‘Permanent Record’ is Edward Snowden’s recent autobiography, and a fascinating insight into US government internet surveillance. The preface opening sets the frame nicely:
“My name is Edward Joseph Snowden. I used to work for the government, but now I work for the public. It took me nearly three decades to recognise that there was a distinction, and when I did, it got me into a bit of trouble at the office. As a result, I now spend my time trying to protect the public from the person I used to be a – a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA), just another young technologist out to build what I was sure would be a better world.
My career in the American Intelligence Community (IC) only lasted a short seven years, which I’m surprised to realise is just one year longer than the time I’ve since spent in exile in a country that wasn’t my choice. During that seven-year stint, however, I participated in the most significant change in the history of American espionage – the change from targeted surveillance of individuals to the mass surveillance of entire populations. I helped make it technologically feasible for a single government to collect all the world’s digital communications, store them for ages, and search through them at will.”
His revelations make ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories redundant. You have to respect a man who has risked his life, a long prison sentence, and accepted exile – to tell the truth, and ring warning bells for the world. And you have to admire his commitment to cherished principles. It’s surprising he’s been left alive!
Snowden tells his story in an engaging and honest way. We also learn about a generation whose adult lives were shaped by the arrival of the internet and its rapid morphing from collegial, nerd-sharing space to today’s ubiquitous world worrying web. A Must-Read!