Tuesday, February 11, 2014
So Much Cheaper When You Spy On Everyone
Volume, volume, volume. When you're a surveillance state there are real economies of scale to spying on everyone. America's security apparatus is said to keep tabs on about 315-million people. Carve up the NSA budget by 315-million and you get $574 per person. That works out to just 6.5 cents per hour.
There are some who contend that a major reason America's spymasters keep close tabs on everyone is because it's so damned cheap thanks to 21st century technology.
If privacy law experts Kevin S. Bankston and Ashkan Soltani are correct, costs, once a significant check on government spying and police monitoring efforts, have become an afterthought. In a recent study published in the Yale Law Journal Online, Bankston and Soltani found that most technologies deployed for mass surveillance efforts by police departments (e.g., GPS devices and domestic drones) are on cost trajectories similar to the NSA spying program: As the number of subjects increases, the cost of keeping tabs on each target nears zero. Cheaper, more effective tracking devices have been a boon to cash-strapped police departments nationwide, largely to the dismay of civil liberty groups.
Meanwhile, privacy protections afforded to individuals under the Fourth Amendment, which safeguards individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the state, have been eroding for years. Whether a particular search or seizure is deemed “reasonable” — thus justifying police action — rests largely on our ephemeral notions of privacy. It’s a dicey standard. As we place more of our private lives in the public domain (73 percent of adults online use social media), we, as well as courts, consider fewer acts to be truly private and thus protected by the Constitution. At the height of McCarthyism in the 1950s, for instance, groups fought tooth and nail to keep library lists private; today, we publicize the titles of books we’ve recently read on sites like Facebook and Goodreads.
There's a critical lesson in this for all of us. Rights and freedoms atrophy when they're not exercised. When we no longer recognize or value them, they will be infringed or simply stolen via the very sort of incrementalism of which our own prime minister is a master. Today, as perhaps never before in our country's history, we need to defend our rights and freedoms against our own government that would take them away and, indeed, is doing just that.
The evidence is everywhere. The rabid control of information. The secrecy and utter dishonesty. The manipulation. The gagging of our public service. The suppression of science. The dismemberment of libraries. The substitution of messaging for information. The wilful dissemination of fear, anger, resentment and distrust to leave us, as a people, divided and powerless. The corruption and politicization of our police and security services. The collaboration between government and the corporate media cartel.
All of these things are the hallmark of tyranny. They are the doing of tyrants. I posted this graphic yesterday but it needs to be presented again. Think on it and realize that the first step in remedying our democratic deficit must be the dismantling of this rancid, corporate media cartel and the restoration of open government.
Glenn Greenwald's online news site, The//Intercept, is now up and running with a cast of leading-edge journalists. It should be one to bookmark.
The lead story is now NSA metadata and cellphone tracking is now being used in lieu of actual human intelligence to select targets for America's assassination by drone programme.
In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device.
The former JSOC drone operator is adamant that the technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed as a result of the NSA’s increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic.
One problem, he explains, is that targets are increasingly aware of the NSA’s reliance on geolocating, and have moved to thwart the tactic. Some have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system. Others, unaware that their mobile phone is being targeted, lend their phone, with the SIM card in it, to friends, children, spouses and family members.
Some top Taliban leaders, knowing of the NSA’s targeting method, have purposely and randomly distributed SIM cards among their units in order to elude their trackers. “They would do things like go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave,” the former drone operator says. “That’s how they confuse us.”
As a result, even when the agency correctly identifies and targets a SIM card belonging to a terror suspect, the phone may actually be carried by someone else, who is then killed in a strike. According to the former drone operator, the geolocation cells at the NSA that run the tracking program – known as Geo Cell –sometimes facilitate strikes without knowing whether the individual in possession of a tracked cell phone or SIM card is in fact the intended target of the strike.
Well that certainly gives a diabolical new meaning to the old adage "good enough for government work."