Even the former Stasi agent, despite his begrudging admiration, finds the US surveillance efforts troubling.
Schmidt, 73, who headed one of the more infamous departments in the infamous Stasi, called himself appalled. The dark side to gathering such a broad, seemingly untargeted, amount of information is obvious, he said.
“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”
You can’t justify harvesting this much data if you’re not going to use it. And if you can’t find anything worth using it for, you’ll connect the all-important “dots” until it resembles something… anything. Anything that departs even minimally from the norm becomes suspicious. Using encryption? Probably a threat. Parking too far away from a hotel? Potential terrorist. Find the local water a little tough to drink? Let’s get that file started. Unwittingly engage an undercover FBI agent in conversation? Chances are you’ll soon be converted into a terrorist.
The US, after years of acting as the world’s policeman, has finally revealed itself to instead be the unmarked van that’s constantly parked just down the world’s street. (And the unexplained “clicking noise” on every US citizens’ phone call…) It has the sympathy of several of the world’s governments, many of which are directly benefitting from the US’s surveillance infrastructure or hoping to construct one of their own. But the citizens of the world are more wary, especially those that who’ve already been subjected to intrusive, non-stop surveillance by their own governments.