When Edward Snowden made the decision to pull back the curtain on the military-intelligence complex, he was doing more than merely exposing their internal plans and activities. He was bringing our most lurid fears about the nature of the world to light for examination.
We have sacrificed our freedoms and morals in order to make war on those abroad, and, more subtly, on ourselves; but it was the necessary cost to stop the scourge of terror which stalked us so relentlessly. Indeed, in their ostensible search for this threat, the NSA did not leave any stone unturned. No place was too private or too sacred to escape their surveillance. They nakedly spoke of their desire to control every bit of communications information on the planet. Throughout this, the idea that anyone was entitled to personal privacy was treated as a quaint joke.
As it turns out, while the NSA was remarkably good at violating the innermost thoughts and feelings of Americans, it was remarkably poor at finding actual threats to the US. A White House panel, convened in the wake of Snowden’s leaks this week, was forced to admit that massive NSA spying had not produced evidence revealing even a single terrorist plot against the country. The spectre of terrorism had been used as a bludgeon to compel Americans to give up every last shred of their privacy. But incredibly, upon finding nothing, the government simply kept prying further still. One intelligence official, who was on the White House’s panel, made this incredible admission: “It flies in the face of everything that they have tossed at us.” The American people could easily be forgiven for feeling the same way.