The 19-December-2015 edition of The Economist magazine’s article “The Black Chamber—American cryptology” compares whistleblowers Herbert Yardley and Edward Snowden:

When in 1931 Herbert Yardley spilled the secrets of America’s eavesdropping programme, he may well have endangered national security. But, unlike Edward Snowden, he was no mid-level whistleblower shocked at the excesses of a lawless surveillance state. Yardley was the proud father of that surveillance state, creating the forerunner of the National Security Agency. He published a blockbuster book after the government decided that reading private messages was not in keeping with American values and shut his clandestine operation.

Mr Snowden, with his leaks, tapped into a fundamental libertarian fear that too much knowledge in too few hands could destroy Americans’ freedom. Yardley sold the opposite view: that more secret knowledge could protect them from evildoers. Each claimed to be a patriot defending his country’s values. But whereas Mr Snowden endures exile in Russia, charged with espionage, Yardley lies buried in Arlington National Cemetery, with a place in the NSA’s Hall of Honour. A hard-drinking poker player, born in 1889, in the last days of the old West, Yardley long ago faded into history. But, thanks to him, our metadata will live for ever.

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