Monday, June 17, 2013

china laughing

smug, maybe, but who wouldn't be?  china must be just laughing as this snowden affair unfolds.

the thing is, china and the u.s. have known for years that each has been spying on the other's computer networks.  both countries know this has got to be happening.  but you cannot pretend that such a spy program exists then criticize another nation about the invasion of their citizen's privacy and their collusion in cybertheft and espionage.

last week obama met chinese premier xi jinping to ask him to work with him to curb chinese cyber espionage of american companies.  america believes we lose a lot of technology and revenue to china because chinese companies and the chinese government steals it.  the obama administration had the audacity to publicly kind of scold china.  it deserves to be slapped in the face after this recent leak publicly revealed that u.s. is spying on the world.  credibility - obama is losing it fast.

here's the point though: this could all have been out in the open to begin with.  the public reaction to the prism program now has been amplified because of the clandestine aspect of the program.  i would like to consider the program further, talk about it, but honestly, does the prism system do much?  it gathers phone numbers and call durations and connections via social networks of several million people.  the sheer size of that data already begins to obscure the movements of individuals from special observation.  but what does a telephone number or contact name really tell anyone?  a program like this looks for suspicious patterns.  and when patterns emerge from a list of telephone calls, a warrant must still be obtained to investigate the identity and lives of any specific persons.  thomas friedman argues that controlled programs like this may be a compromise that keeps us from giving away more privacy and liberty later should further terrorism occur.

right now, the prism surveillance program does not seem particularly intrusive to me.  but when the government keeps programs like this a secret, i think the country begins to wonder if this glimpse into our clandestine government ends here or extends further.  if a program like this is kept secret, how much more surveillance is there of which we are not even aware?  furthermore, if this program had been made public, if congress had voted to put this program in place for the good of american security, then the president still has a foot hold when he scrutinizes other nations on privacy, espionage, and cyber theft.

perhaps someone could make the argument that certain surveillance, to be effective, must be kept secret.  however, at at certain point our government must balance doing whatever it can for the security of the american people against the protection of our civil liberties.  national security does not mean much if it cannot protect our values and rights as a nation.  transparency is the first step toward that balance.

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