Snowed In

I’ve watched with great interest the chase of Edward Snowden. And it’s resulted in a change in my attitude toward government.

Once upon a time, I distrusted government, but I generally assumed that they were simply too incompetent to do anything truly malicious. These are the same people that can’t decide what color to paint a wall, my reasoning went, so there’s no way they could possibly be capable enough to be able to apply the level of evil so many of their detractors accuse them of. That, and there are so many bureaucratic checks and balances that they’re at best handicapped; I envisioned NSA spying on a level only slightly less primitive than tying an extra string to a tin-can telephone.

And then Snowden. Good news, crackpots, you’re not paranoid. Instead of the government being a well-paid collection of Mr. Magoo’s closest relatives, they suddenly morphed into the worst Orwellian nightmare Hollywood can depict. Even as I write this, I’m not at all sure that these very words aren’t placing me on a watch list — if I’m not on one already for having a brain in my head and a tendency to ask probing and awkward questions.

I don’t think I’d actually like Snowden if I met him. The guy sounds like an egotistical jerk. But I can’t discount what he’s done for my worldview. In a single fell swoop, Obama went from “mildly disappointing” to “totalitarian figurehead.” The NSA went from a cool place I’d once considered working for to an untamable fascist hydra.

And then Obama, the NSA, and Congress actually defended spying on every living American as “essential” for “security.” My golly.

If that’s what “security” requires, I’d rather be insecure, thank you.

So at least for the foreseeable future, I’m thinking of using more strong cryptography, since they apparently are watching my every move. I don’t have anything to hide, mind you — I just don’t like somebody snooping over my shoulder, whether it’s the good guys or the bad guys. I don’t care if you’re the NSA, FBI, CIA, or the KGB — you kids get off my lawn and get out of my data. So I’ll be using good passwords and not writing them down. I’ll be encrypting my data to keep it private. And maybe I’ll just delete my data, because if it doesn’t exist, then it can’t be found, can it?

It makes me sad to think that the country I was born in, the country I love, the land of the brave, is no longer the land of the free. But with any luck, we’ll all help fix that over the next few November elections. I, for one, intend to vote for libertarians for the next few years, and the NSA doesn’t need to spy on my email to guess what those votes will spell for them.

So good luck, Ed, and thanks for the tipoff. I hope someday I can buy you a beer, whenever next I visit Reykjavik, or Ecuador, or wherever the heck else you end up. I know a lot of people want to toss you into a hole and throw away the key, but I think the founding fathers of this country would be proud of you for what you’ve done.

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