Fascinating interview here with cryptographer/security expert Bruce Schneier, who is helping The Guardian analyze the huge number of documents bequeathed it by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. (Or traitor, if you prefer. I don’t — not yet, anyway.) Schneier argues that the potential ramifications of the NSA’s all-seeing eye are far more disturbing than most citizens realize:
They’re not just spying on the bad guys, they’re deliberately weakening Internet security for everyone—including the good guys. It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create. Additionally, by eavesdropping on all Americans, they’re building the technical infrastructure for a police state.
We’re not there yet, but already we’ve learned that both the DEA and the IRS use NSA surveillance data in prosecutions and then lie about it in court. Power without accountability or oversight is dangerous to society at a very fundamental level.
Yup. He’s also right that His Five Tips for protecting ourselves from government intrusion are neither simple, nor practical. I’ve read about the encryption hoops Laura Poitras had to jump through when first contacted by Snowden. The security procedures he insisted on didn’t sound like something the average person has the money, patience or technical know-how to do. Heck, I’m so “average” I can’t even figure out how to get the “Recent Posts” widget to work in the sidebar of ChickCurmudgeon. The fact that four widgets do appear properly — most of the time — is no sign of waning widget-impairment either; I have no clue why they’re working.
If interested, more reflections on the NSA’s attempts at Snowden-mitigation are in my blog posts “On Truth and Fantasies” and the third section of “Oh, What a Tangled Web They Weave . . . ” and include a link to the NYT profile of Poitras. Is it possible a spy thriller based on her experiences isn’t already in the works?
These are scary times, but Schneier, who will be writing future articles on the material he’s been analyzing, has a wise practical suggestion:
The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change.
I have one for him too, if he hasn’t already done it: hire bodyguards.