Cyber spies: once more on the Snowden affair

The revelations earlier this year by Edward Snowden re the Prism programme and the spying on the whole world by the US government through its National Security Agency (NSA), see Lalkar July/August 2013 edition, have just about been dropped by most imperialist media outlets, be it newspapers or TV news programmes, as a subject worthy of reporting on. This is doubtless in the hope that we will all go back to sleep and forget the, almost, beyond belief immensity of the scale of this crime against the world. Of course most people expect the US government, and the British one come to that, to be spying on political adversaries, trade-union members, single-issue campaigners, immigrants, foreign embassies, etc., and some even believe the official line that this is indeed necessary for ‘national security!’

The penny drops, however, with most of these people when they realise that spying is carried out against every other government, supposed friends as well as declared enemies and, every individual in the USA and Britain (along with many others) who ever uses a phone or a computer! The NSA doesn’t have to do all its own spying of course: the security services of Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, together with the US, make up what has come to be known as the “Five Eyes” shared intelligence services. These five imperialist powers share most of their information with each other and pass on to some other governments what they want them to know though we would be surprised if they don’t all ‘keep some back’ from each other as every imperialist is at the end of the day a competitor. It is also quite obvious that they spy on each other in order to try and access any snippets that are ‘kept back’. Such is the honour among these scoundrels.

The knowledge, given to us by Snowden, that even this vast capability to snoop that the NSA possesses is to be extended with the building of a bigger and better establishment for finding out what we are all doing has sent shivers down quite a few spines and sent most of the internet companies, even the giants among them, scurrying to find methods of blocking the NSA probes coming through the ether in order to keep their already compromised credibility with the billions of users who are looking for secure searching and messaging options.

There are already systems that claim to be secure for searching anonymously but some of those that previously offered secure emails have stopped offering that service after seeing Lavabit, a secure email service which was used by Snowden, close down its own operations instead of complying with U.S. government demands to turn over its ‘Secure Sockets Layer private key’. This act by Lavabit has been presented by some as a brave gesture and we are not saying that bravery wasn’t involved in the decision, but in reality what choice did they have? If they don’t give the key to the NSA they are closed down, and if they do nobody uses them any more because they are no longer secure, they go out of business anyway. At least closing yourself down means that those who were running Lavabit maintain their credibility when starting up some other associated internet venture and may even do very well in future from the celebrity status they will have.

The co-founder of one anonymous search provider, Casey Oppenheim of ‘Disconnect Search’, who launched an anonymous web search engine and saw 400,000 users pass through it in the first four days said ” In comparison to search surveillance, I’d probably rather have my phone tapped or my email tracked because I’m filtering myself when I communicate with others in those ways,” adding: “Most people don’t filter their searches and don’t understand how their queries are being tracked, saved, and turned into profiles that are associated with their real names and/or their IP address .” This profiling from internet searches is a worry for many users especially in the imperialist countries where visits to pornography, gambling, political or even abortion clinic websites can obviously leave someone open to blackmail. Even the building up a profile of shopping and various other perfectly legal interests through recording sites visited can create pictures of people which, when added to lists of associates by security/police services, can give very misleading views. We already know that unwise Facebook comments made online can land people in jail for various lengths of time both here and in the US, so these are not unfounded worries.

Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist and a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, pointed out the obvious saying: “NSA or other government agencies that demand secure communications companies install backdoors” (i.e., access to view the activity of one, some or all users) “are putting them in impossible positions“. This squeezing of these smaller, specialist internet companies, who are growing rapidly as users seek security from NSA blanket information gathering, is also affecting the internet big boys who must also try to develop secure services to compete in order to keep their users with them.

This is potentially putting a large and fairly powerful section of imperialism at loggerheads with the government that is supposed to represent it. Internet companies do not have the same clout as oil or arms giants but hackles are being raised among some of the bourgeoisie, as can be seen from the activities of some of the political whores of Washington.

Jim Sensenbrenner, who is described by the Guardian online, 10 October 2013, as a “conservative Republican” and who co-authored America’s Patriot Act as well as working with George W Bush to give more power to US intelligence agencies after September 11, now complains that the NSA has overstepped the mark in collecting telephone records on all Americans, and claims it is time “to put their metadata program out of business“. He is sponsoring a bill in the House of Representatives to curb the rights of security agencies to collect information, while a similar proposal is thought to be coming from Senate judiciary committee chair Patrick Leahy, a leading Democrat. It seems that the divide on this question may be across both of the bourgeoisie parties and possibly assist a split in America’s ruling class.

But whatever internal security problems are, coming on top of the capitalist crisis within the USA, the repercussions of the Snowden revelations abroad are also having serious consequences for American diplomatic and foreign policies.

Around the world many countries are now trying to develop systems to protect themselves from imperialist spying. Mostly this is assumed to be in countries that can expect military ‘problems’ from one or more of the blood-sucking imperialists, but even in Brazil, where there is no voiced expectation of violence from the US at present, they are having to create an email system intended to shield the government from NSA spying. The country will be voting on a cyber-security bill following revelations that the US spy network had infiltrated the highest levels of Brazil’s administration. The Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, has become very vocal after the discovery that the NSA gained access to the computer files of the state-run oil giant Petrobras and had even managed to hack into President Rousseff’s personal email account. Canada’s spying agency, one of the ‘five eyes‘, was also implicated in spying on the Brazilian Ministry of Mines. This spying on the industrial/governmental institutions of a nation that you are supposed to have friendly relations with proves, if anyone needed any more proof, that the imperialist state, in its dealings with other nations, is always looking to the economic and political interests of its own bourgeoisie. Profit not national security was the reason for this crime of espionage against another state, just as it is the drive for maximum profit that leads imperialism to wage bloody and murderous wars against other nations.

And yet, this time all this is being done from a position of weakness not strength. The ruling imperialist nations are gearing up to rip each other and everyone else to pieces to try to and save their disgusting system of bloated wealth for the few and obscene poverty for the many at the other end of the scale; but every bit of real resistance that they meet at home and abroad pushes them further towards the frenzied panic where mistakes are made.

Those under direct armed attack from the imperialists and their puppets have been doing an excellent job so far but now we in the imperialist lands must step up to play our part and work for the downfall of our rulers, not through pointless marches but by stopping the production of the necessities of their wars, halting the movement of weapons and troops, without which they cannot fight their bloody wars and, eventually, overthrow this repugnant system that must be ended to save the world and give future generations the chance to know genuine peace and well being.