Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Intelligence Community.
Last week a lot of shit hit the fan when it was revealed that a monitoring program called Skynet… er, I mean PRISM, was running full steam ahead with the blessing of our beloved government. Reports continue to differ about exactly how pervasive and intrusive the program is and which internet providers and social networks are actively participating in it, but if it exists- and no one’s denying anymore that it does- then it’s collecting information somehow. From somewhere. On someone.
At the end of May, Wikileaks President-In-Exile Julian Assange was interviewed at length on Democracy Now– a program I’ve always held near and dear to my heart ever since its inception on Pacifica Radio back in the nineties. He outlined his current situation, spoke about an attempt by the British Government to forcibly remove him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain he’s currently holed up in, a meeting he’d had with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, how Visa blocked contributions to Wikileaks yet still processed donations to KKK affiliate groups and other interesting things. You can watch the interview along with its transcript here.
Hot on the heels of this is the news of William Binney categorizing the NSA’s domestic spying program as pervasive and proclaiming Edward Snowden as a hero. Binney oughta know, as he spent over 40 years working for the NSA as a crypto-mathemetician, and actually helped developed what would become the working model for domestic cyber-surveillance- an algorithm called ThinThread. This article from the New Yorker from 2011 highlights, among other things, Binney’s concerns about the use of his brainchild.
As noted in the New Yorker article, ThinThread was designed to “correlate data from financial transactions, travel records, Web searches, G.P.S. equipment, and any other “attributes” that an analyst might find useful in pinpointing ‘the bad guys’.” And it worked. It worked so well that Binney immediately installed privacy protections to encrypt domestic communications in order to comply with US law regarding unwarranted surveillance. Before 9/11 even the NSA itself regarded ThinThread as too invasive for domestic use. Go figure.
Binney’s disillusionment with the erosion of privacy and the part he’d played in it compelled him to resign from the NSA. And despite the best efforts of he and others, no one, not even Chief Justice Rehnquist of the Supreme Court, was willing to address these concerns. Fast forward to a couple of days ago where Binney himself relates in an interview that in the same vein as Assange, Snowden, other whistleblowers and the FBI made repeated attempts to maliciously prosecute him, and even raided his home in an effort to intimidate him into silence. His interview with Democracy Now and its transcript discussing all of this and more are here.
At no point is the question ever addressed as to what expectations of privacy can Americans look forward to, which may be an answer in itself. Given that it’s long been established and proven time and again that the intelligence network was in place and the information disseminated to have prevented the 9/11 attacks from occurring in the first place, every new measure that crops up simply adds to the disquiet and unease.
The implications are obvious. US Intelligence agencies have clearly overstepped their bounds- regardless of the opinions from the Executive Branch of government- and they’re a little anxious about it and what the repercussions might be. Not so sure what they’re so worried about: a little embarrassment, fire some mid-level scapegoats no one’s ever heard of, swallow some humble pie… and soon it all goes away. Unless sites like this one, civilian watchdog and other advocacy groups can keep the pressure on. Otherwise it’ll get put on the backburner behind some cat memes on your favorite blog or social networking site.
|See? You forgot about it already.|