A few things we have learned from Edward Snowden’s disclosures, and their aftermath:
- U. S. intelligence officials know that we think they are doing something wrong, but they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. In fact, they feel put upon and angry.
- Documentation matters. We knew for a long time that the feds were up to no good. Former NSA employees told us so. Seeing the NSA brag about their crimes, in PowerPoint slides, makes you take notice.
- Court oversight and congressional oversight don’t matter. No matter what legal apparatus you put in place, or what procedures you use to safeguard privacy, the feds will do what they like. They have done what they like for at least two generations.
- The NSA sees us as enemies. They are afraid of us. They regard people like Snowden, who point out their crimes, as spies. They want to destroy citizens who say, “You can’t do this anymore, because it violates the Constitution.”
- To stop criminal activity in government, you have to remove criminals from power. You cannot monitor them, restrain them, or hope they will stay on a narrow path in order to win our trust.
If you want a clean government, you have to decide what to do about people who break the law. In this case, it means you have to dismantle criminal organizations like the NSA, the CIA and the FBI. Local crime bosses are pikers compared to these people. Do not underestimate the power they hold, or their ability to do you harm. They have energetically, and secretly, asserted their power again and again.
The masters of the republic – formerly citizens – have become servants of the all-powerful state, whereas the people who formerly served the republic have become masters of the house. This transformation may reach its apogee during our lifetimes. Remember this rule of self-protection as these momentous changes develop: do not trust your masters, because they do not trust you.