By Andy Greenberg. Grade: B+
WHAT IS THE MACHINE THAT KILLS SECRETS? WikiLeaks brought to light a new form of whistle-blowing, using powerful cryptographic code to hide leakers’ identities while they spill the private data of government agencies and corporations. But that technology has been evolving for decades in the hands of hackers and radical activists, from the libertarian enclaves of Northern California to Berlin to the Balkans. And the secret-killing machine continues to evolve beyond WikiLeaks, as a movement of hacktivists aims to obliterate the world’s institutional secrecy. With unrivalled access to such major players as Julian Assange, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and WikiLeaks’s shadowy engineer known as the Architect, (never before interviewed) reporter Andy Greenberg unveils the world of politically motivated hackers–who they are and how they operate. This is the story of the code and characters–idealists, anarchists, extremists–who are transforming the next generation’s notion of what activism can be.
When I read the synopsis, I thought this book would merely be an extension of the WikiLeaks, an insight into the back-end of how these leaks happened. This in itself is pretty interesting, enough to kindle your curiosity. But boy, was I wrong.
The book begins by giving comparative accounts of two leakers, a chronological account of how leaking developed. Gradually, it gets into the current scenario of leaking, how hackers or “hacktivists”, with the advent of technology, have taken it upon themselves to ensure transparency and freedom of information. The story then unfolds into how and why leaking came to the fore and what lies in the future.
There are a couple of things which impressed me the most about the story, or in this case, the content due to its relevance in modern context. It shows both how and why WikiLeaks made such ripples. Everybody knows WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, but people think that Julian Assange got lucky, found some documents and made them public. The other thing is that it also shows how WikilLeaks is just a part of a very big ideology – an ideology which grows behind firewalls, hides in plain sight and prepares to strike with sheer brutality using the force of technology.
As far as writing is concerned, the pace of the book is pretty slick. The author has mostly restricted himself to relevant and in some instances, instrumental details. The events were arranged sequentially in a proper fashion. Many a times, the author has used switching, or moving between two similar or parallel sub-plots, to emphasise and compare them.
Reading this novel reminded me of Zeitgeist: the movie. The real significance of the reason behind writing this book can be understood only in countries like USA where everything is so tech-based that it leaves everything vulnerable to monitoring. Nobody can be certain as to when Big Brother is watching. The book really latches on to the reader and lets go only once you’re done with it.
For the conspiracy theorists, this book will both tease your tastebuds and fortunately, provide a sound basis for making claims. For the interested, this will be an insight into the relevance and magnitude of the leaking events happening around the world. Regardless, this is a book sure to impress readers with its wit and at the same time, amaze them with the stark gravity of its message.