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The NSA's Orwellian 'Perfect Citizen' program
The feds are planning to monitor internet traffic at select government agencies and private businesses. Are we heading into "Big Brother" territory?
 
The government's new 'Perfect Citizen' initative: Creepy?
The government's new 'Perfect Citizen' initative: Creepy?
Corbis

The federal government is launching a wide-reaching cyber-security initiative that will monitor the internet for attacks on government agencies and private firms, like utilities companies, deemed crucial to national security. Cyber attacks are a very real concern, but the program, dubbed "Perfect Citizen," will be run by the super-secretive National Security Agency and the contractor setting up the program, Raytheon, said in a leaked email: "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother." Is this a good idea?

Better cyber security helps us all: "Perfect Citizen" sounds "damn scary," says Casey Chan in Gizmodo, but the truth is that many of the aging computer systems we all rely on "could maybe use a big brother." And if it helps other U.S. companies, like Google, avoid costly security breaches, this could even be considered "charitable by our government" — as long as the feds don't "extend a peek into unimportant ol' me," of course.
"'Perfect Citizen'... will protect companies by monitoring them"

Beware intrusive mission creep: The government's purportedly "benign intentions" could easily "warp over time to surveillance for ideological and political purposes," says Jim Harper at the Cato Institute. Sadly, it's unlikely that the "utterly supine" Congress will help guard against that. Meanwhile, the NSA's pointless secrecy will weaken the program by denying it testing by private-sector and academic experts.
"'Perfect Citizen': Congress' perfect failure"

The name? "Oh brother"! The hush-hush aspect does make this "fairly innocuous public-private partnership" fodder for "alarmists" and conspiracy theorists, says Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic. But so does the government's insistence on using "Orwellian" names "like 'Carnivore,' 'Total Information Awareness,' and now 'Perfect Citizen'." We need this kind of program, but what's wrong with a "meaningless" moniker like "'brown desk' or 'door hinge'?"
"How to needlessly complicate the cyber debate"

 

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