Edward Snowden

How Edward Snowden Revealed the 'Dark Mirror' of the Surveillance State

Barton Gellman's new book is a riveting account of exposing NSA excesses to the light of the day.

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When Edward Snowden decided to reveal constitutionally dubious mass surveillance programs operated by the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, one of the three people he contacted was Barton Gellman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with a long history at The Washington Post. In his riveting new book, Dark Mirror, Gellman details his intense relationship with arguably the biggest whistleblower in U.S. history, the angry response of leaders of the national security community, and the ways in which the privacy of ordinary Americans remains at risk from the state.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Nick Gillespie, Gellman puts the Snowden revelations in the context of post-9/11 actions by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other members of the Bush administration who ignored constitutional limits on executive power; the Obama administration's false claims to transparency; and the understandable ambivalence of major tech companies to work with a government that is simultaneously threatening and trying to protect American lives.

Gellman also comments on the reputations of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in the intelligence community. Former heads of intelligence services are "much less sanguine about the government accumulating this enormous machinery of surveillance" with Trump in the White House because they openly acknowledge "it is subject to horrific potential abuse," says Gellman. At the same time, he stresses that Biden, who served in the Senate for decades and for eight years under President Barack Obama, "has not been an apostle of transparency in the national security world. He was a strong backer of the prosecution of whistleblowers and leakers in the Obama administration and there were more prosecutions with charges of espionage against people who talked to journalists during the Obama administration than in all previous administrations combined, which had a chilling effect on national security reporting."

Edited by John Osterhoudt, Intro by Lex Villena.

Photo credits: "Redacted Image" ID 95960034 © David Andrews | Dreamstime.com; "Bartman Gellman" Phil McAuliffe/Polaris/Newscom; "Glenn Greenwald" Gage Skidmore;
"Laura Poitras" Laura Poitras; Eyeball ID 22934579 © Gandolfo Cannatella | Dreamstime.com; "Dick Cheney" JONATHAN ERNST/picture alliance/Consolidated/Newscom

NEXT: Sen. Ron Wyden Wants To Stop the Government From Spying on Your Internet Searches

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  1. Is that picture of Snowden in the video frame a birth parable?

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  2. Snowden is a traitor working for the Russian government, an institution which has waged cyber warfare on numerous democratic nations. If Snowden ever dares to step foot on land that has an extradition treaty with the United States, Adam Schiff and Dianne Feinstein will be jumping with joy when he is publicly hung as a traitor!

    1. The fact that Adam Schiff hates Edward Snowden, is just one more reason for me to like him.

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      2. The best thing for Snowden would be for Schiff to start complaining about him. Trump would then find a way to pardon Snowden just to piss off Schiff. Trump could point out that Snowden’s predictions of gov’t surveillance being used against political opponents turned out to be true, which led him to reconsider what Snowden actually did.

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    2. Edward Snowden is a genuine American patriot.

  3. Former heads of intelligence services are “much less sanguine about the government accumulating this enormous machinery of surveillance” with Trump in the White House because they openly acknowledge “it is subject to horrific potential abuse,” says Gellman.

    Call it any way you like, but Snowden is a traitor. When our country was great do you know what we did to traitors?
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2013

    How did Snowden, with not even a high school education, get access to top secret U.S. records. He then gave, or sold, those records-traitor!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2013

    Snowden, if you’re such a hero then come back home and face justice. In reality, you are just another wiseguy traitor.
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2013

    Lying traitor Snowden now claims that he did not give any information to the Russians or Chinese. Why doesn’t he come home then?
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2013

    Snowden has given serious information to China and Russia-anyone who thinks otherwise is a dope! He is a traitor who fled-he knew the crime!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2013

    “@fam5rock: @realDonaldTrump #snowden not a traitor. Shared info with fellow Americans who have a right to know about NSA snooping” Bullshit
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2013

    “@CoolChange80: @realDonaldTrump Are you really calling for the execution of #Snowden .” He is a traitor, absolutely. Others won’t follow!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2013

    ObamaCare is a disaster and Snowden is a spy who should be executed-but if it and he could reveal Obama’s records,I might become a major fan
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2013

    I don’t know why the Intelligence Community wouldn’t trust Trump – he obviously thought Snowden was a traitor who should be executed and the only way he’d ever consider granting a traitorous spy any leniency whatsoever is if the treason were personally beneficial to Trump himself.

    1. Trump is a foolish outsider who is completely ignorant of the Constitution. Top men, like John Brennan and Barack Obama, are wise Constitutional sages who know when the authority of the federal government should be curtailed. The guardians of democracy (i.e. the free press) and New York intelligentsia know this too but many Americans, especially conservatives, are unaware, due primarily to underfunded public schools and colleges.

    2. I don’t know why the Intelligence Community wouldn’t trust Trump

      This is a good question, because on this subject alone, Trump and the intelligence community are 100% simpatico on Snowden.

      1. This is one question that bothers me – Trump apparently trusts the IC to use its secret and extra-constitutional powers to keep us safe from threats, but look what happened when the IC decided that Donald Trump was the threat we needed protecting from. Trump seems to seriously believe it was just a few rogue bad apples – no doubt insanely jealous of his immense wealth, his amazing charm, his fantastic good looks, his world-class very good brain and the many Olympic Gold Medals he’s won in kick-boxing – that tried to bring him down and it was all just because he was Donald Trump. It’s not as if this “Deep State” thing existed prior to Trump and acted as a shadow government that would see anybody not an “insider” they could easily manipulate as a threat to their position. Nope, it’s all about Trump. Only Trump is clever enough to be a threat to the MIC and the Forever War, nobody else. And since Trump was genius enough to out-maneuver these people and get himself elected President, obviously they’re no longer any threat whatsoever.

        1. Trump apparently trusts the IC to use its secret and extra-constitutional powers to keep us safe from threats

          I don’t see any evidence that is true at all. What I see is Trump being hamstrung and unable to reform the IC and stuck relying on them as they are because he has no other choice. What makes you think that he trusts the IC at all and what possible options would he have to act differently than he has?

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    3. Snowden is indeed a traitor and a liar, and Nick Gillespie is indeed a modern journalist, i.e. a propagandist.

  4. Psycho Donald Trump is rattled, not only by his bad ratings but all of the things and facts that are coming out on the internet about opening a Cold Case. He knows what is happening!

    Donald Trump killed his personal assistant, Carolyn Gombell, in October 2000. He strangled her because he’d gotten her pregnant and was threatening to tell the press. Then he bribed NYPD Police Chief Bernie Kierik to cover it up. IT’S TIME TO INVESTIGATE. #JusticeForCarolyn

    1. Trump also killed John Lennon. Mark David Chapman was just a patsy.

      1. Has any one checked to see if he was in Dallas on 11/22/63?

    2. “not only by his bad ratings”

      50 POINTS!!!

  5. Not to worry. Judging from Reason’s coverage of the matter, the IC stopped all of this and became totally trustworthy, honest defenders of America sometime in 2016.

  6. If the story that is told about Cheney regarding the Venn Diagram is true, Snowden is in fact a whistleblower entitled to all of the protections.

  7. This is silly. Everyone serious knew the NSA was collecting literally all the data it could.

    Snowden might have provided evidence, true, but the core problem is the existence of the NSA. It’s very mission is to spy on everyone.

  8. “…there were more prosecutions with charges of espionage against people who talked to journalists during the Obama administration than in all previous administrations combined”

    Something the media and leftists conveniently forget along with the constant warfare and droning of civilians authorized by Obama.

    It should frighten you to have Biden and all of his and Obama’s cronies back in power. They were ruthless killers.

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  10. Snowden is a hero. He deserves a full pardon. He probably won’t get one because the government doesn’t like being exposed. They will screw him over until the end of time because it lets others know what happens if they speak up.

  11. One thing to note is that this man was a strong backer of the prosecution of whistleblowers and leakers in the Obama administration. dc electrician

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