Friday, October 25, 2013

There's more than one way to uncover state secrets

There's more than one way to uncover state secrets

Credit: iStockphoto

Tomorrow at noon, StopWatching.US plans to rally at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station to protest the ransacking of personal privacy by our good friends in the industrial surveillance complex.

I'd be surprised if they find a sympathetic ear in this administration or from more than a handful of members of Congress, let alone the intelligence bureaucracy. Nearly everyone on both sides of the aisle is complicit in this.

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But they'd probably get Germany and Brazil on board pretty quick, after revelations that the NSA wiretapped phone calls from the leaders of both countries. While governments often turn a blind eye to other intelligence agencies spying on their citizens, being personally spied upon is a different matter.

According to Reuters, Germany wants its own Internet, one where the spooks can't just listen in whenever they please. For the record: I want my own Internet too.

All ears on Acela
Sometimes, though, this story takes a sudden lurch from the frightening to the absurd. For example, yesterday former NSA director Michael Hayden got the tables turned when his "on background" phone conversation with a reporter was overheard by a passenger sitting directly behind him. Tom Matzzie, founder of renewable energy firm the Ethical Electric Company and a former political activist with MoveOn.Org, proceeded to spend the next hour tweeting about what he heard, like this one:

On Acela listening to former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden give

Those tweets earned Matzzie 15 nanoseconds of fame on HuffPost Live, CNN, MSNBC, and elsewhere. It also got him a lot more Twitter traffic, which he used to good advantage to talk about global climate change.

Apparently, somebody in the spy realm saw Matzzie's tweets and alerted Hayden, who then turned around and had what sounds like a reasonable conversation with him. Matzzie even got a photo with Hayden out of it. (Yes, Hayden does look a lot like the actor who played John Locke on "Lost." No, says Matzzie, he was not using a shoe phone. )

Unlike the emails and phone calls the NSA lives to log, a conversation in a public space like that doesn't rate very highly on the "reasonable expectation" scale for privacy (though mom always said it's rude to eavesdrop).

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