Monday, June 10, 2013

Edward Snowden, NSA surveillance, and "me"

There’s no need to repeat all the facts about whistleblower Edward Snowden, now “hiding out” in Hong Kong.  The main reference on the UK Guardian seems to be here
There are various levels of complexity in his history.  Why is a private contractor entrusted with access to these kinds of secrets?  Was there some hidden period of quasi-employment with the CIA, part time (yesterday’s post)?  It seems like it, although right now the motives sound like the stuff of novels (like mine). 

Snowden, who is quite attractive (and there are reports he doesn’t have a lot of formal education – again, that needs to be sifted) and articulate, says the had the ability to track almost any politically active private American (yes, someone like me)  and cause him trouble, if he had wanted to. 

Of course, his case is legally complicated, with issues of asylum, and the comparisons to Julian Assange and maybe Bradley Manning are obvious.

But does this NSA surveillance – which I certainly accept as motivated by the need to stop domestic terrorism (and maybe horrific stuff like EMP or dirty bombs, a cut above what happened in Boston) – really represent a personal threat to someone like me?


I suppose, with a wealth of imagination, I can imagine being framed for something.  At least I can imagine how the “screenplay” would go (especially if Brit Marling wrote it).  The biggest practical risk is, though, attracting the indignation of the “bad guys”.  It doesn’t sound likely, because there are so many more “lucrative targets”, but it only takes one enemy to end a life.  It's the low probability, high impact "problem". So I can sort of buy the government’s argument that I could be better off being surveilled than not.

Let me share Timothy B. Lee's Wonkblog piece for the Washington Post. "5 Ways to stop the NSA from spying on your", link here. I have no fluency to even take these steps, but I don't think that the "government" by itself, in my case, would present the greatest risk.  Read it and laugh, or weep.. Then, just maybe, do it.

I suppose I should continue pondering why the "government" looked at a physical weakling like me as subversive back in 1962, when I was at NIH.

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