Book Review: No Place To Hide, Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State
MacMillan Press, 2014
The National Security Administration is out of control. Very dangerously off mission by spying on ordinary Americans, horribly bloated in budget, obdurately ensconced in secrecy and led by supremely arrogant, egotistical, stupid authoritarian liars. Not only has the NSA gone berserk with American rights and privacy like any thug authoritarian regime throughout history, they’ve also stomped on the great new communication innovation and hope for the 21st century, the internet.
Why don’t we hear this shining stark truth more often? The Obama administration likes and approves of current NSA policy, they want nothing changed, although they’re embarrassed and fearful to admit it. The President’s supporters reflexively approve of any Obama policy stance, they won’t hold Obama accountable. The Republicans, usually so super-reliant in opposing Obama, of course love the authoritarian spying and won’t change it. Our laughable journalism corps, so corporately servile in their deference to authority, simply sit there like bystanders, even when their livelihoods and profession are on the line.
The NSA out of control is the great underlying truth of No Place to Hide, although the meticulous record of how journalist Glenn Greenwald, through whistleblower Edward Snowden, never boldly comes out and says it. So completely unnecessary, the truth of constitutional mayhem shines through with every chapter. The NSA has co-opted almost all security systems on the web, taps virtually all phone calls, economically spies on other countries and entities, then baldly lies about it when inquiries are made.
Glenn Greenwald is, of course, the famed Glennzilla civil rights attorney who became a great journalist through blogging and various media outlets. Meticulous, utterly detailed and refined, endearingly human, Greenwald nails the truth of NSA crimes with a host of scathing documents provided by Snowden. It’s an excellent and fascinating story that rocked the world and Greenwald killed it with a good narrative and easy, human style.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock huge elements of this story are already known and broken through the media, for this review a different tack will be taken moving forward. No Place to Hide is an exemplary record of how our dear NSA has run amok and desperately needs reform and change, Greenwald and Snowden have simply made this an ordinary fact of our lives, detailed examination isn’t necessary.
To slightly digress, the tiny criticism I have comes from an omission of detail, actually, as Greenwald tells one of the greatest stories of the 21st century I kept telling myself The Chair, Glenn, give ‘em The Chair!
This refers to the amazing chair and command console that General Alexander built to command the NSA sucking in every detail of our personal lives, he wanted it exactly like the command center on the bridge of the USS Enterprise from the Star Trek movies, seriously, and he actually got it. So totally out of control, it’s a sadly hilarious detail from this reeking mess, and I was saddened to see Glennzilla show unusual restraint in leaving it out.
Why and how did this nightmare of privacy invasion happen? George Bush and Dick Cheney, in classically stupid authoritarian thug fashion, ordered the NSA to suck in everything everywhere to “fight terrorism.” The stupidity naturally quickly careened out of control into our current nightmare.
Why didn’t President Obama stop it when he entered office? In fact, every national security policy initiated by Bush and Cheney was vigorously and enthusiastically embraced by the Obama administration upon taking over, Iraq was held over for 2 years, we’re still in Afghanistan, an unknown drone war reels completely out of control in Southwest Asia, no one ever dares breathe a word of cutting the DOD, and of course the total embrace of the little funhouse the NSA built.
Why? Why did the Obama administration do this, so counter to the values of peace, privacy and democracy? So the Republicans could never, ever say Obama was weak on security and could never smash him with it if we got attacked again.
I simply don’t perceive Obama and his people to be thuggish authoritarians bent on gathering personal data to manipulate and destroy people, that’s precisely what the NSA invasion of privacy scheme will eventually produce, but I don’t see any policy action with even a whiff of NSA putridness around it, the berserk stupid NSA policy of 9/11 was continued out of plain fear, not malice.
Not that it excuses any of it in the least, another leadership failure that horribly degrades American life in our dimmed 21st century. That truth is starkly with us, No Place to Hide makes that so very clear. Who will ever lead us out of it, no one knows.