The most annoying thing about the way Snowden saga has been treated is the hyperbole:
The government is recording all your phone calls! (It's collecting the numbers and duration.)
The government is copying all your mail!
(The Post Office is taking pictures of the front of the envelopes. The story
of how this was used to find the woman who sent the Ricin to Obama and Bloomberg is rather interesting and revealing about how you manage to use trillions of bytes of data.)
I'm from Texas, so I tend to forget what the third one is.
But, for everyone who thinks these freakouts help should check out what a surveillance state actually looks like. Our selection today comes fromVenezuela, the country that has offered Snowden asylum. The story starts out like this (below the rotationally symmetric doodle):
In 2009, a private call placed from the US by Isabel Lara to her mother was broadcast on Venezuelan state TV. Secretly taped calls are routinely used there to disgrace political enemies—or worse. To locals, the South American surveillance state is an odd place for government transparency advocate and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to end up.
Isabel Lara has dual citizenship in the United States and Venezuela. Her mother, Maruja Tarre, was an outspoken critic of the Chavez government. So the government recorded a call from Lara in the United States to Tarre. Not the phone number and duration of the call, the actual conversation. And then, after editing it, they played it on TV, with a pro-government talk show host analyzing it over and over (the irony is that being pro-government didn't stop the government from recording his phone conversation and playing it on TV).
But Venezuela doesn't stop there:
Recently, high-profile opposition congresswoman Maria Corina Machado had a conversation at another opposition leader's home—not a phone call this time, a face to face conversation—that lasted some hours, and was secretly recorded. It was edited down to a few minutes and broadcast on TV. The presenters described the recording as "proof that the opposition went to the State Department to plot a coup against the Venezuelan government." There is even a possibility that Maria Corina could go on trial for "treason to her homeland." All based on the "evidence" on the illegally obtained and highly edited tape.
So, to go after opposition leaders, they will record conversations made at a private home, and then edit them before broadcasting them on television. I'm sure what they are doing is stochastic terrorism: Someone kills Machado but the government can say "We didn't do it."
I definitely think we need to have a conversation and a decision on what everyone should expect for privacy. I would love to have the FISA court be monitored more and the War On Terror ended. But a police state? A blog like this would not exist in a police state. Just ask China.