A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who was among the first to report on Edward Snowden's leaks documenting mass government surveillance looks back on one of the 21st century's biggest stories and its implications for the future of journalism and national security.
... engrossing ... His wariness makes Gellman a thorough, exacting reporter; it also makes him a marvelous narrator for this particular story, as he nimbly guides us through complex technical arcana and some stubborn ethical questions. Instead of rushing toward a conclusion, he hangs back. He’s clear about what he knows and what he doesn’t. He deploys plenty of metaphors, not to adorn the stakes but to clarify them. He shows how discussions of medieval ramparts and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon are surprisingly pertinent to the architecture of mass surveillance ... His voice is laconic and appealingly wry ... would be simply pleasurable to read if the story it told didn’t also happen to be frighteningly real.
... makes a major contribution largely absent in the earlier efforts ... Gellman offers the most detailed, comprehensive and balanced take on the impact of Snowden's 2013 revelations and what they mean today, as the debate on national security versus individual privacy keeps evolving ... Gellman offers a very human portrayal of Snowden: a loner, filled with zeal and a black-and-white worldview ... all this back-and-forth, between Gellman and Snowden, and Gellman and national security officials, is the best part of a compelling book.
What Gellman provides us with, in fact, as he trawls through the investigations he undertook into NSA malfeasance in the wake of Snowden’s data drop, is a necessary and deep meditation about how far our online lives can or indeed should remain completely private. Gellman, unlike Snowden, is able to interrogate American spymasters as well as tech companies about where the limits should lie, and he also has a sufficient sense of his responsibilities not to reveal much of the sensitive operational detail that the leaker gave him ... The value of this book is that Gellman eschews the binary 'traitor or hero' assessment of Snowden. Rather he highlights the dangers of the surveillance state’s vast reach.