I’ve commented often enough here that why someone fights is as important as the fact that he fights at all. I’ve always made this point in connection with the Left’s habit of likening the “insurgents” in Iraq to the Minute Men in America. Yes, both were fighting against the power structure, but the insurgents were and are fighting to enslave their country men and, eventually, have world domination, while the Minute Men were fighting to advance individual liberties. It is the thought that counts.
And so we come to Edward Snowden….
People on both the Left and the Right are lauding him as a hero — on the Right, because it allows them to say “We told you so” about the dangers of Big Brother government, and on the Left because it allows them to say “We told you so” about the dangers of being in a war against those poor misguided, root-caused-damaged Muslims. The former group desperately wants to protect Americans from their government; the latter group desperately wants to protect the world from America. Snowden falls into the latter group.
From the Glenn Greenwald interview with Edward Snowden, it’s clear that Snowden did not releases the information he did because he cared about Americans and their liberties. Instead, Snowden was protecting the world from America.
I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.
I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.
Snowden, in other words, is not a freedom fighter. He’s a garden variety pro-Obama Leftist who believes that America is a danger to the world. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that, thanks to him, we know about the scope of government surveillance. I’m just saying that Snowden is no hero because, in a world where motives matter, his motives are all wrong.
Slight change of subject here, but since it’s still about Snowden, I’m including it in the same post. James Taranto relays an interesting point from a reader about the fact that the NSA should have let us know about this a long time ago because having people know about does not impair their program’s efficacy:
There is something to be said for the idea of selectively declassifying information about the NSA programs. The information revealed by the Guardian and the Post is general enough that it’s difficult to imagine how it could be of use to terrorists. Reader John Scott makes the point in a perceptive email:
The administration tells us that Prism and the collection of data on every call made by Americans were classified secrets because government did not want to give information about our operations to our enemies. This justification is flimsy because of the pervasive nature of the programs. These programs have remained secret in order to prevent public outrage, not to thwart terrorists. Here is why.
If the mayor puts an undercover cop on 2% of the street corners every day, it is important to keep the daily assignments secret. In addition, it may be important to hide the fact that only 2% of the street corners have a cop, since a potential criminal may realize that his odds are good. But if the mayor has an undercover cop on every street corner, the need for secrecy is virtually nonexistent.
If the government monitored all emails, but not phone systems, the terrorists would use phone systems, and vice versa. Similarly, if government monitored all calls made from Yemen, terrorists in Yemen could relay messages through their comrades in France. But the pervasive measures that are in place prevent terrorists from designing their communication systems to exploit holes. In fact, any holes in our systems could be more easily hidden than the entire systems could be hidden. Hence, the reason for keeping these programs secret from the public is to make us compliant, not to make us safer.
John Scott’s point is entirely correct. While it doesn’t address whether, in a free society, it’s okay for the government to have computer networks reading all of our communications, it does point to the fact that, at the very least, we should have been allowed to have had a debate about trading privacy and liberty for a somewhat greater degree of protection against terrorist attacks. I say “somewhat greater” because, while the government claims to have foiled some terrorist attacks with PRISM and the NSA’s phone dragnet, and I’m willing to accept that as true, the federal government dropped every single ball related to the Boston Bombers.
When it came to Boston, it wasn’t just that this vast, intrusive spying program didn’t capture the planned attack. That the system missed the actual terrorist attack makes sense because the actors were able to communicate the old-fashioned way, by talking to each other face-to-face. It was that the same government that feels entitled to spy on our every phone call and keystroke, completely missed the fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had massive terrorist connections. He was waving red flags everywhere and our government gave him welfare instead of the boot.
The NSA thinks that it can bring some scientific algorithm to bear on the problem. Get the right algorithm and then capture enough data and then — voila! — perpetual security. But that’s not how it works. When a system places too much reliance on non-human factors, it effectively blinds itself to the randomness of humanity. Add to that the fact that our government, in thrall to political correctness, deliberately refuses to look at known indicators for terrorism, and you have a system that’s definitely intrusive, that’s questionably effective, and that sucks resources away from the human intelligence and real-world (as opposed to politically-correct-world) knowledge that must drive all security programs.