The Snowden Effect

August 13, 2013

By: Kelly Diamond, Publisher

Given the response from various countries and companies, and to some extent even the pundits, I am comfortable calling the post Snowden hullabaloo “The Snowden Effect”.

The interesting rub is, we are all part of it.  How we respond to it likewise contributes to the Snowden Effect.

The Snowden EffectWhenever someone says they have good news and bad news, I usually ask for the bad news first, hedging that the good news will be good enough to heal me from the bad.  Well, in this case, I have stupid news and smart news.  I will not project my values upon you as author of this piece, and first provide you with the stupid news.

Melissa Harris-Perry is at it again, this time stammering through some nonsense about how Edward Snowden should turn himself in. 

Dear Ed,

It’s me, Melissa.

I hear you’re looking for a country. Well, wouldn’t you know, I have an idea for you! How about…this one?

Come on back to the U.S.A., Ed. I know you’re not super pleased with the government these days–and I feel you. The information you revealed about surveillance raises serious issues about the behaviors of our leaders and how they justify and hide those practices from the public. But, here is the deal: it’s time to come home and face the consequences of the actions for which you are so proud.

I know you must feel you’ve already given up a lot to reveal government secrets: your well-paid job, your life in Hawaii, your passport.

And maybe your intentions were completely altruistic–it’s not that you wanted attention, but that you wanted us, the public, to know just how much information our government has about us. That is something worth talking about. But by engaging in this Tom Hanks-worthy, border-jumping drama through some of the world’s most totalitarian states, you’re making yourself the story.

We could be talking about whether accessing and monitoring citizen information and communications is constitutional, or whether we should continue to allow a secret court to authorize secret warrants using secret legal opinions.

But we’re not. We’re talking about you! And flight paths between Moscow and Venezuela, and how much of a jerk Glenn Greenwald is. We could at least be talking about whether the Obama administration is right that your leak jeopardized national security. But we’re not talking about that, Ed.

We’re talking about you. I can imagine you’d say, “Well, then stop! Just talk about something else.” But here’s the problem, even if your initial leak didn’t compromise national security, your new cloak-and-dagger game is having real and tangible geopolitical consequences. So, well, we have to talk about…you.

We’re talking about how maybe now you’re compromising national security by jumping from country to country, causing international incidents and straining U.S. relationships with Russia and China. Really. Important. Relationships. And we’re talking about how you praised countries like Russia and Venezuela for “standing against human rights violations” and “refusing to compromise their principles.”

I mean, where do you even come up with that kind of garbage, Ed? What are you thinking?

I understand that you don’t want to come back. To do so would mean giving up your freedom, definitely before the trial, and likely for several months or years thereafter.

I get it. It’s in its prisons where the U.S. commits actual human rights violations.

More than 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement, some for years, some indefinitely, despite the fact that solitary is cruel and psychologically damaging.

I know those aren’t the human rights violations, though, that you’re complaining about, Ed. But you might not have anything to worry about, anyway. Unlike most of the people in solitary confinement–including Private Bradley Manning, on trial for giving data to Wikileaks–you have cultivated a level of celebrity that itself will act as protection if you ever find yourself in U.S. prison. You’ve made a spectacle of yourself, and the Obama Administration will be very careful about how it treats you. Unlike all those other prisoners.

So come on home, Ed. So we could talk about, you know, something else.

Sincerely,

Melissa

Why?  Because he’s causing some strife with countries like Russia and China… putting a little strain on our relationships with them.  She goes on to make some smug remarks about his new “celebrity”, all while insinuating that his advocacy for a respect for civil liberties is nothing short of disingenuous.  It’s in prisons where actual human rights violations are committed.  OH?!  Spying isn’t a violation of anyone’s rights?  Or it’s just not AS abject as having a cellmate who stares at you like a juicy steak dinner/conjugal play thing?

And perhaps she should talk to her producers and directors about the topics du jour.  It’s not Snowden’s fault news outlets are covering his actions and goings.  He only reaches out to certain outlets who actually WANT to hear what he has to say.  Hence, Glenn Greenwald’s involvement. 

So in addition to Snowden factoring in the tense international relations between United States, China, and Russia, he should also factor in frustrated over-paid talking heads and their feelings?  If you don’t want him to gain celebrity, don’t cover him.  But YOU and YOUR ilk gave him celebrity when you decided to regard his goings as a story and report-worthy.  He didn’t ask for YOUR coverage.  He asked for the Guardian’s coverage.  You just jumped on the bandwagon.

I don’t know if there is anyone, including Ms. Harris-Perry, who would relinquish their own personal liberty and freedom to ease international relations for politicians… much less to ease the emotional suffering of tired-ass news casters who want to talk about something else.

You need to know that people like this exist, and they were tragically given a microphone and airtime…

You should also know about Apple’s deal with the Devil.  While this isn’t necessarily one degree of separation from the Snowden Effect, I think we can all agree it’s a drop of water in the same wave.  According to TechEye.net, “Apple has patented a piece of technology which would allow government and police to block transmission of information, including video and photographs, whenever they like.”  Basically, “Apple patented the means to transmit an encoded signal to all wireless devices, commanding them to disable recording functions.”

So, imagine a protest.  Cops get a little excited with the batons and pepper spray.  Imagine a “shelter-in-place” situation. Cops get a little excited breaking into private homes without warrants and start firing Tasers and beanbags and rubber bullets or something.  Not that this WOULD or HAS happened mind you… oh wait… never mind.  Those who video tape and expose police brutality and overreaches ARE whistle-blowers in their own right, albeit not from the inside of the organization itself.

NOW, for the potential remedy…

While there has been considerable demand for encrypted communication technology, there are a few bowing out of the game.  Odd, considering that in the wake of all this, they stand the most to gain!  Well, sadly, these companies were faced with a really tragic choice: sell out your customers, but keep your business OR burn it to the ground, and protect the privacy of your clients/customers.

What a dreadful decision to be faced with.  When you start and build a business from the ground up, finally get some momentum, and then the very reason you get into the business is the very reason that makes you pull the kill switch.  I can’t imagine that sort of devastation. 

Who am I talking about?  Well, I’m not talking about other countries’ compliance with FATCA… this time.  I’m talking about Lavabit and Silent Circle.  The former provided the encrypted email services for Edward Snowden.  You can clearly see he is being obvious about avoiding certain details of the circumstances surrounding his decision, which is a direct result of a gag order placed on him and his company.

Ladar Levison of Lavabit writes this:

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Sincerely,

Ladar Levison

Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

If you are a company who sells encryption services and the value proposition is ultimate privacy, well, once you can no longer deliver on the value proposition, it seems rather pointless to keep going.  It’s like a person dropping their king once they see check mate: You don’t need to play the humiliating last moves to know you’ve lost.  You just drop your king and accept defeat.

Levison wasn’t the only one who saw the writing on the wall.  In fact, the real buzz kill for Silent Circle was watching Lavabit fold.  Prior to that, Silent Circle was seeing some serious dollar signs stampeding its way after the Snowden revelations.  According to TechCrunch.com, they “reportedly had revenue increase 400% month-over-month in July after corporate enterprise customers switched to its services in hopes of avoiding surveillance. The company giddily told Forbes it planned to nearly double staff and significantly increase revenue this year in part thanks to the NSA’s practices coming to light.”

Silent Circle Blog: Global Encrypted Communications Service

Posted on August 9, 2013 by joncallas  

To Our Customers

“We designed our phone, video, and text services (Silent Phone and Silent Text) to be completely end-to-end secure with all cryptography done on the clients and our exposure to your data to be nil. The reasons are obvious — the less of your information we have, the better it is for you and for us.

“Silent Mail has thus always been something of a quandary for us. Email that uses standard Internet protocols cannot have the same security guarantees that real-time communications has. There are far too many leaks of information and metadata intrinsically in the email protocols themselves. Email as we know it with SMTP, POP3, and IMAP cannot be secure.

“And yet, many people wanted it. Silent Mail has similar security guarantees to other secure email systems, and with full disclosure, we thought it would be valuable.

“However, we have reconsidered this position. We’ve been thinking about this for some time, whether it was a good idea at all. Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they ‘be complicit in crimes against the American people.’ We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.

“We’ve been debating this for weeks, and had changes planned starting next Monday. We’d considered phasing the service out, continuing service for existing customers, and a variety of other things up until today. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and with your safety we decided that the worst decision is always no decision.

Silent Phone and Silent Text, along with their cousin Silent Eyes are end-to-end secure. We don’t have the encrypted data and we don’t collect metadata about your conversations. They’re continuing as they have been. We are still working on innovative ways to do truly secure communications. Silent Mail was a good idea at the time, and that time is past.

“We apologize for any inconvenience, and hope you understand that if we dithered, it could be more inconvenient.”

Usually you see a carrot OR the stick tactic.  What you don’t often see is the carrot AND the stick… where essentially the carrot is used to lead someone toward the stick.  That’s just dirty play.

One needs look no further than the about-face made by Silent Circle to see there is a significant economic consequence to this persistent and relentless invasion of privacy.  The United States successfully regulated and unionized our way out of being competitive in the manufacturing industry.  Likewise, minimum wage laws have chipped away at our service industry.  Now, when you call customer service for many companies, you get a man named John with a really thick Indian or Filipino accent.  I don’t mind that jobs are outsourced, because that’s part of competition; but at the end of the day, the US can’t compete anymore with other countries in those industries.

Now we are adding tech to the list of casualties.  How can we clamor about “American Excellence” and “American Exceptionalism” when we suffocate it the moment it dares show its face?  I think about how a child can truly develop and learn if the parents are suffocating and over-protective?  How does an industry or innovation take hold, much less flourish, under those same circumstances?  It doesn’t.

It’s funny, the jobs are leaving the United States because the government insists upon maiming the industrious in some regulatory way.  I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if new generations of productive Americans follow those jobs to the countries they are fleeing to!  Wouldn’t that just be poetic justice?  Companies leave and set up elsewhere, young Americans frustrated with the inability to find gainful employment or a decent career in the United States decide to go to India, Brazil, or China… and take the jobs there!

Part of the Snowden Effect is the assault on the technology industry in the United States.  Now every encryption service has to worry about potential raids on their stored information.  I am confident that being tech savvy companies, they might be one step ahead on many aspects of privacy protection and maintaining decentralized anonymity.  But as you saw with Silent Circle, the email services were not yet 100% secure from the likes of the NSA.

The interesting thing about how these encryption services work is that they rely heavily on anonymity and decentralization.  In their case, it’s how the information is stored (if at all), and through where it is channeled.  But if that practice were to be applied to physical assets as opposed to information, you will find that you get very similar results: higher levels of privacy and protection.  Our friends at Cryptohippie do this very thing for information, the way we at Global Wealth Protection do for assets.  It would be worth the time to see what your options are for both because both are invaluable.

No longer is this a division between left and right, Republican or Democrat, as it is rather manifest that there is bi-partisan disdain for Snowden, and bi-partisan admiration for him.  So what all is the Snowden Effect?  For now, it is weeding out the conscious from the unconscious… the sell-outs from the principled.  It is posing a challenge to our tech industry to consider either getting out of the country OR create something that puts them at a consistent 10 steps ahead… rather than the one or two they had before.  It is putting the government on high alert and on the offensive, thus intensifying their resolve to continue seeing ALL Americans as suspicious and potentially dangerous.  The ripples continue, as the Snowden stone continues to skip across the water…

For further information on how you can add a layer of privacy protection to your assets, contact Paul Seymour here.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it,
    you are a great author. I will remember to bookmark your blog and will often come back
    down the road. I want to encourage you continue your great work,
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  2. Rex Travis says

    Poor Melissa is just a blind patriot with her head in a place where there isn’t too much light, confirming her ignorance and overall blindness to the real problem in this ordeal: the US gov’t. The problem is not Mr. Snowden, he is simply a messenger of news that Americans have the right to know about.
    Poor Melissa, she really is an embarrassment to journalism and to herself and to America, as a blind citizen wallowing around in her own ignorance.

  3. Melissa,
    You obsequious fool. Why would anyone return to the US to face trial in courts that are so obviously biased against the defendant. Do you really think the DOJ would turn over exculpatory evidence, as is it’s duty? Do you really think the excuse of national security wouldn’t be used to hide any evidence the government didn’t want in court, even if it has been published all over the world? This is the DOJ that has not seen fit to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Eric “Place” Holder’s contempt of congress, even after the congress officially notified the DOJ about it. We are not talking the highest professional standards here. I hope DHS paid you a nice bonus for your intellectually dishonest article.

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