Sunday, August 11, 2013

To Find a Needle, Burn the Haystack

Trey Smith

The term "collateral damage" is most frequently applied to the "non-targeted" death and destruction brought by bombs and guns. But it seems that our government, the master of collateral damage, is now doing it in "non-violent" ways. Take the recent situation at Lavabit.

The Texas-based email provider, specializing in encrypted email services, announced Thursday that it's immediately suspending its services. The crux of the issue is obliquely revealed in the statement by Lavabit's founder and owner Ladar Levison: "I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit."

Most of us can't be sure what forced Levison's hand but the content and cryptic nature of his explanation speaks volumes. "As things currently stand," he wrote, "I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests."

One of Lavabit's 350,000 users is Edward Snowdon and, given the frenzied attacks and investigations of this reknowned whistle-blower, it's pretty clear what happened. "Reading between the lines," Wired's Kevin Poulsen writes, "it’s reasonable to assume Levison has been fighting either a National Security Letter seeking customer information — which comes by default with a gag order — or a full-blown search or eavesdropping warrant."

If that's the case and LavaBit doesn't give up what's being demanded (probably Snowdown emails) Levison faces harsh criminal penalties. If he does give them up he contradicts the very purpose the provider was founded for in the first place and that would probably spell LavaBit's death. It's like forcing someone to play Russian Roulette with bullets in all the chambers. Except that one of those bullets is also aimed at our privacy and our ability to use the Internet the way it was intended.

Not only is this a significant and sobering expansion of the government's attack on secure Internet communications, it also shows the complete disdain the Obama Administration has for people's privacy, specifically in this case the 350,000 Lavabit users who now have no secure email service.
~ from Lavabit: A Profile in Principles by Alfredo Lopez ~
This could be called a "slash and burn" policy. Because our government so desperately wants to prosecute one man, they are willing to invade the privacy of 349,999 other people!

That's what makes these assorted surveillance programs so galling. Even by the government's own self-serving figures, they have foiled very few "terror plots." We've heard figures as high as 50 and as low as one. Let's be generous and accept the 50 number at face value. The government is violating the constitutional rights of hundreds of millions of Americans and all they have to show for it is, at best, 50 thwarted events or actions.

Putting this figure in baseball terminology -- if we use, say, 100 million Americans as a conservative base, the government is batting 0.0000005 -- which we could round off to ZERO.

Just looking at this miniscule amount of success in monetary terms -- something the people in Washington constantly chirp about -- it would seem that a cost-benefit analysis would indicate a very poor return on the investment. But, of course, Washington utilizes a different formula and for their formula this is all working out quite nicely. While they give speech after speech about the need for "shared sacrifice," they are transferring untold billions of taxpayer dollars into the bank accounts of their corporate benefactors!

That, my friends, is what this whole ruse of "national security" is about. If the elite can convince us to be scared for our safety from this bogeyman or that, then we will clamor for more security and more security in this modern world means more money flowing to the corporate hacks contracted to spy on us.

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