It's been almost a year since journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote the first story revealing leaked documents from Edward Snowden. Since then, we've seen countless more pieces of information, large and small, about the American (and British) surveillance network. Today, Greenwald and others are giving their accounts of how Snowden was able to get away with thousands of classified documents detailing an increasingly powerful intelligence community — and how we got here in the first place.
Greenwald's book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State, released today, is supposed to be part narrative, part analysis, and part polemic. In it, Greenwald recounts his early communication with Edward Snowden, then a mysterious figure known only as "Cincinnatus." The story of how Snowden found Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, and how the three carefully put the leaked documents to publication, has been told before, but reviews indicate that this is the most detailed version yet. From there, he launches into a discussion of the surveillance state (including criticism of mainstream media outlets that he says failed to report the story) and a new set of leaked documents.
While some of those files have not been released until now — Wired puts the number at around 50 — much of what they contain isn't new information. Greenwald has supplemented the book with an online index and notes, as well as a set of the documents he discusses. Among other things, they corroborate previous leaks that suggest the NSA has intercepted and hacked routers and other hardware to install malware implants, a point that has potentially undercut trust in US companies. Many of the slides, however, evoke almost a kind of nostalgia, reminding us of the early days when a program like PRISM was considered unprecedented, not just one more piece of evidence that surveillance agencies had overstepped their bounds. They come as new NSA director Mike Rogers promises to improve transparency even as he defends the programs themselves.
If one of the biggest draws of Greenwald's book is its behind-the-scenes look at the Snowden leaks, a Frontline special focuses on how and why the NSA chose to protect American security at the expense of privacy. Tonight, PBS will air the first half of United States of Secrets, a documentary about the rise of "The Program" after the September 11th attacks. Even more so than Greenwald's book, it puts the Snowden leaks and US surveillance in context, drawing on interviews from NSA whistleblower Ed Loomis, former agency director Michael Hayden, Greenwald himself, and others. There aren't many revelations to be found in the program, but it's an excellent look back at American politics and society after 9/11, when almost anything could be justified in the name of preventing another attack. A second half, which covers the relationship between surveillance agencies and Silicon Valley, will air on May 20th.