A month ago, Edward Snowden lifted the veil that the National Security Agency had shrouded: the proof of citizens’ digital information being infiltrated. This came after Director James Clapper explicitly stated to the press that his agency did not use its technology to these ends.
Since the Snow-storm, however, Clapper has changed his tune, apologizing in a letter to Congress for the statement and admitting that his remark was “clearly erroneous” and that he had used the “least untruthful answer possible.”
What Snowden showed in his reports not only showed an infringement upon the privacy rights of American citizens, but revealed the director of the secretive agency as one who can not be unconditionally trusted. What happens to a democracy when its leaders cannot be given credence? Who do we turn to for order when our own government keeps us in the dark about its operations that concern us?
Section 215 of the Patriot Act outlines the NSA and FBI’s rights to investigate all “tangible” things, including documents, records, and pictures, in the name of national security. The NSA has expanded these tangible things to cyberspace. However, it is explicitly stated that these investigations cannot take place “solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.”
The First Amendment, of course, gives us our most basic American freedoms: religion, assembly, association, and speech. We utilize these freedoms to create a sense of self that is protected by the law of the land. At the same time, however, these expressions of freedom are only presented to others with our consent.
Privacy and identity are two words that mean the same thing; how a person presents themselves to the world. People we talk to know us not just by what we are, but also by what we don’t tell them. Lives can be packaged into neat little row and columns of addresses, names, dates, and shopping lists. That is, in essence, the metadata the National Security Agency can have access to under as of yet unclear circumstances: our untold truths.
Backlash to the continuing privacy revolution has resulted in anonymous browsing sites such as Tor. Currently, there are over 500,000 people using this service, 16% of them being American. Popularity of browsers such as this can grow with proper understanding of its system and more coverage in the media.
This answer to monitored information is an attempt to preserve our identity and the parts of our lives we hold close. Clapper may not have the trust of the American people, but that distrust may be manifesting in an anonymous revolution.