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Publisher's Summary

From the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the New York Times best seller Angler, who unearthed the deepest secrets of Edward Snowden's NSA archive, the first master narrative of the surveillance state that emerged after 9/11 and why it matters, based on scores of hours of conversation with Snowden and groundbreaking reportage in Washington, London, Moscow, and Silicon Valley.

Edward Snowden chose three journalists to tell the stories in his top secret trove of NSA documents: Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, and filmmaker Laura Poitras, all of whom would share the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Poitras went on to direct the Oscar-winning Citizen Four. Greenwald wrote an instant memoir and cast himself as a pugilist on Snowden's behalf.

Barton Gellman took his own path. Snowden and his documents were the beginning, not the end, of a story he had prepared his whole life to tell. More than 20 years as a top investigative journalist armed him with deep sources in national security and high technology. New sources reached out from government and industry, making contact on the same kinds of secret, anonymous channels that Snowden used. Gellman's old reporting notes unlocked new puzzles in the NSA archive. Long days and evenings with Snowden in Moscow revealed a complex character who fit none of the stock images imposed on him by others.

Gellman now brings his unique access and storytelling gifts to a true-life spy tale that touches us all. Snowden captured the public imagination but left millions of people unsure what to think. Who is the man, really? How did he beat the world's most advanced surveillance agency at its own game? Is government and corporate spying as bad as he says?

Dark Mirror is the master narrative we have waited for, told with authority and an inside view of extraordinary events. Within it is a personal account of the obstacles facing the author, beginning with Gellman's discovery of his own name in the NSA document trove. Google notifies him that a foreign government is trying to compromise his account. A trusted technical adviser finds anomalies on his laptop. Sophisticated impostors approach Gellman with counterfeit documents, attempting to divert or discredit his work. Throughout Dark Mirror, the author describes an escalating battle against unknown digital adversaries, forcing him to mimic their tradecraft in self-defense.

Written in the vivid scenes and insights that marked Gellman's best-selling Angler, Dark Mirror is an inside account of the surveillance-industrial revolution and its discontents, fighting back against state and corporate intrusions into our most private spheres. Along the way it tells the story of a government leak unrivaled in drama since All the President's Men.

©2016 Barton Gellman (P)2016 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Amazing blindspot

Great book but disappointed Gellman continues to beat the Russian hoax drum. He discusses at length his worries about the Trump administration abusing intelligence resources and never once mentions the FBI’s FISA abuses, or the Obama Administration’s weaponizing the intelligence community to spy on a rival political opponent and work with a discredited foreign agent who received bogus information from Russian sources. Clearly a TDS victim.

3 people found this helpful

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Best Book About Snowden and the NSA Yet

Much better than Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide. Thorough review of Snowden’s background and his mindset and how that led to his decisions to become a whistleblower. This book has the benefit of more hindsight - No Place to Hide was published in 2014. Author is an excellent narrator.

2 people found this helpful

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  • BK
  • 09-03-20

I had no idea this was possible!

This is a complicated, detail-rich, balanced and terrifying book. I got lost several times when Gellman went into the weeds (as he was obliged to do), but I understood enough to know how fragile our privacy is. The NSA, CIA, et al. have the capability to look at infinitely more than I thought. And as for the FISA courts and legislation -- absurdly easy to get around.

Gellman is a diligent reporter. His descriptions of his interactions with Snowden and the American security complex are fascinating. As I said, he is balanced in this book, just as he was in "Angler." He's just as quick in pointing out Snowden's flaws as he is to acknowledge the significance of what Snowden did.

I learned a lot, much of which I'd probably be happier not knowing. One thing the author does very well is show the extraordinarily complicated balance between the security needs of the country and the privacy needs of its citizens. As he notes, the balance means one thing when all parties play by the rules and acknowledge the norms of democratic political practice. It would mean something else entirely were there to be a president willing to gain access to all our communications in order to gain and maintain power.

Gellman reads his own book, and he does it very well.

1 person found this helpful

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  • WD
  • 01-08-21

My opinion of Edward Snowden is evolving

I am a liberal Democrat and a patriot who loves this country and knows it is a unique bastion in the world. I had not thought twice about Snowden’s guilt or innocence since he fled to Russia. He was a traitor to our country. Recently I saw Brian Williams’ long interview with Snowden and I began to reevaluate my position on Snowden and the secrecy state he claims to be fighting. That is how I came to this book which is an excellent journalistic examination of the man and the issues. It is roughly chronological but takes in the breadth of the history of surveillance in America; how we got here and where it may take us. Excellent performance as well as diligent editing with none of the too frequent mis-pronunciation and recording flubs of some Audible titles.

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12 hours of Ben Stein-esk narration

what did i just listen to? can't remember because i slept through the whole book. the narrator is like listening to a monotone sleep inducing stuffy nosed meditation CD.

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Narration unbearable.

Narration should have been done by someone that knows how to narrate a book. Author does a horrible job, could not even finish chapter 1 before his droning voice put me to sleep. waste of money, your better off getting book.

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Sheds light on the fragile state of our democratic-republic

Extremely well written. Difficult to put resulting emotions and concerns into meaningful words.
With regard to surveillance .... Fascinating, Terrifying, Disappointing. Trace the timeline of how we arrived here ... in such a short period of time. Raises the questions .... What is going on now? What’s next?

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  • JL
  • 08-26-20

Read well by author.

Thank you to Bart Gellman for taking time to read his book. The book is a tour de force of ideas, explanation of complex topics and personal odyssey in which the author back traces his journey while taking us along with him.

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Eye Opener

Great and insightful book.

thank you!
As I seat in my garage during this Pandemic. I'm listening to this fantastic journey that reveals facts. it's a mouse and cat voyage to the belly of the world of secrecy and espionage.
btw I was in my garage working on protective masks to give away & be protected from #covid19

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Annoyed

Chapter 6 goes on and on about names that the gamers and hackers give their data sorters, collectors, etc. One name is good, don’t give me 500.

As it is I detest the stupid code names for military operations

Chapter 6 made me drop the book.

Enjoy