- The book, by Guardian reporter Luke Harding, will be released in the UK this week
- It details the unlikely journey of intelligence leaker Edward Snowden
- Harding on Snowden: "He's achieved far more than he could have possibly imagined"
The "world's most wanted man" may be holed up in Russia, but Edward Snowden's story will soon be available -- as they say -- everywhere books are sold.
"The Snowden Files: The Inside Story Of The World's Most Wanted Man," by reporter Luke Harding, from the British newspaper The Guardian, comes out in the UK this week, with a U.S. release date of February 11.
The Guardian is a key player in the Snowden saga, having provided an outlet for the former NSA contractor-turned-whistle-blower to expose what he knew about the U.S. government's mass surveillance programs. Harding accessed a wealth of inside information, such as this story about how Snowden first connected via e-mail with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Harding writes in the book: "This mystery correspondent asked Greenwald to install PGP encryption software on his laptop. Once up and running, it guarantees privacy (the initials stand for Pretty Good Privacy) for an online chat. Greenwald had no objections. But there were two problems. 'I'm basically technically illiterate,' he admits. Greenwald also had a lingering sense that the kind of person who insisted on encryption might turn out to be slightly crazy."
Greenwald and Snowden eventually built a mutual trust, and the former IT contractor divulged many of the top secret documents in his possession.
At that point, The Guardian's U.S. Editor Janine Gibson drew up plan before publishing, including seeking legal advice and working out a strategy for approaching the White House. She had some tough decisions to make.
Harding wrote: "Gibson decided to give the NSA a four-hour window to comment, so the agency had an opportunity to disavow the story. By British standards, the deadline was fair: long enough to make a few calls, agree a line. But for Washington, where journalist-administration relations sometimes resemble a country club, this was nothing short of outrageous."
Harding said Gibson's tough decisions meant she'd have to face down some tough people, including FBI deputy director Sean M. Joyce, NSA deputy director Chris Inglis, and Robert S. Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The author writes: "By fielding heavyweights, the White House had perhaps reckoned it could flatter, and if necessary bully, the Guardian into delaying publication. Gibson explained that the editor-in-chief -- in the air halfway across the Atlantic -- was unavailable. She said: 'I'm the final decision-maker.' After 20 minutes, the White House was frustrated. The conversation was going in circles. Finally, one of the team could take no more. Losing his temper, he shouted, 'You don't need to publish this! No serious news organisation would publish this!' Gibson replied, 'With the greatest respect, we will take the decisions about what we publish.'"
The newspaper ran the story and, soon thereafter, Snowden disappeared. He's currently in Russia, where he has asylum.
"I think ... he's achieved far more than he could have possibly imagined when he was sitting in Hawaii planning this leak," Harding told CNN on Sunday.
He described Snowden's transformation from contractor to leaker.
"He got hardened. In other words, the more information he saw about what he viewed as ... mass surveillance, the more disillusioned he became. He says quite explicitly that he thought that (President Barack) Obama would roll back some of these programs when he came into the White House, and when this didn't happen, essentially Snowden decided he would take things into his own hands, and become a whistle-blower," he author said.
"There's no doubt that he's changed history by what he's done."