The Astrophysics of Spying – Part 2

Last week I discussed the rapacious collection of data, from our emails, social media and surfing activity and the logging and if necessary red-flagging of every single word uttered during private phone conversations. I also explained the “WHY” distortion, which is essentially the massive inconsistency that exists between what most spying agencies say they are doing, under the convenient – no need to explain catch all of National Security and what they are probably doing.

Unless something is done to control their activities the situation can only deteriorate further as it has already done in most totalitarian autocracies, and in the new breed of veneer democracies now fanning out east and southwards from Russia, where ambitious prime ministers, presidents and military leaders increasingly follow the example set by Putin, who used every covert surveillance trick in the book to cow domestic media and bend the justice system so he could intimidate or conjure up criminal charges against anyone brave enough to question his rule or stand in his way when he tinkered with the national constitution so he could hang onto power for as long as possible.

As we saw with Victor Yanukovych’s spectacular fall from grace in Ukraine over the weekend, only the will of the people can ultimately curb such raw ambition. However, with every passing month it will become harder and harder for the will and bravery of the people to stem similar drifts towards dictatorship because the information they are gathering on us now, will be, one day, almost certainly used to try and control us.
Last year’s spat between the US and the EU over the NSA phone recording scandal, proved that the international trading of information and other secrets, perhaps for strategic, economic or home corporate advantage or to sabotage the efforts of none friendly states, is no longer fiction but a hard reality here to stay. It seems our privacy is now a commodity to be used, abused, traded or sold on, at your governments discretion, even, apparently to foreign powers.

Every few months some whistleblower adds buzz to the rumour that an international exchange now exists, for the trade and sale of not only secrets, but the personal and business information of millions of people. Although it won’t be too long before the secrets, behaviour and private conversations of almost every citizen on this planet will become available through the exchange, whose turn-over may already dwarf that of many national stock exchanges and bourses, with an annual trade in information already valued in billions of Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Yen and yes, perhaps sooner rather than later, even Bitcoin.

Rumour has it that the trading system was originally called the Information Bourse (Ibo) until this title was apparently ditched in favour of the more accurate: Espionage Exchange (es-ex) or e-sex as many have now labelled it; perhaps in a crude attempt to inject some double-entendre humour into what is a deadly serious, triple encrypted trading apparatus now springing up in the darkest corners of a growing number of state, and yes, even one or two private for-profit, agencies, who grew their businesses up from ‘bottom feeder’ status, after perhaps starting out by selling stolen credit card information and medical records, before being turned in true Poacher to Gamekeeper fashion to work with these agencies or face jail time. So now these hackers and crooks find themselves almost on the verge of respectability as the fee taking middle men, who facilitate the trickier information bundle trades or cash sales between countries that may outwardly have a poor, or even no discernible diplomatic relationship.

As Spy Centres are inevitably forced to justify themselves financially, like profit centres, perhaps they will, or are already, advertising to each other on this e-sex software? Don’t let your lack of skills and contacts prevent you from knowing anything that you want to know. Can we do it for you? Yes We Can!’ for money, or secrets about your neighbours or maybe just some landing or interrogation room rights in-case we ever drop by with an extra rendition type prisoner – who needs to be persuaded to “talk.”?

Governments have always wanted to keep the upper hand in military hardware development or to gain some strategic economic benefit of course, but what gives them the right to strip each and every one of us down into a collection of data and recordings, which they can now apparently use, or trade on for anything they need from friendly, or not so friendly allies or even borderline enemies? Why do they expect taxpayers to keep writing blank cheques but ask no questions, just because they tell us the money is only needed to keep us safe. Yes we know spying is no longer about cold war politics and more about terrorism and the growing problem of cyber attacks, with denial of service or other cyber weapons being deployed behind virtual battle lines. And yet, the “Why” distortion still points to money and the power to manipulate and improve your own economy, usually at the expense of someone else’s. Countries like China, who have never been accountable to voters now only make half hearted attempts to hide their state sponsored dirty tricks or downright theft of trade and other business secrets. But how do we know that our own spying agencies are not involved in exactly the same activities? The short answer is we don’t.
Let’s go back to last year’s NSA/ GCHQ phone tapping scandal. When Edward Snowdon fled from Hong Kong, the Russians could not believe their luck, when he flew straight into Putin’s golden cage at Moscow airport. So now, although Snowdon continues to leak secrets, you can be absolutely certain of two things: Not a single word will ever go against Russian interests and the second thing, of course, is that whatever is leaked will be designed to cause maximum mischief amongst western allies as happened last year, when Snowdon (read Putin) revealed that the NSA listened to almost every phone call the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel made in recent years. A charge the US didn’t bother denying, but now, much to Putin’s glee, Merkel is calling on EU leaders to create their own secure internet system, that doesn’t rely on elements, where, the US have free access to snoop. Although you can also guarantee, as you read this, that someone in the NSA is already working on a way to slip people, spyware or compromised computer chips with backdoor access into Merkel’s program before it even gets off the ground.

So what does the future hold for us? I expect some people will be looking forward to a time when you can buy a ‘Snoopers’ App for your phone or go to someone like and download someone’s file as easy as a Kindle book, until you eventually have a collection of files on friends, enemies or celebrities, although celebrities will no longer be celebrities if we know everything about them. Such things will, of course appeal to the stalker in all of us, but never forget that your own private life, your conversations, embarrassing habits or perversions, or fears and secrets will also be available to anyone and everybody who may be interested.

If nothing is done to curb the current pace of rapacious snooping on all of us soon, we can say goodbye forever to Free Speech and any concept of privacy apart from whispering during hidden face to face contact. I also foresee the emergence of billions of Vanilla People, forced to conform and live standard, none confrontational lives, devoid of ambition or aspirations. Serving, rather than flourishing under Governments, which increasingly lean towards big business interests or family dynasties, as more leaders succumb to the urge to control all media and open dissent by eventually introducing laws that prevent overt criticism or opposition, so they can hang on to their power. Of course, we are not all so pliable, but for those of us who refuse to become Vanilla People new coded ways of speaking or writing, with double or triple meanings will be devised, to keep us just the right side of the Neo-Dictators, who by then will perhaps rule with a system of warnings like 3 Strikes and Out, all the way through to prison in Re-education Gulags or, within some of the more despotic countries that will emerge, perhaps even death penalties.

It can never happen? Never forget that after World War One, most people believed that war, strife and inhumanity to other men was such a thing of the past that no one – NO ONE – ever predicted that obsessive surveillance and abuse of power through information, would eventually mean that 100’s of millions more people, would eventually perish under the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

If you value your Human Right to privacy please forward, re-tweet or FB Like this to someone who cares – If not then I am told that Vanilla isn’t such a bad colour to wear no matter who may be Watching you!


The Astrophysics of Spying

In fifty years time, if we haven’t all blown ourselves to pieces and society still manages to function despite the strife over-population and the ultra-extreme weather global warming will undoubtedly bring, we may look back to these unremarkable years as the start of something bad, something rotten, something that would become as malignant as a cancer. Something which, because it went unchecked, slowly consumed what was left of societies integrity and goodness before casting everyone’s Human Right to free speech and privacy into the abyss forever.

The scale of un-checked prying and spying into every aspect of our lives, that most governments now engage in under the all encompassing, yet ultimately amorphous heading of National Security, is becoming quite staggering. And yet this convenient cover, the excuse gifted to them by Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts on that sunny September morning in 2001, is rarely challenged by a population, who feel protected from the monsters their very own leaders have been keen to plant in their minds. However, the truth, if you care to look a bit closer has got little to do with protecting us. Yes it’s about security but it is more about power and about having ultimate control over you and me and everyone.
The case of Edward Snowden in particularly threw a light on the rapacious, almost open cast mining methods some agencies like the US’s National Security Agency – NSA and the UK’s Government Communication Headquarters – GCHQ use to collect information on all of us. Let’s look at some number: When Snowden fled last year there were approximately 30,0000 military and 75,000 civilian contractors working for the NSA. However, if that figure for civilians is expected to exceed 100,000 by the end of next year, imagine the wage bill in Tax dollars for 130,000+ computer specialists and all that equipment? So… can it only ever be about National Security, I mean – really? The FBI who use to look after National Security together with a 1001 other things from tax evasion to tracking down serial killers, manages to do so with a staff of just over 30,000. To put this into further context, the NSA have way, way more staff than most countries national armies, indeed if you stick to Europe, where most countries can finance a reasonable number of active service personnel, Army, Naval and Air-force, you would still need at least 6 or 7 countries to beat the NSA I.e. You could add the services of all of the Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland until you reach the Russian border and still be forced to throw in a couple more like Austria and Ireland to get anywhere near that 130,000 manpower figure. Why?

Still don’t believe something big, something odd is going on? The smoke and mirrors paradox of spying, means nothing is ever quite what it seems so getting any kind of full and frank disclosure is nigh on impossible. However, sometimes when national or international pressure compels a public response, we are afforded a very rare glimpse into their murky world. Recently, the director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, insisted in congressional testimony that data about hundreds of millions of European phone calls alleged by several newspapers to have been collected by the US had in fact been handed over to the NSA by European intelligence agencies for the PRISM project. PRISM project. No denial about the fact they now have all of our private and personal data, but handed over? Freely – really? In the shady, favour for a favour underbelly of the world where these agencies operate, nothing is truly free, ever. So what will the NSA, who can compel all US internet providers and mobile phone companies to give them virtually anything they want, by law, have given to these undisclosed European Intelligence Agencies in return? Is it something about you, about me, about all of us?
Internet Privacy
Some of the information this veritable army: code, weight or interpret does, admittedly have a National Security element attached to it – that is after all the only reason many of these agencies where ever allowed to exist in the first place. However, almost as soon as they started sifting through our private information and listening in to our calls, it was discovered that less than a debatable 2% of the information trawled had any obvious National Security value whatsoever. So what could they do – with reputations at stake and a whole new expensive workforce, who had to show something for the billions invested, they couldn’t just scale it all back, which was perhaps the moral thing to do. Instead, it was at this point that creative new ways were imagined of how to use some of the other 98% of data that had very little to do with security, and more about control, tax collection, censorship or illegal population profiling for party political or other purposes. Indeed, similar omnipresent eavesdropping laws, which come under that other old favourite catch all – anti terrorism, where recently used in the UK to arrest someone for dropping litter but they also used the latest surveillance techniques to catch a woman, who persistently let her dog foul pavement – National Security, Terrorism… really?!

Why is so little know about what they are actually doing and why were we almost blissfully unaware of it all until recently? The short answer is that there are too many Government PR machines out there, many of which, will not shy away from using dirty tricks to disprove, crush and discredit any criticism or leaks about what is really going on. They like knowing, they have gotten use to their unrestricted ability to snoop and pry and know everything about us, our habits our ideas our private thoughts, so they will protect their ability to do so, even if it is still technically illegal, seemingly at all costs.

No matter whether you believe he did a good thing or a bad thing, few people would have been surprised if Edward Snowden had disappeared before he emerged at Moscow airport last summer. Similarly, only a minority of people on the street actually believe there is any real substance to the rape allegations, that have pinned Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the past year and half. It is not just because of what they have already said, but mainly what they have suggested is going on, and will go on until it is irrevocably proven and stopped: the insatiable collection of our private and personal information for domestic and International purposes, with the ultimate aim of having a digital file record for all of us. Lax security means our health, criminal and employment records are all but public domain already, but then transcripts of every phone call, text, email or social media comment, like, tweet or re-tweet where a single word creates a red flag, together with a comprehensive history of our internet surfing activity and a hundred other things, could eventually be available to anyone with the ability (not necessarily the authority) to pry, but eventually, like most other data our Files will become available to a less secure level of users, or to the highest bidder to be used or abused or traded on.

The fact none of these Spook agencies freely admit to such practice yet, doesn’t mean it can’t exist. To prove it I need to turn to the world of Astrophysics to explain. Dark Matter is a substance that the majority of physicists believe makes up most of the mass of the universe – this despite not so much as a pin heads worth of it ever being detected or reproduced in the laboratory. The same thing for Black Holes – these hugely destructive phenomena have similarly never been seen, although there is little doubt that they exist. And yet we only know they are out there because of what they do to the visible galaxies and stars that surround them. The same thing happens if you consider what we know about the PRISM program, for example, and look more closely at the many things released by Snowden and WikiLeaks as a whole. There is a huge distortion, a WHY distortion surrounding it all that no one is prepared to answer fully – So what is the other massive thing going on that we mere mortals are prevented from knowing, it is certainly not just about National Security, but what is it?

It is something that already affects some of us, but if nothing is done to control it now, it will almost certainly affect all of us – mostly in a negative way – within the next few years and beyond.

Catch the 2nd and Final part next week – until then be safe, be secure, and be careful…