Permanent Record

Edward Snowden. Metropolitan, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-23723-1
The notorious and celebrated whistleblower---who divulged top-secret documents revealing the mass surveillance of citizens' phone calls, emails, and internet activity by the U. S. National Security Agency and other intelligence organizations---recounts his battle with the system in this impassioned memoir. Snowden, a former systems engineer and NSA contractor and now board president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation from his Moscow exile, presents himself as animated by a combination of idealism and covert nonconformity, someone who subverted the rules as a civic duty from middle school history class to his CIA training program. (As a teenager he hacked classified files at Los Alamos National Laboratory, then pestered lab officials into fixing the security flaw.) Snowden's well-observed portrait of intelligence work reveals spooky Langley night shifts, spies pilfering nude selfies from private online accounts, and his own intricate, suspenseful operation to steal documents using byzantine encryption and tiny storage cards smuggled past guards. His somewhat paranoid brief against the surveillance state is less convincing; he envisions the government permanently recording every communication, movement, misdemeanor, and sin, subjecting citizens to "oppression by total automated law enforcement," but he cites no cases of serious harm from NSA surveillance and doesn't make a strong argument that it leads inevitably to oppressive control. Still, Snowden's many admirers will find his saga both captivating and inspiring. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 09/17/2019
Release date: 09/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-250-62269-3
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