Sunday, November 10, 2019

Permanent Record

Edward Snowden rocked the world when he revealed the details of the US government's warrantless surveillance program on the world's population. In Permanent Record, he discusses these decisions that have led to his current exile in Russia.

The first half of the book is pretty slow, as Snowden details the highlights of his youth that he believes contributed to who he is. But the second half more than makes up for it. Snowden takes us through his thought process as he finally decides to sacrifice himself in order to share with the public the unconstitutional activities of his employer.

Snowden swore an oath to the US Constitution when he was hired by his employer, and he meant it. He knew he would either be killed, imprisoned or exiled, and he held firm to his principles anyway. I can only hope that I would have the courage to do the same were I ever in Snowden's shoes. Unfortunately, I think that kind of courage is in short supply among us.

Snowden undoubtedly possesses raw intelligence. His hacking abilities and his product ideas all saw him rise very quickly within the ranks of the US intelligence agencies. There are lots of people who are smart like that though. What struck me most about him was his wisdom; he seemed to possess the kind of wisdom which is well beyond his years.

His revelations caused the US President to agree that the depth of surveillance of its people was an important debate for Americans to have; of course, this debate would not have taken place without Snowden's disclosures. US Congress moved to reign in the powers of the NSA, curtailing its abilities to store massive amounts of data on US citizens for no reason at all. The US court system has also admonished the NSA's methods of gathering evidence without warrants, to be used in case of a future crime.

Despite all of these positive changes due to Snowden's efforts, Snowden himself remains in exile, unable to return to the country he tried to save. Shame on those in power.

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