What do you have to hide? Why would you want to keep your distance from the creepy window-shade-peepers of the National Security Agency? Maybe…Because the NSA is actively monitoring the Internet-usage of people it doesn't like so it can embarrass them by revealing all at opportune moments. Specifically, the spooks watch radical Muslims to see if they have a taste for Internet porn, so they can then be portrayed as hypocrites.
WASHINGTON—The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as "exemplars" of how "personal vulnerabilities" can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority.
The NSA document, dated Oct. 3, 2012, repeatedly refers to the power of charges of hypocrisy to undermine such a messenger. "A previous SIGINT"—or signals intelligence, the interception of communications—"assessment report on radicalization indicated that radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent," the document argues.
Among the vulnerabilities listed by the NSA that can be effectively exploited are "viewing sexually explicit material online" and "using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls."
Now, rumor has it, nobody loves a good donkey show as much as James Clapper and his buddy, General Keith Alexander. Especially the Clerks II variety. But we don't get to monitor their online habits the way they monitor ours, and that creates a distinct imbalance of power.
Because there are plenty of things that we might do, and view, and read in our everyday lives that harm nobody else but might be awkward if they became public knowledge. There are groups and people with whom we might deal but with whom we prefer to not be openly associated. This is really quite normal in life, since most of us don't parade around as if we live in glass boxes, but maintain public appearances as well as private lives. And that divide potentially provides a basis for blackmail. Your sexuality, your associations, your politics, your religious activities, your cultural tastes—these could get you fired, or ruin friendships, or torpedo politial campaigns, if revealed in a calculated way by people ill-disposed towards you.
We might not have any sympathy for radical religious fanatics fomenting violence. I assume very few of us do. But the surveillance and smear tactics used against them can be wielded against anybody with a private life who displeases the wrong people. And, in fact, the NSA has reportedly targeted some radical, but non-violent Muslims, who just say offensive things about Westerners and the U.S.
So long as the NSA is out trawling for embarrassing tidbits, you don't know who will be targeted next.
Although the people doing the snooping can probably safely continue to watch their donkey shows.