The 13 Weirdest Things From The Guardian’s Forthcoming Snowden Book

Next week, The Guardian is publishing a book titled The Snowden Files: The Inside Story Of The World’s Most Wanted Man, by Luke Harding. The book tells the story of how The Guardian acquired the Snowden NSA documents and how the publication went about the process of reporting on the story. Over the weekend, Harding published an excerpt of the book online and it was a harrowing and bizarre read.

Here are the 13 most bizarre things from the excerpt.

1) As a commenter on the Ars Technica website, Edward Snowden, who used the online pseudonym “TheTrueHOOHA,” would sometimes accuse commenters who disagreed with him of being “fucking retards.”

2) Edward Snowden didn’t think very highly of Muslims, but he loved him some guns:

…his negative impressions of multiracial Britain (he was shocked by the number of “Muslims” in east London and wrote, “I thought I had gotten off of the plane in the wrong country… it was terrifying”), the joys of gun ownership (“I have a Walther P22. It’s my only gun but I love it to death,” he wrote in 2006).

3) Snowden voted for Ron Paul in 2008 even though he said back in June that he “believed in Obama’s promises.” He also liked John McCain.

At the time, the figure who most closely embodied Snowden’s rightwing views was Ron Paul, the most famous exponent of US libertarianism. Snowden supported Paul’s 2008 bid for the US presidency. He was also impressed with the Republican candidate John McCain.

4) Snowden thought Obama was coming for his guns.

Once Obama became president, Snowden came to dislike him intensely. He criticised the White House’s attempts to ban assault weapons.

For the record, the White House didn’t attempt to ban any assault weapons.

5) Snowden’s views on affirmative action?

He was unimpressed by affirmative action.

See also item #2, regarding his views on Muslims.

6) Snowden’s views on leakers of national security secrets?

“WTF NYTIMES. Are they TRYING to start a war?”
“They’re reporting classified shit”
“moreover, who the fuck are the anonymous sources telling them this? those people should be shot in the balls”
“that shit is classified for a reason”
“it’s not because ‘oh we hope our citizens don’t find out’ its because ‘this shit won’t work if iran knows what we’re doing’”

7) The government is in your everything, watching you personally. Snowden is quoted as saying:

“They are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them.”

8) Be glad you weren’t on Greenwald and Poitras’ red-eye flight from New York to Hong Kong. Greenwald described their behavior like so as they read the documents:

“We would just cackle and giggle like schoolchildren. We were screaming and hugging and dancing with each other up and down,” he says. Their celebrations woke up some of their neighbours; they didn’t care.

9) From the “Hasn’t Anyone Ever Read James Bamford’s NSA Book, Body of Secrets, from 14 Years Ago?” file:

The NSA had secretly attached intercepts to the undersea fibre optic cables that ringed the world.

Bamford wrote extensively about how NSA tapped underwater cables. But since it wasn’t presented with the drama of a trans-Asiatic manhunt and lots of internet click-bait, no one remembers.

10) Snowden flipped out when Ewen MacAskill brought an iPhone into his hotel room in Hong Kong:

Snowden agreed to meet MacAskill the next morning. The encounter went smoothly until the reporter produced his iPhone. He asked Snowden if he minded if he taped their interview, and perhaps took some photos? Snowden flung up his arms in alarm, as if prodded by an electric stick. “I might as well have invited the NSA into his bedroom,” MacAskill says.

11) In Hong Kong, and before he outed himself, Snowden thought he could thwart eavesdropping with pillows and soy sauce.

Snowden’s own precautions were remarkable. He piled pillows up against the door to stop anyone eavesdropping from outside in the corridor. When putting passwords into computers, he placed a big red hood over his head and laptop, so the passwords couldn’t be picked up by hidden cameras. On the three occasions he left his room, Snowden put a glass of water behind the door next to a bit of tissue paper. The paper had a soy sauce mark with a distinctive pattern. If anyone entered the room, the water would fall on the paper and it would change the pattern.

12) Janine Gibson, The Guardian‘s U.S. editor, only gave the U.S. government four hours to respond before publishing the first Greenwald Verizon story.

Gibson decided to give the NSA a four-hour window to comment, so the agency had an opportunity to disavow the story.

You don’t give the subject of a bombshell article about the leak of countless national security documents four hours to “disavow” a story, then publicly mock the subject when it fumbles its response. The point of informing a subject of what you’re about to publish is to correct the record — to get the story straight — not to ask them whether they deny it. Thus ends today’s Journalism 101 lesson.

12) Greenwald, while in Hong Kong, threatened to stomp off and take the story elsewhere if The Guardian didn’t hurry up and publish it. This partly explains the four-hour window for the government’s response.

Greenwald signalled that he was ready and willing to self-publish or take the scoop elsewhere if the Guardian hesitated.

13) The book alleges that as soon as the article went live, The Guardian editors were followed by weird “sidewalk diggers” and other suspicious characters.

That evening, diggers arrived and tore up the sidewalk immediately in front of the Guardian’s US office, a mysterious activity for a Wednesday night. With smooth efficiency, they replaced it. More diggers arrived outside Gibson’s home in Brooklyn. Soon, every member of the Snowden team was able to recount similar unusual moments: “taxi drivers” who didn’t know the way or the fare; “window cleaners” who lingered next to the editor’s office. “Very quickly, we had to get better at spycraft,” Gibson says.

Instead of figuring out how to evade clueless taxi drivers (??), maybe they should’ve spent more time fact checking their reporters and offering context to what they were reporting. From the beginning, The Guardian and other reporters following its example, decided to mislead the public rather than to inform them, and the debate became predicated on misunderstood information and a lack of historical framework.

Anyway, this was just one chapter of a book that will prove to be more than a little frustrating to read, if this excerpt is any indication.

  • Lady Bug

    Well, don’t they sound like a couple of winners…

  • Peter James

    >>>>”6) Snowden’s views on leakers of national security secrets?

    “WTF NYTIMES. Are they TRYING to start a war?”
    “They’re reporting classified shit”
    “moreover, who the fuck are the anonymous sources telling them this? those people should be shot in the balls””

    Out of curiosity Bob, did you see the irony actually drip out of the page as you read Snowden saying those words?
    I know I did.

    Irony and hypocrisy.

    Large gooey dripping globs.

  • Razib_Taif1

    I’ll give Snowden the London thing I’m from a south Asian Muslim background and that’s some scary ass wahabi backwards shit going on there. It is like my father used to say, “if you want to be a muslim radical move to London. The white people are always too scared to say anything.”

  • j hentai

    fuck, the nsa must be driving me all the time.

  • raina

    Something has me curious- every time Snowden reveals something in his own interviews- for example, the Angry Birds thing or the sensors in your pants, etc- is he telling the interviewee what he saw from memory, or does he have copies of the docs with him and he was looking at it before the interviews?

    • j hentai

      most likely pulling it from his arse

    • Peter James

      >>>>…. is he telling the interviewee what he saw from memory, or does he have copies of the docs with him ”

      Even better….

      He’s pulling them out of his ass,…..
      …assuming he’s able to get them past his head that’s also lodged in there.

  • CL Nicholson

    Bob, it doesn’t matter. The fact Snowden comes off more like a long form performance art homage to Rorschach from ‘The Watchmen’ than a sane person and the true believers will gobble it up like vegans at Whole Foods tasting.

    Greenwald and Co have built a mini Fox News/Alex Jones style cult following anti-government paranoids over the last year. We’ve got Wallace Shawn writing Stage Plays in honor of GG. The anti-war left has officially jumped several sharks.

    • Reilly

      Brother, I’m not sure I can forgive you for leading me to that Democracy Now segment, but I’ll try, after my skin stops crawling. Just for the record though, Shawn says he wrote that 10 years ago, not for Greenwald. He just traveled to Brazil to perform it for him because he’s harboring the melodramatic fantasy that Greenwald is exiled from the repressive authoritarian U.S. regime.
      Simply watching the interview was serious emo overload. Imagine siting through the play, especially as an homage performance for Greenwald. Fucking frightening.

      • CL Nicholson

        I stand correct about the play, thanks for the catch.

        Brother, I’m not sure I can forgive you for leading me to that Democracy Now segment, but I’ll try, after my skin stops crawling.

        I listen to Democracy Now! every morning. Its informative, but yes, it is drowning Puritopian Tears for an hour each day, with Amy Goodman always sounding like she cries her eyes out in a bottle of vodka after each taping. anything that can make news junkie, public advocate wife not give a crap and turn on music is pretty damn depressing.

        • Reilly

          At my previous job, I listened to DN! every morning for a decade. Like you, I found it was often very informative and in depth. But your description of it “drowning Puritopian Tears” is spot on and this particular segment was downright creepy.

  • repugnicant

    -“We would just cackle and giggle like schoolchildren. We were screaming and hugging and dancing with each other up and down,” he says. Their celebrations woke up some of their neighbours; they didn’t care.-

    Doesn’t that say it all?

    • Scopedog

      Pretty much…

  • muselet

    Thanks, Bob. Now I know I don’t have to read the book and can spend my money on something more rewarding and enlightening, like Being Hit on the Head Lessons.

    –alopecia

  • The_Wardle

    Snowden was simply a useful idiot for a narcissistic egomaniac. The more I learn of all this, the more absurd it all gets. Thanks, Bob

  • missliberties

    Thanks Bob for doing this. I have no intention of reading the book, so I appreciate that the synopsis.

    Snowden comes across as terribly naive. A use pawn for someone.

    • Peter James

      >>>>”Snowden comes across as terribly naive.”

      He also comes off as a giant douchebag.

      A xenophobic, narcissistic and obnoxious gun-loving douchebag who’s one of those jokes that thinks the poor, the needy, the “other” are not worth the help they receive from society nor the consideration for basic respect as human beings.

      Not like we didn’t already get that vibe of him from his NSA shenanigans.

  • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

    What struck me was the way in which Greenwald “cackled and giggled” when they read some of the documents.

    1) Since most of it was already known and published, we can assume they didn’t know anything from the last 10 to 15 years about the NSA. So they had no background knowledge or expertise.
    2) Since it was “news” to Greenwald and Poitras, why would they, as self-proclaimed patriotic citizens of the U.S., be overjoyed? The normal reaction might be anger, disappointment, sadness, and maybe fear but joy? No. I mean if you really love your country, you’re not happy when it fucks up. You should be pissed off. It’s just more proof that Greenwald starts with an opinion and then looks for the facts to back that up. He’s not looking for the objective truth. He’s an ideologue, not a journalist.

    • i_a_c

      …why would they, as self-proclaimed patriotic citizens of the U.S., be overjoyed?

      $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    • raina

      nail. hammer. hit.

    • undsoweiter

      Yes, you’d have thought that they’d feel a deep sense of trepidation, the weight of responsibility bearing down on them. Instead, they’re doing the old prospector dance. YeeHaa!

  • beardsley james

    School children is the operative image. It’s been all “You’ll be sorry, America”, “nyah nyah” and “I know you are, but what am I?” from Greenwald, as he launches his spitballs from behind the Guardian.

  • Frito

    Bob, citation needed:

    From the beginning, The Guardian and other reporters following
    its lead, decided to mislead the public rather than to inform them, and
    the debate became predicated on misunderstood information and a lack of
    historical framework.

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      It’s his summary opinion based on what he’s learned about the story since it first came out and the newly added information from this excerpt. Why would he need a citation?

      • Jason

        It would be nice to know when Bob is referring to a verifiable fact, or simply summarizing his own bias.

        • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

          bullshit. Your side is sniveling because you’ve now been forced to see exactly what Greenwald is, and true to your determination to be right at all costs, you’re trying to sway opinion in the other direction.

          Good luck with that.

          • Jason

            Cool your jets there Nic.
            I don’t ever remember claiming to be correct all the time. Certainly GG and the other news outlets have made errors in the presentation of these various stories. Only recently there was that entirely unfortunate redaction issue with the NYT.
            Fortunately the value of Snowdens revealed documents are proving to be very much worth whatever minor issues arise. And yes that might actually include the entirely expected exuberance that GG might well have experienced while reviewing these documents. It is entirely possible for someone to be excited and professional at the same time. :-)
            And it is entirely ok for Bob to express his bias within his stories….but as GG has often said, it is also important to let people know where your bias exists so that the work may be judged accordingly.

          • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

            More bullshit. And more claims that the documents Snowden absconded with (and don’t think that Russia doesn’t now have whatever the brainless idiot had with him) are a BFD, when they aren’t nearly what your side claimed them to be.

            sheeesh…………….

          • Jason

            Of course they are a BFD. About 8 months later else you guys wouldn’t still be talking about it all. and making stuff up to make you feel better about vilifying a global hero

          • Peter James

            >>>>….vilifying a global hero”

            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

            That is all.

          • Jason

            It is good that brother Snowden can bring such joy.

          • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

            Keep drinking the cool-aid, Jason. Your refusal to recognize the truth is your own loss.

          • nevilleross

            Jason, try and learn some truth about this man, or get the fuck lost and stop commenting at this site and similar places; your attempts to make Greenbum likable here won’t work.

          • Jason

            so much animosity for merely projecting a different perspective. Dissapointing

          • nevilleross

            When you talk bullshit, expect to get schooled in how not to say it again.

          • Jason

            with schooling that pathetic, no wonder your education system is in such dire straights

          • nevilleross

            It’s not my education that’s at issue here, but yours; that is, how you digest info.

        • nathkatun7

          Citations please!

          • Jason

            this very article apparently

            “From the beginning, The Guardian and other reporters following
            its lead, decided to mislead the public rather than to inform them, and
            the debate became predicated on misunderstood information and a lack of
            historical framework.”

          • villemar

            Hot Water Burn Baby?

        • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

          Bob has been very clear about what his position is on his site and in his podcasts. If you’d been reading and listening you would have recognized the statement as such. Furthermore, since there was no citation one can safely assume its the author’s opinion…that’s how the whole citation thingy works.

          • Jason

            So his articles a best read only by people that know he is prone to guess work and hyperbole?
            Could be a little confusing for any new readers he gets. He probably sounds a little Alex Jones’y to those fresh readers.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Talk about hyperbole!

    • David Atkins

      Things are looking pretty grim for Team Snackfood, eh?

      No surprise that this is the best rejoinder, up with which you can come.

    • formerlywhatithink

      Here’s your requested citation:

      Every article the Guardian has published based on Snowdens “leaks”.

      i.e. Screaming headline which is debunked either in the body of the story or after Bob’s 24 hour rule.

  • D_C_Wilson

    Sounds like Snowden is just another paranoid rightwing nutjob who was all for government secrecy until the scary black man moved into the White House.

    As for Greenwald:

    “We would just cackle and giggle like schoolchildren. We were screaming and hugging and dancing with each other up and down,” he says. Their celebrations woke up some of their neighbours; they didn’t care.

    It must be a heavy burden being the center of the universe, Glenn.

  • beulahmo

    I’m just gob-smacked by that four-hour-window thing. Will any journalists publicly criticize this? I’ve thought these folks were pretty reckless all along, but a four hour window was all the editor would spare on this? Incredible!

  • http://cendax.wordpress.com/ Norbrook

    One of the biggest questions I keep having is just how this idiot got a) a security clearance; and b) hired in the first place.

    • D_C_Wilson

      The answer to both is: Government contractors.

  • redsox09

    Libertarians.

  • undsoweiter

    This is what happens, when you put national security out to bid.