The open society and its (internal) enemies

Very judicious New Yorker comment piece about the Snowden revelations by Henrik Hertzberg. I was particularly struck by this passage:

The critics have been hard put to point to any tangible harm that has been done to any particular citizen. But that does not mean that no harm has been done. The harm is civic. The harm is collective. The harm is to the architecture of trust and accountability that supports an open society and a democratic polity. The harm is to the reputation and, perhaps, the reality of the United States as such a society, such a polity.

On May 23rd, President Obama made clear in a passionate speech his readiness to reconceive the so-called war on terror. “This war, like all wars, must end,” he said. “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us,” he said. One aspect of that struggle, “expanded surveillance,” he said, raises “difficult questions about the balance we strike between our interests in security and our values of privacy.” Given the month’s disclosures, Mr. President, you can say that again.

He’s right. The harm is civic in the first instance.