Summer cookouts and impromptu rooftop hangouts just got serious. Normally you could gnaw on a chicken bone and murmur something about "Citi Bike" while the beer line dissipated. But that was before Edward Snowden's unprecedented exposure of how the national security apparatus has been spying on innocent Americans, as well as his unusually courageous decision to reveal his identity. Now, things matter. Souls should be stirred (along with that pitcher of sangria give it like, two or three churns). Here's the dilettante's guide to contributing to the conversation while you drain the last of the Barefoot chardonnay.

"Oh, this sort of thing was going on long before 9/11 (are those Bugles?)"

A former NSA agent was quoted as saying, "Everything changed at the NSA after the attacks on September 11," and while it is certainly true that our leaders promoted a culture of fear with the help of craven lawmakers (see President George W. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program), the NSA didn't need 9/11 to drape their cloak over global communications.

Echelon, a global surveillance network comprised of Cold War partners Australian, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US, was designed to monitor telephone calls, emails, faxes, and data trafficked through satellites of Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries for diplomatic and military purposes (see where this is going?) One of the first articles written about Echelon was a 1988 piece in The New Statesman entitled "Someone's Listening."

As Maria Bustillos notes, in May of 2001, a parliamentary committee in Britain issued a report [PDF] stating that Echelon was being abused, and that private and commercial communications were being intercepted. The report republishes a line from Juvenal in the Latin (all eyes should be on you now don't blow it) that translates to, "Who watches the watchmen?"

"Yeah but Juvenile said 'Back that ass up,' " the guy drinking the Lime-a-Rita says. Politely laugh, then breathe a slight, serious sigh into your wine glass.

To further impress that guy wearing Rainbows who had an internship at The Brookings Institute three years ago and now thinks he's James Fucking Fallows, bone up on this fairly exhaustive timeline of the NSA's meddling.

"That summer I spent in the UK, I used to love to eat those gross, premade Tesco sandwiches on the train from London to Edinburgh."

At every roof party in Brooklyn, there is at least one attractive Brit who is spending the last month before their visa expires working in the La Superior truck. Charm them my noting that Uncle Sam is also spying on their family. British authorities have had access to PRISM, the NSA's all-seeing internet surveillance network, since 2010, as well as that all-important telephone metadata.

PRISM also targets Americans who are communicating with people in other countries, so be sure to disclose that when you text them your email address.

"My college roommate works for [consulting firm] Booz Allen Hamilton—I once saw his boss puke into an umbrella at Smith Point."

There are certainly jokes to be made about how "booze" was originally spelled "booz" but the person writing the slang dictionary was too drunk and added an "e" [Ed.: There are absolutely zero jokes to be made about this.]

But Edward Snowden's employer has been the choice for wayward graduates of mid-Atlantic colleges and law school refugees for decades (though Snowden himself only has a GED). With 25,000 employees, chances are you know someone who works for the consulting firm, although only 23% of the company's revenue ($1.3 billion) came from intelligence work in the last available fiscal year.

Booz Allen (god is just feels so good say it again: Booz Allen) was hacked in 2011 by Anonymous, but leaks of some kind are bound to happen when 1.4 million people have top-secret authorization. 480,000 of them are private contractors, and 135,000 are considered "other." 98% of Booz Allen's $5.76 billion revenue came from you, the taxpayer, courtesy of the federal government.

It's worth noting that Booz Allen is majority-owned by The Carlyle Group, which holds $170 billion in assets in ways that you and the Building 7 guy can peacefully, constructively discuss.

It also appears that a position similar to Snowden's is currently open at his former post in Honolulu. Would you make $200K a year and live in paradise to Subvert the Constitution? *swizzles gin drink*

"Why did Snowden go to Hong Kong? He said himself he wanted to end up in Iceland, which is where my best friend just had her wedding (it was awesome)."

This is still a mystery. As "open" as Hong Kong is, this is only relative to China. Hong Kong (one of two "Special Administrative Regions" in China that has been free of British rule since 1997) also has an extradition treaty with the United States.

From the Times:

Regina Ip, a former secretary of security who is now a member of the [Hong Kong's] legislature.

“He won’t find Hong Kong a safe harbor,” Ms. Ip said. “Those agreements have been enforced for more than 10 years. If the U.S. submits a request, we would act in accordance with the law.”

In a few days, this issue may not be as topical, at which point you can all laugh and blame each other for voting The President Who Rains Death Down From The Sky back in office. (Snowden's conscience is clearkind of.)

"Did you see that fucking blog post IN THE GUARDIAN about how The Guardian should win a Pulitzer for these stories?"

Indeed, it is callow and inexcusable (and *cough cough* look the Washington Post claims to have gotten there first) but only use this vein of the conversation if you want to poison the rest of the get-together. No one likes talking about The Media's uncanny ability to fellate itself in the most inopportune times, except people in The Media, in which case: this party sucks anyway.

Maybe steer the conversation towards that time you interviewed Glenn Greenwald.