One day in the spring of 2013, a box appeared outside a fourth-floor apartment door in Brooklyn, New York. The recipient, who didn’t know the sender, only knew she was supposed to bring this box to a friend, who would ferry it to another friend. This was Edward Snowden’s box—materials proving that the U.S. government had built a massive surveillance apparatus and used it to spy on its own people–and the friend on the end of this chain was filmmaker Laura Poitras.
Thus the biggest national security leak of the digital era was launched via a remarkably analog network, the US Postal Service. This is just one of the odd, ironic details that emerges from the story of how Jessica Bruder and Dale Maharidge, two experienced journalists but security novices (and the friends who received and ferried the box) got drawn into the Snowden story as behind-the-scenes players. Their initially stumbling, increasingly paranoid, and sometimes comic efforts to help bring Snowden’s leaks to light, and ultimately, to understand their significance, unfold in an engrossing narrative that includes emails and diary entries from Poitras. This is an illuminating story on the status of transparency, privacy, and trust in the age of surveillance.
With an appendix suggesting what citizens and activists can do to protect privacy and democracy.
“An engaging window into the scrappy human effort behind the Snowden revelations, Bruder and Maharidge’s book also manages to provide some of the speculation, context, and – perhaps best of all – practical advice, that Snowden’s book and Poitras’s film will have made readers yearn for.”
“I've read virtually all of the books about the Snowden leaks, but this one stands apart…A beautifully written, gripping new book.”
“A short, yet fluent and well-researched, work from a duo of US-based investigative journalists...despite the title, ‘Snowden’s Box’ is essentially not about the box as such, but, as the authors themselves, acknowledge, about some of the most powerful analogue technology in the world: human relationships.”
“Jessica Bruder and Dale Maharidge, two innocents in the murky world, describe in Snowden’s Box how, by chance, they were caught up in a potentially dangerous intrigue when a package containing the biggest ever single leak of US national security files was posted in Hawaii by old-fashioned mail and dropped outside their door.”
“The story of Edward Snowden’s disclosure of NSA secrets to the press has been told and retold in books, films, and countless articles. Left unreported has been the quiet role of [Jessica Bruder and Dale Maharidge] who literally had Snowden material mailed to them in a cardboard box…[In Snowden’s Box], the duo finally tells their story of beginners’ encryption, convoluted codewords, and extreme paranoia.”
“A gonzo story, told with a sense of humour...Bruder and Maharidge tell a good yarn and make a strong case against government surveillance. They argue that everybody should have something to hide.”
“The simplest human connections are sometimes vitally important for journalists to carry out their work beyond the gaze of the spying agencies. Bruder and Maharige’s book is a timely reminder of this fact.”