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who's on team edward?

so i tweeted this the other day:
sparkle sparkle

"ffs, edward snowden is not the issue!"

that was in response to the sudden shift in media priorities from the rightness or wrongness of the american government dropping in for a peek-a-boo at their citizens' personal exchanges to talking about the man who leaked details of the operation to the guardian newspaper. is he exaggerating the extent of the problem in order to get media attention? does he fancy himself a rebel in the mould of julian assange? is he trying to make a political point against a president he doesn't like [snowden is apparently a libertarian republican who supported the candidacy of ron paul]? should we, the onlookers/ victims treat him as a hero or traitor?

the point of my tweet was to throw my opinion out there: we shouldn't give a shit. because ultimately, what we should be talking about [and don't think that this kind of program is limited to the united states, just because that's the one that got leaked to the media] is whether or not we are willing to allow our elected representatives to appoint or hire groups to monitor our personal and heretofore private communications in the name of national and international security.

since virtually every aspect of the program is in dispute, it's virtually impossible to talk about the specifics of what was recorded, retained and used to what end. so what we're left with is a very general discussion of safety vs. liberty. but as much as it's a very general discussion, it's also a very realistic, practical one. it's about how much you trust people. not just the government. everybody.

and that's where edward snowden becomes very much the issue.

you can argue about the improved safety provided by monitoring web activities, emails, phone calls and text messages all you want. maybe they have helped. in fact, it's kind of hard to believe that they wouldn't help to some degree, provided you know where to look. but the fact is that edward snowden, a high school dropout who got hired at a contractee of the u.s. government was able, after three months on the job [still technically within the probation period in canada, although i don't know how that works in other countries- my point is that it's not long to be on a job], to download some pretty sensitive and incriminating files and apparently had access to this entire program. after three months.

yes, edward snowden's response to this was to grab as much information as he could and hand it over to the media to expose what he felt was an invasion of privacy. but he could have just as easily handed it over to the mob. edward snowden could have been just about anyone and apparently, the government's methods of vetting employees could use a little upgrading. i've been at my job for over a year and i'm not allowed access to our budget files. if i need to look at something, i get an electronic copy mailed to me so that there's no danger of me messing with the master document. and i don't think that's a lack of trust, either. i think that's just the realisation that it's not the best idea to give everyone the keys to the kingdom.

so the questions we're asking shouldn't stop with "am i comfortable with the government mining my personal communications" but should logically continue to "am i comfortable with anyone that my government might contract and any of their employees having access to my personal communications?"

in my case that comes down to a simple hell no.

you could make a case that monitoring increases security, but my argument would be that as long as anyone who has access to your systems can lay their hands on the information [and remember, it's not like edward snowden hacked into a mainframe from a remote location- he just downloaded files, like we all do at work and at home], you're actually decreasing security in another very serious way. because all of the information collected [and we will probably never know how long it's held for] can be captured and given to anybody. how secure do you feel now?

so no, the specifics of who edward snowden is- his beliefs, his motivations, his goals- aren't particularly important. but his role as an employee and his access to all of our private communications absolutely is. because we don't know how many other edward snowdens there are, downloading that data and sharing it with their friends, their political allies, people offering them money or people threatening them. we don't have a way of finding out who all the other edwards are and we don't know who's on their team.

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