Interesting week. The American public is shocked, SHOCKED, to discover it is living in a surveillance state. For some of us, who have been warning of this scenario unfolding over the last decade or so, the most difficult thing right now is to resist extracting cheap satisfaction by admonishing with “we told you so!”
We told you about Carnivore and ECHELON. We told you about Total Information Awareness (TIA). We told you about the secret rooms housing Narus network tap and DPI racks being quietly installed at core points of the US communications backbone at AT&T and others. We told you about the massive data centre the NSA was building in Utah. You dismissed us as cranks and paranoids – and resumed posting your Lolcats and gossiping about mindless crap, because, y’know, that’s what morons do.
Now all of this has coagulated into this amorphous thing being labelled Prism.
Forget about all the (mostly) nonsense being peddled in the mainstream media. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be concerned – you absolutely should. But the blunt reality is that no one outside of the panty sniffing intelligence community really knows what Prism actually is yet. There is much speculation, but very little fact. To this extent I have collated a bunch of links from folks that actually know what they are talking about below. But here and now, I am not concerned with what Prism is, but how we got here. I want you to pay attention up the back there Mr. Dawkins…
Prism is entirely, 100%, from conception to birth, an artifact of pure REASON.
Like the Cold War and the Global Financial Crisis that preceded it, this is the pinnacle of humanity’s use of wholesome, pure-n-good, entirely god-free reason taken to its logical conclusion. There are no supernatural agents here, there is no irrational thinking, no superstition, no bronze age traditions. This is pure reason at work. Look on and rejoice.
The men and women of reason within the security industrial complex were given a simple task. Stop terrorism by any means necessary.
They created Prism. Pure reason.
Reason, I’m afraid, is not all it’s cracked up to be. Reason, without a leash, free to do as it will, untempered by wisdom and given an objective to focus on without any kind of constraint, is what creates abominations like Prism. I’m not sure this is something Richard Dawkins and the like will ever get. John Ralston Saul does –
Reason is a narrow system swollen into an ideology.
With time and power it has become a dogma, devoid of direction and disguised as disinterested inquiry.
Like most religions, reason presents itself as the solution to the problems it has created.
Prism – you can’t make God the scapegoat. What a pickle.
Update 1 Wed 12th – it is looking like this Prism thingamabob may be a red herring. As much as I hate to rely on The Register for any real information, they do raise some good points –
Nevertheless, the scenarios raised in the various links are all still feasible with the infrastructure that the NSA et al. have rolled out over the last decade, so if Prism isn’t it, it is still a very safe bet that they are doing what has been mentioned under another project name. Even if it is a false panic with Prism, it’s great that public awareness has been raised in the mainstream media.
Update 2 Wed 12th – ArsTechnica gives a good technology overview for what Prism (or whatever it is) can do with existing infrastructure –
- Bruce Schneier, the wise old man of the security mountain, penned an overview essay that is overflowing with links to other resources – Government Secrets and the Need for Whistle-blowers
- The Problems with CALEA-II – ibid. The FBI attacking from another front, demanding backdoors to encrypted data (yet again), encryption being the only thorn in the side of a system like Prism
- A Taxonomy of PRISM Possibilities – via Unhandled Exception
- Brainstorming a Few Hypotheses About Prism – via Early Warning
- EFF timeline of NSA panty sniffing
- The Soviet Surveillance States of America – Lauren Weinstein on why Obama is not really relevant, any chump would do
- Inside PRISM: Why the Government Hates Encryption – ibid.
- For anyone still unconcerned by any of this – “Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom hand over six months of his phone data that he then made available to ZEIT ONLINE. We combined this geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites, all of which is all freely available on the internet. By pushing the play button, you will set off on a trip through Malte Spitz’s life. – Tell-all telephone. Play around with the embedded widget that uses Malte’s data and see how comfortable you feel afterwards.
NOTE FOR AUSTRALIAN READERS –
If all of this Prism stuff sounds eerily similar to the data retention scheme being proposed by the Gillard government, it’s more than similar – this is precisely what they want to achieve. However, here it is only in the formulative stage and there is still plenty of time to kill it. But BE AWARE – though Gillard’s arse is going to (deservedly) get kicked to the curb in September, this will change nothing. The data retention scheme is driven entirely by the Attorney General’s Department in cahoots with the AFP, ASIO, ASIS, DSD and many others. These are career public servants that cannot get voted out – they don’t care who’s in power, they will continue to push the same shit. Excellent coverage on developments with the data retention scheme can be found at Delimiter. We’re much luckier than the US. This article shows the farcical state of affairs here –
Secret data retention docs display gross technical ineptitude