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Verax: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance: A Graphic Novel

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From a prize-winning journalist and the co-author of the best-selling Zahra's Paradise, a sweeping graphic history of electronic surveillance from 9/11 to the latest drone strike 9/11 not only marked the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history, but also unleashed electronic spying by the government on a massive worldwide scale. In a wholly original and engaging tel From a prize-winning journalist and the co-author of the best-selling Zahra's Paradise, a sweeping graphic history of electronic surveillance from 9/11 to the latest drone strike 9/11 not only marked the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history, but also unleashed electronic spying by the government on a massive worldwide scale. In a wholly original and engaging telling, Verax ("truth-teller" and one of Edward Snowden's code names) recounts the full story of American electronic surveillance post 9/11, in brilliant comics form.We follow Pratap Chatterjee, journalist sleuth, as he dives deep into the world of electronic surveillance and introduces its cast of characters: developers, companies, users, government agencies, whistleblowers, journalists, and, in a leading role, the devices themselves. He explains the complex ways governments follow the movements and interactions of individuals and countries, whether by tracking the players of Angry Birds, deploying "Stingrays" that listen in on phone calls or "deep packet inspection" that mines email, or by weaponizing programs with names like Howlermonkey and Godsurge to attack the infrastructure of states such as Iran and remotely guide the U.S. missiles used in drone killings. He chronicles the complicity of corporations like Apple, Verizon, and Google, and the daring of the journalists and whistleblowers—from Snowden to Julian Assange to the lesser-known NSA Four—who made sure that the world would know. Finally, he gives a prognosis for the future of electronic surveillance, and for the fortunes of those who resist it.By condensing a crucial event of the 21st century and a broad, complex history into a compact, engaging, and vivid work, Verax is a significant contribution that is certain to last.


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From a prize-winning journalist and the co-author of the best-selling Zahra's Paradise, a sweeping graphic history of electronic surveillance from 9/11 to the latest drone strike 9/11 not only marked the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history, but also unleashed electronic spying by the government on a massive worldwide scale. In a wholly original and engaging tel From a prize-winning journalist and the co-author of the best-selling Zahra's Paradise, a sweeping graphic history of electronic surveillance from 9/11 to the latest drone strike 9/11 not only marked the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history, but also unleashed electronic spying by the government on a massive worldwide scale. In a wholly original and engaging telling, Verax ("truth-teller" and one of Edward Snowden's code names) recounts the full story of American electronic surveillance post 9/11, in brilliant comics form.We follow Pratap Chatterjee, journalist sleuth, as he dives deep into the world of electronic surveillance and introduces its cast of characters: developers, companies, users, government agencies, whistleblowers, journalists, and, in a leading role, the devices themselves. He explains the complex ways governments follow the movements and interactions of individuals and countries, whether by tracking the players of Angry Birds, deploying "Stingrays" that listen in on phone calls or "deep packet inspection" that mines email, or by weaponizing programs with names like Howlermonkey and Godsurge to attack the infrastructure of states such as Iran and remotely guide the U.S. missiles used in drone killings. He chronicles the complicity of corporations like Apple, Verizon, and Google, and the daring of the journalists and whistleblowers—from Snowden to Julian Assange to the lesser-known NSA Four—who made sure that the world would know. Finally, he gives a prognosis for the future of electronic surveillance, and for the fortunes of those who resist it.By condensing a crucial event of the 21st century and a broad, complex history into a compact, engaging, and vivid work, Verax is a significant contribution that is certain to last.

30 review for Verax: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance: A Graphic Novel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    I'll probably be put on a watch list just for leaving this review. The story of electronic surveillance in the 21st century. The author deep dives into Edward Snowden's whistleblowing and the U.S. drone program. Chatterjee was smart to present this in a graphic novel format. The information within is very dense and the graphic format makes it easier to digest. The info is very interesting but one sided. I'll probably be put on a watch list just for leaving this review. The story of electronic surveillance in the 21st century. The author deep dives into Edward Snowden's whistleblowing and the U.S. drone program. Chatterjee was smart to present this in a graphic novel format. The information within is very dense and the graphic format makes it easier to digest. The info is very interesting but one sided.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tom LA

    I already wrote in other reviews how arrogant, self-absorbed, deluded and wrong I think Edward Snowden is (and he still is, btw, based on latest interviews from Moscow). So ..... no, this graphic novel that celebrates Snowden and promotes him to the level of sainthood was absolutely not for me. The drawings are cool though.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Remember how shocked those of us in the United States were when Edward Snowden released the information about what the NSA was up to. And here were are, years later, letting devices into our homes that are monitoring our every move, and paying for the pleasure. Facisnating book about surveillance and how drones are not the way they are shown on TV or movies, that are not that good at sporting who or what they are shooting on, and afar too many innocent lives have been lost because of that. Illustra Remember how shocked those of us in the United States were when Edward Snowden released the information about what the NSA was up to. And here were are, years later, letting devices into our homes that are monitoring our every move, and paying for the pleasure. Facisnating book about surveillance and how drones are not the way they are shown on TV or movies, that are not that good at sporting who or what they are shooting on, and afar too many innocent lives have been lost because of that. Illustrated by the guy who wrote Zahra's Parasidse, the story is very easy to follow, and I am amazed at how far we have come, and how dulled we are to all the electronic surveillance that is still gong on. Fascinating read. Highly recommend it. Thanks I to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

    Taken together, these vast powers can confer god-like omniscience on whoever has control over them. In the hands of a vengeful, ideological, or irrational person … Who knows how these powerful weapons could be used against us? This book made me want to delete all my online accounts and go completely off the grid. Okay, maybe not–I’m addicted to the convenience of the Internet and the comforts of modern life–but I can’t say I wasn’t warned! "Unfortunately, when the NSA created Stellar Wind afte Taken together, these vast powers can confer god-like omniscience on whoever has control over them. In the hands of a vengeful, ideological, or irrational person … Who knows how these powerful weapons could be used against us? This book made me want to delete all my online accounts and go completely off the grid. Okay, maybe not–I’m addicted to the convenience of the Internet and the comforts of modern life–but I can’t say I wasn’t warned! "Unfortunately, when the NSA created Stellar Wind after 9/11, they took away the controls that I created and turned it on you and I'm sorry for that! This was something the Stasi, the KGB, or the Gestapo would have LOVED to have had! Just because we're a democracy doesn't mean we will stay that way." - Bill Binney Verax is graphic nonfiction that covers whistleblowers, drone warfare, and mass surveillance in the post-9/11 era, with a focus on events during the Obama administration. Journalist Pratap Chatterjee was already investigating software contractors and the big business of spying technology, but the story becomes personal for him after he travels to Pakistan and meets with relatives of drone victims. Just three days later, one of the soccer-loving teenagers he spoke with was killed in a drone strike. Throughout the book, Chatterjee seeks to track down connections between the NSA's mass surveillance program and drone killings. If you've ever followed any of the news on mass surveillance, you'll recognize many of the people featured: Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald. "Verax" is the Latin word for "truth teller" and was one of Snowden's code names. It's not just about an invasion of privacy. It's also about blanket surveillance of innocent people who then become targets for killing. The methods the intelligence agencies use to gather information and how that information is used is reported in a concise and accessible way. How do they sort and draw conclusions from the mass quantities of information they collect? How accurate are their results? According to Chatterjee, not well and not very. People are broken down into a bundle of traits that are used to predict terroristic threats; there can be an awfully thin line between a terrorist and an ordinary civilian. Rather than listening to the content of every call, they collect and analyze the "metadata," the who/what/when of the communications.  Their analysis software can answer questions as broad as "My target speaks German but is in Pakistan. How can I find him?" in a method similar to how Google returns search results. A common dismissal of mass surveillance concerns is that there's nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide, but Chatterjee shows how easy it is to draw the wrong conclusions from the data. We've also seen repeatedly throughout history that a motivated authoritarian can use the most insignificant details to ensnare potential political enemies. Western spying technology has been sold to repressive regimes and leaders in Syria and Egypt have used it to quash dissent. "Snowden once said that the problem was not that we didn't have enough data. The problem with mass surveillance is that we're piling more hay on a haystack. But more hay won't help you find a needle! Likewise more bad data can just make you more likely to make mistake." One of the most enlightening sections was the part about drone warfare and how targets are chosen. The Obama Administration claimed the drones strikes occur with "surgical precision," but just how reliable is the targeting? It can be really easy to draw the wrong conclusions from half a world away. A single Predator drone is operated by over a hundred people located all over the world. These people have to analyze mountains of data and an unfamiliar culture, while also dealing with unclear images and occasionally inaccurate information. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a wrong digit in a phone number can lead to a faulty identification and a wrongful death. Chatterjee investigates the effects of drone warfare on the drone operators who work thousands of miles away from the combat zone and meets with drone pilots who suffer from PTSD. "During President Obama's two terms in office, he approved 542 such targeted strikes in 2,920 days–one every 5.4 days. From his inauguration through today, President Trump had approved at least 75 drone strikes or raids in 74 days–about one in every 1.25 days." - Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations (Related: October 2017 article related to increasing civilian deaths in drone strikes.) It's difficult to pinpoint exact numbers of innocent civilians killed in drone strikes, but as of 12/12/2017, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that 7% to 22% of the 7,207-10,511 killed in 4701 confirmed strikes across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen were civilians. Several situations in which the wrong people were killed are highlighted, including the story of two US marines who were killed in a friendly-fire drone attack. In Chapter 13, there's an intense depiction of the conversation preceding a drone strike where twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed after they were wrongly identified as enemy combatants. This book focuses on the criticisms of drone warfare, but are also many who support the drone program as it stands. The supporters say that drones are more accurate than other methods, that there will always be "collateral damage" in a war, and that it saves US soldiers' lives. (Related article: Drones: Actually the Most Humane Form of Warfare Ever by former Navy pilot Michael W. Lewis) "Technology can occasionally give you a false sense of security that you can see everything, that you can hear everything, that you know everything." -Air Force Major General James Poss LIKES: • The graphic format: Mass surveillance programs are a complicated, sleep-inducing topic for the average person. As one of Chatterjee's editors says in the beginning, "software contractors are not sexy!" The graphic format makes it easier to process new an complex information. It also allows the author to avoid boring the reader with giant walls of techy text! Chatterjee does a good job of comparing the more complex concepts to things the average person will be familiar with. • It shows what happens whistleblowers who've went the legal route and why some people have chosen to go outside the bounds of the law. • It discusses the problems and potential consequences of mass surveillance and drone warfare. DISLIKES: • It's just as much about chasing down the story as it is about mass surveillance. Journalists investigating government overreach face obstacles while researching, even in "free" countries. Citizens, and consequently editors, are disinterested in the story despite its far-reaching implications for us all. However, I was more interested in the the last third of the book than the details of chasing down the story. I enjoyed the book much more after "Chapter Ten," when the focus shifts to the methods of mass surveillance and details of drone warfare. • Too much Edward Snowden! I've heard the Snowden story a million times at this point, so dedicating almost a quarter of the book to him–from information theft to fleeing to Russia–was excessive. He's a big part of why we are even talking about all of this to begin with, but I was more interested in the details of what Snowden released than Snowden himself. I think it was a mistake to focus on him so much, because the controversy surrounding the whistleblowers tends to completely eclipse any conversation about mass surveillance. Right or wrong, the information is out there now. "The greatest fear I have regarding the outcome of these disclosures for America is that nothing will change. That people will see in the media all these disclosures, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.” - Edward Snowden Verax is a critical look at mass surveillance and drone warfare that raises issues that are important for everyone to consider. Are we being true to our values? Can we do better? How much privacy are you willing to give up for security? Has mass surveillance foiled any terrorist plots or is it actually creating more terrorists? Are we trading innocent peoples' lives for the illusion of safety while simultaneously making ourselves less safe in reality? Has government dependence on mass surveillance simply caused terrorists to change their tactics? In a book I just read about far-right groups, it's mentioned that terrorist groups have shifted more towards lone wolf attacks because it's easier to remain undetected. (Related: Chart on page 6). Verax also addresses some overarching principles, such as the dangers that come with tribal loyalties. Too often people are in favor of expansive powers when their own political party is in charge, forgetting that those same powers will still apply when the opposing party or an unsavory leader is in power.   It's important to look beyond party loyalty to the flaws and potential consequences of our decisions. Our leaders should never be able to take our approval for granted. It's also necessary to periodically reassess our opinions when there's hard data about the effectiveness and the consequences. There were sections of this book that I thought could be more concise, but overall it's accessible introduction to the topic. Some of the articles referenced in the book : • The CIA's unaccountable drone war claims another casualty by Pratap Chatterjee • Trump will have vast powers. He can thank Democrats for them. by Glenn Greenwald: "The problem [civil liberties advocates] encountered was the same one they’d faced during the Bush presidency when trying (and failing) to persuade putatively small-government conservatives to oppose these expansions of presidential power: namely, many people are perfectly content to have such authority vested in leaders they trust, and fear them only when a politician from the opposing party wields them." • Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions? by Glenn Greenwald • Laptop seizures by US government highlight 9/11-era climate of fear by Glenn Greenwald • NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily by Glenn Greenwald • President Obama's Dragnet - by NYTimes Editorial Board • Edward Snowden is No Hero by Jeffrey Toobin • Public Documents Contradict Claim Email Spying Foiled Terror Plot: Defenders of "PRISM" say it stopped subway bombings. But British and American court documents suggest old-fashioned police work nabbed Zazi. by Ben Smith • NSA surveillance played little role in foiling terror plots, experts say by Ed Pilkington and Nicholas Watt • Our Drone War Burnout by Pratap Chatterjee • Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister. by Glenn Greenwald ___________________ RELATED: • Busting Eight Common Excuses for NSA Mass Surveillance by Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm • The best books on Drone Warfare recommended by Hugh Gusterson - Really interesting conversation on drone warfare. "We saw in the case of the Iraq war that the American people were largely happy to invade Iraq until the war went really wrong – until Americans started coming back in body bags – and then they turned against it and said that George Bush had been an idiot to invade. The same with Blair. We wouldn’t have the Chilcott report, and the turning of American opinion against the war in Iraq, if it hadn’t been for those 4,000 Americans who died there. They are the hostages of the democratic war-making process, in a sense. But drones have broken that link in the chain. They make possible perpetual war without costs." • 41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground by Spencer Ackerman - See chart • Good Kill - (Ethan Hawke) A drone pilot questions the ethics of his job. • Eye in the Sky - Drone pilots are about to strike a terrorist target, until a 9-year-old girl walks into the kill zone. Officials debate whether or not to go forward with the strike. I watched this movie at the theater and was perturbed at how immediately (and vocally) exasperated the audience was with the official arguing against the strike. • A quote from Liam Brown's Broadcast, a story about a man who a has a microchip installed into his skull so that he can stream his thoughts directly to his subscribers: ‘That’s the trade-off, isn’t it? I get the convenience of free email or knowing how many calories I’ve burned at the gym or whatever and they get to know me a bit better so they can show me more relevant advertising. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. Besides, I’m not a terrorist or a paedophile. Why should I care ..." "Why should you fucking care? We’re talking about intelligence gathering on an unprecedented scale. Forget data mining. This is mind rape. The end of privacy as we know it. It’s not about advertising, you idiot. It’s about power. Control. Sure, the marketing men might be the first to come knocking, but sooner or later this information is going to end up in the hands of agencies whose only interest is the total suppression of your freedom. In the whole of history, no system of mass surveillance has ever existed that hasn’t ended up being hijacked by malevolent forces. All it would take is one bad election, and suddenly your populist-fascist government has access to the thoughts of every single citizen in the country." • Tangentially related: An interesting chapter in SuperFreakonomics: Can a Banker's Algorithm Help Catch Would-Be Terrorists? ______________ I received this book for free from Netgalley and Metropolitan Books. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It's available now!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Powerful and eye opening. Verax is an impressive piece of comics journalism that sheds light on the current state of mass surveillance and drone warfare. Along the way the book touches on related topics such as the Edward Snowden revelations. Books like this have a way of making me feel inadequate. I tend to be somewhat indifferent to current events, and am occasionally embarrassed by how little I know of what's happening in the world. Everyone around me seems to have a strong opinion about even Powerful and eye opening. Verax is an impressive piece of comics journalism that sheds light on the current state of mass surveillance and drone warfare. Along the way the book touches on related topics such as the Edward Snowden revelations. Books like this have a way of making me feel inadequate. I tend to be somewhat indifferent to current events, and am occasionally embarrassed by how little I know of what's happening in the world. Everyone around me seems to have a strong opinion about events and people that are totally unfamiliar to me. I lived through the events in this book, not personally, but they happened on my watch, so to speak. I remember hearing about some of this in the news at the time, but after reading this book, it seems like the emphasis was all wrong. There should have been more outrage or debate or … something. In the end, that's what books like this do: reframe and highlight events so that we can more properly perceive them. Recommended!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nadine Jones

    This is not what I expected. The subtitle "a graphic history" lead me to expect, you know, a history, something going back to the beginning of the 20th century and showing the progression of surveillance as technology changed. Instead, we've got this polemic from a frustrated journalist - Pratap Chatterjee - who apparently wasn't given the bandwidth to write his love letter to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden in the newspapers, so he turned to the graphic novel format. Part of my annoyance is th This is not what I expected. The subtitle "a graphic history" lead me to expect, you know, a history, something going back to the beginning of the 20th century and showing the progression of surveillance as technology changed. Instead, we've got this polemic from a frustrated journalist - Pratap Chatterjee - who apparently wasn't given the bandwidth to write his love letter to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden in the newspapers, so he turned to the graphic novel format. Part of my annoyance is that this book doesn’t make a cogent point beyond “Big Government is Bad.” It jumps back and forth between “drone strikes bad” and “data collection bad.” And of course, no one would disagree that any innocent life lost is a tragedy. Innocent victims caught in the crossfire when governments attempt to eliminate terrorists should all be mourned, every one of them. But I kept thinking, while reading this: “do you know what would make those drone strikes more accurate? ... better data!” So I found the combined message of “data collection bad” and “drone strikes bad” to be annoying and disingenuous. The book makes a half-assed attempt to address this, but I didn’t think it proved its point. The real scandal isn’t the collection of data, it’s the faulty algorithms and incorrect conclusions that happen because decisions are made too quickly, without considering more data, and the misuse of power due to a failure of checks & balances. But Chatterjee doesn't seem interested in talking about that. And whatever happened to Edward Snowden? I don’t know. And this book doesn’t say (in part because this was published in 2017). I had to google. He was never been arrested or extradited by the US government. He’s currently living in Russia. He got married in 2017, and was granted permanent residency in Russia in 2020. And Julian Assange? There’s no mention at all in this book of the sexual assault charges against him. He took refuge in Ecuador in 2012 to avoid the charges, so that all happened during the events in this book but Chatterjee conveniently ignored it. Assange's asylum ended in 2019; he is currently incarcerated in Britain. Chelsea Manning pleaded guilty in 2013 to 10 charges against her. President Obama commuted her sentence in 2017. This book doesn't really say who she is or what role she played, there's just a quote from her thrown in towards the end. I will say, reading this made me wonder if reading it put me on a watch list somewhere. But if it did, it did. What are they going to find? "This lady reads A LOT! " The art, by Khalil Bendib, is impressive. Based on the few faces that I know, I can see that the artist did a fantastic job drawing recognizable faces in "comic" technique. He also has a knack for making their postures, expressions, and body positions look completely natural.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Keen

    “I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: ‘Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience.’ Therefore, individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.” These were the words of Edward Snowden after he was asked to explain his actions. This is another one of those wonderful pieces of graphic fiction that succeeds in cleverly taking an incredibly serious and adult the “I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: ‘Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience.’ Therefore, individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.” These were the words of Edward Snowden after he was asked to explain his actions. This is another one of those wonderful pieces of graphic fiction that succeeds in cleverly taking an incredibly serious and adult theme and tackles it with the childlike use of drawing. Chatterjee and Khalil have teamed up to perfect a wonderful Trojan horse to get their points across in a clear and informed way. Apparently there are no less than 17 intelligence agencies involved in the tracking, hacking and mass surveillance. We hear more about eerie codenames like Optic Nerve and Bull Run. There are some really nicely drawn pages to illustrate these points, making the information more accessible. These companies can be found in trade fairs like Milipol in Paris. We learn that, “Gamma is an Anglo-German surveillance company. They sell hacking technology to repressive regimes like the Mubarak government in Egypt.” Then there’s an Italian company, “Area Spa won a 13 million Euro contract in Syria to install equipment from Qosmos of France and Utimaco from Germany.” We hear from seriously qualified and experienced people, the likes of Bill Binney and Ed Loomis who had been cryptologists at the NSA for a combined period of 73 years between them and they couldn’t believe what was being done in their name, and so they chose to speak out. They had helped create a program called Thin Thread, but they realised that the NSA had created a twisted version with their Stellar Wind project, which got rid of the filtering out of US citizens and went after everyone. As Binney said, “This was something the Stasi, the KGB, or the Gestapo would have loved to have had! Just because we’re a democracy doesn’t mean we will stay that way.” “We now live in an Orwellian world where whistle blowing is equated with espionage.” Says Thomas Drake, a whistle blower and former senior exec at the NSA. The treatment of him and Laura Poitras, a multi-award winning film maker, shows us exactly what the US thinks about democracy and freedom of speech. Poitras was continually harassed for years by the US. (She was stopped at airports at least forty times) based on their wrong information. Apparently during the Clinton era, the NSA designed something called the clipper chip that it wanted installed in all computers and telecommunication devices. Apparently it would help scramble data to protect users from unauthorised access, but what they didn’t reveal was that it also could transmit a secret signal with a key that the government could use if it wanted to access the same information. Thankfully the plan was widely opposed and Clinton’s government had to back down. “I will never forget the moment I saw what was left of Salem and Waleed. The drone left them almost unrecognisable. We identified them from their clothes and scraps of matted hair. I remembered that Obama spoke in generalities about dead innocents like my loved ones. He claimed that their deaths ‘will haunt us as long as we live.’ So I travelled 7,000 miles to America seeking answers and hoping for an apology. But the president’s response to my questions was a wall silence.” Says one Yemeni man, describing the slaughter of two of his family members. We are told that he was given $100’000 in cash by way of compensation. We learn that the family of an Italian man killed in a drone attack, allegedly received around $1.3 million, meaning that one Italian is worth 13 Yemenis. We learn from the people who have operated them, just how inaccurate and unreliable drones can be, and this is reflected in the stats, “Out of 646 probable drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, some 22% of people killed were innocent civilians including 225 children.” But this hasn’t stopped drone use, on January 22, 2017 Trump gave orders for more drone strikes which killed more innocent men, women and children. As Greenwald said afterwards, “Obama killed a 16 year old American in Yemen. Trump just killed his 8 year old sister.” One of the more shocking elements of this book is the interviews with people attached to the drone programs who have since retired and are now left suffering with PTSD. We learn of one man who went through rehab after suffering from PTSD. He said, “I watched a man bleed to death. A missile we fired took off one of his legs right above the knee.” He later adds, “After I finished work that day, I called my mom and I told her I killed people and I don’t feel good about it.” “I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die.” Says one woman, who was a former drone operator and suffered from PTSD. So let’s be clear, we obviously need some form of intelligence community and armed services, both provide essential, life-saving services and help to maintain a safe environment for us to live in. Only an idiot would suggest that these people are all out to get us, this isn’t the issue. There are a lot of hugely talented people doing seriously great work in these fields and we have much to thank them for. We would certainly like to think that the vast majority of these people are trying to do the right thing and in the right way. But these people have a responsibility to the public they serve. The problems come when it emerges, that they are not succeeding and that they are maybe not doing their job in the best possible ways. When they abuse their privileges or break the law. Every one in every job will make mistakes, that is part of the human condition, but there has to be some degree of honesty and accountability when mistakes are discovered, or else how can we call ourselves democratic or progressive?...If there are people who never have to answer or explain themselves to anyone, then how can we call that democracy?...If there are people who consider themselves above the law, then what really makes them different to the people who they are supposed to be protecting us from?... So let’s be honest you are not going to find too much in the mainstream media about the subjects covered in here. This book can make for scary and heart breaking reading, but it is compelling and the art work is really well done. In one sense it reassures us that there are enough brave and honest people working in the intelligence community and armed forces, who realise the difference between right and wrong, and will speak out no matter the consequences for themselves. This is an ideal gateway text into explaining exactly what is going on with whistleblowing, drone warfare, and mass surveillance. Alongside Rall’s “Snowden”, Greenwald’s “No Place To Hide” and Scahill’s “The Assassination Complex” this helps to build up a clearer picture of some very murky circumstances.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    Absolutely an A for Effort here, with Chatterjee presenting critical information about "what's really going on" in a format that will maybe be more appealing to the masses (pictures being more appealing than dry words in a scholarly journal, that is). That said...Verax feels less like a "history of electronic surveillance" and more like a grudge match against the American intelligence agencies. A perfectly reasonable grudge to hold! But there's something to be said for journalistic objectivity. R Absolutely an A for Effort here, with Chatterjee presenting critical information about "what's really going on" in a format that will maybe be more appealing to the masses (pictures being more appealing than dry words in a scholarly journal, that is). That said...Verax feels less like a "history of electronic surveillance" and more like a grudge match against the American intelligence agencies. A perfectly reasonable grudge to hold! But there's something to be said for journalistic objectivity. Relay the facts well enough and the reader will form the opinion you're hoping to inspire. Chatterjee focuses a little too much on his process of collecting the information in the book and not enough on the information itself. When he follows the story of Edward Snowden, I was riveted even though I'd already heard the story a dozen times. When he interviews drone pilots, I was aghast at what we've done to our own armed forces in order to kill "enemies" on the other side of the world without specifically implicating an individual soldier. But Chatterjee fills too many pages with the process of collecting this information. Tell me once who you talked to and how that person is being surveilled. Don't tell me for every single story. And at some point, the constant "they're watching me - they're watching you!" asides comes off as paranoia, even if they are perfectly well-founded fears. Chatterjee's especially fond of calling out which editors are willing to print his stuff and which turn him down, which feels far too much like a personal grudge match that definitely could have been left on the cutting room floor. It's a useful book and well worth reading, it just needs far less of the author in it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    As someone who has been trying to warn everyone about the police state for the last decade I should have enjoyed this more, and it is a very important book, and good if you can get through it, and yet... It didn't resonate in the way I hoped it would. It can be hard to follow the main narrative, characters come and go, and it's hard to see how the whole system of violence connects, which is really the point of the book. Also I doubt anyone who hasn't seen the first Snowden interviews or the movi As someone who has been trying to warn everyone about the police state for the last decade I should have enjoyed this more, and it is a very important book, and good if you can get through it, and yet... It didn't resonate in the way I hoped it would. It can be hard to follow the main narrative, characters come and go, and it's hard to see how the whole system of violence connects, which is really the point of the book. Also I doubt anyone who hasn't seen the first Snowden interviews or the movie adaption will be able to follow the panels on the breaking of the Snowden story, there's literally clocks just plastered all over. In the end this is a shame because this story is horrifying and real and where the book does connect it does so well. Stories of the family members of innocent drone strike victims, PTSD in drone operators, and attempts to bring the two sides to together. TLDR: Our government is committing war crimes, we live in authoritarian Orwellian state and this was almost put on my dystopian shelf despite it being nonfiction. Give it to your friends who aren't yet aware of the reach of the police state and who also read comics if those groups overlap in your life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Anderson

    I thoroughly enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would. To be honest, I probably never would have heard of it nor ever picked it up if not for the public library’s monthly book club that I stumbled into a few months ago (Underground Airlines was another). I’m so happy with this month’s choice though because it was a challenge in a few different ways! First, it’s a graphic novel, and probably the first one I’ve read in ten years. Second, it was intense and thought-provoking and extremely I thoroughly enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would. To be honest, I probably never would have heard of it nor ever picked it up if not for the public library’s monthly book club that I stumbled into a few months ago (Underground Airlines was another). I’m so happy with this month’s choice though because it was a challenge in a few different ways! First, it’s a graphic novel, and probably the first one I’ve read in ten years. Second, it was intense and thought-provoking and extremely informative on areas that I historically have ignored or on which I have remained willfully ignorant. Great read!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Verax reminded me a little bit of some of the Le Carre George Smiley novels I've read in that it's exciting in a boring way, and is very topical. The tradecraft used by Laura Poitras and others to dodge surveillance by national security types also reminded me of Le Carre. Verax shows how thoroughly rotten and useless the national security establishment is, and how far we must go to have a country based on justice. Verax reminded me a little bit of some of the Le Carre George Smiley novels I've read in that it's exciting in a boring way, and is very topical. The tradecraft used by Laura Poitras and others to dodge surveillance by national security types also reminded me of Le Carre. Verax shows how thoroughly rotten and useless the national security establishment is, and how far we must go to have a country based on justice.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Holmes

    Wow! I didn't know any of this. It makes me wonder why we are making such a big deal out of the Russian interference. We seem to be doing much more against our own people and the rest of the world. I may have to write to my senator to ask what he is doing about it. I wish there was a recommended book list to go with this book. I may watch the movies about Snowdon and Assange. Highly recommended, but also scary. Wow! I didn't know any of this. It makes me wonder why we are making such a big deal out of the Russian interference. We seem to be doing much more against our own people and the rest of the world. I may have to write to my senator to ask what he is doing about it. I wish there was a recommended book list to go with this book. I may watch the movies about Snowdon and Assange. Highly recommended, but also scary.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Ray

    Recently, I became an iPhone owner again after several years with a "not so smart" phone. I have been amazed by its capabilities (and sometimes disturbed). For instance, my phone knows my habits. When I open the home screen, it will suggest destinations on the maps, based on the days of the week where I go certain places. That is just a little creepy. Creepier still is the network of information that our government has access to on us, and on many people all around the world. Even creepier is how Recently, I became an iPhone owner again after several years with a "not so smart" phone. I have been amazed by its capabilities (and sometimes disturbed). For instance, my phone knows my habits. When I open the home screen, it will suggest destinations on the maps, based on the days of the week where I go certain places. That is just a little creepy. Creepier still is the network of information that our government has access to on us, and on many people all around the world. Even creepier is how they use that information, based on data matrices to schedule the done killings of suspected terrorists based on metadata. Creepiest yet is how they sometimes get their data wrong and kill innocent people. That's the world that Chatterjee explores in his book Verax. In this book, Chatterjee is shaken when someone that he meets along the way, an innocent young man, is mistakenly a casualty of a drone attack. This sends him on a hunt to examine how intelligence contractors develop systems of information collection, how intelligence agencies collate that information and how the military uses it to pick targets and eliminate targets. Along the way, Chatterjee examines the treatment of whistleblowers who have went through the proper channels, and the harassment that they have endured from the government. Then, as he goes through stories, such as Edward Snowden or Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, I can completely sympathize with the reasons that they felt driven to go to the media instead of the appropriate NSA whistleblowing channels. Peppered with interviews of those who have worked within the drone program and those who have lost innocent loved ones, this is a truly damning work for the military-industrial complex, regardless of which political party is in power. It's powerful as it examines how the material is collected and analyzed, how the drone targeting works, and how little margin of error there is in targeting an innocent individual and a known terrorist. Chatterjee has an obvious agenda here, and I think that his agenda is to end the drone targeting systems because the abundance of proof is that old-fashioned intelligence and police work simply works better. Several times the statement is made that non-American lives are not valued as much as American lives by our government and their intelligence systems. That seems a little harsh and biased, but that also doesn't mean that Chatterjee does not have the truth in his analysis here. If we cannot be sure that we are targeting the right person, we simply cannot afford to randomly target innocent people. We also cannot continue in the collection of information on our own citizens. It breaks our constitution and it does not make our country a safer place. Otherwise there would not be the almost weekly shootings that we hear about in the media. I am uncomfortable with a world in which people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning are heroes. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and yet, I struggle to believe that they are anything but bold and courageous in their willingness to go outside the system and outside the usual channels to make sure that information is actually given to the American public. Snowden said that his greatest fear was that he would be prosecuted or executed as a traitor and yet nothing would change. Although there are new laws in place, there are also new technologies in place. Drone attacks are on the rise, and not on the fall, and the targeting does not seem to have improved if the reports of civilian casualties are to be believed. We also also increasingly inviting digital information collectors into our homes as we become more addicted and obsessed with our technology. According to Amazon, their Echo was the largest seller this year on Black Friday. Echo is on standby, able to listen all the time, able to collect information and to continue to perpetuate the collection of data available to prying eyes. We are a democracy now, but we may not always be. Enemies also can gain access to the data that is hoarded so and collected so doggedly. That makes for a brave new world any way that you look at it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    At some point during the past year, I found out that my great-uncle helped design the first drones during his time in the Air Force. That information was sobering then; after reading this, I am thoroughly shaken. Chatterjee has constructed a compelling story of how technology has transformed surveillance techniques during that past 15 years or so. While I found it difficult to follow at times--possibly due to occasionally dry storytelling, my relatively Luddite frame of reference, or most likely At some point during the past year, I found out that my great-uncle helped design the first drones during his time in the Air Force. That information was sobering then; after reading this, I am thoroughly shaken. Chatterjee has constructed a compelling story of how technology has transformed surveillance techniques during that past 15 years or so. While I found it difficult to follow at times--possibly due to occasionally dry storytelling, my relatively Luddite frame of reference, or most likely a combination of the two--it felt like the story hit its stride about halfway through, and I was totally hooked. And by hooked, I mean terrified, repulsed, and more than a little ashamed of the Obama administration for promoting these practices--not just for their use, but for passing it along for our current demagogue-in-chief to use. All of the factors informing the willful use of a weapon and system that has proven imprecise and incompetent presented here paint a truly horrific picture, one that I'm not sure we can dismantle unless more military and software personnel come forward. I am grateful for whistle-blowers in any sector...if we don't call out corruption, we can't fight for change. It was terrific to see Khalil's crisp, clean b&w art again. I did so enjoy Zahra's Paradise, and I hope he continues to work in this vein of graphic journalism.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    Read November 12, 2017. Rating this graphic novel is a tough one for me. On one hand, I really enjoyed reading this as a chronological timeline of this journalist's slow discovery of the mass surveillance state erected in the name of national security, supported by a network of private-sector software companies that make up the spying industry. That part was intriguing from an informational standpoint, as well as the back third of the book that discusses the connection between these spying tools Read November 12, 2017. Rating this graphic novel is a tough one for me. On one hand, I really enjoyed reading this as a chronological timeline of this journalist's slow discovery of the mass surveillance state erected in the name of national security, supported by a network of private-sector software companies that make up the spying industry. That part was intriguing from an informational standpoint, as well as the back third of the book that discusses the connection between these spying tools and inaccurate military drone strikes. Really well done, as I said, in terms of information. Pratap Chatterjee deconstructs the vast web of intelligence in succinct and simple explanations that I appreciated, given that following news developments on the topic is very complicated. For that, I bumped my rating up to 4 stars. However, one should be very careful about how they interpret Chatterjee's work. It is clear that he has an agenda, a opinionated message that he wants readers to take away from this book. Mass surveillance and its use in military combat paints a disturbing picture, but the way that Chatterjee presents the information and the story also disturbs me. Chatterjee is a journalist, a profession I have nothing but respect and admiration for, but I also have a good sense of balance. Balance is not present in Chatterjee's version of this story: he glorifies Edward Snowden, a controversial figure and an arrogant man, does not once outline any of the criticisms against him. He mentions the flawed attempts to find Snowden by the Obama administration, he drops hints that the White House and Pentagon never returned his calls for comments, but he does not acknowledge the unpopularity of Snowden and the public criticism launched against him. I find that to be an example of Chatterjee's glaring lack of complexity and nuance in this subject. Chatterjee is looking for a story and connects a lot of dots along the way, as many journalists are apt to do. What bothers me about his methodology is his determined focus on the vague evildoings of the "military-industrial complex." The information that he digs up about intelligence is unnerving and eerie–I do not in any way disagree with that, nor do I disagree with such information being dug up. I disagree with the pathos behind this story and the way in which it is presented. Chatterjee is on the hunt for nefarious doings, but he fills in blanks and makes leaps in conclusions by looking for the facts to confirm his stories. I bumped up my rating of this book for two reasons: 1) because of the strong, strong section in which Pratap described the emotional and human cost of relying on mass surveillance in warfare, and 2) because at my core, I believe in information and I appreciate the information laid out in this book. What worries me, however, is the blanket assumptions made about the decision makers in power, despite him not having the full context of the development of the intelligence community. Did public pressure during the Cold War drive politicians to demand more from its intelligence community? Was it a series of policies from Congress that pushed national security toward mass surveillance? Was it a few key individuals who manipulated Washington into believing this was necessary? Lots of questions remain unanswered in this story, and I wish Chatterjee had acknowledged that. Power amassed, from the outside, always looks evil. But it did not start out this way, and there is always, always a reason–something else that I believe at my core. Is the military evil? No. Is it complacent? No. Is it hindered by resource distributions and political motivations? Perhaps. Is it only as good as its worst decision maker? Yes, but even that decision maker has a story, a reason, life experiences that inform his decision making. Power is corrupting and knowledge is intoxicating, it's true, but I guess I'm still an optimist when it comes to people and their motivations and I am scant to believe that there isn't more to the story.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ron Turner

    America has ALWAYS been controlled by a nexus of unelected bureaucrats and private defense contractors, dating back to the American Revolution. Eisenhower referred to them as the military-industrial complex. After 9/11, they used the War on Terror to expand their power, continuing on from one administration to the next (Bush-Obama-Trump) in what we now call The Deep State. Using the graphic novel format, this is a great look at just how much power they've been able to amass. There's the drones. B America has ALWAYS been controlled by a nexus of unelected bureaucrats and private defense contractors, dating back to the American Revolution. Eisenhower referred to them as the military-industrial complex. After 9/11, they used the War on Terror to expand their power, continuing on from one administration to the next (Bush-Obama-Trump) in what we now call The Deep State. Using the graphic novel format, this is a great look at just how much power they've been able to amass. There's the drones. Billions of dollars are spent on drones piloted by young soldiers. Pinpoint accuracy is a joke. The error rate is astronomically high. Thousands of innocent people have been accidentally killed, including Americans. We don't hear about it because the media doesn't care. Places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are off the grid. Drone operators have suffered PTSD. It's horrific to watch video of little kids being blown to bits, then get told that if you say anything you will be declared a traitor. Chelsea Manning blew the whistle. She was stripped naked, waterboarded and held in solitary confinement indefinitely. There's the mass surveillance. Private contractors are paid to spy on everyone. They have the ability to access almost ANY e-mail, social media account or phone purely on a whim. Law enforcement started noticing that child porn, celebrity leaks and blackmail attempts were being traced back to NSA computers. The 2016 election revealed that Trump was spied on. Edward Snowden blew the whistle. He was hunted across the globe, to the point where the US military forced the Bolivian president's plane to land so they could search it. There's the disinformation campaigns. Media outlets like the NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, etc. have collaborated with administrations to promote our "wars" against Al Qaeda, Iraq, Libya, ISIS. We've always got to have an enemy to "unite" against. It's inconvenient to go after China or Saudi Arabia. So right now it's Russia, North Korea and Iran. Wikileaks revealed all of this. Leaking thousands of e-mails of "journalists' gushing about lying and spreading fake news. The American government responded by trying to arrest founder Julian Assange and ordering the media to dismiss Wikileaks as "Russian propaganda." The problem is there's no checks and balances. Obama promised to end the Patriot Act, torture, war. Instead he expanded everything. Trump is going even further. Tripling drone strikes and paramilitary missions. Gaining further control of the internet by ending net neutrality. Giving free reign to the generals to do whatever they want, which will most likely end up being war with North Korea and Iran. Who's going to stop it? The Democrats? They're in on it. The media? They're even worse. The courts? They've always been a rubber stamp. It's only going to get worse.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wayne McCoy

    'Verax: A Graphic History of Electronic Surveillance' by Pratap Chatterjee with illustrations by Khalil Bendib is a non-fiction graphic novel that talks about recent whistleblowing of government surveillance. Verax was one of Edward Snowden's code names so it's an apt name for this graphic novel. The book mainly has to do with the things he revealed. Discussions of unwarranted surveillance as well as the inaccuracy of U.S. drone strikes are discussed. Interviews with key people are illustrated. It 'Verax: A Graphic History of Electronic Surveillance' by Pratap Chatterjee with illustrations by Khalil Bendib is a non-fiction graphic novel that talks about recent whistleblowing of government surveillance. Verax was one of Edward Snowden's code names so it's an apt name for this graphic novel. The book mainly has to do with the things he revealed. Discussions of unwarranted surveillance as well as the inaccuracy of U.S. drone strikes are discussed. Interviews with key people are illustrated. It's part of the same story, but I found the first half more interesting. Deep packet inspection as well as tracking what people do with Stingrays and data mining was a lot more interesting. The drone stuff is also good, but when it moved to that, it felt like the story I was more interested in got derailed. I realize that's how the story developed, so it's just my preference. The art is a caricature style which gives most figures kind of a garish look. It wasn't my favorite, but it was easy to distinguish among all the individuals and to recognize the more famous ones. I received a review copy of this graphic novel from Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt& Company, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to review this ebook.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    I suppose that I gleaned SOME new information from reading this, but a lot of the conclusions I already knew about and agreed with. I think Chatterjee did a good job at making his investigation into our Orwellian government more accessible. I do hope that a kid or teen picks this up to find that American imperialism is normalized by the kind of technology. Verax is a good essay type of graphic novel about how our government preys on the poor to carry out profiled targets who are generally civili I suppose that I gleaned SOME new information from reading this, but a lot of the conclusions I already knew about and agreed with. I think Chatterjee did a good job at making his investigation into our Orwellian government more accessible. I do hope that a kid or teen picks this up to find that American imperialism is normalized by the kind of technology. Verax is a good essay type of graphic novel about how our government preys on the poor to carry out profiled targets who are generally civilians. Pratap covers he and his colleagues dealings with the TSA, NSA, Snowden, Iraqi Muslims, and PTSD-inflicted drone vets. I enjoyed that he shed light on many facets of the complex problem of drones, but I think this would have worked better as an essay. In the age of social media we get such a concentrated dose of harsh information intake. And on top of that almost everyone knows the US government has always been and continues to deny its imperialism. That’s what made this book feel almost like it was talking down to me, the drawings and ‘subplots’ about pundits and politicians alike dodging accusations. But then again that means this book wasn’t for me. If you’re interested in drones though, I recommend checking out the play Grounded.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    There is good information here communicated adequately, but rather than energizing me about the issues being presented, it just left me feeling helpless and apathetic. I didn't expect a third of the book to be about Edward Snowden. I already saw most of that stuff in the Oliver Stone movie and there didn't seem to be anything new here. However, the only moment I truly enjoyed in Verax was the (unintentional?) humor of Chatterjee, who is the narrator and central character of the book, pathetically There is good information here communicated adequately, but rather than energizing me about the issues being presented, it just left me feeling helpless and apathetic. I didn't expect a third of the book to be about Edward Snowden. I already saw most of that stuff in the Oliver Stone movie and there didn't seem to be anything new here. However, the only moment I truly enjoyed in Verax was the (unintentional?) humor of Chatterjee, who is the narrator and central character of the book, pathetically trying to contact everyone involved in the Snowden revelation and not getting any response. He's as much an outsider to those events as anyone. And Chatterjee tries to redeem the fact that the basis of the big story he is chasing for the whole book is a handful of industry brochures, but he never quite makes it over the hump. This attempt makes the whole book seem more a self-aggrandizing effort; Chatterjee's relentless pursuit of the story almost comes off as more important than the story itself.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The b&w realistic drawings are dense, the topic is intense, and the level of detail is immense. For people who prefer getting information through graphic novels, this meets the basic requirements. If a person hasn't been reading the news for the past 10 years, hasn't watched documentaries about Edward Snowden, etc., this gives a basic introduction into the massive United States' surveillance program a handful of whistleblowers exposed. However, Chatterjee & Khalil lay out the sequence of events The b&w realistic drawings are dense, the topic is intense, and the level of detail is immense. For people who prefer getting information through graphic novels, this meets the basic requirements. If a person hasn't been reading the news for the past 10 years, hasn't watched documentaries about Edward Snowden, etc., this gives a basic introduction into the massive United States' surveillance program a handful of whistleblowers exposed. However, Chatterjee & Khalil lay out the sequence of events from the point of view of the journalists who took reports of whistleblowers and got them published - which is interesting, but it seems like after it covers the first question (What happened, exactly?), it veers off-point, and fails to address the next most important questions: Who should take responsibility? and How do we get it to stop? Recommended for 10th-graders up to college students, and many adults who like/need their information packaged in comic-book format.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Thomas

    An illustrated account of both the massive warrantless surveillance programs, and how they relate to the drone war. I'd previously heard the stories of whistleblowers like Snowden and Julian Assange's relationship with them, but this was the first time I'd seen how bad information culled from such surveillance programs leads to dead innocents. I'd swallowed the lie that drone strikes are "surgical" and mostly only kill shitheads, but that's clearly not the truth. There are instances of attempts An illustrated account of both the massive warrantless surveillance programs, and how they relate to the drone war. I'd previously heard the stories of whistleblowers like Snowden and Julian Assange's relationship with them, but this was the first time I'd seen how bad information culled from such surveillance programs leads to dead innocents. I'd swallowed the lie that drone strikes are "surgical" and mostly only kill shitheads, but that's clearly not the truth. There are instances of attempts to kill the same person multiple times, killing dozens of bystanders each time. At one point the fraction of innocents killed out of total deaths was as high as 22%. A good metaphor is that these programs don't help find a needle in a haystack, they just pile more and more hay on in hopes that it will help.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tracy M

    I think it was a good choice to do this as a graphic novel, as it pulls together several different sets of stories from the second half of Obama's presidency. It's dense information, and all the connections are easier to follow in the graphic format. I knew most of this, but it just reminded me of how many issues I had with Obama's presidency, and how let down I felt (and still feel) by the fact that he pursued the drone program in spite of the fact that it was highly inaccurate and killed plent I think it was a good choice to do this as a graphic novel, as it pulls together several different sets of stories from the second half of Obama's presidency. It's dense information, and all the connections are easier to follow in the graphic format. I knew most of this, but it just reminded me of how many issues I had with Obama's presidency, and how let down I felt (and still feel) by the fact that he pursued the drone program in spite of the fact that it was highly inaccurate and killed plenty of innocents along with actual operatives. It's a timely reminder given one of the potential democratic nominees, in particular. I typically don't expect more in the way of honesty and apology from our military, but I did from our president, and it still stings that he wouldn't live up to the standards he set for presidential behavior.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Zack Wussow

    It's all right as a primer if you have never heard about the subject, but I found it a little broad and patronizing with a weird, almost Scooby-Doo-esque 'golly gee look at this awful thing they're doing!' tone... Also, I don't think it does the reporters featured any favors by portraying them as mercenaries more concerned with finding the quote they need to sell a story than with investigating the truth. Honestly, rather than being convinced that mass surveillance and drone strikes are bad, I c It's all right as a primer if you have never heard about the subject, but I found it a little broad and patronizing with a weird, almost Scooby-Doo-esque 'golly gee look at this awful thing they're doing!' tone... Also, I don't think it does the reporters featured any favors by portraying them as mercenaries more concerned with finding the quote they need to sell a story than with investigating the truth. Honestly, rather than being convinced that mass surveillance and drone strikes are bad, I came away feeling like it's a complicated situation that may not have many other good options. (The book seems to favor boots on the ground and local pilots, as if that hasn't resulted in many innocent casualties.) There's nothing here you haven't already heard on the news.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Abby Boogie

    This is a very readable breakdown of the complex relationship between mass surveillance and drone warfare. Even if you've followed the stories of Edward Snowden and his exposure of governmental surveillance overreach the Obama drone strike failures, this book will still give you a much clearer picture of how the problems came to light, and why they ultimately matter more than ever now. The writing is clear and concise, the illustrations are very useful in explaining complex webs of technologies This is a very readable breakdown of the complex relationship between mass surveillance and drone warfare. Even if you've followed the stories of Edward Snowden and his exposure of governmental surveillance overreach the Obama drone strike failures, this book will still give you a much clearer picture of how the problems came to light, and why they ultimately matter more than ever now. The writing is clear and concise, the illustrations are very useful in explaining complex webs of technologies (that a lay person like myself had never grasped fully when reading related news articles), and the author clearly has major insight into these matters thanks to his years of investigative journalism.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Reed

    Electronic surveillance is an interesting topic to choose for graphic novel format and not one that I ordinarily would have selected. I picked this up in the newly arrived bin at the Nashville Public Library. The illustrations are impressive-- some are downright jaw-dropping. While the storytelling has occasional moments of brilliance, overall it suffers from a one-sided perspective. Embracing the ambiguity of ethical conflicts (protection AND freedom are both desirable goals) would have generat Electronic surveillance is an interesting topic to choose for graphic novel format and not one that I ordinarily would have selected. I picked this up in the newly arrived bin at the Nashville Public Library. The illustrations are impressive-- some are downright jaw-dropping. While the storytelling has occasional moments of brilliance, overall it suffers from a one-sided perspective. Embracing the ambiguity of ethical conflicts (protection AND freedom are both desirable goals) would have generated a better storyline. The book could also have been 20% shorter without loss of impact. Illustrations 5 stars Story 2 stars

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    A clear explanation of the problems and gross mistakes of intelligence gathering, analysis, and drone attacks conducted by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. It begins with a Wikileaks disclosure on intelligence contractors Chatterjee was in on, lays out Snowden's leak, and on to Reprieve, an organization working with relatives of the innocents in villages killed in drone attacks to former airfare personnel suffering from PTSD after seeing so very many innocent people massacred. It's an inaccurat A clear explanation of the problems and gross mistakes of intelligence gathering, analysis, and drone attacks conducted by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. It begins with a Wikileaks disclosure on intelligence contractors Chatterjee was in on, lays out Snowden's leak, and on to Reprieve, an organization working with relatives of the innocents in villages killed in drone attacks to former airfare personnel suffering from PTSD after seeing so very many innocent people massacred. It's an inaccurate procedure, no matter how military or politicians sell it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jimbo

    By the time I read Verax, I was aware of the issues covered in the book. The most interesting part of the book was the struggles the journalist faced in getting the information and producing the stories. Then there was a cool but poorly written explanation of how mass surveillance works. I'd recommend anyone learning about this for the first time to also find another companion source of Snowden, this history clearly paints him as a hero, and there are arguments worth hearing for him being less her By the time I read Verax, I was aware of the issues covered in the book. The most interesting part of the book was the struggles the journalist faced in getting the information and producing the stories. Then there was a cool but poorly written explanation of how mass surveillance works. I'd recommend anyone learning about this for the first time to also find another companion source of Snowden, this history clearly paints him as a hero, and there are arguments worth hearing for him being less heroic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    (I received a free advance copy from Net Gallery in exchange for an honest review.) An incisive and thought provoking read about mass surveillance, the drone program and, most importantly, the deep ties between the two. I've read a lot on both subjects and just listened to an audiobook of Medea Benjamin's book on the drone program, so there was a lot I already knew, but it was still well worth reading. Especially vital given the presidency we're in right now. (I received a free advance copy from Net Gallery in exchange for an honest review.) An incisive and thought provoking read about mass surveillance, the drone program and, most importantly, the deep ties between the two. I've read a lot on both subjects and just listened to an audiobook of Medea Benjamin's book on the drone program, so there was a lot I already knew, but it was still well worth reading. Especially vital given the presidency we're in right now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A couple of sentences really struck close to home as I read this graphic novel. "Just because we're a democracy doesn't mean we will stay that way." "Civil liberties advocates...tried...to persuade and cajole Democrats...Democrats were urged to imagine that a right wing authoritarian, or a lawless demagogue, won the presidency and inherited the framework of unrestrained, unchecked powers...that day has arrived." A couple of sentences really struck close to home as I read this graphic novel. "Just because we're a democracy doesn't mean we will stay that way." "Civil liberties advocates...tried...to persuade and cajole Democrats...Democrats were urged to imagine that a right wing authoritarian, or a lawless demagogue, won the presidency and inherited the framework of unrestrained, unchecked powers...that day has arrived."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ron Christiansen

    Much more compelling than the title would indicate. Chatterjee animates some of the events in the Snowden case (a few scenes I also saw in the Snowden documentary) but fascinatingly ties Snowden's critiques of data collection on US citizens to the misusue of data in drone warfare. Some artifice to convey information (e.g. long walk with a friend who keeps asking questions) but conveys information while engaging the reader in the personalities and the behind the scene plot. Much more compelling than the title would indicate. Chatterjee animates some of the events in the Snowden case (a few scenes I also saw in the Snowden documentary) but fascinatingly ties Snowden's critiques of data collection on US citizens to the misusue of data in drone warfare. Some artifice to convey information (e.g. long walk with a friend who keeps asking questions) but conveys information while engaging the reader in the personalities and the behind the scene plot.

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