Complaining About Government Surveillance

It is a bit rich to complain about government surveillance. We’ve known about the potential for technology to be used in ways that are against any right to privacy we think we might have for a long time. But in our own lives, revealed preference tells us that many people are more than happy to share their entire lives with the world on social media.

There is an asymmetric information problem with marketing intelligence collection to the general population – intelligence agencies sometimes do foil actual terrorist plots, but they don’t make the news. Only their failures or incompetence do. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some level of surveillance needed to stop car bombs in London or passenger plane hijackings.

The use of the legal system to obtain authorisation for surveillance is ridiculous. Intelligence agencies are not going to stop collecting intelligence no matter what the courts say. They know that the consequences they face for failing to identify a threat exceed those from bearing the criticism they get from revelations that the FISA is letting the NSA have daily call records from Verizon.

You’d have to be a very silly person to think that your complaints matter. Here in New Zealand, the GCSB has just been given retrospective permission to do stuff that is pretty dodgy including helping the police go all paramilitary on drug crime and organised crime. All the lefty protestors complaining about the GCSB since they found out about it in the 1970’s have accomplished nothing, it’s not like a groundswell of public opinion would change anything either.

When you read widely about counterintelligence operations and have a reasonable grasp of how the world works, you soon realise that tapping everyone’s phone is pretty pointless. Even in the realm of “big data”, there simply isn’t enough analysis power to make connections between prepaid cellphones that haven’t been registered. And it’s really hard to digitally intercept a piece of paper or memorised message using a one-time pad.

If you think about how Pakistanis and Afghanis have started torturing and killing people they suspect of helping the CIA’s drone strikes, you’ll realise that the whole goal of stopping terrorism with surveillance is a waste of resources. All the surveillance in the world doesn’t matter when you don’t have enough manpower to analyse it or computing power to analyse it and make connections that almost always end up being false positives.

When I watched Zero Dark Thirty, despite all of the Hollywood bravado put on a special forces operation, I couldn’t help thinking – if capturing or killing Osama bin Laden took so much intelligence manpower, resources, time and plain “dumb luck” – what is the net loss to society from this sort of activity?

The lack of appreciation for the term “blowback” and “no foreign entanglements” will only become worse because globalists think that everyone wants to come under their thumb where their human rights will be protected and we shall all be singing kumbayah whilst dancing around a Maypole.

So don’t bother complaining about government surveillance. You’re probably not that interesting anyway, you naive narcissists who think that the scarce resources of the global intelligence community would be applied to your Instagram bikini pics or Xbox Live game communications with your “bros”.