"Permanent Record" by Edward Snowden

By Edward Snowden

Reviewed by Shari

ISBN 9781250772909

In 2014 Laura Poitrus’ film Citizen Four won an Academy Award for best documentary feature. The film was about Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who in 2013 revealed the NSA’s secret, mass surveillance program. The film began at the point when Snowden was holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong with enough NSA secret documents to get him tried for treason. I watched the film once it was released and was left with these questions:  How had Snowden arrived at such a momentous decision? Why Hong Kong? What was his personal history, his upbringing, his education? Exactly what was his position in the American intelligence establishment?

All of these questions and more were answered in his new memoir, Permanent Record (Henry Holt and Company, 2019). 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 became a spy, a whistleblower, and in exile, the internets’ conscience. Snowden is that boy who took to computers with gusto, with a brain that could manage and analyze massive amounts of data, develop systems, and who found himself literally faced with the moral and ethical questions that arise from the digital age. With extremely deft prose, he explains every step (even at times tediously but always thoroughly), that lead him to the life changing decision to tell on his own government.

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