Let’s kick this off with full disclosure – or a complete lack of it as the case may be in my particular situation. I signed a non-disclosure agreement with the United States of America back in my days as a Cryptologic Technician. I worked for a little bunch known as the Naval Security Group. We were essentially a branch office of the NSA. I take that oath seriously.I am subject to a pre-publication review. If you read it carefully you will decide it’s indecipherable (pun intended) as concerns what I do in my writing. In its most oppressive interpretation I would have to submit every blog post about national security and the military because I once was in the military and had access to secrets. In its most generous interpretation I only have to submit if I plan on using anything classified/based on classified material. They will clear it/down it in 30 days. Makes for a timely blog, no?
“But you talk about this stuff all the time!” True. And if you can find a single thing I’ve ever said, or written, that isn’t on at least half-a-dozen government websites (the official ones at CIA and NSA in particular), has been released by the White House in order to increase their prestige, or found in the Navy’s own recruiting materials, I’ll gleefully turn myself in at the nearest Federal Pokey. Add to that the simple fact that I’ve been gone for almost 1/4 of a century and the technologies have obviously changed in that time. As have the tactics. And the military, and… I have been repeatedly shocked at the amount of stuff that has been declassified by the government from that era. But the “spook” gene lives on and I will not talk about what we did where and when. That stuff is under lock and key forever. Anything I write as a novelist or as a blogger is 100% made up. I take great care in crafting things that adhere to a fine line of what is out in the public. Nobody could read anything I’ve ever said in public or printed and determine specifics that would damage security. I have not, and I will not, discuss classified material that can cause damage to the people of this nation. Nor will I disclose sources and methods. I’ll leave that to the White House. They seem to be really good at it the last few years.
Now, are we all clear on what I will and will not talk about? Excellent. Read on to see my feelings about the latest NSA scandal.
First, I think Mr. Snowden needs to be prosecuted. If he can prove that the whistle blower statutes didn’t protect him and he could only help freedom and democracy by fleeing to China, Russia, Cuba, Ecuador, or wherever he lands, then he gets a pass-go. But in my little universe you shrug on the big-boy pants and throw the rock right at Goliath. And you stand there and take the lumps if you fail. You don’t run off to totalitarian societies and break your silence there.
Second – there is no easy way to put this: I’d like to kick his butt. Every time some festering, slimy, nitwit does this kind of thing and reveals classified material it hurts the people collecting it in an attempt to protect the nation. Snowden may have had the purest of intentions, but he brought files with him. Files cause trouble. Why? Because when you run to Putin’s Russia, or Communist China and they take the files from you it gives them an insight into what your agency does and how they do it on a day-to-day basis. This jerk is no different than the Walker family back in the 1980s. They damaged the United States. Snowden has as well.
Just an aside, I see no difference between Snowden and Obama in regard to their hurting national security. Both run their mouths to the press about classified material if it makes their point. Obama is far more damaging, he leaks things to make himself look good. No defense, no excuse. Mr. President, keep your pie hole closed when there is intelligence value in keeping quiet. He’s not the first politician to leak, but it is so egregious in this administration that it is physically painful to witness. He (Obama) has a responsibility to be quiet as well.
So, now that I’ve let you know how I feel about him not following the whistle blower route and instead running to our enemies, I’ll discuss how I feel about the NSA and its current collection of … everything in the universe.
Back in my day you could guarantee yourself a trip to see the commanding officer by spying on United States citizens. This would be the visit with ‘The Old Man” that most likely ended your career. And if you really had put your foot in the thing, you’d probably lose rank, lose pay, lose your clearance, and possibly go to jail. We were very picky about that once upon a time. No secret there – we didn’t do it because it was against the law. You can thank Frank Church for that and a host of other sins.
I always thought that was a bit extreme. I could foresee times when you’d need to do just that to do your job properly. Nope. Never. Don’t even think about it – and don’t ask again. I had that conversation just once. It is repeated in its entirety below (Edited for brevity):
“But – No Sir. I’m sorry, Sir. No, you don’t need to debrief me or have me mow lawns for the next 3 years. I will be quiet now and leave. Sorry to have bothered you.”
That changed on September 11, 2001. We, as a nation, recognized the threat in a more realistic way. Now the gloves were off and we could intercept those communications. I’m taking that little cue from the testimony in Congress of late. Supposedly we just collect metadata and leave it at that.
Time for a little story! Do any of you over 50 remember your first computer? It may have been an IBM clone with two floppy drives. You needed to boot the thing on the first drive and work on the second? Do you remember the glee with which you viewed the first computer you bought that had a hard-drive? I do. It was a 30 meg Winchester hard drive. We loaded all sorts of crap on there so it would be handy. We all thought that 30 megs was plenty.
The computer I’m using today has 2 gigabyte drives on it. That’s almost 100 times the usable size of my first hard drive. And I’ve now loaded all of my music and pictures on this computer. It’s my third string computer. My others have larger capacities. Heck, I’ve got flash drives larger than that first hard drive.
What’s the point? The NSA has data centers, like the one they’re building in Utah, that can contain about a gajillion, billion times that much data. It’s so large you can’t even comprehend it in your wildest dreams. (Unless you’re an IT geek and then it probably gives you an arrhythmia in your heart and a happy face.) Do you seriously think they’re just collecting metadata?
I’m willing to bet they’re storing every phone call, every text, every email generated in the world that they can. Since it’s in digital format, and you can compress that stuff greatly, it’s no problem. Besides the size issues, what good is metadata if you can’t hear what the scum are plotting? I’d rather have the call to listen to later on if I need it. (Again, I’ve been gone a long time – this is all based on what I read on the internet – and you know that must be true or they couldn’t say it, right?)
So what? Well, if it was just me doing it you’d trust me, right? I mean, the old dude with the beard who looks like Santa wouldn’t use that call against me?
As a matter of fact, you could trust me. I wouldn’t use it against you unless you were a terrorist. Strangely, I wouldn’t use it against you even if I despised you as a person and wanted nothing but bad things for you. I wouldn’t even go looking for that call if I had access to the data.
But what about politically motivated people? People like Julian Assange? Or Bradley Manning? Or Eric Holder and Barack Obama? Axe to grind? Perhaps a quote from the man himself will suffice: “Punish your enemies.”
Now, was he describing Al Qaeda? Nope, conservatives.
And given the IRS scandal that Tea Party groups were denied tax exempt status I’m a bit more inclined to say that this reaches a ways into the bureaucracy. You may not take that part of the news seriously but I was recently involved in a conversation with a number of conservative Christians. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Was being audited. I felt left out, but this blog may fix that as of today. (It’s okay, my CPA is a liberal so I’m probably good.)
One would be unfortunate. Two would be a coincidence. Eight of nine people from around the country being audited or their groups being audited is nothing but frightening. You see, the government is not your friend. It doesn’t have to be your enemy, but right now it’s morphing into your enemy at a rapid pace.
Do you really want the government – the same one that is involved in denial about Benghazi, denial about who and how we’re backing the rebels in Syria, the same government that has maliciously prosecuted opponents to silence them – to be able to access all of your calls, all of your web surfing, and all of your texts?
Perhaps you think, “I’ve got nothing to hide. Go ahead.” I have bad news, my friend. Let me talk with you on the phone for about an hour and I’ll produce a tape of you admitting to all sorts of evil and horrid things. A little editing is all it takes – just ask NBC about that whole issue. And the web? Remember that link you clicked on to find your favorite underwear? Yeah, the one that led to the gay porno site. Clicked right off of it, back to Sears, but you still went to the page. How would the Board of Deacons view that, Pastor?
The government has to apply to FISA for a warrant to listen to the calls. Unless it’s an emergency. That is wide open to abuse. I don’t trust them to do that with any integrity. Not the men and women of NSA – I tend to have a great deal of faith in them. But the politicians who give the orders scare the bejabbers out of me. The politicians (in uniform and suits alike) who control the machinery. The politicians who, in every society and every era have run roughshod over the people below them unless the citizens are able to stand up to them and stop them. The same ones who tell us now that it’s okay; they have controls in place to prevent abuse.
I don’t buy it for a second. It’s way too easy to pressure somebody about losing a job, losing rank, being sent to Diego Garcia for a six month stint, and to get just what you want out of the system. Think about how easy it would be for somebody with administrator rights to the system – somebody like Snowden.
None of this even touches on the Constitutional issues involved. It is clearly illegal and unconstitutional to conduct this type of surveillance on citizens without probable cause. The argument that the files are “locked” until a court order is issued is pointless. FISA is a bad joke – over 99.7% of the warrant requests are approved (4 of 18,000 were rejected.) The fact that James Rosen had his communications intercepted and listened to under a warrant knowingly asserted under a false flag by the Attorney General (the aforementioned Eric Holder) disturbs me more than you can imagine. Either he lied to Congress about not knowing anything about surveillance of journalists, or he lied to the court, but he lied to someone.
When the head of the Justice Department is found to have done this, and the reaction of the press is essentially nothing, we’re in serious trouble. Without effective oversight, which Congress clearly does not have in the case of the NSA (largely through their almost complete inability to keep a secret), petty tyrants like Holder can do what they want. Moreover, it creates an atmosphere where bending/breaking the rules is acceptable and not an issue.
The argument has been made that only through giving up some of our privacy can we fight terrorism. I deny that premise. If we change our way of life in such a fundamental fashion we have lost the war on terrorism. There is no exchange ratio of security to privacy. Every time we give up a right it is most likely gone forever. And giving Big Brother the right to read everything we write, to listen to every conversation, and to implode our lives with the fear of what that might mean is to destroy the United States of America.
We cannot willingly give up that freedom. I do not want drones monitoring my every move. I do not want my metadata collected and used to identify my associates in the government’s pursuit of criminal prosecution. Many people argue, justifiably, that Google collects the same information. Further, they argue that Google has a copy of every Gmail you have ever sent, and that they know what you bought, and have copies of all your voice mails and phone calls via Google Phone. They are right.
The difference is that if I choose not to use Google I can do so. I can choose not to use their phone, email, web browser, and any other service they offer. But the government, in it’s position of putting me in prison or fining me if it so chooses, is another story. Until Google has that power and authority I will worry far less about them than having the authorities monitoring my every move.
If you think this is “black-helicopter” stuff, I’d like to posit a question for you:
Do you think it’s possible that the IRS will use data on your tax form to determine if you should get certain kinds of care under Obamacare? Perhaps that expense item from your trip to the confectioners convention will be linked to your morbid obesity? After all, if you didn’t apply for the deduction they’d never know that you work in the candy business, now would they? The startling fact is that all sorts of information is being gathered under the Obamacare laws. You will be turning some of your most intimate information over to the government, not your doctor or your HMO.
Again, it is a matter of private business and the government having different roles and powers over you. If your HMO denies you coverage, you can either pay for it out of pocket or get another carrier (albeit with an increased premium.) If the government controls health care (which it will) you will have to argue with a bureaucrat who controls all of the “metadata” in your taxes. And, once these agencies have the data it will most likely be used by somebody somewhere to your detriment. Have you ever found government to do anything in your best interests just because it is the right thing to do?
The answer is no. It is always done by politicians because votes are involved. Your group is either more or less important than the person who’s competing with you for that federal money. If your side loses, you lose. And the full power of government is now turned against you. Now, unlike in the past, they have full scope and visibility in to your life with the increased surveillance.
It’s not a joke. It’s not “tin-foil-hat” time either. We have come to a turning point in American society: is the government going to be our omniscient overlord, or will it go back to serving the people? I fear it might be too late to obtain the latter, but it is not too late to stop the progress of the government in butting in to our lives.
The choice is yours. The NSA scandal is just one part of an omnivorous government that has been exposed of late. Take the time now to speak out about it while you can. Do not be cowed. Do not break laws to expose it, but do not accept the strawman argument that you must give up liberty to have security.
That has never been true, nor will it ever be.
Just in case you were wondering what the title of this piece means, it’s outhouse humor from around the world. Daddy DIRNSA is what we all called the Director NSA. He was reputed to have had unusual relations with a plethora of creatures, objects, etc. The writing was often accompanied by a very graphic drawing. It never failed to amuse me that even in one of the most tightly controlled arenas of our nations security you could at least scribble on the bathroom walls.