What Has Changed? – Part 2

How many of you remember the name Daniel Ellsberg?  It’s okay to let go of your walker if you want to raise your hand.  Yes, he was the fellow who released the Pentagon Papers back in 1971, 7,000 pages detailing U.S. involvement in Viet Nam.  For his efforts, Mr. Ellsberg was charged with serious crimes by the U.S. government, including theft of government property, spying, and conspiracy.  At that time many saw him as a traitor while others hailed him as hero.  If you were there, the length of your hair probably determined upon which side of that divide you fell.

Today we have Edward Snowden in a reprise of the role.   A computer professional who worked both as a Central Intelligence Agency systems administrator and counterintelligence trainer for the Defense Intelligence Agency, as a National Security Agency contractor Mr. Snowden released thousands of pages of documents detailing a global network of CIA (and other government) surveillance systems used to gather information on, well, anyone who can fog a mirror.  Some folks see him as a hero; others as a whistleblower.  Secretary of State Kerry called him a coward and traitor.  That last bit is interesting since Kerry was called much the same when he was protesting the war in Viet Nam.  In fact, the U.S. Navy twice recommended  he be court marshaled for his behavior back then.

For us here at Atlas, the issue is more a matter first of trust, then of fairness, of having a level playing field.  We are not second guessing  the value of intelligence, but the heavy handed and clandestine way in which its pursuit spread into so many areas of American business has had unfavorable repercussions.   A list of businesses claiming to have experienced unfavorable economic consequences due to such eavesdropping includes Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, and IBM.  These aren’t just bit players and any hit to their credibility and sales can resonate adversely on employment.  Their customers have stopped trusting them.

A level playing field involves another issue: net neutrality.  While our government says it believes how you as an individual uses the internet should not be hampered, its actions seem intent on doing the opposite.  Specifically, creating a two-tiered internet service offered by the ever shrinking (via huge mergers) pool of providers given monopolies does not benefit the population  It does, however, benefit a small handful of mega-corporations who can control what you have access to and more easily allows the government to watch what you pull up.  Every tyrannical government in the world uses these methods to limit free speech and spy on its citizens.    Let’s hope this isn’t how things play out here, facilitated by both congress and the administration, as this issue is being discussed right now in our nation’s capitol..       (by J R)