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In my semi-soliloquizing[1] on the Snowden business(1, 2) I’ve been winkling over how real the threat is that PRISM will become a tool that imprisons future generations. Is there a counter-example? 

Hmm. Maybe so. We can look at China and see how that possibility has problems. Yes, there is definitely oppression in China. It is a fascist police state. But at the same time, China, with no restrictions at all on how it spies on everyone, has serious problems controlling its population. In fact, Mr. Snowden has decided to take shelter with those Chinese, who are doing more, with less restrictions, than PRISM.

Buh? Think about it. There’s “a hole in the bucket” Mr. Snowden. Ya done gwine tied yo’se’f in a knot thar pardner. You ran to shelter under the eaves of a government that has more invasive systems of spying and little respect for human rights. “But they are evolving…,” I can almost hear you say.

Indeed the Chinese are evolving. And their people are restive, no? But that undermines your fundamental premise that systems like PRISM leads to dictatorship and enslavement.

History of dictatorships tells us that there is a big problem – laid out with crystal clarity by Professor Christopher Andrew at the end of “The Sword and the Shield“. The KGB and other dictatorial regimes are better than we (MI5 and CIA) are at intelligence operations. (Compromise, wiretaps, and gathering of intelligence information.) But it doesn’t do them much good because they are so much worse at making use of that information.

Such regimes can’t use their intelligence data well because of the inherent paranoia and corruption built into dictatorships. Their paranoia is due to the lack of trust that comes from having to survive in a world where there is no rule of law.  Because of that, the leadership can’t believe intelligence that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions. That means that they cannot operate sensibly on the basis of the information they get.

This problem of dictatorship is made worse by the corruption that always blooms under them. Corruption happens because when oppressed, people find ways to survive. They stop respecting the rule of law just as their government has. This erupts and erodes from the economic and political spheres. We can see it in North Korea today. The black market is thriving because people must get necessities and the government, like all dictatorships, is economically incompetent. Political corruption was rampant in the USSR. Families will find ways to protect their own, infiltrating the secret police, infiltrating the police, and having members in the mafias that always arise.

It’s just like the drug war here. People want it, they get it. They don’t respect the law. The more you attack the drug trade, the stronger it comes back. The big drug smugglers in this country have long ago penetrated the DEA. They pay off their own, and they help their agents get promotions – it’s easy. Think about it. Who is in a better position to monitor other drug smugglers than drug smugglers? So what they do is to let little guys get big enough to be nice fat juicy busts – but not yet big enough to be a threat. Then they “feed the lions” and toss the bust to their guys on the inside. That’s how it works.

China runs like our drug war does. The whole nation, in almost every aspect. Think about that.

And remember that PRISM can also see what officials are doing. That makes systems like that a threat to those in power in a dictatorship.

1. Thereby guaranteeing that I will never be able to work for the CIA or NSA. Oh, well. TMI!