Sunday, July 28, 2013

Make me feel stupid. It's easy

There are lots of things that make me feel stupid, but I'll just pick out one, for now:

 Let's start with the Edward Snowden story. Exactly what information did he leak, and how is the government gathering information on all of us--I mean, what, precisely, is being recorded and monitored?  Is this simply too technical for me?  And how do I feel about what Snowden did? I have not been able to come up with a definite opinion about this issue.

 In The Washington Post, I read Dana Milbank's opinion, which I find very reasonable; of course the American people have a right to know what information our government is gathering, and we do need to have a discussion about how much surveillance we are willing to accept in exchange for our national security. Edward Snowden's original intent might have been to force our government to be more transparent, but his message becomes murky with the release of so many other top secret documents. And his seeking asylum seems to put his own life story in front of his cause.  Milbank feels that Snowden would help his cause by coming home. On the subject of asylum and avoiding prosecution, a recent Huffington Post story paints Snowden as an extortionist.

 As Dana Milbank pointed out, the issue that should be front and center has been forgotten.  What information is the NSA gathering about us, and how are they using it? Jeff Lyon of Rubbing Alcoholic Blog believes it's more than just metadata, that the NSA has everything. Indeed, in the age of cell phones and internet, we can all be hacked and stalked with more ease than ever.

 On the other hand, The People's View posted an opinion titled "A Crash Course in the NSA Programs and the Fourth Amendment" that attempts to explain what metadata is and how the NSA could use it legally. The concluding paragraph--

This debate must start with educating the technologists about the legal principles and the political activists about the technology. This debate must find balance between the principle of protecting privacy and the need to gather intelligence in the context of the information super highway about threats, keeping in mind that time is of the essence. If the debate disintegrates into shouting matches and misinformation campaigns to see who's the loudest, no one will benefit.

 The breadth of the fallout from Snowden's leaks is something we know not now, but John Naughton wrote in The Observer that the fate of the internet is in question, as well. 

"...The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their "cloud" services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA. That means that if you're thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again..."

So much to ponder...What should Edward Snowden's fate be?  I don't know. We are a nation of laws, and I believe that we do need to enforce them. It cannot be permissable for one person to decide which laws are worth following and which are not--and yet.

How do YOU feel about all this?


Cie Cheesemeister said...

To be honest, I'm in the dark about this too. You're not alone!

Karen said...

It's easy to make me feel stupid. My Feedly Reader says the title of this post is still "One of the things that makes me feel stupid".

Karen said...

Milbank feels that Snowden would help his cause by coming home. On the subject of asylum and avoiding prosecution, a recent Huffington Post story paints Snowden as an extortionist.

By the way, great post. I'm in total agreement with these two sentences if not the entire paragraph.

actonbell said...

Cheesemeister, it will be interesting to see how this develops...
Thanks, Karen. Snowden is probably very stressed out right now, afraid of being harmed, but I don't think that will happen.

Anonymous said...

it is a tough one.

my personal belief is that right and wrong are not givens. as an outsider to the us i'm kinda glad to see this sort of thing exposed, - but i would hate to see anyone get hurt as a result of it.

TLP said...

Ahem....Tried to comment, but failed.

Too lazy to type it all again. Anyway, this is a good post.

Karen said...

I don't know what to think anymore! Glenn Greenwald's partner was detained at Heathrow for 9 hours today by UK authorities as he passed through London's Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro!

Via The Guardian:

Logophile said...

My husband, the retired military man, insists that these things should, first, be handled through the proper channels but sometimes the proper channels know and don't care so then what? Snowden did muddy the water, I think and has made choices that I find difficult to support so it is hard for me to make a call. Mr. Logo was willing to call him a traitor once he went to Russia but... I am still going back and forth and don't feel like I really know.
I like my heroes in white and villains in black~makes it so much easier!