Thursday, December 05, 2013

GLIT, cell phone spying, and more...

Libertarians! Greenwald! YOW! Okay, you're probably sick of the topics raised in our recent posts -- the ones dealing with Glenn Greenwald and his foes. But if you want to see how freaky this shit gets, check out this post on the Extreme Liberal's Blog.

The Self-Proclaimed Extreme Liberal is a die-hard Obama fan, as I am not. The SPEL also doesn't like Greenwald, as I do. For the moment, never mind all that. What I want you to take away from the afore-linked post are these two principles:

1. Nowadays, the worst insult one liberal writer can hurl at another liberal writer is this: "You are linked to (or funded by) libertarians!"

2. Pretty much everyone can be linked to (or has been funded by) libertarians.

Thus, Greenwald stands damned for his (alleged) links to the Cato Institute, yet Greenwald himself has damned other writers as "Koch controlled plants."

Let's pull back the camera to take in a wider picture. Libertarianism is very popular among the one percent, not so popular among the 99 percent. And yet libertarianism has pockets of popularity among the 99 percent -- "Christian" rubes, smirky hipsters like Ed Snowden (in the days before he acted against his rational self interest), Jonathan Lebed-esque consters, and pretentious gits who consider themselves the next John Galt because life has not yet kicked them in the balls.

In such a society, you can't easily escape links with libertarians. They control a good chunk of the dialog -- and an even bigger chunk of the money.

GLIT. There's another problem: The Great Libertarian Infiltration Tactic, or GLIT. When a Libertarian salesperson tries to prove how cool he really is, how non-partisan he really is, and how much he really loves this whole liberty thing, said writer pounds away at non-economic issues: "Smoke dope! Gay marriage is cool! Religion sucks! The CIA sucks! War sucks! Freedom, baby!"

Yeah, they sure love to talk about that stuff. They don't talk the less attractive aspects of libertarianism -- about "privatizing" Social Security, ending the minimum wage, destroying the safety net, deep-sixing all environmental regulations and letting corporations rule every molecule of your life without any interference from the gummint. You know -- that whole "new serfdom" thing.

I got hip to the GLIT back in the '70s, when I first heard the okie-doke. But GLIT-speak still has the power to confound the weak-minded, and that's why a lot of people who should know better -- Bill Maher, for one -- get suckered into saying nice things about libertarians like Ron Paul.

GLIT is another reason why libertarianism has become inescapable in our culture. 

More Snowden fallout:
Well, we kind of already knew this, didn't we? The WP reports that new documents reveal that No Such Agency has mastered the art of worldwide cellphone tracking, which is why I recommend sticking to phones with removable batteries, because taking out the battery is the only way to disable GPS. (IPhones reek. Do your computing on an effing computer.)
One senior collection manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data are often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year.
The app that lets the NSA track anyone who associates with an intelligence target is called CO-TRAVELLER.
CO-TRAVELER and related tools require the methodical collection and storage of location data on what amounts to a planetary scale. The government is tracking people from afar into confidential business meetings or personal visits to medical facilities, hotel rooms, private homes and other traditionally protected spaces.
If you're as big a fan of strained rationalization as I am, you'll giggle at this bit:
An intelligence lawyer, speaking with his agency’s permission, said location data are obtained by methods “tuned to be looking outside the United States,” a formulation he repeated three times. When U.S. cellphone data are collected, he said, the data are not covered by the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Oh really? Here's the amendment in question:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Do you see anything in there limiting rights only to those Americans who are in America? No, you do not. That's because you carry your "effects" and "papers" with you wherever you go. Your house is wherever you lay your head. What would Ben Franklin have said if he were told that, during his time in France, the American government had a right to invade his apartments and rifle through his private documents?

The NSA says it doesn't know how much information it collects. As Marcy Wheeler notes, this state of ignorance is deliberate.
In 2010 (sometime between July and October), John Bates told the NSA if they knew they were collecting content of US persons, they were illegally wiretapping them. But if they didn’t know, then they weren’t in violation.
Judge John Bates (as Marcy expects you to know, even though you probably don't) issued an important FISA court ruling in 2011. What this means is that the NSA can scoop up whatever it likes overseas; constitutional protections kick in only when dealing with Americans. Therefore, it is best for the NSA not to know too much about what they're getting.

The easy fix: Why don't we ask our representatives to force cell phone manufacturers to provide a switch that turns off the freakin' GPS? (And why don't citizens of other countries ask their governments to do this?)

The GPS should be there only when we want it. Going hiking? Turn it on. Need directions? Turn it on. Meeting your lover or pot dealer? Turn it off.

Of course, I'm talking about gummint regulation of industry, so this is not a solution that libertarians will like. See? Unfettered libertarianism will actually take away your freedom.


James said...

John Bates has been responsible for some of the more pro-establishment decisions we've seen in the past decade; he's more concerned with the consolidation of state power than he is with relics like the Constitution.

As for the GPS issue, they government shoehorned that into legislation using the same tactics it uses for every pernicious thing it does: it cloaked it with a veneer of legitimacy by claiming it was so 911 operators could locate callers in distress. It's the same way the government passes sweeping legislation under the auspices of catching pedophiles. You know...for the children.

My admittedly cynical approach to interpreting government actions is often to just imagine how a given law or decision could be abused to further subjugate us. Unfortunately, that method has proven to be a surprisingly accurate predictor of their true goals.

jv said...

apparently, libs don't mind private companies collecting and storing reams of data about your every keystroke, and using that data to not only predict your future actions, but to influence't is a false flag operation, meant to occupy small minds...the real shit is happening at google, microsoft, yahoo, fakebook, usw

Joseph Cannon said...

James, you're right. Of course, anyone capable of dialing 911 is also capable of turning the GPS button to "on."

But really, the fault is with the citizenry. If we bugged our legislators sufficiently, we could have this GPS thing licked.

Stephen Morgan said...

My phone hasn't got GPS. Also, I don't carry it around with me. I occasionally miss calls, but I don't like talking to people anyway, so no great loss there. To be honest, I miss having a phone with a dial to dial with, which was tied to the wall with a bit of wire.

Zolodoco said...

Nokia n900 user here--the most underrated phone ever. It has user control over GPS, cellular, and wifi antennas. Even getting a nonworking one for parts only might be worthwhile with the project underway. It's worth a look.

CambridgeKnitter said...

Forgive my ignorance, please, but doesn't a cell phone always have to broadcast your location so that you can receive phone calls? I understand that's not a GPS that I can use, but is it functionally different from the surveillance point of view?

Mr. Morgan, right next to my computer is my phone, a black rotary-dial one with wires running to a jack in the wall. You can buy them online (one of my few forays into internet commerce). My teenager actually knows what dialing a phone is, not to mention how to work a record player.

Stephen Morgan said...

Landlines are unreasonably expensive, especially if you only make a very small number of calls.

The functional difference between GPS and no GPS is that GPS is much more accurate.

Gus said...

All cell phones have GPS, whether you know it or not. They are ALL required to have a GPS chip, in most cases with it's own power supply that is not affected when you remove the battery. Just because you can't use GPS on your cell, doesn't mean your cell doesn't have the does.

Land lines are not expensive at all.....I pay less than $20 USD on average for my land line. Of course, I can't make calls outside of my calling area, but that's what prepaid calling cards are for (which are much cheaper than any land line or cell phone plan......though I wonder how much longer they will be available).

Stephen Morgan said...

My phone cost £10 and came with £10 of credit, GPS or an independent battery would probably more than double the price.

The last time I had a landline was many years ago and then it was nearly £10 for a month's line rental, in addition to call charges (although calls to friends and family were free). A mobile has no line rental and I only pay when I make outgoing calls or texts, which is extremely rare.

Also, even if it had GPS, it stays in my house. So if GPS could tell them where it was, that would still be slower than just looking up the address on a landline.