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Permanent Record

Written by: Edward Snowden
Narrated by: Holter Graham
Length: 11 hrs and 31 mins
5 out of 5 stars (714 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An NPR Best Book of the Year - 2019

Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government’s system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down.

In 2013, 29-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American intelligence establishment and revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message, and email. The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth. Six years later, Snowden reveals for the very first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it. 

Spanning the bucolic Beltway suburbs of his childhood and the clandestine CIA and NSA postings of his adulthood, Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online - a man who became a spy, a whistleblower, and, in exile, the internet’s conscience. Written with wit, grace, passion, and an unflinching candor, Permanent Record is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.

©2019 Edward Snowden (P)2019 Macmillan Audio

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Just Magnificent

I picked up this book with a vague idea of Edward Snowden as a significant figure in the battle to preserve humanities right to privacy in our everyday lives. Upon its completion, I understand how much of an understatement that is. If anyone interested in learning about the relationship between individuals and the state is reading this and having second thoughts about buying this book, think a third time and take the plunge. Permanent Record is not only highly enjoyable, but highly informative and enlightening in a variety if fields.

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Incredible

EVERYONE should get this book.?ESPECIALLY if you tend to think people question a governments motives too much. For any reason however mundane.

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You'll finish the book as a better informed user

I finished it in about a week. Like many others I had seen the movie but I wanted to get in more details about this whole story. In the midst of listening to the book I purchased an internet security course online and I updated my antivirus 😅

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Interesting yet somewhat anecdotal

I bought the book because even if I had read some of the press coverage when the story broke out, I wanted to have a deeper understanding of the revelations he had made. In that regard, the book fulfilled its purpose. Also, it is undeniably interesting to get his story first hand and to have access to his state of mind and rationale at the time of the events. Along the way, he takes the time to explain the more technologic aspects with perfect clarity. He is a very skilled vulgarizer. and his approach didactic yet colorful makes his recollections even more compelling. However, I have to admit that the book wasn't entirely what I had hoped for. I thought it would be more insightful and that he would be offering some sort of critique since the political and social issues in play interest me a lot more than details of his personal life. I knew these were his memoir yet I did not expect his biography per se, going back to his childhood. But in the end, I didn't mind it since my curiosity was piqued even if some parts of it veered towards the anecdotal, Performance-wise, I only have praise for the narrator. Of course, if Snowden had read it, the story would only have been even more engaging. Nevertheless, in all truth, the actor gives a very convincing performance. Throughout the book, I kept forgetting that the voice I heard wasn't Snowden's. Nicely done. If you wish to widen your scope and observe more closely some of the issues brought to light by Snowden's memoir, you should read "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power" by Shoshana Zuboff. In her study, Zuboff details the challenges we face posed by the digital future, the quest by the corporations to predict and control our behavior and the emergence in the twenty-first century of a new form of power she calls "surveillance capitalism."

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Could not finish it

I can't pin it down to what didn't work for me in this book. The narration was engaging enough, and the book had some interesting stories, but not interesting enough to make me want to finish it. I was expecting to trade my time and attention for an insight and information. However, the insight and information about the system (what I was looking for) was sparse and mostly the book dealt with justifications and reasons for the author's actions. I didn't feel that the little interesting bits I was getting were worth my attention.

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Food for Thought

This was surprisingly well written and provided much to think about. I'm reminded that democracy like a good marriage is worth fighting for.

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An amazing book! Mr. Snowden is a true Hero!

I listened as this man told his story. He did the right thing, for the right reasons, at great personnel cost.

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a must read

this behind the scenes look at the details and happenings outside of the movie is a gift to the reader. I followed along intently. Listening to the story of a normal human being, willing to die for his country for the right reasons and being betrayed by them is heartbreaking. it answers the question definitively.. he is your everyday hero. what happened and what will happen in the new landscape of spying.. is all because of you. you have at least made everyone aware of the irrefutable fact that there is no such thing as a private conversation.

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Amazing story!

I loved it and I really feel sorry for Snowden. 5 stars in my opinion.

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Fascinating and thought provoking

Offers some great insight on what led to Mr Snowden’s decision. Great pacing and warmth in his voice. Though I doubt he would say this I imagine he is fantastic orator.

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  • Ryan L
  • 2019-09-22

Great (if incomplete) account

I don't agree with everything Snowden did, and I don't know how complete this book is about his motivations and actions, but even with those caveats, it's an excellent book. The most interesting aspect for me was not the factual description of what he did (although there are some never-before-read details), but his mindset and motivation to choose to betray the NDAs and chain of command while (possibly) honoring the oath of service. The technical details about his archiving system (it basically crawled a bunch of the published-within-IC sources and then indexed them, republishing for internal use, which allowed him perfect cover for exfiltration...) were still interesting, of course. That NSA had incredibly lax internal security and compartmentalization in the 1993-2013 period (due to losing all the cold war people and replacing them with...a specific demographic profile), CIA and State's technical incompetence, etc. are all pretty well supported by evidence. (Incidentally, the technical jack of all trades at CIA job sounds pretty amazing.) Least expected angle was just how impressive his wife is. NSA's initial angle was "stripper", which brings a whole set of assumptions. However, this was pretty clearly inaccurate -- she's an intelligent and thoughtful person (although not involved in Snowden's exfiltration of data or escape), and based on actions since the incident (moving to Russia, marrying Snowden a year later, ...), seems His descriptions of contracting culture and the gov/contractor split, hypertrophy and metastasis of the IC and contractors, etc all are strongly supported by evidence (and my personal experience as a contractor with the government for several years). What is missing, and calls into question the veracity of the whole account, is the exact process of deciding to do all of this. In the book, it was that he accidentally saw a STLW (Stellar Wind) document, related to one of the most morally and legally questionable programs post-Church conducted by the USG (and for which individuals should be prosecuted and likely hanged), then just started searching for and consuming information for his own education (to see if these programs really existed), and only then decided to leak. That's possible, but it's not strongly supported. The mysterious occurrence of epilepsy around this time which motivated him to spend time on self-reflection and switching to a role with less of everything except access to this data, etc. seems a bit too convenient. This is the one area where I'm still a bit suspicious of the whole affair (either that an external power was involved, or that other NSA insiders supported him), but the story as told could also be the truth -- it's just difficult or impossible to validate. Overall, one of the best books about the complex and evolving interplay between young, relatively powerless individuals who have technical competence and thus effective technical control over large institutions like government vs. the official power structures, the failures of USG/IC, and one of the biggest news stories in civil liberties since the 1970s.

112 people found this helpful

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  • Franklin S Werren
  • 2019-09-20

Who should read

Every American should read this book and see what our secret agencies are doing. Edward Snowden is a hero in my eyes and people who lie should not even be in government. Some should be in jail for their lies to Congress. Thank you Ed Snowden, an American Patriot!

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  • Linda
  • 2019-10-01

BRILLIANT

Mr Snowdon’s courage is by itself impressive, and his eloquence and explanations are as well. I wish this could be mandatory reading for every high school/ college student. Also, if i had a zillion dollars i would stand on the street in DC, where i live and hand a copy to everyone! Thank you for sharing your narrative! (PS I am 75 years old..)

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-09-19

A Snowden always answers the call of duty

Edward Snowden has always preferred the life of relative anonymity, but in this book, he really goes into great detail about the fascinated life he has lived and what led up to the biggest intelligence scandal in history. The book is divided into 3 parts, Part 1 is his childhood, how he got interested in technology and how he used his brain to do as little school work as possible, part 2 is professional life, his short army career and how he got to learn about the U.S mass surveillance as early as 2009, and part 3 is about his life on Hawaii and what led up to and his life after turning whistleblower. An operation that may or may not has involved the Rubix cube on his desk. The book narrator the incredible Holter Graham does an amazing job bringing his words and stories to life and I really started to feel Snowdens paranoia and techno-skepticism when he went on about smart-fridges, credit cards, phones, and traffic cameras, how all the metadata can be used to track you and how most of society is completely okay with it because "They have nothing to hide". The book takes a deep-dive in the societal contract of surveillance we have all agreed to and makes clear that it's only going to be worse unless we start dealing with the problem. Snowden tells his side of the story with wit, profound thoughts and a self-awareness most of us can only dream of. Reading the book makes it becomes painfully clear that he is one of our greatest martyrs against the powers of corporate and governmental espionage, and makes you wish that there were more people like Snowden out there willing to answer the call of duty, even when the enemy is less traditional than the ones we read about in history books.

82 people found this helpful

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  • Rick
  • 2019-09-20

good but short

it was a little bit too truncated for me. I really would have liked to know what happened with him and his wife since he's been in Russia

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  • Lisa
  • 2019-09-20

A Must Read!

Couldn't recommend this book more strongly. Well written and most interesting and full of stuff we all need to know and be aware of. Eternally grateful to Mr.Snowden for his sacrifice.

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  • Raul Duran
  • 2019-09-20

Amazing book!

Amazing book! Each chapter better than the last. I admit my eyes got teary on the last chapter. Hope to one day see you and thank you for your sacrifice!

35 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-18

REAL American Patriot

Excellent story, he captures nuanced life as well as technical detail. God bless Edward Snowden. liberty == privacy

48 people found this helpful

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  • Ginny
  • 2019-09-18

Verified and congrats

While Snowden was active I was living a parallel life with similar understandings of privacy invasions by government, corporation, and rich individuals. Taking my own steps to secure privacy on a global scale for everyone. I refused getting gov't clearance many times so I never saw the stuff that he directly observed but that I knew existed, because I could directly observe the tell-tale signals that it did exist. I can say with great confidence that I believe Snowden is a patriot and has served the United States Constitution well. It is sad that so many people do not understand how the United States came to be. I highly recommend George Washington's Last Farewell to anybody who wants to understand just how well the country's founders knew what they were doing. George Washington gave us four things not to do, and now, and now, we persist in doing them all. Snowden should be seen as a light of reason in a digital world of unfettered deceit about constitutionally protected invasions of privacy we have long known are essential to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I thank him for this book as his permanent record.

67 people found this helpful

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  • Dan - Atlanta
  • 2019-09-18

Picked up the book to support Snowden

General speaking the media and the government get it wrong. Hero? I'd like my privacy back.... They tend to kill the messenger prior to naming streets after him. How many MLK and Kennedy BLVD's do we have in America? Buy the book it's a good read and a vote in dollars for a man who has courage. I respect him he deserves support.

89 people found this helpful

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  • Client d'Amazon
  • 2020-04-25

Very interesting and enjoyable. Excellent narration.

I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse of Edward Snowden’s life and am very happy that people like him exist and are willing to accept such enormous sacrifices in order to act upon their conscience. Even though abusive bulk data collection no doubt continues in the US, the Uk and other “Five ls” countries, his brave actions have at least revealed the some of the abuses of our intelligence communities, forcing our governments to communicate their position. We may continue to be under constant surveillance, and regularly make myriad mistakes, but his revelations have increased the availability of tools to help us preserve a little privacy.

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  • VR
  • 2019-12-02

Snowden's story

I really enjoyed reading Snowden's account of his story, especially the details regarding his revelation and subsequent "escape" to Russia. His telling is extremely believable and being born around the same time and having seen the boom of internet, his quick professional ascension and the time the institutions took to catch up (relying on young unexperienced but tech-savy kids) is very real. That's how it went around. That said, I'd like to research a bit further the chronological line and some facts, but mass surveillance does exist and the line between national security and individual privacy can be very thin. I think this subject should be discussed openly and citizens should be informed and have a saying in the way their data is collected and processed.