Of course, the feds are doing what they always do when caught with their hands in our pants: They're trying to shoot the messenger. Clapper goes on:
The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.
The informed resistance
But Bruce Schneier has a better idea: We need more messengers. In an essay for The Atlantic, he writes that the only way we can find out if our government is secretly recording our every move is for people of conscience to step forward and reveal that information. We need more whistleblowers like the brave individuals who shared that court document with the Guardian and that slide deck with the Post. He wrote:
The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.
Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal -- or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law -- but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we're living in a police state.
He goes on to offer resources would-be messengers can use, like computer researcher Nicholas Weaver's guide for how to blow the whistle without getting the hounds on your trail, which mostly involves using disposable prepaid cell phones, public transit services, and the U.S. mail. Alternately, there are services like the New Yorker magazine's new Tor-based Strongbox, which is designed to allow leakers to share confidential documents anonymously (assuming the NSA hasn't already engineered a backdoor into that).
This isn't a partisan political issue -- quite the opposite. This type of surveillance started decades ago during the Cold War, got a huge boost from the Bush administration following 9/11, and has enjoyed healthy support from the Obamanistas ever since.
Yesterday I closed with a quote from Bob Dylan. Today Pete Townshend seems more appropriate: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
But aren't these guys supposed to be working for us?
Do you find the news about PRISM surprising, appalling, or encouraging? Post your reactions below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. No, I cannot guarantee the NSA isn't watching you as you type.
This article, "NSA to everyone: Take your PRISM, it's good for you," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.