The day Snowden revealed himself

Glenn Greenwald has a new book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State that will be out tomorrow about his involvement with the Edward Snowden revelations. In one chapter that has been excerpted in the Guardian, he describes the hectic day that Snowden’s identity was revealed and the cat-and-mouse game they had to play to keep his location in Hong Kong secret, and the few days immediately before and after. Although I have been following this story closely, this still was a gripping read.

In it Greenwald says that he had been willing to come to the US on his way back to Rio from Hong Kong but he was dissuaded. Here is an excerpt from his book chapter.

I thought about flying home via New York and stopping for one day to do interviews – just to make the point that I could and would. But I was advised by a lawyer against doing so, arguing that it made little sense to take legal risks of that sort until we knew how the government planned to react. “You’ve just enabled the biggest national security leak in US history and gone all over TV with the most defiant message possible,” he said. “It will only make sense to plan a trip to the US once we get a sense of the Justice Department’s response.”

I didn’t agree: I thought it was unlikely in the extreme that the Obama administration would arrest a journalist in the middle of such high-profile reporting. But I was too drained to argue or take the risk. So I had the Guardian book my flight back to Rio through Dubai, nowhere near the US. For the moment, I reasoned, I had done enough.

But as he goes on a book tour, he tells Ed Pilkington that the UK is different.

There’s only one country that has been consciously excluded from the tour – in fact, only one country in the world that Greenwald says he absolutely will not visit. It is the UK. The wounds left by the detention under the Terrorism Act of his partner, Miranda, at Heathrow airport last August, are still open and deep.

Miranda was detained on his way back to Rio on a ticket paid by the Guardian from Berlin, where he had met the filmmaker Laura Poitras, who worked with Greenwald on the NSA files. Officials claimed he was carrying 58,000 classified UK documents on a hard drive.

“I don’t trust them not to detain me, interrogate me and even arrest me. Their behaviour has been so extreme and offensive, and the political and media class was so supportive of it, that I feel uncomfortable with the entire atmosphere,” says Greenwald.

He insists he has never had animosity towards Britain. “But the more I’ve learned, the more troubling it has become.”

It is a sad commentary on the state of civil liberties in the UK.

Greenwald was also interviewed on NPR this morning.


  1. colnago80 says

    It should be pointed out that Great Britain has an Official Secrets Act which allows what are called D notices which are sent to news outlets to prevent them from publishing anything that the government thinks is covered by that act. The US has no such legislation and it would probably be unconstitutional if passed. Note that in the Pentagon Papers Case, the SCOTUS ruled that the New York Times could not be prevented from publishing the Pentagon Papers as such prevention would be a violation of the 1st Amendment. Apparently, the British Government was a little slow off the mark in case of the Snowden Papers and was unable to prevent their publication by the Guardian.

  2. Trebuchet says

    @Mano: A little editing might be in order, as it’s not at all clear whether the two quoted text blocks are by or about Greenwald or Snowden.

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