This blog is written by my husband, Pat Booth, a NZ journalist. It’s his weekly column, and I think it’s important for several reasons.
He writes: “It’s a pattern that an author would die for. Actually, he’s dead already. But interest in his book is at its highest level in decades. Latest figures: Sales up 6884 per cent in 24 hours.
An unlikely sales team is working on the project world-wide – the CIA, presumably MI6, some secret group called Prism, China’s deceptively tame-sounding Ministry of State Security, the Five Eyes partnership and NZ’s GCSB. New Zealand’s promotion team is headed by the Prime Minister, John Key.
The book? A brief resume (with credits to Wikipedia): “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell, published in 1949, is set in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (Ingsoc) under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite that persecutes all individualism and independent thinking as thought crimes.
“Their tyranny is headed by Big Brother, the quasi-divine Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. Big Brother and the Party justify their rule in the name of a supposed greater good. “The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, (Aha!) is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism.
“His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always supports the current party line. Smith is a diligent and skilled worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.” Of course, any spy epic must include sex.
But Orwell would never have produced anything quite as cute as whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s girl friend, Lindsay Mills, who labels herself in her blog as “specialising in pole dancing, partner acrobatics and aerial dancing”. She knows her “Man of Mystery as “E” … As I type this on my tear-streaked keyboard I’m reflecting on all the faces that have graced my path …” etc etc
All this is good for a giggle – if only it didn’t reflect so clearly the sort of world we live in. Today’s facts are as worrying as anything in Orwell’s fiction. Digital science has outdated him.
Modern scandals represent so much of modern life – the ability in our society to dig into phone and e-mail records to identify who we call and when, phones that take and send photos, so called security systems on streets and in buildings intended as a protection from crime which can be tapped as to who was where and when, charting movements by vetting data in those same mobile phones.
Here is a guide to aspects of the spying world you may never have believed existed. The GCSB: The NZ Prime Minister, Mr Key chairs the committee which in early July will hear submissions on the “Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill” (to those in the know, “the Spy Bill.”) It allows the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders in set circumstances. GCSB’s web site boasts that it “employs the cream of New Zealand’s talent… many recognised as leaders in their field of expertise.”
PRISM: What’s most troubling about the U.S. PRISM isn’t that it collects data. It’s the type of data it collects. According to the Washington Post it collects: “…audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs… [Skype] can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone, and for any combination of audio, video, chat, and file transfers when Skype users connect by computer alone. Google’s offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance.”
PRISM’s masthead has familiar massive white inflatable globes on its masthead – like those in that secret US base at Waihope in NZ’s South Island that no one will talk about!
Insisting that broad national security requests seeking users’ personal information were unconstitutional, Yahoo went to US court fighting a PRISM demand that they join the spying programme and hand over data. They lost. A secret US court operating under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) sided with the National Security Agency and forced Yahoo’s hand. Most recent figures show that Facebook got up to 10,000 requests for data from NSA in the last six months of 2012, involving between 18,000 and 19,000 Facebook users on a broad range of surveillance topics, from missing children to terrorism.
Microsoft had between 6000 and 7000 orders, affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 accounts, but downplayed how much they had revealed. Did you get all that? Similar “depth of access” applies to Facebook, Microsoft, and the rest. Just to be clear: This covers practically anything you or I have ever done online, up to and including Google searches as you type them.
Five Eyes: This “intelligence community” grew out of close UK-US intelligence cooperation in World War 11. Early in the Cold War, “faced by growing Soviet conventional and nuclear threats, American and British intelligence cooperation grew.” Out of that came a Top Secret sphere of sigint (secure integrated global network) cooperation whose existence was denied by participating governments – including ours – for many years. Its website includes an up-beat statement from Canadian Brigadier General James Cox:
“Cyberspace is now an accepted domain of warfare and Five Eyes sigint agencies are the principal ‘warfighters’, engaged in a simmering campaign of cyber defence against persistent transnational cyber threats… “…to provide governments with foreign sigint in support of national decision-making. In doing so, Five Eyes partners – the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – rely on each other to share the collection and analysis burden.
“Today, technological and computational advances create innumerable opportunities for the interception of diplomatic, military, scientific and commercial communications, as well as the extrapolation of radar, spacecraft and weapons systems. While it cannot always reveal what an opponent is thinking, sigint can tell you what he is saying and doing, Most critically, sigint can provide warning of imminent enemy activity at various levels.”
The general also says rather unconvincingly: “Five Eyes partners apparently do not target each other, nor does any partner seek to evade their national laws by requesting or accepting such activity. There is, however, no formal way of ensuring such eavesdropping does not take place. Each partner is trusted to adhere to this ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between allies.”
“Apparently” is not good enough. A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister says: “It is the Prime Minister’s view that New Zealand’s relationships with its partners are of overwhelming benefit to New Zealand’s national security. I’m not convinced. Are you? It’s worse than “1984”. It’s real.”
End of my husband’s thoughts on spying, and Canadian spy chief’s gobbledegook. Noam Chomsky has suggested that younger people may not be as outraged by this invasion of privacy as older people, since they’re already used to the open slather of Facebook and Twitter. But if so, I think they haven’t, in the words of the old joke : “realised the gravity of the situation”…
On the other hand, while a sinister interpretation can be put on these spying measures, in another way it shows us how we are all interconnected – that no-one is not, these days, part of the global village. The US and its allies have unwittingly united us all in their network of operations, and in so doing may well unite us all too, in our resistance to being swallowed up in the phantom fears of fighting terrorism and in the brain-washing of the so-called fight for freedom.
This determination to monitor the citizens of the world may back-fire and show us all that seeing every-one as a potential enemy, terrorist or undesirable person is not the answer to peace. Peace is a state of mind, not a war on anything.
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
All the family came for lunch yesterday to celebrate my birthday. Too many to sit round the dining room table, so I had to devise a menu to eat on our laps. It was a cold meal, so I made some hot mulled wine to warm everyone up on a freezing day before we began on the champagne and the rest.
It was quick and easy, using one bottle of good red wine ( I used some local Sangiovese), quarter of a cup of brandy, a peeled and sliced orange, eight cloves, three cinnamon sticks, two teasp ground ginger, and at least a third of a cup of honey… you can use more or less, depending on your taste.
Gently stir /mull for about twenty five minutes without boiling. I served it in coffee cups. This amount is enough for four to six people, but serving it in little coffee cups stretched it out to more than that.
Food for Thought
From the centre which we call the race of men
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.
Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth
The last verse of The Great Invocation, channelled by Alice Bailey 1880 -1949 writer on philosophy and occult themes