November 27, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013
It’s been a rough year for the good, though professionally sneaky folks at the National Security Agency (NSA). It’s archenemy (every superhero has one) Edward “sneaky-wiki leaker” Snowden caused quite a kerfuffle (spy jargon for mess) when his site leaked documents leading to news reports that the NSA was engaged in a massive domestic surveillance operation of US citizens sans the common courtesy of any search warrants. What followed were official denials, more reports, more leaks, partial confirmations, more leaks, more reports, and then waves of political spin. You know political messaging, massaging, framing, crafting, backstory and narratives. The end result? Well, seems our e-mails, website visits, google searches, blogs, tweets, insta-messaging and texts are all fair game in the ongoing spy game.
Disconcerting? Yep. “But I don’t have anything to hide” claim still doesn’t quite justify being left digitally naked to the wind when last I checked there is still, however, tattered, a US Constitution laying around somewhere. (Unless the NSA purloined it and is mining it for subversive data).
Anyways, the sheer amount of data-mining and analysis the NSA was and apparently, still is and will continue to be doing is impressive. Billions and billions of data-nuggets are being looked at for discernible threats and patterns of threatening communications to our national security. It’s gone light-years ahead of just intercepting and tracing signals or would-be terrorist chatter. This is mining rivers, oceans really, of data taken from social media-google searches, yahoo yearnings, e-mail, website visits, tweets, insta-messages, texts. You get the high-tech, digital probing picture. But we have been told that no specific individuals were or are necessarily being profiled or targeted in such domestic surveillance and that’s not what the NSA has been up to.
Well, I feel better already. And you? No, don’t say it just think it and I’ll check with the NSA later and review your answer. Kidding, well, maybe.
But the latest news missive shedding a little more light on the various “black ops” emanating from the NSA is mostly perplexing and a bit perverse. Maybe the other way around.
Seems the NSA has been intently following the “potential inconsistent public and personal behavioral habits consequent to vulnerabilities” of certain Muslim individuals with possible malice in mind or deed against these United States. Translation: The NSA spooks have been tracking the online porn site visits of folks that may or may not mean harm to the rest of us, um, non-porn visiting, hard-working and (Just in case this is being data-mined) really big supporters of the NSA.
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the NSA spending their workday in e-online hot (and I guess I really do mean Hot) pursuit of dudes leering at porn sites. And, apparently, the more perverse and kinky the sites visited the more valuable the counter-intel to possibly use to compromise the enemy.
I get that we need intel and inside dope against the enemy or the suspected enemy. Or in the case of some of these spy-games, the possible, at some point in the future, maybe, if they get turned, those that will harm us. And I guess I get at some level, the argument that if the NSA can demonstrate the inconsistencies of suspected Muslim leaders between what they say and what they do (hence the incongruence of online naughtiness, especially western-style perversities with their public faith) such inconsistent behavior will allow them to be discredited. And theoretically, less respected and powerful in the eyes of their followers.
But still. Didn’t we already try this approach in a more direct and physical way? I recall very humiliating and embarrassing (to Americans) pictures of US female GIs leaning over human piles of naked Muslim prisoners during the Iraq War while flashing broad grins and thumbs-up signs. These were staged photos with the intention of humiliating these suspects by causing them psychological trauma by forcing them to betray several core precepts of their religion at once (nudity, male on male subjugation and female symbolic and literal domination). At least this seemed to be the reasoning when the photos got leaked. And, as I also recall, it wasn’t the suspects that got discredited it was us and their followers were outraged, you guessed it, at us.
But, did it work? Was the backlash worth it? Did we gather valuable intel we wouldn’t have gathered if not for engaging in such controversial acts? Not sure. Seems there remains a huge schism of opinion as to the value of such behavior. Similar to interrogating (torturing?) suspects by waterboarding. Some say we have to be able to use any tool we have in the interrogator tool box. Others believe such behavior is simply indefensible and worse, un-American.
And really, is this line of thinking and “black ops” that far off from secret investigations and wiretapping used by our own FBI to try and discredit civilian leaders like Dr. Martin Luther? You’ll recall taxpayer money was used to try and “get” Dr. King in compromising situations with women not his wife as a way of gaining “leverage” against him and consequently the civil rights movement. The idea was to show inconsistencies between the public and private Dr. King which would then discredit him and drive a wedge between himself and his follows. Sounds a bit familiar. Is the NSA using the 1960s FBI playbook in 2013?
As Americans, how do we feel about that FBI effort to discredit Dr. King by secretly spying on his personal, sexual behavior and choices today? Will we feel similarly about this ongoing NSA effort with the pornographic habits of targeted Muslim men?
Look, while the actual budget and spy-staff of the NSA is hard to accurately peg since from 1952 it all officially fall sunder “Black Budget” items it has been estimated by analysts to be somewhere in the $20 billion range with at least 40,000 employees. The NSA is one of at least 15 intel-agencies with an overall budget of about $75-100 billion. It’s not small potatoes and it covers a wide range of activities, domestic and foreign. This porn-peeping is no doubt (okay,there’s always some doubt with black ops and black budgets) a minute portion of the NSA’s daily duties.
Still, there is something that is disturbing about knowing my taxpayer money is at least partially subsidizing NSA spy-guys and gals visiting and tracking porn site visits by others. It seems a dubious and unseemly way to fight a war on terrorism. I know we aren’t forcing folks to visit porn sites but it all smacks of doing things that run counter to our own core values.
I guess spying like war and for that matter, politics, is indeed a filthy business. No one walks away clean-handed. What next? Well, if Hugh Hefner turns out to be a counter-intel spy I guess now I won’t be shocked. You know, now that I think about it that would explain a lot.
PS: Some of you in follow-up to my post about coffee maybe killing me asked about my favorite java spot. I have many but on my short list is the one below in Milwaukee. Happy brewing.