David Michaelis: On PRISM Slides, From Woz to Assange, Questioning Authority Cross Gen

Written by David Michaelis

Here’s our global editor David Michaelis with more insights on the FBI NSA PRISM scandal. The urge to question authority appears to be returning — from 60-something figures like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to Wikileaks.org’s Julian Assange and PRISM leaker Edward Snowden, we’re looking at a geeky, cross generational movement.

aNewDomain.net –– Apple inventor and c0-founder Steve Wozniak made some comments recently that really got me thinking. Geeks — not just the 20 and 30-something ones like Edward Snowden, Wikileaks.org’s Julian Assange and the late Aaron Schwartz who force openness at the risk of their own liberties and lives, but even old guard geeks like Wozniak — are once again questioning authority.

In an earlier interview with the Spanish tech news site FayerWayer, Wozniak expressed concern about the all-Internet-all-the-time FBI and CIA PRISM data surveillance program that recently came to light. An excerpt from Wozniak:

All these things about the constitution, that made us so good as people – they are kind of nothing …  they are all dissolved with the Patriot Act. There are all these laws that just say ‘we can secretly call anything terrorism and do anything we want, without the rights of courts to get in and say you are doing wrong things’. There’s not even a free open court any more. Read the Constitution. I don’t know how this stuff happened. It’s so clear what the Constitution says.”

Wozniak went on to say that “communist Russia was so bad because  (it) followed (its) people … snooped on them … arrested them …  put them in secret prisons (and) disappeared them – these kinds of things were part of (the former Soviet Union). We are getting more and more like that.”


Above, one of the slides Edward Snowden claimed responsibility for leaking to the UK Guardian and Wall Street Journal in the interest of telling the world about what he felt was aggregious spying against the American people and other world citizens. Click here to see all the slides. 

Wozniak is politically conscious and, as he says in his memoir, iWOZ, co-written by our edit director Gina Smith, his political skepticism is deeply rooted in the Nixon abuses during the Vietnam era.  as you can read in Gina Smith book written with him

As you can see today it is cool to be a NERD:

Is a new geek emerging? A rebel who does not want to be a serf, as our Ted Rall suggests we are all becoming? Despite U.S. protests that it has done no wrong, will people question this authority and ask when, exactly, they voted or allowed in any way the U.S. government to rifle through their private data stores and store it for later use?

Slactivism and a disdain for paying attention to and caring about government issues seems no longer an issue, looking at folks like Edward Snowden, who is seeking asylum now, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who spent the last year in asylum in the Ecuador embassy in London and the late Aaron Schwartz, who fought to keep information open.

Read Julian Assange’s polemic on what world citizens need to do to keep the U.S. and the world from using Internet data to create a pre-crime, Minority Report-like police state here. He wrote it just after Edward Snowden’s leaks shocked the digital world — and just after his 365-day mile mark holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy, which he cannot leave for fear of arrest due to his own role in the whistleblowing organization, Wikleaks.org.

Looking beyond the Silicon Valley bubble the PRISM debacle is, at the very least, leading slactivists of all ages to get more informed.

I envision a new awareness that raises questions around the next generation of tools, the new killer apps, that are likely to be mishandled by the powers of the state and corporate world? The Google ‘Do No Evil’ credo, true or not in practice at this moment, could be the hallmark of a new credo. A new moral algorithm that is sorely needed.

I am an optimist about tech — well, make that an opsimist, a blend of an optimist and a pessimist. I respect and I suspect the powers of tech solve all issue and create problems at the same time.

The square geek needs a triangle added to his makeup, if you ask me. To be an opsimist — that blended pessimist-optimist — in this changing political climate is as good a moral algorithm as it gets. A great guiding light in our geek-created, government-penetrated open vs. closed tech world.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m David Michaelis.


  • It would have to come down to some meta level of creating a cyber entity for every person who at least chooses to have a protected identity on the web.
    There is a basic form of that with various settings on FB and black berry having settings that make it hard for governments to listen in.
    If that was available in mass.. One would protect the basic rights of individuals…
    Optimists will always have center stage in this creative space .

  • FYI, I am having good luck installing under VMware Workstation 9 and VMware ESXi 5.1U1, so those may be a safe alternatives, for folks just looking to kick the tires. Friends are saying 8.1 works well under Hyper-V too.