LOS ANGELES—Recent revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) looking into the porn surfing habits of a handful of foreigners is generating lots of headlines, but our attitude is that it would be shocking if the NSA were NOT investigating the online sexual habits of "foreign radicalizers" with the intention of using any compromising information they found to discredit them. After all, sex and porn are regularly used to discredit people domestically, so why not use them to discredit pesky furrin' radicalizers? Doing otherwise would be a waste of a perfectly good out-of-control intelligence agency.
Not that we believe they're stopping at "foreign radicalizers." No, the working assumption around these parts is that any number of alphabetized government agencies—the ones we know about as well as the ones we have yet to learn about—are on a 24/7 manhunt for the sexual infidelities of anyone they fucking choose. Our hope/wish/prayer is that they are more interested in murderer and pedophile types than people dipping their toes into 50 Shades of Grey—but considering the fact that the "foreign radicalizers" are not, as the Huffington Post put it, "accused... of being involved in terror plots," but are thought to "radicalize people through the expression of controversial ideas via YouTube, Facebook and other social media websites," the spying threshold seems somewhat elastic. The standard appears to be, if it seems like a good thing to do, go for it!
Of course, there is the larger irony that the West, which is supposed to be liberalizing sexually repressive countries, is actually reinforcing regressive sexual stereotypes in order to discredit people it doesn't like, but again, is anyone surprised by such hypocrisy? The world is slowly waking up to the fact that while we talk a good game, we usually end up singing the same old tune, especially if national security concerns are in play. (And when are they not?)
However, we also remain somewhat dubious about the supposed efficacy of the "discrediting" theory, which at this point appears to only be a theory—the document released by whistleblower Edward Snowden and analyzed by HuffPo "does not indicate whether the NSA carried out its plan to discredit these six individuals, either by communicating with them privately about the acquired information or leaking it publicly."
Our doubt that anyone would really care that much about someone's sexual peccadilloes is based on the porn that was found at the Osama bin Laden hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. We even had a photo in our story of the old soon-to-be-dead terrorist watching some porn. But we don't recall any mass demonstrations afterwards denouncing the al Qaeda founder. Maybe no one gave a crap.
If so, that would actually make both sides in the global war on terror not caring about something they supposedly care so much about. After all, as HuffPo noted, "There is also no discussion in the [NSA] document of any legal or ethical constraints on exploiting electronic surveillance in this manner."