‘My name is Edward Joseph Snowden. I used to work for the government, but now I work for the public’
Thus, starts Edward Snowden’s brave account of how he blew the whistle on the National Security Agency (NSA) when he found out that the US government was breaching the law by unconstitutionally launching mass surveillance programs on the citizens including a few foreign nationals. The 29-year old contractor for the NSA risked his life by putting everything he dearly loved at stake when he decided to reveal classified information to journalists.
The book is as much about a citizen’s right to privacy as it is about the risks’ modern technology poses. The first half of the book describes Snowden’s life, of his curious little mind and deep interest in computers. When he was high-school, he found a hack that would prevent him from submitting homework, allowing him time to learn codes on the computer. Snowden is a self-taught man. His curiosity took him down path most wouldn’t dare tread on. On one of his assignments for the NSA, he was in Japan when he uncovered what the intelligence agency was upto. Here’s when Snowden was in a conflict; on one side the government’s objective of targeted surveillance had easily shifted to mass surveillance—collecting every piece of information about an individual, and on the other hand, he was afraid of being called a traitor, and losing everything he had worked so hard on.
As you may have expected, Snowden decided to put his life on the line because the truth needed to be out. Snowden describes how he started collecting every piece of information he could find on the NSA and CIA without being caught; remember he was still working for the NSA during this time which meant anything he was searching for on the internet, including his phone call, could be tapped. He contacted a number of journalists from the Guardian who wanted to help him blow the whistle on one of government’s biggest secret.
Edward Snowden has been living in exile in Moscow because the US government has charged him with the Espionage Act. He writes,’ anyone who says I have to come back to the States for trial is essentially saying I have to come back to the States for sentencing’, When I was reading the book I was appalled at how little privacy we have, as individuals. I’m sure we’ve all been spooked out whenever something we’ve mentioned in passing to our friends has popped up as ads on our social media. It’s scary, and absolutely unconstitutional.
We’re living in a time where nothing can be stored as memories. Everything can be whipped out by the government under the guise of national security, it’s like we’re selling our data for free only for them to use it against us.
Permanent Record is an important book, one that has done a great service to people all around. In an era where living without Internet is paralysing, giving access to the government to pry into our lives seems like a heavy price to pay.