The NSA Is Not On Your Side

Quinn Norton has written an interesting article on how insecure our online communications are and why we seem culturally incapable of doing anything about it. Part of his explanation is that the Intelligence Community is itself living in a world without privacy so they’ve lost touch with the value of privacy. What they value is what most people value, which is having their job be as easy as possible.

In theory, the reason we’re so nice to soldiers, that we have customs around honoring and thanking them, is that they’re supposed to be sacrificing themselves for the good of the people. In the case of the NSA, this has been reversed. Our wellbeing is sacrificed to make their job of monitoring the world easier. When this is part of the culture of power, it is well on its way to being capable of any abuse.

Put in the simplest terms, the NSA is not at all interested in helping us keep our communications secure. They are interested in keeping our communications as insecure as possible. Perhaps there are other factions within the government who make it their business to have our interests at heart, but they don’t have the same technological know-how and resources as the NSA.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at