NSA, PRISM and you. Much ado about nothing?

So the NSA has exactly what every movie and TV show drama depicted. The ability to see, hear and read everything from everyone, everywhere. From a nerd standpoint my first reaction is neato! Then after the nerdgasm wears off I start to ponder the security and freedom aspects and a reaction is not quite as quick to form. Even now I don’t think I have a position. Both sides of the ledger are very important, very real and pretty germane to maintaining life in America the way we like it. Or, at least the way I like it. Both sides are also completely juxtaposed. Its hard to pick the high road here. Its starting to become vexing. I hear the discussion, and hyperbole, on the radio shows and read it on various media sources. Still having a hard time picking a side.

Big Brother is watching you

In a clear violation of the Constitution the NSA is watching everything we type and listening to everything we say. Poor them. Reading Twitter and Facebook postings is enough to make you want to off yourself.  They are probably watching me type this in real-time. Sorry guys, I’ll try to be witty and engaging so you don’t nod off. So Big Brother is watching me. So what? There in lies part of my quandary. I’m boring. So what if they know I eat Cherrios for breakfast, like local craft beer, eat bacon more often than my doctor would prefer or enjoy watching Archer? Are any of us really that big of a deal? Are our daily mundane comings and goings so vital to our sense of self that we’re willing to make it difficult for the NSA to try and filter, identify and target really bad people planning really bad things? I ask myself if I want this kind of intrusion and of course I do not, but, if I ask myself if I want this kind of intrusion and by having it something like the Boston Marathon attack gets stopped? Harder to answer. Thinking of those people I am more likely to let the NSA watch me eat Cherrios through my kitchen window.

What happens in Vegas stays in our Utah datacenter

The NSA just finished building a new data center located in rural Utah that can store bazillions of zettabytes of data. Basically the closest thing to a bottomless pit of data. The only thing that can hold more data is the ground prong on the wall outlet. (only nerds will find this mildly amusing. `cat /the/internet > /dev/null`). With all of that computing power, network taps and storage capability the reality is that they are going to be storing tons of crap. Just the inane social media traffic about the Karashians will probably cost taxpayers millions in those resources. They will have every dumb thing said in an email, tweet, FB post, download, fax, SMS text message, etc, including this article. It is storing and sifting through the largest stack of junk mail ever imagined. Needle in a haystack.

The A-Team

The NSA is running PRISM and cataloging all of this data traffic looking for the next evil doer. In my mind I like to think there is a crack team of uber-professionals with mad skills running this tech marvel of a program. The bothersome reality is that while there are definitely some hardcore uber-nerds and patriots operating this thing there is a high likelihood that there are also myopic, cloistered bureaucratic nimrods mixed in there as well. Even worse, at some point on the food chain there are political animals and appointees. People with agendas that have agendas. People who were the class tattletale in grade school, ate lunch alone and plucked the wings from bees and butterflies. Those are the people I am afraid of. Remember Niedermeyer from Animal House? He is in the org chart somewhere. Once upon a time, long long ago I was a Marine Sergeant. When I look at the PRISM business and think about my time in the Marine Corps I would have trusted it to the group of Staff NCOs, Sergeants, Corporals and Lance Coolies that I worked with. Wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But those are Marines, my Marines. Then again, there was that time we listened to cell phone conversations on the nearby interstate and all laughed while listening to some business droid have phone sex with this secretary. Okay, maybe this PRISM thing is a Pandora’s Box. I have to consider the remote possibility that someone, sometime would take some data gleaned by PRISM and burn someone with it for personal or ideological gain. People suck. It just happens.

The world of the red pill

In the Matrix Neo is given the choice to swallow the red pill or blue pill. The blue pill allowed him to remain in the neat little illusion world while the red pill allowed him to view reality. I travel a lot for business, some outside the country. I think Americans can be generally classified as blue pill or red pill people. I think it is easier for the sheltered blue pill people to get all up in arms over PRISM and their privacy. Those of us who step outside of the theme park that is America see just how evil and scary the world can be. Especially in not nice parts of the world. The NSA is keeping that ugly red pill reality out of the blue pill American theme park. Most of the bad people that don’t like us live in parts of the world where human life means little to nothing, most ends justify any means and ideology will effortlessly propel people to horrific acts. I can’t remember the last time I saw a door-to-door salvation merchant like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons blow something up or kill someone. America really is a wonderful theme park. Out in the rest of the world it can be really ugly.

Our Constitution

America is the awesome theme park that it is because of this one document and our adherence to it. Many have wanted the convenience and expediency of ignoring an amendment here and there. Unfortunately that doesn’t work. We have to embrace all of it or none of it. We can’t cherry pick the stuff we like. Winds change. The group in power today may not be the group in power tomorrow. We might not like it very much when they get their turn to cherry pick the Constitution. The founding fathers couldn’t have imagined something like PRISM. Heck, in those days PRISM would’ve been seen as witchcraft. Maybe it still is. They gave us these amazing rights that people in many other places in the world don’t have. We let the Fourth Amendment go for PRISM. What is next? The First? Second? Fifth? Fifteenth? Nineteenth? Gets slippery doesn’t it? We let the Fourth Amendment slide on PRISM and someone else comes along, a new administration, and they cite our letting the Fourth Amendment slide as precedence for shit-canning the First Amendment. At that point we are China or Russia. Something to think about. It is easy to be outraged when your favorite Amendment is getting trampled. We need to voice the same outrage when the other groups’ favorite Amendment is getting trampled. Any Amendment.

Heads they win, tails you lose

The reality is that America is a theme park of pure awesome compared to the rest of the world. There are lots of really bad people out there that hate it and hate us for it. The NSA wants to keep that out. To do it they need us to ignore their feeding the Fourth Amendment into the shredder. Perhaps you can see how the PRISM controversy isn’t easy for me to take sides on. Its not so simple.

disclaimer: this article was written in the wee hours of the morning while under the influence of jet lag.

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