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What? matters more: the leaker, or the leak? Any one of the following, you’d think, might have been the news story of the year, or the decade: the revelation that America’s biggest spy agency, the NSA, has information on every phone call made in the continental United States as well as abroad; that it claims to have direct access to the servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and all the other major web companies; that GCHQ, the NSA’s British equivalent, is siphoning off the entire internet and storing some of it for thirty days; that online encryption has been subverted and nothing is safe from government spies. The drift of the stories – which were at their peak last summer, when the Guardian and others first got their hands on Edward Snowden’s documents – was that we’re all being watched all the time. Anything we do online, and any phone call we make, is potentially being analysed by the NSA and its friends. But, as Luke Harding discloses in his book on the Snowden affair, the most viewed story in the Guardian’s history wasn’t any of this: it wasn’t a piece of news at all. It was the 12-minute video, made by Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, in which Snowden explained who he was and why he’d decided to reveal what he had.
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Daniel Soar, London Review of Books)
Mr. Soar penetrates to the irony of the Snowden story there: no one actually cares about "privacy," especially when it comes to national security. Indeed, one of the funniest post 9-11 tropes was when journalists would do man on the street interviews asking if the government should be given the power to spy on all communications and those citizens would express bewilderment that it wasn't already doing so. Part of the reason for this lack of concern is also revealed in the above: while the Left and Right try scaring us about a panopticon state where our every moment is being watched, they never explain where the 8 billion pairs of eyes that would be required to observe us are supposed to come from. A government that hoovers up every communication on Earth has no capacity to read them all. And what it could do--run algorithms that search for groups of trigger words, like replacement theory; Camp of the Saints; Taghut, and so on and so forth--most of us want it to do. One amusing note, we do a lot of web searchin/surfing to generate the links below and nearly every site requires you to accept cookies, many require you to register and the ads you see are tailored to your on-line profile. This includes Mr. Harding's own paper: The Guardian. So much for the notion of privacy.

This reality shapes the story told in this book. Mr. Harding renders an exciting tale that is equal parts Falcon and the Snowman and All the President's Men, but the "secrets" that Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian and the New York Times "risked" revealing to the world are a MacGuffin; there's nothing of any real value in the revelations. Not that this is limited to the Snowden files; since at least the Moynihan Report on Secrecy we've been aware of how expensive and counterproductive government secrecy is and how much more valuable an open-source market-based regime would be.

Mind you, no one cares what's in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction either. The book is still worth reading for the profile of Snowden--a Ron Paul libertarian, which explains the whole caper--and for the sort of Boy's Own adventure, not just on his part but for the reporters and papers that published the stories against government wishes. But it ultimately stumbles a bit over how little was at stake.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)


Websites:

See also:

Nonfiction
Luke Harding Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Luke Harding
    -Luke Harding (The Guardian)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Luke Harding (IMDB)
    -YOU TUBE CHANNEL: Luke Harding
    -BOOK SITE: The Snowden Files (Penguin Random House)
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Snowden Files (book)
    -ARCHIVES: The NSA Files (The Guardian)
    -ARCHIVES: Edward Snowden (The Guardian)
    -TED TALK: The Snowden files -- the inside story of the world’s most wanted man (Luke Harding, Dec 15, 2014, TED TALKS)
    -EXCERPT: How Edward Snowden went from loyal NSA contractor to whistleblower: He was politically conservative, a gun owner, a geek – and the man behind the biggest intelligence leak in history. In this exclusive extract from his new book, Luke Harding looks at Edward Snowden's journey from patriot to America's most wanted (Luke Harding, 1 Feb 2014, The Guardian)
    -EXCERPT: Is Edward Snowden a prisoner in Russia?: In the second exclusive extract from his new book, The Snowden Files, Luke Harding looks at the role of Russia's shadowy intelligence agency, the FSB, in securing the whistleblower's exile – and whether they have cracked his secret files (Luke Harding, 2 Feb 2014, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: Writing The Snowden Files: 'The paragraph began to self-delete': Was it the NSA? GCHQ? A Russian hacker? Who was secretly reading his book on Snowden while he wrote it, wonders Luke Harding (Luke Harding, Thu 20 Feb 2014, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: Enemy of the state: How Luke Harding became the reporter Russia hated (Luke Harding, 9/23/11, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Compatriots. The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Émigrés, and Agents Abroad. By: Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan (Luke Harding , New Eastern Europe)
    -ESSAY: The Hidden History of Trump’s First Trip to Moscow: In 1987, a young real estate developer traveled to the Soviet Union. The KGB almost certainly made the trip happen. (LUKE HARDING, November 19, 2017 , Politico)
    -REVIEW: of Andrew Wilson’s Ukraine Crisis (Luke Harding. Kyiv Post)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Luke Harding Explores The Ties Between Trump And Russia (The Leonard Lopate Show, 11/15/17)
    -ESSAY: Claims and counterclaims fly around Guardian Manafort–Assange scoop (Jon Allsop, November 29, 2018, CJR)
    -PROFILE: Spotlight on Luke Harding, author of A Very Expensive Poison (Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels, 8/05/19, London Theatre Direct)
    -ESSAY: The errors of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald: The NSA disclosures are disturbing but they don’t portend a totalitarian state (George Packer, May 22, 2014, Prospect)
    -PROFILE: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations (Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong, 11 Jun 2013, The Guardian)
    -Review ofthe Unauthorized Disclosures of Former National Security Agency Contractor Edward Snowden (US House of Representatives, September 15, 2016),/a> (Bryan Burrough, Sarah Ellison, and Suzanna Andrews, April 23, 2014, Vanity Fair)
    -PROFILE: Glenn Greenwald against the world: Snowden is deified, the media are demonized, but in between is an important story of journalism in the 21st century (Malcolm Forbes, July / August 2014 , Columbia Journalism Review)
    -ESSAY: Chapter VII. The Failure of Official Accountability and the Rise of Guerrilla Accountability (Reg Whitaker, Law, Privacy and Surveillance in Canada in the Post-Snowden Era)
    -ESSAY: Chelsea Manning’s Integrity: Chelsea Manning told the truth both about government abuse and gender oppression. The Left should stand with her. (Lida Maxwell, Jacobin)
    -REVIEW: of Permanent Record by Edward Snowden (Stanly Johny, The Hindu)
    -ESSAY: FALLOUT: The Geopolitics of the Snowden Files (Adam Morris, APRIL 20, 2014, Los Angelkes Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: Whistleblowing as civil disobedience: The case of Edward Snowden (William E. Scheuerman, Philosophy and Social Criticism)
    -WIKIPEDIA: ECHELON
    -ARCHIVES: Luke Harding (CJR)
    -ARCHIVES: "luke harding (You Tube)
    -ARCHIVES: Luke Harding (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Snowden Files by Luke Harding (David Runciman, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Daniel Soar, London Review of Books)
What? matters more: the leaker, or the leak? Any one of the following, you’d think, might have been the news story of the year, or the decade: the revelation that America’s biggest spy agency, the NSA, has information on every phone call made in the continental United States as well as abroad; that it claims to have direct access to the servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and all the other major web companies; that GCHQ, the NSA’s British equivalent, is siphoning off the entire internet and storing some of it for thirty days; that online encryption has been subverted and nothing is safe from government spies. The drift of the stories – which were at their peak last summer, when the Guardian and others first got their hands on Edward Snowden’s documents – was that we’re all being watched all the time. Anything we do online, and any phone call we make, is potentially being analysed by the NSA and its friends. But, as Luke Harding discloses in his book on the Snowden affair, the most viewed story in the Guardian’s history wasn’t any of this: it wasn’t a piece of news at all. It was the 12-minute video, made by Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, in which Snowden explained who he was and why he’d decided to reveal what he had.

    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (David Blair, Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (South China Morning Post)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Anthony Moretti, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Zohra Nasir, Newsline)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Richard McGregor, Financial Times)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Hakan Cem Cetin, Global Center for Security Studies
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Murray Polner, History News Network)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (James Der Derian, Australian Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Julian Assange, Newsweek)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Hayden Peake, CIA)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Eric Jones, International Association of Privacy Professionals)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Gary Shockley , Tennessee Bar Association)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Jonathan Richards, Santa Fe New Mexican)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (William E. Scheuerman, Boston Review)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Nick Pateras)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Michael Evans, Literary Review)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Douglas Murray, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Padraig Reidy, Irish Times)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (David Aaronovitch, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Mat Ward, greenLeft)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Somak Ghoshal, Live Mint)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Socialism Today)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (mal Warwick)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Wayne Hope, The Daily Blog)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Ashley, Nosegraze)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Sue Halpern, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Ruchi Kumar, DNA India)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Harry J. Bentham, L'orde)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Sue Halpern, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Clare Doyle, Socialist Alternative)
    -REVIEW: of Snowden Files (Greg Miller, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange's War On Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding (Independent)
    -REVIEW: of A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding (Oliver Bullough, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Very Expensive Poison (Michael Burleigh, Times uk)
    -REVIEW: of Very Expensive Poison (
    -REVIEW: of Very Expensive Poison (Peter Pomerantsev, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Very Expensive Poison (Robert Fox, Evening Standard)
    -REVIEW: of Very Expensive Poison (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Very Expensive Poison (Donald Rayfield, Literary Review)
    -STAGE REVIEW: Very Expensive Poison (Matt Trueman, Variety)
    -REVIEW: of Very Expensive Poison (publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion by Luke Harding (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion (Oliver Bullough, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion (Charles Kaiser, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion (Joshua Holland, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion (Toby Harnden, Sunday Times uk)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion (Don Kelly, Spectrum Culture)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion (Varun Ghosh, Australian Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion (tessa Stuart, Rolling Stone)
    -REVIEW: of Collusion (Eli Lake, Bloomberg)
    -REVIEW: of The Panama Papers by Luke Harding (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Panama Papers (Alan Rusbridger, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Expelled by Luke Harding (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Expelled ( Alexander Nazaryan, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of Expelled (Vadim Nikitin, Foreign Policy Association)
    -REVIEW: of Mafia State: How One Reporter Became an Enemy of the Brutal New Russia by Luke Harding (Masha Karp, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Mafia State (David Clarke, New Statesman)
    -FILM INFO: Snowden (2016) (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Oliver Stone (IMDB)
    -FILM INFO: Citizenfour (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Laura Poitras (IMDB)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Snowden (Metacritic)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Kyle Smith, NY Post)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Joe Morgenstern, WSJ)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (David Edelstein, Vulture)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (James Berardinelli, Reel Views)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Peter Hartlaub, SF Chronicle)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (AO Scott, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Owen Gleiberman, Variety)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (John Mulderig Catholic News Service)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Columbus Dispatch)
    -FILM REVIEW: Snowden (Bryan Bishop, The Verge)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Citizen Four (Metacritic)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizenfour (Richard Corliss, TIME)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizenfour (Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizenfour (Liam Lacey, Globe & Mail)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizenfour (John Anderson, WSJ)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizenfour (Godfrey Cheshire, RogerEbert.com)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizen Four (Russell Brandom, The Verge)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizen Four (AO Scott, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizen Four (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizen Four (Andrew O'hehir, Salon)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizen Four (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizen Four (Elise Nakhnikian, Slant)
    -FILM REVIEW: Citizen Four (David Edelstein, Vulture)

Book-related and General Links:

    -REVIEW: of Dark Mirror by Barton Gellman (Luke Harding, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Dark Mirror by Barton Gellman (Greg Myre, NPR)