Assuming the Guardian succeeds in persuading governments around the world to pull their snooping systems out of the Edward Snowden quagmire, there can only be one logical outcome: they will dig deeper, probe farther, and integrate more tightly with new technologies.
The stakes are very high, as anyone who remembers the July 7, 2005 London bombings should understand. Al Qaeda is using the Internet to find and inspire self-made jihadists. The problem with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, perhaps, is that he has seen so much terrorism in the United Kingdom (due to the long fight with the IRA over Northern Ireland) that maybe he has become inured to the idea that some day, somewhere, a bomb just may get him.
Terrorism is a fact of life and it isn't going away any time soon. But the difference between the IRA and Al Qaeda is that the IRA never stood up and said it wanted to conquer the world. Whatever else you may think of them, they set a limit to the violence they would do.
Al Qaeda knows no limits. They will kill anyone, anywhere, any way they can. Al Qaeda has a global strategy that encompasses every complacent attitude and assessment their enemies fall into. We brag about killing their leadership, destroying the central organization's coherence, and everyone concludes that Al Qaeda is less of a threat than they were in 2001 when they had armed camps and a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan to work from.
The reality is that Al Qaeda continues to coordinate between groups in a very gruesome, efficient way. They are adapting to changes in the hostile environment faster than our rhetoric can catch up. What's more, every piece of advice that people like Bruce Schneier publish on the Internet on how to foil current NSA monitoring methods goes right into the Al Qaeda dossier for counter-intelligence analysis.
The National Security Agency is not charged with policing our streets and demanding papers from people on a random basis. They are charged with tracking an enemy that grows by random accretion -- an enemy that is currently conducting combat operations in more than 20 nations with a stated goal of launching global jihad by 2020.
Maybe the fact that most of Al Qaeda's victims are Muslims living in the Middle East and Africa makes the war seem very far away for Mr. Rusbridger. He doesn't seem to care that random killing events in western nations are being enticed through the Internet that he and Mr. Schneier so fervently believe has been stolen away by the NSA.
And yet, the companies that make the NSA spying possible are themselves developing the next generation of monetization schemes that reduce your privacy on the Internet to less than zero. At least with the NSA they are only looking for blips on the screen that may lead to the next Al Qaeda operative in possession of a wealth of information. Where companies like Google are concerned, it's all about monetizing everything you do and say for their own gain.
The capitalist way of life destroyed all semblance of online privacy more than a decade ago. All your activity has been quietly packaged and sold off to other companies, passed through filters for advertising, and "anonymized" so that your click patterns can be analyzed for marketing patterns.
Google has protested being coerced into helping the US government track down the terrorists who would -- if they could somehow gain control of the San Francisco Bay area -- seize Google's headquarters and randomly kill anyone who opposed them; and yet, Google itself is arguing that it has the right to do anything with your "private" information that it pleases because "it's in the contract".
I have no personal objection to people protesting the measures that our governments are taking to protect us from the next wave of train, plane, and marathon attacks. All I ask is that the protesters first suggest some better alternatives that will be at least as effective in helping identify Al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers; and I would prefer that all the outraged privacy advocates actually come up with something better.
Until Mr. Schneier, Mr. Rusbridger, Mr. Greenwald, and their supporters come up with a better solution for keeping everyone alive and free from Al Qaeda's annoying little bombs, guns, and brutal executions, they have no moral basis for exposing the systems that have been used to identify and track down our enemies.
You have the legal right to demand transparency in government, but you should have the good sense to propose a better solution rather than just sit back and wait for the next terrorist attack to get through.
It doesn't matter how unrealistic Al Qaeda's dream of global warfare may be. What matters is that they continue to kill more people every month, that they are constantly looking for new countries to expand into, and that they are exposed to all the counter-intelligence measures that Glenn Greenwald, Bruce Schneier, Alan Rusbridge, and other strategically-impaired "thinkers" are proposing.
If the US government really wanted to impose a police state, we wouldn't be here to debate the wisdom or folly of exposing NSA tracking methods. We'd be in Egypt, watching the military and the police round up people.
All I ask is that before you topple the government you don't like that you propose something that works better. The alternative is that you'll get what you ask for and the rest of us will be forced to pay the price.