NSA Secrecy and Personal Privacy

In an excellent essay about privacy and secrecy, law professor Daniel Solove makes an important point. There are two types of NSA secrecy being discussed. It’s easy to confuse them, but they’re very different.

Of course, if the government is trying to gather data about a particular suspect, keeping the specifics of surveillance efforts secret will decrease the likelihood of that suspect altering his or her behavior.

But secrecy at the level of an individual suspect is different from keeping the very existence of massive surveillance programs secret. The public must know about the general outlines of surveillance activities in order to evaluate whether the government is achieving the appropriate balance between privacy and security. What kind of information is gathered? How is it used? How securely is it kept? What kind of oversight is there? Are these activities even legal? These questions can’t be answered, and the government can’t be held accountable, if surveillance programs are completely classified.

This distinction is also becoming important as Snowden keeps talking. There are a lot of articles about Edward Snowden cooperating with the Chinese government. I have no idea if this is true—Snowden denies it—or if it’s part of an American smear campaign designed to change the debate from the NSA surveillance programs to the whistleblower’s actions. (It worked against Assange.) In anticipation of the inevitable questions, I want to change a previous assessment statement: I consider Snowden a hero for whistleblowing on the existence and details of the NSA surveillance programs, but not for revealing specific operational secrets to the Chinese government. Charles Pierce wishes Snowden would stop talking. I agree; the more this story is about him the less it is about the NSA. Stop giving interviews and let the documents do the talking.

Back to Daniel Solove, this excellent 2011 essay on the value of privacy is making the rounds again. And it should.

Many commentators had been using the metaphor of George Orwell’s 1984 to describe the problems created by the collection and use of personal data. I contended that the Orwell metaphor, which focuses on the harms of surveillance (such as inhibition and social control) might be apt to describe law enforcement’s monitoring of citizens. But much of the data gathered in computer databases is not particularly sensitive, such as one’s race, birth date, gender, address, or marital status. Many people do not care about concealing the hotels they stay at, the cars they own or rent, or the kind of beverages they drink. People often do not take many steps to keep such information secret. Frequently, though not always, people’s activities would not be inhibited if others knew this information.

I suggested a different metaphor to capture the problems: Franz Kafka’s The Trial, which depicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people’s information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used. The problems captured by the Kafka metaphor are of a different sort than the problems caused by surveillance. They often do not result in inhibition or chilling. Instead, they are problems of information processing—the storage, use, or analysis of data—rather than information collection. They affect the power relationships between people and the institutions of the modern state. They not only frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, but they also affect social structure by altering the kind of relationships people have with the institutions that make important decisions about their lives.

The whole essay is worth reading, as is—I hope—my essay on the value of privacy from 2006.

I have come to believe that the solution to all of this is regulation. And it’s not going to be the regulation of data collection; it’s going to be the regulation of data use.

EDITED TO ADD (6/18): A good rebutttal to the “nothing to hide” argument.

Posted on June 18, 2013 at 11:02 AM35 Comments


Mike June 18, 2013 11:18 AM

In the excerpt you cite Mr. Solove states “Many people do not care about concealing the hotels they stay at, the cars they own or rent, or the kind of beverages they drink. People often do not take many steps to keep such information secret.” It appears that he is implying that it was because they didn’t care if other saw this data.

Could instead it be that they thought (assumed?) that the data was secure and they didn’t need to take any additional steps to protect this data from anyone other than the business they were dealing with? Rather than assume what people want wouldn’t it be better to simply ask them if they minded if the government used this data?

wallawalla June 18, 2013 11:27 AM

Asking Snowden to keep quiet is a failure to recognize a significant part of Snowden’s game. It’s not just about revealing wrongdoing and forcing a debate – he explicitly stated his purpose was to be an example for other, future whistleblowers, to show that you can get away with it (for a while, at least) and, by implication, to create a wave of these events, possibly emanating from the libertarian core of technology workers whom he represents.

JC June 18, 2013 12:07 PM

whats concerns me is two things going on.
1. The US news sites have focused on Snowden and
2. Have followed and focused on the Gov shouting how these efforts have prevented a lot of problems.

Thats not the topic. The topic is – is this legal, is it right? Does it fit within the US constitution. Justification from the NSA is not an answer to the correct question. Snowden is only the messenger.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons June 18, 2013 12:16 PM

Our company, based on current information available in public form, is forced to revisit our own privacy and customer relations information assurance standards. We cannot, as revealed, insure or guarantee the sanctity of customer data, or our own data for that matter. Our concerns range from the propriety of our communications to our protected intellectual property.

In order to meet out due diligence requirements under law, we are forced to restructure our policies, operations, and contractual agreements both in our domestic and international business.

The level of impact on our business (we develop intellectual properties) is grand indeed. We haven’t yet computing the cost to our business, future business, and the future of our company.

The federal government has done a level of damage to our business that cannot even be calculated. We may have to fold our business based on just the revelations irrespective of what “the truth” is. Reminds me of Clinton, when the NSA says; it depends on what the meaning “privacy is” is.

bf60820f June 18, 2013 12:27 PM

“I consider Snowden a hero … not for revealing specific operational secrets to the Chinese government.”

That makes him a traitor, whether or not he’s a 4th Amendment hero, not the other way around.

This has turned into another huge botch job. Snowden leaks then runs to China and gives state secrets to the Chinese. Greenwald says Snowden has way more sensitive information than would be responsible for the Guardian to publish, but is okay with Snowden taking that information to China. Then the Guardian has to walk back the bits about “server access” and even the silly personal stuff about “Special Forces training”. And after Greenwald explicitly asked for leakers to leak, he can’t even be bothered to figure out how to set up tormail or any secure comms whatsoever. And on and on and on.

So much for the brave defenders of the U.S. Constitution. I’d like this to be about the Fourth Amendment but every detail from Snowden and Greenwald screams Amateur Hour. I just don’t trust their judgement.

Not me June 18, 2013 12:32 PM

“…frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness.” That sounds like the so-called drug war as well. It is to there to disempower the citizen and strengthen the hand of government. Not to keep drugs away from people – which it miserably fails at doing. Also akin to the Bloomberg Stop-and-Frisk policy.

Mailman June 18, 2013 12:36 PM

Snowden’s was simply abiding by the DHS’ instructions of “if you see something, say something.” Am I right?

Evan Harper June 18, 2013 1:41 PM

While it was not the main point of your article, and while Julian Assange has indeed been smeared in the media in various ways, the Kit Eaton article you linked, (“Anatomy of a Smear: Wikileaks’ Assange Wanted For ‘Sex by Surprise’, not Rape”) is deplorable nonsense.

Assange is not charged under “labyrinthine–and seemingly nation-specific” laws; this argument was specifically and roundly rejected when he contested his extradition under a European Arrest Warrant in an English court. Rape is specifically mentioned in the warrant.

The English court ruled, “the allegation […] would amount to an allegation of rape in England and Wales. […] It is clear that the allegation is that he had sexual intercourse with her when she was not in a position to consent and so he could not have had any reasonable belief that she did.”

See http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2011/2849.html, and please be careful about spreading these long-since debunked claims from Assange’s devoted fans.

Nick P June 18, 2013 1:55 PM

My favorite answer from the Snowden Q&A:

“Further, it’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him…. the better off we all are….”

Young generation might say “Dick Cheney just got soooo buurrnneed!!”

Carl June 18, 2013 2:07 PM

This is making the rounds and provides an amusing take on what can be done with “metadata”…

Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere

London, 1772.

I have been asked by my superiors to give a brief demonstration of the surprising effectiveness of even the simplest techniques of the new-fangled Social Networke Analysis in the pursuit of those who would seek to undermine the liberty enjoyed by His Majesty’s subjects. This is in connection with the discussion of the role of “metadata” in certain recent events and the assurances of various respectable parties that the government was merely “sifting through this so-called metadata” and that the “information acquired does not include the content of any communications”. I will show how we can use this “metadata” to find key persons involved in terrorist groups operating within the Colonies at the present time. I shall also endeavour to show how these methods work in what might be called a relational manner.


Nosey Parker Unit June 18, 2013 2:13 PM

Any serious student of Geroge Orwell knows that what we now know about our totalitarian state is going to end with our system ending up in exactly the same place the Soviet System Orwell condemned did. Incidentally, https everywhere by EFF is telling me that the link at the bottom of your post is not safe to go to. So I’m avoiding “my essay”. I’d be curious to know what your analysis in “my essay” contains, but I trust https eveyhwere. (or my browser ) Tell me what you find when you look into why the link is said to be bad, which I hope you will investigate.

Update: When I Tried to post this comment I got the same security exception saying the site into in the certificate is bad. I ignored it to tell you of the problem and now update the post by telling you that commenters, or at least this one, get the same security warning when we post. I”m ignoring it again to get this to you.

Nosey Parker Unit June 18, 2013 2:14 PM

The second comment made it through without generating the security exception.

Nosey Parrker Unit June 18, 2013 2:17 PM

After I allowed the first security exception, the others went through. So I read the essay. Perhaps that is a function of https everywhere or firefox. I suspect others might see the same thing.

Tim June 18, 2013 2:36 PM

Further regulation? I thought this is what USC Title 18 (Federal Criminal Law), state law, FTC, FCC, a myriad of other regulations, legal civil precedent and the Supreme Court were all in place to prevent this. We don’t need more regulation, we need less government and one with a sense of morality and ethics. Having that “transparency” we were promised would also be nice. Unfortunately morality, ethics and a sense of responsibility cannot be regulated or legislated. No, the federal government has this in place and it will only get worse, and we’ll accept it because of our current sense of helplessness and their scare tactics; the same reasons the TSA continue to strip our civil liberties without showing any efficacy.

ignatius June 18, 2013 2:51 PM

I suggested a different metaphor to capture the problems: Franz Kafka’s The Trial

Funny thing is, that – according to Kafka himself – “Der Prozess” (The Trial) is in itself a metaphor for divine justice, just as “Das Schloss” (The Castle) is for divine grace. The ways of God are inscrutable …


Indigo Jones June 18, 2013 5:06 PM

I think for discussions addressing the nuances of the Orwellian and the Kafkaesque, most people will benefit from starting with a more simple distinction:

Privacy is a different concept from anonymity.

If you go to the doctor, your visit is ideally private, though your person is identified with extraordinary detail (insurance card, medical records, physical inspection, etc.)

Conversely, if you pay for a latte in cash, your transaction is public, though anonymous (because there is nothing connecting you to the dollars you spent).

So a good place to start such a discussion would be by disambiguating where you want privacy, and were you want anonymity.

In a practical sense, privacy should really be easier than anonymity, since with very few clues, a person can be de-anonymized. Consider, for example, a person named John. With just a very few data points, we can start to narrow down who John really is: say we have the name of the city where John lives. Pretend it’s Cincinnati: how many John’s in Cincinnati? Let’s say 1,000. How many Johns in Cincinnati share a birthday? Probably very few. Even if you just have a birth month, or a year you can infer from an age, you can start to narrow things down very quickly.

So anonymity is something people can earn if they want, while privacy is something people can expect (under the 4th Amendment).

And keep in mind the role of anonymity in our national discourse: Thomas Paine published anonymously, as were the Federalist papers.

For all the talk of the “death of privacy” I’m willing to bet there are still real good places for privacy where it concerns:

•   Doctor visits
•   Medical records
•   Romantic Intimacy (in person, over the phone, via email)
•   Financial or terms-of-employment negotiations
•   Authors working on the draft of a new novel
•   Reporters who don't want to be "scooped"
•   Proprietary commercial technology

None of these examples involve trying to “hide” anything improper.
But where the type of electronic surveillance at issue here is concerned, are additional considerations:

•   Private information can be used against political opposition candidates (this happened, and was discussing in the Church Report -- as with Martin Luther King)

•   Access to private financial or proprietary commercial data creates additional incentives for abuse (selling secrets -- not so uncommon)

•   The anonymization of intercepted private data (such as Google searches) is not a guarantee of it's security: what if you look up your own name because you're applying for jobs? You search history was just de-anonymized. What if you look up your own social security number? You've just exposed yourself to identity theft.

•   Restricting intercepted private data to "meta data" is not a guarantee of security: if the number you push on a telephone key pad are fair game, the you expose yourself whenever you do automated banking over the phone, or punch in your PIN number to check your voicemail.

Lastly, there is a “chilling effect” created by the whole mood of a surveillance i, that encourages people to self-censor. This is a social application of Bentham’s “panopticon” discussed by Michel Foucault:

“Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power… So… that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers.”

“To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so… In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so.”

Dirk Praet June 18, 2013 8:24 PM

@ Bruce

I think both metaphores – Orwell and Kafka – are correct.

Many people do not care about concealing the hotels they stay at, the cars they own or rent, or the kind of beverages they drink.

They should reconsider. I pay most miscellaneous expenses under 100€ in cash, simply because credit card companies have no business whatsoever with what I spend my money on. Third parties they may or may not share this information with have even less.

Imagine me being a very generous person because I’m making good money and I’m running a serious liquor bill treating both myself and my less fortunate friends to Jack Daniel’s in the bar behind the corner on an almost daily basis. Suddenly I get laid off and lose my income and health insurance. When I apply for a new job, HR – based on my credit card history data – decides I’m an alcoholic and a liability. The company I have turned to for a private health insurance has the same data, based thereon charges me an outrageous monthly fee I can no longer afford and excludes my liver from coverage. So far for generosity and “when you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide”.

@ bf60820f

I’d like this to be about the Fourth Amendment but every detail from Snowden and Greenwald screams Amateur Hour.

You are unfortunately absolutely right. A lot of people – including myself – are starting to have some serious questions about the way Greenwald and Snowden are playing this out, but on the other hand there really is not a lot of case history on how to do it right.

Snowden has obviously learned from Bradley Manning who kept quiet and got ratted out. To most people Manning is nothing more than a name who will most probably be spending the rest of his natural life in prison. In his shoes, and in fear of a similar fate, I too might be tempted to play the “me marketing” card having my name, picture and interviews all over the media hoping to generate sufficient sympathy to at least create reasonable doubt over the smear campaigns I would be subjected to. And in the meanwhile buy time to find asylum somewhere. I think we all know Wall Street is the only safe haven from prosecution, but absent of a country like Ecuador as in the case of Assange, I am not really sure what the US is trying to achieve by driving him right in the arms of the Chinese.

Manning was a troubled homosexual, Assange a rapist and Snowden now turns out to be a Chinese spy. Daniel Ellsberg – the man behind the Pentagon Papers – and other whistleblowers in the past enjoyed the same treatment. It’s not too hard to see a pattern here. Personally, I couldn’t care less if Snowden were a raving homosexual rapist with a history of mental illness and spying for the Chinese. His story is about massive NSA surveillance, and that’s what we need to stay focussed on.

Only yesterday, the establishment laughed at all the tinfoil hats suspecting this was going on. Today, that same establishment is going to great lengths to sell us a new conspiracy theory that Snowden is a lunatic loser Chinese spy trying to discredit the US and US companies. Sorry, I’m not buying it and I don’t think anyone outside the US is either. The USG, Congress, US officials and companies in the eyes of many are losing credibility faster than a cheetah leaving a salad bar. The only way they can restore that is with even more lies, or to stop the BS and come clean.

officerX June 19, 2013 2:04 AM

I think the regulation could be obscurity driven, that is to say as soon as you raise an individual or group (or their information) above the level of general obscurity of the whole population then defined governance must apply. This principle could work for data collection and data use alike.

Romer June 19, 2013 6:26 AM

” the solution to all of this is … regulation of data use.”

AKA the 4th Amendment.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers [email, web searches, file transfers, phone calls], and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

General search and seizure warrants – where everything is seized from everyone while looking for something – were outlawed even in England in 1765.

That same prohibition is the entire point of the 4th Amendment: specific warrant, specific items, specific probable cause. Not a general hoovering (seizure) of everything, from everyone, for some general future search objective.

Forget about the NSA (et al) and Snowden. It’s the U.S. Congress and the courts that have illegally attempted to usurp the 4th Amendment.

Jacob June 19, 2013 9:27 AM

@bruce, all

I have to disagree and agree with nick here. Snowden is a fool. Yes exposed extent of storing data and recent events show government abuse of power and information. IRS should scare the crap out of everyone as healthcare provider and holder (pun) of information. Couple points.

  1. Saying young under 30 people don’t get it. Well they are the ones leaking.
  2. Snowfen did a very bad analysis of cost versus benefit here. A great deal of harm to himself for little benefit to society. As nick? Said he could have done this in a much better manner of ops.
  3. How much did he really know? Network access and cross system info access, yes. Nothing I have seen or heard suggests he really has the goods.
  4. I do not like this retention of data. They can always go back and find those 3 crimes you committed every day.
  5. The data mining has been well known. Jokes have been made for years by the public about “them” listening to calls. People have known or should know if something like Facebook or google is free then they are what is being sold for money.
  6. I am a little surprised that the powers that be didn’t perk up when leaks about political enemies of Barack popped up. No one dem, repub, or business wants their particular fetishes, payoffs, o deals exposed.
  7. I am reasonably sure this will all rebalance. The genius of the framers is that when contrasting interests clash. What does concern me is if someone figures out how to remove that clash….

vas pup June 19, 2013 11:04 AM

“Even if a person is doing nothing wrong, in a free society, that person shouldn’t have to justify every action that government officials might view as suspicious. A key component of freedom is not having to worry about how to explain oneself all the time”.
I guess that extract out of Solove’s article covers reasons for both privacy and anonymity in free society.

aboniks June 19, 2013 5:28 PM

“Forget about the NSA (et al) and Snowden. It’s the U.S. Congress and the courts that have illegally attempted to usurp the 4th Amendment.”

Forget about the U.S. Congress and the courts, it’s the apathy, ignorance, and childishness of the US populace that have turned a government “by the people and for the people” into a legislative sandbox for the exclusive use of those who can pay the entrance fee and afford the shovel rental.

Citizens of a republic that refuse to govern each other will be governed by others.

moo June 19, 2013 6:00 PM

Worth remembering:

Julian Assange is not actually a whistleblower! All he did is publish some documents that an American soldier gave him.

Assange is not even American, and certainly hasn’t signed any of the secrecy pacts that Bradley Manning has. He was given documents that the U.S. government considers secret, and published some of them. Thats only actually illegal for U.S. citizens who signed things prohibiting them from doing that (to get a security clearance).

Assange is basically just a journalist. The character assassination against him is the price he has to pay for offending and frightening the powerful U.S. government. Sad world that we live in.

SwissTiming June 19, 2013 8:56 PM

“In anticipation of the inevitable questions, I want to change a previous assessment statement: I consider Snowden a hero for whistleblowing on the existence and details of the NSA surveillance programs, but not for revealing specific operational secrets to the Chinese government.”


Please. This is like calling some guy a model husband, except for the part where he beats his wife. Any objective person would say — whatever else he may be — he most certainly is not a “model husband.” Model husbands don’t beat their wives.

Whatever else Snowden might be, he most certainly is not an “American Hero.” American heroes don’t flee to Hong Kong to share US classified information with the Chinese government.

You declared him your personal hero and proceeded to take everything he said as incontrovertible fact, no matter how silly, far-fetched, and incorrect. That obviously turned out to be a huge mistake. You can’t unring that bell, however.

Unfortunately your recent writings have the tone of a wild-eyed hysterical paranoid fringe conspiracy theorist. I hope you don’t start reporting that Obama has drones circling your house trying to murder you as part of a secret government coverup. Please get rid of the tinfoil.

Romer June 20, 2013 5:52 AM

@aboniks “Forget about the U.S. Congress and the courts, it’s the apathy, ignorance, and childishness of the US populace… Citizens of a republic that refuse to govern each other will be governed by others.”

I stand corrected, you’re absolutely right.

Jack June 21, 2013 7:54 AM


“5. The data mining has been well known. Jokes have been made for years by the public about “them” listening to calls. People have known or should know if something like Facebook or google is free then they are what is being sold for money.”

We surely did not know. At best, arcane specialists in computer security could theoretically deduce with a high degree of probability that the US Government was wiretapping everyone and everything.

But that still was on the level of strong deniability. And they could not persuade the populace.

There was not conclusive evidence.

“3. How much did he really know? Network access and cross system info access, yes. Nothing I have seen or heard suggests he really has the goods.”

The same arcane security specialists can deduce this, even much more so with Snowden’s releases.

But that is different from “knowing”.

If what we suspect is true is true, then this “deeper knowledge” you are talking about would shatter the powers that be if it is exposed.

I do believe this will happen, that what we are seeing is merely a strengthening of fissures in the dam. Water has been pouring out, the fissures have been strengthening over several years. But, the dam has not yet burst.

I hope these politicians and leaders are steeling themselves for all of their secrets to be laid out before the feet of the world.

Truth is their legacy.

Some argue “history goes to the victor”. Perhaps. Though, we all have a pretty good idea of the character of many historical figures who were in power and did do these things, getting away with it all for a long time.

All of these people now implementing these systems and defending these systems have a choice. They can change course.

If they do not, then what people “know” will become true. The US will become a totalitarian nightmare. They have surely laid the foundation for that with these networks.

Then, they may be hailed as heroes, but more likely they will be seen as threats to power.

By the very totalitarian state they helped found on the ashes of what was the United States.

If there is no totalitarian state, then they will be seen as people who were attempting to create that.

Nixon is seen pretty clearly for what he was. Hoover is, as well. Hitler and Stalin are seen pretty clearly. There were many, many people in the twentieth century who reached great heights of power and public acclaim… but when their real person was exposed, then all of that bullshit facade was eternally forgotten.

And they are put in the halls of history for the entire universe to behold in contempt, to forever be bad examples of what not to do and how not to be.

On the political comment:

This has nothing to do with Democrat or Republican, though I am sure the Democrats are thinking it is all some complex part. Why they would defend these systems when there could be worst disclosures yet to come, I do not know.

What happens when Republicans take power? What will they then think about these systems?

What about for the intel and law enforcement leaders backing these things? They are on the watching side of the camera now, but do they really believe it will stay that way forever?

And what about their kids?

Beating your chest with a lie to everyone else and your own self does not make you right. It just makes you all the more deluded.

The truth is not some deep mystery, like when people lie to themselves about their own goodness. It is obvious that these systems are bad. It is obvious that they are, in spirit of the law, criminal encroachments. It is obvious they are not in the spirit of the constitution and a betrayal to the American people and the world. It is obvious they do not have adequate controls, and it is obvious they are by design to be abused.

These are not systems which are easily removed once in place, at all. They are systems that are extremely difficult to remove — especially with all the “leaders” saying they are needed.

They are systems which are a clear foundation to build upon a very strong and all pervasive police state surveillance system.

twofish June 21, 2013 8:43 AM

My wild conspiracy theory is that when this is all over, it will turn out that by preventing people from using strong crypto, that the NSA will have turned over far more information to China than Snowden ever did.

Besides, Snowden made a good point. If he was a Chinese agent, he would have flown off to Beijing (i.e. petting a phoenix in a palace), and I’m sure that the US government would have buried the story, and we’d never would have known about it.

The other thing is that Snowden is the story. The first priority of the US government is to toss him in jail so that no one ever sees any of his documents.

Jack June 22, 2013 11:51 AM


“Besides, Snowden made a good point. If he was a Chinese agent, he would have flown off to Beijing (i.e. petting a phoenix in a palace), and I’m sure that the US government would have buried the story, and we’d never would have known about it.”

If Snowden first contacted the Chinese, do you sincerely believe they would have had him go public and go to a Chinese city? Wouldn’t they have been scared to lose such an insider, and inside information? (Though, on the later, I am skeptical China did not already know “all of this”.)

Has the US or any nation – historically – who has ever had a mole in a foreign, adversary nation wanted their moles to defect to them, except when they were caught?

And even when they were forced to defect, such as Kim Philby, would they ever give them free reign to the presses or not want to interview and watch them for years on end? (As both the US and Soviet Union did, always suspecting that their defected moles were spies. The Soviet Union especially did this with Philby, though they later did allow him to publish a book — that was tightly controlled by them at every step of the way.)

My conclusion is, if someone is controlling Snowden, it is surely not either the United States, Russia, nor China. 🙂

(Believe me, they are looking into the background of his girlfriend, and Asian she is not.)

Jacob June 22, 2013 3:08 PM

&jack. Sorry have to disagree. I actually hesitated to come back. I feared I had expressed myself too starkly and would get taken to task by you folks who are actually gifted on these things.

Dating at least as far as 2006? Also Look at drake and company. The companies and government ramping up the hiring of hackers, network offense, however you define them. This was to defend only? All these people to set up ids, nids, next gen firewalls? Nope they were busy snorting up the money to sift through different data. Pun intended.

I know my opinion differs from many but I would have had a lot more respect for snowden if he had stood up and taken the consequences. He is no Alexander the geek. I also maintain that a good bit of what he is saying is wrong. He is young, idealistic, ignorant. He may be spouting off “facts” that make him look better. Assange is no hero in my mind. He released data that may very well have gotten people killed as a very direct of his actions. No redaction, just release to make a point and make himself a somebody. I become suspicious when I see an ego on display, yes chest thumping.

Again I have a lot of respect for drake. I suspect his partners goal of selling software. If anyone was paying attention they knew what was happening. Just my thoughts. Most of us just worry about other problems. I am pretty sure the gov really has other interests other than us calling our aunt Sally.

I am more concerned with the wholesale grabbing of our information by corporate interests. I have said for years to people that if something is free or reduced? It means you are the one being bought and sold.

Take care.

Oh on different topic. For censored countries, could U.S. figure out a way to use drones as relays to get information in and out? Video and info might help the dissidents. The malware and hacking has killed too many people.

Now the young ones try working on that stuff? Why not?

Erik Terwiel July 15, 2013 8:59 AM

What a nice distinction between these two kinds of secrecy.
Indeed on the suspect level you can’t have enough. But on the other hand, in a genuine democracy, the citizens must know what the government is doing, which measures are being put in action. Citizens must know how likely it would be to get caught, because that knowledge alone is a strong deterrent or preventing mechanism.
Yes we can, but we don’t until you…

Thanks for this excellent site.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.