Snowden. Is the Issue Privacy or Trust?

security02The Snowden affair seems to have little to do with the Philippines, other than give critics of the United States an issue to rally around. But it may be useful to reflect on the underlying issues because they may shade how we look at FOI or other acts of the Philippine government.

The battleground in the Snowden affair is privacy versus security. The meaning of “security” is pretty clear. If a couple of malcontents drop off an explosive backpack in the crowd at the Boston Marathon and it goes off, security has failed. If there are no attacks anywhere in the United States, security efforts have succeeded. It is a zero error effort. A 99.999999% success rate is not good enough. That’s what drives NSA programs.

Some Fundamentals to Get Us on the Same Page

We can start with the definition of privacy and then work our way through some elaboration on that. Courtesy of dictionary.com, we see that:

  • pri·va·cy  [prahy-vuh-see; British also priv-uh-see]  (noun) 1. The state of being private; retirement or seculusion. 2. The state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs; the right to privacy. 3. Secrecy.

Okay, let’s shorten that to the gritty point: (1) Seclusion. (2) Free from intrusion. (3) Secrecy. Now let’s deal ourselves into the NSA scenario.

  • We have a telephone and we call relatives in the Philippines. We also use it for domestic purposes, chatting with friends and family, checking movie times, whatever.
  • We are also active on line and click everything from Amazon.com to porn sites to jeoam.com, not to mention articles on terrorist bombings. Once, out of curiosity, we even tried to figure out if there are instructions on line as to how to make a nuclear bomb.
  • We do e-mails regularly, both in the U.S. and back to the Philippines. We attach photos from time to time, or other documents.

Okay, now let’s look at the American NSA “domestic spying” program as we understand it. It has (1) data gathering and (2) action components.

  • Phone Calls
    • All domestic phone records are dumped into a massive data base to record connection numbers, date, time and duration.
      • If a connect with a flagged “terrorist” number is made, additional information may be sought.
      • If a phone is to be tapped – that is if content of the call is to be recorded – a court warrant must be obtained.
  • E-mails
    • All e-mails are recorded as to sender and receiver, date and computer ID.
      • If a connect with a flagged “terrorist” computer is made, additional information, including the content of the e-mail, may be acquired.
      • A court warrant must be obtained for certain follow-up steps, such as tapping telephones.
    • E-mails going overseas are scanned via computer for key-words that establish patterns of possible security risk.
      • If a pattern is identified, additional information, including the content of the e-mail, may be acquired.
      • A court warrant must be obtained for certain follow-up investigations, such as tapping telephones.

Then let’s put one additional factor into the discussion of privacy, and that is the role of the NSA analysts. There are evidently some 20,000 people working within NSA who have a security clearance that enables them to access information that, outside the building, would be considered “private”. What might their range of their motives be?

  1. They may simply be doing their job to gather the information needed to identify security threats. They scan the information and only access a subject’s personal information on a “need to know” basis, following lawful instructions. Need to know means someone may be a threat.
  2. Like Snowden, they may hold a moral aversion to what NSA is doing and feel compelled to let the public know what NSA is going on. They might  go outside the “need to know” role of their job to take examples of the information that CAN be gathered by a person willing to go after private information for needs other than national security.
  3. They want to get rich by selling information to foreign countries. That is, they are spies. They go after whatever they can grab.

Case one is legitimate and legal. Case two is criminal, but is supported by those who believe in the moral cause. Case three is criminal.

Revisiting the Definition of Privacy

The definition we are dealing with can be narrowed down. We are not really concerned with “seclusion”, because if we wanted that, we would not have a telephone and we would not have a computer with internet connection. For sure, Google and others are busy recording clicks and computer information, much as NSA does. The phone company also records call information for billing purposes. That’s where NSA gets its data. Seclusion on electronic instruments is only attained by pulling the plug.

security01

We may be dealing with secrecy. For example, if we transmit a password to our bank account to someone else, we don’t want ANYONE to have that information. Not hackers, not NSA, not thieves. So our concern is the SECRET information we don’t want others to have. It is meant for “eyes only”, my eyes to the receiver.

We are definitely dealing with privacy as meaning “free from intrusion”, because NSA is intruding all over the place. That is what the uproar is all about.

Trust as an Issue

Well, we trust the phone company with our records, because the records also belong to them, and we are confident that they will not reveal that we once did some calls to a “phone sex” site, because it was titillating. It isn’t something they are supposed to do.

Now a wayward phone company employee may set out to use that information in a harmful way, and crime investigators may obtain a warrant and look at it, but it never reaches the level of “national import” like Snowden’s did. And we allow Google and anyone with a cookie pushed onto our computer to track our clicks. We even allow them to ACT on the information by placing ads on our screen that reflect our most likely buying tastes. Neither of those data crunching features – phone records or click records – is considered a “life and death” matter. They are largely “ho hum” matters, even when criminal or unethical acts do occur to abuse the information (an employee steals 40,000 credit card numbers with intent to defraud). After all, they are defrauding the credit card companies or other people, so what should we care?

But NSA is different. They in a “life and death” business. That magnifies the importance of insider shenanigans. And they are dealing with OUR information. The fact that the GOOD intent of the program is life and death, that seriousness is what raises the privacy issue to one way beyond “ho hum”. It is an act of government. U.S. government. That is something different than the phone company or Google. Some very different issues come into play. Mainly trust and our own fear of being vulnerable to a government we have learned not to trust. I think that trust is the big issue here. NSA is also, indirectly, in the killing business. And they are in the thuggery business. It is wise to be wary of thugs.

For myself, I am not concerned about the data-gathering aspects of the NSA programs. But I am concerned about the “checks” on how the information is used. Who has access to it? How do we know they are using it only for “must see” security work? Obviously Snowden was not properly supervised, nor was Manning who released a ton of documents to Wikileaks. We can presume there are other abuses, too. Moral objection or spying. And I am concerned about the ACTS. Will the availability of information be abused, going after and harming innocent individuals? It appears that the information is being used for its dedicated purpose. We have heard zero complaints about abuse, and the programs have been in place for some years now. 20,000 people have scanned a bazillion records, including yours and mine.  Nothing. Quiet. No complaints. Frankly, Google is a lot more intrusive into people’s private lives in terms of real impact.

The Motives of Others

Let me start with a rather amusing observation, where my smile assumes the style of a pained grimace. Snowden and Manning argue that privacy is good for citizens but not for the government. Terrorists and life and death are irrelevant to the discussion.

Privacy, that being secrecy and freedom from intrusion, are the important ends, of themselves. For citizens. But not the government. Manning stole information and dumped it off to Wikileaks. He has been found guilty of theft but not intent to harm the state. Snowden revealed state secrets to protest the POTENTIAL for abuse of the programs. Not real abuse. For none has been cited. But the POTENTIAL for abuse,

Again, we have an amusing situation. Snowden is essentially saying THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE ME ABOUT, people with bad intent and no allegiance to their employment oath or the instructions given them to only work with “need to know” intent. People who are willing to commit a crime. Therefore, we should shut down this important security program.

The Tree in the Forest

If lightening hits a tree in the forest, and it falls down, does it make any noise? Do we hear it? Do we care?

NSA data gathering is rather like God in that scenario. The forest is the database. The tree is our information. If God chooses to strike us, we won’t hear the noise. How much trust do we put in God? That is the only issue. That is the debate. Snowden argues that, because there are people like Snowden about willing to abuse the system, you should not operate the system. You should be afraid of the risk of abuse. It is more dangerous than a terrorist attack.

Information about us is everywhere. In government offices, in private corporate computers, in the hands of hackers and spies and who knows where else.

JoeAm’s Conclusion

Freedom from intrusion is but a pipedream. Privacy does not exist. Intrusions exist. The real issue is trust, of the people, of the systems, of the intent, for those who hold information about us.

I accept that perfection does not exist. If it did, there would be no Snowdens. Or people stealing our credit card numbers. But that is no reason to abandon trust in those who are honorable. Which at NSA is the other 19,999 of the 20,000 workers having security clearance and who are working diligently to protect us.

The Philippine Lesson

The Philippines is actually a case in point that secrecy is dangerous, or contributes to harm. Crooks are able to hard their stolen money in Philippine banks because their acts are secret. Not even police investigators can intrude to inspect the transactions. So corruption is aided by government policy.

Government practices are generally secret. How money is spent, who gets paid what, who is enriching themselves while holding a job of modest salary. FOI aims to correct this failing. Except that government officials, including perhaps even President Aquino, do not want their practices revealed.

This is not even national defense information. Information vital to the defense of the Philippines. It information about how the government manages the people’s work.

So if you think Snowden has a legitimate beef with American defense secrecy, can you imagine what he would say about Philippine secrecy?

The term apoplexy comes to mind.

  • ap·o·plex·y   [ap-uh-plek-see] (noun) Pathology . 1. stroke. 2. a sudden, usually marked loss of bodily function due to rupture or occlusion of a blood vessel. 3. a hemorrhage into an organ cavity or tissue.
I always strive to end a blog on an uplifting note.
Comments
50 Responses to “Snowden. Is the Issue Privacy or Trust?”
  1. edgar lores says:

    For the sake of argument:

    1. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, security (or safety) is the second basic level of need. It is one level up from the physiological needs for “food, water, shelter and clothing”. Safety is the “social security in a family and a society that protects against hunger and violence”.

    1.2. There is no doubt about it that security, at the individual level, is a powerful need. How powerful? Well, powerful enough to make man enslave himself to others, and to make him believe in invisible gods. Also to make him amass riches, sometimes needlessly.

    1.3. This most powerful need is mirrored, at the national level, in the programs of the security establishment.

    2. The goal of security, both at the individual level and the national level, is to preserve life and a certain quality of life. And security, at both levels, most often means protection from others.
    2.1. The current paradox is that security at the national level uses secrecy to infringe on the privacy – which is also secrecy – of its citizens.

    3. The democratic idea behind the sovereignty of the people is that man is free and the government governs with the consent of the governed. This is the social contract.
    3.1. It may be argued that the security establishment has broken this contract by not informing the citizens of intention to infringe on their privacy and by not requiring their consent. This may be interpreted as abuse. It also raises the question of trust: How can there be trust in a relationship when the social contract has been breached?

    4. The reason given for the secrecy is that it is necessary for the security programs to work. One simply does not give advance notice to the enemy of one’s methods and intentions.
    4.1. This argument is untenable because the enemy has known, or has always assumed, that the security establishment has been monitoring all forms of communications. The question has not been: Is the NSA listening? It has always been: Can the NSA break our encoding?

    5. The primary argument for the security programs is the protection of the lives of the citizens.
    5.1. Some will counter argue that the end of benignancy does not justify compromising the principles upon which the nation was built, mainly the inviolate dignity of the citizen. This counter argument has been used against the use of torture in the form of water-boarding.
    5.2. Others will counter argue that the end of benignancy is not entirely true. Other nations have contended that America is reaping technological and commercial benefits as well from its massive data dragnet.
    5.3. But the strongest counter argument may be found in (a) the Declaration of Independence concept of inalienable rights, namely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and (b) the Constitutional promise that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. How so?

    6. The question is not: What is more valuable – life or liberty? Although Patrick Henry thought liberty was more valuable when he declared, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
    6.1. No, the question is: Can one place one right above the other? I don’t believe so. I believe the Founding Fathers and the framers of the Constitution intended those rights to be together as one. Without life, obviously one cannot have liberty or property. But what is life without liberty or property?
    6.2. Man must have all three. The three are indivisible and inseparable.
    6.3. Therefore, the government cannot say, “I will deprive a little of your liberty to save your life.” If you deprive just a scintilla of liberty, you deprive life.

    • edgar lores says:

      Let me recap, emphasize, correct. I was not in the best of minds yesterday when I wrote the above. I had a minor contretemps with someone dear and was without benefit of Joseph’s wine. Excuses, I know.

      1. To the question of zero-abuse, there have been reports of minor abuses by NSA personnel in listening on and revelling in the ‘hot’ interchange between assigned military men and their significant others. There has been a report of one staffer using NSA facilities to track the movement of his wife. However, even without these, item 3.1 asserts that there has been abuse – ab initio.

      2. To the question of trust, item 3.1 asserts, as a corollary, that the government, having broken the social contract ab initio, is not deserving of trust.

      3. The Patrick Henry declaration should be used to prove that life and liberty are inseparable, not that liberty has a higher value than life. I am a dummkopf!

      • ella says:

        I just hope we have somebody like Snowden in the Philippines that will expose all the corrupt practices of these politicians and people in Government. Ay grabe naman silang mangurakot ah! They corrupt government funds that came from blood and sweat of Filipinos without any conscience.

        • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

          I remember one time when my father told me that Philippine Star under Max Soliven used to splash pictures of Marcos Cabinet Member’s multi-zzillion houses and below it their monthly government income. The diff is High-school drop-out security-guard American Snowden got more inteligence compared to Ivy-0school University Graduate Universith of the Philippines journalism graduate.

    • Joe America says:

      “Life and liberty are inseparable . . .” I’m working to congeal some thoughts, but there are two planes of moral certitude working here, one which looks broadly at governments and peoples and grasps the generalities of liberty and life. But there is a separate one that frames the work to be done by the head of NSA. His boundaries are defined tightly in black and white, not in the high-minded parsing of a great morality of kindness. Because the enemy is not operating under that morality. That is the hiccup involved here. The black is one death from a terrorist act. The white is none. And the question becomes, if you have the job as head of NSA or if MB has it, or joseph or me, or any other individual, what do we report to Mr. Obama? That Patrick Henry might object on humanitarian grounds? Or do we report on today’s chatter, and close embassies, and grab every piece of data we can find to identify where bombs may be on the way?

      I can tell you, anyone who went in quoting Patrick Henry as a foundation to do less than we CAN do, is undermining American values and freedoms, because the fundamental aim of the program is to protect them. And the fundamental aim of the terrorist is to undermine them.

      We HAVE to get the argument into the shoes and mind of the NSA chief, and those like him, who have awesome responsibilities in defense of life and liberty. If a human failing gets in the way now and then (the complaints you cite), deal with them and keep going.

      People must answer the question, if I headed NSA, would I do LESS than could be done?

      The life and liberty argument becomes moot, because with a chaotic or death strewn America, we have neither. NSA must do the job. That is the morality in play.

      • edgar lores says:

        I disagree. Patrick Henry’s quote is a major foundation of American values and freedoms. There is another much-quoted principle from Franklin: “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

      • edgar lores says:

        Part of the trouble is that this issue is seen in black and white, including myself.

        If the latest news is parsed, one will note that there has not been blanket condemnation of Snowden. Obama, congressmen and senators have shaded their comments. Some see him as a whistleblower.

        Sen. Mark Udall said, “the administration owes the American public an explanation of what authorities it thinks it has.”

        Al Gore said, “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?”

        Sen. Jeff Merkley said, “This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans’ privacy.”

        Sen. Bob Corker said, “The fact that all of our calls are being gathered in that way — ordinary citizens throughout America — to me is troubling and there may be some explanation, but certainly we all as citizens are owed that, and we’re going to be demanding that.”

        The very fact that Obama has outlined changes to intelligence gathering methods proves the need for transparency and that some line has been crossed.

        ***

        There is a great anomaly here: If life is so sacred that freedom must be sacrificed, why is it that America has sacrificed lives in defense of freedom?

        ***

        • Joe America says:

          Patrick Henry owned about 80 slaves and instructs us on liberty? The reason Obama will re-examine the security situation is to eliminate aberrations like Snowden, not to cancel the phone traps and e-mail scans that are being so effective at identifying suspects and raising threatening “chatter” and keeping up the war offensive. The programs will be pursued EXACTLY to preserve the liberty and freedoms that everyone favors. The villains here are not the American military or spy chiefs, but people who are relentlessly seeking to extend their Iraqi style bloodletting to the U.S., in favor of a God who seems to me quite demented.

          I go back to the matter of trust, which is EXACTLY Obama’s point made yesterday. He said it is important to regain that trust because he knows the programs are well-intended and effective at protecting Americans, and their liberties. I personally trust Obama and believe he speaks straight.

        • Joe America says:

          I would add that Obama is the man in the middle. For every quote you have cited, critical of the data-gathering, or untrusting of it may be the better way of putting it, you can find one criticizing the administration for not being firm enough in defending the program and going after Snowden. The guy to listen to is Obama.

          • edgar lores says:

            1. Patrick Henry may have been a hypocrite but that does not say anything about the validity of his values. In the same manner, that the behavior of errant archbishops does not say anything about the highest values of Christianity.

            2. The aberrant behavior may not be Snowden’s. It may be that of the US government infringing on the liberty and freedom of citizens, which liberty and freedom it is supposed to protect.

            3. The preservation of life at all cost is not the highest morality. Deontological ethics argues that the ends do not justify the means.
            3.1. We have said that fear is the greatest motivator, and we witness this in the paranoia of the security establishment.
            3.2. It may be incorrect to view NSA actions as part of a morality play. It seems to be more a re-enactment of the Darwinian amoral struggle for the survival of the fittest.

            4. If Obama said that, then my point in 3.1 of my original post is admitted: that trust was lost.
            4.1. Obama may not be fully trusted with respect to Gitmo and drones. He may speak straight but he is not permitted to act straight.
            4.2. Matt Damon will attest to this.

          • Joe America says:

            4. On that we agree. Trust was lost.
            4.1 The straight line is that both a Republican and a Democratic president, when faced with the heady responsibility of keeping Americans safe, found substantially the same path. Yes, they must tread the artful line between secret and transparent. It comes with the job.
            4.2 There are always incidents that can be pointed to that make the programs look bad. It’s a battleground and war is hell, chaotic, and imperfect. War looks bad in just about any light. It will stop when extremist Muslims grant others the right to believe differently than they do.

            3. These ideas mean nothing to the head of NSA, nor should they. What means something is his conscience if a dirty nuke were to explode in Peoria, and there had been a way to track the bomber, but he was not tracked because it might be interpreted by some that data trapping is the same a surveillance. I have yet to meet anyone who would tell me they, in that position, would do less than all that could be done. There is a morality to that, and to the notion that to have liberty in America, you have to protect it.

            2. It is the point of the article, it depends on trust. Those who chose to trust Snowden over Obama generally are speaking idealisms, not practicalities. They are far from the point of actually having the awesome task of making hard decisions about people’s lives. If faced with having to make those decisions, they might have a moment of enlightenment. Or if having those decisions, opted to abandon the phone traps and e-mail scans, would be among the most courageous people on the planet. What happens down the road would make them look impeccably brilliant or impeccably stupid.

            1. True.

          • edgar lores says:

            3. We are really not talking about the NSA. The NSA is just an agency, a part of the executive branch. It does not make policy; it implements the policy of Congress. We are talking about the policy of the extreme measures taken by the US government in the mass surveillance of the citizenry and other nations.

            3.1. The supreme morality of America – that which Obama said made America different – is the notion of individual liberty, and that liberty should not be summarily sacrificed.
            3.2. Al Gore and the Senators I have quoted might do less than what is being done. Not all representatives and senators voted for the passage of the Patriot Act. There is an entire chorus on the Internet saying this is not the way to go.

            2. Practicalities vs. idealisms. This is the “ends justifies the means” argument. Practicalities must be guided by ideals. Without ideals we are lost. So we must always tread the fine path between what can be done practically and what should not be done morally. On this matter, the US is not being seen as brilliant or stupid. It is seen as being merely human – that is, compromised.

      • edgar lores says:

        The life and liberty argument is not moot. The entire existence of America is not threatened. To put the situation in that black and white scenario is a false dichotomy.

        • Joe America says:

          The peace and well-being of America is very much threatened. Go through the full body scans at an airport and you will grasp that something very serious is going on here.

          • edgar lores says:

            Granted it is serious. Full body electronic scans are not so intrusive, but pat downs might be. The question is: Where do you draw the line? And a better question might be: How did we come to this situation? Is America blameless in all this?

          • Joe America says:

            America is not blameless, but the programs would end immediately if extremists Muslims would end the use of terror to advance their God.

  2. manuel buencamino says:

    The difference between Google etal and the NSA is Google etal ask your permission. It’s all there in the terms of agreement when you sign up. NSA does not ask your permission. And it is not really the NSA that does the snooping but some private corporation that NSA hired.

    any other functions of the national security apparatus have been outsourced. From Blackwater all the way to Snowden’s company. That means private corporations are now doing intel for the USG. That means the profit motive has been introduced in intel gathering. That means that contracted private firms will make themselves necessary.

    Now you can give your government the benefit of the doubt as to its motives. But a private corporation is there for the profit and not out of patriotism alone. So do you give the same level of trust to private corporations as you would to the USG?

    • manuel buencamino says:

      The issue then is not the content of Snowden’s leak but the laxity of the security in the. NSA. That’s the scandal. That’s why the USG is going apeshit. That’s why the focus is on Snowden and not on the shortcomings of the NSA.

      • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

        Snowden is a high-school drop-out security guard turned …. listen to this …. turned into TECHNICAL SUPPORT !!! Yes, he was a technical support, the like you call PLDT or SMART complaining why my internet is slow. A tecnical support can open Obama’s computer and fix issues why Obama cannot print his e-mails and that is what Snowden did. Scarrry.

        Imagine Malacanang having computer problem has to dial up China to deal with e-mail issues. Scarry. No, not scary.

      • Joe America says:

        MB, I agree. But I think there is likely to be a lot of heat applied within the NSA, too. We are unlikely to hear of it.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        Another issue raised by the Snowden exposé : the snooping was global. If the USG was snooping on its own citizens then that’s between the USG and US citizens. But NSA snooped all over the world, I would assume even the Philippines which has al Qaeda allies like the ASG. Now that is an intrusion that I am strongly against. Imagine if China or Malaysia was doing the eavesdropping. Anyway, there is a terrorism problem that affects the entire world although it is directed primarily at the US. What I’m wondering is whether the US has asked the permission of allies to snoop or if it just went ahead and did it because it can.

        The thing about this outsourced snooping is there is no guarantee that the US or its outsourced agents are only snooping on security matters. What if they are also gathering secrets that puts the US and US companies at an advantage in areas covering trade, finance, stock markets, etc?

        • Joe America says:

          Well, we get down to the trust issue I raised in the blog. Yours is low, mine is high. By “high”, I don’t mean to suggest that I think war can be fought cleanly or without an untoward wrinkle now and then.

          The reaction from Europeans was interesting, a brief angry flair-up and then silence as their own spy chiefs slipped in a side door and whispered, “um, Mr. President, we do the same thing . . .”. I’m guessing the U.S. snooped because it can, and did not ask permissions. Same as every other nation with active spy programs.

          As to your last question, I think it is far-fetched, but anything is possible. If we let speculation and worst-case scenarios guide our decision-making, I’m afraid we’d be a pretty paranoid bunch.

          • JosephIvo says:

            “brief angry flair-up” ??? Read the German news papers, it is still front page news. Political heads are at stake too. (todays Der Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/ … but in German) In Europe we still have a WWII trauma, when the SS had files on everybody, half Germany has an additional trauma when they discovered the Stasi files in East Germany.

            The French who are exposed to terrorism since the ’50’s, were quite successful in combating it after some initial blows They had a different approach, infiltration and as a result understanding the drivers then starving the feeding grounds of the terrorist and understanding their internal conflicts, feeding them instead. The US keeps feeding the supply base of the terrorists. (… the Saudi monarchy, Israel’s settlements, not to mention the arrogant way wars in Irak and Afghanistan were fought, only now in Syria they start understanding that Shia don’t like Sunni and that both blocks are divided too with shifting alliances)

            Like in the war on drugs the main effort will be in supporting the fire fighters, not the fire fighters themselves and certainly not addressing the root causes of the problem. (Snowdon was on the next level already, a technician supporting the people that are supposed to support the fire fighters, of course his commitment to the real problem is vague… Just a thought, how many of the 20,000 NSA people are lawyers? )

            • Joe America says:

              It seems to have died in the international press, and the heads of state seem to have stopped condemning the NSA programs as far as I know, but I admit I don’t read the German press so accept that it is still a big issue there. Who are at risk of losing their jobs there and why? Because Germany is doing similar things? Or because they let the US get away with something?

              I don’t think Snowden was supporting anybody. He went in with an agenda and acted on it, for his own values, whatever the damage.

              Interesting question on the lawyers. Probably a bunch, several hundred, I’d imagine, to push the warrant paper at the special court for these matters.

              You are right, the U.S. has fanned plenty of flames. It is hard not to when dealing with irrational people, I rather think.

          • JosephIvo says:

            I try again,

            1- Americans have a bias for action. Shoot then aim, we always can adjust later (= we have affluent resources). Let’s not waste time with the details. BAMMM, this is one they will not forget.

            It is their strength. They are faster and they get things done. I’m glad I worked most of my life for American companies.

            It’s their weakness too. They lack empathy for outsiders. What are the sensitivities of Arabs? (No Arabs in the Maghreb? But the Iranians are Muslims too… and Christian Arabs, since when? Don’t confuse the issue, we have terrorist to fight.) What are the sensitivities of the Europeans, the Russians… ? That’s old stuff. (We know our own sensitivities, the tea party in Boston – and today – , the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam… isn’t that enough?)

            And some people don’t forget the BAMMM, especially if they were at the receiving end and can use it to hide their own shortcomings.

            2- Self-supporting systems. Systems that use more “energy” than they produce, contribute more to the problem that they are supposed to solve. The classical example is the Aswan dam producing electricity used to produce fertilizer needed because the Nile stopped flooding and doesn’t feed the soil anymore. The army fighting the drugs war (for 40 years!) creating more users and addicts than it prevents. My strong feeling is that the NSA belongs to the same category. A contractor technician needed to support the technicians that collect so much data that almost all relevant information is lost. I am the director, keeping the NSA expanding gets my highest priority, we’ll combat terrorist if there is time left.

            • Joe America says:

              Message received, loud and clear. I can’t argue with it except for one minor quibble. I believe some very relevant information is getting through and thus we see a determination to clean up the act, but keep the act.

          • manuel buencamino says:

            So someone has you under surveillance and you are supposed to think the best about the person snooping? And when you confront the person snooping and he tells you I’m doing it for your own good you’re supposed to take him at his word? And if you question his motives deeper you are paranoid?

          • Joe America says:

            @MB, we can speculate the worst, and have that be the foundation for our judgment and acts. That would be on a 5% trust threshold. Or we (American citizens in particular) can understand we can never know quite what is going on, but believe the NSA programs are in our best interest, because our President assures us it is so. I personally cast my vote for President Obama because I believe he is trustworthy. So my confidence would be about 95% that what he tells us is true, these are valuable programs and are not indiscriminate spying on Americans.

            Most non-Americans appear to have a threshold of trust less than 50%, which is understandable considering the many acts by American that they don’t like, and the fact that the phone traps don’t help them at all. To a 95 percenter, someone operating at a 5% trust level seems, if not paranoid, way off base. I, to you, if you are 5%, might seem lunatic for trusting any American, and putting too much halo on her historical acts, and especially lunatic to trust a politician or the spy masters.

            We have different frames and goals. My frame is American and my goal is to keep my family in the U.S. alive and not terror stricken, and yours is Filipino, or global, with whatever goal you have.

            That’s okay. We are dealing with opinions and perspectives, and are unlikely to pry one another from our posts. We are vested in them. My point in the article is precisely that. One’s perspective is based on trust. It isn’t a matter of privacy. We don’t have much privacy in these times.

            And I believe that the characterization that we are “under surveillance” is not accurate. I believe our records go into a big data pit, and if we call or e-mail the wrong person, we might be put under surveillance. Good.

          • manuel buencamino says:

            Here is an article that might interest you. Keep in mind that we are dealing with private companies under contract with NSA. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/08/the-government-versus-your-secrets.html

            “America’s surveillance programs are secret, as are the court proceedings that enable them and the legal rationales that justify them; informed dissents, like those by Levison or Senator Ron Wyden, must be kept secret. The reasons for all this secrecy are also secret. ”

            Are you comfortable living under that regime?

          • Joe America says:

            @MB, interesting article. The forces are complex, and nicely lawyered up, for sure. Yes, I am comfortable living under the layers of secrets given the seriousness of the threats. As I explained to Edgar, these programs would end if Muslim extremists stopped using terror and the murder of civilians to advance their God. I believe we are in a war, it is dirty, it is chaotic, it is unclean. I don’t believe it can be won without dirty fighting. Americans far and wide are suffering precious little harm from the phone traps and e-mail scans. And I believe they are effective at identifying real threats. Again, the matter is trust. I have no better solution than that being pursued. I simply will not argue to pull the plug on programs that have a real benefits in a life and death setting. Privacy be damned, if you define privacy to mean government is not allowed to access to phone logs and overseas e-mails.

          • manuel buencamino says:

            If it was only Americans then that would be an internal problem and I would not even comment on it. However the snooping is global. It affects me too. Now the spying may prevent attacks on American soil but they have not stopped the bombings in Mindanao. If NSA/Booz Allen intel was shared with Philippine authorities and it lead to the prevention or the identification of those bombers in Mindanao then the spying would be mitigated. But that is not the case.

          • manuel buencamino says:

            “these programs would end if Muslim extremists stopped using terror and the murder of civilians to advance their God. ”

            The argument is circular. We are doing it because of what you are doing can be used legitimately by both sides. In other words, you made me do it does not wash.

            Secondly, you and I know that such a useful program like that will never be shut down. If it’s not the war on terror then it will be the war on drugs. The program will be justified to keep track of drug traffickers and money launderers. If it’s not one thing it’s the other. Eisenhower warned of the danger of the military-industrial complex. You are now living under it.

    • Joe America says:

      Keen distinction between google and NSA. Makes sense. And I agree the “industry” of information, in the interest of defense, when contracted out, loses a link of accountability. But if I head NSA, I still go balls to the wall to do my assigned task, stop bombs. I’d have little patience for listening to the idealists who do not have to live with the results of failure. And I might cut a legalistic corner now and then if it made a difference. It could be there is not more uproar within NSA because people there understand the job to be done, and there is not much of a moral dimension to it. And they accept the risks of a Snowden, and move on. To do the job.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        One reason why you don’t hear from the NSA very much is because the outsourced intel industry has gotten so big it has dwarfed the real NSA. Intel is a private business now just like the CIA that outsourced its work to Blackwater. Soon operations of drones will be privatized and war will return to its historical roots, to those who have always fought it. Mercenaries. And they will be funded through taxes by the same sort of people who throughout human history have always profited from wars.

        • Joe America says:

          Managing military contracts with outside companies has generated a problem or two over the years. I find these companies to be rather interesting, hiring tough guys who don’t mind working in risky situations for high pay. And, as an Ozzie and Harriet American, who would I rather have fighting my wars for me, those guys or 18 year-olds, generally minorities, sent off to the slaughter. And am I willing to pay for the mercenaries? Interesting question. We are on a technology trip that will lead to Star Wars scenarios, satellite laser weapons, drones, computer attacks, missiles shooting missiles. There is no stopping it because, indeed, the winner is the nation that is most advanced. I’d rather that nation be the U.S. than China or Iran.

  3. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    I totally agree with Joe! Secrecy is detrimental to Filipinos. Imagine if Mr. Anonymous and The Little Lady in Red Riding Hood were to be imprisoned after stealing supposedly private documents of Ate Glo’s personal Supreme Court Justice Corona who would steal private documents the next time?

    Philippines has no National Security secrets. Just go to Club Peninsula order a shot of Jameson, strike a conversation and voila! Even before they get drunk they already have Philippines’ National Security secrets!

    Philippines has nothing to hide becuase there is nothing to hide from China. What we are concerned of are Filipinos hiding something from the Ombudsman. Fortunately for the corrupts, Ombudsman is not an American but a Filipino. A Filipino Ombudsman just cannot reconcile why a cabinet member have multi-zillion in properties with just a puny pay from the government. Maybe they could be just waiting for Benigno Aquino to tell them who to investigate. Of course, If I were the Ombudsman, I’d rather wait instructions from the above because If they were to take liberty in investigation before the news hits the press they’d be selling peanuts along Roxas Boulevard.

  4. bebot says:

    We can’t have 100% protection against terrorist acts and 100% privacy intact. We have to pay the price to protect lives. People should make a choice on which is more valuable to them… their lives or their privacy? Terrorists win when freedom of expression and privacy are debilitated. Snowden’s leaks could have already caused untold significant harm to the nations and the people’s safety in which the terrorists could have already changed their ways of communicating with each other to avoid NSA detection. Snowden has handed these terrorists a plate of more ammunitions/ weapons to further their missions

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, we see this the same. But I think the greater weight of responsibility rests with those who protect lives. I’ll pen a note to Edgar that summarizes my view of this.

  5. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    I thought that “privacy” is more about people not seeing me naked or “making love” to put it politely or pissing. It is about privacy of information. I am not afraid of American government snooping on my telephone calls. I do not have anything to hide. Unless if they make a video of me doing it and posting it in Youtube that is my definition of violation of privacy.

    • ella says:

      Mariano Renato Pacifico, Filipino politicians, their cohorts, and corrupt Philippine government employees – their definition of privacy of information is no Filipino with conscience will reveal how they are siphoning the kaban ng bayan to their personal bank accounts.

  6. Joe America says:

    I’m reminded for some reason that the enemy of America fights an unconventional war. They wear no uniforms, and follow no rules of war that say targeting civilians is not allowed. Indeed, they ADVOCATE wholesale slaughter of civilians to provoke the kind of panic and partisan divide that can weaken their enemy, America.

    This is very much akin to how America won her independence from Great Britian, by dressing as civilians and shooting from the trees at the pretty lines of British soldiers who simply would not get out of line.

    To some extent, those opposing the NSA phone traps and e-mail scans are demanding that America fight an unconventional enemy by lining up in pretty uniforms. The people fighting know it is a dirty fight, and are inclined not to listen to academic arguments when their job is to save lives. They will do what it takes to win. And as war is hell, and battles are lost, Snowden is just a step along the way to a finish we trust will preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  7. begalon says:

    Hey Joe! Let me express my view in response to manuel buencamino that America hires Mercenaries now. I strongly object with that phrase. As a military vet, I have to ask why do we revert to hiring mercenaries when we got the finest military in the world?

    True, we use blackwater to assist security matters etc, but not to fight wars for us. I just read a book “The Hunt for Bin Laden” (Task Force Dagger) on the ground with Special Forces in Afghanistan by Robin Moore who also authored “The Green Berets.” That war was mostly fought by US Special forces including CIA operatives. No mercenaries mentioned unless the CIA is defined as mercenaries.

    • Joe America says:

      I appreciate the input, begalon. That’s my impression, too, that contract usage is mainly for transport and non-direct fighting scenarios. I believe private firms were also used to “vet” the NSA workers, and it is one of those that allowed Snowden to pass even though his resume was inflated. But you are right. The down and dirty fighting is done by American service men and women. Thanks for making that point clear.

  8. begalon says:

    Clearly, the Philippine lesson is that they dont know how to learn the lesson. I am saddened, deeply.

    That is the problem. Laws in the Philippines are in favor of the rich and the crooks. Sometimes I wonder if this is what the NPA is fighting for. Is it Joe?

    • Joe America says:

      I think things are changing for the better, for the rule of law. It will take perhaps 15 more years to follow through on the clean-up, and to get good laws. The real question is the judiciary. It is such a mess.

      The NPA as far as I can tell is little more than an uncoordinated mob of extortionist gangsters. I suppose it is this empowerment of the rich that motivated them several decades ago, but if a decent political ideology is their aim, they have funny ways to pursue it, with murders and intimidation and bombs.

  9. begalon says:

    Yes, I know that this administration is fighting a futile fight against the bad elements and in my view I am in concurrence that the good is succeeding one step at a time. Fifteen years perhaps is inadequate to make that desired changed. You see, it took the Chinese about thirty years since they start the cultural revolution in the late 60’s, a drastic measure to change and the Philippines doesnt have that similar vision, so I think it would take more than thirty years.

    NPA is one of the bad element we have to contend with; however, one of the solution to fight the NPA is eliminating or solving poverty in more than thirty years. How do we do that? Well, we could get them a decent job and fix those bad laws.

  10. Joe America says:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Responsible-Tech/2013/0814/Gmail-users-do-not-have-a-reasonable-expectation-of-privacy-says-Google

    From the Christian Science Monitor, 8/14/2013:
    ____________________

    In the Google’s court brief, the company describes it systematic collection of data for the purposes of targeted advertising as an “ordinary business practice.” The company’s lawyers cite Smith v. Maryland, which states “a persona has no legitimate expectation in privacy information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” As third parties to all email correspondences, service providers, have no claims to privacy.

    Google and other Internet service providers’ information-harvesting techniques have come under increased public scrutiny in the past few months after former NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked classified documents detailing a large-scale, secret data collection plan, PRISM.

    “The NSA could not be doing what it was doing if these various tech companies weren’t such treasure troves of data,” says Simpson. “I mean Google is really a data mining company that knows more about you and me” than we probably do.
    _______________________

    Privacy or trust? Joe.

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