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article imageOp-Ed: Obama, Congress and media naive groundhog logic on surveillance

By Paul Wallis     Jun 7, 2013 in World
Sydney - Organised crime, corrupt people and America’s “conspicuously never prosecuted” communities must be celebrating. The groundhog logic is that the groundhogs don’t know what they’re looking at. The shadow has them scared. The facts could kill them.
The surveillance issues are much worse than the “debate” has even mentioned. Either the administration, Congress and US media are being totally disingenuous on a whole new level and much larger scale, or they really don’t get it.
There’s an old Roman saying I seem to be quoting a lot lately: “If you’d kept your mouth shut, we would have thought you were clever”. Nowhere has this statement found a better home than the US surveillance saga.
The furore as usual is missing all the targets. Rights, schmights, law schmaw. Information is business, and a lot of very unwholesome, un-Disney-like people are likely to make billions out of this situation. Much worse is the fact that the information risks are likely to throw an infinite supply of spanners into information sourcing. Democracy by hearsay is the likely result.
Much as I dislike writing baby talk, a hard slap in the face is due, either way. America has become the patsy, drowning while clutching at principles as the rivers of gold in surveillance flow. The powers now given to the people most likely to abuse them go far beyond The New York Times’ worries.
The theory of a totalitarian state includes oppressive surveillance, true. That’s the good news. The theories of extortion, modern crime, and corruption go a lot further. The Patriot Act has become an ideal vehicle, generating types and whole classes of information across a gigantic range which is very easy to exploit.
The usual story in intelligence communities is that the amount of information available equates directly to the potential for abuse of access to that information. It’s Parkinson’s Law of intelligence gathering. If The New York Times missed the facts, it noted one of the symptoms: People afraid to pick up the phone. That’s not a neurosis. It’s a fear of the information issues and risks.
Now comes the baby talk:
Information is a weapon. The range and depth of this surveillance is effectively a weapon of mass destruction, capable of targeting every person on Earth.
Intelligence gathering is not confined to intelligence and security organisations. Information is arguably the biggest, most saleable commodity in history.
The totally insane/inept management of US intelligence and classified data is a big problem. As shown by the Manning case, and the refusal of anyone to take action against US data security’s total lapse of judgement and basic competence means all this new information will be accessible.
Gathering news isn’t a crime. The US Constitution protects it. (Interesting to note that apparently no American news source mentioned that. Start with the First Amendment and keep reading, guys.) “Who knows what, and when”, however, are the materials for crimes.
Security is a leak factory. However good and noble and presumably fluffy the security agencies are, leaks are more the norm than otherwise. No class of data is safe, and the spreading of the net is going to increase risk, not reduce it.
The ability to target individuals is now 100% guaranteed. That means that the murder rate will go up, extortion will go up, and blackmail futures will skyrocket.
The marketability of information has never been more rewarding. China’s zealous patriots must be making a fortune with the information they find lying around, and other, equally competent people also must be doing well.
The sheer amount of data available is not securable. Any hacker with 5 minutes and a bogus level of clearance can go straight through any system from the inside.
Nor is this vast range of data easy to manage. Disappearing information will become a new, highly lucrative phenomenon as people figure out how to target dangerous information.
Penetration of security systems is much easier than people think. There are ways of doing it without even using software. It’s so easy I lost all respect for hackers over a decade ago.
The easy access means that most people will employ a tactic which may not be familiar to politicians and media: They’ll shut up, and they’ll become experts at shutting up. Getting information will be a lot harder, and probably a lot more expensive.
Surveillance has simply opened the floodgates for a gold rush. The original Gold Rush wasn’t stoppable, and nor is this. The US has destroyed any chance of security it might have had. “We know what you know” is another weapon.
Also highly relevant is “We know how you know what you know”. The method of gathering information becomes a risk in itself for that reason alone. What this situation has done is provide free lunches for every corrupt person and lots of goodies for everyone looking for any kind of information in the US.
I hope members of the intelligence community will forgive the banal nature of this article. I’m sure many are well aware of the ramifications of open slather information management in their work. I’m also sure that they’ll understand the following information.
Diddums baby burn nice house down and kill everybody? Awwww, the diddums do doody, bite own head off and put allies and operatives at risk? Good diddums. Have nice few billion moresy-worsies.
Would one of you guys like to install a brain or two in these lunatics, before things go beyond this stage?
The Roman saying is good advice. Shut up. If you need to move information around, make sure it’s absolutely secure.
Meanwhile, the groundhogs might want to reassess their issues. This is a dangerous situation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about us surveillance laws, Patriot act, New York Times, First amendment
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