Liquid Surveillance

Cool term, huh?  Liquid surveillance. I learned it from Neil Richards’ 2013 paper “The Dangers of Surveillance” in the Harvard Law Review (thanks to Jesus Olmo for the link); it’s a useful label for that contemporary panopticon in which “Government and nongovernment surveillance support each other in a complex manner that is often impossible to disentangle.” My recent IAPP talk looked at privacy from a biological point-of-view; I’d recommend Richards’ overview for its legal and historical perspective on the same subject.

But while we come at the issue from different directions, both Richards and I disagree profoundly with David Brin. We both think that privacy is something worth protecting.

As a number of you have noticed, the good doctor took exception to my Scorched Earth talk of a while back. We’ve since gone  back and forth over email a few times. David was miffed by my failure to give him a heads-up when I posted my transcript, and fair enough; that was thoughtless of me. He also objects to my simplistic “rainbows and unicorns” caricature of his transparent society. Also fair enough(1), these days anyway; the dude does seem to have changed his tune since back in 2003 when he expressed the hope that the authorities would “let us look back”. Nowadays he takes the more defiant stance that we’ll fucking well look back whether they “let” us or not.

My argument wasn’t so much that we shouldn’t look back as it was that the silverbacks would come down hard on us when we did. I wholeheartedly endorse David’s current perspective, even though he sometimes gets so caught up in his own heroic defiance that he has an unfortunate tendency to describe the rest of us as mere “whiners” in comparison.

 

Quibble Appetizer

He uses the word repeatedly— here, when he engages me, and here, where he takes on the URME line of surveillance-foiling full-face masks.  Privacy advocates— hell, people who walk down the street wearing masks— are just a bunch of moaners who keep “whining don’t look at me!‘”

I think Dr. Brin might be protesting a bit too much. Has he ever worn a mask in public, or (like Ladar Levison of Lavabit) given the finger to authorities who show up with their hands out? These are not craven acts. Wearing a mask in public is the very opposite of hiding: it doesn’t avoid attention, it draws it. It’s not just a middle finger raised to a gauntlet of cameras; it’s an invitation to any badge-wearing thug within eyeshot, even in those places where wearing a mask isn’t outright illegal.  It’s about as whiney, moany, and hidey an act as— well, for example, as getting out of your car during a protocol-violating border search to ask what’s going on. (Or as David puts it on his blog, “scream and leap”.)

I’m quibbling, though. So the dude slants his semantics for dramatic effect; I’m Mr. Unicorns-&-Rainbows, so I can’t really complain. Besides, I think Dr. Brin and myself are pulling in the same direction. We’re both outraged by abuse of power; we both regard our governments as— if not an outright enemy— an adversary at least, a group organism whose interests cannot be counted on to align with those of its citizens. We both think it needs to be resisted (and if we don’t, I’m sure David will set me straight, because this time at least I’ve given him a heads-up.)

I still think he’s dead wrong about privacy, though.

 

The Trouble With Transparency

I’ll give him some points right out of the gate. The use of cell phone cameras has depressed the number of incidents of police misconduct, has even resulted in charges now and then.  That’s a positive development.

I don’t know how long it will last.  Laws written by cats have a way of adapting when the mice figure out a workaround.  Sneak cameras into factory farms and you may get public outrage, grass-roots momentum, the passage of more humane animal-treatment laws.  Then again, you might get laws that outlaw undercover journalism entirely, redefine anyone who documents the abuse of agricultural animals as a “domestic terrorist”. Record video of police assaulting civilians and you’ll certainly get a lot of front-page coverage for a few days. You may even get public enquiries and actual charges, at least until the next Hollywood celebrity overdoses on horse tranquillizers and moves the spotlight.

But how much of that theater results in conviction?  The Mounties who killed Robert Dziekański in the Vancouver International Airport got off the hook, despite video footage of their actions.  James Forcillo is back on the job after repeatedly shooting a crazy man to death in an empty streetcar, despite hand-held recordings from multiple angles establishing that the victim was not a threat. (He’s since been charged; conviction, in my opinion, is unlikely.) And the cops who vandalized, robbed, and assaulted bodega owners in Philadelphia were never even charged, despite video showing them cutting the local securicam wires before partying down.

Of course, anyone can google for newspaper headlines showing this corrupt cop or that crooked politician getting away with murder. That’s called arguing by anecdote and— while the anecdotes are valid in and of themselves— you can’t hang rigorous statistics off that kind of cherry-picking. My sense is that we’re in an arms race here; the authorities are still coming to terms with the presence of ubiquitous civilian surveillance at street level, the cops haven’t quite internalized the fact that they might be suddenly accountable in a way they never were before, but I expect countermeasures to these countermeasures. (Which, now that I think of it, serves as a rejoinder to David’s suggestion that I’ve never heard of Moore’s Law. I confess the term does sound familiar— but I think it applies to both sides in the struggle, so rather than a monotonic climb to a transparent utopia, I see something more cyclical. Maybe that’s just the ecologist in me.)  Brin himself points to a patent that would let the authorities shut down every inconvenient cell-phone and tablet within reach (interestingly, he proposes a response similar to my Cylon Solution from back in March).  I expect that generally, those in charge will figure out how to put back whatever rocks we manage to turn over.

But that’s just my sense of things, and I could be wrong. So let’s be optimistic and grant the point.  Let’s assume that our cell phones and skeeterbots permanently level the playing field down here at street level, that cops no longer get away with assaulting civilians whenever they feel like it, that our masters and their attack dogs finally have to treat us with a modicum of respect.

It will be an improvement. Not a game-changing one. Because even in this optimistic scenario, society is only transparent down here on the street, where the cell phones are. Elsewhere, the glass in the windows is all one-way.

Take a Man’s Castle, for starters. Even Brin draws the line at domestic privacy: his Transparent Society ends on our doorsteps, explicitly allowing that our homes, at least, will remain unsurveilled. It may have seemed a plausible extrapolation back in the nineties, before Moore’s Law and Surveillance Creep produced such a litter of unholy love-children: the television in your bedroom that reports your viewing habits and the contents of your thumb drives back to corporate headquarters. The back doors built into every Windows operating system from Xp on up. The webcam that counts the people in your living room, so that it can shut down your TV if it sees four faces when your subscription to Game of Thrones is only licensed for three. And of course the government, lurking overhead like a rain-swollen overcast sky, turning all of corporate America into its bitch with a wink and a National Security Letter (and even an actual warrant on rare occasions). The Internet of Things has barely even got off the ground, and these are only a few of the intrusions we’re already facing.

And don’t even get me started on LOVEINT

David, dude— it was a beautiful dream back in 1998, and how I wish it had turned out that way. But do we have back-door access into Dick Cheney’s web-surfing habits? Did I miss some memo about the White House camera feeds going public-domain last week? That giant supercomputer complex going up in the Utah desert: when it goes online, will they be using it to help mothers keep track of their wandering children? Do we know what books David Cameron keeps on his Nook, do we know what passages of Mein Kampf he tends to linger over?

Will any of these insights be within our grasp in the foreseeable future?

And that’s just in people’s homes, in the private little bubble that we all agree should remain sacrosanct. Is it better when you step outside, and lose not just the reasonable expectation of privacy but of anonymity to boot? If you were attending a rally to protest— oh, I dunno, illegal drone strikes on foreign nationals— would you feel not the slightest chill when informed by one of our Boys in Blue that yes, you’re perfectly free to exercise your right to public dissent— but before you do we’re going to take down your name and address and bank details and employment history and phone records and any past interactions you may have had with Law Enforcement stretching back into childhood? Would it make you feel any better to know that no Boys in Blue were exploited in the making of this film, that all those data— and orders of magnitude more— were collected by an unmarked autonomous quadrocopter talking to a computer in the desert?

Is it okay that someone without any relevant qualification can access psychiatric records of people in other countries, the better to arbitrarily restrict their freedom of movement? Is it acceptable that people who’ve never been convicted of any crime— who’ve never even been charged with anything— have lost jobs, been turned down for educational programs, been denied travel, all because the police keep records of everyone they come in contact with for whatever reason, then hand those data out at the drop of a hat? Would all that somehow be redressed, if only we had guerrilla cellphone footage of some asshole behind a desk stamping REJECTED on a job application?

Don’t count on enlightened legislation to turn the tables. The original surveillance program that grew into PRISM and Stingray was regarded as illegal even by many in the Bush Administration; the White House went ahead and did it anyway. None of those folks will ever be held accountable for that, any more than they’ll be charged with war crimes over the waterboarding of prisoners or the dispatch of flying terminators to assassinate civilians without due process.

I have a friend who practices law in California. The last time we hung out she told me that what disillusions her the most about her job, the thing she finds most ominous, is the naïve and widespread fairytale belief that the law even matters to those in power— that all we have to do to in order to end government surveillance is pass a law against it, and everyone will fall into line. It’s bullshit. Only mice have to obey the law. The cats? They can take it or leave it. (I passed that message on to Canada’s Privacy Commissioner when we chatted after my IAPP talk. In response, she could only shrug and spread her hands.)

The damnable thing about David Brin is, he’s right: If the watchers watch us, we should damn well be able to watch them in turn.  Where the argument fails is in his apparent belief that both sides will ever have comparable eyesight, that an army of cellphone-wielding  Brave Citizens (as opposed to the rest of us moaning whiners) is enough to level the playing field. Yes, Moore’s Law proceeds apace: our eyesight improves over time. But so does theirs, and because their resources are so vastly greater, they will have the advantage for the foreseeable future. (Of course, if someone’s planning on crowd-sourcing their own supercomputer complex in the desert— complete with legislation-generating machinery to legally protect its existence and operations on behalf of the 99%— let me know.  I’d love to get in on the ground floor.)

Don’t get me wrong: I agree that we should look back whenever we can. Even when the gorillas beat the shit out of you. Looking back is necessary.

But it is not sufficient.

 

The Opacity Alternative

If we can’t level the field by spying on the authorities, the obvious alternative is to try and limit their ability to spy on us. Neil Richards argues not only that privacy can be protected but that it must be, because personal privacy is essential to a functioning democracy. His argument seems compelling to me, but I’m not a legal scholar (and I’m not entirely sold on the whole democracy thing either), so I’ll leave it to Richards to defend Richards. Brazil, at least, seems to be on board with his outlook, given the recent passage of their “Internet Bill of Rights“.

For my part, it just burns my ass that these fuckers arrogate unto themselves the right to watch me from the grasses.  I don’t like being targeted.  I don’t like being prey. So it resonates when Edward Snowden tells us that we don’t have to ask the government to give us back our privacy: we can take it.

Brin’s response is: Tough noogs, Bub. The Internet Never Forgets.  You can’t burn data to the ground when they’ve already been copied and recopied and stored in a million backup repositories throughout a network designed to remain operational after a nuclear war.

He’s got a point.

My porn-surfing habits from 2011 are probably immortal by now. I’ll never be able to disown this blog post no matter how many religious conversions I experience down the road. CSIS probably knows all about that little sniper reticle I superimposed on the forehead of a cat-cuddling Stephen Harper last decade. Those ships have sailed.

But that doesn’t mean we have to keep launching new ones.

There’s no shortage of online posts listing the various ways one might protect one’s privacy, from asymmetrical haircuts to sticking your cell phone in a Faraday Cage. Some are really obvious: if you don’t want your TV spying on you, don’t get a smart one(2). (Dumb TVs are cheap these days— we just bought one a couple of weeks back— because everyone’s clearing their warehouses to make room  for new devices that come with HAL-9000 as standard equipment.  When you can’t get a dumb TV any more, go dumber: my last 47-incher was basically just a monitor with a bunch of input jacks.) Keep your deepest secrets on a computer that’s completely isolated from the internet. Encrypt everything. Stay the fuck away from Facebook.

Start a Cylon Solutions boutique that specializes in backlash technology, machinery too dumb to be used against you(3). Start a franchise. Make it a thing. Hell, if vinyl staged a comeback decades after the entertainment industry banished it to the wilderness— if analog tech has become cool again for no more than the audio aesthetic— how much more potential might there be in a retro movement founded on the idea of keeping Harper and Obama out of our bedrooms?

Of course, not everyone cares enough to put in the extra effort. I was ranting to a friend the other day as she booted up her smart TV, ran down the usual list of grievances and suspicions and countermeasures. She listened patiently (as you know, I do tend to go on sometimes), and finally drawled “You know, your arguments all make sense, but I just don’t really care.”  A lot of people, seduced by the convenience of the tech and unwilling to make their own soap from scratch, are indifferent to the panopticon. I wish them well.

But to many of us the Snowden revelations have provoked a backlash, a renewed interest in drawing a curtain back across our lives. That backlash seems to be provoking an uptick in privacy measures that are actually easy to use, convenient enough for even the surveillantly-indifferent to embrace. Cyberdust is a free app that encrypts and anonymizes your communiqués, then burns them to the ground after they’ve been read no matter how often David Brin weighs in on the impossibility of such a feat (although you may want to stay away from Snapchat for the time being). Chrome’s new “End-to-End” encryption add-on has got so much recent press it’s barely even worth embedding a link. (Let us take a moment to reflect on the irony of Google in the role of privacy advocate.) And Snowden’s gift has also weakened the nonelectronic channels through which government spying often passes— the security letters, the secret back-room demands for data which corporations were only too happy to turn over before their clients knew what they were doing. Now it’s out, and customers are deserting in droves; see how Apple and Facebook and Microsoft have seen the light at last, now that their bottom lines are threatened. See how they’ve all pledged to give up their evil ways and join the Occupy movement. It’s not just Teksavvy and Lavabit any more; now even the lapdogs are showing a couple of teeth. (Whether they actually bite anything remains to be seen, of course.)

There may even be some utility yet to be squeezed out of direct legislation, notwithstanding my skepticism about cat-authored laws. Sure, if you tell  the spooks they can’t spy on you, they’ll just do it anyway and lie to Congress about it afterward.  But what if you pass a law that cuts their budget— reduces their allowance so they can’t afford to spy on you, whether they’re allowed to or not? We’re about to find out, if the House of Representatives’ recent amendment to a Defense appropriations bill makes it past the Senate.

If worst comes to worst, just break the law.  It serves them, not us, and they can’t put all of us in jail.

Yes, they are vast and mighty and all-seeing, and we are small and puny, but we are scattered and so very many in number. We can’t keep the spooks out if they really want us— but they don’t really want most of us. The only reason They See All is because the technology makes it so damn easy to target everyone, to err on the side of overkill. Tangle up that driftnet enough and cost:benefit changes; at some point they’ll go back to using longlines.

There are things we can do, is what I’m saying. It’s what Edward Snowden is saying, too.  It’s what Neil Richards and  Bruce Schneier and Ann Cavoukian and Micheal Geist are saying. It what activist organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and national governments like Brazil and a myriad others are saying. We’re saying we can burn things, and here’s how. We’re saying we can take it back.

We’re saying that David Brin is wrong.

About this, anyway.  Because— and I’ll say it again— I am totally on board with the way the man rallies his troops to join battle on one front. What I diss is his unconditional surrender of the other.

To me, that’s the very opposite of being a Brave Citizen.

 

Deleted Scenes and Extras

In a way I believe Ed Snowden’s inspirational example has misled us, misled me. In hindsight I think I was wrong to write that he “looked back”— as though he was one of us, just some guy on the street staring at the gorilla.  He wasn’t. He was the gorilla; he was a trusted part of that network, he was Agent Smith, he was one of the watchers. That’s the only way he had access to all that information in the first place: not through “souseveillance”, not by looking back, but simply by being a gorilla who happened to grow a conscience. We can’t aspire to follow his example because no matter how hard we stare, we will never enjoy the access he once had.

In a way, that doesn’t even matter—because whether Snowden was a true metawatcher or just a gummint voyeur plagued by a sense of ethics, the real metric of progress is whether the Society has grown more Transparent in the wake of his revelations. Will the next Ed Snowden have an easier time, or a harder one, casting a spotlight on the powerful? Does anyone really believe that the keyholes he peeked through haven’t since been plugged?

Obama, finally exposed, utters mealy-mouthed platitudes about transparency and accountability while continuing to lie about PRISM and Stingray and all those other programs with Le Carré names. Debate is suddenly “welcomed”, our leaders are suddenly willing to contemplate new restraints on their unbridled power. And yet their minions continue to lean on local law enforcement to keep their yaps shut about ongoing surveillance efforts, rewarding them with AVs and machine guns for their cooperation. And over in that dark corner, Thomas Drake— a conscience-afflicted NSA employee who leaked unclassified documents to the press concerning the unconstitutional and illegal surveillance by the US government on its citizens— found himself charged with espionage by the simple expedient of taking unclassified documents found on his computer, reclassifying them after the fact, and then laying charges for possession of retroactively-forbidden fruit.

Think about that. If the state doesn’t like what you’ve done, it will reverse-engineer reality to make you a criminal. The law itself becomes quicksand, rewritten on the fly to favor the house: more than once US courts have thrown out suits alleging violation of amendment rights simply because the programs committing those offenses are “state secrets”. If the court doesn’t know a program exists, it can’t pass judgment on what that program may have done to you; and if the program is secret, the court is not allowed to acknowledge that it exists.

In the light of such Kafkaesque rationales, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that criminality may ultimately be inevitable to anyone who truly values their privacy. Even if your countermeasures are legal today, they may not be tomorrow. If you’re not a criminal now, you might be then.

Might as well say Fuck the Law, and take your countermeasures. Avoid the rush.

 

 


(1) Although seriously: artistic license, right? A cheap laugh before a cold audience. I say it was worth it.

(2) You could always get a smart TV, put tape over its eyes, and keep it isolated from the web— but how long before the onboard AI simply refuses to run your favorite shows until you “confirm your identity” through an internet link?

(3) Brin urges his own Brave Citizens to adopt similar tactics, albeit to prevent the cops from protecting their own “privacy” rather than to further the protection of your own.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Sunday June 22 2014at 09:06 am , filed under rant, scilitics . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

88 Responses to “Liquid Surveillance”

  1. With respect, Peter, you seem to be evading the essence of Brin’s point(s). Namely, that the post-Enlightenment socio-political trend has been towards liberty, due in large part to large numbers of people looking back and saying, “No more!”

    I don’t think Brin is denying that we are in a moment when the gorillas are working like hell to stuff Liberty, along with Hope, back into Pandora’s box anymore than you are, but your scorched-earth “solution” smacks not only of despair, but of a kind of historical blindness I keep running across (and which I need to regularly fight within myself) that is born of the despair that comes from looking too closely at Present Trends and not the bigger picture.

    You don’t have to look too far back at all to see where Brin is coming from.

    200 years ago there wasn’t a civilization (and probably not an agrarian or hunter-gatherer society) that didn’t practice slavery and torture as a matter of course; that granted women legal equality with men; that granted landless men legal equality with the landed gentry. Most of that was still true only a century ago. And never mind such ideas as religious liberty, universal suffrage or rights for LGBTs, etc.

    It’s easy to look at the world (particularly the US) and point to horrors and roll-backs and declare that all is lost, but Brin’s point – that it takes large numbers of people to fight back, is why things have (in general, over generations) shown improvement.

    You said it yourself: Looking back is necessary, but not sufficient. And neither is the act of individuals taking a nod from the Luddites and smashing the machines. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

  2. Peter hi and thanks for giving me a heads-up this time.

    Alas, after this response I am giving up on dealing with you on any intellectual level. You are a fine and inventive writer of fiction — indeed, I blurbed your latest novel — but you bring into the realm of adult discussion your apparent belief that Saying-Something-Makes-It-So.

    Keeping it brief, because it is a waste of time, you persist in asserting that I have said things I never said. I find disturbing your profound incuriosity, when confronted with a strawman you erected. e.g. saying “Richards and I disagree profoundly with David Brin. We both think that privacy is something worth protecting.”

    Given that my book on the subject – “The Transparent Society” – has an entire chapter about the importance of privacy for human beings to remain human, engaging some of the world’s top scholars on this issue, all you have accomplished is to demonstrate that incuriosity and the laziness not to have even bothered to read the actual positions of a writer you chose to publicly diss.

    But you get worse: “the dude does seem to have changed his tune since back in 2003 when he expressed the hope that the authorities would “let us look back”.”

    Show us now — right now — the location of those words that you “quote.” I now openly call you a liar. And a deliberate one, since it has always been clear that the core essence of The Transparent Society is aggressive, assertive and militant citizen action to apply light and accountability upon the mighty. In the very first pages I make clear that elites will never submit to light cheerfully or willingly. You… are… a…. liar.

    Are you also a “whiner” for demanding that elites not look at you — without once offering a plausible scenario for occulting their surveillance? Of course you are. There has been no pragmatism in your proposals. No plausible methodology, by which the mighty can be prevented from collecting information over the long run, as the cameras get smaller, cheaper, faster, better, more mobile and numerous faster than Moore’s law.

    My assertion that we might use those tech trends to augment freedom, instead of futilely bemoaning them, happens to coincide with the method by which we achieved the very freedom AND privacy that you currently enjoy… but you never – not once – turn your gaze to the root tools that better men and women than you have used, in order to keep the powerful accountable and give you the privilege to publicly whine.

    I suppose the saddest thing is Peter’s notion that wearing a mask in public will stymie surveillance. Really? You seriously cannot imagine FIFTY ways that surveillors could not discover your identity, chuckling over the mask-wearer’s naivete? Humans pour out gushers of biometrics and more are discovered daily…. and backtracking from cm to cam will lead anyone to the toilet stall wherein you first put the mask on.

    There is only one way that a mask-wearer will be safe from this happening…

    … and that is if we have cameras in the surveillance control rooms. And random citizen observers, who watch the watchmen to ensure they DON’T use those biometrics or backtracking. That is the only thing that will stop the surveillors from doing a million clever end -runs around silly-ass masks. But… oops… there goes aggressive-assertive, look-back transparency-accountability again!

    The crux, Peter, is that you are so wedded to your preconceptions and strawmen… and so stunningly incurious and dishonest… that nothing I say will get you to crack open The Transparent Society or any of the myriad other places where I speak for the aggressive defense of BOTH freedom AND privacy. Indeed, I have already accomplished so vastly more for the enhancement of both desiderata than you will in your long life, that I can let this all go with a smile.

    Send me your next novel. If it is good, I will do you another kindness. I can separate the fine novelist from the dismal libel-spewer you are in public pronouncements. Indeed, the imaginative traits appear to overlap.

    With cordial regards,

    David Brin
    http://www.davidbrin.com
    blog: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/
    twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidBrin

  3. Brin is right about the impossibility of ensuring that your messages are deleted after being passed through Cyberdust’s servers, relayed to another phone and rendered. A sufficiently determined adversary can always figure out a way to store a copy before deletion, if that other phone is compromised. They could serve Cyberdust with an NSL, hack their systems, or do any number of things. Effectively countering targeted surveillance is a very hard problem.

    Apps like Cyberdust can still change the economics of bulk surveillance, by making vacuuming up all communications cost-prohibitive. This is a worthy goal, even if we can’t make ourselves fully opaque.

  4. Geoffrey Dow:
    With respect, Peter, you seem to be evading the essence of Brin’s point(s). Namely, that the post-Enlightenment socio-political trend has been towards liberty, due in large part to large numbers of people looking back and saying, “No more!”

    (snippage)

    It’s easy to look at the world (particularly the US) and point to horrors and roll-backs and declare that all is lost, but Brin’s point – that it takes large numbers of people to fight back, is why things have (in general, over generations) shown improvement.

    I agree completely — but I don’t think that was ever at issue. Of course things have been getting better (sociologically) over the long term. And of course, you gotta fight/look back to make that progress. My fundamental disagreement with Brin is over his contention that we should give up on trying to protect our privacy. To the hundreds of thousands of people in my country who have secret “police records” that can be used against them, even though the vast majority of them have never committed a crime, being told Don’t worry, the trend is upward and think how much worse off you’d be two hundred years ago is pretty scant comfort.

    As for my scorched-earth prescription, it was never intended to be a detailed blueprint for revolution; I don’t have to tell anyone here that I’m far from qualified to draw up such plans anyway. It’s mere short-hand, a metaphor for covering your tracks and blinding the spies (or at least giving them cataracts — I agree that rendering them utterly blind is probably impossible, and I’ve admitted as much on more than one occasion in the past.)

  5. “My fundamental disagreement with Brin is over his contention that we should give up on trying to protect our privacy. ”

    Liar. Moreover, you are a liar who tells lies AFTER having them shown to be lies.

    And I am starting to realize that it is an utter waste of my time to deal with deliberately deceitful men. I can never (in this benighted age) chase down and refute their slanders. I can only state for the record that this person is a liar.

    And far worse an INCURIOUS one, who pretends to intellectual abilities but does not even bother to learn about or verify his gut impressions. We all saw similar character traits in George W. Bush. It is truly sad.

    db

  6. This, is getting a tad painful to watch.

  7. David Brin: Show us now — right now — the location of those words that you “quote.” I now openly call you a liar. And a deliberate one, since it has always been clear that the core essence of The Transparent Society is aggressive, assertive and militant citizen action to apply light and accountability upon the mighty. In the very first pages I make clear that elites will never submit to light cheerfully or willingly. You… are… a…. liar.

    Worldcon, 2003, Toronto. “They won’t stand for it— but they might let us look back.” I was in the audience. Those words really stuck in my mind, for obvious reasons. I don’t know if a transcript was ever made of that talk, but I remember the line clearly enough. Maybe that wasn’t what you meant to say, but you did say it.

    But you know this already. I already told you that during a recent email. You can call me a liar all you want (although the editor in me wonders if the ellipses are really necessary). Libellous is kinda pushing it, IMO.

    Anyway, that’s what I heard. I stand by it.

    David Brin: Are you also a “whiner” for demanding that elites not look at you — without once offering a plausible scenario for occulting their surveillance? Of course you are. There has been no pragmatism in your proposals.

    Well, firstly, I’m not demanding that the elites not look at me; why would I, when I’ve been so explicit in my belief that they wouldn’t comply regardless? I’m simply advocating measures to fuck them up when they do look. And I thought it was pretty clear that I wasn’t trying to present detailed “proposals” so much as putting forth a kind of overall mission statement (although I’d argue that Backlash Tech is a reasonably pragmatic suggestion).

    At least it seems to have succeeded in provoking discussion…

    It’s true I haven’t read TTS— not a lack of curiosity so much as a lack of time. I do hope to. In the meantime, I’m responding to stuff you’ve posted online. Obviously it hasn’t given me a comprehensive grasp of your thinking on the subject; my assumption was that the things you’ve put on your blog were at least consistent with the dead-tree writings.

    David Brin: My assertion that we might use those tech trends to augment freedom, instead of futilely bemoaning them, happens to coincide with the method by which we achieved the very freedom AND privacy that you currently enjoy… but you never – not once – turn your gaze to the root tools that better men and women than you have used, in order to keep the powerful accountable and give you the privilege to publicly whine.

    You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means. Plus you seem to have pretty much entirely missed the point I was trying to make.

    David Brin: I suppose the saddest thing is Peter’s notion that wearing a mask in public will stymie surveillance. Really? You seriously cannot imagine FIFTY ways that surveillors could not discover your identity, chuckling over the mask-wearer’s naivete?

    Oh Jesus David, of course not. I’m not making any claims as to the effectiveness of masks one way or another; what I’m saying is that wearing a mask in public draws hostile attention, and thus cannot reasonably be described as a way of trying to “hide” from the gorillas. It is, rather, a red flag to them.

    I was pretty explicit on that point.

    David Brin: Indeed, I have already accomplished so vastly more for the enhancement of both desiderata than you will in your long life, that I can let this all go with a smile.

    I readily concede the first point. I’m skeptical of the second. I can’t say with any certainty what your facial expression might be in meatspace, but the sense I’m getting here on the web seems less of a smile than a grimace. You’re right to be invested in this— as I think I said in one of our emails, this is a discussion very much worth having. I’m quite willing to be proven wrong, if the weight of the evidence goes against me. But it’s not just me in this corner; a number of other folks (some of whom have, perhaps, done as much as you in the service of privacy protection) don’t seem to find the ideas I’ve thrown out to be especially ridiculous. I don’t think you’ll win many of them over by yelling at them.

  8. Paul Kinsky:
    Brin is right about the impossibility of ensuring that your messages are deleted …

    (snippage)

    …Apps like Cyberdust can still change the economics of bulk surveillance, by making vacuuming up all communications cost-prohibitive. This is a worthy goal, even if we can’t make ourselves fully opaque.

    My point exactly— except not really mine, since all I’m really doing here is parroting Snowden and Schneier, and I trust everyone here will admit that those guys, at least, know what they’re talking about.

    David Brin:
    Liar. Moreover, you are a liar who tells lies AFTER having them shown to be lies.

    (Snippage. Oh, such snippage.)

    We all saw similar character traits in George W. Bush. It is truly sad.

    Yeah, David. I’m the new Dubya. Let’s go with that.

    Look, I don’t know how effective privacy countermeasures might or might not be. But there’ve been so many cases of innocent lives fucked up because private data ended in corrupt hands that I do believe, strongly, that we gotta try to lower the curtain. Call it moaning. Call it whining. Call it anything you need to let you “let this all go with a smile”. I call it trying to take back some measure of control.

    I’m with Ship of Theseus on this one.

  9. Guess I’ll lead with more fuel to the fire. There’s a reason beyond idle curiosity and tax cash cows for the surveillance. They fully intend to herd the prey where they want:

    US Government Funds “Terror Studies” to Dissect and Neutralize Social Movements

    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/24528-us-funds-terror-studies-to-dissect-and-neutralize-social-movements

    The banks almost swallow us whole and so naturally your average deluded general decides hippies are the problem.

    Re: Philly PD and the fusion center hypothesis, here’s what happened to the proud new owner of the paper that reported, and I note I haven’t seen shit from Bezos’ WaPo, the NYTimes and the like on the story, the incidents on three or more occasions:

    http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20140601_ap_810b3b69fb98440398253522160d0940.html

    And I’m sorry, but I’ve got to say something about anecdotal argumentation. What data are you going to rely on to refute the anecdotal arguments? I totally get that pulling stories out–when it’s about a few bad apples–can paint a false picture of reality. Completely on board with that. But I also get that the gorillas are the gatekeepers of most of the publicized reports, and when it’s about defending banksters from those who might suggest the financial system is a sham designed to separate fools from their money and pay fealty to the Wall Street and multinational demigods, Houston we have a problem. It’s big. It’s well-funded. It knows how to lie resulting in reactions like “I really don’t care [because I don’t think it affects me and there are no predators in the grass; or if there are, why would they bother me? I’ve nothing to hide.]”

    http://m.chronicle.com/article/Why-Privacy-Matters-Even-if/127461/

    More Kafka, less Orwell, is correct. One need only read the US report on Sino-Soviet interrogation and brainwashing to understand the underlying point: they don’t fucking care if you’re innocent. It’s a gigantic distraction from and shield for the oligarchy. Period. It just so happens to work out that interrogators can easily develop dissociative disorders from having that kind of power and that makes them a useful tool for same.

    Many of the people in Abu Ghraib were simply caught up in a dragnet. Innocent? Who cares? We’re at war. Tell it to your lawyer, guffaw. In the meantime, meet my car battery.

    And it’s not like they haven’t been practicing. And still are despite what you’ve probably heard several times about it being stopped:

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24030-bushs-fourth-term-continues-guantanamo-torture-secret-renditions-indefinite-detention

    Like Occam’s razor, data-based reality is more intended to describe the sciences, not so much people who well understand the sciences because they pay scientists for studies and fund research all the time and have a very large body of knowledge on how to lie, deceive, cheat, and steal. Further complicating that matter, you cannot take seriously media outlets who recently held interviews with the architects of the Iraq glass house after it shattered in mere months. We’ve really hit the point where our mainstream reporters, politicians, pundits, and experts have been elevated well beyond their competency level.

    The point about the law is correct, except, like most of the rest of this debate happening all over the planet, it’s so much worse. AG Alberto Gonzalez wrote, and it remains unchallenged, that the POTUS is omnipotent in war time. That is, he can do anything, including break the laws written by Congress in order to “protect” the nation. The question then becomes how that gets interpreted in a state of permanent warfare and tax-grabby NATSEC contractors. Not enough terrorists to feed the bitch? Hippies! Tree huggers! People who support raising wages and knowing what’s in the foods they eat. Pays well AND pleases the GMO-peddling, earth-raping overlords.

    Re: imprison us all. Pete, you do know they thought of that, right? The NDAA allows for indefinite detainment based on the suspicions of the military. In fact Michigan passed a law stating that no state employees, which may or may not include the National Guard, to prevent them being conscripted by the Feds for that purpose. To be fair, this has been challenged in court I am told, but have some difficulty believing that they won’t just do it anyway.

    You know that addage about two people traveling to each others’ homes at the same time? :)

    Another point re lying is how we get our goddam impressions of organizations who operate in secret. First is spokespersons. Second is TV shows:

    http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2014/06/03/new-report-ncis-hid-medical-evidence-about-guantanamo-suicides/

    And they seemed so caring on the boobtube.

    It’s not just gorillas. It’s Planet of the Apes.

  10. @author: you do know that you’re just joining the list of people dr. Brin is disparaging every time he finds an occasion, just because they had the temerity to either not agree with him or, even worse, to be right where he was wrong? That’s fine though, Schneier is also on that list.

  11. Data to back up my fuck data premise: population of Nazi Germany: 90,030,000. Less than 5% died in extermination and concentration camps. >95% chance you’d be just fine as long as you weren’t on Western/Eastern fronts.

  12. This is a large complex problem, with billions of actors, which will play out over decades. This probably means there is no silver bullet, no one simple prescription for action that will assure the average citizen gets to keep his/her privacy.

    Further, there is no way to model this problem simply and also well. The government is definitely not modelable as an 800 lb gorilla, we are not mice to their cat, and this issue is not decideable by inspiring narratives, based on poster’s personal philosophies of life – Better to go down fighting! The Light Will Protect Us, so Get the Bastards on Video! If We Burn Up the Thing They Want to Steal from Us, We Win! That’s political thinking, persuasion, not analysis. Those are excellent for spurring groups of citizens to specific mass actions, great once you understand the underlying the problem and know what you want the citizen activists to do, but we don’t. We have guesses and projections based on gut reaction, and rules of thumb.

    In addition, large complex problems of public policy often require attacks on multiple fronts in order to affect change, and these multi-front initiatves are mostly done under a paucity of information. Which kinda sounds like this one? In those situations, individuals cannot get it done, whatever it is. Everyone has to jump in, either cooperatively or in opposition- gorillas, mice, meerkats, zebras, whatever – anyone who has a stake comes to the fray. Single entities do not have the power to steer public policy questions of this reach, so it doesn’t help us, for instance, to picture it as Big Bad Gummint vs. Honest Citizen. It’s not really that simple.

    Or maybe that is my rule of thumb taking over. I have trouble envisioning the lone man, defiant fist raised high, triumphing because he is righteous, as workable. Even thousands of fists, when a problem is systemic, don’t seem practical. Inspiring, but not workable.

    Just my 2 cents.

  13. Simply unbelievable. Allow me to do the thing that Peter never did for me… attempt to paraphrase my opponent.

    David Brin has always asserted: “I hold that both freedom and privacy are essentials for human existence. Only freedom can protect privacy, so freedom must come first. Moreover, it only exists under conditions of reciprocal accountability… when citizens have the knowledge and power to defend it.

    DB: “The reflex to HIDE from surveillance is common, but stupid. Nowhere in history is there a single example when it resulted in general improvements in freedom, nor is it remotely possible that such methods can work and not one advocate has ever presented a plausible way it might work in the future.

    DB: “What has worked in the past, delivering us the relatively large (glass-half-full) amounts of freedom and privacy we do have, is relentlessly assertive, militantly aggressive applications of sousveillance light upon all elites — government, corporate, criminal, technological — because what they know is less important than what they DO to us. The latter (actions) can be controlled by stripping elites naked.”

    Now… Peter Watts might have chosen to look at what David Brin has ACTUALLY SAID, and thereupon Watts might have chosen to disagree with that, rather than setting up lying strawmen to disagree with. He might – for example – have said:

    PW: “Brin ignores asymmetries of power. Average citizens will not be able to utilize sousveillance as well as elites can use surveillance.”

    Intelligent arguers have countered with exactly that point… and I have answered it. Successfully, I believe, but I concede it is a solid point.

    Alas, that is NOT what Peter did. Instead, he did this ((p)=paraphrasing):

    PW(p): “I know that David Brin has repeatedly and relentlessly supported and defended the human need for and right to privacy… but I will ignore that fact and instead publicly declare that Brin has “given up on” privacy and called it dead and not worth fighting for… because it suits me to lie about him so that he serves as a strawman.”

    My paraphrasing… but it is 100% accurate.

    PW(p): “Furthermore: I know that David Brin has, since 1995, pushed a militant agenda of aggressive citizen action in order to strip elites of excess secrecy and help citizens to apply accountability reciprocally on the mighty… but I will ignore all that and instead publicly declare that he has been a milquteoast who sucks up to elites, begging them to be allowed to look back at them a little.

    PW(p): “I will spread this knowing lie despite the fact that Brin has always been a gentleman to me, because it suits me to lie about and stab and belittle a colleague publicly. I am just that kind of guy.”

    Sure, the paraphrasings are mine. But dig this, they do not exaggerate one scintilla. Watts (exactly like Bruce Schneier) has never bothered – nor even had the honesty or curiosity – to read a single one of the scores of articles I’ve written on sousveillance, nor The Transparent Society – widely deemed to be one of the most important works on freedom and privacy.

    Instead, he bases his characterization of my position on his own subjective and emotion-laden recollection of an ambiguous SNIPPET (half a sentence) from a panel discussion that took place 15 years ago. On that basis alone he declares(p): “I know David Brin’s mind better than he does. I will ignore all of his (initially courteous and collegial) attempts to correct my mistaken impressions. I will continue to make false, strawman statements about him…

    “…statements that are now (since I know them to be false, tantamount to libel.”

    Again, my paraphrasing. But the overlap with the actual statements of this morally deficient person is almost perfect.

    It isn’t that he straw mans people… it is that he doubles down, continuing to declare that he knows the other man’s mind better than that fellow does… and based on almost zero evidence… that proves him not just to be a liar, but a lazy one.

  14. Ah… but let’s stop paraphrasing and get to Peter’s actual words:

    PW: I don’t know how effective privacy countermeasures might or might not be. ”

    Exactly. There is not one time in the history of our species when that approach increased general freedom and privacy, yet you proclaim it to be the only method that can work, despite the fact that technologically it is impossible, physically, for it to work…

    …but the method that HAS worked and that has a real chance of working, you do not understand, cannot be bothered to understand, or even read about, but instead blithely call it “giving up.”

    PW: “But there’ve been so many cases of innocent lives fucked up because private data ended in corrupt hands that I do believe, strongly, that we gotta try to lower the curtain.”

    What a dope. The way to stop fuckers from fucking people’s lives is to expose and hold accountable the fuckers! It is the only thing that has ever stopped fuckers. It is the only thing that possibly can stop the fuckers.

    You offer “curtains” while you admit you haven’t a clue how they might work and no scenario in which they possibly can work. You would go to a rape victim and hand her a Chador and say “hide better, next time.”

    I would go to her with a lawyer and let her friends track the rapist and use accountability to give her the satisfaction of throwing the bastard in prison. And anyone else who would do her harm.

    But the issue is not which of us has the better proposal for how to stop fuckers from fucking people over.

    The issue is that you proclaim that David Brin sides with the fucker. And for that, I am perfectly within my rights to call you a goddam liar and a fool.

  15. Final note. Peter’s own traumatic Border experience would not have been affected one bit by any method of concealment or masking or hiding.

    But one passerby, in a neighboring car, aiming a cell-cam at the bullies, shouting “this is going live to the web!” would have made a huge difference.

    That is already happening, in a tsunami, all over the world. There are a myriad examples of it working, and not one example of the Watts Method working. Ever.

    Oh but then *I* am the fool.

  16. Hljóðlegur:
    Further, there is no way to model this problem simply and also well.

    Everyone has to jump in, either cooperatively or in opposition-gorillas, mice, meerkats, zebras, whatever – anyone who has a stake comes to the fray.Single entities do not have the power to steer public policy questions of this reach, so it doesn’t help us, for instance, to picture it as Big Bad Gummint vs. Honest Citizen.It’s not really that simple.

    The only way I see to unify the menagerie is actually to sell it much that way, but the Liquid Surveillance point must be throw in: there is a symbiotic relationship between government and business. Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. were just fine accepting federal cash when it was secret as well as improving spam effectiveness for their and their clients’ purposes while handing over stuff for socio-engineering purposes disguised as WoT.

    The bizarre thing is, those who are most upset in general in the US seem to be so over other things, some of them almost purely ridiculous disinfo.

  17. I have a feeling that this argument could go on until heat death, if allowed. Someone is going to have to give up, and agree to disagree.

  18. Feh, Theseus. I’ll quit when Watts stops publicly telling outright and deliberate lies about me and decides to stop being lazy and to actually read about stuff he’s ranting-about.

  19. Oh this is fun to watch, in a hideous fashion. David Brin, diplomatically-challenged as ever, turning off his allies because undirected aggression and being right (even when you’re wrong) matters more than pragmatism.

  20. David Brin: Simply unbelievable.

    Well, yeah. But largely because so many of your statements just aren’t true.

    Now… Peter Watts might have chosen to look at what David Brin has ACTUALLY SAID, and thereupon Watts might have chosen to disagree with that, rather than setting up lying strawmen to disagree with. He might – for example – have said:

    PW: “Brin ignores asymmetries of power. Average citizens will not be able to utilize sousveillance as well as elites can use surveillance.”

    Or I could have said: “Our eyesight improves over time. But so does theirs, and because their resources are so vastly greater, they will have the advantage for the foreseeable future”, which says pretty much exactly the same thing. I could have cited examples of that vast asymmetry. I could have—

    Oh wait. I did. In this very post, in fact. And that’s not even a “paraphrase”. That’s a direct quote. Did you miss it, or were you just hoping the rest of us would?

    PW(p): “Furthermore: I know that David Brin has, since 1995, pushed a militant agenda of aggressive citizen action in order to strip elites of excess secrecy and help citizens to apply accountability reciprocally on the mighty… but I will ignore all that and instead publicly declare that he has been a milquteoast who sucks up to elites, begging them to be allowed to look back at them a little.

    There’s no possible way you could know when I discovered your transparency agenda; for the record, it was in 2003. And I’ve never called you a milquetoast who sucks up to elites (although since we’re paraphrasing, I have regarded you as naïve on the subject).

    PW(p): “I will spread this knowing lie despite the fact that Brin has always been a gentleman to me, because it suits me to lie about and stab and belittle a colleague publicly. I am just that kind of guy.”

    Given that about 97% of our lifetime interaction has been laid out online over the past few days, I’ll leave it to the gallery to decide which of us has been more gentlemanly.

    Sure, the paraphrasings are mine. But dig this, they do not exaggerate one scintilla.

    I would have to agree with this. Exaggeration involves stretching some essential truth. These paraphrases are more rightly described as outright fabrication.

    Instead, he bases his characterization of my position on his own subjective and emotion-laden recollection of an ambiguous SNIPPET (half a sentence) from a panel discussion that took place 15 years ago.

    It was 50-minute talk. And the only emotion that got ladled was one of surprise.

    Look, this is what I said about your position in my IAPP talk. Not a paraphrase. Not a half-remembered snippet. These are the fucking words:

    “Brin claims that laws to limit government surveillance will never work, because we primates come with built-in dominance hierarchies. Telling our leaders they can’t spy on us would be tantamount to poking a silverback gorilla with a stick; they just won’t stand for it. But, he says, they might let us look back— so we’ll watch the watchers. The camera will point both ways. The playing field will be level.”

    Do you deny saying that surveilling-limiting laws are doomed to fail? Do you deny invoking the primate comparison? Do you deny advocating watcher-watching, pointing the camera both ways? These are the things I said you said: they are echoed in your own blog posts and interviews.

    You’ve denied having said they’ll “let us look back” (I remember it well; it marked the first out of perhaps a dozen times you’ve called me a liar.) The reason I trust my memory on that score(fallible as all human memory is) is because the counterintuitive nature of that line is the very thing that made it stick out. If you’d said something less surprising,I might well not have remembered.

    On that basis alone he declares(p): “I know David Brin’s mind better than he does.

    Says the man who confidently asserts that I’ve personally known the details of his agenda since 1998.

    It isn’t that he straw mans people… it is that he doubles down, continuing to declare that he knows the other man’s mind better than that fellow does…

    Dude, I make no claims to know what’s going on inside your mind, which is just as well; it’s looking like an increasingly unpleasant place to hang out. I only speak to what you said.

    PW: I don’t know how effective privacy countermeasures might or might not be. ”

    Exactly. There is not one time in the history of our species when that approach increased general freedom and privacy, yet you proclaim it to be the only method that can work, despite the fact that technologically it is impossible, physically, for it to work…

    David, this is utter bullshit. Read the post. My words again, not your (dare I say libelous?) “paraphrases”: “I agree that we should look back whenever we can. Even when the gorillas beat the shit out of you. Looking back is necessary.”

    How do you turn that direct assertion on my part into the claim that privacy countermeasures are “the only method that can work”? Do you even bother to read the statements you’re attacking?

    You offer “curtains” while you admit you haven’t a clue how they might work and no scenario in which they possibly can work. You would go to a rape victim and hand her a Chador and say “hide better, next time.”

    I would go to her with a lawyer and let her friends track the rapist and use accountability to give her the satisfaction of throwing the bastard in prison. And anyone else who would do her harm.

    Good for you. Let’s hope the rapists don’t kill her before you showed up in your cape and tights. Let’s hope they don’t have friends who take reprisals on she and her family afterward. Let’s hope some of those friends aren’t cops.

    On the other hand, if there’d been a secret cubby behind a bookcase when the jackboots kicked in the door, maybe she could have been spared the horrific experience entirely.

    The issue is that you proclaim that David Brin sides with the fucker.

    Bullshit. When did I ever say that?

    Final note. Peter’s own traumatic Border experience would not have been affected one bit by any method of concealment or masking or hiding.

    But one passerby, in a neighboring car, aiming a cell-cam at the bullies, shouting “this is going live to the web!” would have made a huge difference.

    David, scroll up a few screens. I spend several paragraphs on that very point. I concede that point at the outset; here on street level, that works.

    How the hell can you criticize me for not reading your book when you obviously can’t be bothered to read the very blog post that you’re spluttering so incoherently about?

    Oh but then *I* am the fool.

    I never would have thought so before. Dude, the team named one of our research boats Sundiver. But yeah, it’s starting to look that way.

    David, you’re welcome to think I’m full of shit. Even some of my friends do. You’re welcome to argue with the points I’ve made, or direct me to salient sources I’ve missed. That’s all cool, and you’ve even done that once or twice during the current exchange.

    But the bulk of your responses here have consisted of wild assertions like Never in History has avoiding surveillance ever worked (which I’m sure would have come as news to the various underground and resistance movements of WW2, just off the top of my head), gleeful attacks on points I’d preemptively conceded before you ever weighed in, and attributions that anyone who’s read the post can see are absolute bollocks— all the while foaming at the mouth with so much name-calling and invective that it’s really hard to take you seriously. You seem to have missed huge swathes of the talk that so outraged you. You ignore my invocation of reasonable measures that you yourself have championed— I’m looking at you, dumb tech— while heaping scorn on the “unworkability” of my extreme scorched-earth scenario, somehow missing the central fact that I explicitly described that as a “schoolyard revenge fantasy”— something that could take off not despite the fact that it’s irrational but because it’s irrational, because it ties into rage. How the hell did you miss that?

    You said a couple of comments back that it was easy for you to “let it all go with a smile”. It really should be: even if I’m dead wrong, why should you care? You’re a way bigger name than me, you’ve got nothing to worry about from some midlist upstart with his head up his ass. And yet you are incandescent with rage. You can’t stop; you’ve posted four comments just this afternoon. You insult, you splutter, you contradict yourself from one paragraph to the next. Right or wrong, my tone has generally been pretty mild here— frequently complimentary, in fact— and your response is beyond disproportionate.

    I have to wonder if there’s something biochemical going on. (Okay, maybe that was a dig too far.)

  21. I should never have suggested you guys talk it out — though I continue to recommend doing it face to face, as we _know_ that 90 percent of the emotional content we read online is supplied by our own projections on the plain ASCII text. But we forget that.

    I went a brief round with Dr. Brin about direct quotation, paraphrase, and misreading a few days ago; see http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-looming-gilded-age-capital-affluence.html?showComment=1400449780366#c3350798681585180084 and a few responses prior.

    From that, I am guessing that what reads to me as fulmination, he intends as hard argument among friends. As he says at that linked post:

    “… A good lesson in being careful not to leap to conclusions!
    BTW I am NOT mad! I do it myself.”

    Oboy yes, and I think we need facial expressions, body language, voice tone, and backstory for these exchanges.

    Ya know, that’s why the Border Police blocked Farley Mowat, and block Peter Watts and many others, from entering the United States — so people won’t get what they’re saying.

    Reading ain’t enough for comprehension. We need the loud and clear clues to emotional connection — or disconnection — because the words can go either way.

    We need _the speaker/writer’s_ emotional content, not the feelings we project into the ASCII.

    And — you know there’s a cultural thing about Canadians and politeness?

  22. Hank Roberts: I am guessing that what reads to me as fulmination, he intends as hard argument among friends.

    Dude, have you actually read what Brin laid down here? I am, among other thing, a “dismal libel-spewer”, a fool, a dope, and a liar (many times over).

    Sorry, but I don’t need face-to-face contact to read that. All the smileys in the world wouldn’t convince me.

  23. This has already gone too far and we’re starting to descend into name-calling and proclamations of the others’ mental health.

    I suggest we table this discussion until such time that someone can set up a forum that might allow each of you to speak face-to-face, or at least over the phone. Would the fine folks over at Starship Sofa be willing to arrange a moderated chat between these two gentlemen?

    Either that, or you should both collaborate on a story together, round-robin style and work these issues out in your chosen medium. Let the veil of scifi soften your delivery and drive both of you to find some kind of middle ground.

  24. “Final note. Peter’s own traumatic Border experience would not have been affected one bit by any method of concealment or masking or hiding.

    But one passerby, in a neighboring car, aiming a cell-cam at the bullies, shouting “this is going live to the web!” would have made a huge difference.”

    I suspect the only difference this would have made is that the number of people who were pepper-sprayed, shoved to the ground, handcuffed, and then charged with assault would have increased by one.

  25. PhilRM you are right. That IS what you suspect, revealing low imagination, since we are already seeing chains of cell-cams watching what police do when they notice OTHER cell-cams pointed at them.

    Last year, the year that Citizens won “the universal right to record their interactions with police”… there was the image of a man in an organic jump suit being sentenced to prison for “accidentally” destroying the cell-cam of the man he was arresting. Only it was caught by TWO bystanders farther away.

    Tell me how masks will do that.

    ===
    As for Mr. Watts. I am done here:

    PW: “Given that about 97% of our lifetime interaction has been laid out online over the past few days, I’ll leave it to the gallery to decide which of us has been more gentlemanly.”

    I helped promote your first novel and gave you another glowing blurb just recently. I have spoken of your works favorably online and pushed book sales. Your comment above is dishonorable. Moreover, I never dissed you with false statements and strawman caricatures, as you have done to me, publicly, repeatedly. My recent invective? I have simply looked you in the eye, after you did all that, and said (down below in your comments section: not in more public venues) that your attacks upon me were “lies and bullshit.” A measured response, given that they were.

    “But the bulk of your responses here have consisted of wild assertions like Never in History has avoiding surveillance ever worked “

    Again, you outright lie. I have only said that concealment has never worked to GENERALLY INCREASE overall freedom and privacy. Look at my actual words, instead of skimming and leaping, as is your habit. Your veering to aim in a completely different direction is equivalent to yellin “squirrel!”

    The rest of your missive above consists of whingeing that you did NOT know my positions before publicly dissing them. Do you even listen to yourself? Yes! Exactly! You did not know a thing before shooting from the hip. Now you openly avow it.

    You are the one of us here who publicly proclaimed that Brin believes and promotes things that I diametrically oppose. When I complained, at first cordially, you had the gall to claim that I DO believe and promote views that I told you I find loathsome.

    The one thing you never once confront is the bald-faced fact that I have never ever believed and promoted the noxious views that you publicly attributed to me. A simple apology or retraction would have changed everything, and you might have retained a currently and potentially valuable friend. Indeed, a willingness to actually READ and maybe learn something, before opening one’s trap, is an admirable trait.

    But all you can do is Double down, then double down some more. Defending the utterly indefensible.

    Hence, I am left simply to declare to all in the world…

    …if any of you ever hear or read Peter Watts say anything about me… ever and on any level… assume it is a lie. A diametric and deliberate lie. Because it is guaranteed to be.

    In fact, you can bet that will be true when he remarks on other folks, as well. Some people a just like that.

  26. >Again, you outright lie. I have only said that concealment has never worked to GENERALLY INCREASE overall freedom and privacy. Look at my actual words, instead of skimming and leaping, as is your habit.

    For the record, if he (even totally incorrectly) believes that’s what you’re saying, due to skimming and leaping, it’s not a lie. You calling it a lie is actually more of a lie. (It’s not even clear what your comment means… if, because of countermeasures, 10 people were able to be more private/free and nobody has become less private or free, than overall freedom and privacy has been increased by whatever privacy quanta is contained in those ten people and their experience. How much is needed for an general increase in overall freedom and privacy, given that most people simply aren’t going to use countermeasures at all?)

  27. > Dude, have you actually read ….

    Oh, I know, I know.

    See there in his blog comments where he accused me of misrepresenting a direct quote by changing it, claiming I added a comma? As a nitpicker, that worried me grievously.

    Turns out I hadn’t, I’d quoted him exactly. He’d left out a comma –when he wrote the language I found worrisome. He hadn’t noticed the ambiguity and took offense at my misreading what he hadn’t written because I should have known what he meant.

    I mean, yeah, glory does this to people.

    The, yes, fulmination here reminds me of the boys and men I grew up among in the 1950s in the rural South: only after you’d proved you could have the damnedest most offensive things said to you, and laugh them off, and toss them back (and not get into a fistfight), was any conversation possible. It got a bit complicated at times, surviving that.

    And then most of those guys went to soldier and learned even harsher language.

    Dunno where he gets it. Maybe story conferences with editors, for all I know.
    It’s not what I’d like to expect. It’s material, though. People talk like that, some of’em. To strangers, in public.

    Amazing, isn’t it?

  28. @Hank Roberts

    Either that or something biochemical.

  29. Videoing back police in the UK:

    Sheffield reporter threatened with arrest under anti-terrorism laws

    http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jun/24/sheffield-reporter-arrest-anti-terrorism-laws

  30. I think you’re right, David. This should probably end here.

    You ridicule me by pointing out an argument I could have made, then ignore the fact that I made exactly that argument. I explicitly describe you as someone outraged by the abuse of power, someone who believes government intrusions should be resisted, and you accuse me of saying that you “side with the fuckers”. I quote, word for word, the attributions made to you in my IAPP talk, and ask which ones were in error; it falls on deaf ears. (If your outrage hails from the blog remark that Richards and I disagree with you in that “We both think that privacy is something worth protecting”, I apologize—it was a thumbnail, and devoid of nuance— but I then went on to point out that you’re a staunch advocate of domestic privacy.)

    You seem utterly incapable of processing any input that doesn’t conform to preset factory specs. Every disagreement is a lie. Every attribution is libel. Every mention of specifics is met with the same generic screeching.

    David, I am deeply and truly grateful for the blurbs, and for whatever pimping of my stuff you’ve done behind the scenes. I would very much have liked to retain that cordiality we shared for five minutes over a punch bowl back in TorCon. But it seems the only way to set things straight would be to admit to an imagined slight in which I painted you as some kind of latter-day Neville Chamberlain. I don’t what color the sky is on your world, but here it’s blue; and here, I respectfully disagreed on some points with a guy I respected quite a lot.

    If you do, in fact, choose to tell everyone that everything I say about you is a deliberate lie, please: refer them to this blog post. They’ll see exactly what you mean.

  31. I’ve seen two masked dudes this week. One was a saggy-pants Spiderman, skateboarding his way west on King Street. One was the Joker, effusing cigarette smoke as he sauntered east on Queen. You can mask up in public, it turns out, as long as you wear the faces of beloved corporate-owned super icons.

  32. @PW

    Obama, finally exposed, utters mealy-mouthed platitudes about transparency and accountability while continuing to lie about PRISM and Stingray and all those other programs with Le Carré names

    I called it when he was first elected – right in the comments here.

    Seems to me it’s just like your pal R.K.M has noted in some of his books.

    If you don’t shoot back (metaphorically or literally), the elites don’t care. It’s all about the damage. Whether it’s low-level natsec bureuacrats finding themselves nailed to burning crosses or a shareholder value getting wiped out doesn’t really matter, it’s not like psychopathic entities care about the distinction between such acts ..

  33. Anonymous: The only way I see to unify the menagerie is actually to sell it much that way, but the Liquid Surveillance point must be throw in: there is a symbiotic relationship between government and business. Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. were just fine accepting federal cash when it was secret as well as improving spam effectiveness for their and their clients’ purposes while handing over stuff for socio-engineering purposes disguised as WoT.

    The bizarre thing is, those who are most upset in general in the US seem to be so over other things, some of them almost purely ridiculous disinfo.

    Anonymous – If you are saying that the more of the actors we include in the analysis and the advocacy the better, of course I agree. If you mean, the only way to sell action is to characterize the problem in simple, binary, emotionally-stirring ways, I also agree. Most people are very impatient with having to think about anything complex or nuanced. What I was trying to suggest is that this page contains a huge argument between two writers about the stirring call to action, when we don’t even really have a good description of the complex problem yet. It feels as if we are jumping the gun.

    I can agree that there is a symbiotic relationship between government and business, but the consumer citizen is part of the symbiosis; if we partition these sprawling interconnected sets of people into neat buckets, we obscure the true interactions. This is not one ping-pong ball bouncing between two opposing paddles, imho.

  34. Wow – note to self: stay away from Brin when I need a blurb. (Actually, you could delete the last five words of that, and it’d serve even better.)

    Have seen some poor web behaviour in my time, but this is a doozy. All that inspirational speaking seems to have led the learned doctor Brin to a place where disagreement equals personal assault. I guess if you’re constantly faced with politely applauding audiences, prostrate to your higher learning and vision, you lose the ability to communicate at any other level.

    Or, dunno – maybe it’s a meds issue?

    And as for “Send me your next novel. If it is good, I will do you another kindness.” – Ew……. feels like I got to go and shower down just with reading it……

  35. Okay, here’s the deal – I offer a truce. Peter and I will not diss or mention each other in any public way. Period. Nor hint at secret “reasons” why we avoid each others’ names. We shall simply change the subject.

    I get the better of the deal, of course, since every public statement I have ever made about him was laudatory and helpful. (Unless you count as “public” buried comments-section notes under his own obscure blog, before the unfriendly crowd of his own followers; I brought none of my own to this place.)

    Meanwhile every public statement he’s made about me has been deprecatory…. and untrue. Hence, sure, my offer would seem to be self-interested.

    Though in fact, I simply grow bored. With the “meds” version of Godwin’s law, for example. Really? How yawnworthy and unimaginative.

    Mind you, having seen what Peter calls honorable behavior, I do not expect him to keep such a deal. But I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

    What I do suggest is that none of you ever rely anything of value on any story that he ever tells. Or told in the past. The irony of his saying the following should warn you all:
    “You seem utterly incapable of processing any input that doesn’t conform to preset factory specs.”

    Oh…. oh…. sputter, (choke)… (cough)… vague arm wave of giving up…

    The deal is offered. I plan to live by it and to simply shrug and change the subject, whenever anyone mentions this dishonest and profoundly incurious person’s name.

  36. But all you can do is Double down, then double down some more. Defending the utterly indefensible.
    Hence, I am left simply to declare to all in the world…
    …if any of you ever hear or read Peter Watts say anything about me… ever and on any level… assume it is a lie. A diametric and deliberate lie. Because it is guaranteed to be.

    this is a weirdly emotional response, are you drunk?

  37. “I simply grow bored”

    Yeah, and earlier you were “done here” too. For a guy who’s bored and done, you sure keep coming back for more.

    I am not a “follower” of Peter’s (whatever that means – you say you have some followers of your own, so I guess you’d know) – I am a professional colleague and a friend, dropping in to lend some moral support in much the same way as I would if I saw him being upbraided by some asshole in a bar. And as one writer to another, Brin, I’m telling you, you’ve been too long on the guru cloud. Your posts reek of ego, assumed superiority and condescension, your complaints scream offended vanity, and you stoop to insult with the alacrity of a schoolyard bully. Liar, LIAR, pants on FIRE, and so eloquently forth.

    And all this from the man who just got through, on his own site and with some oily delight, calling Neil deGrasse Tyson lazy. So you can dish it out but apparently you can’t take it.

    I am not your friend, but I’m pretty sure anyone who is would give you same advice I’m going to – go home and sleep this off, David, then swing by in the morning with a gentleman’s apology for going over the line. And then we can all go back to agreeing to differ like the grown-ups we mostly are.

  38. A private sphere allows quorum sensing allows revolution allows freedom.

    In the early days of the internet the USA tried to ban effective encryption. Having lost that battle, the focus shifted to cracking down on anonymous speech. I would be interested to know Dr. Brin’s thoughts about the Google Plus nymwars, as this has been the most concrete example of a particular view about how the world should work.

    (A cursory googling only turned up a facebook post in which David Brin urged people to delete their google web data history. Apologies if I missed any more relevant writing on this topic.)

  39. John Schindler, PhD:

    http://schindlertweets.tumblr.com

  40. @whoever: and a full prof! don’t you dare to forget that!

    (more seriously, thanks: I’ve read only a few articles by Schindler and was wondering if it’s only me who thinks the guy is a pompous douchecanoe)

  41. Brin:
    PW: I don’t know how effective privacy countermeasures might or might not be. ”

    Exactly. There is not one time in the history of our species when that approach increased general freedom and privacy, yet you proclaim it to be the only method that can work, despite the fact that technologically it is impossible, physically, for it to work…

    Privacy measures do work with reasonable assurance, because of the number of those highly objected-to activists, criminals, political figures, and so on, who still operate well beyond their freshness date of when you would have expected them to be neutralized.

    They can’t all be operating as double agents. ;)

    So we know that the busy cloud of people, for example, using Tor is still foiling some amount of surveillance because people in our own IC and other intelligence groups complain about it and in some cases wish to make it illegal.

    If you want to see which privacy measures work, look for places where legislation, laws, rulings, etc., try to ban them or best practices work to neutralize them, or more conventional methods have to be used to circumvent them (for example, the large porn sting in Dublin last year, or the Silk Road bust, both of which used more conventional social engineering or internet sting and forensic methods to get around Tor).

    We can’t know for certain which of these measures is watertight to whom. Heartbleed is an example. Our IC here in the US would rather compromise the security of our e-commerce and banking/financial systems than have backdoors and exploits that allow them to do their business unmolested by defended sites.

    It’s a toxic environment, overall, where privacy and security risks meet data and financial security on the razor edge of government policy and secrecy.

    And of course, (David’s sometime) employers on the beltway see ever growing profits from black-line contracts, which allow them to suck up ever growing unaudited funding from the feds, so the interest in inflating cyberwarefare funding, year over year, is HUGE.

    I have my own suspicions that a lot of the interest in Snowden is over getting a Church hearing equivalent into that whole sector as much or more than our “internet freedoms.”

    But then, I’m cynical when it comes to DC — I look for money/politics/influence, much as I would love for anything to really be about “freedoms” first. I come from too many generations of human/civil/labor rights activism not to think when a fight in DC hits resistance that there isn’t money, influence and power involved.

    Ultimately the only thing I think that works is a mobilized electorate. And…good luck with that. We have decayed into a bread and circuses stage of empire here in the US. Give us kittens on the internet and a pack of mountain dew, and we’ll yawn, and roll over like a good passive sleeping giant.

  42. @Jubal

    Apparently not. He even treated a fellow prof from his own school like a piece of dirt. I cannot believe some of the people he insulted. Really, some of them highly respectable.

    But I’m guessing you haven’t heard the full story.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/23/john-schindler-investigation_n_5523384.html

    The irony here is how little respect he had for privacy advocates and here he is on the brink of ruin over that very issue in Petraeus-like circs.

  43. @ whoever

    Concerning Schindler

    http://gawker.com/nsa-spook-turned-twitter-pundit-goes-dark-after-dick-pi-1594848048

    He put a picture of his dick on the Internet, so NSA could spy on it, and keep an eye on it, and maybe call the FBI on it.

  44. @01 Yeah, glad you posted the gawker article. Got the HuffPo caught in moderation just above.

  45. Exactly. There is not one time in the history of our species when […]

    Will you guys stop it with this bit of rhetoric? It is not true. I didn’t bring up the underground railroad above, but that was my first reaction. Instead of hyperbole, you could speculate on how the underground railroad would work despite the current level of technologies. That topic would be a derailment from this discussion, but this hyperbole got under my skin. (I got successfuly trolled)

    (* is there an analogous contemporary situation where a country or organization with a huge amount of resources controls populations of people? undocumented workers. women. LGBTQ people. farmers. I guess you’d want to look for tactics that are used in these or similar situations.)

  46. @ Sheila

    Countermeasures, yes. But they require knowing what is being used and how, then smart folks figuring out how to defeat the methods. Several SCOTUS stories today, though not a mention how SCOTUS has also been secretly altering their findings after the fact. Incredible, but true.

    Cellphones: “Get a warrant.”

    http://www.scotusblog.com/

    But:

    Final Word on U.S. Law Isn’t: Supreme Court Keeps Editing

    http://nyti.ms/THXa45

  47. I’ll try to write a lengthy, non-penis related comment later on. Maybe.

  48. @whoever: I haven’t and that’s a lovely story indeed. (Eh, the lenghts some men go to prove they are dicks on the Internet. Inches.)

  49. @ Jubal:

    Funny stories…. never had a direct confrontation with him, but two or three times his claims and his desire to return to the Cold War were issues that I commented on.

    Perhaps even more hilarious is I had a completely unrelated conversation with T3H_ARCH3R a few months back that was quite cordial and not at all related to Schindler. No question which I’d rather have teh beerz with. :)

  50. Sheila,

    I am not sure if either of these is what you were asking for regarding corporate organizations (to include nation-states as corporations), but I thought of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and North Korea as controlling masses of people, but for different emphases on what counts as control.

    Black nationalism in the US presents a case for how things were knowingly going bad. Huey Newton’s PhD dissertation War Against the Panthers contains a lot of firsthand information about how the Panthers knew they were being undermined from within and ways they tried to mitigate or overcome those effects while remaining true to separation. It was a failure, of course, but we must learn to fail better.

    Vanity played a role in the collapse of the Panthers and ruining the possible alliances. Vanity usually does play this role, and its intoxicating and detrimental effects are what makes it the first place where systematic oppression applies pressure on people who should otherwise know better. Vanity pricked immediately isolates the individual, and isolation closes off influence in both directions. Friends become enemies, everyone stays enemies, and there’s no more staying in touch. And once there’s no touch, then all the magical power in the world works through words and wireless fields. Spooks acting at a distance, so to speak, since we learn to trust words and wireless if that’s all we have.

    In that sense, Facebook was a godsend and still is. All they had to do was give people an audience, and they will gladly be surveilled. It becomes the point of the activity.

    While I’m not a luddite, and I don’t think the Cylon solution is necessarily ludditism, I do think the lesson of the old gardener in Chapter 12 of the Zhuangzi regarding machines to increase efficiencies is important: the machines come at the cost of changing your heart via the problems the machines produce (Watson’s translation goes: machines leading to machine problems leading to machine hearts). But the solution of not using machines means a lot of hard work, labor, and simplicity in living. It will mean having to rely on neighbors a lot more, local markets, going without the tastier foods, going without a lot of things the global economy can get you at someone else’s cost. Perhaps there’s some consolation that the same solutions to encroaching totalitarianism have long existed; perhaps there’s some misery in knowing that we’ve needed these solutions for that long.

    Maybe that’s the upshot of realizing, ecologically speaking, we’re dealing with cycles?

  51. @ Sheila and Charles R

    Always important to recall what was the biggest contributor to the demise of labor, environmental, civil rights, etc. movements:

    http://aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book2/html/ChurchB2_0011a.htm

    That’s most of it in one paragraph under Summary of the Main Problems.

  52. @ Peter Watts, David Brin

    I am kind of displeased with the direction this affair took.

    You guys are arguing past each other, and Mr. Brin is being oddly emotional about this whole affair.

    Some point’s I’d like to make (not in regards to the discussion above as such, but more like in regards to Brin’s argument first and foremost)

    I do not think that “sousveillance” is a realistic social structure – even in a hypothetical “ideal panopticon”, asymmetries persevere, they just become information-processing asymmetries. And ideal panopticon is of course unattainable (even with some truly marvelous tech), since there always be technological asymmetries (the NSA will always have better tech for both surveillance and evasion than boring civil sector dudes, since they’re the NSA)

    “sousveillance” relies on the assumption that the society at large is enforcing sane, just laws in a sane manner (thus, information about “powerful corrupted agents” could be used to remove them)
    It is not necessarily the case (for instance in Canada, it’s possible to be denied employment because you had called “911” at some point in the past, even if the call was completely legal and justified – which is an utterly absurd abuse of an entirely reasonable incident registration system and background check system).

    Also, every imaginable society has options for perfectly legal harassment and people willing to use them based on personal distaste, which are liable to escalate tremendously with a rise in transparency “across the table”, and I strongly disagree with Brin’s notion that it’s possible to handle that in a “civil” way the way it would be handled in case of obnoxious shoulder-surfing in restaurants, reason being that Mr. Brin has a “rose glasses” view of why obnoxious and intrusive behaviors aren’t (even more) common in clubs and restaurants.
    To be honest, I consider “small brothers” (obnoxious but not particularly powerful social agents seeking to accomplish their own, often marginal, goals) are a much bigger threat than hypothetical “big brother”, though of course “smaller brothers” (nosy employers, individual upset officials and individual upset corporate managers, PIs, compintels, internet vigilantes out for blood, et. al.) can to various extents tap the resources of bigger ones if the circumstances are “right” (an upset corporate can often pull a few political strings in most surprising places), and thus am wary of “radical transparency proposals” such a Brin’s.

    On the other hand, I agree with Brin that counteracting “hostile” agents in society (be they abusive cops or obnoxious intrusive weirdos) relies on a larger social framework that is at least nominally protective of citizen’s rights – after all, the one successful example of Peter’s scorched earth policy, the Lavabit case, relies explicitly on the framework of US Law, which, for all its deficit, does prevent upset FBI agents from literally ripping Ladar’s face off or throwing him into jail forever.

    I just think that this legal framework does contribute to concealment measures being effective (and we empirically know it is, even if hard to get right). If knowledge is power, than limiting the amount of knowledge third parties have about you is in any sane agent’s interests
    Of course, it’s very hard to conceal the info from all various sized “brothers”, but as long as it takes something like FBI or NSA a considerable and concentrated effort to learn the “full truth” about you, you’re doing a good enough job for most intents and purposes.
    (As one of my friends said, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the NSA to correlate all its databases”)

    Now, since we touched on concealment/evasion topic…
    I do strongly, empirically disagree with the notion that data “can not be reliably deleted” I know for a fact it can, under proper conditions, be reliably deleted and I know for a fact the data that has not been deleted can be forensically contaminated to the point that the infamous “someone else dunnit” defense manages to hold in court.
    To claim whether data can be “deleted” or not one has to clarify what exactly, if anything, does “deleted” and “data” mean in your case.
    In some cases, the continued existence of data (and whether it’s forensically immaculate) does not matter one bit – for instance, nobody cares whether the alleged exchange between John Schindler and the pseudonymous woman is indeed an exchange between him and a woman, or merely between Photoshop and a bunch of unrelated twitter screencaps. Nobody can reliably prove whether the penis is indeed his (photographic confirmation of penis ownership is a complicated and largely unresearched area of human knowledge). It is also entirely plausible that the relevant evidence is already purged to the extent that interested parties will not be able to recover it (thus for all practical intents and purposes, truly deleted)
    Yet the story of John Schindler’s “obese grub” lives on. And will haunt him till the sun burns out.

    Data deletion is definitely possible, and thus under certain circumstances “scorched earth” approach Peter proposes will work but “deletion” is just one piece of a complex puzzle.

    Same thing with cameras, really. For all their ubiquitousness , London street cams have proved a remarkably meager asset in fighting rather basic crimes, and have in fact created entirely new approaches to forging alibis (hoodie + exchange phone/sim pair with an equally hooded co-conspirator, etc…).
    Properly processing data from numerous cameras is a chore (and will likely remain a chore even with human-level AI) and unlikely to be carried out unless you somehow make the effort worthwhile by being a Very High Value target (in which case cams are the least of your worries).

    I am also somewhat perplexed by the fact that everyone (Peter, Brin, and most commenters alike) treat the “state” as some kind of homogenous entity, and treat “speculative maximum performance” of an intelligence agency as “typical state capacity”.
    State is not uniform.
    There are some truly nasty agents there.
    There are some truly powerful agents there.
    There might or might not be agents who are both powerful and profoundly nasty in the government of USA, but the fact that we’re having this very discussion seems to testify against such a hypothesis.

    To sum up this portion of my comment, I think that an eclectic, empirically grounded situational approach to the problems posed by surveillance is more fruitful than either seeking a perfectly transparent utopia or unlimited confrontation.

    @ whoever
    I am going to take offense at that hysterical truth-out articles.

    Most of the studies in question are directed at movements that are far from being “hippies” and can be best described as “militantly conservative and religious”.
    Definitely not someone who is merely opposed to “abuses in the legal system”, or question US foreign policies.

    Of course, those are foreign religious radicals, but I think that
    a)
    elimination of any socially conservative abrahamic movement is a good thing, irrespective of where it is located and which strain of the abrahamic “memes” it is concerned with
    b)
    strategies developed against religious radicals abroad can be mapped to religious radicals in USA since Christianity and Islam, especially their radical offshoots, do share a lot in terms of worldview
    c)
    on a more general note, every single systematically abusive part of society is, to some extent, a social movement. Teabaggers are a social movement. Every old boy network imaginable is to some extent a social movement (just a small-ish one, though extent of “obn”s is notoriously hard to estimate).

    Knowledge about ways to make social movements “die” is thus extremely useful. Of course such knowledge can be abused, but so can any knowledge, you know.

    I also take offense at your implied disdain towards GMO. For the love of Cthulhu, of all the crap agribiz puls, GMO are least likely to do direct harm (because, you know, we don’t randomly suck up genes from food, and proteins are broken down in our digestive tract unless specifically structured in a manner that grants resistance to our digestive enzymes) and potential environmental damage is both preventable and manageable.
    So pardone moi, but I’m all for GMO-peddling :)

    @Sheila

    Statement “There is not one time in the history of our species when that approach increased general freedom and privacy” is not merely inaccurate (as you point out), it’s one of those “not even wrong” (how does Brin measure “general” “freedom” and “privacy”? Only Cthulhu knows)

    But it’s very rhetorically catchy, you have to admit.

    It makes Brin sound so certain and manly ;-)

  53. 01: I am kind of displeased with the direction this affair took.

    Actually, I think it got back on track when Brin and I disappeared from the thread.

    Good post. I think we should put you in charge.

  54. @01, Pete, Brin, glad to hear it.

    @01: The only thing preventing Ladar from winding up in some way similar to what you describe is his fame.

    Thanks for engaging on the other issues. I have two short reactions that probably deserve more because you took the time. I do the vast majority of this from a cell. I’m sorry if it comes across as curt then.

    A} Tea party and Defense Department. First, there is ample evidence that top military brass themselves are religious radicals. Really. From the “Spiritual Fitness Test” to some of the more radical responses to the repeal of DADT to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh calling them out as such. Second, though I find the views of the TP perhaps even more abhorrent and frightening than you, there is nonetheless the protection of their free speech to bring up. If we start deciding who is allowed this privelege and who isn’t, we sliding on that proverbial slippery slope.

    And, really, I’ll say it again, Big Brother is entirely consumed with protecting the plutocracy. I can understand why someone would think that jerks in clubs are more dangerous because they are there and in the open. But they aren’t probably figuring out so well, so completely how to grab what little wealth you have left that you’ve got a growing chance every day of losing your home. That’s the perspective, and backing up a bit, they may have the culprits and reasons wrong, but maybe this is the reason for the “gut feel” that something is wrong that results in Tea Party nuttiness to begin with.

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-pitchforks-are-coming-for-us-plutocrats-108014_Page4.html

    And there is ample reporting on Occupy being spied upon, “COINTELPRO’d”, and extreme resistance to having government documents on those activities made available via Freedom of Information. That’s conspiracy to commit a crime and cover it up, not boring bureaucracy just being randomly stupid. 9/11 brought with it two things: fear and an unheslthy obsession with Jack Ryan, James Bond, et al. It is a cash cow, not unlike bomb shelters for fear of Soviet nukes raining down on the US, but also unlike that because unlike useless hole-digging, this monstrosity called “Top Secret America” is spending like there’s no tomorrow and damn well finding things to do, up to and including finding new things to label “terrorism” and entrapping people.

    Why are they Defense studies when they should be Justice studies? I suppose Homeland Security studies would be middle ground, but I’ve issues with that as well.

    B} As for GMO’s, I don’t entirely disagree. Though I think the odds of dying from cancer induced from imbibing chemicals from farming and industrial processes is higher than from Al Qaeda, my main beef with Monsanto has more to do with their business practices bankrupting farmers and the darker, market share-grabbing associations with, for example, private mercenary corporations:

    http://www.thenation.com/article/154739/blackwaters-black-ops

    They now hold, according to that recentish documentary Food, the vast majority of soybeans in the US are now their intellectual property and they performed that miracle in less than two decades. {And speaking of law in the US, Erik Prince, who sold secrets to the Canadian military, smuggled weapons and likely jewels into and out of Afghanistan, had two employees wind up deceased after they spoke to FBI, and whose employees shot up Nisoor Square and may now actually face justice for it after it having been swept under the rug had returned to the US from Dubai because he knows he is above the law. We have a two-, at least, tiered justice system here despite all our PR stating otherwise}.

    That’s basically it, except I’m saying that, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Where Santa Claus is a private sector of spooks and former military looking for a retirement fund by helping the oligarchs become even more oligarchy. He’s decided that the 99% is naughty and the 0.01% nice. The bastard is flying upside down.

    http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/21/anatomy-of-the-deep-state/

    PS: You’re a Mensch. Thanks again.

  55. @Peter

    “I think we should put you in charge”

    Well, it worked out so well in Rifters, didn’t it ? ;)

    @ Charles R

    As the priest of the fledgeling Machine God, I can’t help but welcome machine hearts, perhaps figuratively so far, since literal ones still need a lot of improvements, but eventually literally :)

    I also can’t help but strongly disagree that Fakebook is a meaningful surveillance tool.
    It’s a broadcast tool. And most people don’t mind broadcasting their genitals for the world to gaze upon, it seems (hell, NSA analysts don’t mind broadcasting their penis pics for the world to gaze upon, and criticize mercilessly).

    Yes, some intelligence value may be extracted from those “broadcasts”, but for the love of holy transistors, most of it is a steaming pile of manure.

  56. Well. Good op-ed piece. I’m going to throw in my two cents, being part of the big-brother esque intelligence conglomeration that you revile here.

    First and foremost, a personal pet peeve of mine; there is no doubt in my mind Edward Snowden was a spy. He pulled his part beautifully, but he was a spy and he’s living pretty with his handlers right now in Russia. Did he do, ultimately, the right thing? Maybe. Did he do it for the reasons he claims? No. Like fucking hell he did. The act may have been good; the reason behind it was certainly not.

    Secondly, I think you overstate the intelligence analysis apparatus any government has to actually make sense of all your data. You could put every person from every intelligence agency in the world on trawling through the US’s data, and you wouldn’t even scratch the surface. Do we have the capacity to collect all your online data? Sure as fuck we do. Can we do anything usable with it? Not really. With one person, maybe. With ten? Getting iffy. With everybody in the states? In George Orwell’s nightmares, but not within the foreseeable future.

    The reason for is simple. Look at how much information the average person traffics during the day. Every text, every Facebook ‘like’, every phone call and every ping from their GPS. We could see it all, but we can’t turn that information into usable intelligence products. The biggest threat to intelligence agencies in the modern world isn’t we can’t access the data, because we can- we can even pull things off of computers that don’t have any internet access, so long as there’s a camera or a microphone- but we have SO MUCH FUCKING DATA to analyze we can’t spare more than a moment for each individual one. We miss patterns because there’s too much to swallow.

    In Afghanistan, we’d get upwards of 1000 pieces of message traffic (essentially reports from locals and intelligence collection assets) a day for a battalion sized elements. Battalion sized elements have maybe 12 analysts, meaning every analyst had to track, make a decision on, read through, throw up on a board, and generally deal with roughly 100 pieces of message traffic a day. I’ve seen maps where you couldn’t see the map underneath all the little numbered pins or little digital markers that indicated a SIGACT. (Significant action).

    Then these motherfuckers would send that trainwreck of a product up to brigade, who had to deal with a whopping 4500+ pieces of message traffic a day with 30 people alongside the products the battalions were sending up to be reviewed! We had too much information to monitor everything, so we had to make changes and focus on really big things. The enemy knew this, and so they’d send important information in innocuous ways.

    Basically, anyone who says that we (meaning big brother) has the the technical or personnel capacity to monitor EVERYBODY in their country is either a liar or talking out their asshole.

    Third: May not look like we have to follow laws. We do. I had a buddy lose his clearance because he looked himself up to check how accurate an asset’s ability to collect was. The reason he lost his clearance? “Spying on US citizens without a court order”. In order for us to ignore laws, we’d have to have a monolithic government that wasn’t gonna turn on itself for it’s own gain. Take a look at congress and tell me that with a straight face. (Also, this is the same government that can’t get the fucking obamacare website working. What the fuck makes you think we can get our game together on this? Are all the other trainwrecks just a smokescreen? Did I shoot Kennedy? The world may never know.)

  57. I think if we’re all reading Peter’s stuff, we’re all flirtatious to some extent with (or gladly seduced by) the Machine God. I get there are those of us who are more zealous than others. My thing is that increasing efficiencies comes at some other cost, one that’s usually hidden elsewhere in the world or distributed in unjust ways. My bleeding postcolonial heart beats here. Machine hearts seem great, but I have a lot of doubts that I’ll be one of those who can afford it and the maintenance required to upkeep it, and I’m not sure what this means in terms of selection. Or rather, I know exactly what it means and I’d rather have a wiser group of elites choose who gets the hearts rather than the current basis of who can afford it.

    I have been reading lately Montaigne and early modern philosophy in addition to the Taoist and Platonic stuff. I’m fascinated with how humans for a long time have had these rocky relationships with their new technologies and have been deeply pessimistic about the proposed benefits (e.g., Plato’s views about how writing diminishes remembering [an active process] in favor of reminding [a passive process] parallel what’s happening with what counts as knowing in light of web search engines, for example), despite/because those benefits being abundant and quantifiable results nearly always measured in utilitarian values.

    I completely understand the optimism, since the woman I love will not live without current medical technology now. But technological development has, for the most part, been captured by short-sighted interests, and I think your insight concerning ‘social movements’ also applies here. To me, transcultural firms and franchise corporations are social movements, insofar as they not only create a particular social life for their employees and shareholders, but reinforce this through various rituals and punishments and memorization and propagation of ‘values’ and ‘principles’ and ‘core beliefs’. They are cultures, and they mean to spread themselves. If science and engineering were even more secular—that is, divested from the particular pursuits of all the social and material engineers employed by these firms—perhaps we’d have less of an emphasis on the need for controlling and manipulating naturally produced machinery to conform to human specifications, and more of a change away from human needs towards larger systemic flourishing. I live in riparian forests here in the Southeast United States, and I am amazed at the kinds of natural technology all around me, but the amount of human technology that ends up as not immediately usable waste continues to build up. It will take a lot of human failures to catch up to the millions of years of natural failures that resulted in the recycling efficiencies of the forest floor. But we’ll lose a lot in the worst failures if we continue tying up the engineering with the particular interests of this or that social movement. What ideas do you have?

    As for Facebook, I mean that it reinforces narcissism, and narcissism is an easy way of habituating people to surveillance, since the whole point of being spectacular is to be seen. You likely know this better than I do, but can’t the owners of the database also harvest all of the data about use—how long does it take for information to propagate through various kinds of social connections? what strings correspond with specific emotional exchanges? what images generate ‘buzz’? how does the length of a mouseover on a profile pic correspond with forwarding chat requests? &c—and create predictive social models to further refine, as you put it, ways of exterminating social movements?

    But, perhaps more key, these predictive models will also allow for producing social movements—forming the particular kind of Homo sociologicus needed by whichever firm pays for the word-shapers and image-mappers to create them. In other words, imagine a firm that creates entirely new religions even more refined and targeted to specific patterns interpellating the right people at the right time to give them what seems like an organic religious epiphany. If we say people are naturally disposed to religious belief through wayward pattern-matching skills, we can go quite far with deliberately forwarding those pattern matches. For once, effective altar calls without the overwhelming emotional manipulation! No more hassles with tents and loudspeakers, just the right words and musical harmonies broadcast directly to the implanted, bone-conducting media play devices of select people who’ve been daily primed for reception, all for a low fee.

    Of course, this isn’t really a change from how things have already been done, just with more refinement and efficiency in the doing. We already rig the elections; we won’t need to in the future. The people will vote freely, as freely as they will have been chosen to.

    So, my thinking wasn’t so much about intelligence in terms of specific targets and (thought?)crimes and threats, but about the vast amount of information making surveillance much more effective for changing what it means to have, say, freedom of religion or freedom of speech. I’m not thinking in terms of the limitations or the ‘chilling effects’ that’s usually discussed. My philosophical concerns aren’t so much regarding how freedoms become limited, but how they become resituated entirely and ecologically, to where the (social, cultural, intellectual, logical) functions of religion or speech or science or just “having a say about one’s own life” are retooled into new landscapes in our shared mental geographies. The early modern period of Europe is one of those moments in human history where we can see how it happened, how entire cultures moved away (not all at once!) from latent Platonic or Aristotelian thinking to something entirely different and new through technologies and the discourses surrounding them.

    It has happened before. It will happen again. The more we have learned about control, the more we have seen how it goes wrong. Is there a way to practice wu wei when it comes to evolving humans (as in, directing their evolution)? Hard to say, but economically doing it has given more power to dastardly people and to naïve people. Neither redeems continuing it this way.

  58. @ 01 & Charles R.

    Re FB

    They did a study and at least to the layman, it worked.

    Social Contagion Study Reveals Mass Manipulation by Social Media Possible

    http://m.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788

    @ Sebastian Grey: As many have pointed out the question of what’s legal is up in the air. We finally got the legal justification for assassinating a US citizen only to find that it’s dated six months after the first known attempt to kill the man it was written to kill. Was that legal? What about that the still unchallenged interpretation that the POTUS can do anything during war time as written by AG Alberto Gonzalez “legal” simply because it was written and has not made it to the USSC based on placing war powers above all other considerations?

    I assume you know what compartmentation and need-to-know mean. I also assume you know that Snowden said a contractor could walk into an NSA facility, access someone’s data, and walk out without the NSA even knowing and that somewhere around 70% of the IC is outsourced. I won’t assume that you know jailed journalist Barrett Brown reported on Stratfor and HB Gary Federal, who subcontract to the IC, were doing things like planning to go after Occupy, Wikileaks supporters, protestors, people seeking civil suits against DOW, etc. or that another contractor, Palantir, was up to similar activities.

    Then there’s this one:

    http://www.salon.com/2013/06/18/how_cash_secretly_rules_surveillance_policy/

    Doing fine despite a slight temporary downturn until they get us all believing that ISIS, possibly trained by the US in Jordan, is Al Qaeda:

    http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2014/06/15/top-100-booz-allen.aspx?m=1

    Then there’s the dirty game of reciprocity between CIA/FBI and MI6/MI5. That’s an old one that I don’t think ever has been examined by Congress at all. Speaking of whom, we know they suck. Some of us are just naive about how badly and in what way. Here’s that Church/Tower summary again:


    Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed–including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, break up meetings, ostracize persons from their professionals, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials. While the agencies often committed excesses in response to pressure from high officials in the Executive branch and Congress, they also occasionally intiated improper activities on their own and then concealed them from officials whom they had a duty to inform.


    http://aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book2/html/ChurchB2_0011a.htm

    It’s not like we don’t have precedence for all of this. We’ve been through it before except now they have PCs to organize it all, more money, and tech and methods most of us still don’t know about.

    But then I’m biased, you see, because I *know* that the law gets broken by some portions of the IC, their corporate partners, and likely the dark recesses of our two major political parties.

    The question is, why aren’t the people involved with the dirtier stuff blowing the whistle? Because it’s so damn lucrative and it’s all about me-me-me while pretending it’s about us-us-us.

    Even the FB study isn’t new. It’s MKULTRA rebranded which, despite what some people think, was about a lot more than LSD. They studied voting patterns and decisions, African-American attitudes, child personality development, mass- and small-scale manipulation. It defies belief to think that the Cold War crap we allegedly discarded didn’t come out of hiding after 9/11. One need only take a look at the rampant fear and greed to see the atmosphere was perfect for it.

  59. Sebastian Grey,

    The reason for is simple. Look at how much information the average person traffics during the day. Every text, every Facebook ‘like’, every phone call and every ping from their GPS. We could see it all, but we can’t turn that information into usable intelligence products.

    ecommerce eeks profits out of all that correlation.

  60. Sheila,
    Never said that private corporations weren’t an issue. Just that governments, for the most part, aren’t the daemons people seem to be convinced they are.

  61. @ Sebastian Gray:

    The problem seems to be in part that they are now inseparable, one-and-the-same, ie, liquid surveillance. Any plutocrat wants your stuff for any reason, he can get it and “Schindler” you or figure out how to sell you crap you don’t want/need.

  62. whoever,

    Good point. I’ve accidentally collected information on US nationals before, because when someone changes their name to “Abu Al-Haji” and has a local phone or computer, there’s nothing that really jumps out as being anything other than what they attempt to appear to be. Trust me, that’s a headache, trying to explain to a lawyer “Well, sir, I didn’t know”. But we do have systems in place to deal with liquid surveillance. Remember, this is our job, and honestly a hobby for most of us. And most, neglecting a few psychos, are just guys you could see on street corners, bitching about the patriot act and targeted advertising.

  63. @ Sebastian:

    Thanks for the reply.

    I have no doubt that even a majority of contractors, and likely moreso those in direct government employ mean well. Indeed, those I’ve met personally, that is in situations where I knew who they worked for, I found to generally be decent or at least professional.

    I’ve become something of an amateur history buff on the excesses of the past that all sort of came to a head in the wake of Watergate.

    The reason DCI Schlesinger wound up sending out a memo that resulted in the so-called CIA Family Jewels was because younger people at the Agency were disturbed by what they were hearing and began complaining up the chain about it. Another was CIA’s involvement in Watergate itself, which as far as I know has never been described in detail. Schlesinger reportedly opened the safe and found the memo–hidden there from Congress and the Department of Justice special investigator.

    Where are those patriots today? I think they’re jockeying for a spot through the revolving door in the private sector where, according to Thomas Drake, sometimes people on the inside created “boogeyman” threats and then went into business to provide the very contract that they had created a niche for. Similarly, CIA used a corporation, In-Q-Tel, to find and farm out all kinds of stuff including license plate recognition software. Well before Squidgate, DHS bought a contract for the same.

    Anyway, the Jewels include lots of interesting subprojects such as MKOFTEN, where CIA kept abreast of all those side effects of pharmaceuticals as they came out and MHCHAOS, which targeted war protestors. Assume you know what RUMINT or the poison pen is. Once you label someone like MLK a Communist, for example, he’s fair game. You can even try to drive him to suicide, as the FBI did. That’s in the public record.

    COINTELPRO, by contrast, the American public only learned of because some activists broke into an FBI office and gave what they stole to news outlets. Where were the law-abiders within the US’ top law enforcement agency then? Where are they now?

    http://www.thenation.com/blog/156337/wheres-cias-missing-jewel

    As you can see, that’s former CIA/NSA chief Hayden talking there. Hayden also called for “Digital Blackwater,” eg, ‘net police, for the assassination of Snowden, and attempted to scare the UK out of using Huwei as a telecom provider while working for Motorola himself. Kind of like Dick Cheney placing his interests in Halliburton in a blind trust knowing the general direction their value would take once Iraq was invaded.

    {Speaking of Blackwater, a scoop by government persecuted investigative reporter James Risen about Blackwater telling a chief State Department investigator that they could murder him and get away with it in 2007 in Iraq:

    http://nyti.ms/1x2kEiH
    }

    Here’s Seton Hall on one thing that likely came out of that project or an MKULTRA/MKSEARCH subproject:

    http://law.shu.edu/About/News_Events/releases.cfm?id=171971

    The Navy’s inspector general report on the use of mefloquine/Lariam at five times the normal dosage has been partially released. The CIA’s inspector general report on the same has not.

    Here’s what can happen when you are the subject of extraordinary rendition {warning, graphic descriptions of torture not for the faint of heart}:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/craig-murray-the-reality-of-britains-reliance-on-torture-322520.html

    Note that the original CIA torture report was finished just a few days before the Boston Marathon bombing and stated that top Bush administration officials were culpable. Then, over a year later, McClatchy reports that, no, it was all CIA’s going overboard and lying about it. Yet, John Kiriakou, who did not actually torture anyone, is the only person in prison related to torture.

    I have to think that there are, somewhere, more than a few psychos. The psychology is actually the same for anyone with power: it can lead to a psychotic break and dissociative disorder. It was historically a problem for interrogators who had to be switched out often so that they did not become addicted to the cruelty and power associated with their job. I expect with CEOs, politicians, and cops, it can be the same.

    But perhaps to bring all of this back to at least one point in the Watts-Brin dialog is identifying the value of the use of masks. Would I, for example, have been able to have this conversation with 01, with you, if you knew who I was? Or would it have become instead about me?

    Let’s find out, shall we? I think ‘crawl dwellers would best be advised to start at chapter 20:

    http://wickedgamebook.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/wicked-game-chapter-20/

    Though you might also want to read this first:

    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=1385

  64. Hey Sebastian. Thanks for the fresh perspective; this is really interesting.

    Sebastian Grey: . Do we have the capacity to collect all your online data? Sure as fuck we do. Can we do anything usable with it? Not really.

    The concern I’ve seen raised repeatedly, though, is that you guys are busy beavering away at algorithms which— while perhaps not ready for prime time today— will be able, a few years down the road, to look back at this huge trawl-net full of data and glean all sorts of patterns from it. The worry is that such algos could generate a lot of false-positive, correlation-not-causation results which (by virtue of being based on data set physically intractable to mere meat) end up getting taken on faith. Is that pretty much right?

    I’d be skeptical of any claim that there aren’t serious efforts underway to automate the mining of such datasets. As someone has already mentioned, corporations already do that all the time, albeit on a (presumably) smaller scale.

  65. Peter Watts,
    Yeah, I’ve seen stuff like that. Part of the problem, though, is a LOT of what we do requires a human analysis. Most of the mistakes intelligence agencies make, either false accusations or missing key information, is because you’re putting together a puzzle that doesn’t just make one image, it makes a thousand, all overlaid over each other. And you have missing pieces and extra pieces that look like they fit, but really don’t.

    I remember, vaguely, reading about a set of criterion for people possibly suffering heart attacks that didn’t seem to have any correlation to things we think of that indicate a heart attack- completely ignoring physical fitness, stress levels, even pain. I can’t remember what the big three criteria were, but I remember they came pretty far out of left field.

    So on one hand we require a human eye for most of the important things, but computers can do statistical analysis to yank indicators most people wouldn’t have ever seen precisely because they don’t have preconceived notions. This also works against them, though, because they can pull some wazoo shit outta their asses.

    So while we do try to make programs to compute trends, they fail when you’re seeing something approaching the complexity of a nation, because you have Outside Context Problems on a lesser scale constantly rearing their heads and making past assumptions useless.

    Predicting buying trends is pretty easy for corporations, even if the level they go to to gain the information needed is a complete invasion of privacy. (albeit one that people mostly willingly take- simple lesson for any would-be dictator; people will give their freedom up in a heartbeat for simplicity and security, from facebook to the Patriot Act) Predicting what people will do can be an entirely different animal, especially when they’re trying to hide something, or hiding something without looking like they’re hiding something.

    Until we get real artificial intelligence, programs will be very limited in their usefulness in intelligence fields. (and, like I said, this is the same government that created the obamacare website. It’s a good thing we’re so incompetent, because it’s really the best securing force for freedom). Case in point, back in the day when I was a Joey with the 82nd Airborne Division, we launched a raid on something everybody was convinced was a bomb-making facility. We intercepted cell phone traffic from someone our programs and our criterion assured us was a terrorist, and this dude was just pinging every codeword for IED cells in the book. Turns out he wasn’t, and he was actually talking about a wedding party. We ended up killing about ten civilians when we blew down a door and ended up collapsing half the fucking house. You can’t imagine the sinking feeling when you realize that because you fucked up, someone innocent just died. The project lead on that target packet ended up driving his car into a lake on leave.

    We fucked up, and I still have nightmares of listening to the lead assaulter scream over the radio that he just killed a bunch of kids and to send a fucking medivac and then saying quietly there was no reason to send a medivac because they were dead already. Looking back on it, I think we failed when we relied too much on the black and white criterion we had created for identifying threats, and didn’t take a critical look at it with a human eye to see if we messed up. That’s the fault of data trawling programs. When it comes down to the big things, you just can’t trust them.

  66. Granted, though, all my experience comes from being on the ground level. What goes on in the higher offices, I have a general idea and some buddies there to talk to, but I haven’t been there so I can’t speak with any confidence. Take from that what you will.

  67. SA blog post on TIA – Total Information Awareness, and the Utah data center:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2013/06/07/u-s-never-really-ended-creepy-total-information-awareness-program/

  68. Torture, likewise, not a good source of actionable intelligence. Even parts of the Catholic Church agreed:

    http://www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=torture,_rendition,_and_other_abuses_against_captives_in_iraq,_afghanistan,_and_elsewhere

  69. whoever,

    Alright, I’m tired and gotta be up in roughly six hours, so forgive me for any math errors I may have in here. Not really a tech guy, work more “big picture on the small scale” end of the spectrum.

    “a surveillance program that called for recording and analyzing all digital information generated by all U.S. citizens”

    So. Let’s say you send 10 text messages a day, with an average of 5 words of 4 letters each. That’s twenty-five bytes per text, with spaces included. Not everybody has a cell phone, but some people text far more than this, so I’m ballparking this stuff. Expect an error of roughly an order of magnitude overall. Now, each text also has to include a MGRS (Military Grid Reference System) coordinate, number of the sending device, and rough time to be of any real use analytically.

    Telephone numbers have ten digits. MGRS coordinates, for, lets say, within 100 meters run something like this: 12ABC 345 678. (Or 12ABC345678, for the least bytes used. Bear with me. Lots of nicotine and caffeine tonight.) That’s 11 extra bytes. Time can be expressed in military standard in 4 bytes. So we have twenty-five extra bytes to tack onto the first 25 bytes. There’s almost more information in the phone data then the message itself. So we’re sitting pretty at 50 bytes, ignoring the receiving number and any real information about the phone itself, like SIM card data, the owner of the contract, etc.

    That’s 500 bytes a day, for texts. Texts are quite an efficient method of sending information. Google claims there’s 319 million people in the US. According to my calculator, that’s 159500000000 bytes a day. (159 billion bytes a day. 1.5e11.)

    Let’s multiply this by the number of days in a year. 58217500000000. 5.8e13. According to wikipedia, that’s 58 terabytes. But wait, you say! There are 6 terabyte hard drives! Surely the US government could handle 58 terabytes!

    True that, but this is just in texts. If, as the article claims, the USG monitors “all digital information generated by all U.S. citizens” since 9/11, that’s 756 terabytes of data collected so far. Let’s assume the critical information for webpages is roughly the same, although it wouldn’t be, if you think about it: website address in bytes (this wepage itself has 39 bytes ignoring the www) , length of time viewed in seconds (anywhere, realistically, from 2-4 bytes), time visited, IP address, etc etc…

    Doubling the 756 terabytes yields 1.5e16. That’s 15 petabytes. Fifteen motherloving petabytes of data. Let’s ignore the logistical nightmare of creating a usable filter that would allow you to pull relevant information within a reasonable time, and a filter that wouldn’t give you a terabyte of information to search through manually. Let’s ignore the maintenance that this beast would require. Let’s forget all the shielding and cooling mechanisms, and the difficulty of integrating new hardware as it becomes available. This beast would be outdated by the time it yanked any useful information out!

    According to wikipedia, as of 2007 the entire world could store 295 exabytes. My back-of-the-hand mathematics indicate 1770 is a good rough estimate for the current amount of memory the world has. If everybody in the world has the personal capacity to optimally store, say, 5 gigabytes of data, times seven billion… I get 3.6e19 bytes of data. That’s 36 exabytes of data for private use only. As of 2007, that’s 12% of the world computing power for private use only. And I have 200 gigabytes on this laptop. Not to include my phone, or any other “smart” object that can store data. That shit starts to add up. And all the private companies and databases and non-TIA government systems, and suddenly there’s not much estimated computing power left for this goliath TIA database.

    Also, before I go, let me return to “can’t get obamacare website or air conditioning in my office” and “takes months to return EVERY relevant piece of message traffic” and the system starts to look absurd and, honestly, waaaay to competent for our government.

  70. @ Sebastian Grey

    Have been told by a friend of Binney’s that he did a calculation on the size of the data center and said it is orders of magnitude too large to be used for what we are told it is being used for.

    In any case, as I hope is now obvious, gov/corp voyeurism is not my top concern. That’s just peeking in the window and taking pictures. I’m talking burglary, brainwashing, and assassination.

    There are out-of-control meatspace covert operations happening in places and for reasons that we were all assured in the 70s would never happen again. Surveillance is a piece of that, and targeting dissenters is clearly being done.

    And did you see the article stating an entire country was under surveillance? Then there’s ECHELON. Then there’s Russell Tice’s WBing which landed him under psychological scrutiny for suggesting the system could be abused by top brass and allies, eg, Cheney, for political purposes. Drake said superiors called 9/11 “a gift.” There comes a point where the ineptitude argument as excuse for it breaks down, at least when it comes to shoveling big bucks into the mouth of the Deep State, which was once just the Military Industrial Complex but now encompasses so much more that it has to be called something else.

    As a nation state, I suppose you want radical, ruthless monsters in the closet. What you don’t want Is to put them in charge of policy–unless you’re running for POTUS and from Texas apparently–making the decisions, then growing their numbers to the point that they *must* look for more to do in order to keep the corporate bottom line out of the red, eg, corporate fraud protection, squashing political enemies, and surreptitiously fulfilling radical religious preferences of the powerful and Armageddon-happy.

    What’s the end result of the error that resulted in the wrong house being shot up? Of, on average, 8.3 people killed by every drone attack? Of torture, which was clearly designed not to find good intelligence but to generate false intelligence to keep the cash cow milk flowing?

    Perpetual war.

    Anyway, it was big news at the time that Congress didn’t want a “Wall Street” for predictive terror. And yet NSA moved it somewhere else so that they didn’t have a say. Whether or not it works doesn’t change that nor its ability to be abused by assholes for financial and political purposes, for creating those false alarms we’re talking about, for creating general-demigods who can strike people with covert lightning on a whim while dining on surf-and-turf and ice cream In palaces while the grunts ration water in the desert.

  71. Sebastian Grey,

    facebook already does a lot of that, for a much larger number of individuals, longer messages and images.
    Except possibly for the coordinates.

    A 10 digit phone number is 5 bytes (2^(5*8) = 1.01*10^12) at most and 319 million people likely puts a much lower upper bound on things. (i.e by mapping onto people and not phone numbers, who’s series have lots of unused gaps).

    You could likely cut a lot from the coordinates as well, since you know the location of the tower and you likely have a lot less towers than global grids.

    Basically, the whole who’s talking with who over texts, when and where is very likely a solved problem for any industrialized country government that wants to know. Credit card companies, social network sites, national phone companies and global banks already juggle and store this kind of data and a lot more.

  72. @ Quellist

    Yeah. Gov doesn’t need to store it when Google, MS, Apple, FB, et al have it available.

    TIA article from ’03. Am thinking Poindexter’s aversion to sunlight represents a possible data point re being homo vampiris. ;)

    http://www.salon.com/2003/01/29/tia_privacy/

  73. It’s become too easy to use the credit/debit card for purchasing goods and services now days. Not only can the credit/debit card data be hacked by cyber pirates, but intelligence agencies can track your purchases and create a profile. I like to make most of my purchasing by cash, but that’s pretty much limited to food, store items, and tickets to (movie/theater/sport) events. You still have to show ID for purchasing plane tickets.

    Books can also be purchased at the local bookstores to avoid purchasing them on line. If the bookstore doesn’t have the latest Peter Watt’s book, they will order it for you. But it is sometimes too convenient to have book mailed to your door.

    I’m doomed regardless. I’ve done far too much “Google, MS, Apple, FB, et al” to have my internet data run through some kind of Voight-Kampff software.

  74. Ever a lover of cloak-and-dagger humor, about three nights ago I wasn’t able to access this thread. Could see the newer threads, main page, other parts of site, just not *this* thread. Rebooted phone, same. Switched from 4G to WiFi, same.

    So, I downloaded Tor for Android in case it was some IP address issue. Wasn’t. First attempt through Tor was same. Then, second, it worked.

    Then, today during Binney’s BND testimony, this started circulating Twitter in various forms. Natch, BB considers paragraph 5 not as important as the title but…

    http://boingboing.net/2014/07/03/if-you-read-boing-boing-the-n.html

  75. whoever: Then, today during Binney’s BND testimony, this started circulating Twitter in various forms. Natch, BB considers paragraph 5 not as important as the title but…

    http://boingboing.net/2014/07/03/if-you-read-boing-boing-the-n.html

    Wow.

    You still there, Sebastian? Anything to add?

  76. What an ordeal. I wonder how this might have panned out as a face-to-face conversation rather than as a series of long-form blog posts and a comment diss-off. Probably the medium least conducive to actual discussion you could waste your time on as a human being.

  77. @ whoever

    my contetion isn’t that there aren’t crazy religious folks in US Mil circles (everyone knows there’s plenty of weird death/apocalypse/zombie jew afficionados there, not like they’re hiding, heh), but that they are way less noxious and that with regards to the “social movement” research in question they are directing their efforts against way more backwards and dangerous groups of weirdo cultists.
    The hypothesis that the ass-hamsters in US Mil are less societally dangerous (or at least, less capable of manipulating society) can be trivially supported by the fact that they lost the DADT fight and are consistently undermining their main vehicle of political influence ( do note, however, that I am specifically targeting the “social conservative” portion of US establishment in this diatribe, not the whole military-industrial agglomeration of interests).
    Also, I wonder if the people like that even have self-awareness to realize that “research into disrupting religious radical movements” is ipso facto research into disrupting their little club as well (kinda hope not, since that would be a profoundly ironic setup)

    Concerning teepers and “free speech” argument, my understanding of current trends in “social movement disruption” research is that measures under consideration do not include things one would consider limitation of free speech (to the best of my knowledge, limitation of free speech is rarely very successful in shutting down “problematic” movements, ref. the China/Falungong affairs) or violence (disruption of social movements via high-speed ballistic impactors is already well understood), but rather communicative and psychological measures that might undermine a movement’s ability to recruit new members and effectively rally existing supporters.
    I don’t mind teepers (and other “social movements” I find unlikable) getting some of that medicine

    Social movement disruption, like “ballistic impactors”, is merely a tool. One would be a fool not to research new tools. Besides, I doubt that “social movement disruption” implies things that social movements don’t do to each other anyway ;)

    Don’t get me wrong, I am quite concerned about excessive capabilities the US deep state has amassed, but in its current configuration, and in my very humble opinion, it appears way less noxious and way less dangerous to my interests and way of life than creatures like Putin, or even the Chinese government (perhaps especially Chinese government, which, despite almost complete lack of ability to influence me personally, happens to “rustle my jimnies” especially strongly because it is an example of a social arrangement I find profoundly repulsive, yet, unlike many other repulsive arrangements, potentially very tenacious and stable), or Norks, or pretty much every single Mid Eastern and African government I can think from the top of my head,and even some particularly weird EU countries (though on the average, EU appears orders of magnitude more comfy than USA as far as my opinion goes… ).

    Yes, that is essentially a “better than Hitler” argument. But being better than Hitler is certainly a good start.

    With regards to Facebook, let’s not confuse manipulation and intelligence gathering, and let’s not consume marketing research on (kinda willing, since targeted ads oftentimes do improve human lives) common folk and intelligence gathering.
    Facebook is a rather poor source of info about even somewhat superficially competent opponent, with imense ammounts of outright fabricated information, distortions, and outright unimaginable stupidity (Hell, I do have a fakebook account, to the name of a completely imaginary person. PhotoID and phone validated.)
    Though I will give you that there is a considerable fraction of wannabe-terrorists and/or criminals that are (provably) stupid, so there might be some intel use when dealing with the “terminally harebrained” subset of target demographic.

    As for activist monitoring, well, it’s kind of unpleasant and illegal, and an uncanny cold war leftover (back then both sides of conflict did their best to get involved with all kinds of counter-establishment movements inside their opponent) but in and on itself, again, it’s not very dangerous. I mean, it’s not even directly disruptive to the protest activity itself.
    Let’s say NSA is reading this. Does it change my attitude ? Not one byte.
    If they were to identify themselves openly, I would have probably invited them to a weekend barbecue (or a BDSM workshop, since that’s a funny thing to invite NSA agents to :) ), but that’s it.
    This kind of monitoring is exactly the kind of violation that can be, and should be, combated though vanilla channels.

    Oh, and while I am neither qualified nor particularly willing to comment on your personal issues, I can’t help but wonder why would one consider US “three-letterists” to be behind the experiences you describe in the blog you linked.
    I mean, if organizing such campaigns is technologically feasible and organizationally tractable, it could be entirely possible that a foreign government (or a corporation, or even an NGO) could carry out such activities for obscure reasons of their own…

    @ Sebastian

    Should I invite you to a barbecue now :) ?

    On a more serious note, as a kind-of (though not-quite, I’m from a different country and work in a corporate body not directly involved with the gov, US or otherwise), I can relate to the sheer information overload and management complexity.
    I can also relate to having to explain the sheer Bayesian absurdity of mass-scale monitoring efforts (be they counter-terrorist or more insidious)

    What kinda bothers me is that, with things like HEMISPHERE and PRISM floating in the open for everyone to read, it is starting to seem like the “decision makers” of US Military and intelligence services either lack understanding of practical and Bayesian counterarguments to the mass-surveillance approach, or are intent on going forward with such initiatives regardless of practical concerns and theoretical (de) merits.
    The former is quite unlikely, IMHO.
    The latter is worrying because it suggests a profoundly irrational decision making process.

    @Peter

    Well, you see, if you try thinking like a guy who was tasked with designing an (inherently pointless even from theoretic POV) anti-terrorist monitoring system, such approach makes sense (to the extent designing inherently ineffective and inefficient systems can be considered to “make sense).

    Consider this:
    If one were to contemplate ways by which a modern novel terrorist group (or even a Brevik-style loner madman) without prior IT, comsec or covert operations experience, might try to achieve good (okay, “slightly less shitty” is more like it) opsec and “theoretically secure” communications without an outside source of competences (other terrorists or unfriendly nation-states helping out), it would stand to reason that a lot of such agents/groups would start at websites like Boing Boing and in various technical forums.

    It would also stand to reason that in the early stages their behavior would be sloppy (inexperience and lack of knowledge).

    Thus it would stand to reason that storing as much data about communication events that fit the general profile of “person / group of people trying to educate themselves about communication privacy and security issues for the first time” could eventually allow to gain important forensic insights even without “breaking” any cryptographic primitive per se (because “noobs” are especially sloppy)

    And thus it would appear reasonable to keep an eye on pictures of my ass IT forums especially known to draw “privacy crowd” and “popsci” information sources such as Boing-Boing.

    Of course, it’s still a silly thing to do due to the fact that terrorists are exceedingly rare, while privacy enthusiasts and “cryptocurious” IT people are relatively common (now perhaps even more common), but as far as preposterous machines go, the XKEYSCORE kind of makes a sort of sense.

    More later, since this comment is already bloated beyond measure.

  78. @ 01

    Thanks again! I really mean that.

    I’m going to limit my responses to a few points.

    Intelligence gathering is connected to manipulation. It is precisely the weaponization of sociology, psychology, and neuroscience that should concern us. Really, I know it falls under anecdotal, but Shinsecki,.for example, resigned not because he didn’t want to fix the VA, but because he couldn’t. It’s run like the mafia, another whistleblower named Kernan Manion says. Corruption has hit an all-time high. There is nothing more dangerous right now than the Deep State. It’s impossible. They have Putin defending his own damn border right now.

    As for the Tea Party and rightwing radicalism, I think you might want to take a closer look at some things:

    http://virallysuppressed.com/2014/06/11/rahm-emanuel-chicagos-mayor-of-go-f-yourself/

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/opinion/sunday/are-neocons-getting-ready-to-ally-with-hillary-clinton.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0&referrer=

    And I can’t lay finger on it right now, but saw an article ststing that Obama’s DoJ actually targets more lefties than righties.

    There’s a good argument to be made that the rightwing radicals are the product of DoD and CIA manipulation to begin with. This is exactly the kind of thing that they studied during the 50s, 60s, 70s. This MINERVA project, 01, is targeting dissent. Al Qaeda sprung in part from Reaganite CIA men like Graham Fuller, who trained mujaheddin in Afghanistan to operate against the Soviets. By the way, Fuller also was married into the Tsarnaev family for a while. Yeah, he was the Boston bombers great uncle by marriage. Note how different this summary of torture is to the one we’ve gotten drips of more recently. Suddenly not Bush/Cheney, but CIA operating autonomously:

    http://reason.com/archives/2013/05/05/new-report-blows-the-lid-off-americas-re

    What happened to the political spectrum in the US? Clinton tried to reach across the aisle by taking a step to the right. When he did, the GOP took two. This contributed to his failure to, for example,.pass HCR.

    Fast-forward, the Democrats see this as an opportunity now. The more steps to the right they take, the more hemmed in the GOP is. We really are seeing the death of the GOP. Problem is, it’s also the death of liberalism and progressivism at least in terms of war and the economy. The Dems have abandoned labor and the environment as well. Schumer, one of many pols I wrote about Squidgate and the harassment, said since “We aren’t going to be those kinds of Democrats.” He termed it “anti-business.” I term it anti-99%.

    So while we can celebrate the eventual demise of the other tribe, we have, as in these other battles, also become our opponents.

    Switching gears: hilariously, it was either foreign ISes or Cheney’s “stay-behinds” I suspected of being behind the really over the top, crazy level of psychological harassment I endured, and still do to an extent. I was in the very position you describe when this began. I realize that “trust me” is not a good debate tactic. It is, however, difficult to impart four and a half years of homework and personal.experience succinctly, especially when you’ve been traumatized, really from a layman perspective, tortured, and you struggle for rationality to be able to adequately describe the experience to someone who hasn’t been through something similar. Check out what life is like at NSA/DIA when you’re targeted:

    http://historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=civilliberties_78#civilliberties_78

    Note how Ring says she’d rather be back in combat among exploding landmines.

    Finally, I guess I’ll leave it with what I told a pair of FBI agents whom I nicknamed Sculder and Mully.

    “If it is someone else, then how are they getting away with it when we spend $1.2T dollars a year on homeland security?”

    They didn’t really have an answer to that and tried to send me after a red herring. But the point stands. There are thousands of Americans under the same kind of targeting. Most are not so lucky. They don’t recover from what was done to their heads. They wind up blaming space aliens, demons, magic, illuminati, “the Jews,” etc.

    Yeah. I’m the “lucky one.” Lol and :/

  79. Longer comment waiting approval.

    Speaking of continued cloak-n-dagger fun, spent an hour and a half in Beaudry’s parking lot almost immediately after that post when car driving broke down near Pete’s favorite bridge.

    BTW, been across it a few times. Not only no hide nor hair of any of that crew, those there seem about ten years older on average.

    Would like to take the opportunity to in part explain why I’m mentioning any of this at all. Assume folks are familiar here with Clarke’s third law,.so I’ll leave that alone for now. Here are, secondhand, Binney’s three laws:

    1} Become famous.

    Best defense against surreptitious skullduggery is attention, sunlight.

    2} Pick one issue, your issue, to become an activist about.

    While mine involves surveillance and the more mundane covert tactics peripherally, I am focusing on the parallel programs to electronic hacking of brain- and opinion hacking.

    3} It is not up to you to decide if/why you are targeted. That is up to someone else.

    I know basically why and the various things, people, organizations that they have tried to get me to blame instead. Peter, like Clooney and many others, never had anything to fear from me apart from bizarre communiques. Yet, that, as described in the Church/Tower hearings report I quoted above, is the game. Did I bring this on myself, and by extension others, by fighting back using history, somewhat obscure news stories, speaking to activists and many investigative reporters?

    No. It is the opposite. Whatever progress I’ve made, which may be too little, too late in the larger scheme, was due to going against what seems logical: leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. Just is not so. Once they go after you, it takes a lot to stop it. Doing nothing at all: not a viable option.

    YMMV.

  80. Like the self-queries part:

    http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/6/immigration-agents-accused-of-database-abuse-carte/

  81. @ whoever

    Well, the “If it is someone else, then how are they getting away with it when we spend $1.2T dollars a year on homeland security?” question seems easy.
    Probably not very easy for FBI folks, but hey, I’m not FBI and from where I sit it’s quite obvious that if technological and organizational (in the sense of personnel management, breach containment, compartmentalization, disaster recovery, etc., not in the sense of “legality”) hurdles that allegedly make such operations highly impractical can be – and more importantly, already are – overcome, then homeland security is essentially powerless.
    I mean, you’re essentially dealing with an arbitrary number of organizations which can subtly (essentially, undetectably) manipulate near-arbitrary amount of people into an altered state of consciousness in a precisely controlled manner that would make said people do exactly what a given organization wants them.
    How exactly is homelasec spending even going to help against such adversaries ?

    Homeland security, as a system, is not fit to fight an adversary that is, essentially, the quintessence of medieval demonic myths (if you think about it, the only difference between “demons” of yore and modern “subtle psy-ops operators” is that the latter aren’t afraid of crucifixes and holy water)

    But fortunately, it seems that “militarized sociology” is nowhere that powerful. Perhaps the worst is yet to come, or perhaps there is an upper limit to what one can do with it (consider this – social groups of all kinds have always been at war with Eastasia each other, so it stands to reason that humans that are easy to “mindjack” would have a hard time surviving even in a purely verbal culture. Also, Third might be right in that minds indeed may become desensitized and immune even to novel forms of manipulation, which could perhaps explain while earlier examples of media effects are more spectacular than what can be observed in modern research).
    If anything, the AQ/CIA connection shows just how hard it is to steer a social group, especially when its members gain a degree of universally-applicable intellectual competence (which is exactly something you might want to instill in competent anti-Soviet insurgents, but also something that is liable to backfire dramatically when the group is no longer fighting Soviets and starts pursuing goals of its own).

    Again, don’t get me wrong, I totally see how MINERVA style research into “shutting down a social movement” can be used against groups I sympathize with (especially since IMHO one person’s “justified dissent” is another person’s “preposterous, backwards malice”, and cold science does not care one byte about which group I happen to favor), but decrying such research on those grounds would be akin to decrying ballistics research on the ground that I might get shot myself.

    Oh, and thanks for the TP links – very informative, and frankly rather worrisome – since TP “brand” and its antics is something I’d rather prefer nice people to stay away from (and yes, I do realize the value of tactical alliances with questionable and even hostile parties, was involved in such myself, lol… but one should always remember that “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy, nothing more and nothing less”). I guess “labor” and more generally “working person” types of movements have lost a lot of “punch” after Soviet Union collapsed turned itself into a particularly toxic super-capitalistic pseudo-empire, and now need some kind of new bogeyman to spook capitalist pigdogs like myself ;). I don’t think teapers are that much needed thing (being controlled by a bunch of remarkably repulsive and inhumane capitalistic socioconservatives and all…)

    Now, as to Putin and his “borders”… maaaan…
    …let’s just say that CIA/NSA and any other spookhouse in existence have my sincere and most complete approval when it comes to fucking over Putin, and I only wish I could help them in gutting his wretched regime (and, ideally, Vovan himself). Seriously, I’d be absolutely happy to see Mr. P. Khaddafied, he rustles my jimmies something fierce (fortunately, I don’t have a personal axe to grind with that monster, but hey, I’m not obliged to be perfectly rational about the choice of people whom I severely dislike)

    Speaking of Putin, the whole “let’s harass people we dislike with vague claims of psychological instability” reeks of KGB methods. If anything, I am somewhat bemused at how NSA seems to be doing a lot of the stuff KGB/FSB have done, but is doing it somewhat half-heartedly, like, they had this idea of shutting up an internal troublemaker by having the organizational shrink write something menacing in said troublemaker’s file, but they never really bothered to make a proper build-up so that it would look like a convincing case of someone loosing grasp on reality, and not, you know, a case of medical malpractice and office-politics backstabbing, but at this point we inevitably spiral back to “better than Hitler” kind of argument.

    Still, I think that when you look at things like Putin – or even at what the gentlepersons at FBI and CIA used to be like in say 1920s, you can’t help but think that matter could definitely be worse in the US of A.

    After all, unless Google has failed me badly, Ring is still alive and kicking, she didn’t die in a dirty damp jail cell of suspicious medical “issues”, and didn’t take her own life in an eerily convenient suicide. In fact, she isn’t even under house arrest being hounded by a ragtag herd of creepy politically radicalized maldidacts, or under any kind of arrest as far as I can tell. That doesn’t seem all too bad.
    I mean, I can sort of, kind of, get that abuse on part of people who were implicitly trusted (both colleagues and NSA medical personnel) would be quite traumatic for someone who is probably not psychologically prone to expect bullshit accusations, backstabbing and outright libel from professional peers… but honestly, that’s a case of me trying to “get” emotions I can’t feel myself (I don’t recall whether there was a time when I didn’t expect insidious bullshit from colleagues, subordinates and superiors. I really don’t.), and thus I can’t help but think that, at least, the NSA didn’t plant heroin into her purse, or kiddie porn onto her home HDD (the former, by the way, is a standard Russian police tactic, since Russian search witness protocol is a joke, and it only takes the tiniest amount of “substance” to give someone real jail time), so her matter’s aren’t too bad.

    I realize that what I write probably sounds like a medieval guy looking at police brutality during a modern protest in, say, Canada, and then callously claiming it’s “not too bad” because police were not beheading people in the streets and did not even systematically burn down the houses of everyone involved.

    I just want to point out that large portions of the world (not all of them poor hellholes) are still quite medieval (though beheading isn’t as common as it used to be – probably due to all the mess someone has to clean up afterwards), and having first-hand experience with such shitty, medieval places, I feel obliged to inject this perspective into this particular debate.

    But hey – there’s optimism to be found therein, because it means that abusive power structures can be defeated, and things can improve. Neither US nor EU became better than Jinpings, Edrogans and Putins of the world by divine mandate (though some US conservatives would disagree…).
    All those nice things are products of meticulous design (social engineering, if you so will ;) )

    Nothing says they can’t be refined further.

    P.S.:
    Ouch.
    This balooned into a behemoth yet again.

  82. my strikethroughs! Ah, curses!

  83. @01:

    Again, your thoughts aligning very closely with mine…from five or more years ago. None is so adorable and depressing as rationalizing in the unconscious hopes that any predators in the grass eyeing me for dinner at the very least aren’t the very same ones I acquiesced power to in the hopes of preventing “another 9/11.” Know you don’t see it as rationalization. Neither did I. This stuff is right out of the Church/Tower hearings. It IS “us.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/11/the-ultimate-goal-of-the-nsa-is-total-population-control

    I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree at this point. Naturally, my experiences are going to alter how I view these various entities. In fact, that was part of the idea. Manage my perception of life suddenly becoming Hell and wait for the fireworks. That is, yes, they managed to take me on a tour of some of the darkest portions of not only American history but to a large degree what they are up to now.

    But they did so in a manner that, in itself, is worrisome. Several Constitutionally protected rights violated. That’s horrorshow enough.

    Here are what I view as center to the legal/governmental question. Unfortunately, there are additional “perfect storm” overlaps that addressing the separation of powers and checks-and-balances questions will not address, such as the rise of the multinationals and population/resource issues.

    Essentially, anything is legal for the Executive branch during war, which we know is a permanent state:

    http://www.academia.edu/174818/Presidential_War_Powers_in_a_Never-Ending_War

    Including post-legalizing killing American citizens:

    http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2014/07/07/heres-how-it-is-legal-for-the-government-to-kill-an-american-citizen/

    Finally thanks again to everyone for the discussion. If you want to take a more fanciful walk than the bio blog linked above, this is where I work out, document, blow off steam, and most recently insult a professor of history:

    http://mccoyote.wordpress.com/

    Chris

  84. @ whoever

    Well, yes, we definitely can agree to disagree on this.
    However, I’d like to point out that while some of my objections are technologically pedantic (along the lines of general technological problems inherent to using Frey effect to hijack “internal monologue”) or based on rationality-assumptions regarding the hypothetical opponent (a rational or semi-rational entity with CIA-like resources could ruin a person’s reputation without something as complicated as “coordinated gaslighting”, but of course there is no reason to believe the hypothetical opponent is “rational”), at least one is “organizational”.
    It revolves around the problem of managing complexity inherent to maintaining both secrecy and an organized stalking/harassment campaign.
    I do have some experience with organizing human beings :) (not for purpose of stalking / harassment though) and have a general idea of how hard it is to get them to properly do anything even without additional complications such as a need for strict secrecy being added to the mix.

    And based on that experience, the complexity of something like a “top secret harassment campaign” seems mind-numbing.

    While I’m not ready to write a formal paper on “complexity limits” of organized harassment campaigns, existing “confirmed” cases of organized harassment (scientologists, anti-scientologist movement, Westbro critters, prolifers, Putin’s “Moving together movement” and their little “internet harassment brigade”, PETA…) were either not particularly secret from the start, or could not maintain secrecy for any appreciable amount of time (I think there’s an online registry of every PI that ever worked for scientology movement, lol).
    IMHO that suggests that organizing a top secret harassment campaign (even with some state cooperation) would require managerial feats that are generations ahead of modern-day capability of managerial “sciences”.

    @ Dale Allen

    You… use a “proper name” credit card ?
    Dude, that’s soooo:D

    No offense, just kiddin’

    However, if you really feel concerned about such issues, there are numerous options (usually prepaid) to address your card payment needs (both offline and online), ranging from “technically completely legal” to “kinda shady” (there are also completely illegal ones that are notoriously hard to prosecute, but we won’t discuss anything shadier than “kinda shady”, right ;)?…)

    I think if we’re all reading Peter’s stuff, we’re all flirtatious to some extent with (or gladly seduced by) the Machine God. I get there are those of us who are more zealous than others. My thing is that increasing efficiencies comes at some other cost, one that’s usually hidden elsewhere in the world or distributed in unjust ways. My bleeding postcolonial heart beats here. Machine hearts seem great, but I have a lot of doubts that I’ll be one of those who can afford it and the maintenance required to upkeep it, and I’m not sure what this means in terms of selection. Or rather, I know exactly what it means and I’d rather have a wiser group of elites choose who gets the hearts rather than the current basis of who can afford it.

    Well, I confess I’m biased since I’m one of those people who might have upgrades as mandatory part of my employment contract, when technological opportunity presents itself ;) kinda hope it won’t go the Rifter way ;)

    Also, my heart doesn’t bleed too much on postcolonial issues and fairness (mostly because many of the cultures that got hosed during colonial period were far from being what I could describe as “nice”, and unfairness is something I consider to be the default state of the known universe in general and biological “life” specifically).

    I mean, I’m no Randroid, but currently existing approach for distributing upgrades (and make no mistake, “education” and “vaccinations” are de-facto posthuman upgrades compared to “ancestral baseline” of human condition, despite said spoils of Machine God being low-tech and so common that we take them for granted) is fairly good (and in most civilized countries, even in USA :), it’s not entirely money-driven). It could use improvement, yep, but it’s not broken too bad.
    It could have been worse. It can, of course, become worse – but that’s hardly an inevitable outcome.

    I have been reading lately Montaigne and early modern philosophy in addition to the Taoist and Platonic stuff. I’m fascinated with how humans for a long time have had these rocky relationships with their new technologies and have been deeply pessimistic about the proposed benefits (e.g., Plato’s views about how writing diminishes remembering [an active process] in favor of reminding [a passive process] parallel what’s happening with what counts as knowing in light of web search engines, for example), despite/because those benefits being abundant and quantifiable results nearly always measured in utilitarian values.

    I guess that’s simply because technologies, at that time, were fairly humble things.
    Their offer was not immediately exciting or particularly profound (though it’s somewhat ironic that knowledge of Plato primarily perseveres through written records and not through oral tradition).

    Some of what we have now, by standards of Plato (or even, say, Kant) would probably count as literal magic (and yes, I am aware that kinda-vaccinations, kinda-steam engines and even kinda-electrical engineering, were all known at the times of Kant, but both the depth of knowledge and ability to leverage those things systematically and effectively was very limited).

    And it’s not just about utilitarian value.

    It’s also about insights philosophers of yore could barely dream of.

    I completely understand the optimism, since the woman I love will not live without current medical technology now. But technological development has, for the most part, been captured by short-sighted interests, and I think your insight concerning ‘social movements’ also applies here. To me, transcultural firms and franchise corporations are social movements, insofar as they not only create a particular social life for their employees and shareholders, but reinforce this through various rituals and punishments and memorization and propagation of ‘values’ and ‘principles’ and ‘core beliefs’. They are cultures, and they mean to spread themselves.

    Well, not necessarily all of them, but you are of course correct that to various extents corporations are social movements (good thing about “the corpses” is that you can leave one of them for another with little pain if you have objectively marketable skills and aren’t prone to strong attachments, an in some cases will be able to take a decent stash of cash on the way – usualy without running the risk of them trying to behead the “apostate” or set his/her shit on fire)

    But hey, this humble community of readers is pretty much a social movement too.

    A lot of things are social movements. Thus understanding ways of shutting them down is very useful.

    If science and engineering were even more secular—that is, divested from the particular pursuits of all the social and material engineers employed by these firms—perhaps we’d have less of an emphasis on the need for controlling and manipulating naturally produced machinery to conform to human specifications, and more of a change away from human needs towards larger systemic flourishing. I live in riparian forests here in the Southeast United States, and I am amazed at the kinds of natural technology all around me, but the amount of human technology that ends up as not immediately usable waste continues to build up. It will take a lot of human failures to catch up to the millions of years of natural failures that resulted in the recycling efficiencies of the forest floor.

    The larger biome is but a product of a whole load of self-centered evolved agents interacting, and not a single one of those living beings cares about some “larger than itself” superstructure… well, except maybe for commie spiders (Anelosimus eximus), but those are a rare exclusion.

    Natural selection is prone to making self-interested things and self-interested values.

    Humans just happen to fit this trend nicely.

    Sadly, science and engineering don’t have anyone better than humans to be performed by. Yet.


    But we’ll lose a lot in the worst failures if we continue tying up the engineering with the particular interests of this or that social movement. What ideas do you have?

    Ecosystems crash on their own all the time.

    Oxygen explosion killed off the majority of ancient biosphere (and the single-cellular photosynthesizing asshole didn’t give a damn about all the violent, oxidating poison they pumped into the atmosphere).

    How is us damaging an ecosystem fundamentally worse than some emergent slime-mold species doing the same (well, besides the obvious fact that we might get wiped out or crippled beyond repair due to damaging the parts of ecosystem we still depend on) ?

    As for Facebook, I mean that it reinforces narcissism, and narcissism is an easy way of habituating people to surveillance, since the whole point of being spectacular is to be seen.

    My personal opinion is that narcissism is/was always there, Fakebook and its ilk just make it particularly spectacular and visible to the entire world instead of just a few hapless neighbors.

    Personally, I used to derive some amusement from an obviously fake (yet ID and phone verified. Because magications ;) ) Facebook acc, but it kind of petered out quickly.

    You likely know this better than I do, but can’t the owners of the database also harvest all of the data about use—how long does it take for information to propagate through various kinds of social connections? what strings correspond with specific emotional exchanges? what images generate ‘buzz’? how does the length of a mouseover on a profile pic correspond with forwarding chat requests? &c—and create predictive social models to further refine, as you put it, ways of exterminating social movements?

    Well, not all of that data is currently collected by facebook specifically, but you can of course harvest that – and more – which doesn’t necessarily mean you will derive a useful, reliable model, let alone a fundamental insight.

    Heh, I guess I am both somewhat skeptical of social media (probably because I use it as an amusement engine and not a socialization medium) and had dealt with way too many colleagues who had way too much (misplaced) optimism for statistical predictions (I wonder why that is so common – my MBA had fairly decent stat courses), so my perspective might be a bit unfair.
    Still, I expect the predictions quality and scope of somedia driven modelling to be… consistently underwhelming.


    But, perhaps more key, these predictive models will also allow for producing social movements—forming the particular kind of Homo sociologicus needed by whichever firm pays for the word-shapers and image-mappers to create them. In other words, imagine a firm that creates entirely new religions even more refined and targeted to specific patterns interpellating the right people at the right time to give them what seems like an organic religious epiphany. If we say people are naturally disposed to religious belief through wayward pattern-matching skills, we can go quite far with deliberately forwarding those pattern matches. For once, effective altar calls without the overwhelming emotional manipulation! No more hassles with tents and loudspeakers, just the right words and musical harmonies broadcast directly to the implanted, bone-conducting media play devices of select people who’ve been daily primed for reception, all for a low fee.

    Of course, this isn’t really a change from how things have already been done, just with more refinement and efficiency in the doing. We already rig the elections; we won’t need to in the future. The people will vote freely, as freely as they will have been chosen to.

    But when everyone is super, no one is! The sheer commonality of “engineered sociums” would finally de-sacralize the process of forming a society, and that itself, IMHO, would be a nice thing.

    Besides, social systems based around various mystifications and violently enforced just-so-stories might actually become harder to sustain due to social effects of “advanced socioengineering knowledge”, much like “eternal engine building club” stops looking like an attractive endeavor after you discover thermodynamics, which in itself might be a change for good (how many societies you would consider “good” are based around an obscurantist mythos?).

    So, my thinking wasn’t so much about intelligence in terms of specific targets and (thought?)crimes and threats, but about the vast amount of information making surveillance much more effective for changing what it means to have, say, freedom of religion or freedom of speech. I’m not thinking in terms of the limitations or the ‘chilling effects’ that’s usually discussed. My philosophical concerns aren’t so much regarding how freedoms become limited, but how they become resituated entirely and ecologically, to where the (social, cultural, intellectual, logical) functions of religion or speech or science or just “having a say about one’s own life” are retooled into new landscapes in our shared mental geographies. The early modern period of Europe is one of those moments in human history where we can see how it happened, how entire cultures moved away (not all at once!) from latent Platonic or Aristotelian thinking to something entirely different and new through technologies and the discourses surrounding them.

    I guess I am not sufficiently attached to “old” ways to be worried about a systematic philosophical departure from them.
    I do happen to have some concerns about some particular possible events that I would subjectively consider unattractive (the “chilling effects” you mention and other such things), but that’s an engineering problem, not a fundamental philosophical concern.


    It has happened before. It will happen again. The more we have learned about control, the more we have seen how it goes wrong. Is there a way to practice wu wei when it comes to evolving humans (as in, directing their evolution)? Hard to say, but economically doing it has given more power to dastardly people and to naïve people. Neither redeems continuing it this way.

    I humbly disagree.

    I mean, while a raw, bare-bones economically driven approach is not something I advocate, current state of affairs is both considerably removed from a “raw economical one” and hardly worse than typical preceding historical state of affairs in regards to both the amount of “power” the naive wield and the amount of power the dastardly wield.

    Was there ever a time and a place where / when those two categories had less power than they have, oh, for instance, let’s say, in modern EU “on average” ?

  85. Oooh, I forgot to mark that part with “blockquotes” that was in response to Charles R!

    Let it be known that the part that starts after the credit card thing is definitely in response to him and not Dave. Shame on me. I need to proofread my stuff way, way better.

  86. @01: Applying rational motivations and effort efficiency to acts of large public/private bureaucracy doesn’t really work. First, they didn’t even really need to ruin my reputation. If, for example, Squidgate and fallout had not occurred, if I had, as intended had a Toronto vacation that coincided with Peter’s intended fan coffee klatsch, would I have realized anything about the past? No, in all likelihood I’d be, at best/worst, making the same assumptions you are now, that it’s impossible that the Deep State learned anything from the Pentagon Papers, etc. and has mastered discipline to the point that an in-the-know whistleblower would choose to flee to destination unknown and settle in Moscow. If they happen to fail with one ploy, they have dozens of backups and resources well beyond an individual’s ability to cope. Careful compartment of info coupled with, for example, CIA’s internal security that once employed a man written up for refusing to not wear swastika apparel, the Agency’s suicide rate, and the first thing they do, I am told, is to make sure they have evidence of a crime to hold over your head, and you can see why whistleblowers regarding the new COINTELPRO type efforts don’t get much coverage. And I haven’t even mentioned groupthink careful observation of personality types, surveillance, and psychological conditioning. This is again where data points may fail when there is a concerted effort, great funding, and organized body of knowledge at fingertips to prevent the real data being exposed.

    As for reputation, I think of it in part as not wasting opportunities. I’ll be damned if I know what actually earns someone covert Executive Action. Guessing evidence headed for a major news outlet.

    But it became quite clear, once I cleared away most of the disinfo and confusion tactics, that the desired result was violence and radicalizing. I wish I could say that there was no movement regarding the latter, and I’d term it as I didn’t leave my country, my country left me. They are fully supporting the needs and agendas of the multinationals. If you want to see some justification, think of it as trying to keep Atlas from shrugging and moving to China.

    But the larger point, because it’s clear that for whatever reasons there was some occasional help along the way…really…I’m not homeless per se, but feel as though I’ve been camping nonstop for four and a half years, is that it was all for nothing. The only way my claims could be validated would be by an insider, and as I’ve pointed out on my gripe-blog most recently, I have trouble imagining one of the leads, who was perhaps completing some training with me as the target, having second thoughts much less acting on them. We’re talking about people who intentionally set out to cause pain, and are responsible for among other things, a friend burned in a fire and the death of a pet. Just isn’t likely.

    So, whoever thought it might turn out otherwise, I want to quote something about “smartest man on the cinder” and “it’s a joke,” to borrow from Alan Moore for the second time today. Don’t mind pain when there’s a reason for it; hate MacGuffins.

  87. Well, while I’ll be first to admit arguments based on opponent rationality are fragile (and not only WRT large bureaucracies – smaller organizations have been taken over by people who were legitimately mad), the claim of ” dozens of backups ” makes me stand by my “implausibility through sheer complexity” claim

    Let me use a metaphor.

    Imagine an average bodybuilder-type dude. Not a “mound of flesh” kind of person, just someone who goes to the gym and has some fairly modest achievements (like, third place in some sportery ;) competition or something like that).

    Now imagine said bodybuilder meets a guy who claims, quite sincerely, that he once saw a person lifting 75 000 kg.
    Either there must be some other explanation of his new friend’s experience (one that doesn’t involve The Hulk) or there is a guy somewhere who uses Space Shuttle as exercise equipment.

    That’s the degree of implausibility I find in claims of top-secret multi-layered, highly-redundant, technologically complicated operations involving tens (possibly hundreds) of field personnel (and tens, if not hundreds, as remote support/analysts/troubleshooters/oversight in the “back office”) operations being successfully executed in modern populated areas.

    It’s a complexity management feat that, from my humble experience, is orders of magnitude above what modern management approaches can pull off.

    Unless the entity in question has AI (the “sci-fi strong” kind of AI, not the “oi fuck! I am stuck between a lamp post and a crumpled plastic bag! Halp meeee!” kind of AI), some other tech that is literal decades ahead of its time, or “supernatural” powers, that is.

    As for multinationals, well… I don’t think there is a distinct “agenda of the multinationals” since every one of them is definitely a very special snowflake. Also, how would risky, expensive high-tech harassment of simple citizens and modest writers support the multinationals ? (well, driving people insane might be good for pharamas, I’ll give you that ;) …)

    Cheap labor is something they already have (and at some point ‘bots will be cheaper than cheapest Chinese sweatshop, thus obsoleting away “labor” and “proletariat” as we know them)

  88. Well, I never mentioned even hundreds of agents. In fact, I don’t think it was anywhere near that many, though December 09 to March 10 felt like a gauntlet. Keep in mind this was also Jeremy Scahill’s neighborhood and I didn’t think at the time that they were much there for me at all.

    IDed only a handful, really. ‘Janus,’ ‘Balding,’ and Anthony, plus a few walk-ons like Jimmy who said he preferred not to say which he was with just before the Squidgate trial, really a swell guy who seemed puzzled, then a few nameless. Apart from that, part of the game, right out of the COINTELPRO hearings, is pitting two innocent parties against each other. There’s lots of that. I try to be careful who I call a spook, though many people who have had their brains zapped with microwaves {see Donald Friedman who actually got the FOIA from Army on the tech but also believed they disintegrated his shoes, as well as detainee Shaker Aamer}, slipped an alkaloid {a few of CIA’s MKULTRA subprojects were paying magician John Mulholland to write a manual and teach agents how to do that and then there’s the pistol adapter that fires drugged darts without the target even being aware of having been hit discussed in the Church/Tower hearings—all of that from the 1950’s…imagine where it is now} can no longer tell. In that regard, as much as I’ve recovered, I suppose I’d have to call that lucky.

    PSYOPs are a real thing. The late Michael Hastings reported on DoD using psychological operations on Senators visiting Iraq in Rolling Stone.

    As for 75,000 kg, just a matter of spending and it’s not their money, it’s the American taxpayers’. See, this is yet another facet. Government agencies want an increase in funding every year but if they don’t spend it, they don’t get that.

    Essentially, the game is to do the dirty work and get into the cushy private spook world where clientele becomes large corporations.

    Again, Clarke’s Third Law. Decades ahead of what? Where your average American thinks it is? The Frey effect was discovered many, many decades ago and yet hardly anyone I know has ever heard of it. Why? Acoustic psycho-correction tracked by CIA since the early 80s. Likewise. This is partially where the idea that it’s a-cast-of-thousands comes from. That and. as I said, microwaves and drugs.

    I’m just going to have to disagree on the multinationals. Look, I’m not saying that they all get together annually…though you could I suppose make a case for Bilderberger…but underhandedness for the benefit of power doubtful? Dude, that’s human history in a nutshell, from Shamans to Hitler to P.T. Barnum to Manson to Congress every day.

    Love the 1800’s quote here:

    http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/07/counter-intelligence-spying-deters-democracy/

    “If a system of espionage is established, the country will swarm with informers, spies, and all the odious reptile tribe that breeds in the sunshine of despotic power.”

    The WaPo expose on Top Secret America set the homeland security budget at over $1T annually. That’s a lot of 75,000kg dumbells to be lifted.

    Really, there is no end to articles on every kind of corruption within the intelligence community. I know it’s easier for me having seen some of it firsthand to believe and think that it’s worse than one might imagine, but it’s all over:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/21/government-agents-directly-involved-us-terror-plots-report

    In any case, Pete made his point clear: his tech appendices in the backs of his books relate to defending against criticism. I will add that they just don’t care. Wish they were as reasonable as your average person expects them to be.

    “Guandolo also believes that CIA director John Brennan is a secret Muslim working as a Saudi double agent.”

    http://gawker.com/nsa-fbi-spied-on-muslim-american-leaders-including-ex-1602286684

    And this is who joins the FBI:

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/05/13/fbi-shooter-had-stormy-record-officer/7zJ1ha78Z0SpfDey0PBuJJ/story.html

    It’s not Bones, not 24, not James Bond, not Jack Ryan…it’s more like The Godfather and Sin City.

    And occasionally The Prisoner.