As the #InfoSec noob that I am, I’ve been reading up on everything and anything that has to do with the digital world. I can’t recall who recommended the book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald, but I’m very glad that they did. This tome has renewed a sense of defense of our democracy I haven’t had in a long time.
I filled an entire notebook full with passages from this, posted such passages on Instagram, and digested this book in a way I haven’t digested a non-fiction book in a long time. It changed my world view even further than my time in the military, my time as a mother, or my time as a journalist.
If you’re working currently in the digital/info security realm and haven’t read this book, you need to. If you are just an average American and are confused about why Snowden was a big deal, or why the Patriot Act has created a beast in the NSA, you need to read this. If you think you have privacy, you need to read this.
When I was a Soldier with a clearance, I learned early on that there was no such thing as privacy. But, the post 9-11 world has taken the no privacy thing to a new level. It’s not just people who commit to an enlistment or a commission or other government service, it’s everyone. That includes you who are reading this.
Greenwald takes us through from the very beginning of all the revelations from Snowden — from first contact to those amazing days in a Hong Kong hotel, and the implications for the current surveillance state we’re living in. For every one of my friends who is a conspiracy theorist, a book like this just makes some of their more fantastic claims that much more believable.
Greenwald’s writing is clean and understandable, even in the face of more of the technical aspects of digital surveillance and the laws surrounding what the U.S. government claims is their authorization for mass surveillance and downright spying on American Citizens.
As a mother of children who have grown up with computers and access to the world through ubiquitous handheld devices 24-7, Greenwald’s assertion that the implications of our current government’s processes is frightful: “Especially for the younger generation, the Internet is not some stand-alone, separate domain where a few of life’s functions are carried out. It is not merely our post office and our telephone. Rather, it is the epicenter of our world, the place where virtually everything is done. It is where friends are made, where books and films are chosen, where political activism is organized, where the most private data is created and stored. It is where we develop and express our very personality and sense of self.”
Sense of self. Those words echoed in me during the days that I read and re-read this book. Is it hard not to understand with great prejudice that my own Government is stealing my sense of self under the auspices of deterring terrorism, for which, as Greenwald’s book points out has not happened. He makes a great point with much evidence that “In fact, mass surveillance has had quite the opposite effect: it makes detecting and stopping terror more difficult.”
No Place to Hide makes clear that “while the government via surveillance knows more and more about what its citizens are doing, its citizens know less and less about what their government is doing, shielded as it was by a wall of secrecy.”
Given the current political climate, the media and Russian hacking on our election process, Greenwald’s book is a bastion of journalism principles. He even gets into corporate journalists and why they have eroded our democracy and allowed such mass surveillance to occur, including repeating histories on the government gaining mass surveillance grounds and then losing it following revelations. Technology today being what it is, fighting that via journalism is tougher.
What our citizens seem to have forgotten is that “Democracy requires accountability and consent of the governed, which is only possible if citizens know what is being done in their name.” The fourth estate — the press — helps make sure that things hidden are revealed. But, no one can make you read it. I hope that after you see my post here, you’ll pick this book up and read it. Our lives may depend upon it. Sorry to be so mel0dramatic, but as Snowden said to Greenwald, “The true measurement of a person’s worth isn’t what they say they believe in, but what they do in defense of those beliefs… If you’re not acting on your beliefs, then they probably aren’t real.”
Time to get real. Time to get smart. There’s No Place To Hide, so Time to Fight.
Note: If you want to help, but aren’t sure where to start, consider supporting the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They do good work towards our Internet and privacy freedoms.