NSA whistleblower Snowden tweets out censored parts in the Chinese edition of his memoir

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 12, 2019

Edward Snowden, who is living a life of exile in Russia after leaking information about the US government’s mass surveillance program in 2013, took to Twitter on Tuesday saying that the Chinese edition of his memoir 'Permanent Record' has been censored - violating the publishing agreement - seeking to expose the censored bits to the world. “So I'm going to resist it the way I know best: it's time to blow the whistle…” he said in a thread on Twitter.

Snowden is the former contractor at the National Security Agency who leaked thousands of classified documents to the press in 2013 which brought to light the details and scope of US intelligence agencies’ secret surveillance post 9/11. He had released his memoir, Permanent Record, in September this year. In the memoir, Snowden explains why he decided to blow the whistle on the US intelligence agencies’ surveillance programmes.

“I asked to see a copy of censored passages, and was given a list of a few of the worst examples. I'm going to post them right here on Twitter, and we're going to translate them and expose exactly what the censors were trying to hide. Let's use Twitter for something good,” one of his first tweets on the alleged Chinese censorship of his memoir said.

Here is the chain of tweets he posted:


He further asked people on twitter to compile a correct and unabridged version of Permanent Record to publish freely online in Chinese, by assembling a cadre of translators to “expose every shameful redaction the censors demanded”.

“We will work in service to the greater Republic of Letters and a better internet,”  he added.

He asked anyone who you can read simplified Chinese and another language the memoir has been translated into, or knows someone who does, to tag them in the thread to see if they can “help restore the missing passages to the Chinese edition”. He proceeded to post excerpts from the Chinese edition, where he alleged censorship.

He said in another tweet that there are probably changes in parts other than the ones he was posting about, but that cannot be known until a hardcopy of the simplified edition is put online. “...But let's start correcting the corrections. Thank you so much for helping Chinese readers!” he said.

“This has been a long day. It's past 7AM here and I haven't slept yet, so I'm going to crash, but I look forward to the responses. Let's do something good for the world,”  he said in another tweet.

“And before anyone asks, I will make exactly zero dollars from the Chinese edition of the book (because of the US government lawsuit), but that's alright: I didn't write this book for money,” he said in one of his concluding tweets until now.

His Twitter bio, as well as the opening line of Permanent Record states: "I used to work for the government, but now I work for the public."

His memoir proceeds to add: “It took me nearly three decades to recognise that there was a distinction, and when I did, it got me into a bit of trouble at the office. As a result, I now spend my time trying to protect the public from the person I used to be - a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA), just another young technologist out to build what I was sure would be a better world.” 

Snowden is facing espionage charges in the United States that could send him to prison for decades. The US accuses Snowden of endangering national security, while at the same time, his defenders praise him for his advocacy for privacy and his act of whistleblowing.

Published on November 12, 2019

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