June 8, as the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper was disclosing the identity of the leaker of top-secret National Security Agency PowerPoint slides, I was just finishing up a blog post on the leaker’s revelations. Having contrasted and compared published slides with claims by public officials, and given an in-the-loop Washington Post‘s reporter’s rationale for their selective release, I had the distinct sense that I was already behind the curve. The leaker, former NSA employee Edward Snowden, had fled the country for Hong Kong by the time he handed over the slides to The Guardian and The Washington Post.
In an exclusive video interview with The Guardian from Hong Kong – where he is currently seeking asylum – Snowden made claims even more extraordinary than the slides themselves.
In their video interview, The Guardian immediately took to framing Snowden as a whistleblower. Yet Guardian – along with, again, The Washington Post‘s – staff have refused to release all of the information Snowden had requested they would.
NSA, said Snowden, “targets the communications of everyone.” He added, “While they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they’re collecting [citizens'] communications to do so.”
At one point Snowden’s accounts of life inside seemed contradictory, such as when he asserted that “any analyst at any time can target anyone – any selector, anywhere.” Only a moment later he would claim “not all analysts have the ability to target everything.”
Snowden spoke of a ruthlessly vindictive intelligence community willing to assassinate for his dissidence, exposing what he sees as an abusive panopticon. In retribution, he claimed, U.S. authorities could very well “pay off the triads,” members of Hong Kong organized crime, to take his life, “however long that happens to be.”
Snowden defined a narrow set of NSA analysts, such as himself, with broad omniscience into society. “I sitting at my desk certainly have the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president,” he told The Guardian‘s Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill.
Snowden denied that he was trying to harm the United States or aid it enemies. Had he really wanted to endanger the country, he said, he “could [have] shut down the surveillance system in an afternoon.”
Snowden’s extraordinary claims were bolstered in part by statements to the LA Times by former NSA and CIA counsel Robert Deitz, who said, “There are, from time to time, cases in which some [NSA] analyst is [angry] at his ex-wife and looks at the wrong thing and he is caught and fired.” Deitz did not imply that these abuses by NSA analysts resulted in any criminal prosecutions for payrolled megalomaniacs.
Immediately I intuited that oncoming media profiles of Snowden would descend far lower than mere allegations of treason or defection. Snowden’s earlier leak to The Guardian of a top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court memo had detailed not only Verizon’s release to the NSA of vast swaths of telephone records “wholly within” the United States. It confirmed the long-understood cooperation between electronic communications firms and the NSA in seeking out foreign intelligence information.
Quickly, I created a Twitter account with the closest possible match to Snowden’s name, @ejosephsnowden, and sought to begin a cartoonishly radical caricature of the e-dissident. To anyone who understood the implications of Snowden’s claims, the very existence of a Twitter account at all should have seemed impossible and thereby ironic. But how impossible would it seem to most, and how ironic? With that high-minded goal of watchdog journalism (to gauge media and public perception) along with an interest in finding some humor in a too-impulsive media environment, I began what would be a three-day mission of online sockpuppeteering. I was somewhat inspired by the FBI’s long campaign of using the Twitter account of hacker Hector Monsegur, or “Sabu” of LulzSec. Surely, some of the same tactics used to root out cybercriminals can be used in watchdog journalism.
You can read much of the tweeting content from early this week on The Internet Chronicle‘s updated Twitter account, where we have shamelessly co-opted the followers of the Snowden puppet. Although the marionette now sits here.
As the account quickly accelerated and peaked to 4,400 followers, I was struck by how many Twitter users were requesting that Twitter actually validate it. The pretense of such a request was that Twitter would somehow ascertain the identity of any actual Snowden, while somehow maintaining discretion with authorities as to the location of the hounded leaker. Despite assurances from those like Senate Majority Leaker Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that Snowden’s allegations of metadata monitoring weren’t anything “brand-new,” clearly many with half a mind to be interested in hearing from an NSA leaker had a rather breathtaking trust in the inviolability of trust Twitter kept with its end users. (Although to be fair, in the wake of PRISM’s having been revealed, Twitter claims it is as resistant as any communications firm to overreaching government requests.)
Additionally, striking is the number of people willing to thank Snowden openly, which – even should the old “Snowden” followers delete tweets or unfollow – I cannot imagine not having some effect in the future on their attaining clearances in the course of future employment with the federal government, the largest single domestic employer. Several people accused me of working for the CIA or the NSA, which is ludicrous, to my knowledge. Yet it was also illustrative of just how jaundiced these agencies’ reputations are.
In the course of his writings at Guardian and Salon, Greenwald has gone to great lengths to undermine the left-right narrative, and his own political connections add great credence to that. Those connections run the gamut, from contributions to the libertarian Cato Institute, to remarks given to an International Socialist Organization conference. Greenwald’s diverse affiliations are key to understanding the partisan political divide that surrounds outrage, when it occurs, over surveillance overreach.
In 2006, at the height of the last decade’s previous warrantless NSA controversy, a Pew poll highlighted acquiescence from 75 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats. On the other hand the past month’s revelations have yielded 64 percent approval on the issue from Democrats and 52 percent from Republicans. Whichever administration doing the monitoring appears to have a pretty serious influence on whether people feel like getting mad.
It was for this reason that my Ed Snowden was to be of what William Buckley termed the “fever swamps.” Heavily ideological, conspiracy-bent libertarians have an extremely ubiquitous online presence, and in the current climate, tend to lean Republican on foreign policy. (For example, Republicans made up a slight majority of the opposition to the Obama-era no-fly zone in Libya, and doubtless any upcoming Syria no-fly zone.) I knew there was going to be a lot of momentum to attempt to try Snowden in the public sphere—a mob mentality for which I have no regard whatsoever, even for the filthiest of criminals.
Former Mother Jones national security editor Adam Weinstein remarked on Twitter, “[T]he solipsism of a young white male libertarian IT guys … is a real problem.”
Don’t hate on David Brooks for pointing out the solipsism of a young white male libertarian IT guys. That is a real problem well beyond NSA.
When as “Snowden,” I started tweeting support for Ron Paul, I had not yet actually heard that Snowden was a supporter of the former congressman and perennial, long-shot president hopeful. Weinstein referenced a stereotype that deserved lampooning, and so I, along with some help from Chronicle correspondent Jaime Cochran, took to the puppet with conspiratorial banter. It is unfortunate that, for much of the general public, anyone who would do what Snowden did would have to be an absolute sociopath. Billy Walshe, or “Kilgore,” had long ago set up a Greenwald sock puppet (@ggreenwild), subsequently shuttered by Twitter. We used that to endow the Snowden puppet with a veneer of undeserved credibility, mostly piloted by Walshe himself.
Even though Greenwald and WikiLeaks had disavowed the Snowden puppet (Greenwald, repeatedly and explicitly) the Snowden and Greenwald puppets apparently duped journalists, including Rosie Gray of Buzzfeed, a former Reuters social media editor, Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow, David Shuster, a co-author of a book with Glenn Beck, and Reason editor Nick Gillespie. I won’t bother denying some degree of tap-dancing schadenfreude at that.
On the other hand, my three-day campaign of feigned anarcho-capitalist lunacy should serve as a warning of Nellie Bly magnitude to journalists and news junkies alike. As this news and entertainment outlet has painstakingly sought to demonstrate, a Brave New Internet demands greater incredulity from the media-consuming public. The Answer will never be that media networks as large as Twitter endeavor to root out impostors or screen for disinformation any more than they screen for the ill-informed. Just as time and experience has lessened susceptibility to (the not benign) 419 scams, the same will have to happen for Twitter users desperate for the ground-level scoop and click bait.
While the Post‘s Barton Gellman had told me that some of the data Snowden handed over was classified for good reason (I can’t know this, but we’ll never hear a admission like that in those terms, even if true, from Glenn Greenwald), it was important to point out, via the puppet, that we’ll always rely on some estate, first or fourth, to filter our data. Maybe the Snowden data the Post and The Guardian are withholding aredangerous if disclosed to the public. For now it’s a subject of speculation, speculation based on conversations that took place between these newspapers and the government before even the three (or in The Guardian‘s case, four) PowerPoint slides went public. But established journalists will always have an interest in maintaining access, daresay staying out of jail for espionage; and those motives may or may not happen to line up with the public’s right to know. Especially when the Fourth Amendment is on the line.
Certainly, Snowden’s personal life is about to get a serious snow job—and one treated with far wider credulity than any Twitter puppet.
Not long into the course of my sockpuppeteering, as Weinstein referenced, New York Times columnist David Brooks would not disappoint, disparaging the leaker for, of all things, not finishing high school and for being mildly rude to a neighbor once. Just as Frontline hyped Bradley Manning’s homosexuality as a factor in his decision to leak, and the media allowed Julian Assange’s alleged sex crimes in Sweden to overshadow legal threats he faced from the Justice Department, the media was sure to be hungry for some red meat, beyond anything high-minded, to explain Snowden’s leaks. Thus widespread banter about matters as insipid as the attractiveness of his ex-girlfriend.
The tabloid chum has and will spread in the waters of public discourse, from sources as serious as paper of record, which the public should have good reason to take with more credibility than an unverified Twitter account. As red as blind anger, the chum will obscure the prescient debate that must be had about the meaning of the Fourth Amendment in a technologically evolving, if not “advancing,” world. We must be sure that it does not attract the real sharks, those complicit in the abuse of power, power needed to protect Americans.
CHRONICLE.SU– NSA whisteblower Edward Snowden betrayed fellow Americans by revealing critical national secrets to our fascist enemies.
HONG KONG– You may already know the dubious tale of 29-year-old Edward Snowden, the anti-American ex-NSA contractor-turned-defector who recently leaked valuable national secrets to our enemies.
But what you don’t know about Snowden involves his diabolical scheme to escape into the lawless hands of Hong Kong, landlocked by the irrevocable sin of mainland CommunistChina.
Although Hong Kong is part of a “one country, two systems” situation, China can veto extradition requests, contradicting the extradition treaty the weak government of Hong Kong has held – since 1997 – after the city was returned to the totalitarian regime with which Snowden is now aligned.
From behind the Great Firewall of China, Snowden hopes to be whisked away by Chinese authorities who may “press” him for precious national security tips, but not before growing famous enough to garner public support for his supposedly “heroic” acts of anti-American aggression against innocent Americans.
A toxic ideology of reverse “patriotism” is now spreading which led Private Bradley Manning, whom Snowden called a “whistleblower . . . inspired by the public good,” to publicly reveal military secrets to our enemies.
Snowden, a master of exploiting legal loopholes, roots around in a broken Communist system of asylum-seeking perpetuity.
He buys time for himself, moving between hotels, racking up exorbitant room service bills with total disregard for the Americans whose national security he’s thrown to the wind.
CIA agents voraciously track Snowden through back alleys of Hong Kong. May God be with our brave soldiers, and may He have mercy on our souls.
Plato said that a city driven by luxuries was fevered, and in a state of Eternal War the entire planet is overrun by Jungles as Carbon Dioxide and Global Warming alter the climate and lead to mass-famines in every city except on small islands. Repeated Nuclear Detonations release just enough ash to partially cancel the global warming, ironically becoming the only reason life on Earth can possibly survive.
FROM WITHIN PRISM’S PANOTPIC GAZE — The Empire Has No Clothes, and the Revolution draws ever nearer, just as me and all my friends on Twitter have always agreed. It’s so close I can taste it.
As the Panopticon’s Black Iron Prison encloses the planet Earth from a panoply of hateful Imperial powers — America, China, and every tinpot dictator in each patsy state on the planet, We, The People of the Internet have been busy plotting the perfect and most intellectual plans for the New World Order, which also happens to be the thing conspiracy theorists like me fear most. I’ve done tremendous research on this problem, and have logged untold thousands of hours on many different versions of Sid Meyer’s Civilization series.
The New World Order is a horror, of course, unless you happen to believe in Reparations for all Blacks in America, Gay Marriage, Legal Marijuana, Maximum Salaries, and Maximum Work Weeks. You want some hope? I’ll throw that in, but you’ve got to send me bitcoins.
That’s right! No one in America (Or our patsy semi-colonies!) will EVER work more than 20 hours a week. It’s a bitch when all these RedBoxes, McBoxes, and Combine Harvesters take the jobs of all our illegal immigrants and we have to start paying for their healthcare. But not anymore! No, No! We will have enough jobs even for the freeloaders and the tramps, and people will still be able to become unbelievably filthy fucking rich with a maximum yearly income of 5 million dollars. Sure, some people might say I want to unfairly tax the everliving shit out of those who bring in billions, but I don’t see it that way. They made it all on your dime! Think about it, we’ve been investing tax money into computers and robots for a hundred years in order to fight for freedom and defeat the Nazi Scum. We SHOULD be living in a Techno Utopia with Robots doing Everything! To HELL with Nazi-sympathizing billionaires who think that THEY should get ALL profit off of The Only God Damned GOOD war we’ve fought in a long time. We’re gonna invest it in robots, motherfucker! If you Vote for ME as president of the New World Order, which will surely follow the oncoming Revolution (I believe it was instigated by the Chinese! They’ve taken Snowden into their grips, and I’m afraid it’s too late for Obama. (We can’t fall into the grips of China. Trust me, I would prefer Prism to the Great FireWall ANY DAY.))
WASHINGTON – Last week the National Security Agency’s newly uncovered PRISM surveillance program, intended to manager foreign intelligence from electronic service providers, elicited anger that millions of Americans’ communications had been swept up in a comprehensive dragnet. News of the PRISM program came at the end of a breakneck week of national security reporting at The Guardian, where columnist Glenn Greenwald took a step from his legacy of punditry and opinion-oriented content to reporting.
The Guardian and The Washington Post, who both revealed the existence of the PRISM program Thursday, declined to release all 41 slides of the top-secret PowerPoint presentation they had obtained.
Barton Gellman, co-author of the Washington Post story, told The Internet Chronicle Friday, “We put up the [slides] we thought we should. Much of the document seemed to us to be classified for good reason.”
“We’re not engaged in a mindless, indiscriminate document dump, and our source didn’t want us to be,” Greenwald toldBuzzfeed Saturday. “We’re engaged in the standard journalistic assessment of whether the public value to publication outweighs any harms.”
In a statement released in response to massive public outcry, Thursday Google CEO Larry Page was adamant that the company has not granted the NSA any “back door” to his company’s servers, adding that Google had not heard of any program called PRISM until Thursday. However an additional slide in a top-secret PowerPoint presentation, fed to The Guardian and annotated by reporter James Ball, suggested that the PRISM program enabled data “collection directly from the servers of … Google,” among other computing giants, such as Microsoft and Yahoo!. In accordance with Gellman and Greenwald’s claims to the press, some of this additional slide is blacked out.
NSA PRISM PowerPoint presentation slide suggesting “direct collection” from U.S. service providers’ servers. (Cropped slide via The Guardian)
People briefed on the negotiations between the media giants – speaking anonymously, as law prohibits them from acknowledging the very “existence” of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests – seemingly expanded on Page’s claims on Friday. It was then that The New York Times‘ Claire Cain Miller relayed her sources’ claims that, in the cases of Facebook and Google, some consensus had been reached between corporate and public partners on the construction of digital drop boxes, intermediary locations where the corporations would not offer carte blanche to the NSA but – after having in-house attorneys review government requests – they could leave requested information.
“[T]he government would request data,” wrote Miller, “companies would deposit it and the government would retrieve it.”
Earlier last week government officials and politicians finally came clean about vast collection by the NSA of millions of Americans’ telephonic metadata. The telephone metadata – or logs of involved telephone numbers and call lengths – was turned over by Verizon, the telephone provider for a plurality of citizens. That revelation, and subsequent admissions, flies in the face of several statement by public officials.
Among those statements is one by NSA Director and Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute in July of 2012. Replying to a question from Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge, Alexander said, “We don’t hold data on U.S. citizens.” [Link, offsite, to Chronicle-clipped C-SPAN program.]
During a March 12 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked National Intelligence Director James Clapper about the scale of any NSA dragnet. Fast-forward to 6:42 in the video, following, for this exchange.
Ron Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
James Clapper: Clapper: No, sir.
Wyden: It does not?
Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect but not wittingly.
On May 4, 2012, Sens. Wyden and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) sent a letter asking the NSA inspector general, I. Charles McCullough, “how many people inside the United States have had their communications collected or reviewed.” McCullough replied in his own letter that “an [inspector general] review of [that] sort suggested would violate the privacy of U.S. persons.”
In 2007, then Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) expressed outrage that the Bush administration had engaged in spying “on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” Critics of the Obama administration have claimed that this amounts to hypocrisy on the part of the president.
During a March 2012 hearing of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, Representative Hank Johnson (R-Ga.) asked Alexander if the NSA routinely intercepts American citizens’ emails, to which Director Alexander replied, “No.” Video follows.
The Washington Post however reported Friday that, from PRISM’s Web terminal at NSA Headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., NSA analysts key in “selectors” intended to determine with at least half accuracy a given target’s “foreignness.” The Post obtained analyst training materials that specifically address how analysts are to report any given “accidental” collection, but those materials add that that collection on citizens is “nothing to worry about.”
On Saturday Atlantic staff writer Conor Friedersdorf raised troubling questions about the implications of the NSA’s newly revealed and utterly vast collection of telephone metadata and “incidental” private, domestic media content. Even assuming the best of intentions and utmost integrity out of domestic law enforcement, should a foreign government make its way into NSA databases, he wrote, that “could enable blackmail on a massive scale, widespread manipulation of U.S. politics, industrial espionage against American businesses;, [sic] and other mischief I can’t even imagine.” Added Friedersdorf: “What if [China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Saudia Arabia or a successor to al-Qaeda] breached the database’s security without our even knowing?”
Claims of Lives Saved by the Surveillance Panopticon
A “U.S. intelligence official,” speaking on condition of anonymity to CBS News, said that the PRISM program “thwarted” a 2009 attempt to bomb the New York City subway system, an attack that could have killed hundreds of people.
CBS News claims: “Suicide Bomb Plot Was Halted After Suspect Realized He Was Being Tracked”
“U.S. government sources” made similar statements to Reuters’ Mark Hosenball Friday. Hosenball’s source addressed statements Tuesday afternoon by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), although the Guardian and Washington Post stories that broke the existence of PRISM were not released until that evening.
“The surveillance program that halted the Zazi plot was one that collected email data on foreign intelligence suspects,” a government source told Reuters.
The New York Times similarly reported on Friday that PRISM “yielded concrete information.” The Times‘ Eric Schmitt, David Sanger and Charlie Savage, relying on an anonymous “senior intelligence official” source, wrote Friday that a September 2009 email from an address “being monitored by the vast computers controlled by American intelligence analysts” allowed the analysts to locate the would-be bomber in Aurora, Colo.
The anonymous intelligence official added that Zazi was located “through an e-mail correspondence that we had access to only through” PRISM.
Armed militia groups have assembled in public spaces around the nation in response to totalitarian government surveillance.
WASHINGTON – Floods of concerned citizens around the nation are reporting the same chilling story: Convoys of military and paramilitary forces are arriving at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) camps, which are capable of indefinitely interning a large proportion of American citizens. Militia groups have reportedly assembled in downtown Grand Rapids, N.D., at the Citadel patriot community in Benewah County, Idaho, and at least a hundred public spaces across the nation. Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside of the entrance to the access road leading to the deep-underground FEMA Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center. It is unclear whether this is a response to activation of FEMA camps, or if the FEMA camps activated in response to the assembly of these militias, who are likening themselves to an armed Occupy movement.
A spokesperson for the OccupyMilitia, as the spontaneous militarized protest movement has been dubbed, said, “We don’t want death or violence. We just want an end to totalitarian Internet surveillance, and we know from watching the Occupy protests that we need to be armed if we want to be heard.”
Citizens around the nation wait with bated breath as the inevitable conflict approaches, and for some the story has become too much to handle.
“We’ve had several suicides related to this NSA wiretap story,” said Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador of Mercy Hospital in Cuthbert, Ga. “More are coming in by the hour as these FEMA stories spread. People are certain they will soon be sent to their death in these camps, especially those who already believe Obama is the Antichrist.”
Shahid Buttar, Bill of Rights Defense Committee executive director, spoke to Tyler Bass at In These Times Thursday.
The Guardian has obtained a top-secret ruling by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court ordering Verizon to turn over call records for millions of Americans to the FBI and the National Security Agency for a three-month period ending in mid-July. This revelation, which has sparked outrage and garnered major mainstream media attention, not only adds weight to alarms long raised by legislators and civil liberties advocates, but has also raised ire even in the most stalwart defenders of the Patriot Act—the 2001 law that enables this kind of covert court ruling and mass surveillance.
Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, founded 12 years ago to fight the Patriot Act, expressed dismay that the surveillance of millions of Americans had been OK’ed. He told In These Times by phone, “The rule of law requires transparency. And a secret court [such as a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court] is not a court at all. Its decision-making is not judicial or ‘jurisprudencial’ in any meaningful sense of the word. It is ultimately political.”
An Anonymous spokesperson claimed to have hacked Obama’s Skype by gaining access to PRISM
INTERNET — Anonymous hackers claimed to have infiltrated PRISM’s network infrastructure after gaining access to the graphical user interface which was intended only for use by federal agents in cases of terrorism. Because the PRISM system has access to a log of all Internet phone calls (voIP via Skype, Google, etc.) and video chats, Anonymous vigilante intelligence researchers quickly unearthed evidence of high-level collusion between corporate executives and government officials. “We have access to President Obama’s Skype,” said a spokesperson for Anonymous, “and we’re only afraid it’s too absurd to be true.”
Anonymous will not comment on details of the leak until the information has been confirmed and verified. This time, Anonymous is seeking input from government sources so that their final release will be seen by the public as an even-handed nonpartisan attempt at uncovering the truth. “We want to know the government’s point of view simply because it will help us build a more complete view of what’s really going on. Even clever lies, denials, and evasion help us in our pursuit of truth. We won’t release the information until we’ve run it all over with several officials and received a frank appraisal of its context.”
President Obama has scheduled a press conference for Monday, and the White House has already released a statement condemning Anonymous. “The sad irony is that PRISM doesn’t even exist, but because of hacks like these we need something like it,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “We will not cooperate with terrorists on any level, and we refuse to comment on illegally obtained confidential information.”
Despite such polemic rhetoric, the general consensus of Anonymous is that truth is still of the utmost importance. “The White House can’t order all 20 million of its employees around. Someone will always talk to us, and help us understand the truth behind these troubling but somewhat ambiguous conversations and other communications. All your PRISM are belong to us, and it’s going to be this way for as long as something like PRISM exists.”
One fine morning several weeks ago, I received a phone call from the local FBI office requesting an interview about Barrett Brown, former spokesperson for the Anonymous hacking collective. I told the agent, on the phone, that I didn’t really have any useful information, but he still wanted to talk to me. I didn’t see the harm in it, so I agreed to meet him that afternoon at a nearby coffee shop. For the rest of the day I grew increasingly nervous about the meeting as new and scarier possibilities came into my mind, despite their improbability. Was this guy a legitimate FBI agent, or was he something else? Did he intend to harm me, or possibly kill me?
I arrived to the coffee place a few minutes early and browsed through a selection of used books which included Bruce Sterling’s Hacker Crackdown — on sale for ten cents. Nearly immediately, I was accosted by a gregarious teenage girl, who complimented my beard and compared me to a popular musician I had never heard of. She was blonde, cute, and bubbly, but just underneath the surface lurked high culture. For the next few minutes we talked about Nietzsche and Goethe, until I saw the FBI agent staring at me from the corner of my eye. I said to the girl something like, “I’m sorry. I’m here to meet an FBI agent and talk to him about some shit.” She did not ask why, but instead exclaimed, loudly, “I hope he doesn’t drag you away and poison you!” This bizarre exchange, to which I have done little justice, was surely within earshot of the agent, and I still wonder whether it was some insidious kind of psychological manipulation. I am sure it was even stranger from the point of view of the agent.
He sat at a small table with a little pile of papers, and I joined him. On the papers were questions for me and information about me. I saw my driver’s license photo in full color for the first time, but with a distorted aspect ratio which widened my face. His manner was gentle, as you’d expect from a computer guy, and he wore an impeccable grey suit with fancy wingtip shoes. Because he alluded to a position with national security implications, that is all the description I will provide. Despite warning me that he was not an expert on Anonymous, he came across as generally well-informed, if not hopelessly misled on a few specifics. His praise for my writing was effusive and embarrassing, so much so that he apologized, and I could not help but glance at the girl, who now sat with her friends just a table away, as circuit breakers in my brain began to blow. What does she think of me, sitting here, getting this kind of incredible praise from an FBI agent? Surely she must be hearing this shit, and certainly she must not believe any of it. This boiling cauldron of ego soup was all the hotter for the chilling anxiety I had felt leading up to it. Yet, for all that, I did not detect a hint of inauthenticity in the agent’s manner, and, in fact, I saw genuine disappointment after a joke he told bombed because of my abnormally serious demeanor.
The business of the interview, the source of my anxiety, turned out to be a bit of a sad joke and far less disconcerting than all the continuous praise. Several questions, for instance, hinged on a case of mistaken identity. Because I use the pseudonym Kilgore Trout and had been somewhat of a nemesis to Barrett Brown, the FBI had apparently connected me with another Kilgore Trout who was, several years before I knew of Brown, also at odds with Brown. Both Brown and the other Trout had participated on the Little Green Footballs web site, some despicable hole of fringe punditry, but I knew very little about it. The agent claimed Brown had tasked a hacker with cracking Little Green Footballs — a fairly explosive piece of information. Evidence of Brown giving jobs to hackers has been alluded to in many stories about LulzSec, but no one has been sure of Brown’s level of involvement. If it was true he tasked someone with hacking Little Green Footballs, then his involvement with LulzSec could have possibly been pivotal. It was shocking, but of course I knew nothing that could be of help in any case. With grave seriousness which was not present in any other part of the conversation, he asked something like, “You once wrote that Barrett Brown worked for China or Russia. Is this true?” Like his joke that bombed earlier, my mind was too messed up to laugh at the right cue, and I did my best to seriously explain the joke. While anything is possible, I can’t get over the certainty that the FBI, in general, is seriously convincedin Anonymous and its possible connections to foreign power. It brings to mind reports out of Iranian state-owned media that attacks by Anonymous are orchestrated by the American government.
It’s nice to be reminded that law enforcement agents are real people, but it’s also a bit disturbing — because they’re real people. Anons, especially, tend to imagine law enforcement as a monolithic edifice which sees all and acts like a hatefully inhuman machine in exacting draconian punishments for the smallest infractions. Maybe that likeness is accurate enough in a few cases, but at the same time it’s really humans we’re talking about — prone to the same fear, misinterpretation, misinformation, and confusion as the rest of us.
For to this fearful mind, surely, all our science and art are but chemical processes signifying nothing of our subjective state.
SINGULARITY, Tex. — Wednesday night, it was revealed that the NSA has nearly achieved a limited omniscient point of view over the planet Earth through extra-constitutional top-secret wiretapping of all major communications hubs. The Obama administration responded Thursday morning, defending this capability as necessary in America’s ongoing struggle against terrorists. Earlier this year, a leaked document revealed the omnipotence of the Pentagon, which has been granted the power to kill any human being in any part of the globe, effectively giving the Military Industrial Complex de facto sovereignty over the planet.
Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador, Emergence Theorist, has declared that the conjunction of near-omniscience and near-omnipotence in such an entity heralds the coming of the so-called Singularity.
“Because of our limited point of view and our arrogance,” he said, via taped phone conversation, “we are like brain cells that believe they can understand the whole brain. The Singularity has passed by unnoticed even by those who have long predicted it. It was the emergence of such large ‘wholes’ as nations and corporations which allowed for the formation of this planetary ‘whole’. This is much bigger than overgrown and corrupt government practices, or mere collusion with corporations. These large powers have coalesced into a singular entity, which not only strides the planet with unmitigated force, but also sees, or can see, a great body of sense data that has very few practical limits. Perhaps it cannot recognize its Self, yet it has found cohesion — cohesion borne out of a single-minded fear of terrorism. Few individuals seem to be able to come to grips with the astonishing implications, for on the human level such power seems monstrous. Have we invented a near-God, which we are now obliged to worship at the threat of instant death by drone? Will we now look back at Atheism and Rationalism as an innocent age before the birth of such a mind as this? For to this mind, surely, all our science and art are but chemical processes signifying nothing of our subjective state.”
Russia Today has been hacked, leading some to believe Soviet influence may once again be on the rise.
MOSCOW — Russia Today, the state-owned media outlet that recently aired a television program hosted by Julian Assange, was driven offline Monday morning by an unprecedented cyberassault.
Not much is known about the attack, but several theories have been put forward by experts in the field, and some anti-WikiLeaks hackers have taken credit without providing credible proof.
Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador, professor of history at Cambridge and expert on geopolitics, said that large-scale cyberattacks like these are generally outside of the scope of individual actors.
“There is little doubt in my mind that a sophisticated organization was involved in this attack,” he said via email.
Dr. Troubador refused to speculate on possible suspect organizations, but commenters on social media were abuzz with rumor.
A recent article put out by the Associated Press and widely syndicated by thousands of publications, including Russia Today, brought huge publicity to organized crime taking place on the antiquated Soviet Union domain name extension. Cybercriminals in Russia and Eastern Europe have long been known for their sophistication and integration with traditional organized crime in the region, and many have ties with former Soviet organizations, which are at odds with Russia Today.
Meanwhile, Russia Today has brought publicity to civil disturbances in Turkey, leading many to believe the attack was carried out by militant Islamist groups who have quickly integrated cyberattacks into their arsenal of terror and want to heighten the drama of what they believe is part of the Islamic Revolution. Yet others believe the Turkish government itself has deployed this cyberattack in order to dispel the riots plaguing their cities.
Because of the huge attention given to WikiLeaks, the Occupy movement, and Anonymous by Russia Today, still others believe some operative from the United States Government may have deployed this devastating attack. It was recently revealed that almost all of America’s cyberwar capabilities are controlled by private contractors who often act far outside of the boundaries of law.