An Open Secret

I enjoy Michael Moore movies.  I don’t always agree with his politics, and some of the things he does make me cringe in embarrassment, but he puts on a good show, and illuminates a genuine problem.

But one of his works was weaker than the others: Fahrenheit 9/11.  I found it disappointing, because many of the ‘revelations’ in the movie were things that I already knew from reading the newspapers.

And so it is with the revelations of NSA spying.  We’ve known about it for a long time:

  • In 2003, there was a government program called Total Information Awareness, which proposed widespread snooping of Americans.  It was defunded after public protest, but we can surmise that things like this never really die.
  • From roughly ten years ago, we knew that the NSA was building rooms in the installations of the telephone and Internet providers, who were granted immunity under Federal law from liability.  What were these rooms for?  A place for NSA agents to play backgammon?
  • For a couple of years now, we’ve known about the Utah Data Center, an NSA computer installation with a storage capacity of billions of terabytes.  I know that elaborate simulations of weather, or atomic explosions, can use vast quantities of computer resources, but that isn’t really the mission of the NSA, is it?

Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA spying programs aren’t really revelations.  They’re simply confirming what we already knew, if we cared to look.  In another time, we had real journalists looking around and reporting things like this.  Alas, not anymore.

We’re told that all of this is necessary to protect against terrorists.  But if the terrorists are half the intelligent, dangerous enemy we surmise them to be, they already know.

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