If you have watched this year’s best new show Person of Interest you already know that the premise concerns a computer genius who designed a huge spying computer for the government as part of the War on Terror. Its purpose was to ferret out terrorists, “but it sees everything.”
In the show, “The Machine” is attaining a type of consciousness, and can predict crime up to a point, which allows the designer to save people before they are harmed, a kind of redemption for building The Machine to begin with.
We now know that the government has a machine in Utah, and while it is not attaining consciousness, nor able to predict criminal human behavior, (as far as we know!), indeed it seems to be on the way to seeing everything.
Fox News broke the story back in April:
The NSA’s Machine is capable of handling 5 zettabytes, an incomprehensible amount of data. A trillion is 1000 billion, and a quadrillion is 1000 trillion. A quintillion is 1000 quadrillion.
A zettabyte goes beyond even that! According to one source, the goal of the NSA’s Machine is to break (seemingly uncrackable) algorithms used to protect financial data and even, yes, top-secret military and government data.
The story adds confirmation to what the New York Times revealed in 2005: that the NSA has engaged in widespread wiretapping of Americans with the consent of firms like AT&T and Verizon. But more interestingly–and more troubling in the eyes of many who value their privacy–it details the Agency’s plans to crack AES encryption, the cryptographic standard certified by the NSA itself in 2009 for military and government use and until now considered uncrackable in any amount of time relevant to mortals.
A Russian historian once commented upon the tight swaddling done by Russian mothers, which prevents babies from moving much at all. The intention is to keep them warm, as warm as possible, but it may also plant, said the historian, an unconscious feeling that being free to move is somehow unpleasant…or unsafe…or wrong. He wondered if it was at least partially responsible for Russian passivity in the face of oppression, whether Czarist, Communist, or Putinist.
Has America decided to place security above freedom? And if we expect the companies involved, many of which are controlled by openly leftist or at least Democrat-leaning technocrats, to protest against such widespread domestic spying, we are trying to make snow-cones in Timbuktu.
“…Google and Twitter, which is (Sic!) notably absent from the NSA slides about Prism that were published by the Washington Post, have gone to regular courts to oppose some other requests for data on their users.
These requests include National Security Letters, which are issued by the FBI and do not need to be approved by a court. Though more than 90 percent of those letters have come with a prohibition on their disclosure, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled recently those gag orders are unconstitutional.
Fights like these are rare. For instance, Section 215 provision of the 2001 USA Patriot Act requires companies to turn over business records. The Justice Department said in a 2009 letter to Congress that between 2004 and 2007, no recipient (of) such requests “has ever challenged the validity of the order.”
(My corrections and emphasis above)
It will take average Americans who organize and protest to change things, assuming that there are enough Americans who are willing to live without fear and who believe that a risk-averse life is akin to being swaddled like a Russian infant.