How Do We Stop the Spying?

Posted Friday, September 6th, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I should really write something about the ongoing — and increasingly horrifying — revelations of NSA spying. The latest round of news basically boils down to:

The NSA can now say, “I’m in ur crypto readin ur comms — all of them!”

Every time I try to write about this, my heart pounds faster and I feel overwhelmed by sorrow, and fear, and disgust, and I just want to go puke and then curl up in bed with the covers over my head and a nice, hot spiked with enough alcohol to anesthetize myself.

I don’t want to live in an Orwellian dystopia. But I do. I live in a country where the government can monitor everything, and there are surveillance cameras everywhere. Instead of 1984‘s “telescreens”, it’s cellphones and CCTV cameras.

I feel like those of us who have been advocating in favor of privacy, and in favor of citizen oversight of government intelligence agencies, for all this time are now very much in the position of the bearded gent in Randall Monroe’s three-year-old comic, “Infrastructures”:

But just saying “Hey, we warned you” is not enough. The fight is not over until we all give up — and we’re not about to do that.

How Do We Fight Back?

If you’re technically inclined, Bruce Schneier has some tips on how you can try to secure communications, at least to some degree. He also has a call to arms for engineers — if you only follow one link from this post, make it that one.

There’s also a very nice — if depressing — backgrounder on what the heck all this means by Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green. At my level of understanding and education (which is to say, knowledgeable web developer, but with only minor knowledge of crypto systems), I found it very good for filling in some of the gaps and giving me a “what does this mean for me?” understanding.

Are There Political Remedies?

I don’t know what we can advise non-geeks to do at this point though. Obviously, the NSA is completely out of control. I have doubts that any political process can effectively rein it in — after all, we denied them authorization for the Clipper Chip back in the ’90s, and they just went ahead and got themselves the same result anyway.

So, as long as they’re around, our freedom isn’t safe. The way is clear: Abolish the NSA. If we can’t manage that, at least cut their funding to zero.

This doesn’t even have to wait for the next election, just the next budget cycle. Tell your legislators now: De-fund the NSA. And while we’re at it, prosecute those who have violated the Constitution and the will of the American people. Hold them accountable, and put them in jail. We can start with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has demonstrably committed perjury in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But that’s a start, not an end.

Privacy, freedom, and surveillance need to be major issues in elections. If a candidate won’t take a firm stand for them, then don’t vote for them. Make these things issues in the primaries, where there’s a chance to get new blood into office.

“But what about terrorists?” you ask? I’m not nearly as worried about a terrorist attack as I am about what the NSA, and the rest of my government, are doing.

I’m more scared of my government than I am of the terrorists.

I don’t want to live in an Orwellian dystopia anymore.

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