In the midst of all the completely justified righteous indignation resulting from the entire country finding out that the FBI and the NSA have been collecting data that we all thought was our private discourse, a pretty major topic has been overlooked: now that the terrorists – the given reason for having the PRISM and metadata scooping programs in the first place – know where we are looking to find out their plans, what will be the next safe harbor for them?
Forgot about that, huh.
This has happened before, actually, although at the time, the FBI was not taking “slices” of data and information from the internal servers of communications companies. They were just monitoring a series of websites where information was posted. Within an hour of publicity of the surveillance program, the entire network “went dark” forcing the FBI to start over looking for the network online. (I remember this happening a few years back.)
There have been hints for a while now, and coverage in the alternative media, that the FBI has been actively lobbying congress for back door capability in all communications software, not just the nine named in the last few days, due to the going dark problem. It seems to happen a lot. Regardless of how data is scooped, dumped, and analyzed, when the private information of American citizens is obtained without a warrant and without our knowledge, it is a violation of our rights. That amendment has not been rescinded or revoked.
That was the source of our outrage, that our rights were violated, not that it is quite possible that the very people these programs were meant to track have now jumped to other software packages and operating systems not listed in the reporting or that any intelligence gained by our rights being violated is now moot.
There are any number of scenarios where the hunted can evade capture online. Build a network of their own, use a complicated code, the financing of a foreign network…carrier pigeon, messages in bottles, prison ink. The possibilities are endless and our intelligence may not be able to penetrate it.
But using the eager beavers in Silicon Valley as a way around the law is another matter. Yes, there are cozy relationships, starting decades ago with IBM and the former manned space flight program. And then Microsoft worming its way into almost all PC platform operating systems, pushing out Corel and other suites of business software that were actually superior in a number of ways. Google came up with its own suite of free software, which works fine if no macros are needed. No one took Apple seriously (and they didn’t cave and/or get hacked until after Steve Jobs died) even though Microsoft all but copied their GUI (and lost the lawsuit) and thanks to the gadgets, they’ve really made a dent in overall market. Those are closed systems, though. Open source, where engineers have made word processing incredibly difficult, has a lot of hands in the cookie jar. I wouldn’t expect a back door to last very long.
The FBI seems to think that they will be able to keep up more effectively with back doors. Maybe. Maybe not. Short of actually recruiting spies, not just going for quick and dirty bugging, finding people who do not want to be found is not easy, even if foreign governments issue direct warnings.
The other aspect of all of this that is disturbing is how easily the American right and some of the left was played. Possibility that our info ended up in the hands of “big brother”? OUTRAGE. Yes. As if a bell was rung. Perfectly predictable. And no one seemed to remember in the push for more information on who knew what when that the bad guys were getting away. Again. On top of it, a list of the search terms that the FBI is using in their spider programs was published. Oh, yeah, that was brilliant. Tell the enemy all that we know about them, why don’t we.
Before investing in an operating system not developed by Microsoft or Apple, or changing email providers, et al, remember that as the people who were being watched have probably bugged out or changed tactics, there is no legitimate reason provided for the US government to be watching those networks on an industrial scale. Unless any of us runs for public office or suddenly gains fame, there’s no reason to delve into our personal 411. With all luck, the publicity alone will stop the snooping. (Doubtful with the new data storage center in Utah, but there’s always hope.)
I realize its more the principle of the government making mincemeat of the constitution, but remember, our enemies don’t care. There’s so many of us and our information is so trivial, that most of it, realistically, is going to be ignored.
That doesn’t change that our civil rights have been violated and we have nothing other than broken trust to show for it.
BTW, there is something fishy about the way the denial statements from Apple, Google, Facebook, etc., read and that so many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle claim to have not known about the breadth of PRISM. And then there is the actual leak itself — who made it and why? Too many questions need be answered. “May you live in interesting times” indeed.