WHY will people all over the world protest next monday: Febr. 11 online (see: https://thedaywefightback.org/ ) against mass electronic surveillance on all phone conversations, Internet and mobile phones; by most nation states governments and their security services?
That surveillance and supervision is not only done on citizens, businesses and public servants in the USA, but all over the world. And not only by the NSA and GCHQ but by China, Russia, Sweden, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Iran, Egypt, Syria and most other nation states. This mass indiscriminate snooping is done because they can on internet and mobile networks. But it is not only violating privacy and human rights of billions of people each day, most of whom are unsuspected. But if we do not stop the mass surveillance it will not only ruin the Internet and telecom networks but far worse things will happen. In the following opinion article/ open letter to members of the NL ‘Parlement’ and the general public, I have tried to explain what is at stake: police states destroying ‘civil society’ using networks.
Government: Stop Dragnet Surveillance
(This opinion article appeared earlier in the Dutch language on this blog and was published on 7 Febuary 2014 at http://www.netkwesties.nl/655/overheid-stop-sleepnet-afluisteren.htm)
In August, the first revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden where made public on the large scale electronic communication interception by NSA et al. The media attention is mainly focussed on the shocking and hitherto unimaginable scale and depth of invasion of privacy that the eavesdropping on citizens, businesses and governments around the world by NSA, GCHQ, FBI and CIA have implemented with the help of computer networks.
You can safely assume that Everything you do Anytime Anywhere (EAA ) is registered, if you cellphone is turned on or off. And whether you are online or not. For about 6 billion people, suspected or not, that the dragnet registered information is stored in several huge data centers since several years. And for the next decades it will be saved there and is analyzable by the security forces of the USA and several EYE-x countries.
My technical friends and I, and the telecommunications companies and Internet service providers (who thought they did their duty by their legal requirement to provide security services with court ordered traffic data (metadata) having fulfilled obligations in the event of formal suspects), are shocked by the scale, technical intrusion by black hat hacking tricks in many cell phones, computers and network devices, and even in chips, are implanted in order to be able to get at all data NSA et al want. Without the security forces, military and police abiding by any law or constitution of any country.
So a lot of noise and anger of politicians, such as when the interception where revealed (and admitted) of government leaders like Frau Merkel, PM Schröder, EU negotiators, members of the U.S. Congress, etc. is a useless ceremony and ritual dance. EAA = All info of Everyone. Yes including you. Does this message sink in?
The Rule of Law in theory and in practice
Probably not, because the soothing messages of most governing legal and political institutions – in denial- do project the image everything in Geheimdiensten and courts still goes through ‘due processes’, as was done with paper files for hundreds of years. Snooping with spies and informers; classic detective processes of information gathering; the according to our laws suspicious show patterns and suspect people are filtered out; arrest orders transfered by warrant to investigative services and police, detain suspects, public presentation of the case by DA office & defense lawyers and then judgement by jury & the judge. Lawmakers are our government and parliament. Everything according to the separation of the three mentioned powers. Plus a process of updating laws and adaptation to technology use, changing social standards and moral values. ” Yes, of course there are mistakes made by officials under great pressure, but if for example we broaden their powers or legitimize ‘de facto’ modes-operandi through legislation, then identifying and capturing criminals and terrorists will be a lot more efficient and processes will run much better.” That is the image that the institutions still project.
Unfortunately, the legally trained, but not technically skilled, digibete justice people do not know that there is a totally different security and law -enforcement system, bypassing many formal steps with ICT systems, working the world over, which they can not even imagine. That new surveillance and law enforcement system collapses the Trias Politica and is illegal.
Example is the Weltfremd bill under preparation by the NL Ministies of Justice , Interior and Defense, that will allow our gov’t secret service (AIVD) and miltary secret service (MIVD) to tap (now explicitly prohibited by law) fixed wire Internet and mobile data, unfocused (i.e. by dragnets). And to follow people and save data. As GCHQ (UK ) and NSA (USA ) are already doing in cooperation with the FBI , and their subcontractors . Adoption of that NL law would be in my eyes a historic and disastrous mistake and just the opposite of what the public want to stop in the USA : mass unwarranted surveillance.
The general public is not interested yet at what has happened behind the screens and computer screens
Reaction in the general public is rather stoic. I.e. most of my baby boom age group, shrug their shoulders at the news about the disclosed files from Snowden in the NL press (newspaper NRC-Handelsblad). They say: ” Was already known ?” and: “Quite useless, because the real criminals and terrorists probably already know that they are being monitored electronically, and will therefore use clever other communication and coordination channels. And people who do nothing wrong according to the law have nothing to hide, right?” Moreover, most people do not care much for the tiny amount of privacy that is still left after the many cameras in operation, bonus cards and everything companies have been collecting about us in exchange for discounts (without any protest from consumers) or “because they are better able to serve us”. It is amazing how much information about our life is gathered by companies for commercial purposes, without any way to correct or clean faulty /outdated data. The nation state or corporations, there seems to be no stopping to their hunger to know all about us.
Yes all people, even those innocent in their own eyes, HAVE something to hide. Indeed , what happened , without us knowing or wanting it , is very threatening for everyone . The frightening threat of NSA et. al. is not in the scale and depth of the privacy invading eavesdropping, but in what happens or can happen next with the gathered and stored information. And by whom, for what purpose.
The ‘wrong turn’ which was taken by the Security-Industrial Complex (SIC) after 9/11
Based on public sources and conversations I had with a number of American and British whistleblowers, we can conclude the NSA and their collegues directly after 9/11 have taken a wrong turn in their zeal to catch terrorists, criminal conspirators with suicidal zealots and drug traffickers.
Binney and Drake explained that initially the interception of telephone calls and after the NSA understood the power of the Internet, also the interception of social media and email, took place rather focussed on the basis of suspicions or extracted patterns of associations between selected groups of people. There was quite a lot of tapping, with permission by the FISA Court, and by data handed over by operators and service providers after tapping orders. But then ‘ movement patterns ‘ of groups of people from these data were filtered and extracted for more close zooming into (‘targeting’ ). And the rest of the meta – data was cleared from the files. Especially those of the private U.S. citizens if they were not connected with foreign suspects. And then the due legal processes were taken step by step as I described above .
I understood that by this method long before 9/11 the group led by Bin Laden was spotted. But the generals showed no interest in them. The top brass reaction of the generals of the NSA was: “a couple of bearded men in tents in the desert can not threaten the USA”. The leadership of those same generals took the decision shortly after 9/11 took the turn to tap everything & everyone (EAA), instead of filtering, extracting and then throwing away the rest. And because the computer systems did not exist yet to analyze all data, they decided to save and store the collected info of all citizens, businesses and governments on the planet. Such bureaucratic control reaction (registrate all) has happened several times before in history without saving the respective empires from decline and collapse.
The assignment of guilt (NL: schuldvraag) has changed
In the cellars of the Escorial palace in Spain you can be visit the archive that the king of Spain had ordered to collect by priests on almost all Dutchmen who ‘might’ be disobedient to his empire. Similarly, the STASI had kept track of what almost all of the East German citizens did in a miles long archive, by records kept by…their own friends and neighbors. It did not save the Habsburg Empire and the German fear-based regime. If you can see all, it does not mean that you can interpret and understand all (*). Similarly, the NSA system appears to still not working. All kinds of recent attacks in the USA were not noticed. Innovative completely unexpected actions can not be searched by computers. The global SIC system of the x-Eyes countries is very very expensive and does not deliver what was promised .
What has this wrong turn to mass surveillance of EAA , e.g. 6 billion mobile phone calls a day, delivered then ? Power to the security – industrial complex SIC).
Prof. Eben Moglen explains in more detail how that happened in his must-see historic lectures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCUJn-5By14 It are 4 lectures, visible and written down at http://snowdenandthefuture.info/PartI.html etc.
( 1 ) Not us, but they decide whether you are innocent or not. We now are all suspects and target, whatever we do and wherever we are. Fear of ‘the knock on the door’ and purges are going to get a grip on us, so that we remain obedient. Also for the innocent, or perhaps just them in particular, because humiliating them is easy and creates fear! Mace the students, beat those who are already down. The metadata files are fairly easy to manipulate by the services .
( 2 ) Is there any reason, mistaken or not, to zoomed in on you, then it is up to them to let you picked up , tried and punished . Without anything you can do about it. NOW this is already the case in our country. I understood from people in the NL judiciary , that if the prosecution brings a suspect to court at the instigation of the NL secret service, the defense lawyer receives a highly filtered extract from the surveillance data. That is in order not to disclose the sources inside and via the secret services and not to make them traceable. But the filtering also is that the defense of the accused can not prove “innocent” from the data provided. A ‘dilemma for the judge’ this is called. I call that bypassing ‘making the defense and the judge superfluous’. And therefore you are now in fact outlawed by the SIC digital information. defense against them is fruitless.
( 3 ) In the USA they already have gone in practice one step further. To prevent this type of ‘dilemma’ lawsuits are ‘fabricated’ with hard to rebut evidence, driven by confirmation bias, that does not refer in any way to the NSA , FBI or CIA. The Anti-Narcotics DEA , which by the way is also active in our country, has recently confessed to handle such “parallel constructions” (cases with evidence fabrication) and “taint teams” (reputation destruction teams) are employed.
( 4 ) Businesses profile you are already in great detail, about your buying behavior and all the things that leave digital traces. But the SIC dragnet file contains so incredibly much more about your personal activities and relationships with others, that your life is completely “sucked” out of you. Yes , not only your porn preferences. Everything. Parking, bus tickets, with whom you talked & where. Books you read, websites you are browsing. Video camera’s in the train, pictures you take and show to others. And all these things are interconnected and correlated to make risk profiles to anticipate your possible actions. To distinguish between possible dangerous individuals and those who need no second look. Many of you will have experienced that if you behave a tiny bit different from the average sheeple, you get ‘special attention’.
5. IMHO the next steps are even more awful. They can ruin and kill many people, tribes and communities. Command & control hierarchies in fascism and many other -ism’s (that believe that they have a closed, total and finished view on the world and how it should behave) have difficulty imagining and coping with complexity, non-linear and dynamic uncertainty and diversity. The worldview they have can not absorb the huge complexity of Reality. Instead of adapting and extending their models, they start to simplify Reality to be able to control it (Ashby’s Law of requisite variety). This is charmingly called “bringing order”, “cleansing” or “purification”. They will then start to isolate and destroy (kill): unpredictables (risky), imperfection, incompleteness, sources of unexpectedness.
Moreover, ‘psychological profiling’ estimates are made about your ideas and the motives inside your head. Which can be assessed by governments around the world as ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Journalists, demonstrators and activists have recently been confronted with governments that do not tolerate contradiction. That means “Think Police” that judge people by their conformance to the views of the leadership of a country. This certainly is not the way democracies are expected to work. What we had in mind in the development of the Internet, that cyberspace is between the ears of men, where governments have no jurisdiction, now no longer applies.
Please understand that I am not on the side of destructive activists and criminals. No, but even those should be allowed to defend themselves, how annoying the police and prosecutors sometimes find this. Invest then at least on the quality of detectives and police officers in the field, rather than cutting their numbers and budgets. If at least three political parties in the Netherlands have the word ‘ democracy ‘ in their name, I’m expecting that they will not allow democracy to vanish.
What I describe in ( 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.) is a ‘police state with a centrally guided dictatorship, struggling with new information technology’. With oppression that is morally, politically, economically and socially. We do not want that!
Or will we roll into that it via smartphone App’s, Internet and social media simply digibetically naive as we are? Civilization is only a thin layer of veneer . It takes hundreds of years to bring it on. Democratic states have even not been established in many countries. But that layer of veneer is gone in a moment.
Stop the SIC dragon !
So: government stop mass information dragnets. Keep the three powers of the Trias Politica separated. And MPs in the NL: reject the proposed law to extend current eavesdropping powers of AIVD an MIVD to fixed line telephony, Internet and mobile data. And if they already do that, make them stop it.
Also, it can not hurt to expand the NL secret service & security inspection board with computer- and telecommunications experts who can that verify what he secret services report down to the data record level of their databases. And who can check on unwarranted and ‘indiscriminate mass surveillance’ activities. Tapping electronic communication flows indeed did grow into grotesque scales without lawmakers and judges having been aware of that. Because it is technically possible they’ve done it, without being visible. Now it is time we cut back on that with the help of people who really know how the communication systems and digital infratructures work.
Emergent behaviour of networked people as an unstoppable life form
Fortunately I see many initiatives worldwide by creative and technically skilled young people who have begun to smartuse networks together, to learn quickly and to create value by P2P sharing networks and jobs in an open way, in freedom. Yes they express and discuss ideals and beliefs for the future. They have started reconstruction of the Civil Society, independent businesses and national governments, by Internet Freedom. They do not want to live in fear and submission, but to build sustainable networked systems used by local clusters of people with very diverse skills and knowledge connected.
These young Digerati have started in local context communities to work on constructive processes of improvement helped by long distance internet and mobile peer-to-peer (P2P) communication. They make things that are imperfect and incomplete but learn so fast that those that do copying can not keep up with them. They connect and combine to produce synergy (the Soul of Internet), often unexpected like lifeforms do :-) And maybe even the magical Sampo evolves !
What can we DO ?!
1. Join the online demonstration and activities on Tuesday February 11 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/06/nsa-fighting-back-against-surveillence-state has described the why and how. The website to look at is https://thedaywefightback.org/
2. I hope and pray that all these action are non-violent, although the media (news memes get attention) and the state security forces (shows their function) love violent and even better: bloody, action. Do not be provoked.
3. What dictatorships and the now outdated hierarchies hate and fear is DISOBEYING people. Civilians, workers in companies and civil servants (even in the police and military) have the RIGHT to disobey Wicked Orders. That is the core idea of Gene Sharp his non-violent FDTD handbook for activists used the world over. Read it and use it widely to stop & fight the Dagon and then to create a living connected and cooperating world.
Jaap van Till, Connectivist
Dedicated to my friend Hans van Ispelen, who died last week. May he RIP.