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There are significant issues with PRISM (which I’ll use as a placeholder for all the NSA metadata systems) – no question about that. There are significant issues with Snowden too. Here’s probably my biggest one.

Mr. Snowden has said that he could wiretap anybody[1]. Now, everything I have read says that this is metadata storage. (With the exception of the hacking China stuff Mr. Snowden announced yestiddy.[2] But that’s not data on US citizens.) But let’s accept his statement and presume that he could do so from his chair.

Well, d’oh. Fella, that was your job. It’s just like somebody has the job of flipping the switch for an execution. Somebody on a submarine has the job of setting the coordinates on an ICBM with a hydrogen bomb, and somebody else has the job of performing the firing sequence.[3] Somebody has to have that job. You happened to be entrusted with this one – with the very clear directive that what to target was not your call. I suppose the boys in the back room could be having some fun tapping the Kardashians[4]. But considering that you had a pole-dancer for a girlfriend, I doubt that would interest you. Anyway – I don’t buy that argument.

1. Full disclosure, I don’t work for NSA, CIA, PRISM, or a contractor. I’m just a jiboney who has published in terrorism, policy and asymmetric warfare over the past decade. 

2. Somebody better be hacking China. It’s not as if China ain’t hacking us. That specific revelation suggests to me that Mr. Snowden is at least somewhat interested in saving his own hide from getting popped into Leavenworth where he could get to know Brad. (Perhaps he has more off in the cloud. Such uses for the cloud.) Saying that interests the Chinese. There are no indications Mr. Snowden did anything but his job – no independent wiretaps – with the exception of the PowerPoint slides.

3. I’m using the submarine example because these crews are able to operate autonomously. Still double custody, I think, to get an ICBM to fire, but I’m not completely sure about that.

4. I worked a long time ago in ATM development for a major bank. We messed around some – it’s inevitable. One of our games was to see who could get into the sanctum sanctorum of the data center without a badge on. It was great fun, and educational. There was always a way. And yes, this was in one of the biggest banks with exceptionally good security. The guards once hauled off the SVP for electronic data processing when they found him, sans badge, in the bathroom. But knowing that just gave a bit of sauce to our game. Not that we ever used it for evil. It was sort of like when some of us at another company hacked the PBX to listen in on management. It was fun.

PS – A pity he’s not in Iceland. The namephreakness of Snowden in Iceland is too good. Please, Snowden? Would you please pop up in Iceland? For me?