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The NSA and the One Percent

Daniel Ellsberg, a man well versed in the matter, calls it “the most important leak in American history.” The scale of the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program is indeed staggering. Not to put too fine a point on it, if your phone records and Internet clicks are not already in federal custody, rest assured they soon will be. To add insult to injury, it might all be legal. A 29-year old Booz Allen employee, Edward Snowden, has risked his freedom to expose the mischief.

Not everyone was pleased. Ranting like a mad preacher, David Brooks called it a betrayal no fewer than ten times in one column. Wagging the mighty finger of pop psychology, the Times‘s self-anointed Mother Superior blamed Snowden’s betrayals on a life “unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society,” ie, untutored in the Brooksian view of authority as a call to blind worship. To others, the episode was a discomfiting reminder that the mantle of heroism can make cruel demands on those willing to put it on—especially the young. Snowden has forced open a much-needed debate, one that President Obama openly welcomes. And what better way to echo the sentiment than to have his National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, lie under oath to preempt any such debate?

Not that Snowden’s revelation did more than turn suspicion into confirmation. Ordinary Americans might not have suspected the cosmic scope of the snoopery, but terrorists, a breed to whom suspicion comes naturally, surely did. Indeed, the Pentagon has made no secret of its plan to expand its Global Information Gridpast the “yottabyte” mark. How big is that? Think of a giant vacuum cleaner designed to hoover up the equivalent of one million DVDs for every human being on earth. Now ask yourself: why would anyone need so much storage if not for trawling every critter that swims the waterways of the Internet: emails, tweets, pics, vids, chats, etc? The NSA’s claim to be merely after your metadata (email addresses, phone numbers, durations, etc) is preposterous. Metadata alone could never use up more than one millionth of the storage capacity. The NSA has hopped on the Big-Data bandwagon or, as it were, the All-Data supertrain.

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