FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Edward Who? The Snowden Affair Ends with a Whimper

“Do not send to those who tout secure drops, Tor, crypto-comms – these are traceable, diagrammable via basic net transmission tech.”

Cryptome

It’s been more than six years since Edward Snowden went public. After all the breathless headlines, Hollywood movies, book deals, Pulitzer prizes, and glossy primetime biopics. What, pray tell, has come of it? For the average American – bupkis. In fact, mass surveillance is actually growing by leaps and bounds. Such that those who wish to salvage the remnants of their individual privacy will be forced to make some tough choices in the years ahead.

Ed Snowden, holed up in Russia, has faded into history. At the forefront of the Snowden disclosures, the news outlet known as The Intercept has officially shuttered its archives. They made their moulah and moved on. And what of the considerable streak of confidential sources who’ve been thrown in the pokey? The editors aren’t talking much about how that happened. In fact they seem more interested in selling people email servers in a box. Hey, is this web page supposed to be an advertisement or an article? In the era of social media it can be hard to tell the difference.

History offers a glimpse behind the curtain. During the early days of the Cold War it was common practice for the political leaders in the Soviet Union to purge the KGB every so often. Because over time Russian spymasters accrued enough political dirt and power that they threatened to take over. With the ascendance of Vladimir Putin one might argue that the rebranded KGB finally succeeded.

In a similar manner, American intelligence escaped the Snowden revelations largely unscathed. That, dear reader, ought to tell you something. Sure there was lots of grandstanding and feigned outrage. Sure CEOs made bold statements of renunciation (ahem, after being caught in bed with spies). Keeping the kayfabe alive, as Jesse Ventura might say. Rest assured, claims Apple CEO Tim Cook, your iPhone would never ever spy on you. Yeah, and the relationship between Silicon Valley and government spies is completely adversarial, they can’t stand each other. Just like the blood feud Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan back in the late 1980s. Uh-huh, just like that. A total
farce which the media enables because that’s what they’re paid to do.

But ultimately what matters is concrete institutional change. And there’s been zero of that, as in nada. Because genuine privacy threatens advertising revenue, quarterly returns, and spy power. And the elites want to keep the money train chugging along. Perhaps it no surprise then that the legislative response to Snowden was so watered down that one former spy chief publicly lampooned it. Let’s hear three cheers for state capture.

You can almost hear Otis Pike weeping in his grave.

Most advocates prefer to end their op-eds on a hopeful note. But sometimes hope is just a lightweight form of denial. The kind of “hope” that keeps Silicon Valley in business. Though it’s painful to concede, the spies at Fort Meade hit the nail on the head: we’re mostly zombies who pay for our own surveillance. Please go back and re-read the previous sentence. Short of a massive political upheaval things aren’t going to change. Which means that, for the immediate future, the really big changes will have to take place on a personal level.

And so we arrive at the “tough choices” mentioned at the beginning. Members of the establishment often whine about discussing tradecraft because they believe that doing so might aid and abet terrorists. But the truth is that the channel of useful information is actually flowing in the opposite direction. From wanted fugitives to the public.

The kernel of an approach can be found out in the field. Where poor security is fatal. Hunted by the world’s most formidable military, the head of ISIS is still alive thanks to solid operations security, also known as OPSEC. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is definitely a leader who appreciates OPSEC. According to the New York Times, “he eschews all electronic devices, which could identify his location, and probably communicates through a series of couriers.” The key to staying vertical, then, is the process surrounding the couriers. How they’re compartmented, screened, and arranged to create a resilient communication network. No doubt al-Baghdadi is aware that a flawed courier scheme was a significant factor in the downfall of Osama bin Laden.

Edward Snowden likes to promote strong cryptography. Leaving people with the notion that staying under the radar is a matter of leveraging a technical quick fix. But recent history shows that trusting your life to an allegedly secure communication platform is an act of faith. And not an advisable one, especially when state sponsored operators enter the picture. Achieving higher levels of security requires a disciplined process which is anything but a quick fix and which often entails giving up technology. Even cartel bosses learn this lesson: security technology fails. Both my design and by accident. Spies win either way.

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

June 24, 2019
Jim Kavanagh
Eve of Destruction: Iran Strikes Back
Nino Pagliccia
Sorting Out Reality From Fiction About Venezuela
Jeff Sher
Pickin’ and Choosin’ the Winners and Losers of Climate Change
Howard Lisnoff
“Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran”
Robert Fisk
The West’s Disgraceful Silence on the Death of Morsi
Dean Baker
The Old Japan Disaster Horror Story
David Mattson
The Gallatin Forest Partnership and the Tyranny of Ego
George Wuerthner
How Mountain Bikes Threaten Wilderness
Christopher Ketcham
The Journalist as Hemorrhoid
Manuel E. Yepe
Yankee Worship of Bombings and Endless Wars
Mel Gurtov
Iran—Who and Where is The Threat?
Wim Laven
Revisiting Morality in the Age of Dishonesty
Thomas Knapp
Facebook’s Libra Isn’t a “Cryptocurrency”
Weekend Edition
June 21, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Brett Wilkins
A Brief History of US Concentration Camps
Rob Urie
Race, Identity and the Political Economy of Hate
Rev. William Alberts
America’s Respectable War Criminals
Paul Street
“So Happy”: The Trump “Boom,” the Nation’s Despair, and the Decline of Joe Biden
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ask Your Local Death Squad
Dr. Vandana Shiva
Fake Food, Fake Meat: Big Food’s Desperate Attempt to Further the Industrialisation of Food
Eric Draitser
The Art of Trade War: Is Trump Winning His Trade War against China?
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s Russian Problem
Jonathan Cook
Forget Trump’s Deal of the Century: Israel Was Always on Course to Annexation
Andrew Levine
The Biden Question
Stanley L. Cohen
From Tel Aviv to Tallahassee
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Collapses 70 Years Early
Kenn Orphan
Normalizing Atrocity
Ajamu Baraka
No Dare Call It Austerity
Ron Jacobs
The Redemptive Essence of History
David Rosen
Is Socialism Possible in America?
Dave Lindorff
The US as Rogue Nation Number 1
Joseph Natoli
The Mad King in His Time
David Thorstad
Why I’m Skipping Stonewall 50
Michael Welton
Native People: Changing Our Ways of Seeing
Peter Bolton
The US-UK “Special Relationship” is a Farce
Ramzy Baroud
‘World Refugee Day’: Palestinians Keep Their Right of Return Alive Through Hope, Resistance
Louis Proyect
The Douma Gas Attack: What’s the Evidence It was a False Flag?
Binoy Kampmark
Nigel Farage’s Grand Tour of Sabotage
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Sanctions are Sadistic and Spiteful
Norman Solomon
Clueless and Shameless: Joe Biden, Staggering Frontrunner
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong is Far From China’s Biggest Problem
Lawrence Davidson
On the Alleged “Preciousness of Life”
Mel Gurtov
Impeach Trump
Rajan Menon
America’s Suicide Epidemic: It’s Hitting Trump’s Base Hard
Dan Bacher
Oregon Governor Kate Brown Signs Five-Year Fracking Ban Bill
Ralph Nader
Congressional Interns and Congress Redirections—A Meeting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail