The tools are in place now

I wasn't surprised by the NSA scandal n the usual way; so far I'm surprised no program of automatic speech and text analysis to trigger listening/reading by analysts has been exposed so far. As I understood it, such a thing was widely believed to have been in place for years.
The BND does probably something quite similar as the NSA does, or does it in foreign countries in order to let others spy on us so the BND doesn't violate our laws itself. Either way; I remember an incident IIRC in Slovenia where a tolerated BND operation was uncovered by chance. The BND was listening on data flowing through a telecom hub there IIRC. The job offer pages of the BND have been full of electronics and telecom technology expert positions for years.

The whole stuff thus doesn't come as much of a surprise to me, but a recent article in Slate reminded me strongly of what I wrote years ago:

And yet, Jenkins thinks that the U.S. government’s counterterrorism policies—which he’s helped influence over the decades—have gone too far. “What we have put in place,” he said, “is the foundation of a very oppressive state.”

Almost six years ago, I wrote
(...) our reaction to these small threats includes digging our own grave by preparing for an authoritarian or even dictatorial regime at home.

2010-02 The Bundesverfassungsgericht has spoken

2010-10 Digging the grave II

2011-06 The counter-terrorism lie

2011-12 Salami slicing doesn't seem to work in Germany any more

My position is that the benefits of such authoritarian tools are negligible in comparison to the risks (it's no surprise the NSA did not provide any claims about specific terror plots foiled by its activities that weren't debunked already).

You simply don't put your head into the guillotine, even if you think that the blade won't come down for a few more minutes. It would be stupid.

It is stupid to build up the tools of oppression merely to satisfy a desire for the subjective feeling that something is being done about some hyped-up problem. We can make do without, and in fact we would be better off if we used the approaches that really work - and cost less.
Technology-driven intelligence work has been exaggerated for a long time, while HumInt -actual spy work- is widely considered to be very much neglected (by Western intelligence services). Likewise, police forces are too forced to show presence instead of allocating resources to investigation, and policing efforts in the internet are a story of seemingly never-ending humiliations. A few computer-savvy civilians can easily humiliate state or federal police by doing a better job at shutting down child pornography websites with notices to hosting companies with an effort of just a few hours. Politicians' intent; more powers to the police.


edit: A German '07 report about the Slovenja thing.

1 comment:

  1. The famous historian Ibn Khaldun neatly summed it up that every state needs a core of people who exercise command and a group of followers willing to execute the violence.
    How do we define violence in an age of extreme information connection? What is control? What state do we want to support?

    The current states are all scared and clueless (be it the PRC or the USA). At such times people usually do chose some kind of controlism as long as they lack vision and understanding (and the Arabian Spring civil wars will make the drive for controlism much stronger). These are tools that can be used for oppression or rather tools that enable control mechanisms. The latest revolutions and wars all showed what effects this unprecedented human data connection can have and what misuse is possible.
    I'm not against security measures to guard against misuse of our communication infrastructure. It's our socio-economoic and political structure that comes under debate by these enabling devices. Our administered way of old to discuss and solve problems is impacted by a new outlet with the promise to create better common solutions. It's the development from citizen to netizen. You can see a looming dictatorship or some old guys who harness money and angst.