The vast majority of Americans worry about the amount of personal information vacuumed up by the NSA. In fact, in one recent poll, 82 percent of likely voters expressed “concern” about government collection and retention of their personal data.
The NSA has concerns of its own. Some of its operatives worry that the spy agency doesn’t collect enough of your personal data.
Among the papers released by Edward Snowden were copies of an internal NSA blog written by an employee dubbed the “Socrates of SIGINT.” According to an article published at The Intercept, his role was to serve as “an in-house ethicist who would write a philosophically minded column about signals intelligence.”
The man who wrote the columns describes himself as “libertarian by nature,” and indicated that he initially opposed the government watching everybody. But he eventually came around to support “total surveillance” after a polygraph test, as related by The Intercept.
One of the many thoughts that continually went through my mind was that if I had to reveal part of my personal life to my employer, I’d really rather reveal all of it,” he wrote. “Partial revelation, such as the fact that answering question X made my pulse quicken, led to misunderstandings.”
He was fully aware of his statement’s implications.
“I found myself wishing that my life would be constantly and completely monitored,” he continued. “It might seem odd that a self-professed libertarian would wish an Orwellian dystopia on himself, but here was my rationale: If people knew a few things about me, I might seem suspicious. But if people knew everything about me, they’d see they had nothing to fear. This is the attitude I have brought to SIGINT work since then.”
“We tend to mistrust what we do not understand well,” he noted. “A target that has no ill will to the U.S., but which is being monitored, needs better and more monitoring, not less. So if we’re in for a penny, we need to be in for a pound.”
This chilling peek into the mind of an NSA spy reveals just how easily an institutional culture seeps into the psyche of its operatives. The NSA’s philosopher came to believe that government spying should have no limits.
Pause and let that sink in for a moment.
“Socrates of SIGINT” literally yearns for Big Brother.
This becomes all-the-more horrifying when you stop and consider the fact that this man holds an influential position in a powerful, unaccountable government agency that has the potential to bring Big Brother to Life.
Our philosopher-spy puts a new spin on the old canard, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.” Spying, after all, only targets the “bad guys.”
Of course, he leaves all of the usual questions unanswered. Who exactly determines what constitutes “ill will toward the U.S?” Does my stand against surveillance qualify? What about criticizing the president, or protesting a war, or merely bad-mouthing the IRS?
How do you know somebody won’t one day decide you are a “bad guy.”
And who ensures the information gathered and stored by these spies, even with the best of intentions, doesn’t eventually get used for more nefarious purposes? Government’s track record doesn’t exactly leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling.
Imagine former FBI Director Herbert Hoover with the technology available to American spies today.
The “Socrates of SIGINT” gives us a glimpse into the mindset of surveillance state operatives and the NSA’s institutional culture. Spies believe their mission so important, their ethics so beyond reproach and their judgement so pure that they should have no limits on their power.
That’s a special kind of dangerous.
We will never reform an institution populated by people with this kind of mindset. We must control it. We must limit it. We must stop it.
Click HERE to find out how.