Cyber defense and Snowden

by Chris Zappone

One of the casualties of the Snowden revelations will certainly be a planned cyberdefense from the NSA. In the short term this is a set-back for US defense, as cyber threats continue to emerge.  It might take a dramatic episode, at least causing the lights to go out in half the US or something, for the public to accept the need for a robust cyber defense that would include wholesale sifting of metadata in realtime.

In the longer-term, the Snowden drama may be good news for the US defense efforts. Just as the Snowden revelations are causing some needed public scrutiny of the NSA, they may force the US to take a more constitutional-friendly approach to US cyber-defense. Eventually, policymakers may possibly embrace the Schneier model, which is more about robust defense, less about the ability to strike out. The problem, Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is that the US public just doesn’t trust you – and with good reason. Sure, the US needs you in war-time, but the US should not be put in a permanent wartime footing.

Another underlying factor in the cyberwar between the US and China is that neither country can afford to destabilize the other. Neither the US nor China want to grind each others’ economies to a halt through aggressive action for the impact it would have back on their own economy. (That’s not to say China won’t try to siphon off as much IP as they can get). But given the tug-of-war behind the scenes, and recent revelations against constitutionalism by China’s leadership should be a lesson for free trade utopianists in the US. You can be assured that once either the US or China wrest themselves free of the other’s economic dependence, trouble may increase.

In this way, the need for cyber defense is there. And the need for a coordinated approach is there too. It just must find a way to sit well with US law and the culture of law (this blog has argued this before).

But the Snowden revelations, while sparking the debate with in the US, are simply damaging the US abroad.

Just look at the US-Brazil relationship – and look at the impact that could have on Silicon Valley.

His single-mindedness in the pursuit of his goal, to me, shows the fault of the oh-so-simple ideology of libertarianism, which is built around the individual while disregarding the importance of society. And Ed Snowden, if he ever gets back to the US, can have a nice drive over some crumbling US bridges and have a nice informed conversation with some of the product of the US’s failing public school to see the benefit of a philosophy that treats its own government with contempt.

You might argue that the relative attractiveness of an overly-simple philosophy rises as the general level of education
falls. People aren’t capable of embracing contradictions – the need to protect the individual while supporting the group,
say. Instead, it’s an overly simple ideal. And that’s some impact for a political philosophy which didn’t even rate a
mention in the 1982 World Book Encyclopedia.