You've probably seen this scenario played out a hundred times in cop shows:

The cops want to enter a bad guy's house, but don't have a warrant. Cop 1: "Hey, did you hear someone inside call for help?" (wink, wink). Cop 2: "Yeah. Yeah I'm sure I heard a cry for help!" They kick in the door and storm in with guns drawn.

Most people don't even bat an eye at this because of course these characters are the "good guys" and so the end justifies the means.

The fine folks at the NSA are undoubtedly good guys. Of course Senator Joseph McCarthy probably considered himself a good guy too.

NY Times op-ed video about the NSA

Journalist Jacob Appelbaum's presentation at December 2013 Chaos Computer Congress in Hamburg

Added 6/18/13:

Do I think the NSA's actions are wrong? Definitely yes!!

Was it right for Snowden to leak documents? Probably not.

If you were in his place and felt what representatives of OUR own government was doing was inherently unethical, what would you do?

What would I have done? Probably submitted a letter of resignation which included information about the NSA's unethical spying as my reason for resignation. I would also have sent copies to the President of the United States, the Senate, Congress and major newspapers in the hope that an proper investigation would follow.

Do you have a "membership" card at a grocery store? I know they collect data on what I buy, and sometimes feel like I am selling my soul to the devil just for a ten cent discount on gas ... but at least it is MY choice to use the card.

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