Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Learnable lessons from Manning, Snowden and inevitable others 9 – rethinking classified intelligence and national security as it is built from it 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, in the News by Timothy Platt on September 24, 2013

This is my tenth posting on what is becoming a series of leaks and unauthorized disclosures of classified US government documents that relate to its War on Terror (see John Peter Zenger, Henry L. Stimson, Edward J. Snowden and the challenge of free speech and the first eight postings to this series, available at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 as postings 225 and loosely following.)

I am actually writing this posting on August 25, 2013 even if it is going live a month later on September 24, and I note that to highlight the slowly developing nature of this unfolding story. A few days ago, Bradley Manning was sentenced to serve 35 years in federal prison after being convicted on all but one charge at his court martial. The only real question here was one of how many decades of imprisonment he would be sentenced to as he had already pled guilty to a significant number of the charges that he faced, with a maximum sentence of just over twelve possible decades if he had been convicted on all counts. As it is, he could have received a 90 year sentence and the prosecution was asking for 60. The one real development there and for his story is that after his sentencing, Bradley Manning publically revealed that he sees himself to be a woman and that he desires hormonal therapy if not that plus gender reassignment surgery to bring his body more in line with his self-image and his sense of self-identity. And he asked that his name be changed to Chelsea Manning in keeping with that.

Edward Snowden remains in Russia, and out of reach of the US legal system. I am going to add to this update later in this posting, where I will at least briefly begin a discussion of the legislative backlash against recent surveillance program revelations, and its impact on national security. But before getting to that, I continue the line of discussion that I was pursuing in Part 8 of this series.

I wrote in Part 8 about:

• What information is gathered and what of that is classified, and about how both sides of this need to be more selectively limited.
• And I then wrote in that posting about how the seemingly open ended collection of surveillance information taking place under the PRISM and XKeyscore programs, and the public knowledge of them that at least in retrospect should have been seen as inevitable,
• Have significantly weakened our national security and certainly with regard to domestic terrorist threats.

I stated at the end of that posting that I would continue this line of discussion here, and I do so now, turning to consider the impact of these surveillance programs and others, on national security as it would address foreign-sourced terrorist threats.

• United States national security, and particularly its security in the face of international terrorist threats, critically depends on cooperation and collaboration with its allies. And the security of its allies correspondingly depends on this close cooperation and collaboration too.
• This type of interactive and interdependent cooperation and collaboration can only effectively take place in a context of mutual trust, and word of broad based and even seemingly open ended surveillance programs such as PRISM and XKeyscore challenge and erode into that trust, and both within the United States and for its allies too.
• A public awareness that many of these allied governments have themselves contributed to and supported these surveillance efforts too, creates public pressure within those countries to distance themselves from the United States on this, and to weaken and reduce their own anti-terrorist surveillance programs too. As working examples there, consider the uproar and discord that have developed in Australia and Great Britain over the way that their governments’ counterparts to the US National Security Agency (NSA): Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have collaborated in XKeyscore and PRISM activities respectively.
• And this provokes pushback in every country involved against national security initiatives in general, and particularly as confidentiality and national security requirements leave what they would include and do hidden, creating opportunity for members of the more general public to use their imaginations on that.

Members of the United States Congress have already begun expressing reservations about new legislatively supported national security initiatives because of pressure they receive from their voting constituents to do so. And as one more example of fallout from the revelation that the US government is conducting programs like PRISM and XKeyscore, it is now coming out publically that the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (the FISA Court) itself and its appeals board have ruled that the open ended use of these programs is unconstitutional – which could be seen as a defensive measure on their own behalf after they approved these programs in the first place.

And PRISM and XKeyscore are only two NSA and related surveillance programs that have been enacted and put in place. As a final thought here for this program, I ask a simple question:

• More and more surveillance cameras are going up and being added into network connected systems all of the time, and certainly in places such as airports and train and bus stations – transportation hubs, post offices and other public governmental offices and facilities, and by local police departments.
Facial recognition software and systems have become a major source of development initiatives for Web 3.0 developers, and for social media sites such as Facebook as it seeks to more accurately tag photos loaded to its servers for display on its pages, and for more general purposes.
• How have the US NSA and its sister agencies developed this type of capability into their surveillance programs and initiatives, and how open ended are these programs for identifying and location-tracking members of the public in general?

I doubt that I would ever have raised this question if word of PRISM and XKeyscore had not forced this issue, but they exist and this type of program probably does too.

As a final thought for this posting, I note how I have stated in earlier postings and series, that the real source of concern that we might have regarding personal information gathering, use and sharing more likely comes from private corporate sources and their development and use of big data. I freely admit here that I was wrong. This is not just about these “Little Brothers”; this is still significantly about “Big Brothers” too and the way that misguided and overreaching attempts at achieving more perfect national security have created a disturbing and damaging concern that that is what our governments are doing.

I may very well add more than just one more posting to this series, but as of now my goal is to conclude this with one more installment, where I will look ahead by citing and drawing from what might be one of our more significant historical parallels that could be turned to for guidance: the story of how an early United States Government responded to the Barbary pirates, reimagining and reframing the role of that country in the world and how it projected power – and why, in the process. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and in my first Ubiquitous Computing and Communications directory page. I am also listing this under my In the News posting category.

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