Frank Babb

Author & Adventurer

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Why Are We Emoting About a Few Intercepted Phone Calls?

In a recent post I mentioned the hacking of Target’s credit card purchase records exposing confidential information about 40 million customers. Now Target has warned us that about twice as many customers were exposed over a longer period of time and other companies, including Neiman Marcus, have acknowledged similar attacks on their confidential customer information.

Then on January 14, 2014, a New York Times article disclosed that the “N. S. A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers,” a tactic we have charged the Chinese military with employing against American companies and governmental agencies. While the National Security Agency (NSA) claims we aren’t stealing confidential commercial information from the Chinese as they are accused of doing with our companies (we’re stealing only “military” information), the veracity of the Agency has proven to be questionable over the years. The article also states that the Stuxnet attack against Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz used an earlier version of the software we’re now using in China.  My previous post mentioned that Stuxnet was probably a U. S. project.

Daily cyber war disclosures and discussions have a lulling or diverting effect on the real issues we need to be concerned with. They’re associated with “war on terror,” “security,” “safety,”etc., words which immediately activate the emotional part of our brains instead of the rational.  This reaction to fear is well understood by those officials seeking to distract us from more important current issues. When the saber tooth (cyber tooth now) tigers were hunting our ancestors on the savannas in Africa, the survivors were the ones who responded quickest to the threat and could run faster than their neighbors. This reaction to fear is etched in our brains.

The current Constitutional dilemmas presented by the NSA’s surveillance programs we are struggling with didn’t begin with September 11, 2001, or the  U. S. A. Patriot Act adopted a month later. John F. Kennedy inherited in 1961 President Eisenhower’s plan to invade Cuba and remove Fidel Castro using Cuban exiles supported by clandestine U. S. military forces. If I’d ask Paco, the narrator of my novel Hot Times in Panamá, about the constitutionality of the international cable company secretly supplying cablegrams sent and received by U. S. citizens to his Unit in the 1950s, I’m sure he’d have said: “Gee, I never thought about it.” Ryan Lizza’s article “State of Deception” in the December 16, 2013, issue of the New Yorker provides a readable history of the situation we find ourselves in today.

I’ll stop here, but I’ll return with another chapter in a few days. There’ll be plenty of news stories in the meantime.


4 Responses to Why Are We Emoting About a Few Intercepted Phone Calls?

    • Frank Babb says:

      Thank you, Rachel, for your comment and raising the question of what I’m trying to get at. What I hope we can consider and discuss in a future post or two are the constitutional issues raised by the NSA’s surveillance program. In my mind the threat posed by the program is also a serious threat to our long term welfare, even greater, more far reaching than the threat of Islamist radicals. My first point is that the government is using our primeval fear of people and ideologies we are unfamiliar with to distract us from considering the consequences of the NSA program. Please stay tuned and add to the dialogue I hope to provoke.

  • howard crise says:

    “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” ~ Edward Abbey

    By analogy, we have nothing to fear but fear itself—paralyzing fear run amuck. Perhaps civilization is metastasizing?

    • Mary Sasse says:

      Although I didn’t really see the connection at first between the Target mess (apparently caused by hackers in other countries) and the NSA firestorm, upon reflection I think that the two are similiar in several ways: First, the “bad” foreign hackers used technology to “steal” money from credit card customers. (Solution: Cut up credit cards and use CASH only! Oh, I know that might force people to think a little more about their expenditures, since it’s so easy to whip out a card at every turn and run up balances. Without that draconian measure, however, it will still be a case of “them” vs. “us.” Second, and much more complicated, the U.S. government is
      stealing personal information from its citizens, the good guys–and other countries as well (the “bad” guys) in an effort to toughen Home Land Security (a good move?). So it all boils down to this : Target: “bad” foreigners taking advantage of some “good” Americans; NSA: our “good” government taking advantage of “good” Americans and the “bad” guys world-wide. In total it’s a matter of “them” vs “us,” in all of its ramifications. Personally, I don’t have anything to hide from my government, so I do not care whether it monitors my phone calls, my emails, or my bank accounts. On the other hand, stealing my credit cards’ numbers is pure theft. To protect myself in the latter case, I just might cut up all those cards and pay CASH from now on!

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I'm Frank Babb, author, traveler, and adventurer. I look forward to connecting with you!

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