I find myself feeling even more patriotic than usual on this 4th of July for living in a country which allows me to have all the conflicting feelings I have after the NSA/Snowden affair
a) Every country spies. Been going on since the days of the pharaohs and even before. The techniques reflect the state of technology in a society. In some they still steam open mail envelopes. In others, they still make copies of visitor passports at each hotel they stay at. In still others they question visitors for hours on the way out of the country. It's their unusual form of gathering intelligence. The US is a more social, digital society - so not surprisingly PRISM is about electronic communications. I would be more surprised if we were not eavesdropping.
b) I do worry if our NSA has become like our TSA. Just greedily collecting all kinds of data and not having the technology or resources to mine it effectively. Also giving our analysts way more power than their age and experience would suggest.
c) I worry even more about our technology providers. Not just picking on Verizon but there is ultimate hypocrisy in talking about an ethics committee on your website and about protecting customer data. Seriously? In contrast I recently saw a European POV on web privacy which highlights a commitment to "values" - supporting self-determination, democratic participation and economic wellbeing.
d) I am embarrassed by diplomats around the world. The Russians and Chinese mocking the US with their own track record of individual freedoms? Europeans with their mock shock about US spying just prior to major trade talks? The US bullying of countries to not consider asylum for Snowden? The shoddy treatment of the Bolivian President's plane? We will look back and say this was a sad few weeks for diplomats everywhere.
e) I have become acutely aware of generation gaps. I had naively lost track what with 2 year olds with iPads and 80 year old grandmas with their Nooks. My generation is conservative, the generation after us libertarian. So I find myself embarrassed by politicians of my generation who call Snowden and journalists like Greenwald traitors. I don't know what their motivations are, but I do consider them awfully brave.
So on this 4th cutting through the confusing talk of the politicians and diplomats and business executives, I want to celebrate the bravery of individuals. And to celebrate the country which allows them a platform to be so.