Probably the American intelligence services could easily find out that you are reading this text. And also when you last sent an e-mail or phoned your partner. Or that you are scratching your chin right in front of your screen.

Only a few years ago, these sentences would have sounded like paranoia - or at least self-centered. Apart from science fiction and Hollywood fantasies, it seemed unimaginable that US intelligence could save all human communication worldwide. That they would target each one of us and then search that data. In the background, without the knowledge of the public happen.

Since June 6, 2013, it's clear that this is pretty close to reality. At that time, a report was published in the British Guardian with the sober title " NSA-collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily ": The American National Security Agency (NSA) stores daily the call lists of all the clients of the telecommunications service provider Verizon. The report was the beginning of a whole cascade of articles that revealed an unbelievable scandal: the American secret services monitored people worldwide - without knowing it. Under the supervision of a democratic government, they spied on the globe.

A plea for freedom

The source for these reports were documents that came directly from the NSA; from a person who once worked on this system himself, had made it through their professional knowledge: Edward Snowden. Today, his name is interwoven with the NSA affair, his personal story with the publications. It is the story of a man who originally wanted to serve only his country - and finally revealed some of his greatest secrets.

The path of Edward Snowden has been traced several times in different variants; in newspaper articles his professional stations, in the documentary Citizenfour his revelations in a Hong Kong hotel room and in the Hollywood movie Snowden with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the leading role his remaining life. Snowden also revealed some details himself. His autobiography Permanent Record , which has just been released, could be a boring retelling of what one already knew anyway; a curriculum vitae studded with anecdotes.

But Snowden manages to add more to that. He tells the story of the Internet he grew up with, from the first anarchic structures in the eighties to the Web today, which has long been controlled by large corporations. Snowden traces America's recent history of how September 11th steered the US toward safety. And he makes his individual decisions understandable by explaining the surveillance systems and the legal system. Snowden's autobiography reads like a plea for privacy. And also as a request for understanding of his decisions.

Mass surveillance by mouse click

One has to be aware of this: the NSA has developed numerous tools to monitor Internet traffic. A digital tool, which particularly penetrated the privacy of users, was called Turbulence . This allowed the agency to check every URL worldwide. If somebody typed into the browser, that request also went through servers in telecom companies and embassies. Another tool called Turmoil collected this data - apart from the URL about the country from which the request was made. If anything suspicious, the request was forwarded to the Turbine tool, which referred them to the servers of the NSA. Then, exploits , ie malicious programs, were automated with the URL sent to the user. So while he thought he would simply call Google, the NSA was now able to monitor all his data. So it says Snowden. Mass surveillance by mouse click.

But why did not anyone but Snowden find anyone in the NSA questionable? How could it be that no one went public earlier? Although the Whistleblower outlines in his book throughout individual violations, the employees committed or siewussten. When he told his colleagues about his concerns, he often shrugged his shoulders and said, "What do you want to do?"

Maybe they were unaware of the extent of surveillance. No single agent has ever been able to notice anything of any action during his activity, Snowden writes. Also because they were committed in a variety of technical ways. "In order to discover even the trace of a punishable offense, one had to look for it, and in order to be able to search for it, one had to know that it existed."

It is probably relatively easy to answer why Edward Snowden became a whistleblower: his knowledge and conscience tormented him. It is more difficult to answer how his doubts arose. Permanent Record shows that there was not one situation, the particular border crossing, the piquant information that inspiredSnowden to his step.