Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford. All the victims of self-inflicted wounds. We're all the victims of self-inflicted wounds. Were we not marked with Original Sin, so to speak, we would all be integrated, moral, and unbesmirchable pillars of our community. But we're human. If affairs, lying, cheating, deceit, dalliances, and subterfuge were not so ubiquitous, then marriage wouldn't have a divorce rate of above 50 percent.
And then there's the NSA's PRISM (and who knows how many other public and private data-collection schemes there are, from your employer to advertising networks; from the FBI to the local police; from your creepy neighbors to private eyes).
If I were you, I wouldn't think too much about PRISM. You're more likely to get found out by your wife, your husband, your boss, your friends, or your community than you will from the NSA, the FBI, or anyone with Top Secret clearance -- with a caveat.
Do you have any political aspirations? Are your parents very rich? Are you a graduate of an Ivy League college or graduate school? Do you earn deep in the six figures or posses a million dollars liquid, ten million in assets, or have access to deep pockets? Are you a public figure -- even in your community? Do you have a modicum of celebrity? Is your name recognized? Do you have regional, national, or international recognition? Are you the son, daughter, cousin, brother, sister, mother, or father of someone like this? Are you sleeping with one or more of these people? Are you the leader or an executive or on the board of any company in the Fortune 500, a high-earning non-profit, or the military, or even a popular church (especially if you're a moralizing, judgmental, charismatic leader)? Or does it look like you're vectoring towards any of the above?
If so, you should care about modern -- both digital and analog -- spycraft manifest in PRISM and other intelligence gathering disciplines (HUMINT, GEOINT, MASINT, OSINT, SIGINT, TECHINT, CYBINT, FININT).
For argument's sake, let's assume that the entire system is at least as corrupt as it is portrayed by J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, and every paranoid Hollywood interpretation of the corrupt NSA, FBI, CIA, and DIA field operatives (which, they're not, of course). OK, got it?
Well, there are only 800,000 law enforcement personnel in the U.S., including federal and local -- out of 313.9 million Americans. Add to that the number of folks, combined, in all the intelligence agencies, not including contractors and private security personnel, supposedly numbering around 200,000, then you'll both be dumbfounded (that sure is a lot of cops and spies!) but you'll also assume that not all of them are commandos, assassins, or propagandist. Also, since there's a 314:1 ratio, all of these spies really need to prioritize their work days -- I mean 314 people is one hell of a hoary case load. Let's just assume these fine men and women are picking the lowest-hanging fruit possible. Also, let's assume that they're spending the majority of their time being triple-secret heroes by defending democracy, freedom, liberty, and our way of life against the rest of the world, especially terrorism. Let's make that assumption, OK? In essence, they're busy (not including the time spent on PTA meetings, taking their kids to soccer practice, and the compulsory Krava Maga classes all spies obviously take).
Take a breath -- you're safe. All of your dirty little secrets (and boy oh boy are you a dirty bird -- I never knew!) are lock-boxed safe and sound somewhere in the yottabytes of storage stored at the brand new NSA Utah Data Center.
The likelihood of your indiscretions coming home to roost as a result of cheating on your spouse, stealing money from your boss, or having a history of drug abuse, time in rehab and prison, your DUIs, your hidden true sexuality, or the time committed against your will to a psych ward -- or any of your family members -- are miniscule unless you really are an enemy of the state -- which is what the NSA is, actually, searching for. They're paid a lot of money to identify foreign threats and dispatch them, preferably without freaking us all out.
You're way more likely to fall as a direct result of lipstick on your collar than because of PRISM.
If, however, you're a really juicy fatted calf who can be either sacrificed, coerced, seduced, blackmailed, extorted, or intimidated so as to distract, destroy, derail, or discipline, then -- assuming the military industrial complex (and that includes TMZ, actually -- the best spies are doing it for entertainment value for the tabloids) is as corrupt as Hollywood paints it, then you'd better watch your back.
For the rest of us bums, we can be as decrepit as we wish (within the law) and there's very little chance at all that we'll be more than bits and bytes of metadata, literal phone call recording, voice-to-text transcripts of our chats, and lots and lots of historical, financial, personal, contextual, political, and photographic data.
But don't worry, if you're more the bum than the contender than you've nothing to worry about -- or, rather, you've got much more important things to worry about.
Follow Chris Abraham on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrisabraham