Sunday, October 26, 2008
For the last two days, I've been driving across Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, while listening to the entirety of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America by James Bamford.
This federal snooping agency, the National Security Agency (NSA), sucks up pretty much all the electronic and other information it can gather about everyone in the world, foreign and domestic. The sheer volume of this data, increasing exponentially along with population and technology, threatens to drown both any utility the information may have and any effort to impose limits on its use.
Bamford's book is such a wide-ranging, deeply informed survey of this bloated monstrosity that it too threatens to overwhelm. But if democracy is to have any chance in the total surveillance state already in being, we the people will have to master enough understanding of all this to be able to imagine how to bring intrusive snooping under control. The same inexpensive capacity to utilize vast databases underlies the ability of the Obama campaign to create the people-empowering GOTV effort we are all about to see. But this capacity also is what makes the surveillance state possible. Can we rein in this power before it engulfs any meaningful freedoms?