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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Seest Thou These Stones In This Parched And Barren Wilderness?

Just a few more thoughts on Snowden:

  1. Is he a hero?  Maybe, but that remains to be seen--history will judge.
  2. Was the leak illegal.  Probably, but it also remain to be seen--the judicial system will judge.
  3. Was the program legal?  Seems like it, but constitutionality is up in the air--the political system will judge.

While the information collected was arguably innocuous on its face--certainly that's the argument being made by defenders in Congress and the Administration--a clever person or government entity can still determine identity from disparate bits of data, meta or otherwise.  And again, let's flip the equation: does our safety rest only on secrecy and is it so fragile that the mere outlines of our security will give away the game?  If so, we're doing it wrong.

I always tell my infosec students--who are part of an NSA-certified curriculum, mind you--that they should steer clear of any products and services that claim some special secret algorithm or mechanism makes their stuff unique.  No, you want to use open standards whose details are published and dissected by the community at large.

Similarly, in a free and open society, our polices must be out in the open.  Not just to vet them for effectiveness, but because in the end we all have a responsibility to determine what our nation does to provide for the common defense and general welfare.  Not necessarily all the details, just the broad strokes are generally enough.

I don't need to know evertyhing about the F-35's stealth, avionics and weapons capabilities, let alone how the DoD plans to use its 2400 fighters to decide whether it's worth spending $200M a pop.  I know enough to have the plane's existence disclosed, as well as its costs, maybe some other general info about it.  

Similarly, I don't care what specific protocols are used to capture Internet traffic or obtain phone records--I know enough that the NSA is not supposed to gather intel on Americans, is collecting much more than I'm comfortable with, and the oversight is less than I'd prefer.  I've always assumed they've done things like this, yet we need to see it out in the daylight to discuss just what we should do to balance civil liberties and general security.

And finally, I don't care about Snowden as a person.  He could be a left-handed anarcho-fascist with 30 dicks who jerks it to Maria in Metropolis on alternate Tuesdays whilst eating puppy pate.  Our public debate should be about what is being done for and to us, not the perfection of the messenger.


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June 11, 2013 in Conscience, Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink


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I have a hard time seeing how something can be "legal" if it is "unconstitutional".

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki | Jun 11, 2013 12:00:55 PM

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