Big Brother doesn’t just listen. He edits.

We’ve grown accustomed to their case. You know, those unknown unknowns who lurk behind every Cloud, listening, reading, copying. You cannot send any sort of electronic message — from anywhere to anyone — without taking for granted it will be noted by spooks, here or there or everywhere.

I cannot imagine that guarding angels, at any point on the political spectrum, give much of a shit about what I write here. And why should they? Few enough people read this; none I suspect have their political or social outlook changed by it. And for as much threat as I represent to cosmic officialdom, they might far better listen to old Woody Guthrie recordings. Still, I assume the worst.

But something yet more ominous also is out there, and — obvious though it may appear in retrospect — it has received almost no attention at all. None that I’m aware of, except for… the one item below.

Luke Harding, a former NYTimes reporter and now working in Great Britain, was asked by the Guardian newspaper to write about Edward Snowden and his situation. You can read Harding’s full account of the incident at the Guardian, but the critical part is summed up this way.

” I was writing a chapter on the NSA’s close, and largely hidden, relationship with Silicon Valley. I wrote that Snowden’s revelations had damaged US tech companies and their bottom line. Something odd happened. The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish. When I tried to close my OpenOffice file the keyboard began flashing and bleeping.

Over the next few weeks these incidents of remote deletion happened several times. There was no fixed pattern but it tended to occur when I wrote disparagingly of the NSA. All authors expect criticism. But criticism before publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel.”

That’s it. Not only can they read and listen to what you write and say, they now can go into your computer and edit your material. Most frightening of all is that now, they probably can put stuff into your computer you don’t know about, and might not want there at all.

Better keep constant back-ups. They may be your only defense if suddenly you are hauled into court — or thrown into jail — for possession of stuff you never saw before.

And as for security? Your best bet may be the old-fashioned post office.

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