The revelations over the last 48 hours of the near-complete extent of the Obama Administration’s surveillance of US citizens via phone records and internet traffic prompted a response from the amusingly named James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence.
Accusing The Guardian of “omitting” key information — though he doesn’t say what — Clapper makes this claim
“The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation.”
Information asymmetry is how your government wants to know everything possible about you — where you are, whom you called, what you searched Google for, what was in that gmail you sent, etc etc — while trying to prevent you from knowing about its activities as much as possible by using national security (and other excuses, like “commercial in confidence”) to hide information. It is a key characteristic of the surveillance state and the war on the internet governments have launched in the last 3 years.
The statement by Director Clapper takes information asymmetry to a whole new, remarkable level. Now, not merely do governments not want you to know about them, but governments actually claim that “long-lasting and irreversible harm” could result not so much from you knowing about your government, but from knowing what your government knows about you.
At a public meeting in support of WikiLeaks last year, I said that it was critical that we made clear to governments that we wouldn’t tolerate information asymmetry.
“WikiLeaks is a signal to government and corporations that the asymmetry will not remain, that there is no safe place for them, that if they want to impose a surveillance state on us, then we will impose one on them, that we are a global community and that even if you shut down WikiLeaks, and gaol Julian Assange, and arrest hackers, and pass ever more draconian laws to monitor us, you haven’t made a dent on our capacity to use our connectedness to watch you. And we will keep watching you, because that is the only way you will be shamed into backing away from your quest to turn the 21st century into a consumer panopticon.”
After this week, I believe that more strongly than ever.