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Book from Indiana University experts explores the continuing importance of the Snowden leaks

May 13, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — On May 7, a federal appeals court ruled illegal one of the key National Security Agency surveillance programs that were disclosed by Edward Snowden. This decision comes as the second anniversary of the start of Snowden's leaks of classified documents approaches in June, and it reminds the U.S. and the rest of the world of the controversies associated with Snowden's actions.

A new book edited by Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor David Fidler focuses on the historic nature and continuing significance of Snowden's disclosures. "The Snowden Reader" examines the political, legal, policy and ethical implications of the Snowden affair. The book combines analyses from Fidler and four other Indiana University professors with around 40 primary documents, including documents disclosed by Snowden and others issued in response to his revelations by the U.S. government, foreign governments and other stakeholders.

The book, published by Indiana University Press, is available now in paperback and e-book formats.

"Other books published so far focus largely on Snowden and play into the 'hero or traitor' debate associated with his actions," Fidler said. "This book steps back from that debate to provide critical analysis from experts and access to documents that cover the tumultuous first year of the Snowden affair."

The book arose out of a panel organized by Sumit Ganguly, director of the Center on American and Global Security at Indiana University Bloomington, in September 2013, just a few months after Snowden began his leaks. The panel presentations were so well received that they were revised and expanded to become the chapters for Part I of "The Snowden Reader":

  • Nick Cullather, an IU professor of history, analyzes the idea of the balance between security and liberty connected with Snowden's disclosures and argues that, contrary to popular perception, the idea only developed after World War II with the rise of the Cold War national security state.
  • Fred Cate, the C. Ben Dutton Professor at the Maurer School of Law, examines legal and policy issues related to privacy that Snowden's leaks raised.
  • Lee Hamilton, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and director of IU's Center on Congress, focuses on the policy implications of Snowden's actions, especially the need for more robust oversight of the federal government's surveillance powers and capabilities.
  • Fidler explores the foreign policy consequences of Snowden's disclosures, including the damage done to U.S. relations with friendly countries, such as Germany, and to U.S. leadership on Internet freedom.
  • William Scheuerman, an IU political science professor, assesses Snowden against the tradition of civil disobedience associated with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and concludes that Snowden's actions stand up well under the tradition.

"These chapters take the reader past the dramatic headlines the leaks provoked," Fidler said. "Each one provides an important perspective on critical questions Snowden raised at home and abroad. Snowden did not create the political fault lines his disclosures stressed, but he did force us to confront tensions between, for example, liberty and security and secrecy and transparency in this new digital age."

Part II of the book provides the reader with key primary documents revealed by Snowden, such as the famous Verizon Order, and documents issued by various parties such as the federal government and President Obama in response to the leaks. Each document has an introductory note that puts it into perspective so the reader can understand its importance in the debates Snowden triggered.

"Part II allows readers to access these history-making documents in ways that enrich the experience the book provides," Fidler said.

Fidler is the James Louis Calamaras Professor of Law at the Maurer School of Law and a Senior Fellow at the IU Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. During 2015, he has been a Visiting Fellow for Cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.

You can hear Fidler discuss the book in an IU Press podcast.