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