It's with panels like Glenn Greenwald's that makes me regret not making it down to the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. At this particular event, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was broadcast from Russia to answer a number of questions that Twitter users had for him, and in the end, one of the biggest things to take away from his discussion is that he has no regrets whatsoever about the leaks he coordinated.
It's actually quite interesting that both Greenwald and Snowden were broadcast at SXSW, as Greenwald is one of three journalists that Snowden chose to give access to the enormous collection of NSA documents; many, presumably, which have yet to be even tackled given their sheer number.
When the NSA news first broke last summer, it was alluded to time and time again that if you enhance your security online by way of encryption, the NSA automatically treats you as a target. It's one thing to hear that through the grapevine, though, and another to hear it come from the mouth of a man who's spent much of his past year poring over NSA documents.
Greenwald states, "In [the NSA's] mind, if you want to hide what you’re saying from them, it must mean that what you’re saying is a bad thing. They view the use of encryption… as evidence that you’re suspicious and can actually target you if you use it." It doesn't get more cut-and-dry than that.
Credit: Tom Cheredar / Venturebeat
He goes on to state that one of the reasons people who use encryption are so easy to target is because they're the minority. Logic would then imply that if we all made an effort to make use of encryption in all of our online dealings, the NSA would have no one to target based on that one reason alone. Isn't it just a little bit sick to know that your desire for privacy makes you a suspect?
Here's another eye-opener; "The national security state in Washington has so completely perfected the art of co-opting and capturing whatever safeguards are created, that they’re very adept at turning them into further tools for their own power rather than what they’re intended to be." An example? Putting people who will back up your battle in important positions, so as to make the American public believe things might be improving, when in fact they're not. Ultimately, the NSA and the US Government as a whole would love nothing more than for everyone to believe that it heavily values privacy, and it might go as far as to claim things that are absolutely untrue (which would strike no one by surprise, I'm sure).
If you currently make use of out-of-the-ordinary encryption to enhance your privacy online, it's good to be aware that you might "targeted" by the NSA. But at the same time, it's good to keep on doing what you're doing, because privacy is a human right, and the US government certainly doesn't need to know what you had for breakfast.
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