: New: Book Report: Permanent Record

It's whistleblower Ed Snowden's autobiography. I'd already read+watched plenty about him and knew that he had discovered and leaked details of the NSA's unethical, illegal, and pointless spying on American citizens. But this book gave me some details: How had he learned about this program, which was kept secret from most people within the NSA itself?

One of Snowden's projects was organizing the NSA's internal documentation and making it internally accessible and useful. People within the NSA wrote reports that they wanted widely known within the NSA. Snowden set up a service that looked for new documents and added likely-interesting documents to feeds for other NSA folks to read. Thus it didn't seem strange when NSA computers under his control scanned other NSA computers for documents; and on occasion he stumbled onto mis-classified documents that he wasn't meant to have access to. Since I'd worked on organization-internal documents myself, this was an interesting "Things are tough all over" answer.

In amongst the serious stuff, a fun detail about life under government surveillance from Snowden's girlfriend's diary:

…But still a tail following. I left the house, happy to get back in the air at this local aerial silks studio. Made it to the studio and couldn't find street parking, but my tail did. He had to leave his spot when I drove out of range, so I doubled back and stole his spot.

This is an interesting read, even if you followed the news back at the time; plenty of the problematic crap that was going on then is still going on.

Tags: book capabilities