[ sometimes when ] we were sure of our [ covertly gained information ], we couldn't act because that would reveal "sources and methods." This is probably the most frustrating explanation. Imagine we are able to eavesdrop on al-Assad's most private conversations with his generals and aides, and are absolutely sure of his plans. If we act on them, we reveal that we are eavesdropping. As a result, he's likely to change how he communicates, costing us our ability to eavesdrop. It might sound perverse, but often the fact that we are able to successfully spy on someone is a bigger secret than the information we learn from that spying.
This dynamic was vitally important during World War II. During the war, the British were able to break the German Enigma encryption machine and eavesdrop on German military communications. But while the Allies knew a lot, they would only act on information they learned when there was another plausible way they could have learned it. They even occasionally manufactured plausible explanations. It was just too risky to tip the Germans off that their encryption machines' code had been broken.
The World War II bit isn't news to anyone who reads history (or, for that matter, Neal Stephenson novels).
I had an insight just now.
We know that the NSA collects all sorts of information on American citizens. We know that the FBI and the CIA have full access to this information. We know that the
DEA also has full access to that data. And we know that when the
DEA busts someone using information gleaned by the electronic panopticon of our internal spy organization, they take pains to hide the source of the information via the subterfuge of parallel construction.
The insight is this: our government is now dealing with the citizenry the same way that the British dealt with the Nazis: treating them as an external existential threat, spying on them, and taking pains to obfuscate the source of the information that they use to target their attacks.
Yeah, Godwin's law, whatever, whatever. My point is NOT that the NSA is the same as the Nazi party (in fact, my argument has the NSA on the opposite side). My point is that the government now treats ordinary civilians as worthy of the same sort of tactics that they once used against the Nazis.
This isn't really shocking, given that I think that the government has long been at war with the populace…but it's still a somewhat stark distillation of the trend.
Last 5 posts by Clark
- Clark's Farewell To Popehat - December 30th, 2015
- The Current Refugee Crisis - November 18th, 2015
- Top Seven Things I Like About Internet Shame Mobs - July 29th, 2015
Gamer Gate vs Anti Gamer GateA Civil Discussion on Inclusiveness - June 23rd, 2015
- Two Kinds of Freedom of Speech (or #Strangeloop vs. Curtis Yarvin) - June 10th, 2015