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Edward Snowden’s First Adventures in Cyberspace – An excerpt

The Nation – Exclusive: Edward Snowden’s First Adventures in Cyberspace An excerpt from the whistleblower’s new memoir.  Excerpted from Permanent Record, by Edward Snowden, published September 17, 2019, by Henry Holt and Company. Copyright © 2019 by Edward Snowden. All rights reserved. “…Nowadays, connectivity is just presumed. smartphones, laptops, desktops, everything’s connected, always. Connected to what exactly? How? It doesn’t matter. You just tap the icon your older relatives call “the Internet button” and boom, you’ve got it: the news, pizza delivery, streaming music, and streaming video that we used to call TV and movies. Back then, however, we plugged our modems directly into the wall, with manly twelve-year-old hands. I’m not saying that I knew much about what the Internet was, or how exactly I was connecting to it, but I did understand the miraculousness of it all. Because in those days, when you told the computer to connect, you were setting off an entire process wherein the computer would beep and hiss like a traffic jam of snakes, after which—and it could take lifetimes, or at least whole minutes—you could then pick up any other phone in the house on an extension line and actually hear the computers talking. You couldn’t actually understand what they were saying to each other, of course, since they were speaking in a machine language that transmitted up to fourteen thousand symbols per second. Still, even that incomprehension was an astonishingly clear indication that phone calls were no longer just for older teenage sisters…As the millennium approached, the online world would become increasingly centralized and consolidated, with both governments and businesses accelerating their attempts to intervene in what had always been a fundamentally peer-to-peer relationship. But for one brief and beautiful stretch of time—a stretch that, fortunately for me, coincided almost exactly with my adolescence—the Internet was mostly made of, by, and for the people. Its purpose was to enlighten, not to monetize, and it was administered more by a provisional cluster of perpetually shifting collective norms than by exploitative, globally enforceable terms-of-service agreements. To this day, I consider the 1990s online to have been the most pleasant and successful anarchy I’ve ever experienced. I was especially involved with the Web-based bulletin-board systems or BBSes. You could pick a username and type out whatever message you wanted to post. Any and all messages that replied to your post would be organized by thread. Imagine the longest email chain you’ve ever been on, but in public. There were also chat applications, like Internet Relay Chat, which provided an immediate-gratification instant-message version of the same experience. You could discuss any topic in real time, or at least as close to real time as a telephone conversation. <[a href=””>Edward Snowden worked as a contractor for the CIA and NSA. Currently, he serves as president of the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation…”]

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