NSA leaks as a demographic phenomena

Writing in the Financial Times, Bruce Schneier expands on Charlie Stross's demographic theory of US military/espionage leaks, which holds that the end of the "job-for-life" culture in the spookocracy and the corporate America from which it draws its foot soldiers means the end of the deep loyalty of spooks.

Sure, it is possible to build a career in the classified world of government contracting, but there are no guarantees. Younger people grew up knowing this: there are no employment guarantees anywhere. They see it in their friends. They see it all around them.

Many will also believe in openness, especially the hacker types the NSA needs to recruit. They believe that information wants to be free, and that security comes from public knowledge and debate. Yes, there are important reasons why some intelligence secrets need to be secret, and the NSA culture reinforces secrecy daily. But this is a crowd that is used to radical openness. They have been writing about themselves on the internet for years. They have said very personal things on Twitter; they have had embarrassing photographs of themselves posted on Facebook. They have been dumped by a lover in public. They have overshared in the most compromising ways—and they have got through it. It is a tougher sell convincing this crowd that government secrecy trumps the public's right to know.

The Spooks Need New Ways to Keep Their Secrets Safe

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  1. "Phenomena" is plural, so you want "phenomenon" here.

  2. Three comments into this thread and still no breakthrough in the "a" versus "on" issue. Not surprising to see a "lazy pedant" right hook early on, but the old "reality distortion field" one-two shows that Vanderburg isn't the pushover many pundits expected. It's going to be a long day at the Boing Boing Arena....

  3. Crap in a sandwich you people. How about on topic?

    The current generation has been taught that employer loyalty does not exist. The next generation - my kids - will know that and also know how to encrypt everything.

    The NSA is either going to collapse into itself after all the revelations, or it is going to come out of the shadows and just explicitly spy on everyone. Overt oligarchy vs. Indirect.

  4. Not just employer loyalty, but nationalism itself. The corollary of people not being able to expect anything from the government, is the government not being able to expect anything from its people. While anti-entitlement rhetoric has had limited effect on entitlements themselves, it's dramatically changed the implicit contract young people expect with the nation.

    I think it still remains to see how the next generations will solve the individualist vs globalist effects of living half time online. Historically, however, the most powerful anti-nationalist force was not the individualist libertarian, but the globalist socialist. I don't think the "starve the beast" types thought out their long game, unless all they foresaw was the pendulum would not turn until after they were gone.

  5. You are onto something there. Maybe Eastern Standard Tribe was onto something after all.

    We all grew up in an environment of strong States and clear boundaries. With that came nationalism, borders, patriotism and all sorts of other social norms. It did also come with the expectation that the state would look out for the interests of its citizens. States don't come that way out of the box, but some current states have been operating on a 'by the people for the people' notion.

    Weakening the state at every point leaves little remaining but a military and other instruments of control (the state having a legal monopoly on violence). But all of that depends on a citizenry that supports the state, explicitly or implicitly through passivity. Treating entire generations as criminals is a good way to ensure that many citizens see no reason to respect the institution of the state.

    States as we currently understand them have only been around for a couple of centuries. There is really nothing to say that they won't be replaced by something else at some point.

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