cover image H Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs: A Journey Through the Deep State

H Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs: A Journey Through the Deep State

Kerry Howley. Knopf, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-525-65549-7

In this fascinating dispatch from the height of the surveillance age, Howley (Thrown) expands on her New York magazine profile of Reality Winner, the intelligence specialist who leaked classified reports on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Born in Texas in 1991, Winner was a “comically mature adolescent... with a compulsive drive to improve herself.” Skilled with foreign languages, she joined the Air Force after high school and learned Dari, Pashto, and Farsi; assigned to the drone program, she sat “in a cubicle in Maryland and eavesdropped on Pakistani men day after day.” After her honorable discharge from the military, Winner was hired by an NSA contractor to translate intercepted communications related to Iran’s aerospace program. Her security clearance gave her access to a top-secret report on Russian efforts to hack into U.S. election systems, which she leaked to the Intercept in 2017. Based on extensive interviews with Winner, her family, and her friends, and enriched by incisive character sketches of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other whistleblowers, Howley reveals how the gravest threat to the national security state has become “ideological, morally serious twentysomethings finding themselves as they sifted through secrets their younger selves had promised to keep.” Witty, humane, and fiercely intelligent, this is a striking critique of a world intent on “burying itself” in information. (Mar.)