While the U.S. courts issue opposing rulings about whether the NSA (National Security Agency), the penetration of techno-spying continues in newly revealed and frightening ways. On the last day of what the Queen might call "annus horribilis" (she used the phrase when her "family" was falling apart in divorce and scandal) we learn from reports out of Australia, on a conference in Germany, from an independent privacy advocate of how nefarious, Orwellian and "out of the box" this scourge has become.
And once released, no matter what Obama does to tighten the ropes around the NSA, there will never be a world for our grandchildren without excessive intelligence sweeps, limiting the privacy of all people living under whatever political regime. Big Brother is here, and proudly strides the globe like a colossus, without any hope of being put back into the box.
And this is the outcome, with undoubtedly more to come, of Islamic terrorism. There have been mobs in various countries, carrying out criminal activities for centuries. There have been pirates plundering the cargoes of freighter ship on the high seas, also for centuries. And now, in this century, we have a convergence of high tech capability rising to meet a different kind of threat, one backed by thousands willing to martyr themselves for their 'holy cause'....
And the "protectors" of national security have opened their box of 'tricks' and unleashed a world of ubiquitous spying, even from instruments carried by individuals, without the knowledge or the complicity (officially) of a company like Apple, whose instruments have been compromised, if this latest story is valid.
Radar waves to harvest computer-stored information, even if those computers are not on line....just another of the pieces of information disclosed to the communications conference in Hamburg, Germany, and carried today in the Sydney Morning News....(See story below)
For ordinary people, the question, on this last day of this rather despicable and tragic calendar of events, for which the human race cannot be proud or even tolerant, is, "Do we have more to fear from the "protectors" of national security or from the terrorists who seek to take power anywhere and everywhere they can gain a foothold?"
And the answer lies, as do the answers to most questions, in "both" and not one or the other.
It was Pogo, the comic strip character who used the unforgettable phrase, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"
And if we are to both survive and thrive, we will have to confront our inner enemy, the one that seeks to sabotage our best efforts to govern, to conduct business, to instruct our young, to discover the biological as well as the political "germs" that seem to constantly beset our best angels in all fields.
I once designed and delivered a workshop to entrepreneurs entitled, "Tickling the demons that sabotage!" in which I attempted to illustrate how our personal, individual and unconscious "demons" get in the way of our achievement of our goals, objectives, dreams and best instincts.
Some came to the session wondering what was meant by the title. Others thought I was about to conduct a comedy routine. Still others had so intimate an awareness of the issue that they began telling their own stories about how the theme had affected their lives, generating turns they never expected they would find or take, creating connections that they did not plan, and thwarting the best laid plans and strategies.
On a global scale, we can ill afford to let those unconscious demons destroy the many useful and even healthy structures our ancestors have passed along to us, in their determined attempt to make our lives "better" than were theirs'. And, in that light, we have to demand that our "spy-chiefs" reign in their enthusiasm for eavesdropping, and for sweeping the globe clean of the information that we have come to believe is private, personal and unavailable without our formal, written and legally warranted consent.
And we must not give that consent away willy-nilly, without requiring the "state" to bear the burden of proof that it is not abusing its power "on our behalf" no matter how valuable the information they are gathering.
We did not sign on to the social contract that subverts even the technology that we purchase on the open market, for the purposes of state-controlled spying.
We did not sign on to a social contract that even permits such spying, without strict protocols demanding warrants, supervising, independent courts and legislatures unwilling to sell out to the national security establishment.
On this issue, we are all protective conservatives, in the sense that our personal information has value, in spite of the tsunami of "sell-out" data that unconscious individuals put up on the web every minute of every day, in every corner of the world.
On this last day of 2013, I invite you, dear reader, to read the piece from the Sydney Morning News and reflect on how together we might take steps to demand that our political leaders come clean with both their motives and their methods of surveillance on our private lives, while continuing to balance the needs and objectives of national security and international peace and security, goals at which we seem to be having considerable difficulty succeeding.
So, not only are we giving up our privacy, we are also losing the battles against terrorism. Watching the Russian security apparatus gather up dozens following the two attacks within days in Volgogard, we are not inspired with confidence that such heavy handed police methods do much more than play out an historic drama of public relations, without producing much in the way of evidence or convictions.
Outside of prison growth, health care explosion including pharmaceutical invasions, it would seem that we have created a "security monster" over which no one has control, or even monitoring capability and perhaps that enemy Pogo spoke of was our ambition to dominate, to build the biggest and the best and the most lethal machines to demonstrate our pride of accomplishment, when what we are really doing is laying bare our deepest fears and vulnerabilities. And for public figures to acknowledge that would render them political eunuchs.
NSA can turn your iPhone into a spy, says privacy advocate Jacob Appelbaum
By Raphael Satter, Sydney Morning News, December 31, 2013
The NSA can plant malicious software on Apple's iPhone, turning one of the world's most popular smartphones into a pocket-sized spy, according to a leading security expert.
Privacy advocate Jacob Appelbaum gave the public an unusually explicit peek into the intelligence world's toolbox at a hacking conference in Germany, pulling back the curtain on the US National Security Agency's (NSA) arsenal of high-tech spy gear.
The independent journalist and security expert said on Monday that the NSA could turn iPhones into eavesdropping tools and use radar wave devices to harvest electronic information from computers, even if they weren't online.
Appelbaum told hundreds of computer and technology experts gathered at Hamburg's Chaos Communications Conference that his revelations about the NSA's capabilities "are even worse than your worst nightmares".
"What I am going to show you today is wrist-slittingly depressing," he said.
Even though in the past six months there have been an unprecedented level of public scrutiny of the NSA and its methods, Appelbaum's claims – supported by what appeared to be internal NSA slides – still caused a stir.
One of the slides described how the NSA can hide malware in the iPhone, giving US intelligence agents the ability to turn the smartphone into a spying device.
Another slide showcased a futuristic-sounding device described as a "portable continuous wave generator", a remote-controlled device which – when paired with tiny electronic implants – can bounce invisible waves of energy off keyboards and monitors to see what is being typed, even if the target device isn't connected to the internet.
A third slide showcased a piece of equipment called NIGHTSTAND, which can tamper with wireless internet connections from up to 13 kilometres away.
An NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, said she wasn't aware of Appelbaum's presentation, but that in general would not comment on "alleged foreign intelligence activities".
"As we've said before, NSA's focus is on targeting the communications of valid foreign intelligence targets – not on collecting and exploiting a class of communications or services that would sweep up communications that are not of bona fide foreign intelligence interest to the US government."
Apple has not yet responded publicly to the allegations.
The documents included in Appelbaum's presentation were first published by German magazine Der Spiegel on Sunday and Monday.