Glenn Greenwald's new book, No Place to Hide, reproduces a secret National Security Agency document that sums up that agency's radical approach to surveillance:
Collect it all. Know it all. Exploit it all.
That totalitarian approach came straight from the top. Outgoing NSA chief Keith Alexander began using "collect it all" in Iraq at the height of the counterinsurgency. Eventually, he aimed similar tools at hundreds of millions of innocent people living in liberal democracies at peace, not war zones under occupation.
The strongest passages in No Place to Hide convey the awesome spying powers amassed by the U.S. government and its surveillance partners; the clear and present danger they pose to privacy; and the ideology of the national-security state. The NSA really is intent on subverting every method a human could use to communicate without the state being able to monitor the conversation.
U.S. officials regard the unprecedented concentration of power that would entail to be less dangerous than the alternative. They can't conceive of serious abuses perpetrated by the federal government, though recent U.S. history offers many examples.
In his Washington Post review, David Cole offers lots of praise, some reasonable criticisms, and the judgment that No Place to Hide would have been more persuasive had Greenwald "confronted what is difficult" about surveillance policy rather than lob "grenades at all who are less radical than he is." It's true that the book focuses too often on the weakest rather than the strongest defenses of the NSA. What I've missed most, as Greenwald has understandably focused on his book and reporting on remaining NSA documents, are the articles he once wrote engaging and rebutting his strongest critics.