If you have "no place to go," come here!

The heart of the warrantless surveillance was domestic data, not voice

[The story of Bush's odd bike ride near NSA headquarters is at the end. As Josh points out, "the intensity of the covering up doesn't match the alleged secret." However, if Bush was personally involved in handling any of the warrantless surveillance data, that would definitely account for the intensity. Foily? Who but the foiliest, back even after 9/11, could have imagined this story would even be happening?]

bush_caida The Times, today:

A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.

It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.

Well, well. As we wrote over a year ago, after combining careful examination of how Republicans parse their statements with network engineering knowledge available through open sources:

Long story short: (1) Internet surveillance is Bush’s goal, not voice calls; (2) the Republican “wiretap” talking point is a diversion, to voice, away from from Internet surveillance; (3) Bush’s domestic surveillance system would pose no engineering challenges whatever to NSA. No rocket science—or tinfoil hats—required.

Can we please stop talking about "wiretaps" now? It's not your voice communications Bush wants. It's your mail.

I don't have time tonight, alas, to summarize all our work on warrantless surveillance (go read).

So I'll summarize some key points as I see them. Don your foil:

1. All email could be deemed "international" by White House lawyers. Remember how they keep saying the surveillance is "international"? Let's ask ourselves what they mean when they parse those words so carefully.

Packet switching is the technology that underlies the Internet. (See here for a detailed technical analysis.) When you press Submit in your mail program, your message is not put in the electronic equivalent of a sealed white envelope and sent to the recipient. Rather, it is dis-assembled into many small packets, each of which is individually routed to the recipient, where it is re-assembled. (This design is the result of an original requirement for the Internet, that it be able to survive a nuclear attack.)

The Internet's packet switching architecture has two consequences, one technical and one legal.

The technical consequence is that the packets can be intercepted and read ("sniffed") by anyone with the right technology. (For example, by anyone using Narus technology in AT&T's "secret room" at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco.)

The legal consequence it that, since the packets are routed based on efficiency, and without regard to geopolitical boundaries, any packet, from any mail arguably goes outside the boundaries of the United States. Let's see why.

Suppose Shooter got some smart, conscience-free Federalist Society lawyer to write a memo that said "any email that can reasonably be expected to be routed outside the United States is international email..." Mission accomplished! Under that theory, all email can be surveilled, since all email, by the nature of packet switching, is potentially international under that definition. And you can't tell before the Submit button is pressed where the packets will go, so you just have to surveill everything.

Not saying it happened, mind you, only that a smart lawyer could make it happen if Shooter wanted it to happen.

2. The focus of the warrantless surveillance program must be domestic because we don't have enough translators who know Arabic. And not because the stupid wingers had teh gay translators fired. A Times reader did the math:

If 1 percent of just one billion messages are in another language, that is still 10 million messages. Even 1 percent of 1 percent presents a formidable, perhaps insurmountable, translation task. And the shortage of government translators, particularly for Arabic, has been widely reported.

The only conclusion one can draw is that the National Security Agency surveillance program is designed to spy primarily on English speakers.

Duh. As I asked over a year ago:

Who is "our enemy" to this administration? Certainly journalists and their source, because they've told us so. What about the Kerry campaign? What about members of the opposition party? How about participants in the WHIG disinformation campaign? What about activists in areas where Bush campaign and Social Security rallies were held? (For example, the Denver three were supposedly kicked out of a Bush rally by a Bush operative because they had a "No blood for oil" bumper sticker on their car. And indeed they did. But the story that they were kicked out because of the bumper sticker comes from the Secret Service. Should we trust them? Why? What about the other "eerily similar" events in Arizona and North Dakota? Bumper stickers there, too? And why is Bush is fighting so hard to conceal his sources and methods on this one? Why not just sacrifice the "overzealous volunteer" and move on?) What about fishing expeditions against ordinary Democrats, now that the IRS is keeping records of political affiliations?

So, what "enemy" email are they reading? It is—in the words of Reagan hagiographer Peggy Noonan—irresponsible not to speculate. My answer is: A conservative estimate is that they're reading all email inside the Beltway. After all, everyone inside the Beltway is either a known enemy or a potential one. (Cf. "Asking the unasked question about Bush's illegal domestic spying.") This would account for the curious tendency of many players in this drama to consign important information only to paper. Examples include: Jay Rockefeller's handwritten letter to Cheney, Judy Miller's notebooks, and Scooter Libby three-ringed binders. It's as if all the players assumed that anything electronic would be read. In addition, assuming for a moment that the administration regards the entire Democratic apparatus as an enemy, wiring the entire Beltway would seriously disrupt the "enemy's" command and control systems.

If everybody in the Beltway is behaving like they're being blackmailed, that's because they are being blackmailed with the treasure trove of material that the warrantless surveillance program threw up. I'm sure the Dark Desires of Diaper Davey Vitter aren't the only stories out there (oddly, or not, the client list of Shirlington Limo has never been disclosed). Ratfucking anyone?

3. The program is huge. In fact, NSA is running out of power. Note that the warrantless surveillance program were using social network analysis to link the email records into chains of communication, power needs would grow rapidly, because representations of such networks grow exponentially.

4. Bush's odd bike ride near NSA headquarters. As I wrote, sigh, over a year ago:

Remember when the administration had scrambled jets to intercept a fucking Cessna light plane? (here) And Bush wasn’t (we are told) informed? However, as a Kossack dug up, Bush was riding his bike in Patuxent Park right next to Fort Meade, the NSA’s home. So, was Bush making a run for Unka Karl, picking up the latest hot stuff on Harry Reid? (Note that standard practice with NSA intercepts is to hand carry them to be read and not retained. This makes some sort of meet necessary. Hence Bush’s bike ride.)

Foily, I know, but when the going gets tough, the tough get foily…

NOTE About the image.

UPDATE On Saturday, WaPo placed Solomon's story on A03. Today, they further inter the follow-up on A04. (Meanwhile, another callow, loyal Bushie suppresses a scientific report because it doesn't focus on the accomplishments of Dear Leader. Ho-hum, old news. A01.) As Xan suggests, they narrow the focus to perjury. There's plenty else to convict Gonzales of perjury on. What about the fucking program? Of course, since our famously free press either believes in the program, is getting blackmailed because of it it, or some combination of the two, that's the part of the story that's very conveniently going unstressed.

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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I just ran across it and was daunted by the prospect of finding all our back links on this, without which that (alas) well-intentioned but exceedingly delicate NYT story tonight doesn't make a whole lot of fucking sense.

The NYT piece seemed to really be more concerned (perhaps because their sources were more concerned?) about using this "new" information about datamining to prove that Abu Al G was not technically lying to Congress the other day, a point about which I care not a fig. He's a liar, net, and we all know it.

Anyway, you Da Man on this particular case, in large part because you know the techie stuff better than any of us. Interesting point about the keeping-things-on-paper too. Of course that only works for people with whom you are in day-to-day, or at least very regular, physical contact; not so well for a continent, if not world-wide field of action. For that you have to have electronic communication--or your subordinates, who transmit your orders, do., folks. Chattanooga TN, with all those fat fiber pipes sitting there waiting to be used. Speaking of a database just begging to be mined....

Submitted by lambert on

The debate was taking place among high Republican officials, all of whom had achieved significant power in an administration known for ruthlessness and for rewarding loyalty. Yet whatever Bush was doing was too much even for Ashcroft, so it must have been simply Godawful. (Remember also that Ashcroft had a tendency to grandstand on terra -- that Moscow broadcast -- and so there must not have been even that possibility in it.)

Whatever's going on is so noxious and disgusting that not even the authors of the PATRIOT Act want to sign off on it.

Has to be illegal no matter how hard you twist and parse, has to be massive, has to be domestic, and there's no reason whatever to think that it's stopped.

It's like the Orcs of the Dark Tower are saying to Saraman's Uruk-hai: "Wait, this is just too much..."

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

No, not Broder, I mean John Solomon. Our old pal of the indeterminate affiliations and occasional fits of Stockholm Syndrome. Seems to be in remission at the moment, unless Orders have Come Down that it's time to hang all the Xmas balls 'n' lights on Abu Al cuz he's due to walk the plank any day now:

Two weeks before President Bush won reelection in 2004, the FBI sent a rare report to its overseers: One of its agents had engaged in a willful and intentional violation of a law by improperly collecting financial records during a national security investigation.

The FBI concluded that the actions of the rookie agent amounted to "intelligence activities that . . . may be unlawful or contrary to executive order or presidential directive," according to a declassified memo from Oct. 21, 2004.

The incident was deemed serious enough for the bureau to notify both the President's Intelligence Oversight Board and the Justice Department, and to consider punishing the agent.

The violation was the only one after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the FBI has specifically flagged as intentional. But it has attracted fresh attention because Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified six months later that no "verified case of civil liberties abuse" had occurred since the USA Patriot Act was enacted.

...Officials said the 2004 violation stands out because it is the sole occasion on which the FBI itself concluded that an agent intentionally violated safeguards on the use of national security letters, investigative tools that allow agents to gather phone, computer or bank records without court approval or a grand jury subpoena.

...In the October 2004 case, the bureau concluded that a young agent acted on her own in gathering financial records without the approval of a high-ranking official, violating both bureau policy and the Right to Financial Privacy Act. The act blocks bank records from being accessed by government agencies without proper legal authority.

Solomon returns to true form on P. 2, repeating without question Pony Blow's whine that Abu Al is just being cruelly tortured for no reason except that Senate Democrats are meanies. And convoluted Justice Department explanations that this doesn't mean what Al said and he was talking about...oh, why bother, it's the usual if-you-call-a-tail-a-leg blather they think they can still get away with.

Interesting to compare the two spins though. i recall old sci-fie stories where interesting effects were supposed to be generated by couterrotating gyroscopes. Gonna be fun to see if any of these turn out to be true.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

for all the good it will do, complaining about why it is that we knew about this years ago (ok, we didn't have "proof," but obviously we weren't stupid) and it seems only now that josh and the rest of the Serious People are waking up to fascism.

sigh. schadenfreude brings no pleasure, truly. which is too bad, because as far as masturbation goes, i'd take it, if it worked.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Um, CD, I worry that perhaps you are unwell, or strained something during your strenuous gardening activities. Because if masturbation isn't working the only other possibility is that you aren't doing it right, and well that is just one of those things like a Rebublican victory in any office in '08, something so unlikely that i just refuse to entertain the possibility, much less invite it in and offer it tea.


Not that I'm trying to encourage people to read this post by spiking the comments with talk about masturbation. Perish the thought. Besides, you brought it up.

tom's picture
Submitted by tom on

If you recall, I thought they were probably listening into every cellphone call they could get their hands on -- I thought that was how they were "datamining."

Holy shit, if they were reading everyone's e-mail, that's going to be a shitstorm of unimaginable dimension. Can you imagine how John Q. Public is going to feel about Big Brother reading his e-mail?

Your average grandma reading an e-mail about her grandkids and looking at their pictures from the swim meet is likely to be mighty pissed that Dick Cheney and George W may have seen them before her.

Obviously I'm taking some poetic liberties here, but the point is still the same, they were violating our most basic privacies and they didn't want anyone to know it.

Submitted by lambert on

Some choice quotes from Christmas Day, 2005, the LA Times:

“It’s really obvious to me that it’s a look-at-everything type program,” said cryptography expert Bruce Schneier, who has written several books about security. [As well as the Solitaire encryption system that appears in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.]

“Based on how much their story keeps changing, I think there’s more to the story”, said Susan McCue, chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “A lot of people on Capitol Hill think that.”

Remember that Bush originally framed this as wiretapping. And although the coverage was careful to add "and email" throughout, the focus remained on voice, and not data.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Newsweek/msnbc dated Aug. 6 '07: Am I suffering from MadEye's spinning eyeball disorder or have they got this argument completely backwards?

Therefore, intel-collection officials concluded that FISA court authorizations should be obtained to eavesdrop not just on messages where at least one party is inside the country, but also for eavesdropping on messages between two parties overseas that pass through U.S. communications gear.

I thought the rule was exactly the backwards of that: they DID have to get a FISA stamp if ANY of the parties were in, or data passed through, US territory, whereas "outside US borders" it didn't apply and everything was fair game?

This at any rate seems to be the latest spin, seeing the date and the fact that in the lede they quote two Goops as giving hair-on-fire warnings of a Snooper Gap:

Six years after 9/11 , U.S. intel officials are complaining about the emergence of a major "gap" in their ability to secretly eavesdrop on suspected terrorist plotters. In a series of increasingly anxious pleas to Congress, intel "czar" Mike McConnell has argued that the nation's spook community is "missing a significant portion of what we should be getting" from electronic eavesdropping on possible terror plots. Rep. Heather Wilson, a GOP member of the House intelligence community, told NEWSWEEK she has learned of "specific cases where U.S. lives have been put at risk" as a result. Intel agency spokespeople declined to elaborate.

And as for the next graf...Mr. Hosenball (no that's not snark, that's the author's name), the next time you need cool details please come to us for the really dramatic stuff:

The National Security Agency is falling so far behind in upgrading its infrastructure to cope with the digital age that the agency has had problems with its electricity supply.

Really, whether you want to go with the coverage from your sibling publication or the rather more in-depth analysis provided by the dirty fucking hippies who are No. 2 on the page if you google fire "Fort Meade", it's a much more dramatic example, doncha think?

Submitted by lambert on

Except the play is more complicated now without a Republican Congress.

Well, well, well. Here's what I wrote:

Suppose Shooter got some smart, conscience-free Federalist Society lawyer to write a memo that said “any email that can reasonably be expected to be routed outside the United States is international email…” Mission accomplished! Under that theory, all email can be surveilled, since all email, by the nature of packet switching, is potentially international under that definition. And you can’t tell before the Submit button is pressed where the packets will go, so you just have to surveill everything.

And now here's what they're saying, from the Newsweek article Xan cites:

Intel-collection officials concluded that FISA court authorizations should be obtained to eavesdrop not just on messages where at least one party is inside the country, but also for eavesdropping on messages between two parties overseas that pass through U.S. communications gear.

I'd say, like good spooks, they just took the truth and gave it a double flip and a double twist.

Translation: This is what they've already been doing, and to U.S. citizens. Now they want to retrospectively legalize it, and claim that, rather than surveill US targets under color of email traffic being international [double flip], what they were doing was surveilling international targets under color of email traffic being domestic [double twist].

Eh? Of course, the press will straighten all this out.

And please. If the NSA is crying poor-mouth, that's a cover story.

Ditto Heather Wilson.

And IIRC, McConnell was, unusually, got his promotion for putting the warrantless surveillance program into place in the first place.

Not one thin dime to these guys til they come clean on how they've been breaking the law.

UPDATE Looks like Hosenball did some work with Spiky.

UPDATE Oh, and anyone notice anything strange about the Newsweek article? There's nothing at all about what NSA did in the past. How odd.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

She's commenting on both the New York Times story and the Washington Post one out today; according to her, Gonzales was talking about datamining, which is less controversial than warrantless wiretaps.

I thought the notion that datamining sweeps through vast swathes of communications by ordinary American citizens was just as controversial, especially since it could lead to wiretaps sans warrants of those citizens whose data seems worth mining further?

Karen is getting a nice work-over in the comments section of her piece at Time's Swampland, but maybe Lambert could do an update on what is clearly the reasons that the datamining bit was leaked.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Per today's Frederick MD News-Post, from a story about an item from 1868 in the Baseball Hall of Fame:

There's a yellowed classified ad in the Hall that reads: "Notice to first basemen, the National Club of Washington are looking for a first baseman about here. They have been to Brooklyn, but they were not successful obtaining one. First rate position in the Treasury Department, Must work in the department until 3 o'clock, and then practise baseball until dark. 'No Irish need apply.'"

See, at least they made it clear that when you had two actual jobs--for this guy a sinecure in the Treasury Department and the other on the baseball team; for the Attorney General, protecting the Pretzlenet's ass and the other, the sinecure, enforcing the laws of the land--they made it clear that one of them was a token or "ghost" position into which no real effort had to be exerted and the other the Real Deal.

Would that we saw such honesty in hiring, and in Senate confirmation hearings, today. Just take out the "No Irish" part and we're good to go. First person through the door to apply gets the job, on account of she or he could only be an improvement over the current holder of the post.

Submitted by lambert on

See Here. And they've got lawyers like Addington who are, I would think, "plenty smart," and a lot more desperate, too. So, I think they're happy to release something that the stenographers in the press will pollute the discourse with, but they can't seriously think it will stand up to scrutiny.

My best guess is that they're releasing something that looks like the truth, in the hope that people will take it for the truth. (Reminds me of the likely play in the Killian affair, where forged records with true information were planted, and when the forgery was revealed, the truth was discredited.)

So, the the doublt flip, double twist (above) is the best I could come up with. It's like a perverted version of modified limited hangout. Is it clear enough on re-reading?

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

(i'm copying frm the print version)

The CIA needs to get a Q....Now 25 of its agents are facing trial in absentia in Milan, Italy this summer- undone by their pathetic ignorance of technology. It seems that cellular data exposed their operatioin to carry out the "extraordinary rendition" (read: illegal abduction) of an Egyptian cleric suspected of terrorist involvement from a Milan street in 2003...

The spooks apparently didn't realize (that cell phone towers retain data) and left a trail of cellular footprints at the crime scene....

I'm not saying there are no Big Brains at NSA, CIA, etc. But I am saying that data mining is, well, a science. Not an ideology. I have no doubt those who have received summations of this data are using it against specific opponents, for particular purposes. But I do think they are missing a lot, just as any Interwebs reader know she's missing a great deal of good stuff out there, simply because there are only so many hours in the day. I think too the ideological/loyalty requirements of Bush's administration mean that "bad news" or "not what he wanted to hear about X" is filtered out from all this, in the same way Rove believed he only needed "his" math to win the 2006 election.

Arrogance, hubris, unchecked power: all not good things to the intellect. so there's that.

Submitted by lambert on

The idiots in Italy were cowboys. The IT guys are quite different. The NSA hires most of our mathematicians, those that don't go to Wall Street, and last I checked, tend to be smarter than the average bear.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

or suchlike quote Shrubby is famous for. it's one thing to have really smart, really talented people giving you information about your enemies. it's another thing to act on their advice. again with the "rove's math" thingee. sometimes, more than i think we foily types want to believe, they really are stupid enough to work against their own purposes.

all i'm really saying: i think the datamining and phone surveillance were widespread. i'm not so convinced that that information was applied, meaningfully, to more than a very small number. an important number ("moderate" rethugs, key progressive dems rising in popularity, etc.) fall in this category. but you and I? as much as my vanity wants to think otherwise, but i see my file as unread, unopened, and generally ignored. human frailty knows no bounds and all that.

Submitted by lambert on

1. Re the "small number," check out Thomas Powers in the NYRB (the whole article is great):

I believe that the Judiciary Committee will find, if it is willing to persist, that within the large pointless program there exists a small, sharply focused program that delivers something the White House really wants. This it will never confess willingly.

And I would say that the "sharp focus" is quite likely to be the Village itself, and perhaps contacts one degree of separation further out. To the albinos, for example.

2. However, our files may be unread. Today. But have they been destroyed? Au contraire. At least at the FBI, for National Security lettres de cachet:

Ashcroft’s new order was that “the FBI shall retain” all records it collects and “may disseminate” them freely among federal agencies.

Just because they haven't read my records today doesn't mean that 10 years from now, they won't be able to make use of them. First RealID, then the internal passports...

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

and i don't mean to lessen your points. but i do mean to stress the human limitations of the actors in question.

to me, it's like this: one the one hand, you have the clancy/whatever fantasy world of the All Powerful Intel Operative. i know a little bit about how intel really works, and i'm very sure that most of them (even Plame) aren't superhuman, or in fact even that much more talented than many folks i call kindred and friends here on the intertubes. it's one thing to be brilliant and dedicated, it's another thing to make others realize that...hahahahaha, forgive the private moment of mirth.

on the other hand, we have "rovian math." that is, a seriously ideological project to find specific kinds of information for specific purposes in a specific time frame. the time frame of say, an election. a purpose like, cleaning out justice of all not-loyal-to-bush types. the kind of information that is understood thru that essential mentality of republicans- projection. warping truth to suit your own purposes *always* bites you on the ass later. hard.

so what i'm saying is that these are people who can't even control the nation's wealth despite having control of all three branches of gummint for a good stretch. think about it- if you were cheney, how all powerful would you be? fucking A all powerful, given your dedication and brain power. but somehow, they've managed to fuck it up.

i won't write the boringly complicated thesis i've developed over the last few months on this issue, but i will say that incompetence, ideological fervor, and plain good/bad/ironic luck play a far bigger role in things than any of us want to admit. or at least, that's what my life has taught me.

short version: i could run this country, and indeed the world, with complete files on about 1000 people. that should be the focus of questions about this spying program. as much as we want to believe they do, they (meaning true inner bush loyalists) don't focus upon the 1000 who would give them the world if only they could be cowed by illegal surveillance info and creative blackmail. the question becomes: why is that, and what does it tell us about what they are actually doing with the security/intel/spy apparatus our trillions of tax dollars have provided them with? if this is the best they can do, i'm, well, not impressed. i suspect a lot of it goes to high school style games of "i fucked him but i love you, honey" and again, i fall back on experience, which tells me the "smartest" of the republican core is in fact quite short sighted, stupid, and downright uninterested in reality.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

getting slapped around by a lesbian, I’m going to interrupt and agree with both of you before I disagree with each of you. Sort of a transbimetrosexual viewpoint in a John Kerry kind of way.

Lambert, I think you’re right about massive amounts of data being stored away, because memory is dirt cheap and because they can. Somewhere in the heart of Cheyenne Mountain or the basement warrens of Chattanooga, giant tractor-trailers are offloading pallets of memory modules on to the backs of pale skinned, four-eyed subterranean tech-creatures, 24/7/365.

CD, probably you’re also right, it can’t be all the data on the internet and telephone and telex, the intertube pipes aren’t big enough to route it all to one or even a few places and the download would be so massive that all the supercomputers in the world running full time couldn’t begin to touch the ever-growing pile.

On yet another hand, CD, you’re right on the human supervision limitations, someone has to take the data off the machines and understand it, synthesize it and reduce it to terms that can be understood by “C” students from Regent University, and get them to pay attention. There’s your information flow bottleneck right there.

(CD, you’re an Intel junky, wouldn’t you like to have Angleton back from the grave and on our side again, warts and all?)

Lambert, you’re right to believe that if you, or anything you say or do, is of interest then the chances are good you’re being watched right now, while you’re reading this. Sweet dreams tonight, Pumpkin.

Given the stakes for which they’re playing, the chances of any of us currently being the subject of scrutiny are vanishingly slim. (I say this in all ignorance, perhaps the Corrente Fellows are code for True Masters of the Universe but I doubt it, no reflection on capability but if so this is a pretty weird hobby you’ve got going here.)

Lambert, they aren’t coming for you just yet and when they do you’ll have plenty of warning, the people she offended while living in DC will come for CD first. (Hmmm. DC spelled backwards is……Coincidence? I think not.)

Of all the evil spewing out of BushCo, this datamining wiretapping stuff is low on my list. Disgusting and evil and wrong and unconstitutional yes, but compared to driving the country into bankruptcy with China holding the notes, totally jacked up wars without end, raping the Department of Justice, stacking the Supreme Court, ignoring global warming thereby endangering the survival of all of humankind, oh I could go on and on. Piling up yottabytes of Aunt Lucy’s midnight ramblings doesn’t scare me near as much.

Submitted by lambert on

I agree--again--that the chances the chances that any of us, personally, being surveilled are small today (though you never know when they might decide to make an example of some small person).

And I agree that there are issues that are more "important" today, in the sense that, say, thinking through the implications of the Interstate Highway system for suburban sprawl and a petroleum-based economy were less "important" fifty years ago than nuclear annihilation or civil rights.

But that choice has turned out to be a rather big issue today, hasn't it? In fact, under one interpretation of whyever the Fuck we're in Iraq, we're there exactly to defend those infrastructural choices made over a generation ago.

So, ten or twenty years from now, when RealID is in place, and a system of internal passports is in place, and you've got show ID to get a job, and your name off the RFID in your ID card is cross-linked to your posts, your browsing history... Well, you get the idea, right? It will be seen the the system of data-mining that the far-sighted and much-maligned Bush administration put into place was a key instrustructural element in the benign system of social control that keeps us safe from les autres.

And as far as the "we're too insignificant" argument: It simply doesn't hold up in the general case. As I wrote, sigh, a year ago:

Those who think that government just can’t monitor everybody would be well advised to look at the history of the East German Stasi, who did actually did monitor everybody, and without any help from computers, the Inofizielle Mitarbeiters of the modern day.

So much for the right to be let alone, eh?

NOTE Of course, your religion and political affiliations and sexual orientation--all inferred from your posts and internet traffic patterns--won't be on your national ID card. That would be wrong. The H.R. people, Immigration, and the State Police or the National Guard who are doing the internal passport control will get that information from a privatized database, using the information in the RFID chip on your card as a key. Eh?

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...that Spam might be a good thing? What is the ratio of spam to actual email? And all the glurge that gets forwarded by the usual bunch? Lambert, I agree that data-mining email has been the bushies goal from the get-go and noticed the lack of translators a while back, too. But spam might be the key to overloading & breaking the system and should the bushies be filtering spam, therein might be the key for secure email communication - make the email appear to be something that most spam filters will block except have your desired recipient ready & looking for it. Hmmmm

Submitted by lambert on

"Skim milk in his diet," eh?

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by lambert on

Clearly, even the minimal use their making of the information today, if CD's vivid picture is anywhere near reality, is already having grave results on the health of our politics. Because X number of people are owned, but not visibly so....

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Except, with somebody Bu$hco trusts as the owners. Now it all makes sense, indeed.

Universal blackmail.
The cure for blackmail, from the dawn of time, has been to grab your blackmailer by the throat and shove something sharp into its chest. Hard.

And "as defense against blackmail" used to be a legitimate defense against murder charges.

There is but one way for a newspaperman to look at a politician and that is down." Frank H. Simonds

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

have you read "harlot's ghost" by mailer? i keep telling people to read it, because it is the narrative that explains how we got this bunch of loosers. "have you been to thyme hill?" is the catchline.

the Old Establishment intel people, who were also part of the american aristocrisy, have been supplanted by amateurs and cronies, in particular over the last seven years. that's as plain as day, if you look at who the directorates are run by now.

now, i'm obviously no fan of the WASP establishment, and they certainly spent many long years fucking with brown people in order to steal resources, but at least they had some fucking class. when i think of the DHS "hookers and limos" story, i know that it is but the tiniest tip of the iceberg. i truly believe billions are being spent on such, and much, much worse, and that the money comes from our "intel" budget.

i also worry that every nation that hasn't allowed their intel communities to get stoopid has infiltrated ours, cf that chinese woman sleeping with the FBI dude.

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Submitted by bringiton on

A broad generality with surely many exceptions. Not that this is any sort of ethical superlative but merely a useful tool for the times. It is, I’m convinced, the product of all those long cold winter nights spent huddled in a hovel with the pigs and the peat smoke. Too much time to think, too much exposure to toxic congeners in the air and the spoiled foods, neural pathways get twisted back on themselves (much like your tail light wiring) and ways of thinking turn dark, dark, dark.

Compare, if you will, the creation myths and religious narratives of, say, the Norse or the Celts versus African or Australian mythologies. My people don’t have the optimism of the tropics; our world view is more a desperate defiance in the face of certitude that there will be more and more misery and pain and sorrow. We know the deities are out to get us.

These cultural traits persist even in the face of religious reinvention and geographic translocation. An objective observer would find the differences between a black Southern Baptist church service and a Wisconsin Scandinavian Lutheran service far more significant than their similarities. It’s as though they worship different gods!

Mailer. What a mess, gotta love him, gotta hate him, all at the same time. I’ve read everything and always will, even the stuff that’s complete crap like the Monroe collection of gossip and lies. Can’t help myself. Harlot’s Ghost was masterful, the truth as only parable can be. It’s all bland bureaucrats now, no color, no creativity, the amateurishness in Italy is, sad to say, not an exception but the rule. Our intel people had no clue about 9/11 before the act, didn’t have the tools to find out even had they thought they needed to, and that absence of capability hasn’t changed. We are Gulliver if he were blind, deaf and mute.

Back to James Jesus, do you know his connection with Nixon’s downfall? Extraordinary. Don’t want to bore with a rehash, but if not I’ll happily tell it because I love the narrative so.

Submitted by lambert on

Oddly, or not, our famously free press managed to "cover" the Katrina Leung story without ever once mentioning that she was a Republican fund-raiser, along with being a Chinese spy and fucking an FBI agent. Busy lady!

And as a defiantly non-recovering WASP, I'd love to hear the story of James Jesus Angleton and Nixon, because I didn't know it. Didn't Angleton get hammered on martinis--the WASP national drink, back in the day--every day at the same table in the same hotel? (And did somebody bug the table, or is that my imagination? (Of course, Angleton could have known the table was bugged....))...

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

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Submitted by bringiton on

So I won’t try it. Personal confession, I have never once had a five-year plan work out as I envisioned, couldn’t possibly forecast what will be happening for the country or the world in 10 or 20 years. My point earlier was that the present reality of danger for you or I (and I’m a lot more radical than I let on in public) is miniscule.

Lots of dangers out there, from brown recluse spiders to lightening, can’t live in fear or you miss the best parts of life. I was only hoping to reassure you that while some level of apprehension and caution is probably justified, the database data-mining wiretap eavesdropping whatever is an unlikely cause of actual inconvenience for you.

Now I could be wrong, have been often enough before, and didn’t mean to imply by my lighthearted tone that your concerns are inconsequential – they’re not, and you have every right to prioritize your fears as you see fit. And I did try to use the “I” word, my values, my priorities, my concerns, reasonable people may reasonably disagree.

The RealID issue is interesting from a number of standpoints. In effect we already have it, between Social Security and driver’s licenses and voter registration you can run but you can’t hide. As to tracking down your thoughts, well, I found you here and I’m not much of a mathematician or a spy. As you pointed out, the Staszi were able to set up a pervasive spy network without sophisticated electronics. It’s a matter of intended use rather than the tool itself, as with nuclear fission – instrument of mass death or release from fossil fuel dependence and delivery from global warming.

Similarly, blackmail has been around a long time, and most of it derives from word of mouth. It may be that there are people under control of the Corporatists due to blackmail but it’s far more likely that their tools are chasing after greed and power. My opinion.

Unpopular speech and association has been punished in this country in the past and it can certainly happen again, so we should work hard to run this bunch of crooks out of office and then work hard to elect a government that will if nothing else at least respect our civil rights. If your position is your way of pushing the O Window, push away. If the fears are truly felt, well, I just wish you some greater peace of mind. Either way, I am on your side.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I’d love to hear the story of James Jesus Angleton and Nixon, because I didn’t know it.

Angelton, Helms, Nixon, LBJ etc....
i think bringiton is referring to the old Operation Chaos (MHCHAOS) - domestic and overseas spying on anti-war groups etc..

see the Church Committee report.


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Submitted by bringiton on

I admire that in a woman, under most circumstances.

Am in the middle of a move so in and out here, little time for serious writing what with wrestling ghosts of days gone past; manifestations out of stored boxes, boxes full of things that should have been exorcised and shed a long time ago.

I’ll get to the Angleton story in a bit, not worthy of placement anywhere but here at the far reaches of a thread; an arcane matter of uncertain provenance, but then some of the best tales are just that way.

There is a front page story that remains a work in progress – you understand.