How much do you trust your government to do the right thing with your privacy and your freedom of speech? British citizens are finding out now that the answer to that question should be, “not very much”! It seems that a super-secret British spy agency is publishing a menu of options they have to provide politicians to hack into the social media accounts of citizens in the name of national security.
I learned about this first listening to Glenn Beck and have found creditable confirmation on a number of other websites. You can see Glenn’s comments on this issue here. Glenn Greenwald has an article here with a full description of the British government’s Internet capabilities. I’ve included the list here verbatim:
• “Change outcome of online polls” (UNDERPASS)
• “Mass delivery of email messaging to support an Information Operations campaign” (BADGER) and “mass delivery of SMS messages to support an Information Operations campaign” (WARPARTH)
• “Disruption of video-based websites hosting extremist content through concerted target discovery and content removal.” (SILVERLORD)
• “Active skype capability. Provision of real time call records (SkypeOut and SkypetoSkype) and bidirectional instant messaging. Also contact lists.” (MINIATURE HERO)
• “Find private photographs of targets on Facebook” (SPRING BISHOP)
• “A tool that will permanently disable a target’s account on their computer” (ANGRY PIRATE)
• “Ability to artificially increase traffic to a website” (GATEWAY) and “ability to inflate page views on websites” (SLIPSTREAM)
• “Amplification of a given message, normally video, on popular multimedia websites (Youtube)” (GESTATOR)
• “Targeted Denial Of Service against Web Servers” (PREDATORS FACE) and “Distributed denial of service using P2P. Built by ICTR, deployed by JTRIG” (ROLLING THUNDER)
• “A suite of tools for monitoring target use of the UK auction site eBay (www.ebay.co.uk)” (ELATE)
• “Ability to spoof any email address and send email under that identity” (CHANGELING)
• “For connecting two target phone together in a call” (IMPERIAL BARGE)
Now it would be great fun if you were computer hacker employed by the British or American governments monitoring the Internet activity of groups like Al Qaeda or ISIS. After all, they love to post videos of their exploits against the West there, videos for example of them blowing up American Soldiers or lopping off the heads of Christians and Jews and plopping them on spikes! Wouldn’t it be great if instead of going to the intended video posted by the terrorists, you would instead be misdirected to a video of an old lady power walking or Afghani Muslims humping a goat before getting blown up by a JDAM laser guided missile? I think it would be hilarious, but that is not likely to happen given the current political climate.
Instead of the above scenario, imagine something a little more realistic. Say you are a conservative blogger who doesn’t like Barack Obama much. Perhaps you don’t like the way he plays golf as the world burns; he sides with Palestinian terrorists instead of a free and democratic Israel; he allows Russia to run amok in Ukraine while shooting down Malaysian airliners; he invites millions of undocumented immigrants to flood the border while selling guns and other weapons to the drug coyotes who are bringing them over; he’s destroyed the economy with Obamacare; allowed an innocent Marine to rot in a Mexican prison and allowed his IRS and Justice Departments to target people who don’t agree with him. Because you have a dream of an idealized America with freedom for all, you’ve taken it upon yourself to remark on the many arrogant missteps of your government in your $5 blog and now you’ve raised the attention of the NSA, whose boss is the very president who you’ve been criticizing all this time, and he doesn’t like it.
So now the NSA or its British equivalent if you happen to be a Brit, has a solution to shut you up. They can use government paid hackers they retain on staff to hack your computer and implant hours and hours of child porn, while the FBI or IRS fabricate a reason to get a search warrant for your house and computer. And bam, you’re sitting in front of a judge and a jury with your government provided defense attorney who is late for his golf game with the president defending yourself against a child porn rap while all the time maintaining your innocence. Scary huh? And your only defense to a skeptical jury is, “I don’t look at that crap! I have no idea how it got there!”
Nice huh! And it’s not out of the way too much to imagine is it. See, when it’s just you, who is going to believe that you don’t look at child porn, or that you’ve hatched a scheme to overthrow the government or that you are cheating on your wife or whatever. You’re just you. In the meanwhile the government has all the legal machinery available to them in the form of any number of alphabet soup type agencies with which to go after you: i.e. the IRS, the DOJ, the NSA, the FBI. You’re bad and you’re fellow citizens will see it and you’ll be thrown into jail. You’re a nut who needs to locked up. It’s a communist dictator’s dream.
The only solution to this problem in my view is for everyone to get a gun and a blog and start writing. They can’t get us all, and when they go after one of us, they go after all of us. The IRS may have destroyed all of those emails and hard drives, and the DOJ won’t press any charges against the Lois Lerner types, but then the confidence in government will never be the same as long as the average citizen is an enemy of the state just for exercising his freedom of speech. Eventually the American Spring will happen and the end of progressive government will come to an end. The faster, the better. Our founders gave us a great, accountable, limited form of government. Progressives continue to try to take that away. They say the Constitution is too limiting, it’s a list of negative rights, whatever that means. We’ve got to send a message to our government that we reject being spied on and monitored, or free speech rights being curtailed and if they keep it up, we the people are going to throw them out of office and into jail.
In Great Britain, news organizations like News of the World, owned by billionaire media tycoon Rupert Murdoch went down in flames when it was discovered that reporters were listening illegally to phone conversations in order to get the scoop on dirt in the lives of celebrities so they could print their stories first in their latest editions. You can find information about that scandal here. People went to jail for that and News of the World was forced to shutter their doors. If’ it’s illegal for journalists to threaten the privacy of citizens, then why is OK for the government to do it. It’s not, and western governments need to know it’s not OK.
Who do they think they are anyway?
Now comes the conspiracy theories! Imagine if the News of the World scandal was a made up scenario by the government to punish conservative media. It cost Murdoch and friends serious loss of reputation, money and people went to jail over it. How do you prove your government sabotaged your media organization? What if Sen. Weiner’s Twitter account was actually hacked in order to shut him up for who knows what reason? See, there is a slippery slope developing here.
By the way, if you suspect you will eventually be caught doing something illegal on the Internet, maybe you’re running an illegal scam, or you’re in charge of an online gambling ring, or the aforementioned child porn racket, just hire a conservative blogger to create a cover story for you. And save copies of everything. You may have a plausible alibi when you’re case comes to trial!
When the government and thieves alike have the power to hack into your accounts through the Internet or listen to your phone calls, no one is safe from people with nefarious intent. If someone doesn’t like you, and has these tools at their disposal, they can destroy you, your reputation, your life.
I suspect the private sector will be coming with a solution for this. Phones will have anti-listening or jamming software on them so that no one can listen in, Internet capable computers will have anti-spoofing software included, and there will be online reputation protection services cropping up dedicated to defending you in case you’re computer is hacked.
The bottom line is there is a lot of awful things happening on the Internet. Lots of great things too. The fact is that in a free society, information needs to be freely transmitted, the good with the bad. That is the marketplace of free ideas. When that capability is shuttered, bad things happen. It is better to tolerate the bad, then let the good be silenced.
In a free society, when the truth is given an equal footing, the truth always wins. That is the concept of the Free Marketplace of Ideas.
Crossposted from the American Millennium Online