Back at my home in Hertfordshire I took a few precautions. I worked
offline. I stored each draft chapter in a TrueCrypt folder, a virtual
encrypted disk accessible only via a long, complicated password. When I
conducted interviews I left my mobile behind. Having seen Snowden’s
documents, I knew something of the NSA’s and GCHQ’s extraordinary
capabilities. As of April 2013, the US spy agency had 117,675 active
surveillance targets. Was I perhaps now one of them?
By September the book was going well – 30,000 words done. A Christmas
deadline loomed. I was writing a chapter on the NSA’s close, and
largely hidden, relationship with Silicon Valley. I wrote that Snowden’s
revelations had damaged US tech companies and their bottom line.
Something odd happened. The paragraph I had just written began to
self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I
watched my words vanish. When I tried to close my OpenOffice file the
keyboard began flashing and bleeping.
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