Curtain Raiser

The Hack, the Ignored, & the Unwise, Colltalers

Buried deep in the coverage of the latest hacking of the Democratic campaign computers, if mentioned at all, is the fact that cyber-snooping of U.S. politics is now a worldwide game, alongside more traditional defense moves such as military spying and industrial espionage.
Finger pointing (to Russia) and retaliation threats took center stage, besides much grandstanding about the stunt. Less reported was acknowledgement that hacking cuts both ways; no one has the monopoly of outrage, and U.S. intelligence is mostly gathered that way too.
Ultimately, as we enter a new age of high tech sophistication, digital security breaches are just the way the game is played these days, and the staggeringly costly and oh so secretive government spy community needs to be up to speed, or somebody will, for sure. After all, isn’t in the name of preventing just such breaches that those shady agencies so often break the law everybody else has to abide by?
Moreover, if a powerful organization such as the Democratic Party is vulnerable to have its files invaded by an alleged foreign power, what’s to be expected of regular stiffs like us, and our pitiful indiscretions and dick pics and online escapades? Well, don’t answer that.
There’s also no surprise that the media would run, almost without questioning, yet another spy agency’s prefab theory about a security breach. The administration’s efforts to portray Russia as a rogue state have gotten a free, uncritical ride for quite a stretch now.
Even when, as it seems to be the case, evidence points to the Putin regime – whose Machiavellian doctrine gets no sympathetic

nod from this corner – it’s hard to swallow the feign indignation of intelligence officials or the patriotic-tinged headlines occupying the airwaves.
As with past instances of security breaches of civic and civilian institutions – the military rarely discloses attacks against it, but it’s safe to assume they’re even more often – these increasingly disturbing hack incursions always seem to happen within a certain political context.
China, for instance, has been a constant foe. Last year, it was accused by the U.S. of having stolen military secrets and sensitive files of millions of Americans, which caused a big ruckus between presidents Obama and Xi Jinping. That, of course, wasn’t the whole story.
What was mostly missing from the headlines was what is largely perceived as the real cause for that particular show the force: a reprisal to U.S.’s opposition to China’s building of artificial islands and territorial claims over waters of the South Sea. That and the obvious economic and military advantages that all nations are constantly jockeying to gain from spying on each other. Specially of and from the U.S.
North Korea is another, even more boringly obvious case of a nation desperately trying to overcome its own, let’s say, power shortcomings with massive acts of security hacking. Kim Jong-un’s dangerous attempts to bridge that gap with a single act should not be underestimated.
If journalists do their jobs, officials reveal unexpected candor. When inquired about China’s snooping, for example, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said that ‘we’d have done the same thing.’ He could’ve said, ‘we do it all the time,’ to the same effect. The problem is finding reporters diligent enough to ask that kind of question to high profile officials like Clapper. And then, to ask them again.
It’s been three years since Edward Snowden leaked secret data about the National Security Agency’s routine surveillance programs, for spying on foreign governments and regular citizens alike, with help from telecommunication companies and European governments. Even before, troves of secret diplomatic cables, revealed by WikiLeaks, had already made clear how the intel community uses its huge budget.
Revelations concerning the Spy vs Spy stuff, which all nations engage in since before Elizabethan times, weren’t nearly as resonant and scary as the knowledge that snooping on law-abiding taxpayers had become an integral part of intel agencies’ unwarranted power. And thanks to the Bush administration, were at that point already fully incorporated into a parallel law and order system, then unknown to Americans.
But when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump openly called for Putin to hack into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s files, the Orwellian nightmare we all fear, and even the Jason Bourne movies allude to, became a bit closer. It was an unprecedented act of treason, promptly shoved under the rug of collective bafflement, and it inaugurated a new chapter no one wants to admit may come next.
It went beyond Trump’s usual deference to the Russian president, in what may be an attempt to preserve credit lines with the country’s oligarchs. By calling on a foreign power to illegally insert itself into American politics, he entered treasonous territory: many now are questioning a U.S. quasi-policy of sharing intelligence briefings with presidential candidates, in the months prior to the election.
As for Snowden, three years under public scrutiny as a U.S. castoff citizen in exile (you know under whose guard) haven’t tarnished his image, not yet anyway. But the same can no longer be said about WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, which has just taken a darker turn.
Frustrated with his own 4-year exile in London’s Ecuador Embassy, and the U.S.’s relentless pressure to prosecute him, this Australian officially inserted himself into American party politics (along Putin?) by declaring he’s determined to prevent Clinton to become president.
It’s a bold move, to which he’s entitled, and it has no bearing on the public service he did provide with the disclosure of classified material. Despite allegations, there hasn’t been any proof that his revelations, or Snowden’s for that matter, have endangered agents on the field.
It may not have been his wisest decision, however, specially if he produces anything, as he’s promised he will, to derail Clinton’s campaign and help elect Trump. Given both candidates’ contrasting views on crime and punishment, there may be even less hope for him to avoid charges of rape he’s yet to respond in Sweden, if a Republican is occupying the White House after November. Remember, torture?
In talking about the current cycle of politics in America, circa 2016, all hyperbole, and even colorful but hollow language are more than ever unnecessary, of course. Even as it narrows down to two big headliners and a varying cast of second, third and fourth tiers, we’ve already blew our absurd quotient index, if there was ever one, many times over, and we’re still 100 days away from the first vote to be cast.
Some things are bound to change, evolve, get more clarity, or reach new heights of meaning and consequence. The majority of everything else, however, is very likely to remain the same. Thus, don’t count on the media to help you make your choice if you care even a little for your own sanity. Whatever will be said from now on, apart from strictly campaign platform issues, won’t have much impact either.
Local casting is probably close at this time too, but don’t count the world out of this play just yet. After all, it and us, all have meaningful speaking parts in the big drama. And while no one knows who’s directing this thing, we’ve already guessed what may be in store ahead.
Speaking of making a choice, if you haven’t made up your mind, you’re already behind the curve. But even if you have, stay awake, keep listening, and do not sit this one out. Let’s not lose sight of whoever controls that coded suitcase. Have a great, mad dog free, August. WC

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