I have to admit feeling a little sorry for the National Security Agency and I guess the NSA is feeling let down by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden who has, like it or not, betrayed his nation.
Yes, the NSA has been ‘spying’ on all and sundry, but seeing the numbers, I wonder just how anyone can actually spy on what appears to be over 300 million people, perhaps many, many more. Can you really genuinely spy on so many people? Not really, but what you can do is monitor telephone calls, emails, text messages, and social media activity. Technically, the NSA monitoring operation is highly impressive. The computer horsepower and programming, algorithms etc required to carry out such and operation is immense. It’s also somewhat impressive that until Snowden came along, nobody seemed to know that the NSA had been tapping into digital ‘pipelines’ so it could intercept a phenomenal amount of data.
Look at it this way too: perhaps the NSA prevented a nuclear bomb from going off in London, New York, Rome or Paris. Or maybe a school bus or three was not blown up, or the London to San Francisco flight did not blow up in mid air. Who knows what disasters the NSA has prevented? If some major act of terrorism had taken place, then the NSA would have been hauled over the coals for not doing what it could have done.
Perhaps the NSA intercepted a few of my emails and the odd telephone conversation. Who knows? I’m not into planning major, or minor, terrorism operations, so I guess the contents of my emails and text messages on where we might go at the weekends were pretty darn boring. Then again, I guess the emails, telephone conversations of one Silvio Berlusconi and his bunga bunga party plans may have kept a few spies amused for a good few hours!
What I’d like to know is just how many lives the NSA’s activities have saved. I think about the many families whose lives were ruined by the 9/11 attacks and the London bombing too. Yes, the UK secret services were benefiting from the massive NSA monitoring operation too, though maybe after the London bombs. How many other acts of terrorism have been averted by the monitoring? Perhaps we will never know.
Now Snowden has lifted the lid on the NSA’s activities, terrorists might be a little more guarded and this could mean that attacks could be carried out successfully. Then again, some terrorists may well be wondering whether the authorities know about their nefarious schemes and may have abandoned a few.
Let’s face it, for the vast majority of us, that the NSA might have homed in on our emails is not going to be a huge problem. Nowadays we reveal lots about ourselves and what we are up to on Facebook or Twitter anyway. Arguably, what Facebook does with personal data is more insidious that what the NSA has been doing.
Slowly but surely, people are becoming aware that mentioning that you are off to Spain for two weeks on your Facebook page – which also shows where you live – is something of an open invitation to burglars to make off with all your belongings while you are sunning yourself on the beach. If someone had warned you that revealing such information is asking for trouble, then you might have thanked, not condemned, them.
That very same beach in Spain may have been the target of a terrorist plot, or maybe your flight to Spain was to have been blown up in mid-air. Thanks to the NSA and PRISM though, the bomb never ended up on your flight, or any other flight for that matter.
OK, so there are more sinister reasons why the NSA has been monitoring hundreds of millions of people, but the number of people who set off alarm bells will have been minimal.
As for spying on world leaders, well, is this anything new? If their communications were intercepted, it’s the fault of the leaders concerned for not expecting to be spied upon and not protecting themselves by implementing suitable countermeasures. If the USA had not been spying on Merkel, then the Chinese probably would have, and probably have been.
If what the NSA and other intelligence services have been doing has saved lives, then let the monitoring continue. As for Snowden, his heart maybe in the right place, but perhaps he should have used his head a little more before he revealed what he did.
Privacy is important, but so is preventing madmen from setting off nuclear bombs in our backyards. What do you think?