The King Of Whistleblowers
Edward Snowden’s tell-all biographical account, Permanent Record, is as scintillatingly frank as his lifeBy Sumi Thomas
To describe Edward Snowden as a hack would be an understatement, as his autobiographical account Permanent Record proves. He started ‘hacking’ young, beginning with resetting clocks in his house in order to avoid an early bedtime. With an IQ of 145, Snowden was bent towards figuring out ways to circumvent the rules.
In the words of his high school math teacher, “You should be using that brain of yours not to figure out how to avoid work, but to do the best work you can.” This, after Snowden, explained to him how he had cracked the marking system and figured that he could get by without turning in a single piece of homework, just by doing the quizzes.
“You have to start thinking about your permanent record,” his teacher advised him then. What a permanent record it has been for Snowden, hailed as a hero by many and as an anti-national by the rest. The extremely intelligent boy, who reposed his faith in the US Constitution like some do in The Bible, first found a security flaw in the website of the Los Alamos nuclear research laboratory when he was only in high school. With parents in the armed forces—father in the coast guard and mother in the National Security Agency— Snowden was impacted heavily by the events of September 11, 2001.
He joined the army to serve and protect his country, quickly becoming the prospect of a special force. However, a bad fall led to his having to leave the program entirely. Driven by a need to serve his country, he decided to do so using his exemplary computing skills. He applied for security clearance and received top-level TS/CSI clearance, which was required for joining the NSA and the CIA.
Agency jobs were few and far between, but there were plenty of jobs with private contractors who worked for the agencies; in fact, as Snowden discovered, these private contractors did much of the work for the US intelligence setup.
He was hired as a system administrator or a sysadmin in IT parlance, and soon had access to more sensitive material than he had ever imagined. It was during his NSA stint in Japan that Snowden realized that the agency was doing much more than targeted surveillance; that, in an attempt to ensure the “never again” orders from the powers that be post 9/11, the agency was full-fledged into mass surveillance. This, to Snowden, went deeply against everything he valued and respected in the American Constitution.
And that is how he went about documenting evidence and turned whistleblower against the NSA. Now living in Russia, and reunited with his girlfriend (now wife) Lindsay, whom he had to leave abruptly without explanation when he turned whistleblower, Snowden can only hope that his ‘work’ led to a significant change in the way governments value individual privacy. Meanwhile, the US government has sued Snowden over the book. The story, it seems, will be continued.
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