Cyber-warriors. The term sounds melodramatic, even silly, but a cold war already rages on the Internet. If we fail to fight this war, we risk losing before we even understand, fully, the nature of the conflict in which we are embroiled. When I wrote of this issue previously in Technocracy, I was not kind to Obama and his lackeys:
The Obama administration, already quite weak on defense and busily projecting that weakness abroad, may or may not understand the extent of the cyber-warfare threat we now face. If the United States is to avoid the economic ruin and social chaos that will result from persistent and ever-more widespread hacker attacks on its virtual infrastructure, it must waste no time participating in this cyber-arms race. Unless we use technology to combat the threat posed by technology, we will be left behind. We must outwit, outspend and out-hack our enemies … or we will lose this proxy war before we truly begin to fight it.
It now seems, however, that the Obama administration may understand this issue better than I thought. More importantly, it appears – if the Obama’s fawning hagiographers in the “mainstream” media can be believed – that the supposedly tech-savvy Obama and Hillary Clinton’s State Department have taken certain initiatives on this virtual battlefield. The New York Times claims that the Obama administration “is leading a global effort to deploy ‘shadow’ Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.”
The American effort, revealed in dozens of interviews, planning documents and classified diplomatic cables obtained by the New York Times, ranges in scale, cost and sophistication.
Some projects involve technology that the United States is developing; others pull together tools that have already been created by hackers in a so-called liberation-technology movement sweeping the globe.
The State Department, for example, is financing the creation of stealth wireless networks that would enable activists to communicate outside the reach of governments in countries like Iran, Syria and Libya, according to participants in the projects.
Given that Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak tried to prevent protests within his country by shutting down the Internet, the creation of parallel “shadow” networks accessible by dissidents and activists would seem a very good thing. We as Americans are revolted by censorship, by the idea that an oppressive government could attempt to shut down the most powerful means of communication its citizens use every day. The Internet is essential infrastructure in the modern era. The success of activism through social media is only one small aspect of this network-of-networks’ pervasive influence on our lives.
Why, then, does Obama not support freedom-of-Internet in the United States? Could it be that this miserable, incompetent little man, whose totalitarian plans for the Net are well-known to readers of this column, wants to make sure you, the citizens under his administration’s thumb, can be shut up whenever it is convenient to silence you?
The Washington Post reported last year that the Obama administration wants to “make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.”
Many Internet service providers have resisted the government’s demands to turn over electronic records, arguing that surveillance law as written does not allow them to do so, industry lawyers say. One senior administration government official, who would discuss the proposed change only on condition of anonymity, countered that “most” Internet or e-mail providers do turn over such data.
To critics, the move is another example of an administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security.
Then, too, we have to wonder when Obama and Clinton’s “shadow network” machinations will truly be used to help oppressed peoples – and when they will continue to alienate allies and destabilize political hotbeds by failing to support nations, however totalitarian, whose regimes are the lesser of potential foreign evils. If Israel were to erect firewalls or other Internet curbs to prevent the use of Israeli Internet resources for plotting and executing terrorism, would the United States establish an alternate system of cell towers or wireless networks? Would U.S. money and military might be used to protect the poor, oppressed Palestinians – Palestinians who immediately attack Jews whenever they are shown the slightest kindness and consideration – from Israeli censorship?
In some ways, the idea that our nation is fighting foreign oppression – by enabling foreign populations with alternative means of information access – reminds one of the “net neutrality” argument. On its face, the idealistic notion of net neutrality seems good. It seems like a self-evident benefit to free people, preventing artificial restrictions to Internet access. In reality, net neutrality schemes harm everyone because – perhaps counterintuitively – preventing “artificial” restrictions prevents service providers from managing data traffic. While unmanaged data traffic certainly seems fair and equitable to all (in theory), it results in the hindrance, collapse or crash of the finite network resources so neglected.
Fighting oppression, likewise, seems a worthwhile goal outside of context. Freedom of information certainly seems an ideal Americans should uphold. Yet if we uphold freedom at the expense of national security and international stability, are we cutting off our collective nose to spite our national face? If we apply our technological efforts to a foreign policy of ineffective leadership and costly alienation, are we misdirecting that work? Freedom can never be a bad thing. But dare we fight for the rights of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian Authority, knowing they will use whatever freedoms we help them earn to deprive of freedom those these terrorist groups hate?
The devil, as they say, is in the details. Obama’s statists seem to “get” the broad strokes of cyber war – even as they paint a disturbing picture of self-destructive optimism up close. To say that I had hoped for better would be obvious.
To say I am surprised would be a lie.