cover image Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State

Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State

Barton Gellman. Penguin Press, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-59420-601-6

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).