With every new revelation about the NSA's activities, one would think that the average person would breathe a sigh of relief. The bigger the ocean, the less important your own little drop ought to matter. The logical reaction to new details about the passive data mining of each new target country should be: "Thank goodness the NSA is spying on France now, too. That should move me a bit further down the list, since the private lives of the French seem so much more 'Ooh-la-la!' than mine."
Instead, the transparency advocates reason that if America can monitor one of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's less secure phones, then it must be really easy to monitor the phone calls of average Americans. This makes sense in the tiny minds of the people who hold "Stop Watching Us" rallies in Washington, dressing up in ridiculous outfits in the hope that authorities will stop paying attention to them. As the Dan Hicks song goes: "How can I miss you when you won't go away?"
Let Merkel take care of herself. She's a big girl with spies of her own. And unless you also were subjected to a spontaneous shoulder rub by former U.S. President George W. Bush a few years ago at an international summit, then you are not her. It's absurd to project your phone, your e-mail, your Facebook account as having the potential to be hers, any more than you should project yourself as sitting on the Queen's throne at Buckingham Palace.
Let's be honest: The only alternative to the current system is even less transparency -- likely under the guise of faux-transparency. For instance, Barack Obama proclaimed victory in Libya without any American "boots on the ground." Does that mean there weren't any Americans operating in Libya? Hardly. But he wasn't lying in telling you what was going on.
The epitome of faux-transparency is what former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev called "Glasnost and Perestroika," or "publicity and restructuring," in the late '80s. Translated semantically, it means that you can finally take a guided Kremlin tour, all while not having the faintest clue about what's really going on in Moscow.
Intelligence, like war, is an extension of politics, and it will find a way to survive. The only thing critics are dictating is the kind of reality that they're mature enough to handle.