Richard Norton-Taylor

For Your Eyes Only, and Theirs

Snowden’s Box: Trust in the Age of Surveillance

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Verso 181pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the Surveillance State

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The Bodley Head 448pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

Reading these two books, which are very different, though they cover the same territory, I was reminded of the day Alan Rusbridger, then editor of The Guardian, beckoned me into his office. When I confirmed that I had my mobile phone with me, he immediately told me to leave it in another room. He had learned, from a source he was about to reveal, that intelligence agencies can use mobile phones to track people’s movements and bug conversations, even when they are switched off.

It was an agonising time. Rusbridger faced a difficult decision, perhaps the most difficult of his long career as an editor: whether to publish a huge cache of secret documents that would reveal how the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ were routinely intercepting the communications of millions of innocent individuals, sometimes in cahoots with massive internet companies. If Rusbridger went ahead, he risked prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. A guilty sentence might mean a hefty fine, which The Guardian could ill afford, or even jail.

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