Yesterday Marc Andreessen took to Twitter to criticize some of the panic incited by the barrage of NSA revelations we’ve seen over the past few months. “I increasingly feel like we’re all on some gigantic collective fainting couch,”Andreessen tweeted. “Oh my WORD I can’t believe that spy agencies SPY.” He went on to say: “I have yet to see one Snowden revelation that wasn’t obvious to people who had read existing books + articles + history.”
I wrote a response to his Twitter tirade, writing that even with a solid grasp of the NSA’s history prior to the release of the Snowden documents, many security experts and even one ex-NSA mathematician were surprised by the scope and extent of the NSA’s snooping, particularly as it pertains to cracking US encryption tools.
But in the ensuing discussion over how Americans should respond to these revelations, many argued that even if we “shouldn’t be surprised” by what we’ve learned about the NSA over the past few months, that doesn’t necessarily excuse the agency’s behavior. The debate also revealed tensions between people like Andreessen, who claim reporters don’t understand the underlying technology, and people like Greenwald, who claim technologists don’t understand the law.
Below is a Storify collection of highlights from yesterday’s and today’s debate over these points, with tweets from Andreessen, Greenwald, David Sirota and others:
[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]