Based on various discussions in recent weeks, I am revising my stance on Transparency. Not the end result, which is still ideally a state of complete transparency, but in how to get there from here.
I’ve said that the records the NSA was collecting should be public information anyway. But obviously the government doesn’t feel the same way, because they were hiding the fact that they sought them. And they are now attempting to prosecute Snowden the same way they’ve reprehensively detained and prosecuted Bradley Manning. And yet they are doing NOTHING to investigate whether these secret programs actually needed to be secret. There are some things that will have to be held secret, even in a transparent society, for reasons of national security. After an interval of time they should all be revealed, and an independent panel would review past actions to determine if the secrecy was truly necessary for self-defense. Any abuse MUST be prosecuted fully, so that secrecy does not become the norm again, to keep the society as transparent as possible. In light of Snowden’s leaks, it seems that these programs should never have been secret, and the government officials/agencies that claimed protection from exposure in courts due to security concerns were lying. They are vile people who threaten the very concept of transparency. If the government cared anything for Transparency they would be prosecuting these obfuscationists for fraud and treason, rather than attacking the people who have brought this outrage to light.
Right now the window goes one-way only. The actions of those in power are being held in opacity while they can peer in on everyone else. Most people want the opacity to go both ways. I want the transparency to go both ways. But in either case the party that will be forced to change is the government. I was in the wrong to say the data that the government was gathering was no big deal. It is a big deal because they are trying to hide it, and until we can pry back their shells and expose them to the same light we live in, we should demand the same secrecy they get. The exchange of information must be mutual, or they will not have any incentive to change.
I was proclaiming “This is not a big deal” because I often live in the world I wish was already here, a world were Transparency works both ways, and where a return to secrecy and paranoia is a net loss for everyone, and thus must be defended. (“Be the change you want to see in the world” and all that). I forgot that this is not the world we’re in. We are a LONG way from there, and getting There from Here will require a lot of leverage and negotiation by those of us on the wrong side of the glass. We shouldn’t give away any tools in that fight for free, which is what I was doing. My bad.