FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Questioning Edward Snowden’s Cure-All

by

Ed Snowden recently gave fellow NSA whistleblower James Bamford an “extended cut” interview in Moscow[1]. While Snowden offered up a few morsels of headline-worthy information, like how he purposefully left forensic artifacts for investigators or details on the NSA’s automated cyber-attack system called MonsterMind, Bamford’s piece ends with Snowden describing what he views as the answer to the NSA’s global surveillance program:

“We have the means and we have the technology to end mass surveillance without any legislative action at all, without any policy changes… By basically adopting changes like making encryption a universal standard—where all communications are encrypted by default—we can end mass surveillance not just in the United States but around the world.”

So, that’s it, huh? All we need is strong crypto? Download the latest app and guaranteed civil liberties are but a click away…

Pleasant fiction, caws your humble narrator.

Snowden’s train of thought echoes that of many cypherpunks back in the 1980s, doesn’t it? There were true believers in this milieu who thought that strong encryption alone would be sufficient to thwart Big Brother. This idea is founded on the stance that political considerations can be entirely eschewed in favor of strictly technical or market-oriented solutions. One might even posit that there are intimations of Libertarian ideology (i.e. corporate feudalism[2]) at work, which might not be surprising considering the Ed Snowden was a supporter of Ron Paul[3].

blunden

Such a mindset no doubt serves the interests of an entrepreneur like Pierre Omidyar, a billionaire who plans to generate income by peddling security products. Products that will address the very scandals that his new media venture
unearths[4]. Isn’t that convenient? To be able to present a problem with one hand and then proffer a solution with the other? Problem-Reaction-Solution; also known as the Hegelian dialectic. By the way this tactic has also been employed, to the hilt, by a Pentagon carpetbagger named Keith Alexander[5].

Yet Snowden’s own documents clearly illustrate that strong encryption doesn’t translate into cyber security[6]. If the minions of the Deep State want your data they’ll get it. Anyone who refuses to play ball ends up like the CEO of Lavabit[7] (if they’re lucky[8]). It doesn’t matter how “secure” vendors claim their technology is. Government spies, with the full cooperation of large multinational corporations (it’s a matter of shared class interest, you see[9]), have demonstrated a notable talent for leveraging hidden back doors and conducting computer network exploitation (CNE)[10]. This conclusion is further buttressed by “accidental” back doors like the Heartbleed vulnerability, which sent shockwaves across the Internet[11].  John Young, of Cryptome.org, describes the current state of affairs:

“So it has come to pass, there is no refuge from politics, and the once reviled tin -hats of conspiracy theories are replacing  anomymous masks, especially by the best and brightest cryptographers who have been hoodwinked far more than dreamed of in earliest days of cypherpunks.”

As Hungarian scholar Karl Polyanyi explained, the concept of unfettered free markets is a quaint myth. Markets are defined by governments and the ground rules that they establish. The same could be said for cyber-security, which suffers as a matter of official policy. Spies have been given [secret] license to undermine software in the pursuit of the Eye of Providence[12]. Likewise hi-tech vendors release bug-ridden code because they can get away with making society accept the cost. In the eyes of a hi-tech CEO the incidents which result from their faulty products are a negative externality.

This underscores a point that both Ed Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have failed to acknowledge[13]. There are laws that allow these violations to transpire. Furthermore the government which formulated these laws has been captured by plutocratic factions[14]. The intelligence services, in particular the CIA, exist to serve these elite interests[15]. To seek refuge in strong encryption is to escape into denial. Bolstering security and protecting our civil liberties will require the public to mobilize and generate the political impetus to take on the Deep State.

Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal , and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.

End Notes


[1] Jame Bamford, “The Most Wanted Man In The World,” Wired, August 13, 2014, http://www.wired.com/2014/08/edward-snowden/

[2] Mike Konczal, “We Already Tried Libertarianism – It Was Called Feudalism,” The Next New Deal, June 11, 2013, http://www.nextnewdeal.net/rortybomb/we-already-tried-libertarianism-it-was-called-feudalism

[3] Barton Gellman and Jerry Markon, “Edward Snowden says motive behind leaks was to expose ‘surveillance state’,” Washington Post, June 10, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/edward-snowden-says-motive-behind-leaks-was-to-expose-surveillance-state/2013/06/09/aa3f0804-d13b-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html

[4] Glenn Greenwald, “Email exchange with reader over First Look and NSA reporting,” UT Documents, January 6, 2014, http://utdocuments.blogspot.com/2014/01/email-exchange-with-reader-over-first.html

[5] George Smith, “Keith Alexander really IS a pariah,” Escape from Whitemanistan, August 2, 2014, http://dickdestiny.com/blog1/?p=18406

[6] Bill Blunden, “Mass Subversion Is a Reality,” Counterpunch, July 24, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/24/mass-subversion-is-a-reality/

[7] Spencer Ackerman, “Lavabit email service abruptly shut down citing government interference,” Guardian, August 9, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/aug/08/lavabit-email-shut-down-edward-snowden

[8] Gary Lee, “Area Writer Investigating Inslaw Case Found Dead,” Washington Post, August 13, 1991, http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1079614.html

[9] Bill Blunden, “The NSA’s Corporate Collaborators,” Counterpunch, May 9-11, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/05/09/the-nsas-corporate-collaborators/

[10] Bill Blunden, “The NSA Wants You to Trust Tor, Should You?” Counterpunch, July 18-20, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/18/the-nsa-wants-you-to-trust-tor-should-you/

[11] Sean Gallagher, “Heartbleed vulnerability may have been exploited months before patch,” Ars Technica, April 9, 0214, http://arstechnica.com/security/2014/04/heartbleed-vulnerability-may-have-been-exploited-months-before-patch/

[12] Antony Loewenstein, “The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control,” Guardian, July 10, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/11/the-ultimate-goal-of-the-nsa-is-total-population-control

[13] Bill Blunden, “An Open Letter to Glenn Greenwald,” Counterpunch, June 19, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/06/19/an-open-letter-to-glenn-greenwald/

[14] Larry Bartels, “Rich People Rule!” Washington Post, April 8, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/08/rich-people-rule/

[15] “Philip Agee and Edward Snowden: A comparison,” Rancid Honeytrap, August 13, 2014, http://ohtarzie.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/philip-agee-and-edward-snowden-a-comparision/

Bill Blunden is a journalist whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including “The Rootkit Arsenal” andBehold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex.” Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs and a member of the California State University Employees Union, Chapter 305.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
Sheldon Richman
The Real Danger From Trump is Ignored
Jay Moore
Learning from History: Resistance in the 1850s and Today
Matthew Stevenson
Down and Out in London and Paris With Macron, May, Trump and Gatsby
David Jaffee
Rolling Back Democracy
Fred Gardner
Irrefutable Proof: Russian Election Meddling Documented!
Jess Guh
Neurology Study Reveals What We Already Know: People of Color Get Worse Healthcare
Joseph Natoli
A Culture of Narcissism, a Politics of Personality
David Rosen
Politics and the Agent of Social Change
Ian Almond
The Secret Joke of Our Democracy: Britain’s Elephant in the Boardroom
Andre Vltchek
Revolution Vs Passivity
Erik Rydberg
Stop the Jordan Cove LNG Project #NoLNG
Vijay Prashad
When Israeli Fighter Jets Almost Killed Nehru
Christopher Brauchli
The Certified Trump
Chuck Collins
Congress Wants to Cut Your Health Care — And Billionaires’ Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail