Arts & Prose · Review

Whistleblower’s 2019 book proves anticlimactic  

Jen Anima-Valdez


Edward Snowden–Just his name is enough to grab one’s attention which is why I picked up his book Permanent Record to begin to understand why, where, when, how and what happened next? 

Snowden was an American whistleblower who in 2013 exposed documents that proved the U.S.  government was obtaining illegal surveillance information of every U.S citizen without their knowledge. As a subcontractor and employee for the National Security Association (NSA), Snowden was a part of building some of these mediums that would help the government obtain this type of information. As he grew largely uncomfortable and uneasy with not only the information, he knew but the programs he oversaw running, he decided it was time to let the world know what the government was really up to.  

In his 2019 autobiography, Snowden starts from his childhood where he grew up in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He explains in detail his first account with a computer when his father took him to work at the Coast Guards Aviation Technical Training Cener while he fixed his broken Nintendo game console.  

Snowden writes, “My father plopped me down in a chair, raising it until I could just about reach the desk, and the rectangular hunk of plastic that was on it. For the first time in my life, I found myself in front of a keyboard.” 

In his three-part book, he takes readers through his journey growing up loving technology, getting his first web designing job, meeting the love of his life Lindsay, working for the CIA and NSA, exposing the government and finally living in exile in Moscow, Russia.  

The terminology used throughout the book is the main reason it took more than two months to finish. I don’t blame the author of course, but as someone who is not a techy yet interested in this fascinating story, it was difficult to keep reading.  

On the bright side of this, it made me feel dumb thus making me want to learn more about technology and how to perfect the art of encryption.  

I do believe he should’ve thought about audiences who know nothing but are still intrigued by him. At the same time, I’m not sure if he could get any simpler with the complexity of what he was talking about.  

Some of his quirky writing gave this book sincerity and character. For example, in — he clarifies that there was no evidence of aliens being real. Or his immense love for Burger King and how it was the only dependable trustworthy thing he had left after his exposure.  

I adored his then girlfriend and now wife Lindsay Mills who was oblivious to any plan Snowden had for exposing the government back then. One of my favorite chapters is 28 where the whole 13 pages are dedicated to excerpts from her diary at the time of the leak. The insight as to what she was going through, feeling and what happened while Snowden was on the other side of the world was the best part. Since Snowden mentioned her the most in his book, I felt a sort of attachment to her almost like a fictional character. 

Mills writes, “It’s so hard to be angry at someone you love. And even harder to be angry at someone you love and respect for doing the right thing.” 

Part three was of course the most action filled where he finally exposes the documents and the events thereafter unfold. His conclusion of the book was stellar because everything he talked about tied in together perfectly and made sense.  

Overall, his book was good but definitely not one I will willingly pick back up and read a second time. I do appreciate the book opening my eyes to something I should know more about, which is protecting my privacy from the government.  

I give this book three Lanterns out of five.  


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