The Gov't needs a giant bureaucracy to run its NSA and other 'data mining' projects, just as the State Dept and the IRS need giant bureaucracies to perform their functions. As recent events show, those Gov't agencies can't assure that their own secrets, their own attempts at controlling information, will succeed. Given the size of these bureaucracies, it seems quite unlikely that they possibly could.Even as we have moved into electronic media and the government can look at us there, the government has become dependent on huge numbers of computer specialists. Who are these guys? Snowden is one of them, but there are masses of them, and they must be trusted to get to the material the government can now get to because millions of computer users have yielded to the charms of the internet. There are the masses of computers users — ordinary people doing social media — but there are the computer specialists — and most of us aren't that familiar with these people whose lives are about computers at the technical and not the social level.
In all the talk about how the citizenry is at the mercy of the Gov't's abuse of power, it pays to stop and note that the Gov't is also at the mercy of its own agents' abuse of their power -- the power to disclose, leak, or turn on the Man. So long as there is a market for the kinds of leaked information we are seeing -- not just the NSA stuff, but the State Dept report about shutting down investigations that CBS surfaced, to use just today's example -- these leaks will continue.
A comparison that comes to mind is the (failed) War on Drugs -- the market for illegal drugs doomed that War even before it got going, just as the market for illicitly leaked information will doom the Gov't's attempt to keep its own secrets 'private.' The difference is that the drug market relies on the usual profit motive, all payable in cash. The 'leaks' market has different incentives for the leakers and the leakees -- the leakees have the more traditional incentive since these stories add to a reporter's (or blogger's) reputation, and may even garner a Pulitzer. For the leaker, the incentives are different -- Snowden's were apparently a personal political morality that impelled him to act, as were Manning's -- and not so easily measured. But they are just as real.
What do you know about their thought patterns? Is there a geek syndrome? Are there notions of altruism and libertarianism that seem to resonate in the American tradition but are really something new and different in ways that we won't understand until it's far too late? Is it far too late?