Article from Reason by Edward Snowden.

At the age of 22, when I entered the American intelligence community, I didn’t have any politics. Like most young people, I had solid convictions that I refused to accept weren’t truly mine but rather a contradictory cluster of inherited principles. My mind was a mashup of the values I was raised with and the ideals I encountered online. It took me until my late twenties to finally understand that so much of what I believed—or what I thought I believed—was just youthful imprinting. We learn to speak by imitating the speech of the adults around us, and in the process of that learning we wind up also imitating their opinions until we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking that the words we’re using are our own.

I’ll try not to be too abstract here, but I want you to imagine a system. It doesn’t matter what system: It can be a computer system, a legal system, or even a system of government. Remember—a system is just a bunch of parts that function together as a whole, which most people are only reminded of when something breaks. It’s one of the great chastening facts of working with systems that the part of a system that malfunctions is almost never the part in which you notice the malfunction. In order to find what caused the system to collapse, you have to start from the point where you spotted the problem, and trace it logically through the system’s components.

Because systems work according to instructions, or rules, such an analysis is ultimately a search for which rules failed, how, and why—an attempt to identify the specific points where the intention of a rule was not adequately expressed by its formulation or application. Did the system fail because something was not communicated, or because someone abused the system by accessing a resource they weren’t allowed to, or by accessing a resource they were allowed to but using it exploitatively? Was the job of one component stopped, or impeded, by another? Did one program, or computer, or group of people take over more than their fair share of the system?

Over the course of my career, it became increasingly difficult for me to ask these questions about the technologies I was responsible for and not about my country. And it became increasingly frustrating to me that I was able to repair the former but not the latter. I ended my time in intelligence convinced that my country’s operating system—its government—had decided that it functioned best when broken.

Read the entire excerpt at Reason.