Reader D. D. found my reaction to the NSA leaks "rather subdued" and offered a long and eloquent rebuttal to my claim that "blanket surveillance is not by itself evil," but "it does open the door to evil." Here's an edited snippet:
Data itself is neutral; it doesn't have a social "face." The act of data collection is not neutral; it implies first the power to intrude and second the power to use and disseminate the data without regard to the target.
You could easily say that a stone is neutral, but David was able to topple a giant. In the gun debate, the often-recited mantra is that "gun is neutral." And of course it is; so what?
Blanket surveillance is an act -- not a collection of benign bits; it is intrinsically evil in a free society because it implies unbridled power.... Even if they never do anything with the data, the threat is implicit.
They don't have to kill you to abridge your freedom to be an active citizen.
On the other side, frequent correspondent T. B. accuses me of being hysterical and exaggerating to make a point. In his emails, he wrote:
I know the hysterics will all spout the old saw about those who trade freedom for security will have neither. Are you kidding me? Since when is someone knowing what number you call a violation of your freedom, unless of course, you want freedom to make calls without paying the bill?
After 9/11, a lot of people asked why we didn't see this coming. People have spent decades dismantling U.S. security efforts and have the unmitigated gall to ask what is wrong with U.S. security? The next person who asks me that gets bitch-slapped....
I believe that 99% of people working for the three-letter agencies are good, honest, hard-working people doing their best to stop the next 9/11. Certainly I don't see you out there doing what you can to make sure there's no reoccurrence.
Totally agree about the 99 percent part. It's the 1 percent that worries me.
Meanwhile, Cringester J. S. draws parallels between the NSA and some recently deposed regimes that also liked to keep a close eye on their citizens:
You know that Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator, tapped every phone in the country. And he had handwriting samples from everyone.
But that would never happen here, would it?
Uh-oh. Now they know what I think.
You and me both, brother.
It is, as I noted in one of my many posts about the topic, a conversation that has been long overdue. I appreciate the efforts my readers have made to take part. Let freedom ring.
Have we missed anything? Have your say about the NSA below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Listen up, NSA -- we want to be heard," 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.