Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

January 8, 2014

Snowden demonstrates doublethink

(Continued)

“To know and not to know,” Orwell wrote, “to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic ... to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy.”

Or, to put it another way, to flee the totalitarian excesses of the U.S. government while taking refuge in countries where the concept of “privacy” scarcely exists. To condemn NSA snooping while handing its secrets to China, the world’s leading practitioner of computerized military and commercial espionage.

This is mission accomplished?

So no, I’m not buying Edward Snowden the savior. Whatever the man’s motives, he’s a traitor. The real scandal is how he got a security clearance to start with.

Anyway, despite the melodrama, it’s not technology that threatens freedom of conscience. Quite the opposite. While in Russia, Snowden should read Vasily Aksyonov’s “Generations of Winter” to understand the repression Stalin achieved with gadgets even more primitive than Orwell depicted.

Something else that didn’t exist in George Orwell’s day, of course, were jihadist websites exporting criminal conspiracies worldwide. It was also much harder to transfer money and to communicate from halfway around the world, and in nothing like real time.

Bomb-making instructions weren’t easily available on the Internet, making mass murder harder to bring off from remote locations. International terrorism existed, but on a far less dangerous scale.

Certainly the terrorist threat can be exaggerated. However, unless you really don’t want your government doing all it can to prevent mass casualty strikes, most of what the NSA does appears both necessary and inevitable.

Here’s something else the melodramatic Mr. Snowden said: “Recently we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance watching everything we do.”

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