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3 April 2014

Der NSA-Komplex Review

5.0 out of 5 stars

Snowden Inc. Daily Journalism, April 3, 2014

By John Young "Cryptome" (New York, NY)

This review is from: Der NSA-Komplex: Edward Snowden und der Weg in die totale Überwachung (German Edition) (Kindle Edition)

Accounts of reporting on the Edward Snowden revelations of NSA operations are proliferating, some praising journalists, some attacking them. Thousands of pages of reporting on Snowden have far exceeded the relatively few pages of documents released (some 1,354). A Snowden, Inc. industry has grown from the start-up Johnny Appleseeds of Snowden, and weeds have grown around the orchard.

Der NSA-Komplex is an astute critique of the growing industry of writing about Snowden, timely for the rush to come this month with accounts by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman -- the ur-minimal reporters with direct access to Snowden -- and on top of these first-hand specials, a niagara of supporting and opposing reports, op-eds. essays, polemics, comedies, ridicules and can we please get along Twitter idiocies.

Surpassing the dozen of shallow NSA quickies on Amazon, Rosenbach and Stark provide a highly informed narrative for readers, and for researchers like this reviewer, an exemplary range of footnotes and references to buttress their thoughtful and thorough explication of Snowden Inc. journalism.

Going well beyond self-vaunting daily news reporting, the book is deeper and broader than daily news can be, and more of this superior writing might be expected as the Snowden furor matures, calms down, becomes less politicized, and, if public attention is rewarded, as it should be, thousands of additional Snowden documents are released.

For no doubt sound legal reasons, Der NSA-Komplex (Kindle version) does not include a single Snowden document, despite complete reliance upon them. Reporting on NSA reporting is provided as a substitute, now the most common practice in covering the story. No shame in that, journalism's promotion of itself is obligatory for the insecure and stigmatized.

A slew of journalism conferences have been held to complement the reporting on reporting. Most treat the Snowden affair as a godsend for a declining industry (a formulaic lament). What this had led to is iconization of Greenwald, Poitras, Gellman, followed by sub-iconization of The Guardian, Washington Post, Der Spiegel, New York Times and others who have published Snowden documents.

Edward Snowden himself? Hero or traitor, a celebrated household name, cited hundreds of millions times on Google. Surpassing Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Chelsea Mannning, previous hacker icons providing thousands of pages of news far exceeding original documentation. Amplify and exaggerate. Snowden, the person, is inaccessible except to hostage takers, joining Assange and Manning in police and media kidnapping.

To take nothing from Rosenbach and Stark due to their being corraled by publishing's legal police, the best to be expected is that Greenwald, Poitras and Gellman will publish the bulk of the unreleased Snowden documents, or, if not able to attain legal protection themselves will make the documents available to those who are not constitutionally privileged and protected by the police who also police NSA.

That Snowden elected to provide documents to journalists lacking deep experience with military, espionage and technology -- their cooperation is essential -- suggests his own limited experience in those complex and ancient endeavors suffused with secrecy, deception and betrayal. And all of which are masterful employers of political, media and public relations arts and artifice for funding and public support. A consequence of his election is to empower journalism as a lever for dramatic story-telling, always promising much and much more to come, delivering through serialized segments, mysteries and teases, a gob-smacking array of fictionalized revelations. Crowd-pleasing as political campaigns and warfare braggardy. In this Der NSA-Komplex too excells as metadata journalism in which the metadata is more informative than the data. Snowden is thereby surpassed by Snowden, Inc. Whatever NSA is really up to is yet to be told. Perhaps Snowden himself will eventually be freed of his media captors to do what they will not: he dumped the entire collection on journalists, they lack the courage to face that danger.