“No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State,” by Glenn Greenwald

No Place to Hide

Impassioned . . . Gripping . . . Greenwald amplifies our understanding of the N.S.A.’s sweeping ambitions . . . and delivers a fierce argument in defense of the right of privacy. (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).

Discussion Questions:

1. How has No Place to Hide affected your comfort around using modern communication technology, including services like Gmail and Facebook? How might No Place to Hide affect how investigative journalists or political activists feel about using the Internet?

2. Greenwald writes that he wanted to publish the leaks from Snowden almost immediately and in quick succession, using the leaks as an opportunity to criticize entrenched federal policies around surveillance: “Only audacious journalism could give the story the power it needed to overcome the climate of fear the government had imposed on journalists and their sources.” (p. 61)

Yet even as he urged the Guardian to publish the first leak and grew increasingly frustrated by delays in publication, he hesitated to start his own news site for publishing the leaks, writing: “I also had to acknowledge my personal fear: publishing hundreds if not thousands of top secret NSA files was going to be risky enough, even as part of a large organization like the Guardian. Doing it alone, without any institutional protection, would be far riskier.”(p. 69)

How did fear of prosecution influence the decisions of the reporters and Snowden? In what ways do you think fear of prosecution affects other forms of investigative journalism?

3. Do you think it would have been better or worse for Greenwald and Poitras to publish on a dedicated, independent website, rather than in collaboration with established media outlets? Why?

4. In README_FIRST, Snowden writes: “I have been to the darkest corners of government, and what they fear is light.” To what extent do you think public transparency alone (as compared to transparency compared with regulations, Congressional oversight, or other safeguards) can act as a check on executive power abuses? Where does transparency fall short?

5. Greenwald writes: “Every news article is the product of all sorts of highly subjective cultural, nationalistic, and political assumptions. And all journalism serves one faction’s interest of another’s. The relevant distinction is not between journalists who have opinions and those who have none, a category that does not exist. It is between journalists who candidly reveal their opinions and those who conceal them, pretending they have none.” (p. 231)

6. Does a journalist have a responsibility to report the news without expressing a specific subjective opinion on that news? Is neutral reporting more beneficial to society than subjective reporting? Is it even possible for an article to be truly neutral, and what would that look like?

7. Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Does the danger posed by terrorism justify losing civil liberties? Did Greenwald’s statements about the overblown nature of the terrorism threat convince you?

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