It needs to be clearly stated at the outset that intelligence gathering, espionage and counterintelligence are not modern concepts. They are centuries old dating back to at least 16th and 17th centuries when commercial and military advantage was desired between competing adversaries. While war has been (and remains) the sport of kings, few modern kings elect to wear a crown and combat is increasingly designed around militia based strategies. 21st century ‘combat’ is no longer strictly a military theatre, and (in my opinion) has formally involved commercial tactics since the US-Russia cold war – say the end of World War 2. But the contents of this soap box script are not about history.
The mechanics of the Snowden affair are not new by any stretch, only the actors and agents are. On face value, the Snowden revelations do 3 things. 1) Provide some summary details on the operations of data gathering of US intelligence, 2) provide an opportunity for the US intelligence community to test (and improve) its defences by provocation and 3) provide an opportunity for lobbyist/self interest groups to change or seed in additional US security laws. All the muppet media outlets are focused on 1), while the intent is surely to test 2) and open up 3). Declarations of war are no longer a necessity, and if we think for a second that war is for historical significance only, then we are truly a stupid species. The face of war evolves every century, and this one is no different. This is a fascinating issue involving complex networks of 21st century actors and agents, based on centuries old objectives. It is remains purely gamesmanship.
Without declaring a war, the Snowden situation (like others before it) is now an exercise opportunity for the US to test its machinery and the multitude of agency relationships, including those with sovereign allies. A great deal of money has been spent on the US military to become one of the largest employers in the world and opportunities to justify these expenses are reducing. Hence, this issue is bittersweet and can be considered a test.
1) Assess the effects on global public perception of actors and agents involved
2) Assess the opportunity provided as an act of conflict (as not strictly at war)
3) Assess the effects on what remains of the US law making process
Finally, I will introduce a fourth item
4) The effects on participants – innocent collateral damage and target agents (countermeasures)
Having been personally involved in large corporations that live and feed on large amounts of complex relational information, I considered the tag line ‘BigData’ as muppet fodder when it first hit the tabloids. Nothing has changed this perception since big data and data analysis has existed for centuries. If the intent of ‘BigData’ is to get your information onto a remote public server, then this constitutes espionage on a global scale. But surely only the stupid would fail to see this ending up another statistic in support of Darwin’s theory. Data has always had commercial and strategic value, and collecting it provides massive advantage to those with access to analyse it. On this score, BigData sets you up to fail, but it is these recent revelations that would have some committed folks feeling sick in their stomachs that their legitimate operation has been compromised from the outset.
The 4 sections of discussion above will provide a complete assessment of the complex network while answering the only questions worth asking (from previous) –
1) Why would users think they are entitled to secrecy and protection of the information they post on these public and commercial platforms?
2) Why would the NSA assume any of the information gathered from an unsecured public network would be highly classified in nature (except by accident, incompetence or negligence)
3) Why would the US government think that sophisticated, highly dangerous criminals would use public network utilities (like those in PRISM) if intended to harm the State?
4) What effect will publically disclosing the NSA use of this low level effectively “dumb” information have on the members of PRISM on the various agents involved in the game of secrecy?
For just about everybody, the tentacles of intrusion might be pervasive but we are left with little or no choice having accepted the role of currently available technology, however it might be compromised. This applies to commercially available hardware and software we buy from vendors and install for our personal use. At least we are better informed on how we might share our own private information in future. Better yet would be to force more intelligent public and political debate over security disclosures and initiate development of alternatives, hence perpetuating the commercial cycle of creative destruction and destructive creation.
In this day and age where muppet media factories are so blatantly paid mouthpieces for the promotion of private interest groups, the evolution of collective intelligence is rapidly retrograding … and that is by design. It is muppet fodder.
To be continued at some point.