The perpetually unfolding drama surrounding the release of confidential documents from the NSA will likely haunt our generation as profoundly as McCarthyism haunted our parents. The story is long and complex--stretching from at least the Pentagon Papers and Ellsberg to Wikileaks and Assange, the Military and Manning, Snowden and Greenwald. Now more than 10 years after 9/11, we are just starting to ask seriously if we’ve given up more than we gained in this war against terror. Even today could you measure the damage McCarthyism inflicted? Solutions are hard to come by: is Snowden a whistleblower or a traitor? Peeling away the language of fear, challenging the ‘national security’ veneer and moving beyond 9/11 is a courageous task. The current American administration hasn’t had the courage, insight, or political will to take on such a task, yet we all remember the slogan, hope. The world has wanted to move on for some time now. Yet it wants to move on safely, and there’s the rub.
The NSA’s hand was forced by the whistleblowers and now the media, and the media is playing a game that resembles what hackers do to software publishers. The media is essentially a virus that schedules attacks on the system, sucking out information about previously secret government access to email, SSL encryption backdoors, Angela Merkel's cell phone, and european data centers. (The results are as predictable as a boy-band’s single, inspiring some and intimidating others.) The US government finds itself desperately searching for an anti-virus, a system update, a Version 2.0 to eradicate the Snowdens, the Bradleys or the Greenwalds that have snuck into the system. But are these bugs not possibly features? Maybe users want Snowden’s and Greenwalds. Hackers expose weaknesses in software that the publishers then fix--and the system works better for the intrusion.
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