Friday, Dec 19, 2014

The cool new toys

Posted: December 20, 2013 2:21 am | Updated: January 9, 2014 11:44 pm

I miss Brody. So why did he have to go? The poor guy was put at the end of a rope because the writers of Homeland were at the end of their rope. They had conjured a hypnotic character who was both hero and villain,patriot and traitor. Brody was still on the run,but his creators had run out of ways to reconcile their curdled Marine’s poles without making the plots too implausible.

In the finale,during a scene set at a CIA safe house in Iran,Brody fretted to Carrie that maybe he was,as a doctor in Caracas had said,“a cockroach. Unkillable,bringing misery wherever I go.” The talented Damian Lewis told The Times’s Dave Itzkoff,“They ended up creating such a compelling,unpredictable,sad and ambiguous character who was capable of so much damage — he was able to affect story on such a grand scale. They created a monster that they couldn’t quite control.” He added,“The thought of having to continue to write him was too hard,perhaps,” noting: “Brody’s a very unbalancing force.”

It’s so easy to wipe the slate clean on TV. In real life,Americans must keep struggling to fathom the compelling,unpredictable,sad,ambiguous,unbalancing force,the young man on the run who sought to cause damage on a grand scale,and who has sparked a national debate about whether he’s hero or villain,patriot or traitor.

After a federal judge here said in a ruling on Monday that the NSA’s collection of phone data on all Americans was “almost Orwellian,” an assault on privacy that would leave James Madison “aghast,” a civil liberties group that had plastered a DC bus with the words “Thank you,Edward Snowden!” said it saw a “significant increase” in donations to expand the campaign.

Whatever we think of Snowden — self-aggrandising creep or self-sacrificing crusader against creepy government spying or sociopath with stolen documents,as The Wall Street Journal put it,or someone who should “swing from a tall oak tree,” as John Bolton told Fox News — it is absolutely clear that the NSA went wild with technology that allowed it to go wild. These technological toys turn everyone into thieves.

It is clear that the balance of national security versus civil liberties is way off kilter. President Obama said he welcomed a debate on the morality of his Big Brother eavesdropping programme,but he never really wanted it. He irritated some of the tech CEOs who came for a meeting at the White House Tuesday by yanking the conversation from the overzealous NSA surveillance that creates suspicion of their complicity to the underwhelming roll-out of Obamacare. Bloomberg News reported that Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer cautioned the president that backlash over US spying could Balkanise the internet,as countries put in place different standards to stymie surveillance. It took a passionate 64-year-old judge who likes exclamation points to finally holler “Hold it!”

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon,a leading critic of the NSA’s indiscriminate scooping up of data. “Piece after piece,the government’s case has fallen apart.” (The old joke of No Such Agency might become No Stopping That Agency.) As continued…

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