Spokesmen for the eavesdropping organizations reassured The Post that we shouldn’t bother our heads with all of this. They have “checks and balances built into our tools,” said one intelligence official.
Since the Snowden leaks began, the administration has adopted an interesting definition of that term. It used to be that “checks and balances” referred to one branch of the government checking and balancing the other branches — like the Supreme Court deciding whether laws are constitutional.
Now the NSA, the CIA and the White House use the term to refer to a secret organization reviewing the actions it has taken and deciding in secret by itself whether they were legal and constitutional."
— the New York Times, via Schneier on Security: NSA Harvesting Contact Lists
Yes, it is like comparing apples and oranges. That is the point though. We have built two very different societies with two very different sets of values. Takeesha was born into a world with limited opportunities, one where the black market has filled the void. In her world transgressions are resolved via violence, not lawyers. The law as applied to her is simple and stark, with little wiggle room.
Mr one-glove was born into a world with many options. The laws of his land are open for interpretation, and with the right lawyer one can navigate in the vast grey area and never do anything wrong. The rules are often written by and for Mr one-glove and his friends."
Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal — or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law — but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we’re living in a police state.
We need whistle-blowers."
Meritocracy is America’s foundational myth. If you work hard, society tells us, you’ll earn your place in the middle class. But any strawberry picker knows hard work alone is a fast road to nowhere. Similarly, we place our faith in education. Study, and the upper-middle class will be yours. Except the average student graduates $35,000 in debt.
My friends who came closest to attaining the American Dream did it by breaking the rules on how to get there. The standard plan—college to secure job to home you own—was either unattainable or a path to the American debt nightmare.
Those with money usually think they deserve it. But most people who make the world run—who care for kids, who grow food, who would rebuild after natural disasters and societal collapse—will never be rich, no matter how hard or well they work, because society is constructed with only so much room on top."
That’s what’s scary about the Aaron Swartz indictment. He was indicted for wire-fraud for concealing his “true identity”, for doing what I do. But at no time was he asked for his true identity. His true identity was not needed to access the JSTOR documents. JSTOR allowed anybody from the MIT network to access their documents, and MIT allowed anybody to access their network without requiring identity.
Let me repeat that: nobody asked Aaron for his true identity, but he was indicted for wirefraud for concealing his true identity. He was indicted for doing the same things I do every day."