Review of 'Permanent Record'

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

permanent_record.jpg “Permanent Record” is the autobiography of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden starting with his childhood growing up with both parents involved in the public sector and both strongly pro-American. At a very early age he discovered his talent with computers which distracted him from his studies at school. Despite his lack of interest in school he was deeply affected by the 9/11 attacks and subsequent war on terror by the US. He enlisted in the army though left the service after an injury, eventually taking a position at the CIA in 2006. His computer skills eventually landed him a role at Dell working for the NSA and the CIA. His role gave him access to a large amount of top secret material and he grew more and more concerned about the abuse of power he saw from these agencies meant to serve the American people. They routinely broke the law by spying on innocent Americans with a vast program of monitoring then lied about it to the public and congress. Struggling with his conscience and discomfort he eventually decided to expose this lie to the public, copying large amounts of classified material, leaving the country, then releasing it to the press from a hotel room in Hong Kong.

A fascinating read from one of the most controversial people of the modern age Snowden here manages to convey the reason why he betrayed the trust he was given when working for the country and the emotional pain it has caused him ever since. The “Permanent Record” of the title is the idea that everything we do online is recorded and monitored by the very people who are meant to protect us – It is on our permanent record. I am, of course, familiar with Snowden's story but it is interesting to see him explaining his actions and his interesting background. Far from the social anti-establishment loner he is portrayed as in the American military he is highly intelligent and very patriotic man who painfully had to leave his home for something he deeply believed in – The rights of his fellow man. While there is no doubt Edward Snowden is a highly controversial person and equally there is no doubt he broke the law, there is also no doubt that he cares deeply for his country and would stop at nothing to defend the rights and freedom of it's citizens.

Despite the technical nature of his work, “Permanent Record” is easy enough to follow and understand with Snowden's simple and clear prose. He manages to explain the complicated very clearly and precisely meaning that you don't really need to know too much about computers to appreciate what he is saying.

An amazing and insightful view of a modern freedom fighter.

See also my review of the documentary CitzenFour which tells the story of Edward Snowden's initial disclosures to the media.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2021-11-06

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Publication Date: 2019

ISBN: 9781529035650