Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State

Penguin Pr. May 2020. 448p. ISBN 9781594206016. $30. POL SCI
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.
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