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It began with an unsigned email: "I am a senior member of the intelligence community".
What followed was the most spectacular intelligence breach ever, brought about by one extraordinary man, Edward Snowden. The consequences have shaken the leaders of nations worldwide, from Obama to Cameron, to the presidents of Brazil, France, and Indonesia, and the chancellor of Germany.
Edward Snowden, a young computer genius working for America's National Security Agency, blew the whistle on the way this frighteningly powerful organisation uses new technology to spy on the entire planet. The spies call it "mastering the internet". Others call it the death of individual privacy.
This is the inside story of Snowden's deeds and the journalists who faced down pressure from the US and UK governments to break a remarkable scoop.
Snowden's story reads like a globe-trotting thriller, from the day he left his glamorous girlfriend in Hawaii, carrying a hard drive full of secrets, to the weeks of secret-spilling in Hong Kong and his battle for asylum. Now stuck in Moscow, a uniquely hunted man, he faces US espionage charges and an uncertain future in exile.
What drove Snowden to sacrifice himself? Award-winning Guardian journalist Luke Harding asks the question which should trouble every citizen of the internet age. Luke Harding's other books include Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy and Mafia State: How One Reporter Became an Enemy of the Brutal New Russia.
In this first book published on the controversial whistleblower, Guardian foreign correspondent Harding (Mafia State) chronicles Snowden's emergence, the complicated logistics of his revelations and their publication, and the global political ramifications. The telling is sympathetic towards Snowden, offering at the outset significant background on his upbringing and his personal life, before reporting the rest: Snowden's contact with Poitras and Greenwald, his hiding in Hong Kong, the process and difficulties of publication in the Guardian and then the New York Times, the global repercussions, and his current Russian asylum. The book reads sometimes as a political thriller and the prose itself aims to thrill, too, by building suspense and reminding the reader constantly of the stakes. Altogether it mainly retells what has already been told, drawing on previously published interviews, articles, and press releases. Often, too, the exact sources are unclear. And while the story sometimes lacks in insight from those directly involved and in the analysis that will be possible as we get more temporal distance from the events, Harding provides crucial context and history for the story. His compilation and synthesis of the records is useful for a reader in need of a primer.