The NSA Is Scary Good

Since June 2013, when Edward Snowden released government documents confirming the existence of various data gathering methods used by the National Security Agency, there has been a lot of discussions surrounding the value of these programs.

Many of these same conversations also occurred in 2006, when it was reveled that the NSA was collecting data from billions of phone calls made by normal citizens. Curiously, the support for these programs seems to be very closely tied to the political leanings of the commander-in-chief. In 2006, with a Republican in office, 71% of Republicans supported the actions of the NSA. Conversely, with a Democrat in office, Republican approval plummeted to 32%.

While bringing to light the nefarious actions of the NSA exposed the depth of partisan politics as well as the extent to which government officials value data over privacy, it also unveiled the fallacy of a popular political meme.

For years now many have decried the incompetence of government entities. This perceived incompetence is often the rationale used by many political pundits and politicians to advocate for converting public-sector jobs to private-sector functions. While studies have shown that, for the vast majority of jobs, the private sector actually costs more than the public sector, the NSA scandal shows just how advanced our government can be.

The U.S. has a long history of technological achievements that originated with the government. These inventions include microprocessors, RAM memory, hard disk drives, liquid-crystal displays, lithium batteries, the Internet, cellular technology and networks, global positioning system (GPS), multi-touch screens. Now we also find out that many of the bastions of technology in the private sector were unable to prevent the data mining activities of the government.

These companies had built up security to thwart the attacks of expert hackers and then doubled their efforts to protect against Chinese cyber espionage, but they were oblivious to the backdoor access the U.S. government had been exploiting as far back as 2008.

Perhaps the greatest trick our government ever pulled was convincing vast sums of Americans that it was incompetent. No matter how many examples that exist exposing this fallacy, having a faithful congregation devoted to this belief is paramount to the corporate elites who profit from such a meme.