And this is it after two years? Cool!
When former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden spoke about the impact of Edward Snowden’s leaked information on domestic surveillance reform at the annual Wall Street Journal CFO meeting, he could have just as easily pointed his finger and laughed—at all of us:
“If somebody would come up to me and say ‘Look, Hayden, here’s the thing: This Snowden thing is going to be a nightmare for you guys for about two years. And when we get all done with it, what you’re going to be required to do is that little 215 program about American telephony metadata — and by the way, you can still have access to it, but you got to go to the court and get access to it from the companies, rather than keep it to yourself’ — I go: ‘And this is it after two years? Cool!’”
On that last point, he gave the thumbs up.
Section 215-justified bulk metadata collection only became public knowledge when Snowden—who rightly assumed people around the world would be as appalled as he was—had enough integrity to expose it. And before anyone has the gall to call him a traitor, it should be noted that he did not upload the documents to a publicly accessible space; he didn’t carelessly hold on to any files which could later be stolen or otherwise compromised; and he did not hand anything over to an enemy group or state—he approached the media in a tradition as old as the twin history of whistleblowers and journalism. Hayden himself even refused to call Snowden a traitor. Now let’s move on.
As insidious and contentious (not to mention illegal) as NSA bulk collection was, the sheer scope of the program seemed to short-circuit the minds of the masses. With laser precision, the public and mainstream media trained their attention on Section 215, causing collective amnesia of the NSA’s myriad darker and more nefarious surveillance tactics. These include Patriot Act provisions allowing for gag-enforced secret government requests for personal information from just about any company a person does business with. It also includes the notorious “sneak and peek” warrants that permit government agencies to search your property and anything found within—without any requirement to inform you of the search until months after the fact. And, of course, that’s just the Patriot Act.
It’s infuriating, actually, that so much focus was given to this single sunsetting section—its lack of significance highlighted in the aforementioned interview by Hayden’s pinching his thumb and finger close together as he spoke—when privacy is jeopardized by countless other sneaky and creepy practices that were all revealed by Snowden.
Hayden’s statement is nothing shy of a damning political and cultural commentary highlighting an arrogant and corrupt government empowered to evolve into a fascistic, paranoid corporate plutocracy by the collective gnat-sized attention span and spectacular apathy of vast swaths of the populace—none of which is justifiable, acceptable, or tolerable by any stretch of the definitions. To say this is a sad state of affairs would be gross abuse by understatement of the English language.
Ladies and gentlemen, things are fucked up—and they’re going to get unfathomably worse if we don’t take our aggregate outrage and apply it to something infinitely more compelling than social media rants and ineffective online petitions.
Can it be any wonder that Hayden found it necessary to gloat?
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