What do we have to fear?

Guest post

It has been truly surreal watching the Dotcom circus play out over the last two days.

With the smoking gun email turning out to be nothing more than a home made popgun, Dotcom resorted to wheeling out arch conspiracists Snowden and Greenwald to try and discredit our government and elevate himself to the status of saviour of the people.

There was nothing new in most of what they presented although the allegations of NSA facilities in the north of New Zealand makes great press, regardless of the fact it is just not true.

But what of meta-analysis and XKeyscore?

Modern intelligence gathering techniques are far removed from the popular image of bespectacled individuals hunched over screens with headphones listening and watching intently.

Instead it is more the domain of the IT specialist and mathematician.

Immensely powerful supercomputers sift astronomical amounts of data looking for key components; usually key phrases or words in specific combination. Intelligence provided by external agencies may ensure that “code words” are included if deviation from normal syntax of that particular language are used and highly sophisticated decryption algorithms are used to unravel encoded data.  

The result of this is a complex funnel which takes incredibly large amounts of data and produces small packets of usable information.

Think of it like the gold sifting machines that take tons of raw material to extract a few grams of gold.

So what exactly are they looking for? Well that depends on the broader auspice of the departments function, perceived threats of the day or requests from external law enforcement agencies.

For example if you were to correspond electronically with a friend in the USA and used the phrase “kill President Obama” there is a high probability that this communication would pop up in an analysis algorithm. It would be looked at for context and assessed for risk and then either passed over or forwarded for further analysis.

It is worth remembering that the NSA was heavily criticised for not acting on information it had intercepted regarding the 9/11 terror attacks. Information that may have lacked context at the time.

But does this constitute mass surveillance and should we feel threatened by this?

If we ever suffered an awful event like 9/11 then we would no doubt feel highly supportive of these agencies tasked with our protection. The danger is the complacency our current relative safety engenders in us all. A complacency easily manipulated it would seem.

The real answer is somewhere in between the very real threats that exist and the freedoms we enjoy.

The criticisms Snowden and company levelled at our government are without basis as long as our democracy remains intact and the integrity of oversight on our intelligence agencies remains strong.

Ironically both are things which Dotcom and his “henchmen and women” seek to undermine.

Both of which are not in question.

 

– Salacious Crumb


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.

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