Notes from Permanent Record

Permanent Record

by Edward Snowden


Page 9 @ November 15, 2019

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. I collected internal IC documents that gave evidence of the US government’s lawbreaking and turned them over to journalists, who vetted and published them to a scandalized world. This book is about what led up to that decision, the moral and ethical principles that informed it, and how they came to be—which means that it’s also about my life.

Part One

Page 57 @ November 15, 2019

What convinced me that school, at least, was an illegitimate system was that it wouldn’t recognize any legitimate dissent. I could plead my case until I lost my voice, or I could just accept the fact that I’d never had a voice to begin with.

Page 72 @ November 15, 2019

This kind of change is constant, common, and human. But an autobiographical statement is static, the fixed document of a person in flux. This is why the best account that someone can ever give of themselves is not a statement but a pledge—a pledge to the principles they value, and to the vision of the person they hope to become.

Part Two

Page 125 @ November 16, 2019

You don’t need to tell a bunch of computer whizzes that they possess superior knowledge and skills that uniquely qualify them to act independently and make decisions on behalf of their fellow citizens without any oversight or review. Nothing inspires arrogance like a lifetime spent controlling machines that are incapable of criticism.

Page 125 @ November 16, 2019

This, to my thinking, actually represented the great nexus of the Intelligence Community and the tech industry: both are entrenched and unelected powers that pride themselves on maintaining absolute secrecy about their developments. Both believe that they have the solutions for everything, which they never hesitate to unilaterally impose. Above all, they both believe that these solutions are inherently apolitical, because they’re based on data, whose prerogatives are regarded as preferable to the chaotic whims of the common citizen.

Page 183 @ November 16, 2019

I felt far from home, but monitored. I felt more adult than ever, but also cursed with the knowledge that all of us had been reduced to something like children, who’d be forced to live the rest of our lives under omniscient parental supervision. I felt like a fraud, making excuses to Lindsay to explain my sullenness. I felt like a fool, as someone of supposedly serious technical skills who’d somehow helped to build an essential component of this system without realizing its purpose.

Page 199 @ November 17, 2019

Put simply, a world in which every law is always enforced would be a world in which everyone was a criminal.

Part Three

Page 227 @ November 17, 2019

I liked reading the Constitution partially because its ideas are great, partially because its prose is good, but really because it freaked out my coworkers. In an office where everything you printed had to be thrown into a shredder after you were done with it, someone would always be intrigued by the presence of hard-copy pages lying on a desk.

Page 317 @ November 17, 2019

Watching as my photos flicked by. I whipped out my phone and made the mistake of Googling myself. So many comments labeling me a stripper or whore. None of this is me. Just like the feds, they had already decided who I was.

Page 327 @ November 17, 2019

Who among us can predict the future? Who would dare to? The answer to the first question is no one, really, and the answer to the second is everyone, especially every government and business on the planet. This is what that data of ours is used for. Algorithms analyze it for patterns of established behavior in order to extrapolate behaviors to come, a type of digital prophecy that’s only slightly more accurate than analog methods like palm reading.