It’s got the makings of a perfect spy thriller: international secrets, clandestine intelligence leaked to global news agencies, enraged spy agencies, and a fugitive on the run.
And yet it’s real life – the life of Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and National Security Agency contractor who, in one of the largest intelligence breaches ever, leaked top secret NSA documents, inciting a global firestorm.
And thanks to that truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story, a flood of Snowden books is about to hit the market.
First up is “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man” by Guardian foreign correspondent Luke Harding. Vintage will release the book in the US on Feb. 11 as a paperback original.
According to the Guardian, “This is the inside story of Edward Snowden’s deeds and the journalists who faced down pressure from the US and UK governments to break a remarkable scoop.”
The book is “about my time with Snowden in Hong Kong and reporting the story, but mostly about the surveillance state based on the documents I have (that The Guardian doesn't) and my reasons why the surveillance state is menacing," Greenwald told Reuters.
Metropolitan Books, a unit of Henry Holt, will publish Greenwald’s book in March.
Finally, Barton Gellman, a blogger and former Washington Post reporter who covered the Snowden leak, will incorporate Snowden’s story to his broader book about government surveillance, which predated the Snowden news.
"I had already started work on a book about the surveillance industrial society when Edward Snowden came my way. He has certainly enriched my reporting, but I am not racing anyone to do a quick hit on current events. My narrative will cover a broader landscape and a wider cast of characters," Gellman told Reuters.
And if that’s not enough, there are rumors that 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and HBO have all considered on-screen projects of the affair.
Snowden made headlines June 2013 when he leaked to the media some of the thousands of classified NSA and British government documents that he downloaded while working as an NSA contractor. Upon leaking state secrets, Snowden was sought by the US government and was charged with espionage. He has since sought temporary asylum in Russia. His actions have generated a global debate about electronic surveillance and the personal data collected by governments.
Snowden’s is a story ripe for chronicling not only for its spy thriller-like intrigue and unprecedented scale of intelligence leaks, but also because the public is still unsure whether Snowden is a hero or a villain.
It’s possible that the books set to be released this spring may help decide the matter.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.