Pentagon is using the NSA to commandeer the Internet

Security expert Bruce Schneier, whom we quoted earlier, has written a startling evaluation of the Pentagon’s PRISM program and concluded that the government, via the NSA and Pentagon, is “commandeering the Internet.” (For what you can immediately do, go here.)

“Commandeering” has a very specific military use; think of the commandeering of ships. Schneier writing in The Atlantic (h/t Naked Capitalism for the link):

Commandeering is a practice we’re used to in wartime, where commercial ships are taken for military use, or production lines are converted to military production. But now it’s happening in peacetime. Vast swaths of the Internet are being commandeered to support this surveillance state.

That’s what’s happening to the Internet. According to Schneier — and I don’t see how he’s wrong — the Pentagon is folding the Internet into the spy-on-you American State. In other words, it’s true, as we noted earlier, that Google is an arm of the Pentagon, and Apple is an arm of the State.

What happens to commandeered ships when the government is done with them?

They aren’t returned shiny and new, that’s for sure. Schneier says that commandeered Internet companies like Google, having betrayed the trust of their own customers, have a problem, to which there is only one solution: resist.

It turns out that the NSA’s domestic and world-wide surveillance apparatus is even more extensive than we thought. Bluntly: The government has commandeered the Internet. Most of the largest Internet companies provide information to the NSA, betraying their users. Some, as we’ve learned, fight and lose. Others cooperate, either out of patriotism or because they believe it’s easier that way.

I have one message to the executives of those companies: fight.

Schneier says that even the cooperating companies won’t be protected by the government they’re serving. Their interests (staying in business, maintaining the trust of their customers) will be kicked aside as soon as the government is done with them.

In the following, “you” means the top executives of the big Internet companies. “You” is Eric Schmidt of Google, for example. Schneier again:

Do you remember those old spy movies, when the higher ups in government decide that the mission is more important than the spy’s life? It’s going to be the same way with you. You might think that your friendly relationship with the government means that they’re going to protect you, but they won’t. The NSA doesn’t care about you or your customers, and will burn you the moment it’s convenient to do so.

We’re already starting to see that. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others are pleading with the government to allow them to explain details of what information they provided in response to National Security Letters and other government demands. They’ve lost the trust of their customers, and explaining what they do — and don’t do — is how to get it back. The government has refused; they don’t care.

It will be the same with you.

Schneier’s take-away is that Google, and Apple, and Microsoft (et al) risk losing a lot of business:

Already companies are taking their data and communications out of the US.

And he wants their top execs to fight back.

What you can do

My take-away is different — pile on.

Google hosted fundraiser for gay-hating, climate-denying GOP Sen. Inhofe. Happy hipsters?

Google hosted fundraiser for gay-hating, climate-denying
GOP Sen. James Inhofe. Happy hipsters?

These companies are already starting to lose business. Help them to lose more. Are you in a position to steer business away from some of them? Do it. Google isn’t some lefty future-seeing friend; google is a corp with a voracious appetite for cash. It’s eating all ad money on the Internet (that’s one reason the blogs are struggling) and it will sell you out the first day it gets a better deal.

Want to start simple? Stop using the Cloud. After all, if it’s on the Cloud, it’s on a Pentagon server for sure. If you stop using the Cloud, will Apple notice? If enough people do it, absolutely yes.

A second thing you can do is simple and local. Rebrand them among your friends, just like you’d rebrand a faithless politician. Google and Apple spend millions each year to make you think they’re cool, friendly, just folks like you, happy twenty-something hipsters.

You can undo that branding every time you talk about them.

“Google? You mean the Pentagon’s data-collector, right? Ever wonder what some eager low-level contractor would make of your search history?”

“Oh Apple — TV hipsters. Everything you give them they give to the government. You know that, right? The Cloud is connected to the NSA. I stopped using the Cloud weeks ago. Make ’em work to spy on you.”

And when your friends say, “But weren’t they forced to do it?” you can reply, “How do you know? They lied to you about handing stuff over, of course going to lie about wanting to. They don’t care about you; they just want money. You know, like Exxon.”

At some point this will catch on, and you can help. Rebrand them aggressively, early and often. Then let Google and Apple take Schneier’s advice and fight back publicly, if they want to.

Use the power you have. A lot of good can come of it.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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19 Responses to “Pentagon is using the NSA to commandeer the Internet”

  1. conundrum says:

    If you send the text to Google so they can encrypt it for you, then they also have an unencrypted version, don’t they? You should encrypt your text on your own computer in a way that only the intended recipient can decrypt before you send it.

  2. mike31c says:

    Well stop hogging all the bandwith will you guys? IT takes FOREVER to farm in farmville now and I am wondering how much porn do you guys in the Pentagon really need?

  3. DrDignity says:

    Salve Gaius! Enough already! I read multiple blogs & news sites, namely Counterpunch .org, Truthdig, Americablog & occasionally Huffington Post. There is a palpable frustration & shock to what is occurring in the US & in the ether zones. In my opinion, it’s time to look elsewhere for government leadership since the present system is quickly evolving into an inverted totalitarian, police state. Remember that the US is a polycracy which came from the founders. The elite groups at the top have the money & put up a duopoly of candidates. The SCOTUS, POTUS, the US Congress are basically the servants of this elite group who put up all the money. The candidates are basically their employees: if a Republican wins, they win, if a Democrat wins they win. A third party like the Wikleaks party of Australia or the Green party should never be tied to lobbyists & this elite group which is used to running the show & getting their way by any means possible. If we begin to see that things will & can change by using the system, much will evolve for the better, beginning with electing third party candidates in November. We can fire the lot of them, dismantle NSA, PRISM, investigate war crimes from the last two administrations & reset the direction of the nation & world. If every American understands that the elections are basically a fraud & a spectacle despite red meat differences in each candidate, we can & will change everything peacefully, humanely & in a timely manner. I do not want to live in a totalitarian, police state. R or D is basically the same- these are not our people, they are wolves who have proven that they lie, cheat, steal, commit war crimes & are highly untrustworthy.

  4. Kevin Johnston says:

    I am trying to do all that John suggests, and now this week I found out that the college I graduated from before and am attending again starting this semester for some reason shut down its own email system and transferred everything to Gmail. These companies have pretty much reached a point where for many of us, they ARE the Internet. That’s a bad thing.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    They and other right wing groups, especially the zionist security services, also interfere in commenting, using their agents with multiple names to comment, swarming against leftists and critics of the government.

  6. GHCro says:

    I love the message: FIGHT! RESIST! It’s our only choice when the NSA’s attitude, fostered by the Patriot Act, is “We’re hunting terrorists. We don’t need no stinking 4th Amendment.”

    I beg to differ. All that data they’re collecting hardly helps ferret out terrorists, but it gives them a lot of ammo to use against ordinary citizens: “We know where you were and what you did on the night of…” or “why did you visit website XXX seven times last year?” They can construct sinister stories about anyone from their mountains of metadata.

    All this tells me our only hope is to make ourselves as invisible as possible to the NSA, DEA, IRS, etc. Start using Tails & TOR for browsing, Textcrypt for text messages and Cellcrypt for mobile phone calls. Then, take everything off of Dropbox, Instagram, iCloud, etc, and stash it all in a Cloudlocker ( which works just the same but stays in the house where they still need a warrant to get inside.

    I’m sure we’re going to seem more and better tools like these appear soon as good ol Yankee ingenuity revs up. What a shame that it’s come to this, when we have to fight our own government and their corporate cronies who provide public services.

  7. Abney Weeks says:

    Well if that were true (and from what I hear, it’s not) then this thing would be a hard disk on steroids. It allows you to share directly from the device with anyone you wish and decide if they’ll have download permission or not. It also lets you take your info back if you don’t want to share it anymore. That’s what grabbed my attention. Apparently they accomplish this by letting you share links to your stored files, instead of the actual files…so you just cancel the link whenever you want..

    I just heard today that Google is going to start encrypting our emails for us. That doesn’t mean they won’t hand them over if asked. I lead a pretty boring life, but I kinda like the idea of having a say in what happens to my stuff.

  8. Whitewitch says:

    I was agreeing with you…guess my humour missed the mark today…

  9. Indigo says:

    “Stop using the cloud!” Um . . . seriously stop now as in you assume I’ve been storing stuff there just because the cloud’s got buzz? Oh, my stars and garters! I’m not that gullible! What I’m not using is on my external backup, WD Passport. Isn’t everybody’s?

  10. nicho says:

    No. There are “companies” that are run by the CIA.

  11. conundrum says:

    I think it’s called a hard disk.

  12. conundrum says:

    Why did you leave out Facebook and LinkedIn? Both are frequently caught playing fast and loose with customer data.

  13. Abney Weeks says:

    I’m hearing talk about a Cloudlocker device that’s like having a personal cloud right in your home. We still have a say in who comes into our homes; at least with Cloudlocker, you’d know someone was asking about your info. They’d have to ask YOU. Definitely worth checking into…

  14. conundrum says:

    Corporations and computer programs are not mortal.

  15. Houndentenor says:

    This is certainly an opportunity for companies to offer alternatives that don’t hand over personal data without a warrant. But will any of them do that? That’s the real question. Switching from one company to another that does the same thing doesn’t do anything. (I think the same thing when I stop shopping at a store because of their donations or business practices with no real guarantee that the store I chose instead is any better.)

  16. Whitewitch says:

    Nicho….don’t make me paranoid…my tin-foil hat is at the cleaners. I agree 100% we don’t actually know much about any corporate/government entities – except that they sleep together.

  17. Whitewitch says:

    Likity like like…thanks Gaius. Am going to be sad leaving Google…it has been my best friend for a while…however, like any BFF that betrays you – you just have to cut the ties and move on!

  18. A_nonymoose says:

    The only solace I can give is that these creeps are mortal, just like you and me, and no matter what they do, how many secrets they keep, how many lives they destroy, how much wealth they amass, in the end it won’t make a damned bit of difference, and one day they’ll face the same end we all will face.

  19. nicho says:

    Well, Google got its start-up money from the CIA. What did you expect? Americans have no idea how many “companies” are actually CIA fronts.

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