Posted by: mutantpoodle | June 13, 2013

Has anything happened recently?


No excuses. It’s just that at some point in January I got overwhelmed with a sense of deja vu – I knew what was going to happen politically (more or less), and it’s gets tiresome reboooting my outrage and anger.

And then I started working.

And then our national security state went front-and-center.

I wasn’t even that excited by Edward Snowden (or even his pole-dancing girlfriend) because, quite frankly, if you didn’t know the government was mining telephone meta-data all this time (remember the Bush administration, folks?) you weren’t really paying attention.

And it isn’t a news flash that the NSA looks at furriners’ internet activity all the time, either. (How they define “foreign”, however, is a bit problematic.)

That said, I think the conversation is good, and I think people should know what their government is doing (in their name, to paraphrase the great Charlie Pierce). And I didn’t really care about Edward Snowden enough to put him in the category of traitor (not really) or hero (um, no).

Until this:

BEIJING — Edward Snowden told Hong Kong media that the United States is involved in extensive hacking operations directed against China and Hong Kong.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post published on the newspaper’s website early Thursday, Snowden said he wanted to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries.’’

Oh, brother.

Let me say, first of all, that I am shocked – SHOCKED – to discover that the land of my birth is engaged in espionage of any kind against any of the other peace-loving nations that share the planet with us.

Here’s why I didn’t have a problem with Snowden sharing the Verizon/NSA story: it wasn’t really news, and any terrorist with half a brain already knew to be wary of cell phones (assuming they watched Zero Dark Thirty, they probably went to rotating burners, at best, or carrier pigeons long ago).

PRISM is newsworthy because a 51% probability that a target is foreign seems like a weak hurdle for, you know, warrantless search. Otherwise, one of the disadvantages of being a non-USA-an living in non-USA is that the constitution of the United States doesn’t protect you.

And it doesn’t protect China.

So: as much as it offends young Edward’s sensibilities that we haven’t copped to hacking into Chinese computers while complaining about them doing the same to us, it seems to me that the National Security Clearance he has and the agreements he signed to protect state secrets most certainly apply to that information, and while it was already hard to call Snowden a whistleblower (based on the statute), there’s no way to justify what Snowden just did, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, treasonous.

And what sucks about that is that it could distract from the real discussion we should be having about what the NSA does, to wit:

  • Is it appropriate (SCOTUS has already ruled that it’s constitutional)?
  • Is it effective?
  • Are there proper (or any) controls?
  • What can be made public without risk of endangering real investigations and intelligence gathering?

I’m going to go with  three “noes” and “quite a bit more than is made public now.”  But I’m happy to have a discussion about all of it, and watch the GOP filibuster and common-sense revisions to how our government looks into everything we do.

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