connection to Edward Snowden. So, I was acquainted with both his views and his writing ability. [As an aside, I found Greenwald's book about the American justice system particularly instructive as it laid bare the mistaken but commonly held belief that the US is a nation of laws and not men.]
With that said, I gave Greenwald's latest book 5 stars not for the writing and the book itself since I have a few criticisms about it. I gave the book the highest rating possible due to the importance of the message and the role that Snowden (almost a secondary character in Greenwald's narrative) and Greenwald himself played in revealing the sheer size and scope of NSA spying on just about everyone under the sun if he or she has an electronic footprint of any kind.
Let me get my complaints (relatively minor complaints in the scheme of things) out of the way since most of it has to do with the structure of the book.
First of all, there's no index which makes referencing parts of the book later on more difficult. The book could have also benefited from the inclusion of at least one appendix, including a glossary of terms to include all the myriad acronyms. A graph of a timeline of court rulings and gov't actions would also have been helpful.
I also think it would have been beneficial to include a brief history of US gov't surveillance on American citizens going back to the early 1900s and the exact set of circumstances that ultimately led to the creation of the FISA court in the first place. Furthermore, I think that should have come at the front of the book so that the reader had a real grasp of past abuses prior to reading about our present day situation.
Now for the book as it's written:
The early part of the book reads like a recitation of inside baseball in the sense that we find out exactly how Greenwald got involved with Snowden from day one. In fact, as hard as it is to believe, it almost borders on the kind of boring stories one of your friends might tell you when they include more details than what you need in order to understand what happened. However, I get the impression that Greenwald did this, at least in part, to offer both the public and the gov't a personal defense of his role in Snowden's actions in an effort to minimize any smear campaign against Greenwald based on any false stories that got published and those subsequent assumptions of his role being taken for granted as true.
In fact, as shocking as the revelations are about the widespread spying the NSA does on virtually all Americans all the time, in my opinion, the most powerful part of the book is the second half where Greenwald outlines the incredibly poor job the media does in general and the incestuous relationship that has developed in the last few decades between the gov't and the media. If anything, it reminds me of the relationship that gov't seems to have with corporate America in general when one (the gov't) seems to be doing the bidding of the other (big business). Of course, in this particular case the roles are reversed since the media seems to be doing the bidding of the gov't instead of acting in an oversight role.
Although I think Greenwald tries to downplay any reference to Orwell's book, 1984, (probably because it simply sounds so outlandish and hyperbolic), what's happening right now in America, with the widespread spying that the gov't and corporate contractors are engaging in as symbiotic partners, the events of today could easily be a prequel to Orwell's world.
Unfortunately, we as Americans would be making a huge mistake if we assumed that it can't happen here as Sinclair Lewis tried to warn us in his 1935 book by the same name. Alas, I worry about both apathy in the general population and the average American's undue preoccupation (a fixation, really) with nonsensical celebrity culture which, ironically, the other end of the media culture is shoving down our throats even as they're failing in their responsibility to keep us informed about what's really going on behind the scenes while people are being distracted by reality shows that aren't real.
That's why Greenwald's book deserves every star it gets, and more. Because he's keeping us informed. The only question is what will we as Americans end up doing with what we learn....more