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On the NSA’s That ’70s Show Rerun: What would Frank Church say about the Snowden Affair?

Photo of Frank Church speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.The most surprising reaction to Edward Snowden’s historic leak of top-secret intelligence documents is that anyone has been surprised at all. The National Security Agency (NSA) has brought us within view of a totalitarian America, we are told. The largest spying organization in the history of human civilization, arguably the vastest and most incomprehensible creation of the United States federal government, has finally gone too far. They are tracking our phone calls. Facebook and email messages have been handed over. The status of our text messages cannot be definitively vouched.

The story itself is juicy, too, its details bursting with cinematic flavor: the Hong Kong hotel, the man with the Rubik’s Cube, the Icelandic immunity uncertainty, and the lithe libertarian girlfriend in Honolulu, her young love sacrificed for Truth. Snowden’s age and overall bearing give him the air of a technocratic Millennial martyr, but strip away the graphite patina of metadata, supercomputers, and yottabytes, and you see echoes of earlier controversies. We’ve been here before. Read more . . .

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