American Elephants

Did You Think We Don’t Need Anti-Terror Measures? by The Elephant's Child

I have been fascinated with the coverage today of Edward Snowden and the firestorm about NSA and whatever information they are gathering up.  Dorothy Rabinowitz had a column in the Wall Street Journal  regarding the anti-government leaker and “the school of believers certain than an all-powerful American government regularly plots to invade their lives and subvert their freedom.”

News of data mining looked to be irresistible proof of that faith—their darkest vision of an America at the mercy of a government secretly gathering all sorts of personal information and subverting the Constitution. And there was Edward Snowden, the latest addition to the pantheon of anti-government leakers, releasing a tonnage of classified data about the NSA surveillance programs. …

Trouble is, this latest face of self-sacrifice for a higher cause (Snowden has let it be known he considers his life as a free man pretty much over now) hasn’t been greeted with anything remotely like admiration among Americans, other than sympathizers in the aforementioned groups. From all indications, he’s an object of general contempt well deserving of prosecution—another in the line of socially deranged seekers who found the self-definition they long for in their obsessed vision of their government as the central source of evil in the world. It didn’t help that Mr. Snowden’s explanation for what he did came brimming odiously with virtue—he had, he said, decided to leak material because he thought Americans should be informed so that they could debate the questions he raised.

The number of Americans who hold it as revealed truth that the great peril in their lives is government intrusiveness—as opposed, say, to the menace of terrorist assaults, which the surveillance programs are intended to deter—is small, if vocal. They have been out in force, awash in talk-show oratory over the threat of government surveillance, the checking of phone records.

I thought that was pretty sensible, and Dorothy Rabinowitz has a long history of being quite sensible. But the comments! Readers were furious. How could she make light of the terrible intrusion into their privacy? Cancelled subscriptions, utter fury.

Our government had warnings from Russian intelligence, it was reported, about Tammerlan Tsarnaev, interviewed him and ignored the warnings. If, however, after the event, they can go to the phone company records and get records of the Tsarnaev phone calls, that would seem to me to be a source of other potential terrorists.

When I am online and look at the L.L.Bean’s online catalog, wonder of wonders, whatever websites I visit will probably have an L.L.Bean ad. If I express online interest in a product, I will regularly see ads for that product. Has nobody noticed this phenomenon?

You have been warned, if you are paying attention that your Facebook page will be examined by your potential employers. Your tweets too. I am astounded by the paranoia out there. You have no privacy on the internet. The internet companies are using the information they gather to sell ads, to measure interests, preferences that they data mine to determine public opinion.

There is no privacy on the internet. On the other hand why would anyone want to read my e-mails? I’m here expressing my disagreement with the administration every day, and everything I write is open to any reader. Disagreement is something this administration does not like. Perhaps I should be worried.

Edward Snowden had another interview today with some Hong Kong newspaper, and made the stunning revelation that the US has been hacking Chinese computers for years, both in Hong Kong, and on the mainland.  Well, I would hope so. Chinese hackers have been stealing our classified military weapons and aircraft and ship plans for years, to advance their own military abilities without having to dream up the stuff themselves.

Why do people think we have organizations like the CIA, NSA, and any of the multitude of other intelligence-gathering services anyway? My guess is that they have never given it a single thought, ever, and are frightened by the rumors of an out-of-control government prying into their phone calls and emails. Fourth Amendment! Some think the Patriot Act is something unconstitutional.

Edward Snowden is not a hero, just a naive fool. If he has revealed some horrible secret about the evil American government, I don’t know what he had in mind. Governments want to know what other governments have up their sleeves. or in their back pockets, and they worry about some governments more than others. They try to find out secrets, and that’s one way they try to protect us.

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