Book Review: Permanent Record

“Permanent Record” by Edward SnowdenThe revolution in communication and computing technologies which has continually accelerated since the introduction of integrated circuits in the 1960s and has since given rise to the Internet, ubiquitous mobile telephony, vast data centres with formidable processing and storage capacity, and technologies such as natural language text processing, voice recognition, and image analysis, has created the potential, for the first time in human history, of mass surveillance to a degree unimagined even in dystopian fiction such as George Orwell’s 1984 or attempted by the secret police of totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, or North Korea. But, residents of enlightened developed countries such as the United States thought, they were protected, by legal safeguards such as the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, from having their government deploy such forbidding tools against its own citizens. Certainly, there was awareness, from disclosures such as those in James Bamford’s 1982 book The Puzzle Palace, that agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) were employing advanced and highly secret technologies to spy upon foreign governments and their agents who might attempt to harm the United States and its citizens, but their activities were circumscribed by a legal framework which strictly limited the scope of their domestic activities.

Well, that’s what most people believed until the courageous acts by Edward Snowden, a senior technical contractor working for the NSA, revealed, in 2013, multiple programs of indiscriminate mass surveillance directed against, well, everybody in the world, U.S. citizens most definitely included. The NSA had developed and deployed a large array of hardware and software tools whose mission was essentially to capture all the communications and personal data of everybody in the world, scan it for items of interest, and store it forever where it could be accessed in future investigations. Data were collected through a multitude of means: monitoring traffic across the Internet, collecting mobile phone call and location data (estimated at five billion records per day in 2013), spidering data from Web sites, breaking vulnerable encryption technologies, working with “corporate partners” to snoop data passing through their facilities, and fusing this vast and varied data with query tools such as XKEYSCORE, which might be thought of as a Google search engine built by people who from the outset proclaimed, “Heck yes, we’re evil!”

How did Edward Snowden, over his career a contractor employee for companies including BAE Systems, Dell Computer, and Booz Allen Hamilton, and a government employee of the CIA, obtain access to such carefully guarded secrets? What motivated him to disclose this information to the media? How did he spirit the information out of the famously security-obsessed NSA and get it into the hands of the media? And what were the consequences of his actions? All of these questions are answered in this beautifully written, relentlessly candid, passionately argued, and technologically insightful book by the person who, more than anyone else, is responsible for revealing the malignant ambition of the government of the United States and its accomplices in the Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom) to implement and deploy a global panopticon which would shrink the scope of privacy of individuals to essentially zero—in the words of an NSA PowerPoint (of course) presentation from 2011, “Sniff It All, Know It All, Collect It All, Process It All, Exploit It All, Partner It All”. They didn’t mention “Store It All Forever”, but with the construction of the US$1.5 billion Utah Data Center which consumes 65 megawatts of electricity, it’s pretty clear that’s what they’re doing.

Edward Snowden was born in 1983 and grew up along with the personal computer revolution. His first contact with computers was when his father brought home a Commodore 64, on which father and son would play many games. Later, just seven years old, his father introduced him to programming on a computer at the Coast Guard base where he worked, and, a few years later, when the family had moved to the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC after his father had been transferred to Coast Guard Headquarters, the family got a Compaq 486 PC clone which opened the world of programming and exploration of online groups and the nascent World Wide Web via the narrow pipe of a dial-up connection to America Online. In those golden days of the 1990s, the Internet was mostly created by individuals for individuals, and you could have any identity, or as many identities as you wished, inventing and discarding them as you explored the world and yourself. This was ideal for a youth who wasn’t interested in sports and tended to be reserved in the presence of others. He explored the many corners of the Internet and, like so many with the talent for understanding complex systems, learned to deduce the rules governing systems and explore ways of using them to his own ends. Bob Bickford defines a hacker as “Any person who derives joy from discovering ways to circumvent limitations.” Hacking is not criminal, and it has nothing to do with computers. As his life progressed, Snowden would learn how to hack school, the job market, and eventually the oppressive surveillance state.

By September 2001, Snowden was working for an independent Web site developer operating out of her house on the grounds of Fort Meade, Maryland, the home of the NSA (for whom, coincidentally, his mother worked in a support capacity). After the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, he decided, in his family’s long tradition of service to their country (his grandfather is a Rear Admiral in the Coast Guard, and ancestors fought in the Revolution, Civil War, and both world wars), that his talents would be better put to use in the intelligence community. His lack of a four year college degree would usually be a bar to such employment, but the terrorist attacks changed all the rules, and military veterans were being given a fast track into such jobs, so, after exploring his options, Snowden enlisted in the Army, under a special program called 18 X-Ray, which would send qualifying recruits directly into Special Forces training after completing their basic training.

His military career was to prove short. During a training exercise, he took a fall in the forest which fractured the tibia bone in both legs and was advised he would never be able to qualify for Special Forces. Given the option of serving out his time in a desk job or taking immediate “administrative separation” (in which he would waive the government’s liability for the injury), he opted for the latter. Finally, after a circuitous process, he was hired by a government contractor and received the exclusive Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance which qualified him to work at the CIA.

A few words are in order about contractors at government agencies. In some media accounts of the Snowden disclosures, he has been dismissed as “just a contractor”, but in the present-day U.S. government where nothing is as it seems and much of everything is a scam, in fact many of the people working in the most sensitive capacities in the intelligence community are contractors supplied by the big “beltway bandit” firms which have sprung up like mushrooms around the federal swamp. You see, agencies operate under strict limits on the number of pure government (civil service) employees they can hire and, of course, government employment is almost always forever. But, if they pay a contractor to supply a body to do precisely the same job, on site, they can pay the contractor from operating funds and bypass the entire civil service mechanism and limits and, further, they’re free to cut jobs any time they wish and to get rid of people and request a replacement from the contractor without going through the arduous process of laying off or firing a “govvy”. In all of Snowden’s jobs, the blue badged civil servants worked alongside the green badge contractors without distinction in job function. Contractors would rarely ever visit the premises of their nominal “employers” except for formalities of hiring and employee benefits. One of Snowden’s co-workers said “contracting was the third biggest scam in Washington after the income tax and Congress.”

His work at the CIA was in system administration, and he rapidly learned that regardless of classification levels, compartmentalisation, and need to know, the person in a modern organisation who knows everything, or at least has the ability to find out if interested, is the system administrator. In order to keep a system running, ensure the integrity of the data stored on it, restore backups when hardware, software, or user errors cause things to be lost, and the myriad other tasks that comprise the work of a “sysadmin”, you have to have privileges to access pretty much everything in the system. You might not be able to see things on other systems, but the ones under your control are an open book. The only safeguard employers have over rogue administrators is monitoring of their actions, and this is often laughably poor, especially as bosses often lack the computer savvy of the administrators who work for them.

After nine months on the job, an opening came up for a CIA civil servant job in overseas technical support. Attracted to travel and exotic postings abroad, Snowden turned in his green badge for a blue one and after a training program, was sent to exotic…Geneva as computer security technician, under diplomatic cover. As placid as it may seem, Geneva was on the cutting edge of CIA spying technology, with the United Nations, numerous international agencies, and private banks all prime targets for snooping.

Two years later Snowden was a contractor once again, this time with Dell Computer, who placed him with the NSA, first in Japan, then back in Maryland, and eventually in Hawaii as lead technologist of the Office of Information Sharing, where he developed a system called “Heartbeat” which allowed all of NSA’s sites around the world to share their local information with others. It can be thought of as an automated blog aggregator for Top Secret information. This provided him personal access to just about everything the NSA was up to, world-wide. And he found what he read profoundly disturbing and dismaying.

Once he became aware of the scope of mass surveillance, he transferred to another job in Hawaii which would allow him to personally verify its power by gaining access to XKEYSCORE. His worst fears were confirmed, and he began to patiently, with great caution, and using all of his insider’s knowledge, prepare to bring the archives he had spirited out from the Heartbeat system to the attention of the public via respected media who would understand the need to redact any material which might, for example, put agents in the field at risk. He discusses why, based upon his personal experience and that of others, he decided the whistleblower approach within the chain of command was not feasible: the unconstitutional surveillance he had discovered had been approved at the highest levels of government—there was nobody who could stop it who had not already approved it.

The narrative then follows preparing for departure, securing the data for travel, taking a leave of absence from work, travelling to Hong Kong, and arranging to meet the journalists he had chosen for the disclosure. There is a good deal of useful tradecraft information in this narrative for anybody with secrets to guard. Then, after the stories began to break in June, 2013, the tale of his harrowing escape from the long reach of Uncle Sam is recounted. Popular media accounts of Snowden “defecting to Russia” are untrue. He had planned to seek asylum in Ecuador, and had obtained a laissez-passer from the Ecuadoran consul and arranged to travel to Quito from Hong Kong via Moscow, Havana, and Caracas, as that was the only routing which did not pass through U.S. airspace or involve stops in countries with extradition treaties with the U.S. Upon arrival in Moscow, he discovered that his U.S. passport had been revoked while en route from Hong Kong, and without a valid passport he could neither board an onward flight nor leave the airport. He ended up trapped in the Moscow airport for forty days while twenty-seven countries folded to U.S. pressure and denied him political asylum. After spending so long in the airport he even became tired of eating at the Burger King there, on August 1st, 2013 Russia granted him temporary asylum. At this writing, he is still in Moscow, having been joined in 2017 by Lindsay Mills, the love of his life he left behind in Hawaii in 2013, and who is now his wife.

This is very much a personal narrative, and you will get an excellent sense for who Edward Snowden is and why he chose to do what he did. The first thing that struck me is that he really knows his stuff. Some of the press coverage presented him as a kind of low-level contractor systems nerd, but he was principal architect of EPICSHELTER, NSA’s worldwide backup and archiving system, and sole developer of the Heartbeat aggregation system for reports from sites around the globe. At the time he left to make his disclosures, his salary was US$120,000 per year, hardly the pay of a humble programmer. His descriptions of technologies and systems in the book are comprehensive and flawless. He comes across as motivated entirely by outrage at the NSA’s flouting of the constitutional protections supposed to be afforded U.S. citizens and its abuses in implementing mass surveillance, sanctioned at the highest levels of government across two administrations from different political parties. He did not seek money for his disclosures, and did not offer them to foreign governments. He took care to erase all media containing the documents he removed from the NSA before embarking on his trip from Hong Kong, and when approached upon landing in Moscow by agents from the Russian FSB (intelligence service) with what was obviously a recruitment pitch, he immediately cut it off, saying,

Listen, I understand who you are, and what this is. Please let me be clear that I have no intention to cooperate with you. I’m not going to cooperate with any intelligence service. I mean no disrespect, but this isn’t going to be that kind of meeting. If you want to search my bag, it’s right here. But I promise you, there’s nothing in it that can help you.

And that was that.

Edward Snowden could have kept quiet, done his job, collected his handsome salary, continued to live in a Hawaiian paradise, and share his life with Lindsay, but he threw it all away on a matter of principle and duty to his fellow citizens and the Constitution he had sworn to defend when taking the oath upon joining the Army and the CIA. On the basis of the law, he is doubtless guilty of the three federal crimes with which he has been charged, sufficient to lock him up for as many as thirty years should the U.S. lay its hands on him. But he believes he did the correct thing in an attempt to right wrongs which were intolerable. I agree, and can only admire his courage. If anybody is deserving of a Presidential pardon, it is Edward Snowden.

There is relatively little discussion here of the actual content of the documents which were disclosed and the surveillance programs they revealed. For full details, visit the Snowden Surveillance Archive, which has copies of all of the documents which have been disclosed by the media to date. U.S. government employees and contractors should read the warning on the site before viewing this material.

Snowden, Edward. Permanent Record. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-250-23723-1.

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

26 thoughts on “Book Review: Permanent Record

  1. 10 Cents:
    Would it be in my best interest to denounce Snowden here? 🙂

    Dunno.  You can say whatever you want.  But they are listening.

    I would not not have written this were I still in the U.S. and a holder of the Blue Bird of Confiscation.

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  2. John Walker:

    10 Cents:
    Would it be in my best interest to denounce Snowden here? 🙂

    Dunno.  You can say whatever you want.  But they are listening.

    I would not not have written this were I still in the U.S. and a holder of the Blue Bird of Confiscation.

    They know your coordinates, John.

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  3. Phil Turmel:
    My opinion of his conduct is in flux.

    Mine was also in a superposed state: (½|hero> + ½|traitor>) until I read the book.  Now it’s collapsed into the eigenvalue in the review.  I’ll be interested in your interpretation after reading it.

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  4. Amazingly, I thought this was one of the most incendiary reviews I’ve written in the last decade.  Just to see what would happen, I posted it at Amazon, where my reviews take anywhere from five minutes to two days to go live.  I posted this one at:

    2019-09-24 01:06 UTC

    and it was published at:

    2019-09-24 01:27 UTC

    Here is the review as published at Amazon.  Yes, I pull a few punches in these mass market reviews.  But that’s why you come to read them here unfiltered, right!

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  5. John Walker:

    Phil Turmel:
    My opinion of his conduct is in flux.

    Mine was also in a superposed state: (|hero> – |traitor>) until I read the book.  Now it’s collapsed into the eigenvalue in the review.  I’ll be interested in your interpretation after reading it.

    I moved it to the top of my list.  I’ll have it Monday.

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  6. For the last couple of months, I’ve been posting book reviews from the inventory of more than a thousand I’ve written since I started reviewing every book I read in 2003.  I’m now up to 98 reviews posted.  Posting reviews on Amazon is—odd.  When you post a review it goes into “review”, which kind of suggests a primate takes a look at it.  I’ve had reviews approved and published in five minutes, and also those which took more than two days.  At the outset, I thought I could discern a pattern in this, but I’ve concluded it is entirely stochastic.

    Anyway, I posted this review on Amazon at 2019-09-24 03:06 it was approved and posted at 2019-09-24 03:27.  As far as I can determine, the delay between submission of an Amazon review and its publication is entirely random.

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  7. Hypatia:
    So JW, do you think what Snowden did has changed or will change anything?

    One thing has changed, and irreversibly: people are aware of the mass surveillance.  Before, a relatively small minority knew of the capability of the snoopers, but even among them few imagined they were being deployed to intercept everything, from everybody, and store it forever—that was tinfoil hat stuff, until it turned out to be true and we could flip through the PowerPoint slides boasting of it.

    Now what is truly dismaying is that, as far as I can tell, most people seem to be OK with it.  There was a bit of a flap when the revelations rolled out in 2013 and, in 2015, Senator Rand Paul filibustered renewal of the PATRIOT Act and railed against NSA abuses on the floor of the Senate for ten hours (first three hours here).

    On June 1st, 2015 most of the PATRIOT Act, not having been renewed, expired.  Then, on June 2nd, the “USA Freedom Act” (Don’t you love these names?  It’s an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2015”.) was enacted, which restored most of the provisions of the PATRIOT Act which had expired the day before.  There were some cosmetic changes: instead of the NSA Hoovering up phone metadata (records of who called whom when and where), these data would be retained by the carriers and made available to the NSA pursuant to a court order.  But even if you believe that the NSA is complying with this provision and, in the six years after Snowden’s disclosures hasn’t found other ways to obtain these and more intrusive data, most of the programs Snowden revealed remain in place, re-authorised by Congress, and there seems to be remarkably little outrage among the public.

    But then, this is the same public who pay for devices such as Amazon Echo which, installed in their houses, constantly listen to everything they say and…well, who knows what they do with it, except for flaming libertarians who constantly run Wireshark in a window to see what’s transpiring on their local network.  This is the same public who voluntarily upload personal information to sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and don’t seem bothered that their Web browser is sending a log of their search queries and the sites the visit to the Goolag—it’s so convenient, don’t you know.

    Frustration with people’s disregard for privacy is something that goes back a way with me.  In the 1990s, I developed Speak Freely, the first cross-platform Internet telephony software that really worked.  This was back when the U.S. was attempting to restrict the use of encryption so that the NSA would be able to snoop on everyone’s communications (remember the “Clipper chip”?), and I decided to take advantage of being outside the Imperium and free of the Blue Bird of Confiscation to include military-grade encryption (256 bit key AES, for crypto-geeks) in this public domain software.  Speak Freely was, by the standard of the time, somewhat of a hit, constrained mostly by how difficult it was to get networking and audio to work on the flaky software and platforms of the era, and it was even used by NASA to broadcast live audio for a Space Shuttle mission.  But what flabbergasted me was that while everybody was interested in free international phone calls, almost nobody (at least among those who contacted me) were at all interested in the encryption.  They were perfectly happy talking in the clear, where anybody might listen to their calls.

    Then, later in the 1990s, I provided financial support to the FreeS/WAN project, whose goal was to “make the Internet go dark to snoopers by the year 2000” via opportunistic encryption.  The technology was developed, tested, and worked.  But there was essentially zero interest in deploying it, with the keepers of the assorted Linux distributions declining to include it, even as an optional package.  It’s still around, in various guises, and it works, but almost nobody uses it.  It’s like they just don’t care.

    Then, in 2005, I tried again with JavaScrypt, an AES-based symmetric cryptography package which runs entirely within a Web browser, making it available to anybody without the need to install any software.  There have been millions of downloads of this software, and I’m sure people are using it since they occasionally write with questions and suggestions for improvements, but it is largely unknown and billions of people seem happy with sending their mail in the clear where Google and who know who else can read it.

    Edward Snowden, Rand Paul, I, and a number of people I know and have worked with over my career are deeply disturbed by anybody’s daring to intercept the private communications and records of individuals.  This, as George Orwell prophetically envisioned, is the most effective foundation of tyranny.  Even if the snooping is sporadic and inefficient, the simple thought that somebody may be listening and use what you say against you, now or in the future, is sufficient to impose “prior restraint” on what you say and, ultimately, what you think.  We’re seeing more and more examples of people being destroyed by something they wrote, said, or did ten or twenty years ago.  Now consider the power that ubiquitous surveillance and archiving confers on those who hold the data.  The fact that people aren’t outraged at this and taking direct action to thwart it mystifies and dismays me.

    The progression toward the snooper state can be fought from the top and the bottom.  What Edward Snowden did was a courageous attack at the top: he believed that once people were aware of the extent they were being spied upon, they would rise up in righteous indignation and put an end to it.  Well, I guess he was wrong.  They are aware of it, but apart from some window dressing it’s still going on and, for the most part, it has scrolled off the screen.  Tools are available to seize back part of the privacy we took for granted, but you have to make a modest effort to use them, and surprisingly few people seem willing to make this investment.

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  8. Thanks for the review – I’ll get it on my Kindle. Ratburger should be an Amazon affiliate so it gets a cut from Amazon for the books I get due to your reviews.

    I have often thought that the power of system administrators is not well understood by others in an organization.  Even in a non-classified situation, the sys-admin of a small company can easily access all sorts of sensitive information such as payroll data and sales records.  In larger organizations, I wonder if it would make sense to have two people – like two missile control officers – where one would verify the work of the other.

    My opinion of Snowden has moved further from the traitor position with each revelation about abusive techniques used by the US intelligence agencies.  I would be curious about Adm. Rogers views of Snowden.  He was head of NSA, but seems to have moved quickly when he found evidence of abuse of the data collected.

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  9. WillowSpring:
    Ratburger should be an Amazon affiliate so it gets a cut from Amazon for the books I get due to your reviews.

    Whenever I link to a book, I include the Fourmilab associate tag, for example: “https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250237238/?tag=fourmilabwwwfour”.  This generates a credit to my Amazon account, which is used to defray the costs of hosting the Ratburger site at Amazon Web Services (AWS).  When you follow an associate link to Amazon, any purchases made by the customer during the session (until it times out or they follow another associate link) generate a commission to the associate.  Back in the 1990s associates used to get a report itemising all the sales that generated commissions: I was amazed to discover I was earning almost as much from sales of Harry Potter books (which I’ve never read nor linked to) than those I recommended.  This being a post about surveillance, I’m happy to say that Amazon no longer discloses that information (but of course, they keep it themselves).

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  10. I just bought the kindle edition. I have been torn between Snowden being a patriot or a traitor. Not enough impartial information to make a decision. This seems help.

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  11. Had Snowden revealed the technical means of spying on only those outside the US, it would be clearly traitorous. The stunning fact the the same means are being routinely used to surveil all of us citizens, however, is dispositive in assigning meaning to his actions: we are no longer a Constitutional republic worth defending if, as it seems, nobody cares as they mindlessly pursue their bread & e-circuses. He is a patriot and among the last of them.

    Since little we are doing is sustainable (sorry to employ this much-abused word), the admonition about the last one out extinguishing the lights is unnecessary. With the trajectory we are on, they are dimming all by themselves, in various senses of the meaning of light, and will go ultimately dark all by themselves.

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  12. I’m coming in late to this conversation, but I have this book and am working through it. I think Snowden is a hero for liberty. I think that his actions were the first steps in ripping the mask off of the Beltway elite that has been completely laid bare by Trump’s presidency.

    Here is the basic issue: the general government, in its quest to eradicate “terrorism,” has decided that anyone who has a cell phone, communicates via electronic communications, and has extensive online activity forfeits their Fourth Amendment protected right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The act of participating in the modern world, in this sense, is the probable cause relied on to do this. That is, if you think that the general government is acting from the premise that this is a criminal investigative measure.

    Unfortunately, this is an intelligence gathering measure and as such is not governed by the notions of probable cause, reasonableness, and warrants. We are talking about methods that by their very nature would NOT be allowed in a criminal proceeding because they are intrusive to the point of stealing. When NSA collects electronic communications of foreign targets, it is doing so in a manner that would be considered illegal in the civilian world. Surreptitiously collected information without the consent of the individual monitored and without a warrant to do so is prohibited by both civilians and criminal investigators. NSA uses such tools as hacking, coercion of third party providers, and spoofing to gain access to electronic communications. They develop tools that can break through moderately sophisticated encryption schemes–and possibly even more advanced encryption schemes. And they collaborate these capabilities with the CIA and FBI.

    Snowden was the first step in understanding that the general government views YOU the citizen as a target. You are not a sovereign entity entitled to your own life outside of the watching eye of the powerful. You are a cog in a machine that had better not squeak if you know what is good for you. In short, you are viewed as a commodity with the potential of becoming an “issue” in need of neutralization.

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  13. Bryan G. Stephens:
    It seems to me that we are all indexed and monitored and there is not really much we can do about it and still fucntion in society

    There are steps that can be taken, but you have to really educate yourself about encryption, routers, VPNs, etc. I think the real issue is “who the hell wants to go through all of that just to go to Drudge without NSA knowing every time you log on?”

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  14. The New York Times, 2019-10-03, “Barr Pushes Facebook for Access to WhatsApp Messages”:

    Mr. Barr and his British and Australian counterparts were set to send a joint letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, arguing that law enforcement needs a way to break encryption to fight terrorism, international organized crime and child exploitations, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by The New York Times that is dated Oct. 4.

    (emphasis mine).  This is a variant of what I called the “unholy trinity” in my 2003 paper “The Digital Imprimatur”.

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  15. ONE OF THE BEST MEMOIRS I HAVE EVER READ !!!

    I disagree with Edward Snowden on Climate Change, and Porn — but those are the exceptions, that prove Snowden is not a mythical hero, but a flesh and blood hero !  Snowden did more to defend the U.S. constitution than most modern U.S. senators. God  bless him. Keep liberty alive, and READ AND PASS ON TO A FRIEND Snowden’s Permanent Record !

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  16. John Walker:

    Phil Turmel:
    My opinion of his conduct is in flux.

    Mine was also in a superposed state: (½|hero> + ½|traitor>) until I read the book.  Now it’s collapsed into the eigenvalue in the review.  I’ll be interested in your interpretation after reading it.

    I have had a brutal past month–travel and overtime and a bad cold–and only managed to sit down with this book today.  And finished in one go.  Let me supplement the review above.

    It is indeed time for Edward Snowden to receive a Presidential Pardon.

    Yeah, he’s politically on the left.  And has a far too rose-tinted view of journalism, particularly of the organized kind.  It doesn’t seem to me that Snowden recognizes bloggers and other independents as equal in legal publishing privileges to the organized media.  This assessment may be an injustice, but his description of his search for a trustworthy outlet for his material certainly gives me this impression.  However, his desire to report through an organization with the resources to vet the material thoroughly and resist government pressure makes sense.

    I have to admit that this book, by itself, would not have been enough to convince me that Snowden is a hero instead of a villain.  But public exposure of widespread misconduct in the intelligence community, culminating in the current Durham investigation of FISA abuses, dovetails in all respects with Snowden’s observations and disclosures.  Corroboration, if you will.

    So, Hero.  In the same way that I consider heroes the CIA agents who conducted “enhanced interrogation” of captured terrorists, though I suspect Snowden would not appreciate the comparison.  Unlike Snowden, those agents benefitted from the convenient destruction of videotape. Because it suited the deep state to protect its own, of course.

    Snowden’s case and continuing circumstances highlight the injustice of laws punishing disclosure of official secrets when those secrets are themselves illegal conduct.  This is what whistleblower statutes are supposed to address, but clearly have not.  Heck, these statutes are themselves abused for political gain.

    I do find it amusing that a book detailing the abuses of an unrestrained state is clearly a proponent of the politics of government solutions, particularly of global governance.  A certain naïveté.  I hope he grows out of it.

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