The Snowden Files (Review)

I certainly hope the flap over the NSA spying scandal doesn’t go away like the latest fad.  I also hope that people will sit down with a copy of The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the  World’s Most Wanted Man to help them understand Edward Snowden and why he exposed the near-universal surveillance by the National Security Administration.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The book follows the genre that truth is more exciting than fiction. The story told, is one that people who don’t think in black versus white categories will actually enjoy.  I found a story about an angst-filled young man who encountered his biggest existential crisis and came to terms with the conflict between settling for a successful career or doing the right thing for his country and the World.

Edward Snowden has been variously judged as either a traitor or celebrated as a hero.  The facts about the affair reveal a much more nuanced view of Mr. Snowden and his actions.  Before I brought this book home from the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library, I had no concrete ideas about Snowden’s background, political views, nor lifestyle.  The mainstream mass media has him pegged in simplistic terms that are quite inaccurate.

The author, Luke Harding, is a correspondent for “The Guardian” newspaper, based in the United Kingdom.  His British point of view is somewhat noticeable and present as he assembles the sequence of events and the evolution of the main character together for the reader. The book is a good introduction to those of us who wish to look into other information uncovered by American journalists.

Snowden took the first game changing step toward exposing the NSA’s overarching reach in December 2012.  Snowden sent a series of short, cryptic emails to columnist Glenn Greenwald of “The Guardian”, saying “I have some stuff you might be interested in.”  Greenwald paid scant attention to the first emails, until tantalizing samples of data were sent.

The whistleblower is still enigmatic.  Ironically, Snowden used to post rants in chat rooms against leaking secrets to the press.  Now, he has become the biggest leaker in the history of intelligence.  He evolved from being a cold-hearted libertarian into more of a civil-libertarian.


The most personal and exciting part of the book is in the first several chapters.  The story of how Snowden’s anger over the institutional abuses he witnessed boils over into his plan to download the NSA and its partners’ files. Amazingly, he had to almost twist the arm of Glenn Greenwald to download the encryption and security software to enable messages about how to conduct the leak. Only because of Snowden’s admiration for Greenwald’s work, did Greenwald avoid missing the scoop of a lifetime.

The quirky personality of Snowden is fully discovered by Greenwald after he has been persuaded to meet Snowden in the hotel in Hong Kong. The book continues with the hair-raising account of the publication of the first revelations in “The Guardian”. It then narrates the uncertainty of Snowden’s new connundrum as a target of U.S. and British intelligence agencies.

The angry, libertarian hacker, turned whistle-blower ended up in relative safety with Russian asylum.  Some journalists have remarked that, in an informal sense, Snowden has become a prisoner of the Republic of Russia.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested to find out the thinking of Edward Snowden and how the news story of the year unfolded.

{ The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding; published in 2014, by Vintage Books;  ISBN: 978-0-8041-7352-0 }


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the John Milton quote that heads Chapter 9 of the book.

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter
and to argue freely according to
conscience, above all liberties.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, Controversy, History, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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