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Publisher's Summary

From the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the New York Times best seller Angler, the definitive master narrative of Edward Snowden and the modern surveillance state, based on unique access to Snowden and groundbreaking reportage around the world.

Edward Snowden touched off a global debate in 2013 when he gave Barton Gellman, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald each a vast and explosive archive of highly classified files revealing the extent of the American government’s access to our every communication. They shared the Pulitzer Prize that year for public service. For Gellman, who never stopped reporting, that was only the beginning.

He jumped off from what Snowden gave him to track the reach and methodology of the US surveillance state and bring it to light with astonishing new clarity. Along the way, he interrogated Snowden’s own history and found important ways in which myth and reality do not line up. Gellman treats Snowden with respect, but this is no hagiographic account, and Dark Mirror sets the record straight in ways that are both fascinating and important.

Dark Mirror is the story that Gellman could not tell before, a gripping inside narrative of investigative reporting as it happened and a deep dive into the machinery of the surveillance state. Gellman recounts the puzzles, dilemmas, and tumultuous events behind the scenes of his work - in top secret intelligence facilities, in Moscow hotel rooms, in huddles with Post lawyers and editors, in Silicon Valley executive suites, and in encrypted messages from anonymous accounts. Within the book is a compelling portrait of national security journalism under pressure from legal threats, government investigations, and foreign intelligence agencies intent on stealing Gellman’s files. Throughout Dark Mirror, Gellman wages an escalating battle against unknown adversaries who force him to mimic their tradecraft in self-defense.

With the vivid and insightful style that is the author’s trademark, Dark Mirror is a true-life spy tale about the surveillance-industrial revolution and its discontents. Along the way, with the benefit of fresh reporting, it tells the full story of a government leak unrivaled in drama since All the President’s Men.

©2016 Barton Gellman (P)2016 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Engrossing...Gellman [is] a thorough, exacting reporter...a marvelous narrator for this particular story, as he nimbly guides us through complex technical arcana and some stubborn ethical questions...Dark Mirror would be simply pleasurable to read if the story it told didn’t also happen to be frighteningly real.” (Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times)

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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.

6 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.

3 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.

2 people 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.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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An even-handed accounting of the Snowden event.

I've read several accounts of the Snowden event, including Snowden's own book and Glenn Greenwald's. While I enjoyed both of those, I felt like I wasn't getting the entire story.
Barton Gellman, however, seems to give a more complete accounting of events, and I didn't feel like I was having a narrative pushed on me.

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Nonfiction? Don’t Deceive Yourself -Trump Derangement Pseudo Journalusm

It had all the elements possible for greatness…and then the author fulfills his leftist calling by weaving anti Trump nonsense into the Snowden story. Yes, Snowden - somehow Obama, Biden, Clinton, Comey, Bush, etc., etc., are held to a laughably lower standard than Pres. Trump. I’d say “surprising” but, of course, that would be untrue. The left has lost all ability to report, debate, discuss and think without shouting Trump - even in the most ridiculous circumstances. And blaming Trump here is utterly ridiculously and, given the intelligence, law enforcement and justice abuse wrought upon Pres Trump, it leaves the listener wondering if this author is capable of truly independent thinking? Doubtful. But I am sure he still lunches with his intelligence buddies while they screech about Trump. His envy of Glenn Greenwald makes perfect sense now.

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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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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.