The National Security Agency complains that Edward Snowden and his leaks have “sensationalized” its rather tedious accomplishment: a god-like edifice that now perches atop every twitch we make as social animals. And, in doing so, it presses that narcotic button: “You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.”
Unlike imaginative humans and run-of-the-mill liberal democrats like us, it just can’t imagine that: ruthless political winners, smart adversaries, and the smart malcontents that keep American politics vital may all eventually be corrupted by NSA’s existing intelligence machinery.
NSA admits to slips that invite us to smirk when instead we should be afraid. Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column yesterday, entitled "Creeping Cloud,” contained this nugget:
“Yet, news broke this past week that the N.S.A. inspector general admitted that there have been a dozen instances of staffers spying on love interests. (The Wall Street Journal said this practice is known as “LOVEINT,” for love intelligence.)”
Sure, this is offensive.
More importantly, however, it dramatizes that, right now, NSA staff can just as easily be asked — and rewarded — for “------,-------,------INT” spying on peaceful, lawful mental activity and associations by individuals who might challenge, inconvenience, and even annoy the leadership of what is still a highly competitive and volatile political system.
Being an individual in any super-charged political environment has always been hard. The NSA has effectively put these individuals out in an open field.
If you wonder whether the Bill of Rights protects you in an open field, ask the Poles what it's like to live in flat prairies surrounded by "recognized" borders.