Surveillance Weather

Surveillance Weather
(To the tune of “Sweater Weather” by The Neighborhood)

All he is, is a man,
Confidential files in his hands
Took an oath
That he’d stand
By the Constitution and the laws of the land
Hacked the database,
Didn’t leave a trace
Now the whole thing is a federal case.
Trust me, Snowden, you’ll get yours
If you ever set foot on U.S. shores, oh

We know what you think about
And what you talk about
We have eyes all about
Your work, your house
New shirt, new blouse?
Trust us, we’ll find out
Nothing we can’t figure out, no

‘Cause it’s too cold
For him there in Russia
So let us hold
Hold Snowden in a cell down in Gitmo

And it may just take your breath away
We know every single word you say
Our spying doesn’t know constraints
There is no place too far away
Intelligence is a race
Sometimes it’s hard just keeping pace
Monitoring cyberspace
Power is addictive once you get a taste, yeah

The NSA adores
Programs like Carnivore
We know where you have been
You don’t need a Guardian

Talking ‘bout
Email in doubt
Surveillance throughout
You’re safe, without
Honor of a scout!
Nothing else to talk about, no, no, no

‘Cause it’s too cold
For him there in Russia
So let us hold
Hold Snowden in a cell down in Gitmo

Whoa, whoa…
Whoa, whoa… whoa
Whoa, whoa…

‘Cause it’s too cold
For him there in Russia
So let us hold, let us hold…

Take a Bow

It’s been a banner week for the intelligence community. First David Miranda (note the irony in the name) was detained by British police at Heathrow Airport under the aegis of “terrorism”, and then Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in Leavenworth for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. As if that wasn’t enough, Pfc. Manning then announced that he would be living as a woman named Chelsea and seeking gender reassignment therapy. Oh, and the NSA admitted they maybe, possibly, might have accidentally illegally intercepted up to 56,000 emails from American citizens per year between 2008 and 2011, in “a direct breach of US law and constitution.” But really, that bit’s not important.

So what do all of these things have in common, other than security leaks and embarrassing the United States government? Step back a minute and think about what you really know about these cases. You certainly know the name Bradley/Chelsea Manning. You may know Mr. Miranda and his partner, Glenn Greenwald. No doubt you know the name of Mr. Greenwald’s source, Edward Snowden. But how familiar are you with the substance of the issues they represent? Other than the words “leaked government documents”, “WikiLeaks”, and “NSA”, do you really know anything?

Probably not. And that’s just how the government wants it.

You may be familiar with the phrase “security theater”. It’s most often used to describe the TSA, one of the greatest examples of security theater of all time. The purpose of security theater is a feel good measure, the political class’ response to the general outcry to “do something!” Unfortunately while the TSA might be compared to stand-up comedians, there’s another kind of performer who shows up in theaters that most folks have forgotten about: magicians.

The greatest, arguably the only, trick in the magician’s bag is misdirection. When the trick is going on here, he convinces you to look there. There are countless ways to accomplish it, from the simple to the insane, and a great magician knows them all. So while we’re all looking over there at Edward Snowden touring around Russia, what are we not paying attention to? As we enjoy the media salivating over Chelsea Manning’s fight for the right to gender reassignment surgery, what aren’t we being bothered by? Even something as potentially unnerving as Mr. Miranda being detained can be forgotten in the space of a news cycle, but so can a report about illegal activity at the NSA. After all, that’s so two years ago.

The truth is we’re being sold personalities instead of facts. I’m not saying I’m for or against what Manning did, nor am I trying to justify the actions that Snowden took. In order to even have that conversation we would need to have a full grasp of what happened, and the cloak of secrecy that keeps being drawn over the events surrounding their actions in the name of “national security” is growing thinner by the day. But that’s okay, because the show goes on, and the audience is getting all the entertainment they need.

So please, all those in Washington who have the power to actually do something about this: take a bow.