too long. dense. full of links. read.
Foreign Policy magazine is a magazine I recommend highly. I have no idea why they aren’t as snazzy in the magazine stands as The Economist, except people like (and worry about) money more than they like (and worry about) history in the making.
That’s a stark error in perspective. As the meniscus of history moves so do money and power and authority.
The genius of The Economist was to imbue dry money with living history. Foreign Policy already has that juice.
Anyway, Tor (my favorite weird little cypherpunk nonprofit — I was founding execdir some years back) has been featured prominently in their blogs this week, and on the pages of The Guardian, the Washington Post, cryptome, and various.
I am experiencing another round of “Wait, what?” among some of my friends who have been living under rocks. I am just this little matronly aging and now gimped geek gamer grrl who rants on about politics at science fiction convention parties. I couldn’t know anything about this stuff.
Last year, this rant would make me look like a total tin hat. But I’m going to take a fashion risk. This is my professional field. Give me a fair hearing, and think about what you’ve been reading since Snowden busted out. Take off the Peril Sensitive Sunglasses.
I would like to particularly thank four men, and you should too.
James Bamford (since 1982 — go check out Puzzle Palace)
and the three NSA officers who came in from the cold, as it were,
Bill Binney (2007)
Kirk Weibe (who is a pretty private guy so I won’t link to him) (2007)
Thom Drake (2007)
These guys have done more to expose NSA malfeasance than Snowden ever did. And the American public put them on tin-hat ignore. Mind you we need the NSA. Intelligence heads off as many wars as good diplomacy. What we don’t need is people in the Intelligence Community using that facet of intelligence lore as blackmail to get everything and anything they want. Bad actors.
And yes, even in my tenure at Tor (2005-2007), we were diplomatically both working with and being funded by groups within the US government. And simultaneously we were pretty damn sure adversaries within our own government were working to defeat Tor. Within ours, and many others. It was just expected. No one was surprised.
Welcome to human rights and civil liberties work. So, it’s online, in my generation. I do believe this is exactly as it was in the SCLC when I was a small child. We had some advocates and we attracted a lot of grief.
My experience with surveillance starts a half century ago. My dad’s FOIA box from the FBI was 2/3 of a copy paper box, highly redacted — they knew who he had lunch with every day of many of the summers in the 60s — your tax dollars at work, my friends! No higher tech involved in that than steno pads and No2 pencils and some discretionary funding in a pigeon’s pocket, and absolutely no reason for it at all. My dad helped coordinate night security on the summer marches for Dr. King and the SCLC in the summers. Do you understand? I was four during the summer of March on Washington, fifty years ago. I remember.
And I am still hoping to get people to help me get the bad actors to behave, by peacefully staring them down in the sunlight. I look at the pictures from half a century ago and point out to people — do you see how many people there are white and every other ethnicity? Do you see how this was a movement of all people for the support of the blacks and all people’s equality, at that time? We forget that.
Do you remember that MLK wanted to work for all people, all the oppressed, all the poor? That this lost him much of the support of the blacks in his own movement toward the end, along with his opposition to the Vietnam war?
Do you remember that they called him names that may as well have been “terrorist” today, and that this smeared reputation was so strongly promoted by the FBI COINTELPRO (see above link) that Congress had to absolve the FBI agents in Memphis of his assassination by showing that the FBI were still harassing him so ardently on the day of his death, they couldn’t have been anticipating he’d have been shot that day? Comforting. This is not conspiracy theory. It’s in that page of congressional hearings I linked, plain as day. It was the best they could do to get off the hook. Kind of.
Remember that on January 20th, 2014, on MLK Day — the man’s birthday, observed. The national apology. I have seen the mountaintop…
Did Hoover’s people think they were protecting the US public? Perhaps so. But the oversight of the FBI at that time was pitiful. And the oversight of the Intelligence Community today is perhaps even more pathetic.
No one can do anything about that but you and me.
And by now, I’ve lost a lot of you. tl;dr Oh no, she wants me to do something. Either commit that you will take up action, or zip your mouth and commit that you will never complain on the web ever again — I challenge you.
The net is the opiate of the masses. If you disperse your outrage in blog comments rather than getting out of your ergonomic chair and talking to your congresscritters — you are part of the sheeple that let the NSA take the net away from you.
And I’m so pissed at you if you just sit there, because this is a democracy, and all of you are paying the asshat contingent at the NSA to take my net away from me. I’ve worked so hard for this.
Yes, in fact, over the years, we have overcome, somewhat, but we have also forgotten.
Every year that you get comfortable, the game changes, and different kinds of power slip into different pockets.
Many of these people often are trying to genuinely protect you. But they will genuinely lock you in chains (often crafted of your own fear on your dime) to do it, just to make their jobs easier.
When whistle blowers Weibe, Binney and Stark, three retired NSA officers, came out with reports of the programs — started around 9/11 — that would become Prism with prominent news stories in 2007 that went no where with the public, we at Tor were certainly paying attention. But you almost certainly were not.
Snowden got your attention because he is a young flamboyant dumbass. A brave somewhat foolhardy young flamboyant dumbass.
And those three (I’ve met two of the gentlemen officers in question, and they’re awesome!) are mindful of the dignity of their country and the Constitution, and aren’t about to go off on the lam and leak documents. They are willing to lecture about issues in principle around legal and academic circles. Apparently, that doesn’t catch fire in the American collective belly. As I say in one of the FP comments — gut first, then logic.
Regardless, not so much in the Snowden documents is really new to a lot of folks in DC, in security circles, and so on. You can wade through Binney’s testimony on behalf of the EFF on a great deal of it. Jake Appelbaum’s CCC keynote video (long, but worthwhile) from December on YouTube. Alexander’s inconsistent testimony before Congress being called to task when a good deal of this stuff was basically reported in Wired in summer 2012 by Bamford. Too many links — you go look them up. Democracy has been asleep at the wheel. Diane Feinstein has been feeding y’all roofies (and obviously tapping a few for herself…). With about 3,500,000 Americans with top secret clearances, why are there a couple small congressional committees overseeing billions upon billions of budget dollars in the IC, through the intelligence oversight committees? Just at Booz Allen, they put in more manhours on their RFPs to the NSA than the Senate committee puts into oversight in a year, I’d bet. The NSA is the largest employer in Maryland. They have their own exit on the interstate, their own post office zipcode, sixty office buildings just at Fort Meade (known to her friends as Crypto City), and that’s just one NSA location in the DC area. Ron Wyden has more spine where he sits than Feinstein has from her nape to her A-line skirts. He’s the only one on the Senate committee who asks any questions — and she lets him ask, and then just moves on as though he were a ghost.
Why in the world should any of this still shock people? I shouldn’t still be asking these questions — but I should dearly love to have the opportunity to teach more people so this would be less of the case.
So in FP I had some particular fun with teachable moments, one lengthy comment on how The Guardian may be reserving information on how Tor is being attacked by the NSA (at the behest of the NSA).
And another lengthy comment on this article on the conflicts between State and the NSA over Tor, where I go on a bit on how that’s not a bad thing, — how Tor ended up rather intentionally ensconced in the US in the midst of controversy, because this is a democracy tempered in dissent, historically thriving on controversy, where we go out for beers after.
At any rate, I informed a rather outraged commenter that she should peg me if anyone with ideological blame. She takes me for a Bolshevik because I like open source — and no I don’t grok that either.
But that’s not the ideology I mean. I’m much more politically charged than the current Tor management, as I’d deem it, and I shaped the initial messaging — I pitched us as an extension of the government charter to promote liberty and democracy principles online, and particularly overseas. You can check our founding 1023 narrative documents with the IRS — I wrote those. (requires database search at irs.gov)
But I don’t think Bolshevik is quite the pigeonhole I fit in. Read the comments of FP, you tell me.
In a profoundly anti-intellectual country, I have spent much of a lifetime of intellectual work — in a field where I saw my peers profit madly often producing no substantive product while I worked long underpaid hours to ensure that society preserved some public interest in this marvelous internet we’d created.
And I did this rather than see net public policy go entirely untouched by civil liberties laws, universal service, consumer protection, and so on, unlike any other communications medium available to the US public because the net is not special and magic, but destined to be exactly as ordinary as the telephone (which was the razor of a special and magic urban/rural analog divide — up to about 1934).
Some of us have to be the grown ups of the long view historical narrative here, and not get giddy on fairy dust.
In this, I have been in good and honorable company. I can’t complain about the ride, although I wish it could have been longer. The disability and retirement benefits could be better but who expected an abrupt cut off at 48, eh? But I served my tours. Somehow I need to get a miracle served up, or depend on y’all to move things forward. Tin cup in the right hand column. I’m not proud. Well, yes I am, but I can use it.
And for my trouble, I get called a Bolshevik and an anarchist in turn by the same woman. It’s fantastic. This my friends, is why we saved the internet for democracy.