“I used to work for the government, now I work for the public,” is the first line Edward Snowden’s memoir Permanent Record, which was published on Tuesday.
The former CIA agent, who in 2013 copied and leaked thousands of classified documents from the National Security Agency to prove how the American government was actively recording and snooping on citizens’ private lives, has been living in exile since then – seeking asylum in countries across the world.
Speaking to late-night show host Trevor Noah, Snowden expanded on the first line, “I used to work for the government, now I work for the public. I didn’t realise there used to be a difference.”
The whistleblower has been sued by the US for publishing his book without submitting it to the CIA and NSA for a pre-publication review, which, they claim is in violation of “express obligations under the agreements he had signed.”
Describing his book as a dual story of his life, his story of the 2013 leak and changes in technology and intelligence, Snowden told Noah how impossible it would have been to submit the book for a government review. He also admitted, laughingly, that the government’s chagrin had actually worked in his favour.
“The book was not getting that much attention,” he said. “It was like 25 on the charts. Then the government said, ‘We don’t want you to read this book. God, sue Snowden as fast as you can. Do anything you can. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!’ And now we’re number one basically everywhere. So you can say that the attorney general is the best hype man I ever had.”
Outlining how the US doesn’t have an essential data privacy law, he said, “The problem with data protection laws is that they presume data collection was okay. And that’s a problem.”