Big Brother Surveillance Threat, Part 2: Codified OppressionThis is Part Two, of a series that Urban Survival Skills is calling "Big Brother Surveillance Threat" and is publishing, that are excerpts from a huge article titled "You Are a Criminal In a Mass Surveillance World – Here’s How Not To Get Caught", but David Montgomery and posted on Prepared Gun Owners.com
I’ve focused on the U.S. government because that’s what I know, and it tends to do these things on a broader scale than other regimes. But every regime follows the same pattern of outlawing the very same behavior it exhibits. Some just do it more aggressively than others. Generally the larger the regime, the greater the victimization of the governed.
Even when a law applies both to the government and the governed, it’s not enforced equally. Martha Stewart went to prison for lying about a stock trade, and Marion Jones went to prison for lying about using steroids. But General James Clapper, czar of the government’s mass surveillance complex, wasn’t even prosecuted for the felony of lying under oath to Congress about mass surveillance. General David Petraeus walked free despite lying to FBI investigators and leaking top-secret information. Members of the government’s Federal Reserve bankster cartel were exempted from punishment for committing multiple felonies.
What enables this codified, self-perpetuating hypocrisy? The institution of government is defined by its monopoly on both the creation andenforcement of law. This means the government can do whatever it wants, from double parking to mass slaughter with essentially no repercussions other than “regime change” through elections. Who in their right mind believes this is a good way for society to operate? If there were ever a monopoly to break up, it’s the one government protects with all its might.
As pieces of the picture came together for me, I felt depressed and wanted to throw my arms up and say, “Forget it. There’s nothing I can do to change any of this.” Then I realized. “There’s nothing I can do” are the magic words every power-hungry person longs to hear. Learned helplessness – the conviction that you are powerless to change whatever’s being done to you.
Those who watch Game of Thrones know the show has much to teach about those who seek power. The pitiful character Reek is the personification of learned helplessness. Even with a razor at his barbaric captor’s throat, he is incapable of doing anything but obeying. When his sister risks her life to rescue him, he clings to his cage and refuses to go. That’s the essence of learned helplessness.
The Greatest Weapon of Oppression in the History of ManEvery regime uses physical violence to force compliance with its rules, but physically breaking people who resist takes considerable effort, resources, and manpower. Mass surveillance gives those who seek control a vastly more powerful, far-reaching weapon.
This article was inspired by Ed Snowden’s own words to Laura Poitras inCitizenfour. He warns her that the government’s Collect-It-All mass surveillance apparatus is “the greatest weapon of oppression in the history of man.” It’s a War of Terror that’s being waged on us.
In a mass surveillance world where the law is unknowable, we live our lives wondering what crimes we’re committing and when we’ll be detected and prosecuted. This has a chilling effect on how we live. We censor ourselves to suppress the underlying anxiety of knowing we’re criminals who are being watched and recorded.
The end-game of mass surveillance is self-imposed subjugation. Threats and cages are no longer required because people believe resistance is hopeless. When we know we’re being monitored by those who have the power to beat, cage, and kill us, we imprison ourselves in our own fear.
I refuse to live that way. I hope you do too.When people self-censor out of fear, they erect their own walls, saving government the effort. The governed avoid inquiry into controversial issues.They censor what they read at the library. They censor the web sites they visit. They censor their browser search terms. They censor what they write in emails and texts.
Free thought and inquiry into the most important matters get suffocated as we live under perpetual anxiety about whether what we do is acceptable to those who govern us. Fear leaks into our consciousness like black ink. I recently joked with a friend that he’s addicted to Coke, and he nervously wrote back clarifying “to anyone else reading” that it was Coca-Cola.
People censor what they say on the phone, on Skype, on Google Hangouts. Surveillance software automatically transcribes your words into text. Your conversations become instantly searchable and trigger key word alerts. (If you’re thinking of organizing or attending a police brutality protest, know that a trigger word list leaked years ago includes the terms cops, police,authorities, and law enforcement among hundreds of others.)
People censor what they share with friends on social networks. They increasingly limit posts to selfies, photos of food, and opinions about approved topics like sports and movies, rather than information or opinions that can land them on a terror suspect list.
They shy away from protesting and see the often brutal treatment of those who do. They hear about domestic black sites. Signing a petition opposing a government program is like handing the government a suspect list.
People come to know that political affiliations can make you an IRS target or trigger a home invasion. They read that withdrawing cash from a bank account is cause for criminal investigation. Yet if they don’t put cash in the bank, they risk outright confiscation as has happened over and over.
They see the persecution of whistleblowers and the crushing of business owners who won’t compromise their customers’ security. Innocent peopleend up on terrorist watch lists. They see the mainstream media’s bipolar twitching between terror-mongering and titillating celebrity scandals.
This all brings on a chilling sea change in our daily lives. The message becomes unmistakable. The government is off-limits to meaningful criticism or resistance to whatever it dictates.
Authority as a Conditioned ResponseObeying authority is what we’re taught to do from childhood. You don’t want trouble, do you? Then don’t complain. Follow the rules. Abide by the law.
We’re raised to follow orders and pledge allegiance to authority. We are conditioned to comply. Chain of command is a principle which pervades our society, not just the military. The apex of command is of course the head of the government, the Commander-in-Chief. What comic irony to call this individual “leader of the free world.”
What’s the upshot of our perpetual compliance conditioning? “Just following orders” and “Just doing my job” routinely precede the most atrocious acts perpetrated against other human beings.
What about those with enough self-awareness and independence of thought to see the pattern at work? The realization that mass surveillance makes you a perpetual suspect and non-compliance with any government rule makes you a criminal silences meaningful opposition. It doesn’t take many horror stories to roll a fog of fear over an entire population. Especially when people know they’re being continually watched and recorded.
Learned helplessness will get you if you don’t brace yourself and think clearly. You can’t change the system, but that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. You don’t have to be a victim. We as individuals can take simple steps to impede the government’s dragnet recording of our lives. We can encrypt our calls, our texts, our emails, our phones, our computers. We can show our friends and family how to do the same. It’s really just a matter of quiet resolve.
Most people like to read articles that confirm what they already believe. But beyond venting to friends, people are generally too lazy to take action unless they feel immediate danger. Here’s where we must differentiate mass surveillance from every other threat. Mass surveillance is a silent, invisible war being waged on us. The only time you’ll actually feel immediate danger is when it’s too late.
The Action MindsetAre you in an action mindset yet? If not, here’s my last loving nudge. I’m begging you – seriously, I truly am begging you – to overcome inertia and take action. If nothing else has convinced you, then do it to keep government employees from oogling your genitals. Or if you think government isn’t and never will be a threat to your well-being, then do it to protect against identity theft, fraud, blackmail and doxing by free agent bad guys. People don’t understand just how much risk they’re taking by not securing their computer and smart phone. Your life can be ruined. If you’ve already secured yourself, please encourage others and help friends and family.
If you’re a parent with kids using computers, you need to know how to protect them. Kids are curious, and the more dangerous, forbidden or risky the topic, the more inquisitive they tend to be. What if your son comes home from chemistry class and wonders, just for the sake of curiosity, how to make a bomb? What if he’s watching Breaking Bad and starts browsing around wondering how Walter White made meth? What if a friend comes over and as a prank searches for how to join ISIS?
Are these the sorts of things kids might do? Of course. And it can turn your entire family into a target, including getting your home raided by men with automatic weapons who will shoot your dogs and take your computers, phones, and papers. Implement the enclosed anti-surveillance guide to protect your kids from getting your family in a world of trouble.
It’s All YouNo matter what it is that motivates you to take action, the important thing is that you follow through. The best thing about the government’s bald-face lying about mass surveillance is it dispelled any notion that it will be “reformed” (whatever that means).
A few months before the Snowden revelations broke, James Clapper, czar of all U.S. intelligence agencies, replied under oath to this question (which he received a day in advance of his testimony).
Richard Nixon, after secretly bombing Cambodia (which brought the genocidal Khmer Rouge to power), persisted in lying to the public about it. As he told his aides, “Publicly, we say one thing. Actually, we do another.” True to form, shortly after Snowden came forward Obama was in full-on denial mode. The lie below was from his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Literally nothing the government says about mass surveillance is credible. Every public relations gambit to make it look like “something is being done” is aimed at deterring us from taking responsibility and acting for ourselves. Don’t be fooled by political theater.
Mass surveillance programs are built in secret and they operate in secret. Remember that what little we know is due to an act of treason (as defined by the government of course). And it’s only the NSA we know something about since that’s what Snowden had access to. The CIA, FBI, DEA, DHS, INR, DIA,NGA, NRO and other agencies have their own surveillance programs.
Any NSA policy change will be publicly heralded by politicians as a great victory while other programs silently spring up or continue operating under different code names or different agencies. As with mass surveillance obliterating the 4th Amendment, all Constitutional violations are not only predictable, they’re inevitable. Trusting the government is like trusting pit bulls to guard a pile of pork chops.
Thankfully Ed Snowden gave us the guidance we need.
Snowden’s InspirationSnowden’s most important insight is not that we’re being recorded in a Collect-It-All panopticon. It’s that we – as individuals – have the power to free ourselves from the surveillance noose: “We have the means and we have the technology to end mass surveillance without any legislative action at all, without any policy changes.”
We have the power, but only if we exercise it. What does that amount to in practical terms? Being willing to use some free software. After a couple hours you’ll have taken action that can literally keep you out the worst kind of trouble including criminal prosecution, blackmail, and kidnapping. You may even save your life. Same goes for any friend or family member you can persuade to take action. And you’ll sleep better knowing you’re no longer enabling mass surveillance.
Some might object and say that taking defensive action is an unnecessary act of paranoia or ‘Murica hating. Those people may just be doing their job. Others may be fact-resistant humans. Fear of real risks is not paranoia. It’s motivation. Only the most fact-resistant among us would deny that there are individuals and extraordinarily powerful institutions who are actually out to get you one way or another.
Most people prefer to feel rather than think. I know I’d feel much better pretending all this is much ado about nothing. Even if you’re not the fact-resistant type, the temptation to abdicate responsibility and hope politicians will “fix the system” is as tempting as it is delusional. The system we live under was built by people who want it to work this way. To those in control, it’s not broken. It may not work for you, but it works for them. And you work for them. The only hope we have for change is to do it ourselves.
The U.S. regime is the alpha dog of mass surveillance, mass incarceration, and mass media propaganda. But all governments aspire toward ever greater control over their populations. China, Russia, England, all of them. The bigger the government, the more they squeeze. It’s just a matter of money, manpower, time, and technology. Smaller countries are often laughably ham-fisted in their approach, like making it a crime to insult politicians.
Big-Ass DisclaimerPerfect security does not exist in digital or physical life. A house has a continuum of steps you can take to secure it, but it will never be secure from a determined adversary. A lock on your door is better than nothing, but most locks can be defeated in seconds by people who are trained. Even if you have great locks, what about the door itself? Can it be kicked in? What about your windows? Anybody can break a window. Alarms are useful, but they have several vulnerabilities. Plus they don’t actually keep people out of your home. (By the way, your home is now see-through to the government.)
Just as perfect home security is impossible, there’s no such thing as perfect digital security. No matter how many precautions you take, there are too many “known unknowns” you can’t protect against. Software like your operating system, drivers, and web browser have faults which get exploited. Some of those faults are honest human error, and some are purposely engineered to weaken your security. Those who pretend to protect you are leading the charge to purposely undermine the security of products we rely on.
Now that the Internet is regulated – meaning, controlled – by the government like a utility, things will only get worse.The very hardware you use – computer chips, routers, hard drives – also have exploits which you can do nothing about. The CEO of Intel refused to answer, with good reason, a question about whether Intel places “backdoors” in its chips. The biggest tech companies in the world are American, and they must comply with orders in the name of national security while being gagged from disclosing said orders.
Bottom line: America’s tech giants are surveillance proxies for the government. The government is also typically their biggest customer. This is the essence of the military-industrial complex.
We almost never hear about it because to say something is a death wish, but corporations also employ NOCs (non-official covers) who carry out government directives.
Modern computers have become so complex it’s practically impossible to know everything that’s happening “under the hood.” Even TVs can record you, translate your speech to text, and beam it to third parties. Computer chips the size of a dime and cheaper than a Big Mac can do all that and more. Really just about any electronics device in range of a wifi signal can be reconfigured into a surveillance device. That includes seemingly innocuous things, like a keyboard or USB thumb drive.
I’m not trying to dishearten you. It’s better to see things as they really are than to be ignorant of real risks. The truth is we’re being attacked from all sides.
The only real shining light in all this is the free and open source software (FOSS) movement. Open source means publishing a program’s source code online so that anybody can inspect it, audit it, compile it, and test it. The complete transparency of FOSS stands as our best safeguard against purposeful sabotage of our security.
Our GoalThe way most people use computers and smart phones is equivalent to leaving your doors and windows wide open with a neon COME ON IN! sign blinking in the front yard. We’re going to close the doors and windows, install curtains and quality locks, and toss the sign in the dumpster.
But know that if you’re ever individually targeted by the government as a person of interest (for example a journalist or whistle blower), pretty much everything you do on a computer or phone likely will be in the regime’s hands unless you have extremely specialized skills like Ed Snowden. As he said, “If there is a warrant against you, if the NSA is after you, they are still going to get you.” If you think you may have been individually targeted, run Detekt as a first step to check for malicious software commonly used against journalists and activists.
The goal of this guide is not anonymity. Anonymity is not possible because it requires control of many factors that are simply beyond our control. Our goal – Snowden’s plea to us all – is to stop the dragnet collect-it-all recording of our lives. As peaceful outlaws living in a mass surveillance world, the most effective act of self-preservation we can take is to render the greatest weapon of oppression inoperable.
If you don’t act, there will have been no real point in reading this. You’ll probably sleep less soundly, and mass surveillance will continue metastasizing. The reality is that to not take action is to enable mass surveillance. And remain highly vulnerable to hackers, stalkers, and fraudsters – threats which seem hypothetical until you get humiliated,blackmailed, stalked, or ruined.