A talk given by Eben Moglen at Columbia Law School on November 13th, 2013.
Since we were last together, Mr. Albert Gore Jr.—once Vice President of the United States, and the man who got the most votes in the presidential election of 2000—said, in a public speech in Montreal, that Mr. Snowden had disclosed evidence of crimes against the United States Constitution.
Senator John McCain—who has never gotten the most votes in a presidential election—immediately came out, and said that General Alexander—whose departure has been scheduled, as we discussed last time—should be fired for allowing Mr. Snowden, who was a mere contractor, access to classified information. This sudden and unprovoked attack on the business model of Booz Allen Hamilton, and many of his campaign contributors was, of course, a beautiful example of the misdirection, misleading, and sheer lying we were talking about last time.
Mr. Gore—who was famously a journalist rather than a lawyer before he went into politics, which may account for his occasional love of truthfulness—was of course exercising layman’s privilege in talking about crimes against the United States Constitution. Much in the way that liberty has been taken with the law when people attack Mr. Snowden as a “traitor.” But Mr. Gore is using layman’s privilege. Many of the people who have abused the language with respect to Mr. Snowden are lawyers, and should have known better.
But for all that Mr. Gore was substantially closer to the truth than Senator McCain, it is Senator McCain’s comment which leads us closer to the heart of where we need to focus our attention now.
Our remaining time together will be short and in it we must attend to the solutions to some to the problems we have been living with. In order to think about those solutions we must be sure that we understand the full breadth of the problems. Senator McCain, in referring to the contractors, brought us face to face with the crucial role of the private surveillance market in the world, the data-miners and the listeners of commerce. Both those who are officially part of the intelligence establishment and those who aren’t. Senator McCain of course knows the vast surveillance-industrial state which has grown up since 2001—which was so beautifully documented by the Washington Post in its “Top Secret America” series in 2010—is impossible to imagine, the surveillance behemoth we now have in government cannot be conceived, without the contractors. That’s the center of that story. But it is in itself another layer—one might say a superstructure raised atop another structure altogether, one might call a base—which is the great data-mining industry that has grown up in the United States, to surveil the world for profit, in the last fifteen years. There we must pay our central attention before we discuss how to fix things, because there is the center of the problem.
The government abuse of the systems of surveillance and listening which have threatened to fasten the procedures of totalitarianism on everyone in the world without a US passport, this form of pervasive spying on societies which has come into existence, results from a larger environmental and ecological crisis brought on by industrial overreaching.
It is not the first, the last, or the most serious of the various forms of environmental crisis brought on in the last two centuries by industrial overreaching. Industrial overreaching has begun to modify the climate of the whole earth in unexpected and damaging ways. Against that enormity this is merely an ecological disaster threatening the survival of democracy.
So we need to understand the ecological harm done underneath, before we can begin to restrict the listening of government to its appropriate sphere, and abate those violations of the constitution to which Mr. Gore referred.
Now I spoke last time of the way in which we can decompose “privacy,” the concepts that we float around under that word, into three more specific parts: First, secrecy: that is, our ability to have our messages understood only by those to whom we intend to send them. Second, anonymity: that is, our ability to send and receive messages, which may be public in their content, without revealing who said and who listened or read what was said. Third, autonomy: that is, the avoidance of coercion, interference, and intervention by parties who have violated either our secrecy or our anonymity and who are using what they have gained by those violations to control us.
I would ask you also—in thinking analytically about this substance “privacy” whose continuation I am asserting is essential to democracy’s survival—I would urge you also to consider that privacy is an ecological rather than a transactional substance. This is a crucial distinction from what you are taught to believe by the people whose job it is to earn off you.
Those who wish to earn off you want to define privacy as a thing you transact about with them, just the two of you. They offer you free email service, in response to which you let them read all the mail, and that’s that. It’s just a transaction between two parties. They offer you free web hosting for your social communications, in return for watching everybody look at everything. They assert that’s a transaction in which only the parties themselves are engaged.
This is a convenient fraudulence. Another misdirection, misleading, and plain lying proposition. Because—as I suggested in the analytic definition of the components of privacy—privacy is always a relation among people. It is not transactional, an agreement between a listener or a spy or a peephole keeper and the person being spied on.
If you accept this supposedly bilateral offer, to provide email service for you for free as long as it can all be read, then everybody who corresponds with you has been subjected to the bargain, which was supposedly bilateral in nature.
If your family contains somebody who receives mail at Gmail, then Google gets a copy of all correspondence in your family. If another member of your family receives mail at Yahoo, then Yahoo receives a copy of all the correspondence in your family as well.
The idea that this is limited to the automated mining of the mail, to provide advertisements which you may want to click on while you read your family’s correspondence, may or may not seem already louche beyond acceptability to you, but please to keep in mind what Mr. Snowden has pointed out to you: Will they, nil they, they are sharing all that mail with power. And so they are helping all your family’s correspondence to be shared with power, once, twice, or a third time.
The same will be true if you decide to live your social in a place where the creep who runs it monitors every social interaction, and not only keeps a copy of everything said, but also watches everybody watch everybody else. The result will not only be, of course, that you yourself will be subjected to the constant creepy inspection, but also that everybody you choose to socialize with there will be too. If you attract others to the place, you’re attracting them to the creepy supervisory inspection, forcing them to undergo it with you, if they want to be your “friend.”
The reason that we have to think about privacy the way we think about the other ecological crises created by industrial overreaching is that it is one. It’s that we can’t avoid thinking about it that way, no matter how much other people may try to categorize it wrongly for us.
This is a particular problem for the lawyers. Because the lawyers are attracted by the shininess of transactional behavior. It gives them benefits and causes them—if they are professors—to lunch, and—if they are practitioners—to dine in elegance. So they are always delighted to discover a transaction that can be facilitated for a reduction of friction monetized as legal fees. Therefore lawyers are among those around the world most likely to be inclined to imagine that this nonsense about the transactionality of privacy is true. The important element in this is that what is transactional can be consented to, and so we get a lot of law about consent. Which, if correctly understood, is totally irrelevant and indeed fundamentally inappropriate.
We do not, with respect to clean air and clean water, derive the dirtiness of the air and water from the degree of consent. You can’t consent to expose your children to unclean or unsafe drinking water in the United States, no matter how much anybody pays you. Because the drinking water must be provided at a socially established standard of cleanliness, which everybody has to meet.
Environmental law is not law about consent. It’s law about the adoption of rules of liability reflecting socially determined outcomes: levels of safety, security, and welfare.
When you take a subject which has previously been subject to environmental regulation and you reduce it to transactionality—even for the purpose of trying to use market mechanisms to reduce the amount of pollution going on—you run into people who are deeply concerned about the loss of the idea of a socially established limit. You must show that those caps are not going readily to be lifted in the exhilarating process, the game, of trading.
But with respect to privacy we have been allowed to fool ourselves—or rather, we have allowed our lawyers to fool themselves and them to fool everybody else—into the conclusion that what is actually a subject of environmental regulation is a mere matter of bilateral bargaining. A moment’s consideration of the facts will show that this is completely not true.
Of course we acquired this theory not by accident. We acquired this theory because tens of billions of dollars in wealth had been put in the pockets of people who wanted us to believe it.
And on the superstructure that came from that base—that is, fooling us into the belief that privacy was not a subject of environmental concern—environmental devastation was produced by the ceaseless pursuit of profit in every legal way imaginable. Which of course is more ways than there ought to be, once appropriate ecological restraints either have been lifted or have never been imposed.
Now I’m going to focus my analysis on this point in a single corner of the diagram that one might set forth about the forms of privacy, the nature of the various forms of invasion and the ways in which the unrestrained industrial activity has resulted in catastrophe. And upon which government has based its own misdeeds. I’m going to focus only in one corner, which is the one of greatest importance and the one least discussed, namely the way in which this ecological catastrophe has destroyed the anonymity of reading.
There is a tendency, in discussing the privacy catastrophe arising from the behavior of the data-mining behemoths, to suggest that is has something to do with humanity’s over-publishing.
That the real problem of privacy is that kids are just sharing too darn much.
This is not only a form of misdirection and misleading, it’s a form of misdirection and misleading which is especially beautiful, because it hides the truth, both from the people it convinces and from the people who oppose it. It is an all-purpose obscurantist device.
When you democratize media, which is what we are doing with the Net, then obviously people say more—way more—than they were ever able to say before. As when first there was printing, people said more than they could ever say before.
This is not the problem. There may be too much saying or too little: this is to be left in a free society to the people who do the saying and the discouraging of saying, all of which is perfectly permissible and about which nobody should do any complaining or do any worse than complaining.
But really what has gone wrong is the destruction of the anonymity of reading, for which nobody has contracted at all.
Because of the way we built the Web—because we gave people programs called “browsers” that everyone could use, but we made programs called “web servers” that only geeks could use—almost everyone on Planet Earth has never read a webserver log.
This is a great failing in our social education about technology. It’s equivilent to not showing children what happens if cars collide and people don’t wear seat belts.
We don’t explain to people how a webserver log represents the activity of readers, nor how much—if you can aggregate a few hundred million webserver log entries together—you can learn about people, because of what they read: Not what they publish, what they read. That you can learn how long they spend on everything they read, how they read it, where they go next, what they do on the basis of what they’ve just read. If you can collect all that information in the logs, then you are beginning to possess what you ought not to have.
The anonymity of reading is the central, fundamental guarantor of freedom of the mind. Without anonymity in reading there is no freedom of the mind. Indeed, there is literally slavery.
I don’t ask you to accept that statement on my authority, I offer you the authority of a better man than I, who in 1845 published the first of his memoirs, called A Narrative of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave.
Frederick Douglass wrote in that first narrative of his life how his second owner, Mrs. Sophia Auld, when he was twelve began to teach him letters, and to read a few simple words. But she was vehemently discouraged by her husband Hugh, who told her, when he came to understand what she was doing, that “You cannot teach slaves to read for it, will make them uneasy in their slavery, unmanageable and sad.” Frederick Douglass said “I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man.” Thus he began to learn more to read, and when Ms. Auld, having accepted her husband’s direction in the matter, found him reading a newspaper, she tore it away from him lest he become unfit for slavery. Thus he was required, as he tells us, to learn to read in secret.
When hired out to Mr. William Freeland, he taught other slaves to read, until such time as the surrounding slave owners became aware of what he was doing, at which point the mob invaded his Sunday schooling place and beat the people and destroyed the school.
Reading was the pathway, Fredrick Douglass wrote, from slavery to freedom. But what if every book and newspaper he touched reported him?
You can go and read almost anything you want, almost any book on Earth, at the headquarters of one of the great American data-mining companies, provided that you let them watch you as you read every page. All books, for free, in the KGB library of Mountain View, California.
Everyone tries to surveil your reading.
If you have a Facebook account which you use, that is you log in from time to time, then not only will Facebook be surveilling every single moment you spend at Facebook—watching what you read, how long you read it, what you do next, where you go to, what you click on from there, etc.—but also every Web page that you touch that has a Facebook “like” button on it, whether you click the “like” button or not, will report your reading of that page to Facebook.
And if you go from one page with a Facebook “like” button on it to another page with a Facebook “like” button on it, Facebook will calculate how long you spend reading page number one, and so on ad infinitum down the chain.
If your newspaper, that you read every day, has Facebook “like” buttons or similar services’ buttons on those pages, then Facebook or the other service watches you read the newspaper: knows which stories you read and how long you spent on them, though you gave Facebook nothing about that at any time.
It’s not your publishing which is being surveilled, it is your reading.
Every time you tweet a URL, Twitter is shortening the URL for you. But they are also arranging that anybody who clicks on that URL will be monitored by Twitter as they read.
You are not only helping people know what’s on the Web, but also helping Twitter to watch everybody you helped read, so they read over everybody’s shoulder everything you recommend.
This isn’t transactional, this is ecological. This is an environmental destruction of other people’s freedom to read. You are urging them to abandon anonymity under the guise of helping them to find stuff they want to read. Your activity is designed to help them find things they want to read. Twitter’s activity is to disguise the surveillance of the resulting reading from everybody.
The primary actual difficulty, then, has not to do with anything that anybody publishes, or any so called “privacy controls” over who may read what anybody publishes. All of that is a side show, deliberately made complicated, deliberately made controversial, deliberately made full of stuff you’re supposed to think about so you never think about the thing that you really ought to know about, which is the surveillance of the reading.
Watch this hand over here in which I wave the flame-colored handkerchief, because otherwise you might be aware of where my left hand is with respect to … something you consider private.
This is the system that we allowed to grow up so quickly that we did not understand its implications. Which is how ecological crises happen. Because what can be done is done before what will happen next has been thought about. By the time it has been thought about, the people who understood it ain’t talking, because they’ve got an edge, and that edge is directed at you.
Upon this layer of commercial surveillance activity two things, then, happen with respect to government: the complicity and the thievery.
The data-mining companies believed, by and large, with respect to the United States and other governments around the world with whom they deal, that they were merely in a situation of complicity.
Having created unsafe technological structures that mined you, they thought they were merely engaged in quiet—that is to say, undisclosed—bargaining with power over how much of what they had on you they should deliver to others.
This was, of course, a mingled game of greed and fear.
But what the US data-mining giants of the West Coast basically believed, until Mr. Snowden woke them, was that by complicity they had gained immunity from actual thievery.
What sent both Facebook and Google into orbit since we were all last together—or rather, what had come out two weeks ago on the Wednesday that we were last together—was the news that their complicity had bought them nothing.
Everywhere outside the United States, the United States Government had hacked, tapped, stolen its way inside their charmed circle of encryption between themselves and their customers, in order to get to the data after it had been decrypted inside their own houses, their own internal networks, where they did not keep it adequately secure.
Naturally this bothered the people who had the impression—which Abraham Lincoln so vividly described with respect to his venal Secretary of War Simon Cameron—that “An honest man is a man who, when bought, stays bought.”
What they had expected by way of honesty from the American listeners they discovered that they hadn’t got at all.
The American listeners had perhaps learned their negotiation style from their Soviet counterparts. Their attitude evidently was, “What’s ours is ours, and what’s yours is negotiable. Unless we steal it first.”
Now I do indeed have sympathy for the outraged position of the American data-miners. Most of me feels that they earned the penalty of their complicity, but I am charmed by the naivete with which they disregarded what we (my comrades and I) told them for twenty years, which was that the listeners are not to be trusted, in anything they say about any of this.
Like the the world financial industry, they had taken the promises of the American military listeners too seriously. They had believed that there were limits to what power would do, ignoring that power not only had authorization and resources, but also instructions everywhere outside the United States to take anything that it could get. Ignoring also that the rules regarding the limitations of listening inside the United States under the rule of law had basically been lifted by an administration full of people who were politicizing fear and who were famously engaged in shooting first and asking questions later, whether they were governing the Empire or hunting with their friends.
So the problem is that, for the data-miners, the situation is not controllable, just as for the American listeners it is no longer controllable.
And it will only be controllable for Us if we bend our attention closely to the environmental nature of the problem that we face because environmental problems—like climate change, or water pollution, or slavery—are not solved transactionally by individuals.
If you want to get people out of slavery you’ve got to work together.
It takes a Union to destroy slavery.
If you want to solve the problem of the dirty air we breath, the unclean water that we drink, the changing climate under which we live, we must work together. We will not be able to solve those problems by ourselves.
The essence of the difficulty is Union.
Which, brings us, of course, to another characteristic of the great data-miners of the early twenty-first century, which is that there was no union of any kind around them.
They have become public corporations, but the kinds of environmental issues that we face with them, shareholder democracy has never had the slightest adequate effect in controlling. Though they are publicly-held businesses now, they are remarkably opaque with respect to all that they actually do. They are so valuable that who will kill the goose that lays the golden egg by inquiring whether their business methods are ethical?
A few powerful individuals control all the real votes in these places. Their workforces do not have collective voice. This is important with respect to environmental harms.
Mr. Snowden has been clear all along that the remedy for environmental destruction is democracy and he is correct about that. But Mr. Snowden has also repeatedly pointed out that, in an environment in which workers cannot speak up and there is no collective voice, there is no protection for the public’s ability to know.
So now we come to the particular intersection between the destruction of the right to read anonymously and the absence of unions within the organizations that surveil humanity.
When there is no collective voice for those who are within structures that deceive and oppress, then somebody has to act courageously on his own. Someone has to face all the risk for a tiny share of the total benefit that will be reaped by all.
Such a man may be walking the pathway from slavery to freedom. But any such man worthy of the effort will know that he may also be digging his own grave.
When there is no Union, we require heroism. Or we perish for want of what we should have known, that there was neither collective will nor individual courage to bring us.
It takes a Union to end slavery because a man who decides that the will of the Righteous commands us to free slaves will be called a traitor, and they will hang him—more than once.
This is why, when anonymous reading can no longer occur, we imperil the very thing that without Union is the only route to our salvation, while democracy itself strangles in the loop that its security vehicles have drawn around it.
Before Augustus, the Romans of the late Republic knew that the secrecy of the ballot was essential to the people’s right.
In every country in the world which holds meaningful elections, Google knows how you’re going to vote. It’s already shaping your political coverage for you, in your customized news feed, based upon what you want to read, and who you are, and what you like. Not only does it know how you’re going to vote, it’s helping to confirm you in your decision to vote that way—unless some other message has been purchased by a sponsor.
Without the anonymity of reading there is no democracy. I mean of course that there aren’t fair and free elections, but I mean more deeply than that that there is no such thing as free self-governance.
The crisis of the ecology attacks the root of democracy; Mr. Snowden’s point is valid across a bigger world than that Mr. Snowden came to talk to us about.
And as we try to turn our attention to what we do about all of this, we need to understand it is that ecological crisis we must address, not merely the problem of the power and the daring and the relentlessness of the American military listeners.
And we are still very ill informed. Because there are no unions out there working to raise the ethical issues in the data-miners, and we have too few Snowdens.
The futures of the data-miners are not all the same. Google as an organization has concerned itself with the ethical issues of what it does from the beginning. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin did not stumble on the idea that they had a special obligation not to be evil. They understood the nature of the power implicit in the situation.
We can say for sure that if we are to be transparent to these companies than they must be accountable to us. And we can say for sure that it will not be suitable for Google to present to us the proposition that they will do everything they can to protect the secrecy and anonymity of our email except that which is inconsistent with their reading it all themselves.
It is technically feasible for Google to make Gmail into a system which is truly secure and secret for its users. In which mail is encrypted—using public keys in a web of trust—within users’ own computers, in their browsers, and in which email at rest at Google is encrypted using algorithms to which the user rather than Google has the relevant keys.
This means donating Gmail’s scant profit to the world, consistent with the idea that the Net belongs to its users throughout the world. Which, in the long run it is good for Google to be seen not only to believe, but to act upon.
There are many, many, very thoughtful, capable, dedicated people at Google who must choose either between doing what is right or naming what is wrong.
The situation at Facebook is different. Facebook is strip-mining human society.
The idea of social sharing, in a context in which the service provider reads everything and watches everybody watch, is inherently unethical.
But we need no more from Facebook than truth in labeling.
We need to no rules, no punishments, no guidelines. We need nothing but the truth.
Facebook should lean in and tell its users what it does.
It should say “We watch you every minute that you’re here. We watch every detail of what you do, what you look at, who you’re paying attention to, what kind of attention you’re paying, what you do next, and how you feel about it based on what you search for.
“We have wired the web so that we watch all the pages that you touch that aren’t ours, so that we know exactly what you’re reading all the time, and we correlate that with your behaviour here.”
To every parent Facebook should say, “Your children spend hours every day with us. Every minute of those hours, we spy upon them more efficiently than you will ever be able to.”
Only that, just the truth. That will be enough.
But the crowd that runs Facebook, that small bunch of rich and powerful people, will never lean in close enough to tell you the truth.
So I ought to mention that since the last time we were together, it was revealed that Mr. Zuckerberg has spent thirty million dollars that he got from raping human society on buying up all the houses around his own in Palo Alto.
Because he needs more privacy.
I rest my case.
We will have a politics that requires of the States—as I said last time—that governments shall protect their people against spying by outsiders and shall subject their listening to the rule of law. We in the United States have a third political obligation, as citizens, which is to prevent our government from using its raw power and resources to subject to the procedures of totalitarianism every other society on Earth besides our own.
But we will have also a politics in the market, a politics of requiring the organizations with whom we deal to treat ethically the ecological substance of human existence. Not only the air, the water, the land, but the privacy of people and anonymity of reading and the freedom of the mind.
We will require this of them, not casually or doubtfully, but because the opposite is slavery. And we’re not going to fool around with that.
Albert Gore is putting pressure on some politicians to tell the truth. He is right that we must have a politics of truthfulness now.
Nine votes in the United States Supreme Court can straighten out what has happened to our law. There is nothing we need to do about those analysts who are not bad people other than to hold an election.
But the president of the United States has the only vote that matters concerning the ending of the war.
All of the governmental environmental destruction of privacy which is placed on top of the larger ecological disaster created by industry, all of this spying, is wartime stuff.
A great deal of confusion to which we shall pay more attention, the last time we are together, has been raised between “data” and “metadata.” As though there were a difference and “metadata” were less.
I need to explain to you in the simplest way I can why this is nonsense:
Illegal interception of the content of a message breaks your secrecy.
Illegal interception of the metadata of a message breaks your anonymity.
It isn’t less, it’s just different. Most of the time it isn’t less, it’s more.
The metadata misdirection is an important part of how we avoid discussing where the iron shackle really is. The anonymity of reading is broken by the collection of metadata.
It isn’t the content of the newspaper Mr. Douglass is reading that is the problem, it’s that he dares to read it.
The President of the United States can apologize to people for the cancellation of their health insurance policies. but he cannot merely apologize to the people for the cancellation of the United States Constitution.
He must do something.
The President must end this war.
The President must remove the various consequences that flow from the idea that we are at war because there are a few vicious criminals we are pursuing round the globe.
It was wisdom in Thomas Jefferson not to go to war with the Barbary pirates, just to smack them.
It was not wisdom to declare war in the Net, to deprive us of civil liberties under the concept of depriving sanctuary to foreign bad people.
It has not been wisdom to protract this war for twelve long years. The wisdom of this President ought to be to say that the war is over.
Because when you’re the President of the United States, you also cannot apologize for not being on Frederick Douglass’ side.
We have to protect the anonymity of reading.
We have every right to ask, respectfully but insistently, of the President that he shall stop this war.
That he shall cease from troubling us with the oppressive consequences of a mere symbolic declaration, that he shall cease from feeding the nightmare of the coalescence of government security with the strip-mining of society.
That he shall cease to treat our Net, which belongs to all the people of the world, as the property of the United States listeners, to be hacked, and tapped, and stolen in as necessary from the military point of view.
He must tell the truth: That only peace can sustain freedom, and that indefinitely protracted war leads only to slavery in the end.
We have more to do than that. His work can be done with a word. Ours requires the building of a Union—many Unions.
A man who brings evidence to democracy of crimes against freedom is a hero.
A man who steals the privacy of societies for his profit is a villain.
We have sufficient villainy and not enough heroism.
We have to name that difference strongly enough to encourage others to do right.
Mr. Douglass spoke my mind: “I will unite with anyone to do right and with no one to do wrong,” he said. In the end, that is how it happened, as it will happen for us.
We have an environmental problem. Like all environmental problems, it has technical, legal, and political components. We must address all of them in their full breadth, in order to bring ourselves to a successful resolution.
It is good that we have fire codes, and it is good that we have rules of liability that make manufacturers responsible if their building materials or their children’s clothing goes up at the first lick of flame. It is good that we have building inspectors, so that we try to keep track of who’s adding an illegal addition that they might rent out to nineteen or twenty poor defenseless people who might burn to death one night in a fire trap.
All of that is good, but it is very important that we have smoke detectors and fire-extinguishers that people can afford, that they can learn to use, and that will save their families’ lives when everything else doesn’t work.
We will need technical measures that provide people with inexpensive appliances, that they can actually use, that will help them to avoid being spied on. Large parts of the commercial surveillance structures I have been talking about are easily defeated using technologies commonplace among those who life’s work is technological in nature, but largely inaccessible to everybody else. We must popularize it, make it simple, cheap, and easy—and we must help people to put it everywhere.
As we must have political measures appropriate to each where we are and legal measures similarly carefully disposed.
What Mr. Snowden has done with respect to the technological measures is to explain to us precisely what we can use, given where the listeners are in their attempt to subdue everything.
What Mr. Snowden taught us—which is the specific subject of my last lecture—is how to offer people cheap, easy, accessible things that work.
With respect to the politics he has told us what we should have known ourselves, which is that democracy requires the truth be told to the citizens who vote. He has been restrained in his politics, because he has limited himself to that.
It isn’t only Fredrick Douglass, but also Thomas Jefferson, who will have hard time denying Mr. Snowden’s propositions. One has to be a lesser politician, I believe, than they to be willing to controvert what Mr. Snowden has said.
And about law. Well, there is lots to say, but the really important part of this, as we shall see next time, is that the United States is plentifully provided with lawyers, good ones, ones who mean to use the rules to protect freedom, ones who have acted if not precisely with heroism than at least with courage which deserves much praise.
The former general counsel of Twitter, Mr. Alexander Macgillivray, tried long and hard, and with great conscientiousness and dedication as we now know, to withstand layers of demand from power that other clients of other lawyers in Silicon Valley rolled over for very easily.
To Mr. Macgillivray, Twitter’s former general counsel, much thanks is due.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, my own Software Freedom Law Center—which has helped to sponsor these lectures here—all have roles to play, and they are playing them aggressively in American society. If the rule of law is restored to listening, we will use it well. Not only for the benefit of people in the United States but around the world. Elsewhere, many courageous lawyers have come to gather around projects worthy of everybody’s praise and support. In India, the Software Freedom Law Center’s sister organization, lead by Ms. Choudhary who is here, are doing wonderful work. We will see elsewhere also many courageous lawyers at the forefront.
But we have seen none of these “whistle-blowers” outside the English-speaking world, nor have they come to us from industry.
It is a special quality of the dying rule of law in the English-speaking world that it encouraged heroism. Because bad as the risks were, they were not hopeless. Thus heroic people believed that courage is contagious, that if people act to reveal the truth, others will follow them towards the light.
Now we must prove them right. Because without Union, without heroism—without a willingness to understand that we must act together, not separately, to preserve freedom—then those who serve power with misdirection, misleading, with lies, will get ahead of us. Which must not happen.
©Eben Moglen, 2013. Reproduction and redistribution permitted under CC-BY-ND 4.0. Translations into languages other than English are permitted under CC-BY-SA 4.0.
This post is part of the thread: Eben Moglen Snowden Lecture Series – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.
- January 21, 2014 @ 20:05:18 [Current Revision] by Brian Carnell
- January 19, 2014 @ 12:23:44 by Brian Carnell