It’s entirely understandable that both France and Portugal declined to allow a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales to fly over their airspace, on the basis that it might have been carrying Edward Snowden. Snowden — if he had been on the plane — could have parachuted out of it on the way over, James Bond-style. Worse, he could have emptied some further revelations about the National Security Agency’s global internet and telephone surveillance operations out the window, or perhaps flushed them out of the aircraft toilet.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry where security is concerned.

That’s also why the Pentagon is right to identify people reading the The Onion as potential security risks (“Area man can’t decide between soulless military-industrial complex career and satirical website”, perhaps?). And why the US government is right to maintain in the Bradley Manning trial that giving information to the media for public consumption is the same as giving it to America’s enemies. And for the US Army to block access to The Guardian, for fear a soldier might read about the NSA’s surveillance. And why it’s OK that the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is now onto his third position as to why he blatantly lied to Congress about whether the NSA was spying on Americans.

Whistleblowers, plainly, terrify governments, and like individuals, terrified governments say and do profoundly stupid things, then say and do more stupid things to cover them up. Increasingly it appears that a characteristic of surveillance states is a remorseless drive far beyond parody, to a point where absurdity is accepted as normal and common sense and perspective are regarded as a sinister threat.