One of the points that has stuck in my craw as PRISM has unfolded was the refusal, especially on the part of non-Americans, to believe that this wasn’t exclusively an American problem. As awful as PRISM is, quite a few Western governments are worse when it comes to privacy, and it seemed, at best, disingenuous to assume there weren’t similar programs in other countries. Something Edward Snowden has more or less confirmed.
Now, granted that it’s in Snowden’s interest to play up just how far-reaching government surveillance is. That said, he dropped a pretty major bomb in the middle of a rare interview:
I was surprised to realize that there were people in news organizations who didn’t recognize any unencrypted message sent over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence service in the world. In the wake of this year’s disclosures, it should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is unforgivably reckless.
Again, this isn’t really a surprise, per se. Like we said, as bad as America is in some respects, other countries are worse. And it’s safe to assume that 99% of what you’re doing goes unread because there’s little if anything that, say, Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service cares about.
At the same time, it’s been a little too easy for Americans and non-Americans both to try and play off privacy and snooping as a strictly American problem. Until a few more Snowdens come forward, or until a few lawsuits clear a few courtrooms, we’re probably not going to know the full extent of it.
But consider for a moment that programs like PRISM have been going on for years, and are in fact fairly standard for intelligence agencies. It seems unlikely other countries haven’t kept up with the state of the art. It also explains why I have such a hard time at the Canadian border, but that’s another post entirely.
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