Apparently, the NSA has their own newsletter, and a wonderful post from an employee, dubbed The SIGINT Philosopher, was included in the Snowden leaks. Let’s see what he had to say.
One philosophical SIGINT conundrum that faces many of us SIGINTers is the feeling famously expressed by Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of State, Henry Stimson, that “gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail.”
While almost everyone would agree this is a hopelessly quixotic sentiment, and one doomed to be ignored by every nation on earth, I was surprised when I began working here to be assigned to a diplomatic target. Somehow, it didn’t sit well with me at first that we (the US) would invest big money and effort into eavesdropping on the same people we negotiated with. It was as if with the right hand of our State Department we shook their hand, while with the left hand of the Defense Department we reached into their coat pockets. Surely, I thought, if there were any place in the world that idealism should rule and we should show voluntary restrain in our intelligence work, diplomacy was that place. Terrorists who meant harm to children and puppies were one thing, but civil servants talking about work while schlepping their kids to soccer practice seemed a little too close to home.
Oh, you’re a special boy, aren’t you? I can tell. Then, after a terrible polygraph test, an epiphany:
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 rather than just part of it. Partial revelation, such as the fact that answering question X made my pulse quicken, led to misunderstandings. I found myself wishing that my life would be constantly and completely monitored. 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. If we are going to work on targets that fall short of being technically “enemies” but are rather informative for our policy makers – and we are – then even looking at it from the target’s perspective, we are honor-bound to do more and better monitoring rather than less.
For while the US does not truly have godlike powers -we cannot do all things – we do have extraordinary powers. And we tend to mistrust what we do not understand well. A target that has no ill will to the US, 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.
What a fucking psychopath! And to think, this deranged tool may be representative of the people that control the most invasive surveillance platforms our species has ever seen.
This essay lends credence to what I have long suspected about the people running these agencies. They’re insecure and terrified of a real world, one where chance and freedom play substantive roles. They will try to predict and control, and end up destroying everything that’s worthwhile about being human.
The world is complex, and filled with wonderful and horrible things. That’s life. If you think that creating an Orwellian nightmare and circumscribing human potential is the way forward, then you deserve everything that’s coming your way.
I just wish I could live long enough to see it.
So I have chosen, to make a world where humankind can create its own future, from moment to moment, free of one man’s vision, free from the perversion of the prophet’s words, and free of future predetermined.