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Permanent Record Kindle Edition
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From the Back Cover
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. Now, Snowden reveals for the 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 candour, Permanent Record is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.
‘Riveting’ Financial Times
‘Gripping’ Washington Post
‘Reads like a literary thriller’ New York Times
“A riveting account... Reads like a literary thriller... Snowden pushes the reader to reflect more seriously on what every American should be asking already.”
―The New York Times
“Gripping... Snowden demonstrates a knack for explaining in lucid and compelling language the inner workings of [CIA and NSA] systems and the menace he came to believe they posed.”
―The Washington Post
“Snowden eventually decided his loyalties lay not with the agencies he was working for, but the public they were set up to protect. He felt ordinary citizens were being betrayed, and he had a duty to explain how.... His account of the experiences that led him to take momentous decisions, along with the details he gives of his family background, serve as a robust defense against accusations that he is a traitor."
“Even for those of us who’ve followed the Snowden revelations closely, Permanent Record is full of surprises.... A deeply reluctant whistleblower, Snowden also emerges as a peculiarly American patriot, with roots that go back to Plymouth Rock.... As his memoir makes clear, all the techniques he exposed in 2013 remain in place.”
“Well-written... Snowden’s descriptions of the real impact of the various surveillance systems he disclosed―stripped of abstract concepts and technical jargon―are some of the most disturbing parts of the book.... Offers a useful reminder of the god-like omniscience that digital data can bestow on those with the power to collect it all.”
“Snowden’s book is straightforward, admirably so.... Having gazed through the windows of the panopticon, he experienced that rarity, a moment of vision: The world must be told these things I know. Against absurd odds, he delivered his knowledge to us.”
―Jonathan Lethem, The New York Review of Books
“An extraordinary book... A riveting blend of spycraft as Snowden painstakingly figures out how to confirm his suspicions without tipping off his bosses, and a brilliant ethical treatise as Snowden reveals the reasoning that took him from each step to the next... The best proof yet that Snowden is exactly what he appears to be: a gung-ho guy from a military family who believes deeply in service and the values embodied by the US constitution, who explored multiple avenues of squaring his oath to uphold those values with the corrupt and illegal practices he saw around him, and worked out a breathtakingly bold and ambitious plan to do what no one else had ever managed: to expose wrongdoing in a way that provoked sustained interest and sparked action.”
―Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
- File Size : 752 KB
- Print Length : 328 pages
- Word Wise : Enabled
- ASIN : B07VWQCK4K
- Language: : English
- Publisher : Macmillan (17 September 2019)
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,845 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from India
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Maybe you are reading the book just to learn what happened, or maybe you want to know why. But, I hope this book will help to think about the decisions you make in your life and how that affects rest of the world. Let it be a group picture posted in Facebook or writing the next new tool for intelligence community.
I always wonder how someone can take such a big decision which will gonna have impact on whole life and to all people those connected to that person. I always wanted to know about the story of such an amazing person.
This book is about the personal life of Mr. Snowden and it will not give you much of technical details what he has done but you'll have enough motivation after reading the book.
This memoir makes for straightforward and engaging reading. Snowden was one of the kids who grew up in the new internet-age of the 1990s. This a time when most school kids spent their time in front of the computer, playing video games or posting on social media or just browsing and researching. His family has always worked for the US government, going back to the Revolutionary war. Snowden's grandfather was a rear admiral, his father worked as a coast guard, and his mother worked for the NSA in the backroom. Snowden himself joined the army soon after 9/11, but the military discharged him within months due to injuries. His geekiness with computers got him a job in the CIA, eventually landing him in Hawaii as an NSA contractor. We all know what happened afterward. The one statement that stood out for me in the book was his explanation of his actions post-Hawaii. Snowden says, "The most important decisions in life are made subconsciously and only express themselves consciously once fully formed - once you are finally strong enough to admit to yourself that this is what your conscience has already chosen for you, this is the course that your beliefs have decreed."
The book deals mainly with his actions in the context of democracy, freedom, the Constitution, the role of the press, whistleblowing, national security, and so on. I shall touch on a few of these aspects which captured my interest.
We have the image of organizations like the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA as high-security fortresses, which are difficult to penetrate and compromise. Mostly it must be true. So, then, how did Snowden copy thousands of documents and escape with them amidst all the security, hierarchy, checks, and balances in the NSA? The memoir provides the answer in a few places. The critical point is that the strength of these large computer systems is also its main weakness. Their complexity means that even the people running them do not necessarily understand how everything worked. They didn't know where things overlapped and where the gaps were. Only the smart and competent System Administrator knew it. And Snowden was one.
Secondly, Snowden says that there is incomparable beauty in Cryptological art. A little bit of math can accomplish what all the guns and barbed wire cannot. A small amount of math can help you keep a secret. And he shows how he uses it to invalidate all his files before preparing to fly to Ecuador via Moscow and Havana.
Thirdly, modern digital technology has become so complex that even when something is explicitly said, it hardly registers itself in the minds of people who are supposed to be our watchdogs. Snowden gives a stunning example from his own experience in the NSA.
Ira 'Gus' Hunt was the Chief Technology Officer of the CIA. In March 2013, he gave a presentation to a small crowd of journalists and a broad open audience over the Internet about the CIA's ambitions and capacities. Gus said that the CIA tries to collect everything and hang on to them forever. He further amplified it by saying that it is nearly within their grasp to compute on ALL (Gus' emphasis!) human-generated information. Worse still, Gus told the journalists that the CIA could track their smartphones, even when they are switched off and that they could surveil every single one of their communications. As if this was not enough, he concluded by saying that technology is moving faster than government or law or the public can keep up. He advised the journalists that they should be asking what their rights are and who owns their data! Snowden says that only 'The Huffington Post' covered Gus' public confession. The video itself remains on YouTube even after six years. It was viewed just 313 times (the last time he checked), out of which twelve were by Snowden himself!
As I read this, I was reminded of the philosophical wisdom of Karl Marx when he said, "There is something in human history like retribution, and it is a rule of historical retribution that its instrument is forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself." Hence, it was the nobility, not the peasants, who abolished the French monarchy in 1792. Similarly, it was an insider who dealt a blow to the NSA. It didn't come from the public or the journalists.
Finally, we have to take stock of the state of affairs six years after Snowden went public. Are things any better, or are they worse still? Amidst all the depressing news about the widespread prevalence of mass surveillance in most Western democracies, it is easy to lose heart. We may feel that we are living more and more under conditions that are similar to the Stasi-dominated East Germany of the 20th century. But, Snowden draws our attention to the significant gains since his revelations in 2013. His exposé roused both houses of Congress, resulting in multiple investigations into NSA abuses. They concluded that the NSA repeatedly lied regarding the nature and efficacy of its mass surveillance programs. Congress then passed the USA Freedom Act, which amended Section 215 to prohibit the bulk collection of Americans' phone records explicitly. It means that these records would remain where they initially remained - in the private control of the Telecoms. The government would have to formally request specific ones with a FISC warrant to access them.
In the private sector, the giant internet companies also were forced to act. Apple adopted secure default encryption for its iPhones and iPads. Google did the same for its Android products and Chromebooks. However, Snowden says that the most significant change was that businesses throughout the world switched their websites from using unencrypted HTTP to fully encrypted HTTPS, which helps prevent third party interception of Web traffic. 2016 was a landmark year when more web traffic was encrypted than unencrypted since the invention of the Internet.
Also, in 2016, the EU parliament passed the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). It seeks to standardize whistleblower protections across its 28-member states as well as establish a standardized legal framework for privacy protection.
Snowden himself, in exile, heads the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), which protects and empowers public-interest journalism. FPF has supported Signal in the development of SecureDrop, an open-source app that allows media organizations to accept documents from anonymous whistleblowers and other sources securely. As the years have gone by, Snowden now believes that an encrypted smartphone is a more robust help to a journalist or dissident than legislative reforms of the surveillance regime in their host countries.
All these acts are significant gains for the common man from Snowden's courageous and selfless sacrifice of his future. His detractors never tire of pointing out the 'irreparable damage' he did to the security and future of the US and how he presented a bonanza on a platter to its enemies. In short, Edward Snowden is a volcano that destroyed everything in its path. However, this charge is nothing new. Other whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg and Chelsea Manning have faced the same criticism. Even the USSR used to make the same accusations against its famous dissidents during the Cold War years. Towards the end of his memoirs, Snowden quotes a few lines of native Hawaiian wisdom from his wife Lindsay Mills' diary to answer such criticism.
Lindsay Mills writes,"...I remember the guide at Kilauea saying that volcanoes are only destructive in the short term. In the long run, they move the world. They create islands, cool the planet, and enrich the soil. The ash they shoot into the air sprinkles down as minerals, which fertilize the earth and make new life grow…."
It's a very good copy with good quality paper, but it's a pirated copy for sure with printing errors on the very first page.
The alignement is off!
And I have had so many issues with the books I get through Amazon lately, I will soon stop ordering through Amazon... I do not support pirated books!
Of course, we all understand the reasons behind such security procedures and for the sake of the greater good – public safety – we have learnt to comply with those rules. But, there is supposed to be a line drawn between allowing oneself to basic scrutiny and keeping one’s dignity intact. For example, we are willing to allow our bags to be scanned at shopping malls, metro stations and airports, but will we tolerate the security personnel tailing us all through our presence at these places, watching our every move and marking our every word?
Now, imagine the social media, your chat applications, your blogs and the whole web. What if I told you that there are people who watch your every move and record whatever you click, write, like, repost or simply gaze at for more than a normal amount of time? Will you still feel alright about it or will you feel indignant? Nope, I am not talking just about cookies and trackers that websites like Amazon or Facebook use to track our behaviors and preferences, in order to make money by showing us customized advertisements. I am talking about organized, serious large-scale surveillance. The scale in which your movement is monitored through CCTV cameras, your phone calls are listened to, your chat texts are read, your web browsing history is for the whole world to see, your personal, intimate photos are not really personal and intimate, your banking transactions are scrutinized with more attention than you yourself would pay, and your current location in the world is pinpointed with precision. Even a simple smartphone user will know that these are not impossible imaginations. Would you prefer to subject yourself to such close scrutiny day in and day out?
Edward Snowden is the one who put his life on line to tell the world that this kind of mass surveillance is possible and that his country is actively pursuing it on an unforeseen, global scale. Once a part of some of the most secretive organizations in the word – the CIA & the NSA – he is now being hunted by those very organizations for the ‘crime’ of having leaked ‘top secret’ documents on America’s surveillance practices. He is charged for acts of espionage and branded a ‘traitor’ by many of his own countrymen for whose sake he decided to take the risk. This comprehensive autobiography tells the tale of that brave whistleblower, right from his ordinary childhood to his current exile in Moscow.
Snowden describes his childhood, his ancestry and how his parents had been an influence in his life choices. His growth as a curious but not so pedagogic youngster, his transitioning into a patriotic youngster who unsuccessfully attempted to join the army, his eventually taking up a job at the CIA is all depicted vividly. Through these pages, Snowden gives a glimpse of his formative years – emotional as well as ethical. The book gathers pace from the chapter where Snowden starts recounting his unease at the government’s disrespect for individual privacy and intrusion into common man’s lives in the form of mass surveillance. The last couple of chapters act as worthy climax to a well-written book. Especially the one where Lindsay (his girlfriend who went on to become his wife) recounts her experience in the hands of the government, after Snowden went public with his findings, feels like a Hollywood movie. Well-paced and very well narrated.
These may be the times where we take pleasure in flaunting the details of our personal lives in social media – our meals, our vehicles, our travels, our possessions, our passions or, worst of all, our bodies. But it is still about our volition, about what WE choose to flaunt and not what others want to peek at. We wouldn’t prefer someone peering into our phone screens or looking over our shoulders at the ATM.
We wouldn’t want someone to tail us throughout our daily lives – following us everywhere we go, making a note of where we went, whom we spoke to, how long we spoke, what we wrote and what we got in reply. With governments surreptitiously gearing up for such capabilities, dystopian days are not far ahead. Heroes like Snowden help us fight such unethical governments and corporates, by first making us aware of such possibilities and then by providing us with tools to fight such cyber-slavery.
This is a book that you must read and spread word about!
Top reviews from other countries
Obviously the initial pull to read the book is the NSA stuff, and the great chase which culminates in Snowden's refuge in Russia. But the book is so much more than that. His recounting of his childhood, and the joys of dial-up modems and irritating siblings, is wonderful nostalgia but always laced with his discomfort and struggle with the social structures around him.
The book's natural progression of explaining how the internet has changed in function, as he lived through those changes, unrolls as a beautifully written discussion of how we've reached the state of the Net we have today. It's easily light enough for non-techies to understand, but the insight and narration really opens up the questions of what we (society) demanded of the internet, and what it's done to us.
The book doesn't meander. There's no padding. But by the time you reach the releasing of the files and the round the world escape, it's very natural. Reading it, the chase is as engrossing to read as his thoughts on the Commodore 64. It's a great book, perhaps made all the greater if you can nod along with remembrances of life before 24/7 smartphones. Above all, it's hopeful of a better future.
(Couple of notes as a UK reader: The book is written in universal English, there's no bewildering US slang used. The book doesn't go into American politics or deep into American terms. There are a couple of pages of US history, mainly early on about Snowden's family tree, but it's not a diversion. It doesn't read like an American book, aimed at American readers, and leaving everyone else bewildered.)
I view him as a hero, a man who gave up life as he lived it to provide the American public and the world with the truth. This is a man who truly made a difference with his life.
This book, written by Snowden himself, is well written, intelligent, informative, and entertaining. It reads like you're sitting down listening to your best friend tell his life's story.
This book is an important masterpiece. We already knew Ed was extremely brave and extremely smart. Now we also know he's an extremely good writer. The words flow on the page with conciseness and emotion, and it's hard to put the book down once started. I can only imagine how many future whistleblowers it might inspire. How many tech experts it makes stop and think, "What am I doing? And who am I doing it for?"
But maybe we shouldn't be too surprised. The type of principled stand Ed took is deeply rooted not just in love, but also a humanist background. He had his head on screwed right before society's more evil parts could corrupt his wallet and make it think for him, as it often does.
This book is currently under attack by the US government. They try to sue to get his royalties. We always worry about the Chinese credit system ranking and blocking humans (as we should), but somewhat more rarely do we worry about how the financial system itself can be used to block us. (Incidentally, Ed's credit cards have been blocked too, as he's living his life in exile.) But to give back to Ed's sacrifice, perhaps money isn't even that important. Making his sacrifice not have been in vein is.
I do wonder if technology's progress can ever be stopped, though, in a kind of "Curb the company's reach for power through laws" type of ways. And then I wonder if delving even more deeply into that progress may instead be the answer -- to have counter-technology to recreate a power balance. One the one hand, by evolving tools that better encrypt our communication (or would I just become a higher-priority target by installing Ed's suggested messenger, Signal? Ah, the Chilling Effect!). On the other hand, by perhaps increasing transparency -- surveillance? -- of the secret services themselves. Would the intelligence worker, crouching over their latest iteration of XKEYSCORE or another illegal spying program, perform the same searches if they themselves had a camera on them -- watched by millions across the globe, shining light into the darkest corners of the tech cave?
Thank you, Ed, for doing just that -- shining light. May you and your wife and friends live a happy life in exile. My own country, Germany, was too cowardly to consider a safe harbor for you. But know you have the support from many of us citizens here. Love & peace!