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Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government’s system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down. In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American intelligence establishment an Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government’s system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down. In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American intelligence establishment and revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message, and email. The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth. Six years later, Snowden reveals for the very first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it. Spanning the bucolic Beltway suburbs of his childhood and the clandestine CIA and NSA postings of his adulthood, Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online—a man who became a spy, a whistleblower, and, in exile, the Internet’s conscience. Written with wit, grace, passion, and an unflinching candor, Permanent Record is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.


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Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government’s system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down. In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American intelligence establishment an Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government’s system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down. In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American intelligence establishment and revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message, and email. The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth. Six years later, Snowden reveals for the very first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it. Spanning the bucolic Beltway suburbs of his childhood and the clandestine CIA and NSA postings of his adulthood, Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online—a man who became a spy, a whistleblower, and, in exile, the Internet’s conscience. Written with wit, grace, passion, and an unflinching candor, Permanent Record is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.

30 review for Permanent Record

  1. 4 out of 5

    Caspin

    The guy’s a genius with a selfless heart of gold. He gave up a $250,000 a year job in Hawaii, left his family, friends, country....his whole life, to share truth of the United States’ masses having their constitutional rights violated by the NSA. The founding fathers are smiling down from Heaven....and at the same time are staring in disbelief and disappointment at the false patriotism of the ignorant who condemn this man for his sacrifice.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Edward Snowden has no new bombshells in this book, but "Permanent Record" is still full of surprises in some ways. Far from the low-level IT drone depicted in most early press accounts, and even further from the naive double agent trashed by his critics, the narrator of this book is a thoughtful, painfully self-aware intelligence professional who found himself forced to confront and expose the reality of mass surveillance -- and the immense powers of coercion it gave to authorities who, thanks t Edward Snowden has no new bombshells in this book, but "Permanent Record" is still full of surprises in some ways. Far from the low-level IT drone depicted in most early press accounts, and even further from the naive double agent trashed by his critics, the narrator of this book is a thoughtful, painfully self-aware intelligence professional who found himself forced to confront and expose the reality of mass surveillance -- and the immense powers of coercion it gave to authorities who, thanks to technology he helped create, are now able to strip the personal privacy of anyone connected to the Internet. It is scary how many of his metaphors and hyperbolic examples are actually happening today to a certain extent. You won't actually learn much about Snowden's disclosures, but he offers a very readable memoir about growing up with the Internet, a detailed rationale for his actions, and a look at how government surveillance has evolved since his disclosures. I actually appreciated that he spends a lot of time talking about his childhood, and laying the foundation that he would later build upon in the following chapters. I think it's truly a wonderful book, well written and moving. The elaborate security surrounding the release of this book is a reminder that, despite his relaxed demeanor and seemingly normal life in Moscow, Snowden is still not safe. But then, neither are we -- as his memoir makes clear, all the techniques he exposed in 2013 remain in place. I still think he is sort of a traitor -- the exact sort of traitor we needed right then. What the state legally considers a traitor doesn't have to correlate with what morality does...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is so weird! I did not rate this book, but I see that "I" gave it 2-stars on August 27. It seriously looks like my account was hacked in order to give a book 2 stars! Who does that?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    This is a highly-readable and thoroughly fascinating account of Snowden as a child, his ethical foundations, computer ethos, and his original desire always do the right thing. For any of you who don't know his name, you'll find a thousand accounts that turn him into a hero and a thousand that turn him into a traitor. I totally recommend reading his own words. He was always careful and thoughtful and did what he did for what he thought was the very best of reasons. By any st This is a highly-readable and thoroughly fascinating account of Snowden as a child, his ethical foundations, computer ethos, and his original desire always do the right thing. For any of you who don't know his name, you'll find a thousand accounts that turn him into a hero and a thousand that turn him into a traitor. I totally recommend reading his own words. He was always careful and thoughtful and did what he did for what he thought was the very best of reasons. By any stretch of reality, he simply gave true accounts, backed up with real data, to the most responsible and courageous reporters he could find. What is the crux? Proof of worldwide surveillance for everything that has ever gone online, stored forever. This means there is no privacy, and no accountability. Any two-bit dictator might later use ANYTHING you might have EVER said from your childhood all the way to the things you said this morning. Any joke, anything you thought hidden anonymously, any vile, atrocious, mean statement. Anything you might ever be ashamed of. And let's not forget anything that your computers might control, such as cameras, microphones. Or your cell phones, even while powered off, always being able to track you. Your footprints and your very metadata as a person is online. Stored forever. The U.S. government lied about this. Ed Snowden, as a sysadmin with high clearance, also had access to utterly amazing amounts of confidential documents, knowledge of the high tech systems, cryptology, and the programs that, with a little intelligence, could be rendered from their original compartmentalizations into a seamless, rather obvious goal. This knowledge conflicted with is ethics, his very sense of what is right, and so he did the bravest thing he could have done. Become a whistleblower. Let us know the state of the world we live in. The truth. Since then, many people have reviled him. Many have been blown away by the sheer courage and selflessness of his actions. I, for one, believe in the Constitution, most of which dealt with securing the privacy and the basic autonomy of its citizens, limiting seizure and the state's power. When you think about it, this huge information-gathering complex that records everything for later sifting is nothing more than absolute seizure. It has made an absolute joke of the constitution. I believe in my right to privacy. It has nothing to do with whether I have anything to hide. Do you think because you have nothing to say that you ought to give up your right to ever write again? How about burning all your books because you don't feel like reading? Sound good to you? So yes, I'm one of those people who call Snowden a hero. I've been following this for quite some time and the whole thing leaves me speechless. He is one good man standing up for what he believes in. I cannot begin to tell each and every one of you how much I care that he stays safe. This book breaks it all down quite wonderfully, explaining everything. I totally recommend it for everyone. It might sound rather dystopian in parts, but the real world is already there.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. DNS over HTTPS (DoH): "Permanent Record" by Edward Snowden The minute some politico starts banging on about that we need to restrict something because we need to "protect the children" you can be absolutely sure that they mean to prevent the people having the same access to information as they do. Or they have been caught with their trousers down. And I am not talking about defence related stuff cat If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. DNS over HTTPS (DoH): "Permanent Record" by Edward Snowden The minute some politico starts banging on about that we need to restrict something because we need to "protect the children" you can be absolutely sure that they mean to prevent the people having the same access to information as they do. Or they have been caught with their trousers down. And I am not talking about defence related stuff categorised as Top Secret. It is doubly funny when the person banging on about it is so remote that they cannot even send an email without the help of a child. What has been troubling me about the Snowden revelations, is something George Orwell failed at in not going beyond in his books "Animal farm" and "1984" which that there seems to be a "force of intent" that is operating in our world far more powerful than governments, as Google's prime example is currently demonstrating this historical fact.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    I think it's been fairly well established by now where my views on Edward Snowden fall in the traitor vs. hero debate, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was very excited to read his story as told in his own words. Since following his disclosures back in 2013, I have unabashedly admired what he has done and what he stands for, as well as the courage required by his actions. Reading this book has, if anything, strengthened my impression of him as a sympathetic and relatable person as well I think it's been fairly well established by now where my views on Edward Snowden fall in the traitor vs. hero debate, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was very excited to read his story as told in his own words. Since following his disclosures back in 2013, I have unabashedly admired what he has done and what he stands for, as well as the courage required by his actions. Reading this book has, if anything, strengthened my impression of him as a sympathetic and relatable person as well as an admirable one (part of which may have something to do with the fact that, being only a few years younger than him and running in similar circles of anime- and computer-loving outsiders in my youth, I discovered a lot of myself and my friends in his experiences in childhood and teenage years, right down to spending lots of weekends watching anime with people from my Japanese class where he would have fit right in). He doesn't shy away from criticism of both himself and others in this account, and is forthright in discussing his own regrets, the slow disillusionment he experienced during his years in the intelligence community, his uncertainties and doubts about what, if anything, he could do about it, how he came to the decision to become a whistleblower, and the results of that decision. This was an engaging and fascinating read - and I'm fairly sure the fact that the US government is suing him about it is only going to add to its appeal.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laura Noggle

    A very spooky, real-life Halloween read. 🤯👻🎃 "The freedom of a country can only be measured by its respect for the rights of its citizens ... Ultimately, saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This is a fascinating book. Late October 2019: Recode Decode podcast interview with Edward Snowden (thanks to Michael Perkins for the heads up https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... ) https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR... October 2019: Ghost in the Machine: How Edward Snowden found his conscience This is a fascinating book. Late October 2019: Recode Decode podcast interview with Edward Snowden (thanks to Michael Perkins for the heads up https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... ) https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR... October 2019: Ghost in the Machine: How Edward Snowden found his conscience https://thebaffler.com/latest/ghost-i... September 2019: Trevor Noah (The Daily Show) interviewed Edward Snowden https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PArFP... From 2016, 'State of Surveillance' with Edward Snowden and Shane Smith https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucRWy... September 2019: Justice Department Sues Edward Snowden Over New Book ‘Permanent Record’ https://www.thedailybeast.com/edward-...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    So well written and absolutely riveting.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Flaviu Vescan

    To me, what Snowden did was a heroic sacrifice for the sake of free speech and democracy. It shows that even in this century of "the many", individual action can matter just as much as collective action and that gives me a great deal of hope. People like him give me hope, but they also show that the liberties we currently have are very much being taken for granted. Democracy, free speech, privacy were not just hard earned through countless deaths, but require constant struggle for re-establishme To me, what Snowden did was a heroic sacrifice for the sake of free speech and democracy. It shows that even in this century of "the many", individual action can matter just as much as collective action and that gives me a great deal of hope. People like him give me hope, but they also show that the liberties we currently have are very much being taken for granted. Democracy, free speech, privacy were not just hard earned through countless deaths, but require constant struggle for re-establishment and upkeep. We can't simply live our lives with the certitude that what we have now is going to last forever (or until our death), we have to actively make sure of it! Democracies erode and people like Snowden are the first line of defense. Be like Edward!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    I believe, just as those journalists believe, that a government may keep some information concealed. Even the most transparent democracy in the world may be allowed to classify, for example, the identity of its undercover agents and the movements of its troops in the field. This book includes no such secrets. To give an account of my life while protecting the privacy of my loved ones and not exposing legitimate government secrets is no simple task, but it is my task. Between those two responsibi I believe, just as those journalists believe, that a government may keep some information concealed. Even the most transparent democracy in the world may be allowed to classify, for example, the identity of its undercover agents and the movements of its troops in the field. This book includes no such secrets. To give an account of my life while protecting the privacy of my loved ones and not exposing legitimate government secrets is no simple task, but it is my task. Between those two responsibilities, that is where to find me. There probably aren’t many people who are on the fence about Edward Snowden. He is to most, either a traitor to his country for releasing government secrets, or an American hero for exposing the nature of those secrets (mass and unauthorized surveillance of American citizens). While I was admittedly in the latter column before starting this book, reading it only further solidified for me exactly why he is a figure to be celebrated rather than persecuted. As Snowden notes in his foreword, this book is not about the need to expose government secrets. While it may be seen as some (including myself) as a slippery slope as to how we decide who has the right to judge which secrets need to come to light, the secrets Snowden revealed were such an egregious affront to everything democracy represents that there is little ambiguity about the need to expose it. What is particularly compelling about Snowden’s account is not not merely how he was able to get the documents out of the government facility he worked for (involving flash drives, old computers taking an excruciatingly amount of time to download, and the constant fear of discovery) but the alternate universe the intelligence services seem to live in. From their own version of Google (provided by Google) and Facebook accessible only to them, to the rampant privatization of intelligence work to private and for profit contracts. Do you feel confident that someone entrusted with the deepest secrets of the US government has no allegiance to it? Neither does Snowden. It in fact fosters the increasing dominance of surveillance capitalism where the line between private corporations and your personal information begins and the government collection of it ends. Why should you care about this? As friends have said to me, “I’ve done nothing wrong so who cares if someone is collecting my information”. To which Snowden replies that while it may not immediately affect you, it may in the future in a way you are as of yet unaware. Furthermore, is it not the height of selfishness to not consider how this kind of surveillance does in fact many others who may be targeted by the government for any number of reasons. If history has taught us anything, from the labor movement, to the civil rights movement, to countless other movements, the government’s track record on surveilling and persecuting people it disagrees with is not a particularly proud one. For me, Snowden is a true patriot for forsaking a career and monetary reward in following his conscience. With whistleblowers back in the news again, Snowden’s story is particularly instructive as to why why need such men and women if America truly wants to consider itself as a democracy. My hope (and his) is that others will follow in his path and live the true ideals of what America purports to represent.

  12. 5 out of 5

    vonblubba

    Snowden is a controversial figure, if ever there was one. There's who considers him a traitor, who a hero, with very little middle ground. Despite that, there's something undeniable about him: he chose to throw away a reasonably comfortable life for something he believed in. It was a completely selfless reason, made without any personal agendas whatsoever. That is something that I personally respect and admire. This biography is a very interesting look at his life and everything that brought him Snowden is a controversial figure, if ever there was one. There's who considers him a traitor, who a hero, with very little middle ground. Despite that, there's something undeniable about him: he chose to throw away a reasonably comfortable life for something he believed in. It was a completely selfless reason, made without any personal agendas whatsoever. That is something that I personally respect and admire. This biography is a very interesting look at his life and everything that brought him to that fateful decision. He saw a lot of the inner workings of the various US intelligence agencies and had access to a frighteningly high number of classified documents (but without any political power to take any action), which put him in a perhaps unique position to see the "bigger picture". Seen through his eyes, that decision really seems inevitable. I will close this review with a quote: "Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say"

  13. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    They own your every secret, your life is in their files The grains of your every waking second sifted through and scrutinized They know your every right. They know your every wrong Each put in their due compartment - sins where sins belong They know you. They see all. They know all indiscretions Compiler of your dreams, your indignations Following your every single move They know you No, these words are not from the book; they are part of Meshuggah’s They own your every secret, your life is in their files The grains of your every waking second sifted through and scrutinized They know your every right. They know your every wrong Each put in their due compartment - sins where sins belong They know you. They see all. They know all indiscretions Compiler of your dreams, your indignations Following your every single move They know you No, these words are not from the book; they are part of Meshuggah’s The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance lyrics. But they fit so well as an intro for it. I won’t go into details because I think almost everyone knows who Ed Snowden is and what he did. I’ll just say that this is an incredibly well written autobiography. From his first years of childhood, throughout his adolescence and later on, he is a captivating narrator of his own life. [As a side note, I was particularly touched by the scene in which he tried to repair his Nintendo console at age 7, because I remembered me standing by my father’ side for hours when he handled all sorts of electronic equipment he was so passionate about. I guess something stuck with me, because a few years later (I think I was 11 or 12 and he was not around anymore) I repaired my own VCR. I didn’t think of this memory for a very long time…] Snowden is one of the few people out there that put the good of others above his own; it takes a lot of guts to do what he did. He is an idealist and his courage impressed me. First 50% of the book is about his growing up; afterwards it gets more technical, when he begins explaining the mechanism behind the mass surveillance and his actions in bringing it to light. It will be easier to understand the tech part for those who have knowledge about programming, encryption and other related computer topics, but he explains it on everyone’s understanding. Therefore, I recommend this book to everyone, to see what it really means to stand up for your own beliefs and put the greater good above your own. And also because it's such a gripping and enthralling story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Venky

    In her bestselling book, “Surveillance Capitalism”, author Shoshana Zuboff while making reference to the insanely popular virtual game, Pokémon Go, writes, “players think they are playing one game – collecting Pokémon – while they are in fact pawns in an entirely different one.” Beneath the seemingly innocuous exterior of a task involving ‘collection’ of creatures hidden in various nooks and crannies both indoors and outdoors, lay an interior, murky and malfeasant. The game’s creators, in due co In her bestselling book, “Surveillance Capitalism”, author Shoshana Zuboff while making reference to the insanely popular virtual game, Pokémon Go, writes, “players think they are playing one game – collecting Pokémon – while they are in fact pawns in an entirely different one.” Beneath the seemingly innocuous exterior of a task involving ‘collection’ of creatures hidden in various nooks and crannies both indoors and outdoors, lay an interior, murky and malfeasant. The game’s creators, in due course, confessed that popular virtual locations were for up for sale to the highest bidder, thereby leading to lucrative deals with multinational corporations such as McDonald’s, Starbucks et al. While the players progressed, goaded by a blissful illusion that they were collecting Pokémon, they were in fact unwitting and unsuspecting pawns, allowing a dastardly manipulation of their behavior by capitalists who were gunning for both their attention and resources. Edward Snowden is a man without a passport. In 2013, Mr. Snowden blew the lid off a gargantuan State surveillance machinery when he copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) which he happened to gather in his role as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and subcontractor. Currently, in exile, the sub-contractor turned whistleblower, by his own account, dwells in a rented structure in Moscow, after having been designated a fugitive under the laws of the United States, his motherland. Popular opinion as to whether Mr. Snowden ought to be prosecuted for exposing State secrets, or feted for exposing an invidious industry for what it is, and has been all along, has taken contrasting contours. Now, Mr. Snowden has elected to bare it all, in his autobiography, imaginatively titled, “Permanent Record.” More a vindication of self-conscience than an outright indictment of the State, “Permanent Record” brings to bear an arresting combination of wit, vitriol, guilt and resolve. After magnanimously informing his readers about the streak of intrepid curiosity which he nursed as a child and an incorrigible predilection towards electronic stuff, Mr. Snowden gives a breathtaking expostulation on the various surveillance tactics adopted by the CIA and NSA. In his teens, Mr. Snowden once, hacked into the website of the Los Alamos nuclear research laboratory. His uninterrupted traipsing through a phalanx of confidential documents, reveals to him, the startling fact that the information security apparatus in the laboratory faces a gaping hole. Being aware of the flaw, he assiduously, and even somewhat naively calls the laboratory itself to inform them about the lacuna. Unable to make contact with any one, he leaves a message. After a protracted period of time a caller from Los Alamos makes contact, thanks him for his altruism and upon realizing that Mr. Snowden was till in his teens, exclaims, “Well, kid, you’ve got my contact number. Be sure and get in touch when you turn 18.” To realise that what you are being watched all along as you blissfully continue to do some watching of your own, is sufficient to induce a tingle down the spine. In a Where-Matrix-Meets-Minority Report, scenario, a civilian unwittingly gives over every single byte of his information to the Government, all the while being utterly oblivious of the fact that he is doing so. Just consider this: Employing tools threateningly named, TURBULENCE, TURMOIL and TURBINE, the NSA tracks and evaluates the URL typed by a user in her browser window. Gatekeepers at an invisible firewall, these tools scan the relevant metadata embedded within the user’s request, for selectors or criteria, meriting further scrutiny. These selectors are the sole preserve and prerogative of the NSA. Upon identifying selectors, that are, in the opinion of the people at the NSA, ‘suspicious’, the users request is ‘tampered’ with using malware programs decided by complex algorithms. The end result of this extremely convoluted process as per Mr. Snowden is: “you get all the content you want, along with all the surveillance you don’t, and it all happens in less than 686 milliseconds. Completely unbeknownst to you.” Just pause for a while to assimilate and absorb the essence of this phrase: “COMPLETELY UNBENOWNST TO YOU.” Mr. Snowden narrates the conundrum he faces in trying to reconcile between the discharge of his duties, – which involves incorporating more layers of sophistry that aid and abet a brazen and universal intrusion of privacy – on the one hand and the preservation of the Constitutional ethos that guarantees the right to privacy to all citizens. Discussing the modus operandi followed by the Government in recruiting technology professionals, Mr. Snowden elaborates in generous detail, the employ of outside contractors. Mr. Snowden himself, was contracted by Dell, although spending his entire professional career with the NSA. Mr. Snowden also lays bare a few euphemisms used by the Agency to justify their methods as they go about their dark acts. Plain acts of kidnapping are given the esoteric cover of “extraordinary rendition”, while “bulk collection” refers to mass surveillance. You better say every single prayer upon hearing the words “enhancement interrogation” for in plain speak it means torture. It was the spectre of 9/11 that instilled in Mr. Snowden an urgent sense of national duty; a fervent desire to assist his nation in bringing all those culpable and heinous deviants to book. However, the initial burst of effervescence fizzes out as Mr. Snowden realises that the means to accomplish the end are unacceptable, even though novel. As Mr. Snowden puts it, while nearly three thousand people perished as a result of 9/11, over a million more have been killed in the course of America’s response. “The two decades since 9/11 have been a litany of American destruction, with the promulgation of secret policies, secret laws, secret courts, and secret wars, whose traumatizing impact – whose very existence – the US Government has repeatedly classified, denied, disclaimed, and distorted.” In the NSA, Mr. Snowden obtains the pinnacle of all clearances “TS/CSI”, a pre-requisite for handling highly classified and sensitive data. It is this very access that results in Mr. Snowden experiencing an almost philosophical epiphany concerning the workings of his employers. While based in Japan, he stumbles upon a sensitive document dealing with a government inquiry into the controversial “President’s Surveillance Program” (PSP), a programme instituted by the Bush administration following the catastrophe of 9/11. Mr. Snowden comes to the mind-bending realization that, the difference between the classified version and the one released to the public for consumption, is chalk and cheese. The classified version provided “a complete accounting of the NSA’s most secret surveillance programs, and the agency directives and Department of Justice policies that had been used to subvert American law and contravene the US constitution”. The closing chapters of “Permanent Record” seem straight out of a James Bond novel. After having decided to spill the beans, Mr. Snowden walks the tightrope in transferring the documents he proposes to leak to the public, from the vaults of the NSA to his personal laptop. A series of indescribably complex maneuvers – involving converting his car into a roving Wi-Fi sensor and driving around like a madman with a high powered antenna and magnetic GPS sensor slapped atop the car’s roof; storing 20 * 21.5 mm Secure Digital Cards amongst other places, in his sock, within the confines of a prised off square of a Rubik’s Cube and even inside his cheek – so that in times of emergency he can swallow the whole card – and contacting journalists under a variety of identities (“Cincinnatus”, “Citizenfour” and “VERAX”) – makes for some head-spinning and rousing reading. At the time of writing this review, a very hefty and heavy price has been exacted out of Mr. Snowden for his act of transparency. Living in obscurity in Moscow, the one silver lining in an otherwise sordid saga, has been for Mr. Snowden, his marriage to Lindsey, his longtime girlfriend. The Justice Department has also filed a civil lawsuit against Edward Snowden seeking recovery of all proceeds from the sale of his book. The Justice Department has alleged that the memoir was not submitted to the CIA or NSA for pre-publication review, a required practice among former employees of intelligence agencies. Mr. Edward Snowden might be a man without an identity. But with his one act of pellucidity, he has ensured that there would never be an erasure of the “Permanent Record” which highlights the peril that mass surveillance has imposed upon a gullible and unwitting segment of the population by rampantly impinging upon and interfering with their one seemingly inalienable right – the right to absolute privacy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    BookTrib.com

    Edward Snowden may run into some trouble getting paid for his memoir Permanent Record (Metropolitan Books), but he was never all that concerned with money. Did he talk his way into a $62k a year contractor job at the age of 22? Yup. Did he take a pay cut to work directly for the government? That he did. He also kept his three-story townhouse fairly bare-bones, sleeping on a mattress on the floor and accepting hand-me-down furniture. So for Snowden, it’s never been about the money—it’s Edward Snowden may run into some trouble getting paid for his memoir Permanent Record (Metropolitan Books), but he was never all that concerned with money. Did he talk his way into a $62k a year contractor job at the age of 22? Yup. Did he take a pay cut to work directly for the government? That he did. He also kept his three-story townhouse fairly bare-bones, sleeping on a mattress on the floor and accepting hand-me-down furniture. So for Snowden, it’s never been about the money—it’s always been about the dissemination of the truth, at all costs. It’s funny that Permanent Record is one of the biggest memoirs so far this year, as it’s written by a guy who never wanted to be a public figure. The importance of privacy was impressed upon him from an early age: Snowden recalls finding a letter addressed to his sister in the mail as a child. He wanted to open it, but his mother stopped him. “She explained that opening mail intended for someone else, even if it was just a birthday card or a chain letter, wasn’t a very nice thing to do. In fact, it was a crime.” Fast forward to 2009. A simple, exploitable computer error confirmed something Snowden had feared, or at the very least suspected, driven by curiosity more than anything else. In the years since 9/11, the United States had developed a sophisticated system of spying on, monitoring and otherwise invading the privacy of any and all Americans with access to an electronic device. The rest of the review: https://booktrib.com/2019/09/edward-s...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Donna Backshall

    "I hadn't signed up for any of this. I had just wanted to screw around with computers and maybe do some good for my country along the way." No one wants to bear the weight of an ugly truth that must be told to great personal sacrifice. Snowden's "desperate hope that somebody else somewhere else would figure it out on their own" is heartbreaking to read, as you imagine yourself in his shoes. This novel definitely falls into the glad-I-read-it-but-now-my-stomach-really-hurts "I hadn't signed up for any of this. I had just wanted to screw around with computers and maybe do some good for my country along the way." No one wants to bear the weight of an ugly truth that must be told to great personal sacrifice. Snowden's "desperate hope that somebody else somewhere else would figure it out on their own" is heartbreaking to read, as you imagine yourself in his shoes. This novel definitely falls into the glad-I-read-it-but-now-my-stomach-really-hurts category.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thorkell Ottarsson

    This book is excellent. The chapters about Snowden's childhood are rather pointless (should really have been skipped) but everything after he enters the army and then starts working for the government is fantastic. Edward Snowden is a better thinker than a writer and it is when he starts discussing the implication of mass surveillance and what it can lead to that the book really delivers. An important book from one of our greatest heroes.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    This is a long awaited book for me. Some people may disagree with him. IMHO I consider him a true hero. He outed the corruption at the very top. This has not stopped and has actually increased. The saddest thing about the entire situation as that we all know the NSA is watching everything we do and we the people have done nothing. We have become a bunch of complaisant drones of the government. This book covers more of his upbringing and what brought him to the point where he blew the whistle on This is a long awaited book for me. Some people may disagree with him. IMHO I consider him a true hero. He outed the corruption at the very top. This has not stopped and has actually increased. The saddest thing about the entire situation as that we all know the NSA is watching everything we do and we the people have done nothing. We have become a bunch of complaisant drones of the government. This book covers more of his upbringing and what brought him to the point where he blew the whistle on the government than the information he released. I think Snowden is a brave man and should really be pardoned, although not sure he can be if he has not been convicted yet. Snowden was on the money regarding the Internet of the 90's. Not the crazy victimization world we live in today where a post you made at the zenith of your acne outbreak comes back to haunt you well into your adult days. This why I agree with GDPR to some degree. I am glad that his then girlfriend flew out with him and they were able to get married. It is a great story of a great guy. He blows the lid off of the government mass surveillance which they call "Bulk Collection". Based on the recent call to sue Snowden for the proceeds of this book, I do not see this government slowing down. Government corruption is bipartisan.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Snowden's autobiography highlights a deeply flawed narrative and character regarding his disclosure of classified intelligence programs in 2013. The first several chapters describe Snowden's childhood and the early part of his career before he joined the intelligence community. The anecdotes about life as a child in the 1990s may be interesting for people who did not grow up during that time period, but as somebody who did, I did not find them revealing. That part that was revealing w Snowden's autobiography highlights a deeply flawed narrative and character regarding his disclosure of classified intelligence programs in 2013. The first several chapters describe Snowden's childhood and the early part of his career before he joined the intelligence community. The anecdotes about life as a child in the 1990s may be interesting for people who did not grow up during that time period, but as somebody who did, I did not find them revealing. That part that was revealing was Snowden's efforts to get out of doing work in high school and looking for shortcuts to pass classes. Somebody of Snowden's intelligence should have found classes like history, and the lessons we can learn from the past, engaging. Instead, he only sought to understand just enough to allow him to get a passing grade. Snowden later achieves the ultimate hack of any lazy high school student and gets a GED, proud of the fact that he was able to get through his teenage years only learning the things that he felt were valuable, mainly about computers. This anecdote is revealing, and explains why Snowden's memoir is uninteresting. Snowden draws some comparisons between history and mass surveillance, but only the obvious examples, and even then he fails to extend them throughout his narrative. For example, he states at one point that the only examples of state-led mass surveillance that he knows of are the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, ignoring the examples of East Germany and Communist China, which are mentioned briefly later in the book. Overall, there is a disconnect between the confidence with which Snowden writes, and his depth of knowledge about anything other than computers. Snowden's knowledge of the intelligence community and his judgments about how it operates do not show any knowledge of the roles that analysts play or how they do their job to present finished products to policy makers and executives in the bureaucracy. Snowden's characterization of the intelligence community as a whole at various points in his book seems as if it came from a lazy novelist who skimmed a few Wikipedia pages on the different agencies and the different -ints. Snowden's ignorance is highlighted in other places, such as when he says that Japanese need to be know tens of thousands of characters to read (there are a little over 2,000 standard characters, the others you do not need to know to be functionally and professionally literate). Snowden also is too lazy to examine the distinction between leaking classified information to foreigners and to journalists, the former being considered treason and the latter not. Instead, Snowden provides the non-legal rationale of a colleague that leaking to journalists is worse because everybody has the information, not realizing that for the leaker, committing treason carries the worse potential outcome before the courts. This lack of knowledge is revealed throughout the narrative as Snowden tells the reader how "the government," "the intelligence community," "NSA," "CIA," "the FBI," civil servants, analysts, and senior government executives think. To Snowden, to be a part of one of these communities is to be a drone who has adopted his characterization of how that community thinks. The personal stories he offers of bureaucratic malpractice, such as his leaving the Army, are examples of how the entire organization operates, not the isolated examples of poor managers and absent leadership. In this, Snowden's "insight" into these communities comes across as a young professional who has not yet realized that the bell curve of talent means that there is no shortage of bad managers in any organization. Just because one person takes the easy way out, does not mean that there are others who do the right thing. It is striking that Snowden feels confident in telling the reader what lessons of history we should look to, how the US Constitution applies to nuanced areas of national security law, how the intelligence community operates, and, philosophically, how a liberal country should value individual freedom amidst the threat of terrorism, foreign security threats, and foreign espionage operations, when his strategy for learning has been to "hack" the process and get the results of an education while doing as little work as possible. Snowden should realize that his confidence is misplaced by how dismissive he is of people who do not understand computers and networks, an understanding that came after years of disciplined study and passion, but he makes equally confident pronouncements on other fields of study that he has not studied in anywhere near the same level of detail. This highlights an arrogance about his own intellect. Snowden seems to believe that people who do not understand computers are somehow less capable in modern society, and is openly dismissive of such people, but at the same time is dismissive of experts in every other field, believing himself to be an expert on history, philosophy, government, international law, national security law, criminal processes, etc. This oversimplification of organizational culture (not recognizing that there are many cultures within organizations), mischaracterization of how organizations operate (not making the distinction between bad management of individuals and a poor culture overall), ignorance of any subject that he feels he can understand without studying in depth, and dismissiveness of others are all present when Snowden decides to break the rules of his contracts related to the handling of classified information. Absent any substantive experience and relying on his own judgments from limited information, Snowden resolves to not even try to go through the whistle blowing process in place, break as many rules as possible regarding how he accessed materials, and lie to his colleagues about what he was up to. Several of these flaws are worth examining in detail. While Snowden believes that he is a whistle blower, he did not make any attempt to understand or go through the whistle blower process. He even describes Revolutionary War-era whistle blowers who saw their allegations substantiated, but he decides that this process will not work for him. He does not try to work through his chain-of-command to address his concerns, to his organization's inspector general, to the intelligence community's inspector general, or to Congress with his concerns. Snowden also presents no evidence, even anecdotal, that whistle blowers are subject to seeing their careers damaged once they raise their concerns. Instead, Snowden takes it upon himself to "hack" the process by going directly to journalists with his concerns. Snowden also presents no evidence that any individual person in the intelligence community directly violated the Constitutional rights of any individual American using the programs he disclosed, with one minor exception. While the data was available for them to access, it seems that Snowden has no examples of people using that data inappropriately. Snowden does present one example of analysts looking up love interests on intelligence networks, but seemingly does not take it upon himself to report this unconstitutional activity to the appropriate authorities. In fact, at least some of these individuals were ultimately held to account for inappropriately using their access to classified information, a point Snowden could have looked up and included in his book. Snowden's rationale for going to specific journalsts is also unconvincing. To Snowden, every individual person in the intelligence community is suspect because of who they work for, but this cynical attitude does not extend to all journalists, who have reputations to burnish and products to sell. Those involved in Snowden's revelations would themselves see their careers and reputations benefit, and eventually get their own book deals. While Snowden may have been interested in protecting the American people, he deference to journalists is at least somewhat misplaced. As some journalists have argued for decades, when classified information becomes public knowledge they have a duty to cover it. Only in exceptional cases do journalists defer to the requests of the intelligence community in not publishing information. However, Snowden ignores the stance of many journalists who have justified their practices before the courts and suggests that they actually operate in the national interest, an interest that his been forgotten and abandoned by professionals in the intelligence community. Snowden also undermines his own case by illegally stealing classified documents that had nothing to do with the programs he was concerned about. Snowden's leaks ultimately revealed other programs and undermined the US's relationship with its allies and partners around the world. Snowden does not realize that for the intelligent professional in the intelligence community, they must assume that anything Snowden has ever looked at has been possibly compromised. There may even be foreign intelligence officers reading Snowden's book for insights that they were unaware of. Ultimately, what Snowden does not realize is that an even bigger threat of mass surveillance are people like himself. Snowden overconfidence resulted in much more damage to national security than he intended with the simple disclosure of mass surveillance programs. Snowden should have only taken the documents that he needed to make his case, acknowledged that he was breaking the law to read documents for which he did not have the "need to know," and gone through the whistle blower process. If this failed, he should have gone to Congress. If this failed, he may have been justified in leaking the documents and putting himself before the courts to decide his fate, as Daniel Ellsberg and others did. Snowden's revelations did have an impact on how mass surveillance is treated in the US and it is hard to imagine a judge considering somebody who followed the rules before breaking them, and ultimately influencing national policy, regarding unconstitutional mass surveillance to be guilty of treason. In the end, Snowden's memoir is interesting, but unfulfilling. Snowden offers no insight into any of the subjects he covers that is not already known to people who care to follow technology, government, the intelligence community, history, etc. One gets the sense that Snowden does not have the capability of many intelligent people to understand both sides of an argument and dismantle one side in their efforts to prove the other. For Snowden, there is no justification for any form of mass surveillance. He does not even bother to consider the benefit surveillance could have in quickly identifying a subject of a terrorism case or their accomplices. For example, a fingerprint left on a bomb fragment could lead to a name, which could lead to a cell-phone number, which could lead to the subjects actual location. Snowden seems to want this process (an oversimplification) to happen more slowly so as to protect the data of individual citizens, not realizing that by making this case he is suggesting that the risk of further attacks is outweighed by the right to absolute privacy. Perhaps Snowden has an explanation for how to resolve this dilemma, but he betrays no understanding that this dilemma exists in this book. However, Snowden does reveal his own arrogance and ignorance about the consequences of his actions and the loyalty and dedication of professionals in the intelligence community to their country. He is consistently dismissive of anybody who does not share his beliefs and expresses statements about subjects with which he has no training as confidently as he tells us about encryption. In the end, we realize that Snowden is not special, but more likely a criminal who will have to answer for his crimes if he ever wishes to return to the US. This is not to say that he did not do at least some public service in revealing programs that tested Constitutional limits, but it is about the process with which he took these actions. For somebody as confident as Snowden, he ultimately has very little to say in this memoir. It would have been interesting for him to focus on the overall context of his actions and address the criticisms others have had of him, but he does not show a deep understanding of either history or of opposing viewpoints regarding his disclosures. In hindsight, as Snowden waits out his exile in Russia, this tragedy will perhaps become more and more clear. To truly do a public service, Snowden should learn from his past mistakes and consider how he can address the dilemmas regarding mass surveillance that are likely to come up in the future. Based on this book, it seems unlikely that he has the capacity or the ability to do either.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Most people who follow me online will have grown-up around the start of the World-Wide-Web. And that is where this book begins. That nostalgic, online, open, free and anonymous space, full of potential and filled with people chatting in rooms. Computing was stepping up, computer consoles were becoming more common place, and PCs were just still out of the reach of every home. Edward Snowden was born within our same generation, but whereas we remained the passive consumers of online pla Most people who follow me online will have grown-up around the start of the World-Wide-Web. And that is where this book begins. That nostalgic, online, open, free and anonymous space, full of potential and filled with people chatting in rooms. Computing was stepping up, computer consoles were becoming more common place, and PCs were just still out of the reach of every home. Edward Snowden was born within our same generation, but whereas we remained the passive consumers of online platforms (Google, Facebook), and became increasingly reliant on digital platforms, Snowden worked inside these data centres during their growth. Working across the World at the CIA, NSA, and Dell. He formed some of the first strategies to search vast quantities of data, was involved in some of the early attempts at cloud computing and data storage. Over time, he saw the American-led policing of the internet develop into an Orwelian, know-it-all, that tracked all your information and stored it without permission. He viewed confidential documents that demonstrated the outright lies told by the National Intelligence leaders, members of congress and presidents. He notes that technology outstripped policy significantly, oversight of what the NSA and CIA were doing was reduced, and their lies were tolerated. Edward Snowden is noted in the media as a low-level technician that somehow pinched a bunch of documents and leaked them to the press. Even spoken aloud that seems like bull. Instead, Snowden was given high-level clearance jobs, and quite easily. As the CIA and NSA underwent cutbacks in staff, they contracted out for more employees, 9/11 led to a hiring drive, and the contractors didn't really care about qualifications. The NSA became a cyber-intelligence hub but lacked much in cyber-security, often leaving confidential draft documents in areas where Snowden could read them. Snowden's employees were often more interested in surfing the web than questioning process. And often, staff couldn't see the bigger scope of their work. This lack of oversight culminates when Snowden becomes a Sharepoint Administrator in Huwaii, and could now casually indulge his curiosity in reading confidential NSA documents. This book reads as a catastrophe. The NSA, greedy for surveillance, stretches the meaning of the constitution, lies outright to Americans on what it is doing, but also lacks oversight and an ability to truly secure what it is they are doing. One of my main takeaway points was the mention that America owns 90% of the internet and tech infrastructure...and it's true when you think about the American companies (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Opera, Dell, Apple, Amazon, IBM, Intel, HP). When you stack that list together, it's creepy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David

    I happen to be fond of whistleblowers. They tend to be people who care enough to do it (as well as people who would rather not do it but decide to because no one around them - esp. those with the same information - will). When he was at school, one of the assignments that gave Edward Snowden particular difficulty was writing anything (say, an essay) that focused on himself. It wasn't so much that self-exploration didn't appeal to him as much as it daunted him. His focus was outward, not inward. I happen to be fond of whistleblowers. They tend to be people who care enough to do it (as well as people who would rather not do it but decide to because no one around them - esp. those with the same information - will). When he was at school, one of the assignments that gave Edward Snowden particular difficulty was writing anything (say, an essay) that focused on himself. It wasn't so much that self-exploration didn't appeal to him as much as it daunted him. His focus was outward, not inward. And he developed an early interest in how mechanical things - not people - worked. Snowden would describe himself as a geek from the get-go. Geek... and, therefore, very reluctant hero. In his memoir, Snowden writes about himself with a confidence that's surprising (considering his long-held lack of interest in that subject). But he did have to make his case - and, in quite an economic fashion, he makes it rather elegantly. He's a refreshingly intelligent guy - and I don't mean just 'smart'. Being a systems analyst by trade, he lays out his defense analytically but in a way that is, at the same time, instantly accessible (its technical terms notwithstanding). This is actually a pretty quick read. It's particularly useful for those who - 'thanks' to US government descriptions of him - are either on the fence about Snowden or convinced that they know all that they need to know. I actually thought that I already knew a fair amount (as a result of having seen the documentary 'Citizenfour') but this overview from him personally is illuminating in a number of new ways as well as personable and captivating. You feel comfortable being in his company. At the same time, Snowden has not set out to lull the readers into comfort. He's still very much in whistleblower mode and warns us re: the still-urgent need of awareness and resistance in these (hopefully just but maybe not merely) transitional times. And, though I don't think he actually comes out anywhere and says so, I believe he exhorts the reader to have courage if / when it comes time to stand up for the truth.

  22. 4 out of 5

    nashvillebookgirl

    Whatever you believe or choose to believe - read this one. We are all humans after all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ewa

    It’s not perfect but it’s important

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    People are going to love this book -- it's a tantalizing look behind the curtain in exchange for accepting Snowden's personable, but self-serving, white-washed, martyr drama. Snowden reportedly stole over a million classified documents, of which an unknown percent have been distributed to an unknown number of parties, and about 10,000 have been publicly published. He claims in the book that he can no longer reconstruct the documents, that he didn't give any to the Russians, and that h People are going to love this book -- it's a tantalizing look behind the curtain in exchange for accepting Snowden's personable, but self-serving, white-washed, martyr drama. Snowden reportedly stole over a million classified documents, of which an unknown percent have been distributed to an unknown number of parties, and about 10,000 have been publicly published. He claims in the book that he can no longer reconstruct the documents, that he didn't give any to the Russians, and that he's a whistle blower, a patriot. Yet, only a tiny fraction of the documents that have been publicly released to date could qualify as legitimate whistle blowing, with the dissemination of the vast majority of the documents having no other purpose than to attempt to erode the US government's ability to conduct foreign intelligence collection. For the foreseeable future, Snowden will be the poster child for anti-surveillance. This is a farce, for while he briefly laments the smartphone surveillance economy (who doesn't?), he largely gives the commercial dotcoms a pass in this book, even though Facebook, Google, et al. have god-like insight into all we do and think, and exist to exploit and sell this data, yes, even to governments.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Oddly I found myself losing sympathy for Snowden the more I read. Perhaps my cynicism conflicted too greatly with his high-minded sense of idealism.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Hello CIA!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    While I can relate nearly 100% with the way Edward Snowden grew up (it was eerily similar)... that doesn’t mean I enjoyed reading it. I’d give this book 2 stars if it wasn’t for the utmost respect that I have for the author and the sacrifices that he made to get the truth out there. There is a lot of internet infrastructure terminology used throughout, which is explained in ways that make it very easy to understand. However, since my professional background is in network systems, these parts wer While I can relate nearly 100% with the way Edward Snowden grew up (it was eerily similar)... that doesn’t mean I enjoyed reading it. I’d give this book 2 stars if it wasn’t for the utmost respect that I have for the author and the sacrifices that he made to get the truth out there. There is a lot of internet infrastructure terminology used throughout, which is explained in ways that make it very easy to understand. However, since my professional background is in network systems, these parts were very boring to me. I would only recommend this to someone who wants to learn about Edward Snowden’s life and has no idea how the internet works.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Liam

    I am the first to admit that I am horribly, disgustingly under-informed on most current events, which leads to me being horribly, disgustingly under-informed on past current events. So when I saw Permanent Record on the shelf, other than being struck by the cover, I looked at the author and thought "Oh that's that Wikileaks guy, isn't it?" No. No it isn't. Permanent Record is the story of Snowden's life - from his childhood through his adolescence first experiencing the wonder of the Internet, to his career/>Permanent I am the first to admit that I am horribly, disgustingly under-informed on most current events, which leads to me being horribly, disgustingly under-informed on past current events. So when I saw Permanent Record on the shelf, other than being struck by the cover, I looked at the author and thought "Oh that's that Wikileaks guy, isn't it?" No. No it isn't. Permanent Record is the story of Snowden's life - from his childhood through his adolescence first experiencing the wonder of the Internet, to his career in the American Intelligence Community, and finally - what he's most famous for - his whistleblowing on US government privacy abuses. In his acknowledgements, Snowden mentions that he has been going to writing school, and it shows. He is obviously a smart guy, but his writing is evocative, entertaining but serious. I found a lot of parallels between his childhood and teen years and mine (born 8 years apart, but living in Australia, we were on about an 8 year delay with receiving the internet compared to the US so it checks out). Maybe if I had 140+ IQ I'd be working for ASIO. His tone is quite casual - very readable. He doesn't dumb down the concepts he's discussing, but instead finds ways to explain them so that a layman can understand something as complex as the IC PRISM system. It's oddly poetic from time to time, and I deeply hope that he writes more in the years to come. He has a lot to say, and I am sure that the vast majority of it is interesting. There's not much in the book that isn't freely available online in any of the probably thousands of character dissertations on him, but he has a way of telling it which makes it compelling (not that it isn't compelling in the first place). A brilliant, brave man, who gave up everything for the good of everyone else. Certainly a story worth telling, and a story I'm glad I'm now more familiar with. I highly recommend everybody read Permanent Record. Ultimately, saying that you don't care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don't care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say. p208

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mona

    Disclaimer - I do not support governmental or any other institution survailance of private entities. I read this book with a great interest, hoping to learn some new perspectives on the story which had been told many times already and is probably known to most people in the US.  This is a memoir of whisleblower Edward Snowden,  heavily tinged with anti governmental ideology, so if you are not favorable towards that kind of things, you may consider staying away. Author describes his li Disclaimer - I do not support governmental or any other institution survailance of private entities. I read this book with a great interest, hoping to learn some new perspectives on the story which had been told many times already and is probably known to most people in the US.  This is a memoir of whisleblower Edward Snowden,  heavily tinged with anti governmental ideology, so if you are not favorable towards that kind of things, you may consider staying away. Author describes his life from childhood until present time with special consideration of his work experience as a contractor for the US government. For me, it was interesting to learn how long and detailed preparation he conducted before disclosing confidential information. It was not act of transient emotional instability/anger but deliberate and well prepared action. Some descriptions of internal  government workings were also interesting.  I think book was well edited and writing was simple but concise. What this book was lacking for me, is to reveal any deeper emotional struggle or even self realization that at the end author did break major US laws. Even his description of damage done to his family seems to be quite superficial. Instead, author focuses on extensive anti governmental ideology which sometimes goes on for pages and chapters. Also, if you are looking to find out what he is actually doing now and how he supports himself and army of lawyers representing him, you will not find a clear answer. If you know Snowden's story, it seem unlikely you will find many new facts here. Personally, I was hoping for some deeper insight into decision making process of morally very ambiguous act and was slightly disappointed. Maybe it is just lack of maturity and self distance. Maybe this memoir should be written 30 years from now, not at author's age 30.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Athan Tolis

    Unlike Edward Snowden, I don’t accept axiomatically that it’s wrong for a well-meaning government to collect my data. Rather, I hold that belief for some of the same reasons I don’t like the death penalty: first, I don’t want to have to trust my government with infallibility; second, it freaks me out that, once it’s established the government can do it, the private sector might get a look-in (which for data it already does, of course; possession is nine tenths of the law) Either way, Unlike Edward Snowden, I don’t accept axiomatically that it’s wrong for a well-meaning government to collect my data. Rather, I hold that belief for some of the same reasons I don’t like the death penalty: first, I don’t want to have to trust my government with infallibility; second, it freaks me out that, once it’s established the government can do it, the private sector might get a look-in (which for data it already does, of course; possession is nine tenths of the law) Either way, there’s no doubt in my mind that Edward Snowden will one day be recognised as an American hero. He has the Constitution firmly on his side, besides. “No Place to Hide” I read as soon as it came out, and I even caught the Oliver Stone movie on the plane, but horse’s mouth turns out to be better than both. My first reaction when I read the Greenwald book was “omigod, a 29-year-old with no college education can look up all data on the planet; the Russians must have their pick from 10,000 underpaid Federal agents to find out anything they want” and as the CIA went on to lose all its agents in China I allowed myself to think we might come to our senses and turn the whole thing off. I was wrong on all counts. First of all, duh, we ain’t turning it off. But the better part of the story, the one I came to appreciate by reading “Permanent Record,” (and yes, I know, the movie made the same point, but not as well, so I did not “buy” it) is that Edward Snowden is a rather unique guy. So yeah, it’s true he had clearance to look at all information ever created on planet Earth, and it’s true he never went to college, but somebody’s got to have the clearance and you could not want for a better candidate: leaving his undisputed technical skills to one side, he’s Mayflower stock, his parents both served in the intelligence community, he wrote to the CIA as a kid to tell them he’d hacked their website, he enlisted as a private after 9-11 and, hell, he’s a patriot. So I’m relieved. And I was entertained. His life may not have been remarkable or exciting, but you’re invited to find out about it through the eyes of a kid that loves to examine everything and hack everything and loves to brag about how he did it (a quality he sees in others but fails to identify in himself, incidentally). Bottom line, the book would be worth reading even if it wasn’t about the whistleblower who uncovered the biggest and most unconstitutional government secret of the past half-century. Except it is, and that makes it a total must-read. Come on Elizabeth Warren, pardon the man. I really hope his chances are better than he intimates on page 271!

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