Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State

Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State

by Barton Gellman

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Overview

One of Christian Science Monitor’s best nonfiction books of 2020

"Engrossing. . . . Gellman [is] a thorough, exacting reporter . . . a marvelous narrator for this particular story, as he nimbly guides us through complex technical arcana and some stubborn ethical questions. . . . Dark Mirror would be simply pleasurable to read if the story it told didn’t also happen to be frighteningly real.” —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

From the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the New York Times bestseller Angler, the definitive master narrative of Edward Snowden and the modern surveillance state, based on unique access to Snowden and groundbreaking reportage around the world.

Edward Snowden touched off a global debate in 2013 when he gave Barton Gellman, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald each a vast and explosive archive of highly classified files revealing the extent of the American government’s access to our every communication. They shared the Pulitzer Prize that year for public service. For Gellman, who never stopped reporting, that was only the beginning.  He jumped off from what Snowden gave him to track the reach and methodology of the U.S. surveillance state and bring it to light with astonishing new clarity.  Along the way, he interrogated Snowden’s own history and found important ways in which myth and reality do not line up.  Gellman treats Snowden with respect, but this is no hagiographic account, and Dark Mirror sets the record straight in ways that are both fascinating and important.
 
Dark Mirror is the story that Gellman could not tell before, a gripping inside narrative of investigative reporting as it happened and a deep dive into the machinery of the surveillance state. Gellman recounts the puzzles, dilemmas and tumultuous events behind the scenes of his work – in top secret intelligence facilities, in Moscow hotel rooms, in huddles with Post lawyers and editors, in Silicon Valley executive suites, and in encrypted messages from anonymous accounts. Within the book is a compelling portrait of national security journalism under pressure from legal threats, government investigations, and foreign intelligence agencies intent on stealing Gellman’s files. Throughout Dark Mirror, Gellman wages an escalating battle against unknown adversaries who force him to mimic their tradecraft in self-defense. 

With the vivid and insightful style that is the author’s trademark, Dark Mirror is a true-life spy tale about the surveillance-industrial revolution and its discontents. Along the way, with the benefit of fresh reporting, it tells the full story of a government leak unrivaled in drama since All the President’s Men.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Jennifer Szalai

…engrossing…Dark Mirror traces the ups and downs of a collaboration marked by mutual frustration and what eventually looks like a grudging, tense respect…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…His voice is laconic and appealingly wry…Dark Mirror would be simply pleasurable to read if the story it told didn't also happen to be frighteningly real.

Publishers Weekly

03/02/2020

Pulitzer Prize winner Gellman (Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency) delivers an eloquent behind-the-scenes account of his reporting on NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leak of top-secret U.S. intelligence documents in 2013. Introduced to Snowden (at that point known only by the code name Verax) by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, Gellman first had to convince Snowden of the value of working with a “card-carrying member of the mainstream media,” then keep a massive cache of classified documents from falling into the hands of foreign intelligence agents while publishing excerpts and analysis in the Washington Post. By revealing that the NSA was engaged in “mass domestic surveillance,” Snowden did “substantially more good than harm,” Gellman writes, though he gives space in the book to dissenting opinions from an array of national security officials. Gellman also describes some of his personal cybersecurity measures, hints at the secrets he withheld from publication, explores the ramifications of Snowden’s leaks in the Trump era, and settles scores with Glenn Greenwald, who broke the first story on the matter. Enriching the high-level technical and legal analysis with a sharp sense of humor, Gellman presents an exhaustive study of intelligence gathering in the digital age. Even readers who have followed the Snowden story closely will learn something new. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency (May).

Library Journal

05/01/2020

In this latest work, Gellman, a Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning journalist and author of Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, describes his experience being among the first to report Edward Snowden's 2013 massive leak of National Security Agency (NSA) programs and methods; he now provides a thorough overview of the circumstances and consequences of that event. One doesn't have to necessarily agree with Gellman's premise that Snowden's exposure "did more good than harm" in order to find this account of the ensuing legal and ethical questions surrounding NSA's counterintelligence efforts to be an engaging one. Based on several firsthand conversations with Snowden, this book also sheds insight into the history of surveillance and the NSA itself, with interviews from former NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, along with others who either agreed or disagreed with Snowden's decision. Occasional NSA vocabulary throughout doesn't detract from the narrative. VERDICT Gellman effectively details the scope and ambition of the NSA, and has written a well-documented account on the far-reaching impact of U.S. domestic surveillance and the resulting intrusions of privacy; highly recommended both for general readers and those with an interest in national security.—Zachary Irwin, formerly with Penn State Behrend

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2020-02-09
A three-time Pulitzer winner digs deep into “the surveillance state that rose up after [9/11], when the U.S. government came to believe it could not spy on enemies without turning its gaze on Americans as well.

In 2010, Gellman left the investigative team of the Washington Post, where he had developed journalistic expertise in national security issues and topics related to surveillance and digital encryption. By 2013, as he was figuring out his career as a freelance author, his life changed dramatically: He was visited by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who had been approached by a then-anonymous whistleblower with alleged access to evidence of surveillance conducted illegally on American citizens by federal government agencies. Gellman’s masterful narrative proceeds along two primary tracks. One relates the life story of the whistleblower, the now-famous Edward Snowden. The other is a primer about investigative journalism regarding one of the highest-risk exposés in U.S. history. As the author unspools his own saga, he also delivers an endlessly insightful narrative about the practice of investigative journalism, a book that deserves its place alongside All the President’s Men, Five Days at Memorial, Nickel and Dimed, and other classics of the genre. Gellman sets both skillful narrative tracks within the vital context of how a panicky network of federal government officials asserted their authority to break seemingly any privacy law or regulation in the wake of 9/11. The author does not view his role as advocate or dissenter. Rather, throughout the book, he sees his mission as informing all readers about the extent of government overreach into private lives. “The reader is entitled to know up front that I think Snowden did substantially more good than harm,” writes Gellman, “even though I am prepared to accept (as he is not) that his disclosures must have exacted a price in lost intelligence.” Explaining the illegal government surveillance requires cutting through a mountain of technological jargon, a task the author handles expertly.

A riveting, timely book sure to be one of the most significant of the year.

From the Publisher

One of the Washington Post's 50 best nonfiction books of 2020

“As gripping as a spy thriller.” Christian Science Monitor

“Engrossing. . . . Gellman [is] a thorough, exacting reporter . . . a marvelous narrator for this particular story, as he nimbly guides us through complex technical arcana and some stubborn ethical questions. . . . Dark Mirror would be simply pleasurable to read if the story it told didn’t also happen to be frighteningly real.” —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
 
“Illuminating. . . . Newsworthy. . . . Dark Mirror stands out from all the other accounts. Gellman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington Post investigative reporter and author of Angler, an influential 2008 biography of Dick Cheney, didn’t just use the Snowden files as sources; he used them as starting points for deep, labor-intensive reporting.” —The Washington Post

“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. . . . A compelling book.” —NPR

"An insider account of the breaking of Edward Snowden’s story and its wider implications for the modern world, all told in prose as gripping as a spy thriller.” —Christian Science Monitor

“A fine and deeply considered portrait of the US-dominated 21st-century surveillance state.” —The Guardian

“[A] thoughtful mix of reportage and revelation. . . . a necessary and deep meditation about how far our online lives can or indeed should remain completely private.” —Sunday Times (UK)

“Engaging. . . . a well-documented account on the far-reaching impact of U.S. domestic surveillance and the resulting intrusions of privacy; highly recommended both for general readers and those with an interest in national security.” —Library Journal

“Gellman delivers a compelling story while recounting difficult predicaments and behind-the-scenes events. He takes a deep dive into the surveillance state while recalling being subjected to government investigations, legal pressures, and threats from foreign agencies determined to steal his files. Readers will be drawn into the conversational style of [Dark Mirror].” Booklist 

“An eloquent behind-the-scenes account of [Gellman’s] reporting on NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leak of top-secret U.S. intelligence documents. . . . Enriching the high-level technical and legal analysis with a sharp sense of humor, Gellman presents an exhaustive study of intelligence gathering in the digital age. Even readers who have followed the Snowden story closely will learn something new.” Publishers Weekly

“[A] masterful narrative . . . that deserves its place alongside All the President's MenFive Days at MemorialNickel and Dimed, and other classics of the genre. . . . A riveting, timely book sure to be one of the most significant of the year.” Kirkus, starred review

“Partly a thriller about reporting the secrets the US government hoped to keep, partly a deeper exposé about the vast power the surveillance state built to pierce Americans' privacy with a few keystrokes, Dark Mirror is a riveting page-turner that captures the danger and drama of the most important leak of classified material in generations. I lived part of this story in real time and am amazed at how many startling things I learned in these pages.” —Carol Leonnig, three-time Pulitzer winner and bestselling author of A Very Stable Genius
 
“Bart Gellman is that rare combination of a tenacious reporter, a clear explicator of the most complex subjects, and a first-rate storyteller, all rolled into one. To say that Dark Mirror is based on his groundbreaking reporting on the NSA for the Washington Post is to undersell it: this book is a deep exploration of a surveillance apparatus of unimaginable magnitude, a chronicle of Gellman's intense and sometimes fraught relationship with his enigmatic and controversial source, Edward Snowden, and an intimate, disarmingly candid reporter's notebook about what it's like to spend years watching the watchers, and realizing, along the way, that they are watching you back.” —Patrick Radden Keefe, New York Times bestselling author of Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
 
Whether you love Edward Snowden or loathe him, Bart Gellman’s new book is essential reading for anyone who cares about privacy and national security. Gellman offers a riveting and often surprising account of his dealings with Snowden, who, for all his seeming idealism, also misdirected Gellman about some key facts. But whatever Snowden’s defects, the scope of the NSA global snooping campaign he revealed is more shocking than ever, as Gellman pieces together the puzzle. If you want to understand how intelligence works in the 21st century, Dark Mirror is a must.” —David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post and author of The Paladin

“This is an enthralling tale of how Barton Gellman, one of the great investigative journalists of our era, worked to understand, process, and report the greatest and most challenging leaks of all time. Dark Mirror is a spy-thriller page-turner that delivers a fresh but complex portrait of Edward Snowden, a fair-minded but damning critique of America’s global surveillance behemoth, and a gripping, self-reflective master-class on how to discern truth in the dark shadows of the intelligence world.” —Jack Goldsmith, professor, Harvard Law School; assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel, during the George W. Bush administration

"Dark Mirror is a riveting narrative of investigative reporting in the age of surveillance. It is a dramatic, authoritative account not only of the significance of Edward Snowden’s revelations, but of what public interest journalism must overcome to inform citizens about their exposure to our dystopian Internet.” —Steve Coll, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars and Directorate S 



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594206016
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/19/2020
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 92,907
Product dimensions: 9.40(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.50(d)

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