Christopher R. Howard

Mons Simplicitatis

BOUNDLESS INFORMANT, PRISM, AND LACK OF CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS, KINDA SORTA HALFWAY A BIG DEAL

June 9, 2013

Tags: PRISM, Boundless Informant, Governance, Thought Reform, Edward Snowden

So itís really in our faces now, there are some within our government who wish to turn America into a sort of Airstrip One surveillance state, but with fully-stocked Wal-Mart shelves. At this point, why even pretend otherwise? Implied in 1984: Telescreens are super fucking fun, and highly effective at population control, so long as youíre the 1% whoís behind them, as opposed to being in front of them. Historically, this sort of thing works out swimmingly, unless youíre the bottom 99% or something crazy like that. *Checks bank balance* Oh shit.

Some of you, no doubt, appreciate the full magnitude of the great betrayal that the past days and weeks have revealedĖ kinda makes that whole Founding Fathers checks-and-balances thing seem less like a lofty, abstract notion, donít it? It does for me, at least. Itís almost like some really smart gents (flawed as they were) back in the 18th Century engineered a republic with three branches of government that was nigh-idiotproof. With such a brilliant, self-restraining design, youíd have to let a lot of utterly unacceptable excesses go before thereíd be any serious fissures in the foundation, huh? Clearly we have let a lot of utterly unacceptable excesses go and this, I guess, is what paying the piper looks like. Secret courts and secret police surveilling everywhere for secret threats, and data sweeps so vast that it defies comprehension.

According to The Guardian, Boundless Informant aggregated almost 3 billion data elements from the US in March 2013 alone, Gmail, Hotmail, Skype, etc. And this is, what, apparently the fourth iteration of this sort of thing that we even know aboutĖ ECHELON, ThinThread, Trailblazer, now PRISM? The story is not all of this is data from US citizens, a healthy chunk of the worldís communications flows through our humble empire because we have the internet infrastructure, but itís a nice number to do some rough math. Really rough, preliminary math because itís been three days since this began hitting the headlines in a big way and a lot of the information is already notably contradictory. So, 3 billion x 12 months x 6 years = 216 billion data elements assimilated; not a single one of which was legitimized by a warrant in any conventional sense. (Some may take issue with that last sentence fragment in light of recent statements from the President and Director of National Intelligence, but secret judges in secret courts operating at the consent of less than a handful of members of Congress sworn to secrecy, for secret reasons, isnít a warrant in any meaningful sense of the term. The proper description may be more along the lines of, at best, ďpiece of paper with words on it plus a signatureĒ.) And this is all excluding the phone calls, which whistleblower William Binney says is more like 3 billion per day. Imagine all those ones and zeros, every single byte of which is utterly, utterly malleable.

Sooner or later weíre going to cross a bridge too far. I hope this isnít it. Itís probably not. But secret police wiretapping journalists en masse and monitoring the correspondence of the general population isnít insignificant, lawful, or even appropriate, no matter what the opinioneers tell you.

What a mess. We more or less saved the planet twice in two world wars. We landed on the moon. We birthed the minds who first mass produced cars, wrote The Sun Also Rises, and invented personal computing. And now weíre the high school bullies who intercept love notes passed back and forth in class, and why? Because the teacherís in charge, and you donít need to worry about it, thatís why. Plus if you donít like it, thereís always the threat of a wedgie/Espionage Act/being rendered and waterboarded. I joke but this whole thing is just so profoundly distasteful. Weíre supposed to be the guys who are above stuff like legally murky, broad domestic spying. Thatís supposed to be our thing. Makes you wonder if that dead, tall Saudi fellow with the videotape fetish had any clue what he was unleashing; I forget his name.

There must be a point in some military campaigns where victory is still theoretically achievable, but everybody realizes itís going to be ugly. Well, uglier than the standard, soulcrushingly ugly. The British had Tobruk. We had the Pusan Perimeter. The Israelis, Rafah. The point is, this is a huge deal, no matter who tries to justify it with pretty words, and things are going to get uglier before they get better, and itís going to be a serious fight. (In this instance, we havenít even hit the criminalize-the-revelation-that-the-government-is-engaging-in-criminal-behavior stage yet, but thatís coming.) This is the Bastogne for our Fourth Amendment. No way can the greatest social experiment in human history go out like this, right?



EDIT 6/9/13 - The PRISM whistleblower revealed himself, Guardian link. "We've got a CIA station just up the road, in the consulate, here in Hong Kong, and I'm sure they're going to be very busy for the next week." Edward Snowden, hero, titanium balls.

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