By now I suppose everyone knows about “Prism,” the massive program of eavesdropping that the National Security Agency has been carrying out for a number of years. Many have asked what it means for our freedoms that the NSA is listening to all our phone calls, reading all our emails, etc. The question fewer people seem to be thinking about is just who the people are at the NSA who are doing those things.
The NSA is famously an outgrowth of US military intelligence. Its top leaders are senior military officers, and much of its staff is also drawn from the uniformed services. However, the total number of active duty personnel in the US military is something less than 1.5 million. Only a minority of that rather small group would be in a position to develop the skills and obtain the security clearance required for assignment to a project like Prism. And that same minority would be in demand wherever the US military is tasked with a complex and dangerous operation. So it seems unlikely that the NSA would have enough military employees to sift through everyone’s personal communications.
So, most of the work of Prism must be in the hands of civilians, employed either by the Department of Defense or by private contractors. Those people, unlike their uniformed coworkers, are eligible to form unions and demand collective bargaining. So, if you want to give the NSA’s bosses an incentive to tell their people to stop reading your communications, fill all of them with the case for organized labor. Granted, that won’t take away the rest of the incentives that have motivated US authorities to create and maintain this system and the US public to accept it, but at least it’s something.