*I’m going to start sticking the rating in the heading so you know first thing.*
Before reading this book I had a certain amount of respect for Edward Snowden without co-signing everything he did several years ago. I followed the story as it unfolded and read something by Glenn Greenwald, one of his journalist accomplices, for more about how Snowden left the US and got to Moscow. So I first eyed this newly released book with quite a lot of interest but it was laced with suspicion – What story is he trying to sell us about his adventures? How much does Russiaa have to do with this? How can we believe him now?
by Edward Snowden
2019 / 340 pages
read by Holter Graham – 11h 31m
rating: 9.5 / memoir
The first part was fascinating about how Snowden got involved with computers and the internet at a very young age He was born into an old American family of career civil servants. In 1983, when he was only 10, there was a computer in his home and the internet came along only 2 years later. His dad encouraged him and he was hooked and it cost him his high school diploma.
I remember this era of the 1990s fondly. I only caught the end of the computer/internet freedom – (I got online in 1996) so much of the reading pleasure was a kind of nostalgia (although I was considerably older than 12!) Snowden’s father was a very bright military man interested in technology and apparently assisted his engagement and learning quite a lot.
The title is multi-layered. First it’s from something told to him as a freshman in high school student. After a bit of trouble and too much honesty, a teacher warned him he was creating a “permanent record.” Another source for the title is what the internet can be said to create – a “permanent record.”
The thing about this book is that it’s a memoir first, so it’s his side of the story as he chooses to tell it. There don’t seem to be any glaring missing pieces, but you never can tell. After reading it I feel like I know Snowden a lot better and like him, even though I don’t necessarily agree with his views which seem to be a bit paranoid and libertarian with his insistence that privacy is a basic human right. (Russia is more where he “landed” than anywhere he wanted to go.)
He never approaches the questions of How much privacy are we entitled to and when? What is privacy when you’re walking down a public street? – (Snowden is a bit of a fanatic, but I get annoyed when Amazon/GoodReads sends me a notice that I’ve finished my Kindle book so what’s next? Maybe I should buy paper books only from brick and mortar stores without cameras and use cash only?).
It was Arab Spring which energized Snowden. He was 27 years old and now having epileptic seizures (as did his mother) and on the verge of a nervous breakdown due in part to the stress of his awareness and ideas.
It was a kick to read about his girlfriend-now-wife, Lindsay Mills. They’d been together 7 or 8 years prior to these events. I hadn’t known that at all. Thanks to the media, I’d bought into a very negative idea about her. She seems to have been very supportive even if she didn’t know exactly what he was up to.
I understand why he released the information about the US government collecting data on virtually all US citizens (via a variety of technologies, methods and sources), I have a problem with why he released the military secrets although the extent of public scrutiny may have been seen as a military secret – I’m surer it was.
Bottom line I’m very glad I read it and I recommend it if you’re interested in Snowden. The book is very nicely written with an excellent structural tension, and it’s well read by Holter Graham.