Chris Comerford's Reviews > No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald
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it was amazing

A very important book. Whatever your opinion of Snowden and the things he brought to light, it behooves you to go as deeply into the circumstances surrounding his whistleblowing as you can.

I may not entirely agree with every assertion Greenwald makes - I also feel he, occasionally, tends to tar a lot of people in the United States government with the same damning brush - but there's no denying the importance of his work, and of Snowden's. Our apathy or blind acceptance of how the security institution operates is inadequate, and it's books like this that show us why we shouldn't be meekly accepting whatever it is we're told.

It'd be very easy to deride much of what Greenwald writes about as starry-eyed, left-wing liberal idealism, and I won't necessarily argue entirely against that notion. There's quite a bit of championing Snowden and emphasising importance of the aftermath of his revelations; some of the anti-government rhetoric can also get a little tedious. But by that same token, it's refreshing that Greenwald is as outspoken a journalist as he is. Too often have I read book chapters and thinkpieces that talk peripherally, around the kinds of subjects surrounding the positive and negative impact of state surveillance that Greenwald investigates. Having someone cut right to the heart of it all, and call out the US government's actions into the bargain, leaves no doubt in my mind that Greenwald truly has the citizenry's best interests at heart.

What I also like about the book is that Greenwald doesn't entirely come down on the idea of state surveillance, but rather the way the US has manifested its own methodology for it. He openly cites the many experts who've claimed the NSA's programs have been more detrimental than useful since Bush implemented them post-9/11, and the tenor and content of his work makes clear his thoughts about how the US's security mechanisms operate (or, in this case, fail to operate properly). Everything Greenwald articulates is well-written and laid out, a cogent and coherent text that underscores the importance of accountability and public scrutiny.

While the language used to describe some of the NSA's programs in the middle of the book can get a little heavy on the technical side, Greenwald's synthesised summaries of what each program accomplishes is accessible and, honestly, terrifying. The extent to which the US has spied on its own citizenry, to say nothing of the international impact - and the fact my own country begged the NSA to continue what it was doing on Australian citizens, too - is the kind of Orwellian nightmare that was once only relegated to dystopic science fiction books. Snowden's revelations lay bare that life has become stranger, and scarier, than fiction.

So this is not a book you may like, but it is definitely a book you should read. 'Nothing is more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate,' and this book will - for better or worse - inform you. Or, in Greenwald's own words:

"Democracy requires accountability and consent of the governed, which is only possible if citizens know what is being done in their name. The presumption is that, with rare exception, they will know everything their political officials are doing, which is why they are called public servants, working in the public sector, in public service, for public agencies. Conversely, the presumption is that the government, with rare exception, will not know anything that law-abiding citizens are doing. That is why we are called private individuals, functioning in our private capacity. Transparency is for those who carry out public duties and exercise public power. Privacy is for everyone else."
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Reading Progress

September 13, 2015 – Shelved
September 13, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
September 25, 2015 – Started Reading
October 5, 2015 –
page 52
October 13, 2015 –
page 83
October 15, 2015 –
page 170
October 18, 2015 – Finished Reading

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