Free «Summary of This Machine Kills Secrets by Andy Greenberg» Essay Sample

Summary of This Machine Kills Secrets by Andy Greenberg


This Machine Kills Secrets by Andy Greenberg is a book about the world’s most infamous communication organization known as WikiLeaks. Being a journalist, Andy Greenberg follows the trail of this organization way back to its founding operations of the Pentagon Paper scandal of the 1970s. In general, Andy Greenberg’s book documents a decade-long struggle between secrecy and openness. The author reiterates that the fight for openness in governments and organizations is the biggest struggle of the modern era.    


The book begins with a discussion between the author and the company’s founder, Julian Assange. This discussion centers on the pending release of a large amount of information that was meant to expose the dealings of a major financial corporation. Moreover, not revealing the targeted organization in these discussions, they directly hint at the magnitude of the revelations often terming it as a “megaleak” and one that would shock the masses. The two also discuss other major information leaks as released by the organization, and their ripple effects which include the fact that the organization’s popularity had dwindled, and it was regarded as being on ‘life support’. Here, the author is simply presenting his readers the story of a whistleblower and how everything can turn for someone who decides to take on the sharks (Greenberg 32). It is also in this chapter that the author states the book’s intention, which is to trace the history of leaking information and having anonymous sources protected through intense cryptography and other mechanisms.

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The first chapter of this book is about whistleblowers; the author mentions the two most revered whistleblowers in history, namely Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. These individuals are considered among the greatest secret killers in the US. In his interviews, the author manages to show the reader why. Both of these men are seen crossing lines that normally would get them killed by governments because of their efforts to bring information to light. They also used much simpler technology such as copy machines that enabled sharing of information with both government officials and media houses. The two stories brought out in this chapter are intended to highlight the courage of the people in the secret leaking business, with both interviewees in this case risking their freedom and lives to disclose the information.

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The next chapter talks about Julian Assange more from a human perspective. The author understands that people find this enigmatic personality rather mysterious, and he thus tries to highlight his life and times before the WikiLeaks as well as his support systems and motivation (Greenberg 47). The key objective here is to allow the readers to see this master secret leaker of our time in a more gentle light as a person, not just a secret killing machine of the 21st century. The author then writes about the anonymous system in which Jacob Applebaum comes to the limelight. Tor is the entity behind anonymity in the secret leaking business, where the sources are able to share information without revealing their identity or location. This is how WikiLeaks manages to protect their sources as they do not even know them. 

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The rest of the chapters are dedicated to the hackers who try to find out the identity of Wikileaks’ sources by dismantling Tor or using the social media among other things. In general, the story is about the rise and fall of WikiLeaks, from its most famous days to the current state as rendered by government hacktivists like Peiter Zatko and Aaron Barr.     


Andy Greenberg sets out to explore the secret leaking industry by tracing down the history of giving away well-guarded secrets starting from the 70s. The book succeeds in giving the reader a great insight into the world of the courageous whistleblowers. It concludes with an explanation of how these whistleblowers are brought down in the technology world by hacktivists who pride themselves in uncovering the secrets of the notorious secret killers.

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