Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just Because You're Paranoid....

... Don't Mean They're Not After You...

I am a still susceptible to that radical activist lingo... Start talking about Babylon and Empire and I get all, you know, radical inside.

I got this warning from, a collective that sponsors listservs, email, etc. and thought I'd share the paranoia.

But this makes a lot of sense to me, since I've just been watching The Wire, and that's exactly what those guys are doing to capture drug lords and crooked dock workers. Oh, jeez, I can't believe I just said that. Anyway, read on, and be sure to wave at the security cameras on your way out the door.

In the waning days of Babylon and empire, what will the US government think up next? According to numerous leaks from the intelligence bureaucracy to the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Wall Street Journal, the government’s new fun toy is the ability to monitor our social networks by tracking, in real time, the patterns of email, phone calls, text messages, and financial transactions. This program is top secret, so you can’t take legal action because you can’t prove the program exists (according to the catch-22 logic of a February 19th US Supreme Court decision).

The Clinton and Bush administrations have said the program is entirely constitutional because it does not involve eavesdropping on the content of our communication. Instead, it focuses on the pattern of our relationships. In this way, individuals are not under surveillance, all of society is. If your social movement has nothing to hide, then what are you worried about? Plenty. This kind of map of our social networks creates a ready made blueprint for disrupting any social movement deemed to be a threat. In many ways, the government knows more about how we organize than we do. This issue is important to all organizers, because much of the world's email is routed through the US.

So, what can we do about it? For starters, get everyone you know to start using an email provider that uses StartTLS. For email, this is the only thing that can protect against the surveillance of our social networks. For a list of StartTLS providers besides riseup see:

What about phone calls, internet chat, and social networking sites? Riseup birds don't have all the answers, but we are working on it. One thing we know, privacy and security are not solved by personal solutions. If we want security, it will take a collective response and a collective commitment to building alternative communication infrastructure.

For more information, see:
"NSA's Domestic Spying Grows As Agency Sweeps Up Data" by Siobhan Gorman. The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2008.
"Listening In" by Seymour Hersh. The New Yorker, May 29, 2006.
"NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls" by Leslie Cauley. USA Today, May 10, 2006.
"Court Rejects ACLU Challenge to Wiretaps." Associated Press, February 19, 2008.

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