How America’s spy agencies can fix their Millennials problem.
We may never know the full extent of Edward Snowden’s leaks. But one consequence is obvious:
Plummeting public confidence in the work of America’s intelligence agencies. In a recent poll, 53 percent of Americans disapproved of the National Security Agency’s collection efforts, and almost 60 percent of young people did, even after President Barack Obama implemented changes to reassure a skeptical American audience.
The young’s skepticism is not surprising. A recent Pew survey showed that Millennials (those aged 18 to 33) show extraordinarily low levels of social trust (only 19 percent say most people can be trusted), espouse libertarian views on a range of political issues from abortion to marijuana legalization and are far less moored to traditional political and religious institutions than other generations. Reviewing the polling data, one columnist called the Millennial generation “a wave of liberal-minded detach-ees” to whom “institutions are subordinate to the individual and [whose] social networks are digitally generated rather than interpersonally accrued.”
So it is no wonder Edward Snowden received an enthusiastic reception when he appeared (via Google Plus video chat) at this month’s South By Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, the festival that has become the “Davos-for-the-digerati” of the Millennial generation. Attendees sat in “rapt” attention and often “broke into applause and cheers” as Snowden spoke. If that’s the kind of response Snowden’s ideas are getting among young techies, it stands to reason that bringing this generation’s best and brightest into the intelligence world has gotten much harder.
Some of this skepticism toward the NSA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community derives from a genuine and deep-seated misunderstanding of how espionage works in general and how America’s vast intelligence apparatus operates in particular—basically, too many in our generation now think CIA Director John Brennan is reading their tweets. The truth is more reassuring: Every country that has the means to collect intelligence does, too. That America does these tasks well, and under strict legal guidelines, should be a point of national pride, not shame.
For the rest of the story: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/the-snowden-effect-104642.html#.UyJbpuddXO4