No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald

No Place to HideHere’s a reading suggestion: The United States Bill of Rights (ratified in 1791).

Let’s focus on Amendment IV. It states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The amendment has its roots in English law, and it was crucial in the establishment of the United States. In pre-Revolutionary America, British officials had the right to “ransack at will any home they wished,” and opposition to government invasion of privacy took hold in what was to become the USA.

“It was intended,” Glenn Greenwald writes in No Place to Hide, “to abolish forever in America the power of the government to subject its citizens to generalized, suspicionless surveillance.” However, throughout US history, American government agencies have spied on US citizens, and today the “surveillance abuse” has reached unprecedented levels.

In December, 2012, Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for The Guardian and a former constitutional lawyer, was contacted by someone who used the alias “Cincinnatus” – a reference to the Roman farmer who defended Rome against foreign aggression, and then voluntarily gave up (absolute) political power and returned to life on the farm.

Cincinnatus turned out to be Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. The documents he eventually shared with Greenwald and the world showed that the NSA can monitor and collect information from hundreds of millions of people around the globe, that it – without “probable cause” – has US telecommunications companies turn in “all phone records for all of its American customers,” that it can break into the communications links of crucial data centers across the world, that it can crack encryption that protects sensitive data on the Internet, and that, “according to its own records, it has broken privacy laws or exceeded its authority thousands of times a year.”

The turning point for Snowden came while working as an NSA contractor in Japan. “I watched NSA tracking people’s Internet activities as they typed. I became aware of just how invasive US surveillance capabilities had become. I realized the true breadth of this system. And almost nobody knew it was happening.”

Greenwald was startled when Snowden said that he wanted to identify himself as the person behind the disclosures. Snowden said that he was at peace with the potential consequences of outing himself. His only fear was “that people will see these documents and shrug, that they’ll say, ‘we assumed that this was happening and don’t care.’”

If you believe that the rights of Amendment IV are your rights, No Place to Hide may be for you.

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One Response to “No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald”

  1. Best New Books of 2014: Emil S’s Picks | Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick Says:

    […] No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald “Cincinnatus” was the alias Edward Snowden used when he contacted Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for The Guardian and a former constitutional lawyer. Cincinnatus referred to a real life hero, a farmer who in ancient times defended Rome against foreign forces, and then voluntarily gave up absolute power and returned to life on the farm. Edward Snowden was a former National Security Agency contractor, and the revelations brought about by him altered the course of history. This book – a curious blend of real life thriller, lecture, moral-ethic discussion, and petition – shows how invasive U.S. surveillance capabilities have become, and what it means in a world in which people increasingly find and display their inner lives online.  See my full review. […]

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