Reviews for Permanent Record

by Edward Snowden

Library Journal
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Former intelligence agent for the CIA and the NSA Snowden shares how he personally helped design the sophisticated electronic monitoring system that made it feasible for the government to collect, store, and search at will through all the world's digital communications. When he began to realize how his own design became completely hidden from everyone, including most lawmakers, he decided to take action. After his release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents, Snowden became a fugitive, and he eventually ended up in exile in Russia where he remains to this day. Holter Graham's steady paced, clearly enunciated delivery nicely conveys the author's highly personal revelations about his historical decision. Snowden's critical work ignited hot debate about national security and individual privacy and influenced the 2015 passage of the USA Freedom Act, while American public opinion of what he did remains divided. He has been variously labeled a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a patriot, and a traitor. VERDICT Highly recommended for all libraries, with the qualification that libraries supplement Snowden's personal account with other important works on this story, including Luke Harding's The Snowden Files, Glenn Greenwald's No Place to Hide, and Phil Coleman's Edward Snowden.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX

Publishers Weekly
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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.)