A let­ter to Wash­ing­ton.


The Hon­or­able Eric Hold­er
Depart­ment of Jus­tice
Robert F. Kennedy Build­ing
Tenth Street and Con­sti­tu­tion Avenue, N.W.
Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20530

Dear Attor­ney Gen­er­al Hold­er:

I recent­ly attend­ed the TED2014 con­fer­ence, where I had occa­sion to lis­ten to talks by Edward Snow­den and NSA Deputy Direc­tor Richard Led­gett.

I’m a long­time mem­ber of the TED com­mu­ni­ty– it’s my 10th year attend­ing.  I’m a tech­nol­o­gist with a back­ground in applied math and neu­ro­science, cur­rent­ly lead­ing a team work­ing on Machine Intel­li­gence at Google.  In this let­ter I’m speak­ing for myself, not for my employ­er.

I want­ed to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to share with you my thoughts on the issues around Edward Snowden’s dis­clo­sures.

The dis­clo­sures– and the debate they launched– have revi­tal­ized demo­c­ra­t­ic over­sight. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma him­self has said: “I wel­come this debate.  And I think it’s healthy for our democ­ra­cy.”

The Pres­i­dent is right. The debate has been healthy for our democ­ra­cy and for democ­ra­cies around the world.  Before the dis­clo­sures, all three branch­es of the gov­ern­ment had approved these pro­grams in the dark.  Now, all three branch­es of gov­ern­ment are engaged in a his­toric re-eval­u­a­tion of the NSA’s sur­veil­lance prac­tices.  And Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has agreed to end the mass track­ing of Amer­i­cans’ phone calls.

As a senior leader in infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy (pri­or to Google I was a Dis­tin­guished Engi­neer at Microsoft work­ing on online ser­vices), I have been espe­cial­ly trou­bled by what I have learned about the NSA’s activ­i­ties– and I am grate­ful to Edward Snow­den for work­ing with jour­nal­ists to edu­cate the pub­lic about them.  The NSA’s drag­net sur­veil­lance activ­i­ties, and its exploita­tion of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works, have under­mined our cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and harmed our busi­ness– espe­cial­ly over­seas.  We are now col­lec­tive­ly per­ceived as hav­ing abused our stew­ard­ship of much of the world’s cloud com­put­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­o­gy.

The rev­e­la­tions have been shock­ing, and I can only wish they had come out soon­er, to allow for an ear­li­er course cor­rec­tion.  I believe that show­ing lenien­cy to Edward Snow­den would send a pow­er­ful mes­sage to the world that the US takes these con­cerns seri­ous­ly– and is seri­ous about reform.


Blaise Aguera y Arcas

This entry was posted in thoughts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to snowden

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.