FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Questioning Edward Snowden’s Cure-All

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, https://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, https://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, https://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, https://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/

More articles by:

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail