Local bookstore chain to host only U.S. appearance for new book
Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked classified National Security Agency information in 2013 about the U.S. government’s global surveillance programs, is considered a hero by some and a traitor by others. In his 2019 memoir, “Permanent Record: How One Man Exposed the Truth about Government Spying and Digital Security,” he told his side of the story. Now Snowden has come out with a young adult version of “Permanent Record,” aimed at making expert-level information about privacy accessible to a younger audience.
Edward Snowden book coming out Sept. 17
On Feb. 9, he’ll make his only U.S. appearance for the book — online through Zoom — with Copperfield’s Books. From Moscow, where he’s lived since 2013, Snowden will talk with Canadian-British blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow, who will speak from Burbank. Snowden aims to inform young people about power, information and privacy with the new book, according to his recent description of it.
“The young readers of today are being born into a world where everything that can be known about them — from their simplest joys to greatest mistakes — is compiled into a permanent record over which they have little control, but will be used to influence each of their years to come,” Snowden, now 37, said in a recent statement.
“This adaptation is an effort to make what was previously an expert conversation about power, the world and our place in it accessible to children and their families,” he continued. “At its core, this story is a lesson about how when the world goes wrong, sometimes even the youngest among us can help set things right.”Eight years ago, Snowden was an IT systems expert hired by National Security Agency contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. He also had worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and had growing concerns about the ethical and privacy implications of U.S. surveillance methods.
In 2013, he traveled to Hong Kong to provide three journalists with thousands of top-secret documents about U.S. intelligence agencies’ surveillance of American citizens. He intended to travel from Hong Kong — via Russia — to Ecuador, where he would seek asylum, but he was detained in Moscow, where he remains. “What I wasn't expecting was that the United States government itself ... would cancel my passport,” he told National Public Radio in 2019. The U.S. government considered him a traitor in violation of the Espionage Act.
Despite that Snowden is a polarizing figure, his message is important for young people who have grown up with technology and social media, said Doctorow, the coming program’s host and former co-editor of the wide-ranging blog Boing Boing, which covers technology, privacy and cybersecurity, among other topics. “Young people have less context. They care about their privacy, but they just don’t know who they need to be private from. They care about privacy from parents and teachers, but not stalkers or prospective future employers,” said Doctorow, who has a 13-year-old daughter.
Seven years later, Trump is President and now believes there is an argument that Snowden acted in the interest of all humankind.It is widely believed that a pardon of Snowden would encourage future whistle-blowers to publicize possible corruption or violations in the US intelligence community and other government agencies.
The younger audience especially needs to hear Snowden’s message, he added.
“He was someone who was extremely involved in technology but at the same time realized it was being used in dangerous ways by people he had respected,” Doctorow said.
While Snowden remains controversial, Doctorow contends the whistleblower deserves respect.“He risked not only his freedom, but his life,” Doctorow said. “He’s living in probably permanent exile in Russia. He turns out to be a person of enormous integrity.” Snowden has received accolades from other corners as well. He’s been honored with the Right Livelihood Award, the German Whistleblower Prize, the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and the Carl von Ossietzky Medal from the International League for Human Rights. Currently, he serves as president of the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
There have been several movies made about Snowden, including the 2016 biopic “Snowden,” directed by Oliver Stone, and the 2014 documentary “Citizenfour,” directed by Laura Poitras.
Ten years later, after the horrors of World War II, George Orwell published 1984, which described a dystopian future far less comforting than Huxley’s, and was positively terrifying in many ways. A cypherpunk is any activist advocating widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a route to social and political change.
For Copperfield’s Books, the coming event is a coup, an opportunity that came to them without the need to campaign for it.The book’s publisher, Macmillan of New York, approached Patty Norman, Copperfield’s young adults events specialist, who has been working out of the local chain’s Petaluma store for the past 17 years.
“I have been putting on kids’ and teens’ book events for a long time at Copperfield’s and I have a fairly high profile with publishers,” Norman explained. “Macmillan was planning this event and someone said, ‘Why not call Patty?’ — which I took as a huge compliment.” The controversy and legal questions surrounding Snowden’s actions might cause concern, but Norman sees value in presenting a forum for his ideas.
“Our role is not to present inflammatory people but people who will make us question and think,” she said. “The question is: If what you thought you were doing was right, how far would you go, and what would you give up?”
Time to Pardon Edward Snowden?
The program gives Copperfield’s a shot at a potentially global audience.“Events of this magnitude are scheduled by the publisher; they make the decision of where to place authors. Copperfield’s Books appreciates Macmillan Publishing's ongoing support for, and confidence in, independent bookstores during such a challenging economic time,” said Jamie Madsen, Copperfield’s marketing and events coordinator.
“Our children’s team makes every effort to provide events to our young adult audience that allow opportunities for critical thinking,” she added. “And we feel that, regardless of any individual’s opinion of Mr. Snowden, it is important to have thoughtful conversations in our community.”
The event will conclude with a Q&A session if there is time, with Doctorow and Snowden answering questions that have been submitted ahead of the event. Viewers can submit questions online when they buy tickets.You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at [email protected] or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.