Happy Festivus And 2013 Year In Review

Happy Festivus, Dear Reader


We ponder 2013’s biggest story:

  • Boston’s terror attack
  • Rightist congressional theatrics
  • Syria and Obama’s stumbling
  • Miley Cyrus twerking
  • Egypt and Arab Spring’s collapse
  • Obama’s passivity
  • Iran’s opening
  • L’Affaire Snowden
  • Snowden Wins No Surprise

    Neocons and their R2P fellow travelers get runner up for their urgent efforts to jump start yet another American Middle East war. Bandar’s bizarre lashing out at American last minute resistance to Sunni manipulation a Golden Globe-worthy turn.

    Still, we come back to Snowden and the baggage train in his wake. We’re not wholly derisive. Much of what Snowden needed to say was already public. Michael Hayden conceded that. Journalists and bloggers chasing clicks, ‘Likes’ and SEO page views couldn’t be bothered to put it together.

    Snowden’s initial meme-ready slides with pretty logos cut through it all. That’s an achievement. So kudos. NSA’s outright misrepresentations to Congress, the FISA Court and others needed to come out. If only he stopped there.

    After that, his actions and those of his supporters are a whole ‘nother ball game. With little to praise or support. The real purpose of the exercise now isn’t U.S. domestic constitutional order but a full assault on Amerca’s global position. Snowden’s embrace and praise of Putin’s Russia and FSB control appallingly stupid. Snowden under FSB control simply can’t be a credible individual. That’s on top of his initial courtship of authoritarian China, Venezuela and Ecuador. Clumsy U.S. diplomacy played not a small part, too.

    We support legitimate U.S./allied foreign collection activities. Merkel’s non-sensitive, non-government phone faux pas aside, the U.S. designed the NSA to listen abroad. Attacking foreign taskings and stealing military codes is wholly unrelated to privacy. Commingling it all undermines prospects for real reform at home. Snowdenista ‘expose artists’ objectively strengthen NSA and its enablers fighting for the status quo.

    Obama’s Review Group NSA report is Exhibit A. Almost all of the post-2001 apparat is left intact. NSA’s permanent bulk, all-source meta-data collection and retention would be cut off. New reports to Congress on business records and meta data suggested. For lazy headline writers, the report floats new restrictions on collecting head-of-state communications and splitting NSA from Cyber Command. Making the NSA director a Senate confirmable position not a bad idea, either.

    But by and large, it’s a punt.

    We’d like to see PATRIOT rolled back, personally. Not tweaked. Not adjusted. Rolled back. And we’d like to see updated privacy protections that would fence in Google, Facebook et al. With real, biting sanctions for violations. The issue is so much bigger than the NSA. Silicon Valley is a more active menace to stealing and using our data than theoretical NSA abuses.

    Defending privacy with government and corporate voraciousness is not easy. We know a little bit about it. Not just because we presented Silicon Valley’s views fighting NSA over its demand for weak 56 bit encryption exports, etc. But because if you’ve ever bought something online with a mouse click, we had a role in that becoming legally meaningful, too. We’ve been in empty hearing rooms at 2:00 AM with a yellow pad, writing out language on digital privacy issues that would enable a bill to pass by suspension.

    Coalition management is awesomely tricky on a good day. Privacy, consumer rights, finance, technology groups have their own agendas. And add retail/the Chamber? Layering all the ego and puffery of national security on top makes any coalition especially daunting. Threading a needle doesn’t come close. The President’s Review Group is so modest and limited that is it is incapable of launching, let alone sustaining a real reform conversation.

    Your thoughts? We’ve gone on at length about Snowden and would like to hear from you. Or what you think the big story was in 2013. Any Miley fans?

    And from all of us to all of you, Happy Festivus!!!