Permanent Record, Book by Edward Snowden

Revealing state secrets is hard, but revealing yourself in a memoir might be even harder. As Edward Snowden writes in the preface of “Permanent Record”: “The decision to come forward with evidence of government wrongdoing was easier for me to make than the decision, here, to give an account of my life.”

In 2013, computer expert and former CIA systems administrator, Edward Snowden released confidential government documents to the press about the existence of government surveillance programs. According to many legal experts, and the U.S. government, his actions violated the Espionage Act of 1917, which identified the leak of state secrets as an act of treason, but Snowden argued that he had a moral obligation to act “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” According to Snowden, the government’s violation of privacy had to be exposed regardless of legality.

Many agreed with Snowden, but the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, did not find Snowden’s rationale convincing and stated: “He broke the law. He caused harm to our national security and I think that he has to be held accountable for his actions.”

After 9/11, Snowden started a career in intelligence, obtaining a top-secret clearance at the age of 22 and moving around between different contractors before becoming disillusioned at some point during the Obama presidency. “I fully supported defensive and targeted surveillance,” Snowden writes, but as a young systems administrator he learned that the government was pursuing “bulk collection” — indiscriminately collecting data from Americans’ internet communications and storing it for possible later use. Snowden says he was shocked by the hypocrisy of it all. He noticed how President Obama, who had run for office as a critic of the Bush administration’s extraordinary invocations of executive power, wasn’t just continuing his predecessor’s surveillance programs but actually entrenching them.

Permanent Record” put together personal intel and espionage info, technologically elaborate but clearly explained.

Snowden wants his readers to reflect more seriously on what it means to have the data of their lives collected and stored on file, ready to be accessed — not just now, but potentially forever.

“Permanent Record”: QUOTES by Edward Snowden

“I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act.” ― Edward Snowden

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” ― Edward Snowden

“The freedom of a country can only be measured by its respect for the rights of its citizens, and it’s my conviction that these rights are in fact limitations of state power that define exactly where and when a government may not infringe into that domain of personal or individual freedoms that during the American Revolution was called “liberty” and during the Internet Revolution is called “privacy.” ― Edward Snowden

“There have been times throughout American history where what is right is not the same as what is legal. Sometimes to do the right thing you have to break the law.” ― Edward Snowden

“Your rights matter, because you never know when you’re going to need them.” ― Edward Snowden

“Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively are less free.” ― Edward Snowden

“The US government still has no idea what documents I have because encryption works” ― Edward Snowden

“It’s really hard to take that step-not only do I believe in something, I believe in it enough that I’m willing to set my own life on fire and burn it to the ground.” ― Edward Snowden

“We don’t have to ask for our privacy, we can take it back” ― Edward Snowden

“These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.” ― Edward Snowden

“Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.” ― Edward Snowden

“I was reminded of what is perhaps the fundamental rule of technological progress: if something can be done, it probably will be done, and possibly already has been.”
― Edward Snowden

“I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.” ― Edward Snowden

“Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President” ― Edward Snowden

“America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing. But the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics.” ― Edward Snowden

“Privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be,” ― Edward Snowden

“You should always let people underestimate you. Because when people misappraise your intelligence and abilities, they’re merely pointing out their own vulnerabilities—the gaping holes in their judgment that need to stay open if you want to cartwheel through later on a flaming horse, correcting the record with your sword of justice.” ― Edward Snowden

“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” ― Edward Snowden

“I acted on my belief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts. Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.” ― Edward Snowden

“Technology doesn’t have a Hippocratic oath. So many decisions that have been made by technologists in academia, industry, the military, and government since at least the Industrial Revolution have been made on the basis of “can we,” not “should we.” And the intention driving a technology’s invention rarely, if ever, limits its application and use.” ― Edward Snowden

“I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy, and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.” ― Edward Snowden

“The truth, though, is that deletion has never existed technologically in the way that we conceive of it. Deletion is just a ruse, a figment, a public fiction, a not-quite-noble lie that computing tells you to reassure you and give you comfort.” ― Edward Snowden

“My perspective is if you’re not willing to be called a few names to help out your country, you don’t care enough.” ― Edward Snowden

“A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all.” ― Edward Snowden

“Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.” ― Edward Snowden

“What is right is not always the same as what is legal” ― Edward Snowden

“The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.” ― Edward Snowden

“Once the ubiquity of collection was combined with the permanency of storage, all any government had to do was select a person or a group to scapegoat and go searching – as I’d gone searching through the agency’s files – for evidence of a suitable crime” ― Edward Snowden

“We watch our own people more closely than anyone else in the world.” ― Edward Snowden

“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything.” ― Edward Snowden

“I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded,” -― Edward Snowden

“And so the geek inherited the earth.” ― Edward Snowden

“Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest.” ― Edward Snowden

“I believe that at this point in history, the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.” ― Edward Snowden

“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.” ― Edward Snowden

“America’s fundamental laws exist to make the job of law enforcement not easier but harder. This isn’t a bug, it’s a core feature of democracy” ― Edward Snowden

“The government should be afraid of the people, the people shouldn’t be afraid of the government.” ― Edward Snowden

“The reason you’re reading this book is that I did a dangerous thing for a man in my position: I decided to tell the truth.” ― Edward Snowden

“Ours was now a country in which the cost of replacing a broken machine with a newer model was typically lower than the cost of having it fixed by an expert, which itself was typically lower than the cost of sourcing the parts and figuring out how to fix it yourself. This fact alone virtually guaranteed technological tyranny, which was perpetuated not by the technology itself but by the ignorance of everyone who used it daily and yet failed to understand it. To refuse to inform yourself about the basic operation and maintenance of the equipment you depended on was to passively accept that tyranny and agree to its terms: when your equipment works, you’ll work, but when your equipment breaks down you’ll break down, too. Your possessions would possess you.” ― Edward Snowden

“In an authoritarian state, rights derive from the state and are granted to the people. In a free state, rights derive from the people and are granted to the state.” ― Edward Snowden

“In the 1990s, the Internet had yet to fall victim to the greatest iniquity in digital history: the move by both government and businesses to link, as intimately as possible, users’ online personas to their offline legal identity.” ― Edward Snowden

“I was right outside the NSA [on 9/11], so I remember the tension on that day. I remember hearing on the radio, ‘the plane’s hitting,’ and I remember thinking my grandfather, who worked for the FBI at the time, was in the Pentagon when the plane hit it…I take the threat of terrorism seriously, and I think we all do. And I think it’s really disingenuous for the government to invoke and sort-of scandalize our memories to sort-of exploit the national trauma that we all suffered together and worked so hard to come through — and to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe, but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don’t need to give up, and that our Constitution says we should not give up.” ― Edward Snowden

“Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren’t just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determining our futures.” ― Edward Snowden

“Hemingway once wrote, the way to make people trustworthy is to trust them.” ― Edward Snowden

“Peering at life through a window can ultimately abstract us from our actions and limit any meaningful confrontation with their consequences.” ― Edward Snowden

“That, ultimately, is the critical flaw or design defect intentionally integrated into every system, in both politics and computing: the people who create the rules have no incentive to act against themselves.” ― Edward Snowden

“You shouldn’t change your behavior because a government agency somewhere is doing the wrong thing. If we sacrifice our values because we’re afraid, we don’t care about those values very much.” ― Edward Snowden

“We’d do well to remember that at the end of the day, the law doesn’t defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals, we have both the right and the responsibility to rebalance it toward just ends.” ― Edward Snowden

“you aren’t really an adult until you bury a parent or become one yourself. But what no one ever mentions is that for kids of a certain age, divorce is like both of those happening simultaneously” ― Edward Snowden

“Readers who were born postmillennium might not understand the fuss, but trust me, this was a goddamned miracle. Nowadays, connectivity is just presumed. Smartphones, laptops, desktops, everything’s connected, always. Connected to what exactly? How? It doesn’t matter. You just tap the icon your older relatives call “the Internet button” and boom, you’ve got it: the news, pizza delivery, streaming music, and streaming video that we used to call TV and movies. Back then, however, we walked uphill both ways, to and from school, and plugged our modems directly into the wall, with manly twelve-year-old hands.” ― Edward Snowden

“The freedom of a country can only be measured by its respect for the rights of its citizens, and it’s my conviction that these rights are in fact limitations of state power that define exactly where and when a government may not infringe into that domain of personal or individual freedoms that during the American Revolution was called “liberty” and during the Internet Revolution is called “privacy.”― Edward Snowden

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