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7/25/2013

My Best Friend's Peephole



I have been meaning to write a story about two empires, one being reigned by a king, the other one ruled by a queen. The highland kingdom overlooks the valley, which is the center of the queendom. Because there is this enormous difference in altitude, the mountain tops cast large shadows across the vale. The queendom's citizens don't fear the powerful and much larger kingdom, however they are constantly aware of its presence, and in turn, the kingdom overlooks the goings-on down below.

Geographically, that could be an idea for a setting. There are a myriad of stories about the concept of overshadowing powers, and many of them manage without the help of geographical conditions. Gaining the high ground is a vital part of being in control, in stories as in real life.

Let's take history as an example. Our policies make friends and foes, and history does take note of that. In many ways history defines the bonds between all our nations by chronicling events, making them a reality, an official story, carved in stone.

Speaking of non-fictional bonds, let's talk about German-American relations for a second. In our country, culture has always provided us with material for civil opinions. Writers such as Karl May were vanguards in creating a certain fictitious view on America, one that we would all agree on as being reality. His works have left a distinct cultural imprint on the German post-war generation. To this day, it is still anchored in all of us.

So, seeing how things have been going between both our nations in recent years, it seems we're not quite friends, but not enemies either. Much of the relationship reminds me of mentorship, as in 12 Step programs, with America being the sponsor, and Germany the sponsee.

In many ways, we are an American project. We needed guidance. We're still grateful the world was nice enough to let us live after what we have done during World War II. Our nation has committed horrible crimes. However, it seems that since then, we are stuck somewhere between Step number 8 and 9 for a really long time. They are the ones about examining past errors and making amends with the people we injured. In fact, we're so busy making amends, we seem to confuse violations against our human rights as another form of reparation, as yet another valid way of paying our debts.

Because when you're worth nothing, anything goes.

Since the day I found out about the NSA grand-scale espionage I oscillate between wanting to cry on top of my keyboard and yanking it out and throwing it against the wall. I know it's not Old Typo's fault. Ever since Prism was ceremoniously unveiled about two months ago, it seems nothing is anybody's fault. Right now we're in moral zero-g. Extensive American mass surveillance on German phone and internet communication, all under the pretense of security. It doesn't stop there. Bugged embassies, EU representatives being listened in on telephone calls. And all of us civilians, listened in on. 500 million private German conversations monitored by the NSA. Per month. Why sure, NSA chief Alexander told us candidly. Now you know. As if our reluctance to believe it was some kind of insult.

Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, the services we use on a daily basis; they're all in on it, whether by force or willingly. There is Prism, Tempora, Stellarwind, Xkey, and all the while we're busy trying to figure out exactly how much our government knew about all of this, and to what extent it was involved in the down-and-dirty of our intelligence. BND and NSA in close collaboration, with one aiding the other sneak through the loop holes of their legal systems. Big Data, data mining, text mining. Don't exaggerate, our minister tells us. Surely not. We can't do anything about that, our chancellor tells us. In the meantime, my head keeps spinning. I think it might unscrew from my neck at some point.

Still I wonder why we so willingly accept the facts. We didn't sign up for any of this. Someone risked his life for us to find out the truth. The American press is so busy demonizing Edward Snowdon as a traitor, they graciously overlook the fact that he was doing what they should have done. Sadly enough it has come to the point of investigative journalism being in the hands of a few activists these days. And now? How can we remain mute? If Snowdon wasn't actively hiding right now, we would let them take care of that problem in the same way they did with Bradley Manning.

All things considered, German politicians are not the key players in this. Although I'm pretty sure they all knew, even the ones who are busy pretense-fighting right now in preparation for federal elections. It seems utterly pointless to blame those marionettes. (Well, maybe it is pre-election stasis)

Still it makes you wonder what we even need them for. As far as I'm concerned they are just hollow suits. What is our government for, if not to protect us from exactly that kind of violation. Letting it all pass makes our code of law the set up for a joke, to which our government is the punch line to. Since our politicians seem to think of themselves as the American appendix, they surely don't have our best interests in mind.

Do we have the guts to upheave? Do we dare start a riot against mommy? I have my doubts as to whether we have the strength of will to do something against the creator.

It is hard, maybe the hardest thing we'll ever have to do. But we have no choice. Our laws stand for something. In case mommy mistreats us, even if it allegedly is in our best interest, we don't have to take it. This has nothing to do with the shadows of our past. Veiling this affair under the blanket of security seems like the biggest joke of them all. This is a separate issue. And we have rights.







My Anti Spy kit

How to behave when being spied upon

They know what we're saying, so why not take advantage of that? Speak out! Spam-post, send emails, talk dirty on the phone. Throw in the occasional "listening in on private conversation gives you cancer" comment if you want. The point is to not let them silence you. Talk, comment, be verbal. Don't be a quiet mouse. Don't mistake being inconspicuous with being safe. That's the thing with mass surveillance. Grids. They may already be in operation, we have no way of knowing, or anticipating what it is they're looking for. Lucky guess: everything - anything. Don't underestimate the power of profiles. The information of who talks to whom alone can be powerful. You don't need the contents of conversations to create patterns. Holding perfectly still is a pattern as well. In regards to dot-connecting, much can be achieved with the awesome power of statistics.


How to react - as a government - to being spied upon

Spy back. Know as much as you can. Theoretically, if everyone knows everything, no one has the upper hand. And that's what this is about. Maybe weighing information against each other will be something to consider, and informational buy-outs, some potential to be the nuclear armament of our century. In any way, it can't hurt. There is no means of control over the density of their network. We can't make them stop the surveillance.


Why this is frigging important

This is our century's atom bomb. We shouldn't trust anyone with such enormous weaponry under their belt - especially when they say they need it to secure our safety. Terrorist attacks prevented: quite a few, they say. Exact numbers: conveniently classified.




I want to end this by saying: Intelligence Services, I can't do anything to make you stop watching me whenever you want, and interpret the data in any way you see fit. Hopefully you'll just want to know something about the books I buy on Amazon, but I can never be sure. In any case, if you're reading this I'll hereby throw in a couple of middle fingers - in hopes that they'll appear a blip in your statistic records.

Best regards.



Spying on spies: Dagger complex movement