And therein lies the problem.
In Europe and the US, we think of ourselves as the forefathers and the protectors of democracy - run by the people and for the people. We elect people we trust, and we trust them to make decisions on our behalf. We may not always agree, but we trust them to know better and to do better.
We put our lives and livelihood in their hands, effectively trusting our leaders with our lives. More importantly, we trust our leaders to tell us the truth.
Well, at least we did until now.
Instead of discussing the need for online surveillance and monitoring, the US government - initially, and for a long time later - denied engaging in such activities. The same happened in the UK, and other European countries, some of which are still in this denial phase.
Instead of opening up the discussion to the public and - let's not kid ourselves - most likely finding a way to make it accept some sort of a monitoring and surveillance program, the governments chose not take the risk of being denied permission and decided that the public could not be trusted with this information.
Trust is a two-way thing. Citizens must trust their government to represent them in the best possible way, and the government must trust the citizens to accept their decisions or, alternatively, choose a different government. The crucial point is this: a government that does not trust its own citizens should not be serving in a democracy.
The most important thing about NSA electronic surveillance is not that it exists, but that its existence was denied for so long. There can be no doubt that Edward Snowden broke the law, and should be prosecuted (it does not mean he must be convicted). What's really distressing is that society needed him to speak up because the people we trusted to tell us these things have not trusted us with the information.
By subscribing to our early morning news update, you will receive a daily digest of the latest security news published on Help Net Security.
With over 500 issues so far, reading our newsletter every Monday morning will keep you up-to-date with security risks out there.