Einstein treasured "political liberty," but U.S. gov't co-opting his name for Internet surveillance

The federal government has been violating the U.S. Constitution for years by spying on Americans in America. They’ve been vacuuming up data as it passes across the Internet, along phone lines, between cell phones… even credit card purchase information, bank records, library records and travel information. This must stop!

Instead, the Obama Administration is advocating even more intrusive domestic spying. They now want to stick their data vacuums inside private companies (even more so than they already have with most major telecom companies). They’re “justifying” such intrusive software on the grounds we must protect against Internet hackers, but is its real purpose to give the NSA (illegal) access to yet another massive quantity of domestic data? This new program would give the NSA special new access to mountains of data:

Einstein 3 …has raised bigger privacy issues because the technology has the ability to read the content of emails and other messages sent over government systems as it scans for attacks. Mr. Obama’s transition team flagged Einstein 3 as a potential privacy concern.

There are several not-so-delicious ironies:

1) The Internet was intentionally designed by the U.S. military (specifically, DARPA) so that if part of the Internet broke down, the rest could continue operating. In fact, that was the reason for its creation: “Would it be possible to design a network that could quickly reroute digital traffic around failed nodes?” So why is it now necessary for the NSA to stick its nose into parts of the Internet if the system was architected to survive even widespread failures?

2) The NSA named its software “Einstein”! Albert Einstein fled fascistic Germany after Hitler took power in 1932. Einstein then fought against fascism and declared his love of political liberty:

Einstein sided with those forces that opposed antisemitism. He had a natural sympathy for the left, and… [declared] “As long as I have any choice, I will only stay in a country where political liberty, tolerance and equality of all the citizens before the law prevail”.

Those with the most superficial knowledge of Einstein might believe he favored a strong American government, since he urged President Roosevelt to build a nuclear bomb, but Einstein did so only because he feared Hitler — and Hitler alone — possessing nuclear weapons, and Einstein later regretted urging America to pursue nuclear weapons:

After the war, Einstein is said to have declared, “If I knew they were going to do this, I would have become a shoemaker”."

Had Einstein lived to see his name misused as a marketing ploy to get Americans to accept government use of sophisticated surveillance software that systematically violates American citizens' privacy, Einstein would have been furious.

Posted by James on Thursday, March 04, 2010