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I wasn’t just a brain in a jar

Christian Lorentzen: Edward Snowden, 26 September 2019

Permanent Record 
by Edward Snowden.
Macmillan, 339 pp., £20, September 2019, 978 1 5290 3565 0
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... Edward Snowden​ was born in the summer of 1983. Around this time, the US Defence Department split its computer network into MILNET, an internal military branch, and a public branch, which we now know as the internet. Home computers were becoming pervasive; the Commodore 64 was selling in the millions. One day Snowden’s father brought one home, connected it to the TV set, and the toddler Eddie noticed that his father was now controlling what was happening on the screen ...

Incendiary Devices

Daniel Soar: The Edward Snowden Story, 20 February 2014

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man 
by Luke Harding.
Guardian Faber, 346 pp., £12.99, February 2014, 978 1 78335 035 3
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... which were at their peak last summer, when the Guardian and others first got their hands on Edward Snowden’s documents – was that we’re all being watched all the time. Anything we do online, and any phone call we make, is potentially being analysed by the NSA and its friends. But, as Luke Harding discloses in his book on the ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Julian Assange, 18 February 2016

... Sarah Harrison, Assange’s right-hand woman, flew to Sheremetyevo airport to help navigate Edward Snowden safely and legally into Moscow and get him a residency permit after his leaks broke in the summer of 2013. Sometimes it’s more nebulous: outlaws bond, as we know from the movies, and in any case stars – out of reach and incomprehensible to ...

Dad & Jr

Christian Lorentzen: Bushes Jr & Sr, 4 December 2014

... Obama arouses more earnest responses: apologetics, disappointment, head-shaking, Occupy, Edward Snowden. Bush’s arrogance has turned out to be that of a man destined to spend his golden years painting portraits of Putin, Merkel and Berlusconi like a dime-store Warhol working on commission for a UN theme bar. Retirement has now yielded a second ...


Andrew O’Hagan: The Good Traitor, 25 September 2014

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State 
by Glenn Greenwald.
Hamish Hamilton, 259 pp., £20, May 2014, 978 0 241 14669 9
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... Mostly he remained inconceivably calm. Even now, with the clock winding down on his freedom, Snowden still went to bed at 10.30, as he had every night during my time in Hong Kong. While I could barely catch more than two hours of restless sleep at a time, he kept consistent hours. ‘Well, I’m going to hit the hay,’ he would announce casually each night before retiring for seven and a half hours of sound sleep, appearing completely refreshed the next day ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Cooking for Geeks, 21 November 2013

... in comp sci is one of the bedrock basics for anyone worried about post-graduate employability. Edward Snowden, who didn’t finish high school, was earning $200,000 a year with an education not very different from the one Stanford will give allcomers for free. Online education is clearly going to be a huge deal for universities; for one thing, it may ...


David Bromwich: The Snowden Case, 4 July 2013

... may be legally poured out, dissected and analysed, with effects on the owner to be determined. Edward Snowden made these discoveries, among others, while working as an analyst for the CIA, the NSA and the security outfit Booz Allen Hamilton (whose present vice chairman, Mike McConnell, is a former director of the NSA). Imperialism has been defined as ...

Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack: Chapman Pincher’s Scoops, 5 June 2014

Dangerous to Know: A Life 
by Chapman Pincher.
Biteback, 386 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 84954 651 5
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... want to keep private. The encomia at his memoir’s start evoke a picture of him as the Edward Snowden of his day: ‘No investigative journalist, before or since, has managed to reveal quite so many things that the [British] government wanted kept secret,’ writes Michael Goodman of the Department of War Studies at King’s College ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... then I’d be naming names. What about signatories to an open letter requesting that Obama pardon Edward Snowden? I spoke on the phone this afternoon to the guy who wrote it. Was the FBI listening? Probably not, but at least the metadata are within reach. Things weren’t always so convenient for the bureau. Writers under Surveillance: The FBI Files ...

On Pegasus

Edan Ring, 4 November 2021

... secret, and he was stopped at the last minute.’ A report in Haaretz compared the affair to the Edward Snowden story, and included an interview with an officer who had a similar role in the same unit. Programmers have ‘unlimited powers and capabilities’, he said, but are given few ‘rules or limits about the difference between right or ...

More than a Million Names

Mattathias Schwartz: American Intelligence, 16 June 2016

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror 
by Michael Hayden.
Penguin, 464 pp., £21.99, February 2016, 978 1 59420 656 6
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... to operate in a democracy, they need to be able to sell the importance of their work. After the Snowden leaks, the media frequently sought him out to argue in favour of secrecy and surveillance. Hayden explains that the CIA is useful as a back-channel to other governments, and as a covert instrument (and often scapegoat) of presidential grand strategy. But ...

Friends with Benefits

Tom Stevenson: The Five Eyes, 19 January 2023

The Secret History of the Five Eyes: The Untold Story of the Shadowy International Spy Network, through Its Targets, Traitors and Spies 
by Richard Kerbaj.
John Blake, 416 pp., £25, September 2022, 978 1 78946 503 7
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Sub-Imperial Power: Australia in the International Arena 
by Clinton Fernandes.
Melbourne, 176 pp., £35.95, October 2022, 978 0 522 87926 1
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... doubled and thousands of new staff had been hired. Many of the revelations in the papers leaked by Edward Snowden (which Kerbaj refers to as ‘stolen documents’) had to do with systems brought in for the new era of mass surveillance. The general scope of the established programmes had already been revealed by the brilliant work of the investigative ...


Rebecca Solnit: Get Off the Bus, 20 February 2014

... 2013 may be the year San Francisco turned on Silicon Valley and may be the year the world did too. Edward Snowden’s revelations began to flow in June: Silicon Valley was sharing our private data with the National Security Agency. Many statements were made about how reluctantly it was done, how outraged the executives were, but all the relevant companies ...

Hong Kong v. Beijing

Chaohua Wang: Hong Kong heats up, 15 August 2019

... chairpersons of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party: Albert Ho Chun-yan, who offered legal aid to Edward Snowden when he was hiding out in Hong Kong in 2013; and Emily Lau Wai-hing, who in 1991 became the first woman to be elected to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. They urged Taiwan not to trust Beijing’s promises, but their real worry was Hong ...

Gloomy Pageant

Jeremy Harding: Britain Comma Now, 31 July 2014

Mammon’s Kingdom: An Essay on Britain, Now 
by David Marquand.
Allen Lane, 288 pp., £20, May 2014, 978 1 84614 672 5
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... urgent argument on our hands about official secrecy (post-WikiLeaks) and citizens’ privacy (post-Edward Snowden), but Marquand barely mentions these. For the rest, we’re locked into a national version of the interior monologue, burbling to ourselves about immigrants, ‘Europe’, paedophilia, food and celebrity. We vote in larger numbers for The ...

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