• AP Photo/The Guardian
  • Edward Snowden

A friend asked what I thought about the recent revelations that the National Security Agency is collecting and storing complete records of our telephone and Internet activities. I said I didn’t know. We need to be kept safe. But no one likes Big Brother. The sheer volume of data guarantees that no one is paying any attention to most of it. But can we defend a government surveillance operation on the grounds that it’s too massive to worry about?

And this judicious weighing of competing interests in lieu of indignation—or, more appropriately, fury. Doesn’t it suggest that our biggest and perhaps only real regret is finding out? Is this why the big shots keep us in the dark—we can’t handle the truth?

(I have no doubt Washington is riddled with people who think that’s true, people who think that if it came down to it the public would declare “Do what you must but keep us safe” and therefore, for the sake of its own civil liberties, must never be cornered into making such a choice.)