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Permanent Record

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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 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.

339 pages, Hardcover

First published September 17, 2019

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About the author

Edward Snowden

16 books1,638 followers
Edward Joseph Snowden is an American whistleblower who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 when he was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and subcontractor. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments, and prompted a cultural discussion about national security and individual privacy.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,536 reviews
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews236 followers
September 26, 2019
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...
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,279 reviews21.3k followers
October 2, 2020
In a book of 29 chapters, you can safely skip the first 19.

Chapter 20, where he gives a talk on China and when the hypocrisy becomes too much for him to cope with, is where this book starts. Up until then it is a long and somewhat boring journey. After this point, the book springs to life and is over too soon.

Lately I feel like I have become Australia’s chief spokesperson for the Chinese Communist Party – so, I want to start by saying that I’m actually not all that fond of the CCP. The problem is, like Snowden, virtually everything I hear China being accused of are things we seem to do in the West with at least as much abandon. The big difference is that, since we are supposed to live in a democracy, we ought to be able to change the direction of our governments (I know, I know, but that is no excuse for you to start laughing in my face).

The fact this guy, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange were (or are) being persecuted, and prosecuted for exposing crimes against humanity committed by ‘us’ (rather than committing themselves), tells us more about our own societies than we would generally prefer to face.

Would I rather live in China? No, I wouldn’t.

Nor would I choose to live in Saudi Arabia, and I certainly would not want to live in Yemen or in Gaza either. I struggle to understand how our governments can think it okay to profit from selling arms knowing it will ensure the conflict in Yemen continues. In fact, it makes me sick to the stomach. Nor would I choose to be one of the 2.3 million prisoners in US gaols – most of whom are victims of the US Jim Crow laws. As much as I object to the obscenity of the Chinese Social Credit System – I can’t help feeling Facebook ‘likes’ and Google’s corporate mining of our ‘user’ data, manipulate us in all too terrifyingly similar ways.

The idea that our governments are storing information on just about everything we have ever said or thought, as this book makes all too clear, means that we are denied that most basic of human rights – the right to forget.

As Lizzy says in Pride and Prejudice when her opinion of Darcy changes enough for her to decide to marry him: “That is all to be forgot. Perhaps I did not always love him so well as I do now. But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable. This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself.”

Our new technologies make forgetting impossible. As Snowden says in this (admittedly, in a part of the book that I’ve just told you not to read) when he was about to join the spies, he suddenly realised all of the bloody stupid things he had said in his life on the internet that have gone on existing, like ghosts of his now long dead younger self. He chooses to not delete these posts. Instead, he does the standard American thing – that is, precisely what you would expect from someone brought up in a society obsessed with ‘the individual’. He refuses to deny his past self. ‘Yes, I may well have cut down the Cherry Tree, but I’ll be damned if I will chop down the posts from my younger self!’

To me, the point really is that we have next to no idea about the ‘real’ motivation behind the things we wrote decades before. Whatever we say in our defence becomes all the more questionable the more fervently we assert it. Our attempts to provide justifications for past actions too often achieve little more than a work of exquisite and, in equal measure, incoherent fiction. To be held to account for such works of fiction is mostly absurd, and generally done for motives even more questionable than our desire to retain a coherent and consistent ‘self’.

All the same, our governments are trapped in a game where they seek to gain access to every thought and every note and every image from our past lives. They do so just in case one day they may be able to create a narrative that places us within a terrifying frame. This, in itself, has become one of the greatest threats to our freedom. And as someone who believes that, in fact, often one of our only available paths to redemption is through the gift of forgetting, our governments and corporations are actively working to create a nightmare machine we may never be able to escape from. One based on a terrible lie of ‘human nature’ – the lie of the coherent and consistent ‘individual’.

I generally don’t quote Nietzsche (he is easily my least favourite philosopher), but these are desperate times:

’I have done that', says my memory. I cannot have done that—says my pride and remains unshakeable. Finally—memory yields.

There are times when choosing to believe our pride over our memory is the only viable choice open to us.

I never know what to do after reading books like this. I don’t know if I should spend time figuring out how to cover my online tracks. But as soon as I think that is the way to go, it immediately seems a complete waste of time. The arseholes who manage the tracking systems are always going to be better at the internet than I am, mostly because they are deeply boring pricks. My changing my behaviours, whatever other successes they may provide, will also only draw their attention.

I’m a much more boring person than it is possible for me to say, or perhaps even for you to believe. And this is a flaw in my character that is unlikely to be addressed by my spending endless time learning how to encrypt my movements across the internet. That some of you out there might be living a more interesting life then mine is something I would rather celebrate. I’ve no interest at all in chastising you for it. I’m nothing at all like the evangelicals who want to punish you for your sins – Christ, life offers so few pleasures – enjoy those that you can. I’m only sorry I find most of your sins quite so deadly boring, or, trust me, I would join you in them. Whatever joy your sins bring you, even for a briefest moment, as long as they do no harm to anyone else, do your worst.

I, for one, certainly have no interest in paying more taxes to allow my government to retain an indelible memory of your sins. If they do, none of us have any hope.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
743 reviews1,108 followers
November 21, 2019
“I was resolved to bring to light a single, all-encompassing fact: that my government had developed and deployed a global system of mass surveillance without the knowledge or consent of its citizenry.” ~Edward Snowden

I began reading this book with a decent amount of skepticism. Is Edward Snowden a hero or a criminal? Could I believe him? I was bothered by the fact that he lives in Russia; is he a hero or a traitor? What is he doing in Russia rather than living in exile in another country?

Thankfully this book answered those questions and the answer to the first is, as I see it, that Edward Snowden is a hero.

Permanent Record is the story of Edward Snowden's life leading up to the time he blew the whistle on the United States government--his childhood, his teen years, his twenties. Mostly, it is the story of what the CIA was up to during the years Mr. Snowden worked for them. About the massive surveillance it was carrying out on United States citizens, a system Mr. Snowden had helped to set up. It also tells of what happened after.

Edward Snowden was increasingly bothered by what he saw as an invasion of citizens' privacy, the secretive intrusion by the government into our lives. They were collecting and saving the data of citizens (and citizens of other countries), without our even knowing it. Under the ruse of protecting us from terrorists, they began collecting our phone calls, our emails, our text messages, and all online activity. They were keeping track of where we went and whom we spoke with.  And they were building servers to store all of our digital lives into perpetuity. Without our knowledge and without our consent. They were violating the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, whose Article 12 states: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence".

As Gus Hunt of the CIA bragged in front of an audience (you can watch the video online here), “At the CIA,” he said, “we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever.” And collecting everything they were!

Thankfully Edward Snowden has integrity and a deep sense of loyalty to his fellow citizens. Knowing he would either end up in prison or in exile for blowing the whistle, Mr. Snowden sacrificed his own freedom and well-paying career to inform the American public that their government was abusing their rights. This book tells his story and what a story it is! I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It is brilliantly written and utterly engaging!  

I wish I had read this before the first round of this year's Goodreads Choice awards because it would have been my pick for best memoir.  Unfortunately, it didn't make it to the final... but it should have.   

Mr. Snowden doesn't divulge any new information about the government in this book but it is captivating nonetheless. Some of the technology was over my head but that didn't matter; it still thrilled me! I would have liked to know more about what we as average people can and should do to protect our data but that's the only thing I felt was lacking in this book. That will need to be found in another book.

If you want to know what led up to Mr. Snowden's whistleblowing; if you, like I had, wonder about his integrity because he's living in Russia and want to know why; if you want to know what all he revealed, then you need to read this book. If you want to know the outcome of Mr. Snowden's bravery, you should read this book. If you question his motives and wonder if he's a hero or traitor, you will want to read this book.  Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan .
944 reviews1,889 followers
October 23, 2022
Edward Sowden is the name of a person who redefined the word privacy.

He revealed government programs that collected people's private data.

"The government should be afraid of the people, the people shouldn't be afraid of the government."


This book tells us why Snowden became a whistleblower and why he went into exile. If you are someone who values privacy, this is a book you should never miss.
Profile Image for Alok Mishra.
Author 5 books1,182 followers
December 2, 2019
I am not judging the person - Snowden is a person who changed the very way we used to think. He introduced to the world the dirty secrets that we could have never known otherwise. However, I am just sharing my thoughts about his book.
Divided into three parts, the book narrates Snowden's story to the readers. He has been direct and amusing at times and symbolic as well, less frequently, nevertheless. Part one has been pulled a little longer than it could ideally be. The second part introduces the readers to his days at CIA and realisation and the third part introduces to the daring act and thereafter. To be honest, I am somewhat biased because I like Snowden as a person. His book, on the other hand, is good but not as good as we know his stories from other sources... still, you will like reading it!
Profile Image for KC.
2 reviews3 followers
September 14, 2019
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?

Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,845 followers
November 2, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Elle.
584 reviews1,254 followers
September 11, 2020
I did not intend on writing this review on 9/11, which I guess could be considered appropriate or inappropriate depending on your perspective. I actually finished this book yesterday for what it’s worth.

I was a child in September, 2001, so I don’t remember specific rollbacks in privacy; I didn’t have any real privacy to speak of at that point. But I do remember the way the adults around me changed. Three months after having to stand up and say the pledge of allegiance again, in the middle of the school day on a random Tuesday, my school’s choir sang a song entitled “American Tears” about heroes and firefighters and pilgrims (?) to a gym full of sobbing parents and teachers. At the time I was like, ‘Wow we must be amazing singers.’ And while I would like to continue thinking that they were just blown away by my solo two-thirds through the song, the more likely and obvious conclusion is that they were reacting to the words themselves. We were in a stage of unflappable patriotism, a stage that has extended over the past 19 years.

One of the more damaging things about this rise of hyper-aggressive patriotism is that we started to make allowances in our personal liberties that we would have never accepted pre-9/11. All the government had to do was mention “terrorism” or “national security” and they were given a legal hall pass to act in whatever way they pleased. And in a country where the the worst thing you could be accused of being was ‘unAmerican’, any criticism was headed off before it had a chance to be truly considered.

This is the version of America that Edward Snowden came of age in. Like many others, he wanted to serve his country, because he assumed his country was serving its people. I was only somewhat familiar with him based off of the few news snippets I’d come across during the past 7 years and the trailer for the Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie Snowden from 2016 (I did not actually watch the film). But it was a Last Week Tonight with John Oliver story from 2015 that first gave me any background information about why Snowden did what he did. It’s been five years since that piece aired and I did go and rewatch it to see if the reporting holds up. It definitely does. ‘Government Surveillance’

A good amount of time is spent going over Snowden’s early years and the beginning of his career. He talks about his family, his personal life and relationships, just as much as he does explaining the interworking of the NSA and other government agencies. This is as intentional as it is necessary. I’m sure Snowden would have preferred to keep much of this personal information to himself, but unfortunately it’s not just his technical expertise that’s being judged here.

One of the first things the government will do to discredit whistleblowers is to paint their actions as a deficit of character, by going after who they are as a person. If the public doesn’t trust the source of information because they believe he or she is working for their own selfish motivations, our leaders won’t have to address the validity of their claims at all. So there in lies the difficult task of trying to convince millions of people to like you, while being in exile in a hostile foreign country.

I don’t want to get into too many specifics of Edward Snowden’s experience; it’s his story to tell. But the system of mass surveillance in the United States that has grown over the past 2 decades is inexcusable at best and sinister at worst. My only criticism of what he did isn’t related to the government at all, but how he kept his partner, Lindsay, in the dark during the whole ordeal. If he did indeed trust her, I feel as though depriving her of the decision and time to prepare herself for the incoming storm was unfair. Maybe not cruel in intent, but in effect.

And for those outside of the US reading this, please know your country is likely allowing the same thing to happen to you. The UK, Canada, Australia, etc—you are also being surveilled. The end of Permanent Record does not let the reader get away with a proverbial shoulder shrug in response. This is a call to action not just in the vague ‘Vote!’ talking point that we’ve been beaten over the head with for the past year. Frankly, it was the Obama administration that continued Bush era surveillance programs and trapped Snowden abroad. Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for seven years under Obama as well. This isn’t as simple a solution as switching political parties. There needs to be radical change in the way people, companies and governments approach individual privacy, or we will continue to fall deeper and deeper into the surveillance state we’re currently living in.



A week ago courts struck down the NSA surveillance programs Edward Snowden exposed back in 2013 as illegal and unconstitutional. Will the charges against him be terminated as well?
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,332 reviews106 followers
March 29, 2020
Popsugar challenge 2020 - A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but its unrelated to it

Mind blown. Utterly mind blown.

I'm typing out a book review on the world wide web but I'm thinking I never want to go online or touch a smartphone again. Mind blown.

We know they know but I never really understood the level to which they knew.

Edward Snowden has educated me, from the invisible wall in Super Mario Brothers to hidden offices under pineapple fields. As someone who isn't at all techy Edward spoke to me in a language I could understand. I half knew that delete doesnt exist in the world of tech but I didnt know why. I feel much more informed about many techy things having read this. I also feel a bit giddy with adoration for this articulate man who trashed his life for the general public. It doesnt matter if you agree with what he did or not, we all had a right to know. We all have a right to agree or disagree with what our governments do, that's the whole point of democracy.

It really struck home when he talks about how some people in various countries are dying for the freedoms and privacy rights that the western world has, the arab spring which I saw first hand while living in Egypt and which Snowden mentions in this book is one example, while in the west our governments were actively dismantling those very same freedoms and privacy rights.

Will I use the internet, my phone any differently? Probably not but I'll be more aware, I'm especially reassured by the recent change in GDPR laws in Europe but I'd definitely think more carefully when mindlessly surfing the net.

Whether your an IT nerd or not, I think this is worth a read.

5 stars, I was totally hooked. Potentially my favourite non fiction ever.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,306 reviews103 followers
September 18, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Hamad.
972 reviews1,284 followers
August 14, 2021
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me

“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.”


I came upon this book by chance and then I checked out the synopsis on GR and it sounded super intriguing. It is also very rare to find a book like this with such a high average rating, this currently has 36K ratings and an average rating of 4.3 and I can still say it deserves more recognition!

Among all the non-fiction books I read, I only gave 5 stars to another one which is “When Breath Becomes Air”. I know I am not the easiest reader to please but when it comes to non-fiction, I preserve this rating for those books that are eye-opening and life-changing and in all honesty, I felt Permanent Record was one of those books!

I can’t say much about the author because the book is his autobiography leading to his early adult life when he exposed the mass surveillance system! I think it is important to read all the book because those early chapter makes us see the author as a human and I liked how he showed that he is a human who is not perfect and he does both good and bad stuff. I was certainly not expecting it to be this well written for someone who is not a typical author and works in a completely different field!

There are few negative reviews with people saying Snowden is playing the victim and this book is self-serving! I guess if you say that after finishing this book then there is not much place to argue with you but I am glad that it has been received well in general! I guess my views changed a lot from when I was younger to the present day and this book only proved my current beliefs even more!

“The government should be afraid of the people, the people shouldn’t be afraid of the government.”


Summary: In all honesty, I think this is a book that should be read by every single person who uses the internet so if you are reading this review, then I highly recommend the book even if you were not the biggest fan of non-fiction. This was truly eye-opening and helpful and at the same time, it was very well written and engaging! A job well done from the author’s part!
Profile Image for Claudia.
942 reviews506 followers
November 22, 2019
LE 22/11: just came across this podcast, thanks to a friend of mine, and it's excellent:
https://www.reddit.com/r/JoeRogan/com...


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.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,380 reviews518 followers
February 23, 2020
While I was reading this, my usually well-informed husband said "Isn't he the traitor involved with Assange who lives in Russia"? Snowden did not release the classified NSA documents to WikiLeaks but rather three reputable journalists - but I think the fact that he ended up living in Moscow (not by his choice) is confusing. I was skeptical myself. I found the book excellent, eye opening and educational. I believe Snowden's earnest attempt to educate us and protect our privacy is heroic.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,016 reviews555 followers
November 27, 2022
Like most people, to me the name Edward Snowden is synonymous with the term whistleblower. But if I’d been asked to explain exactly what he blew the whistle on I’d have struggled to provide a cogent answer. So, time to fill a gap in my knowledge base. In this book, Snowden tells the story of his life up to and including the point in time he leaked thousands of highly classified documents and had found himself subsequently ‘beached’ in Russia, whilst en route to Ecuador. His American passport had been cancelled.

A self confessed computer geek, Snowden had spent time working with the CIA and NSA as a direct employee and as a contractor. He was a habitual trawler through and reader of documents and when he was posted to Hawaii his job was sufficiently undemanding to allow him to snoop around at will and his access to files was pretty much limitless. He became aware of the fact that a mass surveillance programme was being conducted by the NSA, an activity he believed to be unconstitutional. He decided that he couldn’t allow this to go unreported and his belief was that reporting the activity through line management channels would be ineffective – as these were the very people carrying out the information gathering. So having pulled together a vast store of documents he decided he’d contact a couple of journalists he respected and provide them with access to the information he’d ‘stolen’.

The majority of this book deals with Snowden’s upbringing (middle class and uneventful) and his career. There’s very little here that’s either surprising or, frankly, particularly interesting. The meat of the story comes in the last quarter of the book as he plots and executes his plan. He decided to leave his partner and his family completely in the dark regarding his activities and on a given day he simply made an excuse for having to travel to Hong Kong for work purposes and skipped the country with his electronic files. His loved ones learned of his deeds via the evening news channels when his findings started to be made public.

It takes a particular kind of person to do what he did. His political views (he admits that in this regard he was influenced by his partner) obviously played a significant role. He believes in a society where people should be allowed to make mistakes as they grow and develop and that these should be allowed to disappear into the ether as time passes. He does not accept that governments should be able to dig up what they might deem to be negative views or acts from a person’s past any time it suits them and that such information on everyone be stored in perpetuity to be used whenever the state so wishes.

I fully understand and accept his point. He was a brave man to do what he did, but it does take a certain type of committed individual to see through a plan such as the one he concocted. Eventually he was reunited with his partner and they currently both reside in Moscow. What the future brings, who knows. In truth, I found this to be an interesting chapter in modern history but for the most part told in a fairly dull and uninspiring way.
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
669 reviews382 followers
November 11, 2019
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."
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,033 reviews361 followers
November 19, 2019
Like many others I had read Glenn Greenwald's articles regarding Edward Snowden, the CIA analyst and whistle-blower. I did my own research regarding the plight of whistle blowers in the US and the content that Snowden allegedly released. To say that I was thrilled to read Permanent Record by Snowden is an understatement. His story in his own words. It was everything I anticipated. Snowden is brilliant and his book is brilliantly written.

The fact is there are those who are going to love or hate this book without ever cracking the cover. That's fine, except theirs isn't a review of the book. The book is well written and very necessary especially given that, bowing to political pressure, Greenwald and the Intercept have deleted the Snowden events from their archives in a very Orwellian manner no less. When we cannot count on news sources to keep important records in their files then we have lost any hope of a free and open press. So, this book has been read, reviewed and it will stay on my shelf along with other "deleted" texts and permanent records that our government and our press have chosen to erase from our history!
Profile Image for donna backshall.
610 reviews170 followers
September 23, 2021
"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 at 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.
Profile Image for Karen.
553 reviews2 followers
November 2, 2019
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-...
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,663 followers
February 15, 2021
So fascinating to hear Snowden's story. I feel like I was sympathetic to him from the beginning of this whole story and I followed enough of it to know the major plot points. My impression of him as an earnest person trying to do the right thing remains intact after reading this book. But it does make me wonder if his idealism about the internet wasn't the reason he was so disillusioned. I guess putting myself in his position, I probably wouldn't have at all been surprised by the NSA's actions. Probably most people aren't? That's too bad for us. But Snowden believed in the potential of internet privacy and the power of tech to be a democratizing force. He was gung ho on the Iraq war and joined the military after 9/11--afterwards, he worked for a private contractor and was surprised by what he found out about the NSA. Anyway, this was a good read.
Profile Image for Woman Reading .
420 reviews254 followers
January 24, 2021
traitor or patriotic whistleblower?

In June 2013, Edward Snowden burst onto the global stage by publicly asserting that the US government was essentially spying on all Americans without their knowledge and thus without their consent. The US government launched an international manhunt for the National Security Agency (NSA) contractor they called a "traitor." Snowden was en route to Ecuador on a multi-leg itinerary when he was run to ground in the Moscow airport. He was effectively grounded when the US State Department revoked his American passport. Snowden's intended final destination was Ecuador, where he had been granted political asylum for being a whistleblower.

Permanent Record is Snowden's blatant attempt to persuade readers that he's a patriotic whistleblower. Snowden's family has ancestral roots that stretched back to the Pilgrims while more recent generations have served in the US Coast Guard. His penchant for public service took a different route as his childhood was shaped by interacting with the nascent internet of the 1990s. He developed technical skills as a hacker, which increased his independent streak. After the 9/11 attacks, he volunteered for the US Army. He separated from the Army after an injury.

Back to Plan B, Snowden sought work after completing certification as a systems administrator and engineer and obtaining security clearance from the federal government. More opportunities as a contractor existed than as an actual federal government employee because that was the Intelligence Community's (IC) main way of increasing staff while staying within its budget. Starting in 2005, Snowden bounced back and forth across contracting positions and from the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) to the NSA.

The IC had received a stunning blow for not anticipating and preventing the 9/11 attacks. In 2001, President Bush had given an executive order for the "Presidential Surveillance Program" (PSP) in which the NSA would be allowed to use wiretaps without obtaining a warrant. A 2005 New York Times article disclosed that telecoms had passed massive amounts of telecommunication records to the NSA under the PSP. These included records of people who shouldn't have been included had the normal procedure of obtaining a warrant been followed. An unclassified report by various IC agencies' Inspector Generals was released to the public in July 2009. The report stated that the PSP had expired in 2007.

But in his 2009 NSA posting in Tokyo, Snowden found the proverbial "smoking gun." In the process of eliminating duplicates for the creation of a backup system for the NSA, the highly classified version of the PSP report crossed his desk. This report not only laid out how extensively the NSA collected information on the American public, but that it was still ongoing.

Snowden's health crisis with epileptic seizures delayed his follow-up of the smoking gun. But the issue of what he viewed as the IC's violation of Americans' civil rights as outlined in the Fourth Amendment remained with him. In 2012, Snowden worked as a contractor systems administrator in the NSA. He deliberately searched for the technical methods in which the NSA conducted mass surveillance and he found them. The US and its colleagues in the Five Eyes Network have commandeered internet technologies in ways that sound like science fiction or dystopian novels. For instance, the United Kingdom uses a program to save a snapshot every five minutes from the cameras of people video chatting on platforms like Yahoo messenger. The US attaches malware to any web requests which trigger flags, be they keywords, email addresses, or phone numbers. The US is thus able to compile records of anybody's web usage, from documents and photos stored on the cloud to full blown Skype sessions. With the data storage facilities recently built, the IC is able to compile and save a permanent record on anybody and everybody.

I already had an opinion of Snowden's action before I began reading Permanent Record and I haven't changed my mind since completing it. I did find some of his justification to be heavy handed and over-done, so this is not a stellar biography. But I do regard Snowden as a whistleblower, not as a traitor. National security is vital so I hope that Snowden didn't jeopardize any IC undercover employees with his disclosures. But why should that mean that the IC stomps over all Americans' Constitutional rights?

I made my first ever visit to mainland China in 2019. There were security cameras everywhere. I carried my passport with me, especially since it and my visa, needed to be inspected and scanned just to visit Tiananmen Square. In my hotel room, every time news coverage of Hong Kong protests began, the screen would go black within 15 seconds and for the duration of the news report. Facial recognition program cameras were displayed in every airport's security line. I'm sure that I only saw the tip of the iceberg of their censorship and surveillance capabilities. As an American, the extent of this surveillance was incredibly new to me and I did not like it.

Permanent Record makes it clear that the US government has similar capabilities and was (or still is) using it on Americans. My experience of visiting a surveillance state, American history like McCarthyism, and books like Stasiland have warned me about that type of capability and the ability it has to tempt the power hungry and ambitious. I want the Constitution as my shield.
Profile Image for Kusaimamekirai.
642 reviews214 followers
October 9, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Ilana.
598 reviews158 followers
December 7, 2019
Never imagined I’d be so spellbound by this book. Fascinating. In his memoir, Edward Snowden first explains how revealing his life story and intimate details of his life is a difficult exercise for him. Especially for someone who has worked in the spying community, where self-effacement is the rule of the game, and appearing as bland and unmemorable as possible are essential tools one must adopt and project at all times to evade detection.

He explains that telling his life story, his family history, his experiences growing up are intrinsic to understanding his motivations for the actions he took in 2013, when he took on the role of whistleblower. They are essential to seeing the full picture, of where his sense of ethics came from, and his sincere and deep commitment to the principles of the individual rights as stated in the American constitution. Principles which the government agencies he worked for knowingly and maliciously perverted in the name of the so-called “War on Terror”. He recounts how 9/11 influenced his sense of patriotism and the need to actively join this war, having bought into fear-mongering disseminated by the Bush admiration, which effectively used the tragic events of that day to turn America into a police state. And then how that administration and Obama’s too, went further, taking advantage of the nascent technology the internet made possible to covertly collect data on intimate details of each and every individual on the planet connected to a computer or mobile phone, and then developed systems to enable them to keep those records available into perpetuity.

He begins with his fascination for computer technology as the last generation to have been born in the pre-internet age. He reminisces on his early introduction to dial-up internet—from its early days, as a community of idealists passionate about the free sharing of open-source information and knowledge, and as gaming enthusiasts, before it became what he describes as the unrecognizable monetizing monster it’s become today. Then goes on to describe how government agency processes came to play a large role online and on social media, in covert ways completely unbeknownst to the public, in top secret covert operations that were hidden even from top government officials, in ways that make what should be dry and boring subjects, completely spellbinding.

This is of course where come the revelation about how we are all under constant surveillance, and how it isn’t the actual content of our communications that put us at risk, but the metadata that is extrapolated from it, which can be put to incredibly sinister uses. This book reveals beyond a doubt that Big Brother is all too real, and that the nation that prides itself on protecting individual rights is now a democracy only by a mere fiction. But most of us living outside from its borders and its continual propaganda loop, already know this, and Democracy itself, worldwide, is very much in peril. Snowden deserves to be celebrated as a hero of our time for revealing hard truths about institutions that are meant to protect the public, but instead actively disinform and betray the very principles they were founded on.

Not a joyful read, but truth is its own reward somehow. I was continually impressed by how Snowden presents the content and makes it so fascinating, considering the dry, technical aspects of much of the content. He reveals his process step by step. How he started as a naive young tech and slowly discovered secrets that progressively caused him greater crises of conscience. How he tried to ignore that conscience, but then found he had no choice but obey his core principles, and how he had to then go about the difficult task of retrieving the information and making it understandable to journalists and the wider public so they would realise the importance of what was at stake. Which is the peril of our very freedom, when all the information about our lives can be used against us at any moment, by any institution, for any nefarious reason they might invent.

An issue, it goes without saying, that concerns us all, and which we owe it to ourselves to be informed about. And about which we must keep an ongoing conversation, and demand that our freedoms and our democracies be kept in place. A must read.
Profile Image for David.
1,025 reviews38 followers
September 23, 2019
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.
Profile Image for vonblubba.
223 reviews3 followers
October 15, 2019
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"
Profile Image for Michelle Curie.
699 reviews343 followers
December 2, 2019
We live in an age in which it seems unthinkable to exist without technology. It's rare that we'll meet someone without a phone, a laptop or other devices connected to the internet. We've reached a stage in our civilisation where we can't be quite sure anymore who owns whom.

"When your equipment works, you'll work, but when your equipment breaks down you'll break down, too. Your possessions would possess you."

Six years ago, Edward Snowden revealed that the US-government was secretly collecting personal data of internet users all over the world, attempting mass surveillance. In this book, he recalls his childhood, his rise in the world of the CIA and NSA and later how he turned his back on the system that he helped to build.



"To give an account of my life while protecting the privacy of my loved ones and not exploding legitimate government secrets is no simple task, but it is my task. Between those two responsibilities — that is where to find me."

I didn't expect this to be the page turner it turned out to be. Snowden writes with a purposeful, entertaining voice. Even if you're not tech-savvy you'll be able to enjoy the stories of how young Edward learned the biggest lesson in his life though playing Super Mario. He's also able of giving a relatable and clear account of what it's like having grown up in an age where the internet was born and becoming what it is today.

"But there's always a danger in letting even the most qualified person rise too far, too fast, before they've had enough time to get cynical and abandon their idealism."

We follow him through all stages of his life: from innocent childhood, to becoming a spy, whistleblower and later a man in exile. The question of whether Snowden is a hero or a criminal is for everyone themselves to answer, but this memoir definitely proves his sense of loyalty and integrity to fellow citizens. He acted upon a strong set of morals, disregarding the danger he exposed himself to.

This has been an enjoyable and important read. I feel like I understood his motifs for becoming a whistleblower better, while also increasing my own knowledge of what privacy really means and why it matters as much as it does.
Profile Image for BookTrib.com .
1,462 reviews131 followers
Read
September 18, 2019
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...
Profile Image for Venky.
928 reviews327 followers
December 27, 2019
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.
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