The Effects of Surveillance on the Victims

Last month, the Cato Institute held its Second Annual Cato Surveillance Conference. It was an excellent event, with many interesting talks and panels. But their was one standout: a panel by victims of surveillance. Titled "The Feeling of Being Watched," it consisted of Assia Boundaoui, Faisal Gill, and Jumana Musa. It was very powerful and moving to hear them talk about what it's like to live under the constant threat of surveillance.

Watch the video or listen to the audio.

By the way, I gave the closing keynote (video and audio).

Posted on November 5, 2015 at 6:16 AM • 72 Comments

Comments

Henry HoverballNovember 5, 2015 6:52 AM

Well, at least denizens of the UK can use this to know what to expect- courtesy of The Pig Lover's shiny new investigatory powers bill.

(Bruce, any chance of you popping up in the guardian with an informed breakdown of this mess?)

DannyNovember 5, 2015 7:00 AM

I've been using ProtonMail to communicate with my lawyer, the police and my political representatives about a legal prosecution about to come to court. Now, I have no access to that information due to an ongoing DDOSING attack on ProtonMail by GCHQ. A side-effect of this illegal attack is no legal defence for me.

theodoreNovember 5, 2015 7:07 AM

Regarding your comment at 3:20, I do, in fact, lie to search engines. I also buy weird combinations of items in grocery stores, just to keep my file active.

worriedautistNovember 5, 2015 7:09 AM

Henry: They are just encouraging the resources to give up and voluntarily go to waste by that surveillance behaviour. Now that can't really be the effect the rich people want to achieve, can it? It should be in their interest to make available and utilize the resources and not alienating and pushing them away.

TGuerrantNovember 5, 2015 7:29 AM

"I'm optimistic, but it's hard for me to convey the optimism."
--Bruce Schneier, 2015

PatriotNovember 5, 2015 7:46 AM

The point is that surveillance alienates and criminalizes people, the very people one could depend on to report potential terrorist acts.

If you are Muslim, then you are a target. I guess that is just the way it is. But the problem is this: what group will be the next target? Chinese? Maybe. Russians? Maybe.

Nothing happens in America without people making money, and that is the driver for this whole enterprise. Without high pay and big spending the surveillance would not happen; with it, surveillance will be hard to stop. In fact, it is a growth industry. It has become a self-licking ice cream cone that damages the fabric of the country. That is clear from the excellent video by Ms. Boundaoui.

Even if surveillance is counter-productive it will continue because it is so profitable. That is the ugly truth of it. Not even the Constitution can get in the way. This sad state of affairs is where we are today. But there is a more sinister problem on the horizon. If another event occurs in America, the 9-11 kind, then it is going to be instant Gestapo. Gestapo 2.0 on steroids.

The irony might be that surveillance, or having to endure it, spurred them on, whether or not it even happened to a significant degree. It is the lack of trust, the lack of communication. That lack of communication characterizes much of what goes on today. We see communication with bullets, missiles, and collection, but not real communication. That bodes ill for the future.

thevoidNovember 5, 2015 8:24 AM

this reminds me of an article i recently read, i am sure most here would appreciate it.

"Public School Students Are the New Inmates in the American Police State"

it's a good article detailing the insanity of the public school system and the criminization of trival 'childish' behavior. lots of links to recent articles from mainstream press sources.

and when i say insanity, i mean INSANITY:

Indeed, the transformation of hometown police departments into extensions of the military has been mirrored in the public schools, where school police have been gifted with high-powered M16 rifles, MRAP armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and other military gear. One Texas school district even boasts its own 12-member SWAT team.

(the source for that being the Wall Street Journal.)

the concluding paragraphs:

Nevertheless, school officials remained determined to do away with institutional control and surveillance, as well as aggressive security guards, and focus on noncoercive, nonviolent conflict resolution with an emphasis on student empowerment, relationship building and anger management.

The result: a 90% drop in serious incidents?drug sales, weapons, assaults, rapes?in one year alone. As one fifth-grader remarked on the changes, ?There are no more fights. There are no more police. That's better for the community.?

The lesson for the rest of us is this: you not only get what you pay for, but you reap what you sow.

If you want a nation of criminals, treat the citizenry like criminals.

If you want young people who grow up seeing themselves as prisoners, run the schools like prisons.

But if you want to raise up a generation of freedom fighters, who will actually operate with justice, fairness, accountability and equality towards each other and their government, then run the schools like freedom forums. Remove the metal detectors and surveillance cameras, re-assign the cops elsewhere, and start treating our nation?s young people like citizens of a republic and not inmates in a police state.


jonesNovember 5, 2015 8:39 AM

Thanks for bringing up this important issue.

A lot of the literature on the surveillance society begins by assuming the need for certain forms of surveillance for law enforcement purposes, but rarely is surveillance discussed in terms of a means for social engineering.

In 1984, Winston Smith was busted by police entrapment, not surveillance. George Orwell discussed the surveillance state in 1984 specifically in terms of Bentham's "panopticon."

“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.”

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”

You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

-- George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

The idea was discussed further by Michel Foucault:

“Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power..."

“So... that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers.”

“To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so..."

“In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so.”


-- Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1975

Bentham's panopticon was the original for-profit prison:

PANOPTICON; OR THE INSPECTION-HOUSE: CONTAINING THE IDEA OF A NEW PRINCIPLE OF CONSTRUCTION APPLICABLE TO ANY SORT OF ESTABLISHMENT, IN WHICH PERSONS OFANY DESCRIPTION ARE TO BE KEPT UNDER INSPECTION; AND IN PARTICULAR TO PENITENTIARY-HOUSES,PRISONS, HOUSES OF INDUSTRY, WORK-HOUSES, POOR-HOUSES, LAZARETTOS, MANUFACTORIES, HOSPITALS, MAD-HOUSES, AND SCHOOLS: WITH A PLAN OF MANAGEMENT WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1787, BY JEREMY BENTHAM.

With respect to the practical implications of today's surveillance society, we hear a lot about the 4th Amendment implications, but rarely about the 5th Amendment implications: do our Miranda Rights apply if we're effectively under constant investigation -- or, at the click of a mouse, may be under instant retroactive investigation?

Do we have to choose between our 5th Amendment right to remain silent, and our 1st Amendment right to free speech?

hermanNovember 5, 2015 9:15 AM

"and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

-- George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

Evidently O'l George was an optimist and ignorant of IR cameras.

DannyNovember 5, 2015 9:18 AM

…the Stasi often used a method which was really diabolic. It was called Zersetzung, and it's described in another guideline. The word is difficult to translate because it means originally "biodegradation." But actually, it's a quite accurate description. The goal was to destroy secretly the self-confidence of people, for example by damaging their reputation, by organizing failures in their work, and by destroying their personal relationships. Considering this, East Germany was a very modern dictatorship. The Stasi didn't try to arrest every dissident. It preferred to paralyze them, and it could do so because it had access to so much personal information and to so many institutions.
—Hubertus Knabe, German historian

JohnPNovember 5, 2015 9:55 AM

In theory, I live in a free society and should feel empowered to share ideas. Popular, unpopular, smart, stupid shouldn't matter. I did have that feeling until around 2003, when the police state and massive data capture with correlation of data began by my government.

Previously, I was willing to accept that unpopular speech may have repercussions from other people, but not from my local, state and federal governments.

THAT is the part of constant surveillance that scares me.

Last trip to the Czech Republic, I noticed the phones in my hotel suite were set to auto-answer. Had to disable that every evening - seems that housekeeping enabled it daily? The door keys to the rooms were a joke too; like keys from the 1700s. Better than the electronic systems most places, but still a joke.

PatriotNovember 5, 2015 10:50 AM

@jones @danny

Looks as if we are going towards a panopticon that kicks in when one enters public school. Everything one does is recorded, processed, and stored--from the time of six. I am so glad I grew up with a typewriter and carbon copies. Remember how exciting it was to have a big pencil and paper when you were a kid?

I am not going to have my kids suffer through this. If it has to be private school, then so be it. If I have to move to Iceland or Malaysia or wherever, I will. Laos, no problem. Cleveland, forget it.

RomanNovember 5, 2015 11:43 AM

I understand how constant surveillance makes victims become paranoid. No one wants to feel as though their every action is being watched by some stranger.

TerrieNovember 5, 2015 11:56 AM

@Patriot

"If I have to move to Iceland or Malaysia or wherever, I will."

Some patriot you are! Shouldn't you work to fix your own country, instead of proclaiming you'll be running away and abandoning it?

And what makes you think you'll be able to immigrate to Iceland or Malaysia or Laos, anyway? Most of the world isn't waiting for you with open arms anymore than the USA are welcoming anyone who wants to move there.

worriedautistNovember 5, 2015 12:28 PM

I trust Danny on this, he seems to be an expert. I have also seen these methods. The people who are subject to but don't see through this will get socially isolated and depressed, the ones who are subject to it and do see through it will likely become underachievers and/or substance abusers. Parents are a perfect target group as they are so easily manipulable with rumors especially regarding sexual deviance and anything that could potentially harm kids. All of that together gives a perfect ground for undermining social credibility of deviants.

These techniques are even older and were used in the days of organized religion and anyone fascinated by organized religion would already be an expert on these things. Suddenly I understand why anyone would bother studying things like... Theology.. for instance.

Clive RobinsonNovember 5, 2015 12:32 PM

@ Henry Hoverball,

The Pig Lover's shiny new investigatory powers bill.

I don't know if you get the "Private Eye" satirical magazine where you are but...

The latest cover has a picture of Gorge Osborne in a scary Halloween type picture. Basicaly he's head is leaning forward and is underlit, which realy emphasizes his under chin fat and the rest of him and the background is blacked out. To me that under chin fat gives him the same jouliness you see on pigs heads hanging on hooks in the butchers. My son on seeing the cover observed "You can see why Cameron loves him so much...".

As for Theresa May, she has tried to develop a "stoney look" when being interviewed by journolists that are actual an order of magnitude more intelligent than she is (which is most of them). Unfortunatly for her she has not got it right and she looks like a sulky monk fish that has had botox.

I realy can not see how any of them got elected, then I remember the other side were contaminated with "Obviously out for myself Blairites", who were so bad they actually looked worse in comparison, oh and the wanabe "Monster Raving Loony Party" rejects under the ledaship of "Where's me fag" Farage, who managed to get a quater of the vote...

DannyNovember 5, 2015 12:35 PM

Hiya Patriot,

I think you are being far too optimistic. Kids today have an internet history before they ever use the internet, thanks to their parents social media and their insecure medical records, and their DNA and family history etc. School just starts selecting us for obedience and excluding us for questioning.
My local Scottish politicians are a wee bit more questioning than the security state they live under, but not enough to be convinced by my pleas for them to use encrypted communications now the 'Wilson Doctrine' is defunct. My doctor gmailed my medical records to me when I asked to see them - innocently but still, not good. The police use my phone to bother my parents because they know that annoys me more than being arrested, so I can't even use a secure phone anymore and have smashed it yesterday, a chilling effect and 'sippenhaft'.
GCHQ DDSoSed the Swiss ProtonMail offline for the past two days because they had the temerity to criticise Theresa May on Twitter. I'm wrongly blacklisted from work here since 2001 and only remain for my family, but Iceland, Switzerland and a few other places look increasingly attractive. Hell, to me the USA looks like a better option than here - at least you have theoretical rights and a written constitution!

My advice, back the good guys like Bruce where you find them, be bloodyminded when your optimism is burned off by reality, but have an escape route.

Clive RobinsonNovember 5, 2015 1:35 PM

@ Danny, worriedautist,

For most people these days the easiest way to cause them problems is to screw with their credit rating.

Thus if you wish to become any kind of activist or step on some criminal corporate patch the best thing is to be neither a borrower or a lender and have no assets that others can get at legaly or otherwise.

How you go about this is not easy, without considerable fore thought and in effect means being able to not just live off grid but near invisibly so.

I know of one person, the only two ways to contact them is to send a letter to one of their relatives abroad or know the pager number to send a prearanged message to.

They survive via having money put on one of those "no-name" credit cards and "gift-vouchers" and doing "house-sitting" and sofa-surfing and cutting code in coffee shops.

As far as I'm aware they've never actually done anything to upset anyone, it's just the way they want to live their life. They had bad experiances as a teenage orphan, and they lived on the streets etc after being kicked out of the care system. I met them when we were both wearing the green and doing special comms etc, and they subsiquently used to drop in on me --when I lived else where-- and lived over winter in my garage, doing usefull stuff for me and my neighbours.

DannyNovember 5, 2015 1:58 PM

Hi Clive,

I had no choice except emigration after being blacklisted, no money or credit since 2001. If you want to email me via Bruce then I'll explain in more depth, but after 9/11 MI5 got a tad too paranoid and I lost my career. I was a security cleared computer contractor and self-declared anarchist, so fair game I suppose, but I've met builders and gardeners who MI5 blacklisted and it's common here, not just me. The I in MI5 is a lie, it should be CYA5, as in cover yer arse. I can laugh this off.

For the past ten years though they've been primarily targeting my parents, which is literally maddening. But what do you do? Even my supportive relatives and friends eventually just shrug, never mind politicians who have a stake in the game.

Put it this way, as an unrelated yet similar example. One of my cousin in laws brothers had a terrible zero-hours job in an Amazon warehouse that drove him to alcoholism and then suicide. Yet this Christmas all his relatives are still shopping via Amazon. Because it is convenient and there is just too many other things for them to worry about. You either despair and just laugh, or you try to organise and fightback. Encryption still gives me hope for privacy and democracy, but my ability to convince anyone I know of that is failing so I am delighted by people like Bruce and Edward, and even Chelsea and Julian - and even you lot that get it.

Anonymous CowNovember 5, 2015 2:12 PM

...No one wants to feel as though their every action is being watched by some stranger...

The vast majority of surveillance cameras do not have a human watching them all the time. The imagery is recorded and later a human can review said imagery for whatever reason. It is not unheard of for no review to occur for weeks. I know a few folks whose DVRs malfunctioned and nobody realized it until days later when they wanted to review something and couldn't even access it.

And when there actually is a human on the other side they can only watch several cameras at once. More often than not a signal is sent by another human to have the monitoring human watch a particular camera.

DannyNovember 5, 2015 2:33 PM

@Anon Cow 2:12,

Not just that, CCTV is used offensively. Authorities and businesses get to use CCTV to prosecute you, but you never get the same access to the same footage to defend yourself from malicious prosecution or arrest. If we have to be surveilled all the time then it should be open-access to both prosecution and defence, or just open to everyone.

That's one great thing about the ubiquity of camera-phones, similar to encryption it levels the playing field again and the authorities wrong-doing also get exposed. Of course the police can seize and destroy our phones so new apps like Mobile Justice merit consideration.

Fact checkerNovember 5, 2015 3:10 PM

@ Bruce Schneier

ICYMI + FYI:

When referring to Angela Merkel as the classic example for justified spying, please stop telling people around the world, that Germany has 50 million citizens.

Germany has over 80 million people. The government of Germany doesn't have 30 million "valid" spy targets. Germans are well-known for their bureaucracy, but 30 million bureaucrats are way too much, even for Germany. ;-)

Just remember next time, Bruce. ;-)

pathetic delusional hypocritesNovember 5, 2015 6:37 PM

The Map Is Not The Territory

The Future Is Not The Past

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
-the big guy

GweihirNovember 5, 2015 7:01 PM

The chilling effects from surveillance have been used for a long
time as a means of behavioral control of people. In the more recent
past, example like Eastern Germany, Stalinism or the 3rd Reich did
it with older tech or non-technical means. But for a long, long time
before that, creating the impression that your every move and every
though was being observed and judged was used to control people by
targeted creation of the desired chilling effects. This imaginary
universal surveillance was being done by "God" before it actually
became feasible to do real universal surveillance on mass-scale.

Standard StupidityNovember 5, 2015 9:53 PM

@patriot - the issue from a pop cultural perspective can be summed up by 'stop snitchin'. Or some similar phrase that is apparently a 'shockingly' pervasive sentiment. It basically comes from clear and obvious knowledge that police have so utterly, and so recently, abused their positions of authority, that they cannot be trusted. In various places and various times, based on your skin color, gender, religion, nose shape, or any number of stupid factors, this reality was more than bloody obvious after opening ones eyes. Even among those not oppressed by e.g. skin color, one can quickly see people being kidnapped and tortured (read: imprisoned in the U.S.) for the 'crime' of growing cannabis and eating it. None too surprising that cannabis is so strongly associated with neurological paranoia. I mean, consume it, realize alcohol is worse for society, and then realize how retarded and/or evil your government is...

If we want a decent government, and to be decently free from surveillance, we really need to start working on that low hanging fruit. It is as you say, the government needs us to be decent, but the way I see things, decent people looking at the government we have, would be wise to steer clear of working with it. Or, to use a catch phrase 'stop snitchin'.

Oh the humanityNovember 5, 2015 10:30 PM

But all these victims are skinny foreign people who we have to keep an eye on to be safe. How about letting the red-blooded American victims tell their stories:

Jane Harman, Colin Powell, Justice Alito, General Petraeus, State Senator Barack Obama, Dennis Hastert, Jan Schakowsky

http://whowhatwhy.org/2014/01/16/transcript-another-nsa-whistleblower-russell-tice/

http://gawker.com/5364536/did-this-congresswoman-have-lesbian-affair-with-a-turkish-spy

How would you like to be spied on as you finger comely Turkish odalisques or fellate underage boys?

ianfNovember 6, 2015 12:01 AM


@ Oh the humanity

Thanks for sharing that, my sentiments exactly. Oh, the cunning, the chutzpah, the length these Turkish diplomats will go to just to, as news commentator Pareene so succinctly summarized, “prevent the U.S. Congress from officially recognizing [the Armenian] mass murder they perpetrated in 1915.” No wonder Kemal Pamuk had to be topped off in the middle of the night!

PS. you forgot to add that the book said Congresswoman under suspicion is shilling for, “REAL CHICAGO,” includes direct quotes from, and several mentions of the communist sympathizer Nelson Algren, hence one time Person of Interest for the Illinois branch of the FBI.

Moreover, in the interest of full disclosure it needs to be corrected, that these CATO Institute's designated victims, the “foreign people who we have to keep an eye on to be safe,” weren't skinny at all. Chubby more like it, and we're not talking baby fat. Perhaps, rather than whine all day long, they should have subjected themselves to some crossfit training to win hearts and minds of true-blood Americans!

WinterNovember 6, 2015 3:46 AM

@Danny
"Not just that, CCTV is used offensively. Authorities and businesses get to use CCTV to prosecute you, but you never get the same access to the same footage to defend yourself from malicious prosecution or arrest. If we have to be surveilled all the time then it should be open-access to both prosecution and defence, or just open to everyone. "

All information obtained by surveillance is intended to use against the persons surveilled. Never ever to her or his advantage.*

This is just like talking to the police. It seems to be impossible to get it into the head of people that whatever you say to the police can only be to your disadvantage. It will never help you, only hurt you. But still, almost everyone will talk to the police.

Maybe, this is the same believe that makes people think that bad things only happen to other people.

Therefore, I am very pessimistic about people understanding that the surveillance is always working against them.

* There is a parallel with signatures. My old father ran a small business and always told me that your signature under a document was only needed to use the document against you. So he refused to sign anything that was not absolutely necessary for running his business. I have yet to meet anyone else who does not sign whatever paper is put under their nose.

ianfNovember 6, 2015 5:18 AM


Several comment-worthy notes on that subject demanding to be commented… hear, hear, hereby.

@ thevoid

“A good article detailing the insanity of the public school system and the criminalization of trival 'childish' behavior.”
The insanity (apt word!) of the U.S. school system's "zero tolerance" approach to policing (apt word!) school children merely reflects the overall confrontational and preventively punitive default mindset of the American public. Observe how every Hollywood movie that involves “police assistance” ends up in—at best—armed standoff, with hordes of apparently on duty policemen pointing their mighty penile substitutes at the perp and hostages alike. With only such models of behavior, why do they expect children to be all docile?

    Insanity. As John Le Carré said in a different context: “We reap as we sow even if the harvest is long in coming.
@ JohnP […] “phones in my [Czech Republic] hotel suite were set to auto-answer. Had to disable that every evening - seems that housekeeping enabled it daily?


How so, auto-answer. Were they speaker phones that opened up the audio channel ("lifted the handset") whether you liked it or not? I don't get it, but, whatever that was, maybe it was a default hotel phone behavior in these parts?

    By analogy, lights in the public restroom in a very posh (Dutch managed) Lodz designer hotel, go dark a minute after it detects no one in the hand basins area, no matter if any closed stalls are still occupied. This would not be happening in any Western hotel I ever stayed in, but, I suppose, "saving electricity” is the Polish electricians mantra whether it affects any customers or not.

Make up your mind: the “1700s mechanical door keys were a joke”; while “electronic door-key systems most places” are even worse than that.

What sort of door locks would you have wanted? (I prefer such with DWIM telepathic sensors). It's not like you were forced to stay in that lousy-keys hotel; and, besides, never travel with, never leave unguarded anything that's irreplaceable to you. Sometimes it may be something as small as a photo of one's dead son [“Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler].


@ Clive Robinson, Henry Hoverball

latest »Private Eye« cover: a picture of George Osborne in a scary Halloween type picture. Basicaly his head is leaning forward and is underlit, which realy emphasizes his under chin fat and the rest of him and the background is blacked out. To me that under chin fat gives him the same jouliness you see on pigs heads hanging on hooks in the butchers.

I'm not sure what that simile(?) or metaphor(?) was supposed to prove, but, anyway, here's that actual cover for everybody to judge the aptness of your description, of.


[…] “As for Theresa May, she has tried to develop a "stoney look" when being interviewed by journalists that are actual an order of magnitude more intelligent than she is (which is most of them).

Without knowing anything about May's IQ, I have to point out to you that, tasked with shepherding some pretty shitty legislative deals of Her Master's Voice through the Parliament, she's doing the best she can in the circumstances. The politicians often have a cheeky repartee in cheek[sic!], and not so rarely the right to question a journalist's me-voice-di-popolo assumption, but they've been trained not to hit back as a Wo/man—because the soundbite will backfire in the news. It's a subtle two-timing dub-step to the sound of the Sound of Muzak.


Further on, Clive Robinson to @ Danny, worriedautist

[…] “[the off-the-grid-dwellers] survive by having money put on one of those "no-name" credit cards and "gift-vouchers" and doing "house-sitting" and sofa-surfing and cutting code in coffee shops.

Cutting code in coffee shops sounds way too public & webcam-dense to be within character of such shady existences. I have cut multi-megabyte websites etc. entirely offline, wouldn't dream of doing them in cafés where it's hard to stay in focus(), and where full interaction with one's pro-frenemies is more the custom. House sitting, certainly, but I don't buy the "sofa-surfing" for your cohort's peers – it's a young whippersnappers' game.

I do wish however that you'd write more of these "no name" credit(?) cards - surely it must be some direct debit (hence logged somewhere upstreams) cards. Never seen anything like it, wouldn't mind getting one.

(My interest in “going dark” is, I presume, of future-novelistic nature.)

ianfNovember 6, 2015 5:49 AM


@ Danny, regarding your
                                        three
                                                posts

… the Stasi often used a method which was really diabolic…

As I really don't know much about Stasi's home spying "tradecraft," I've been asking myself to what degree the explicit invigilation methodology present in the movie “Das Leben der Anderen” would have been true. I don't mean the actual bugging operation which looked plausible enough, but the rest of that Stasi-centered story. Maybe you could offer some insights?


[…] “I am wrongly blacklisted from work here since 2001 and only remain for my family, but Iceland, Switzerland and a few other places look increasingly attractive. Hell, to me the USA looks like a better option than here - at least you have theoretical rights and a written constitution!

I wouldn't count on the latter, and better don't you try to find that out with self as collateral (that way Gitmo lies). What you allude to sounds so grave that I'm beginning to wonder how come it doesn't ring my bells of news-item recognition. I'm on the Continent, but finely attuned to UK & other news of all shapes; hence, if some ongoing grave injustice is afoot, I ought to have heard/read about it. But nothing remotely resembling such a British(?) Berufsverbot has floated me by.

Were you at all written up in the media…? It seems nowadays it's harder to escape that, than being covered. Sounds like you've got nothing to lose by trying to stay anonymous under GCHQ's (as you claim) homoradar. After all, your "case" is already well known to the police, so what do you gain by not going public (unless you already tried to, but were found unreliable as a storyteller by the media).


[…] “The police use my phone to bother my parents because they know that annoys me more than being arrested, so I can't even use a secure phone anymore and have smashed it yesterday

1. What does your secure phone have to do with the police harassing your parents.
2. What has been achieved by the smashing of that secure phone?
3. How come your harassed parents do not complain about being harassed to the police or the telephone company – surely that at least ought to stop?

    FYI: these are just a few questions that rise through my brain core until they occlude my judgement and demand to be dared being answered. DONE.
[…] “an unrelated yet similar example. One of my cousin in laws brothers had a terrible zero-hours job in an Amazon warehouse that drove him to alcoholism and then suicide. Yet this Christmas all his relatives are still shopping via Amazon.


Let me put it to you another way: your cousin-whatever was free to leave that job, look elsewhere. Nothing but love of drink "drove him" into alcoholism. Had he left that job, could no longer afford to drink as much as before, and even if he couldn't find another job, he'd hardly be starving to death. He elected to terminate his alcoholic life instead… a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yet you use [t]his "fate" as some drummed-up argument about alleged lack of empathy of others.


[…] “I had no choice except emigration after being blacklisted, no money or credit since 2001. […] I was a security cleared computer contractor and self-declared anarchist, so fair game I suppose

The mystery thickens… thickens… getting stale. Yup, definitely could do with some “DANNY ACCUSES!” book, complete with an oversized exclamation mark. Sit down and write it down, nobody will do that for you. Never mind interpunction and stuff, there's an app for that.

NotSecurityRelatedNovember 6, 2015 6:35 AM

The psychological and community effects are well documented of indiscriminate monitoring:

- fostering of distrust in authorities;
- conformity to social norms;
- mediocrity;
- heightened levels of stress, fatigue and anxiety for the surveilled;
- in the workplace it also reduces performance and our sense of personal control; and
- undermining of authorities influence due to increased resentment from the governed.

Thus, it cannot be said on the balance of the evidence that the NWO gives a flying fuck about the health, well-being, productivity or sanity of its citizens.

In reality, it is laughable they pretend to give a shit about our 'security' so desperately. The astronomically small probability of you being killed in a terrorist attack proves it is a bare-faced lie.

Hundreds would die in the UK daily due to lack of access to government health, housing and other services, but the Muslim threat is ludicrously raised to levels that is completely disproportionate to the actual risk.

This global action in the 5-eyes and elsewhere (planned in secret no doubt) is covering off millions (billions?) of breaches of laws, rules, regulations, charters and conventions.

In fact, they are confirming they have been doing this in secret for a decade or more - and we thank them for confirming it via their panicky steps and hysterical speeches.

Theresa May and other 'The Walking Dead' extras are puppets who implement this to create a powerful information asymmetry - they know everything about us, but the real criminals (the politicians, MIC) are opaque in their dealings.

Power asymmetry = power, with the additional benefits of social control. But, like the Stasi, it is not sustainable in the long-term to try and rule through fear.

Still, right now all they need to do is make an example of the occasional truthsayer e.g. Assange, Manning, Snowden etc to keep the plebs in line.

But there is also a growing group using FOSS and more encrpted tools than ever, just in response to the State's over-reach i.e. telling them to shove it up their ass.

This group will only grow with time and set the future norm, while also attracting greater attention and investment from the commercial sector.

Anonymous CowardNovember 6, 2015 6:44 AM

@ NotSecurityRelated
This group will only grow with time and set the future norm, while also attracting greater attention and investment from the commercial sector.

By the likes of commercial sector I hope you don't mean Google and Facebook, because there's money to be made in surveillance, in fact a majority of theirs. ;)

DannyNovember 6, 2015 7:43 AM

@Winter
Fully agree. "No Comment Mr Policeman". I sign, but differently each time.
@ianf
Great movie, saw it the day it was released because I took it as a metaphor for my (at that time) previous five years experience with MI5. Don't know the truth of it as regards the Stasi but no German complained about it's veracity so I'm not sure why you would doubt it.

I can furnish you with so many of other British activists, or Briton's mistake for activists, tales of injustice that mine seems normal to me. After 911 our security services lost the plot a bit. You haven't heard of Mark Kennedy for example, or don't you consider that behaviour intrusive and unjust?

1. Tracking device they use to arrest me there rather than at my place.
2. No tracking device.
3. In the process of doing so yet again, was fobbed off by their assurances and apologies previously, this time we are suing.

"he'd hardly be starving to death" - do you realise how bad it is in the UK today for the jobless? Obviously not, there are starving folk here now, folk who refuse to beg or take foodbank charity. I myself lost three stone this year. Many people are suiciding, I mean thousands and thousands of the poorest who used to get benefits.

I have written a book, but I'm not a great writer and obviously you aren't a great reader, so let's just not.

Warning Satire AheadNovember 6, 2015 7:48 AM

Surveillance also inspires SATIRE...

Skeptical [advisor]: Look Theresa, this has to be your most earnest presentation yet. You don't want to end up on the 6pm news snorting coke with whores, do you? Well?

Theresa [hair frazzled]: Understood. And no 'Bay of Pigs'. Or 'dope smoking Flam Clubs'.

Skeptical [eyebrows raised]: Theresa, if the public knew they were ruled by a cabal of pig-fucking elite, that wouldn't exactly inspire confidence in our most holy institutions, now would it?

We definitely cannot have Chin-fat declaring that he "did not have sexual relations with that sow". Swing voters with a stiff British upper lip don't yet go for animal lovebusandry.

Anyhow... you're on. And make it good [taps nose with finger]

Theresa [drained of color]: Yes, well here goes...

[To media contingent]

Theresa: Ladies and Gentlemen.

The risk facing our country is without precedent.

We have progressed beyond DefCon2 - which was in itself a response to chatter amongst the #ToddlerTerror group and increased membership of #SignsOfARadicalBaby.

DefCon1 means that we can no longer assume your homosexual flings on AshleyMaddison, or those WMD-sized dildos imported from China, do not present a clear and present danger.

Therefore, on the best advice of my experts I have now implemented "Project Totalitarian", commencing immediately.

Do not be alert, be alarmed.

Simply put, we must adopt totalitarian tactics to ensure that other totalitarians do not expose our double standards. You understand me correctly.

This grave threat to the status quo can only be met by squashing totally unrelated civil rights and ISIS playing daily at Her Majesty's Theater - forever.

We thank you for your cognitive dissonance, conformity, and adoptive doublethink.

[Broadcast ends]

Skeptical [with a shit-eating grin on his Judas face]: Bravo Theresa, bravo! Dance my sweet marionette... [looks thoughtfully, grins wickedly and slips Theresa his cellphone number. She is taken aback]

Skeptical: What? Did you not realize that our paths are now entwined inseparably? Silly, silly girl.

[Skeptical turns to leave]

Skeptical: And one more thing. You belong to me now.... and always ask for "Honecker" [winks]

JustinNovember 6, 2015 11:51 AM

@ ianf

Re: Danny's posts

Zersetzung is a dangerous internet meme. It goes along with "gangstalking," "organized stalking," "electronic harassment," and similar terms that go along with those. Google it. Don't believe anything you read about it. These people feign mental illness, and try to draw others into their game.

Having some kind of security clearance + being a self-declared anarchist would definitely explain being put under some kind of surveillance.

I was being stalked, and I made contact with some of those people. Now I have this guy on my email contact list. He believes the government is stalking him. He was convicted of arson, and subsequently, in violation of his release conditions, caught in possession of pipe-bomb makings, pornography, and a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook. He claimed he'd been a programmer for ten years, and he was researching vulnerabilities in critical infrastucture.

I'd say the government was stalking him, too.

DannyNovember 6, 2015 1:46 PM

@Justin

Sigh. You sound crazier than me, certainly I don't consider myself mad, except mad as in a bit angry. I'm an anarchist like Chomsky or Tolstoy, a pacifist, and that was never a problem before 911 to any of my employers, including working at the Civil Aviation Authority and SWIFT. I oppose all arson and pipebombs, though I did download a copy of the Anarchist Cookbook once in the '80s and was horrified at the contents. As for downloading porn, well, in the UK that still isn't considered incriminating or worrying, not yet at least.

Zersetzung is the name the Stasi used for their tactic of smearing and chilling dissent through surveillance, that's all it is. I learned the word yesterday and it's my new favourite word, but no greater significance than that.

Darth VaderNovember 6, 2015 2:15 PM

@Brady - you already are. Look on streetlight poles, at ATM's, in stores, everywhere.

ianfNovember 6, 2015 2:35 PM


@ Justin, thanks for the heads-up, no more wasting time then. There were too many things there that didn't add up, which you detected. Pity, for a moment it sounded like there might be something to it (I am always on the lookout for miscarriage of justice stories, albeit preferably such without extraterrestrial component in them, however). Weird.i.am, i.know

EchoNovember 6, 2015 3:16 PM

I love how the lefties keep going on about the evil mastermind/stupid tories and their monstrous evil deeds... while forgetting that their beloved French socialists just passed an even worse law.

Way to be easily manipulated and sidetracked, lads. Do you have any idea how ridiculous the whole "five-eyes pig-loving NEW WORLD ORDER" thing sounds to anyone outside the cult?

DannyNovember 6, 2015 3:50 PM

@ianf
Having to skip by your and Justin's silliness from now on is a totally worthwhile price for all the things I learn from reading everyone else's informative comments and the unassailable Above The Line wisdom. Totally worthwhile. ;-)

DannyNovember 6, 2015 3:58 PM

@Echo

One thing I've learned over the past 14 years is security and privacy are not a left or right wing issue. There are people on the right, Tories like David Davies for example, who not only understand the issues but actively work against state abuse of individual liberty, just as there are self proclaimed socialists who don't get it and actively promote authoritarianism.

I'm probably left of you on other issues, but this issue affects us all equally so please try to bear that in mind and don't politicise it unnecessarily. A police state is bad for even the police.

Orange JuiceNovember 6, 2015 5:04 PM

@ Echo

"I love how the lefties keep going on about the evil mastermind/stupid tories and their monstrous evil deeds... while forgetting that their beloved French socialists just passed an even worse law."

Left, right, up, down, etc. are religions of their own right. There isn't much love for the authoritarian UK, or is it the leftist thing to do, because we all value our privacy and liberty for all we hold dear (with two hands). Thus, privacy should be a centrist thing.

Shadowed By Murder of RavensNovember 6, 2015 5:05 PM

Echo wrote:

I love how the lefties keep going on about the evil mastermind/stupid tories and their monstrous evil deeds... while forgetting that their beloved French socialists just passed an even worse law.Way to be easily manipulated and sidetracked, lads. Do you have any idea how ridiculous the whole "five-eyes pig-loving NEW WORLD ORDER" thing sounds to anyone outside the cult?

You know what? People that grew up higher then middle class and work there currently, and people that work high up in government won't write that way. So, who are you defending?

Where I get a chuckle is when I see top level pundits defending atrocious surveillance schemes. Fact is, they are far more of a target for secret surveillance by effectively ruling members of their own government more then anyone else. Next down the rung, upper level corporate executives and the super rich. All up and down the strata of government and corporate. Why? Because that is where the money is. That is where the power is.

I liked Bruce's speech. These folks are "datamined". When something comes up, spin the rolodex and see what you have on them. "Reverse surveillance".

As Bruce said, secret surveillance aids in manipulation. If manipulation is the bullet, secret surveillance is the gun.

You want something from someone? Check their file. There will be something there. So whatever you need, whenever you need it, from whomever you need it.

Software vulnerabilities can be found from examining the code carefully. Kind of like undressing the application. Human vulnerabilities... their code is what they say and what they do. Getting their physical vulnerabilities of their private parts engaged with other people's private parts usually isn't enough. You want to know what they love, what they hate, what they like, what they dislike. You know what they believe? Then you know how to control them.

And one thing is always for sure about people in power. They like power. That means they like getting it over on other's. So they always have skeletons in their closet.

As for these moves by the Brits, it is clearly in the spirit of Hitler, or Stalin. Old School totalitarianism. North Korea would understand. Why fight wars against Nazis or the Soviets if you were going to yell back at them, "Hey boys, okay, you win! We love you. See!"

You want to model your state after Saudi Arabia? That is the direction to go.

But just don't come back to the free democracy club and pretend like you belong anymore, because you don't.

Buddy up to China and make Putin your best friend. Learn to love Kim Jong-Un. And delete all your contacts to make way for the Saudi ruling family. Because everyone else will mock and jeer you. But these guys will go, "Glad you finally see things our way. See, what is wrong with the rest of the world?"


Shadowed By Murder of RavensNovember 6, 2015 5:27 PM

On the videos:

I watched them both, all the way through.

Not to diminish their suffering, but in none of the cases was it a situation where they actually were confronted with private information by those who surveilled them. That is simply what I tend to think of when I think of feelings about being surveilled. Because people caught in that circumstance have profound feelings invariably about it.

The speakers spoke of being painted. Being marked.

It is, it is akin to being raped is what it is. Even if you did not have your most private data exposed or shown to you or otherwise proven. You know or can assume they got it. They invaded your privacy and they got your most intimate, carefully guarded details. So, you are marked.

Feelings of powerlessness, rage, shame are normal.

Bruce's talk was power packed, every sentence of it. He hit at some excellent points.

My own perspective is that we are moving towards a "no more secrets society", where 'what is whispered in secret, is shouted from the rooftops'. So, I chuckle to myself when I see powerful government pundits and wannabe contractors with a modicum of clearance cheering the birthing of a ubiquitous surveillance state.

As if they don't have any secrets, as if they are not a target. Those sorts are important, of course they are targeted and that even much more then your genuine terrorist suspect. (Of which there are next to none.)

Like the guy in the Jewish Ghetto working with the Nazis to get all of his neighbors in the truck, and then they go, "You too". And the stooge is shocked. "Me? But I was one of you guys."

And they laugh and sneer.


Reality is, however, like Schneier I am personally optimistic. Once people get over those initial 'dark days' humps, you are talking about a much more powerful society. Sure, there won't be any proverbial clothes, everyone will be "naked", but consider what all cover people have used in the past for just that secrecy?


Clive RobinsonNovember 7, 2015 1:39 AM

@ ianf,

Cutting code in coffee shops sounds way too public

I don't know what coffee shops you are thinking of, or what they are like where you are. But in London it's fairly easy to find a place that is quiet in the mornings and afternoons.

Near to me there are three DIY stores, six pubs, several bookshops and four or five hotels, five churches and thats before you count the actual store front franchised coffee establisments. Some of these in store cafes are well known "coffee house" brands with loyalty / gift cards and wifi. Apart from the canned muzak they are eerily quiet in weekday mornings and some likewise in the afternoons. The down side of the bookshoops is the informal "yummie mummy" groups that used to be "chattering classes" "ladies who lunch" that are now encumbered with "megga prams" and small blobs of humanity with a loud noise at one end and no sense of responsability at the other.

Most of these establishments I've thoroughly mapped out their WiFi suppliers and the reachable WiFi of other establishments. I know where their CCTV coverage points are and more importantly the bits they don't cover. Further and importantly I know where the accessible power points are where you can sit with your back to a wall that does not reflect and you can see all the entrances.

Interestingly, most other parts of London I go to from time to time are likewise blessed with similar amenities. And for those blessed with VW micro busses in urban areas there are many carparks and other places you can park up and get the peace and quiet you allude to as well as usable WiFi if you need it.

As for "sofa-surfing" the housing shortage in London is making this common for all age ranges not just those in their twenties. When the low waged are having to pay 1000-2000euro/month or more for one bedroom flats having some one stay over for 25euro/night mid week is the difference between eating or not. And lets just say that is the high end of the market, one part of East London I know reasonably well you will find three or four adults sharing a 15x15 room. For London at least "The Slumlords" are back in fashion currently...

Orange JuiceNovember 7, 2015 7:35 AM

@ Clive Robinson
"I don't know what coffee shops you are thinking of, or what they are like where you are. But in London it's fairly easy to find a place that is quiet in the mornings and afternoons."

As a matter of locality, coffees in the bay area can be of rather interesting places too. There are a few I visit frequently to enjoy the aroma while chatting to a few regulars but never done any work there.

It is in one of these coffee shops where criminals like Dread Pirate Roberts are apprehended by authorities. Thus, going to the coffees, one may find an interesting mix, mostly the free lancers, of spooks and cons, and there are locals, the creative types, who primarily work off the coffees.

Mostly the business there is in good spirits and entrepreneurs may unexpectedly hook up to form new ventures because that's where they mostly work from and get to know each other.

StephenNovember 7, 2015 6:28 PM

@ Orange Juice

"As a matter of locality, coffees in the bay area can be of rather interesting places too."

The gripe I have with cafe's is they don't take good care of their equipments outside of the espresso machine and the roaster. Wifi router is the least of their concerns, so you are looking at a fire and forget device that may even update itself periodically but that's about it. Some fancy places will fire it up to block evil traffic, if what they bought is fancy hardware, but won't touch it ever afterwards. I won't do any real work over these places.

DannyNovember 8, 2015 3:36 AM

The best thing in the Oscar winning movie 'The Lives of Others', (Das Leben der Anderen') is the key plot twist. The whole film is available for free online, so don't read this unless you want a PLOT SPOILER.

The people being surveilled by the Stasi of course know they are being surveilled, so try to trick the Stasi by giving them misinformation. Unfortunately the Stasi officer surveilling them has a moral epiphany and realises they are decent people and his job is indecent, so he is trying to let them off. He doesn't realise that they are trying to trick him so he inadvertently destroys them.

That's a good hook for a movie plot but it's also a truism about surveillance that I've witnessed in British courts, the surveiller misunderstands the surveillance regardless of how smart they are. For example, one young British Muslim was prosecuted for downloading 'extremist propaganda', which he had indeed done. He had downloaded it so he could better understand it and argue against the actual extremists in his own community, who'd all downloaded and disseminated the same extremist propaganda without being caught.

Any half decent sys admin knows this to be true when they are forced by their bosses to act as internal PC police. Intelligence plus stupidity = stupidity.

talentedautistNovember 8, 2015 5:23 AM

In such a society there would be no reason for moral people to even try and do their best. It just does not deserve it. What a waste of skilled peoples potential. Young people voluntarily going to waste because they are treated like mental slaves no matter if they do good or bad or nothing.

I'd rather be a sad joker turning to shit under the camera eye for the amusement of others than to do my best with whatever skills I may have under those circumstances. If tech skilled people act like me, then society will miss out on so much cool stuff.

Finally got that off my chest. Feels great actually. Now I'm gonna drink beer and do absolutely nothing constructive at all. Ok, that actually is good as when I buy beer I help ensure the empolyment of beer-brewers. Well, I can live with that, I suppose.

ianfNovember 8, 2015 6:59 AM


@ Clive Robinson, Orange Juice, Stephen

Let's not quibble over what is a minor aspect of what you told us, someone living under the society's radar being able to support himself by "cutting code in coffee houses" - which I questioned as a viable working method. The places I know of little all over Europe, in capital and some lesser cities, all look the same, overpriced java with fresh buns and free WiFi. Many are patterned on early (pre-Starbucks) Seattle Coffee Co.; there was even one like-named one in Bayswater Road last I looked. On the Continent, ever since the smoking ban in public places a decade ago, such establishments needed to profile themselves somehow to attract returning customers… here that mostly means StarTrek-pram-pushing moms. Some discovered that adding wireless connectivity is a cheap way of "looking busy" between lunch, and the after work shopping hours. So they tacked "Internet friendly" onto their websites, then first tried sell metered, often lousy access, until they realized that WiFi is not a profit center, but a cheap honeypot. But—working in such condition AND counting on GTD®? #getouttahere & #fuggedaboutit.


[…] “As for "sofa-surfing" the housing shortage in London is making this common for all age ranges not just those in their twenties. When the low waged are having to pay €1000-2000/month or more for one bedroom flats having some one stay over for €25/night mid week is the difference between eating or not.

That I buy, one of the reasons I no longer stay in London on my own dime. But observe that your under-the-radar permanent "sofa-surfer's" monthly housing bill would be in the €750/month range, i.e. pretty much that of own rented bedsitter's an hour's commuting from Kings Cross. Or a paying guest's somewhere closer still. So that sounded far too unreal to me.


@ Orange Juice

Another minor point, but acc. to my recollection of the WiReD article, Dread Pirate Roberts was apprehended in a public library, not in a coffee shop. Very bad OPSEC, would love to read a detailed analysis of how own hubris did him in.


@ Stephen

[…] “The gripe I have with cafes is Wifi router is the least of their concerns… they bought fancy hardware, but won't touch it ever afterwards. I won't do any real work over these places.

Quite right, no security think at all. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to judge at a glance by the number of open MacBooks if connectivity is good. Usually it's pretty easy to tutor the owner into raising the secure access bar, help with reconfiguration. But still hardly a place for critical, income-bringing code churning.

ianfNovember 8, 2015 7:09 AM


Regarding the off-topic claim of other: the fine German movie The Lives of Others[*] tells a story of an '80s Stasi officer's creeping fascination with the rich intellectual and sensual lives of the couple that he's been assigned to audio-spy on, so unlike the sterile one of his own. This leads to a moral quandary over the raison d'être & his own "Peeping Tom's" rôle in it. Things happen, loyalties get tested, then the Berlin Wall comes down, Stasi is no more, and the once-object of the surveillance reads all about it in the BStU archives. It's theater on film, a.k.a. a MOVIE.

20-odd years later (in real time, now), and for reasons only known to itself, the resident blog-troll-du-jour here (see last para of) attempts to subvert the meaning of that story by claiming that, see, it was the very spied-on, aware of being under constant surveillance (they were not), who played the trick on Stasi by feeding it disinformation—by simply staying sane in abnormal circumstances, I presume.

HEREBY THAT PUT STRAIGHT.

[^*] there are plenty of fragments online, but the full HD movie requires a fishy registration. You don't want to go there, rent it instead.

worriedautistNovember 8, 2015 8:19 AM

Why focus on income bringing? Focus on (preferrably legal) ways of destroying income instead and soon enough it will be in someones interest to pay you to Stop doing any work.

JohnPNovember 8, 2015 10:44 AM

ianf- yes, they were Panasonic phones with speakers. This was not just some default phone setting. Anyone else could call, the phone didn't ring, but it would answer. If the other party was quiet, they could listen. We only learned of this because we had 3 different rooms.
I didn't pick the hotel and it isn't like we had time to switch. We wanted to get the most of our stay.

Besides those 2 complaints (and a few minor other things), the food and location completely rocked. From my window, I had an amazing view of the city, Charles Bridge and could almost throw a rock and hit the Prague Castle. Fantastic location.

When leaving the country, I got "extra special" security screening. Never felt as violated anywhere else in the world. The man squeezing my balls was a bit much. Guess my snoring in the hotel tipped off the security forces?

I've traveled all over the world.

DannyNovember 8, 2015 1:34 PM

Sigh. At least this is an easy one for everyone else to check.

"As they work on the article, Dreyman's friends worry about being overheard. Dreyman is sure his apartment isn't bugged, but his friends suspect otherwise. They devise a test: a contact in West Germany comes to visit Dreyman's flat and they discuss his plans to return to West Germany with his son, an East German citizen, hidden under the seat of his car. They describe the car, a gold Mercedes, and the intended route, then announce their departure. Wiesler hears everything but decides not to tip off the border guards. When the car makes it across the border, Dreyman and his friends conclude that his apartment is safe and unbugged."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0405094/synopsis

ianfNovember 8, 2015 3:19 PM


@ JohnP
               you never put down the year of your last visit there, yet speak of the Czech Republic – so I assume it was post 1995 partition, when it already was a democratic country. Who, then would be listening to your phone convos… the concierge? Let's not overdo the paranoia, self-gratifying though it may feel. If these room phones worked like that, then assume they were badly configured, rather than that someone would go the lengths of resetting them every day. Even in the worst of Stalinist times, the secret police there wouldn't deploy anything that obviously capable of eavesdropping… they'd have had a mic behind wallpaper by the bedstead, and/or another incorporated into the centrally-mounted chandelier (say).

To get the feel of the mindset of Czech State Security in earlier times, I suggest reading “A Perfect Spy” by John Le Carré, which, although 100% fictional, presents to my mind[sic!] fairly plausible picture of their anything but vulgar methodology. He should know, as specifically the Czechs are the most common of the East Europeans present in his early to late-80s thrillers; most probably he was THE Czech desk when posted as a minor diplomat to Bonn by M.I.6 in late 50s (his cover was blown by Kim Philby even before the 1963 defection).

If you traveled all over the world (I didn't), then you ought to know better than assume such simpleminded ways to get you. Surely you'd deserve a much more subtle surveillance.

DannyNovember 8, 2015 5:52 PM

Here's a gift for you ianf, feel free to use this unbelievable truth to rubbish me again.
I got to Czechoslovakia before the wall came down by mistake, I got on the wrong train in Munich, went all through East Germany over the next few days after inadvertently bribing an East German train guard, and got thrown out of Czechoslovakia by stereotypical soldiers carrying AKs with red stars on their fur-lined caps. A pretty East German border policewoman then tried to make me go back across the border by waving her pistol at me but I refused as she wasn't as scary as the soldiers and just returned the way I'd come. I didn't speak German, Czech or Russian which didn't help, and indeed why I got there by error in the first place. I also didn't learn much except the DDR looked like an industrial hell-hole, and Dresden was full of neo-nazis fighting Roma, even back then.

The Stasi and their Czech equivalent were nowhere to be seen, despite me being the one person dressed in black denims with a walkman. Just lazy, corrupt train guards, cops and soldiers. I can't help but think Le Carré over-egged how difficult western spies had it back then, unless the KGB had already been warned by MI6 traitors. Everyone there ignored me. You can do the same now, but have fun with Justin ;-)

DannyNovember 8, 2015 10:01 PM

One wholly philosophical problem I faced a decade ago, by then I was actually a peace-protester, is what do you do when you uncover state infiltrators in your midst? I was a natural at this due to my personal history. I'd been abused earlier on in life, I loved philosophy and had a deep understanding of the many layers of logic that any decent electronics tech understands best. I could see the 'ghosts' hovering about activists that nobody else could.

To begin with I warned the individuals most at risk, the activists deemed most dangerous, and then I learned about the Cassandra complex, because not one activist believed me. I was warning people actually being abused and their response was, at best, "Why would the security services waste their time spying on me? Don't be ridiculous and paranoid. I'm not that important". These are folk who were literally being fu-ked by state or corporate agents.

Far worse though, British activists and pseudo-activists were going abroad and either getting killed or getting others killed. Plus risking lives here through compromised actions. It was an awful dillema, I knew I was correct, I'd proved that to myself through proper 'black box testing', yet even the few supposedly independent smart people who I'd appraoched, and wh said they were convinced by my evidence, they advised me against going public. In case my proof deterred others from taking NVDA.

I still know to this day two names you probably all already know who are complicit in behaviour I personally can't forgive. That you wouldn't forgive if you knew what I knew. Yet for me to name them here - well it wouldn't do anyone any good, and it would deeply pain some bereaved people. I reckon that you all should be able to judge for yourself already without my evidence. Some seemingly decent, lauded celebrities are actually villians, many less well known ones two. Once I am able to, I will ask for a second opinion from anyone obviously smart and decent at my local university. Later.

That's two effects surveillance has - sometimes it's best for the victims to keep quiet about it, and most times the victims don't even want to hear about it.


Put it simply, but just as an analogy, there were as many Stasi collaborators as there were victims of the Stasi.

My Friends & Family Are All PilotsNovember 10, 2015 10:22 PM

@Danny, ianf

Interesting spy stories. I have read about some of that exciting european stuff. It sounds very interesting.

In the spirit of sharing, though very, very few would believe much of this, I do not mind sharing. Of course, besides so very few would believe this. And, anyone else, well... may be the real intended audience.

I am American.

To be brief, I went to unusual, out of the way private schools which changed location often. My well to do parents who were very smart and beautiful were gone much of the time, and I did not think much of it. I took advanced computers and mathematics and english, but was also given a substantial free reign. Some points of note, I was especially trained in "how to learn", in some very risk taking behavior, in some languages, in some combat arts, in "sales", but nothing that seemed organized or directed.

Eventually I got back into computers, and while I did not think much of it, there are certainly considerable coincidences in my career path. Foreign intelligence was the center of it very immediately.

I soon engaged in an affair, where the woman who was supposedly a stranger suddenly knew all about me. And she recited indirectly conversations I had with a teenage girl in high school.

She claimed that she "felt" that I grew up in something like "the Pretender". This was more then a little compelling at this juncture, though, as I noted "foreign intelligence". I had already been engaged in substantial spy wars of the cyber fashion. So who knew who she was.

And, then, over the next few years, I saw how I was surveilled. What I read in my bathroom, what I stated in the bedroom, what I typed online in encrypted chat -- on a regular basis strangers would come up to me and interject my secrets in everyday speech.

Obviously, there was a little more to all of this then just that.

But, the point is... there are organizations out there who can video everything, who can get in with your friends and your family. Who can tell targets that they are being surveilled 24/7. So that they know it. But, can not confront them, nor do anything about it.

They can be anyone. When the US government sees OPM, they say, "What did they take". They should be saying, "How long have they been in there." And "what have they been putting in there."

I see federal law enforcement agents, federal intelligence officers, and they are looking "out there" or for some mythical, small time criminals. They do not look at their own bosses. They do not look at their coworkers.

But, until that "why bother" question comes, no one asks. Until there is a motive understood for why this might happen... everything goes as it appears.

There is motive. There is reason. But, why explain before that time. It makes life all the more interesting.

Above all, look at what you are listening to. Look at what you are believing. Look at what you are taking as true. Do not compare with anyone else. Look at what you your own self is taking as true. And question it.

People are not stupid. They just are not so conscious. Their unconscious processes far more then their conscious. So, they have that "my hair rises on the back of my neck" kind of thing. But they do not know why.

ianfNovember 11, 2015 12:00 AM


@ My Friends & Family Are All Pilots

I am American.

You are? I thought you more of an Attention Deficit Disorder sufferer, one who can not take time off his busy busy busy surveillance victim schedule to reflect upon the fact that addressing a spreader of, and this debunker of paranoia together, isn't the best of tactics to establish one's anonymous credentials in a new forum. Unless you're just a fly-by-night one post wonder, in which case it's OK, we've seen your thinking sample, we tasted it, we stood over.

Clive RobinsonNovember 11, 2015 12:17 AM

@ ianf,

You say "him" but if you go back and read the comment again the writing style is more "her".

Try running the text through one of those online analytics or "What is my writing style" engines and see what they say.

worriedautistNovember 11, 2015 3:36 PM

In the end using surveillance to try and guide and manage talent might well render talented individuals apathetic and useless. I can not perceive how that would be in the interest of rich people. Skilled people should be their very most valuable resource, shouldn't they?

If that is so, then part of the goal would be to make skilled people stop thinking they are so special and that should be done by systematic harassment in the media landscape until they have some kind of mental breakdown / feel like completely confused losers / have an "existential" crisis, ( "beloved concept has many nicknames" )

But smart rationally thinking individual would realize that is the objecive and then they would just get even more sure of their value for each part of the communication which could be interpret in such a way.

worriedautistNovember 11, 2015 3:51 PM

Yep pilot guy, exactly like that. What you sing in the shower, whatever you write "anonymously" online, whatever you say when you talk on the phone et.c. I still don't understand what the objective is. To scare people or is it some type of leadership training? Like a mental "boot camp"?

I would not be surprised if you told me a fair share of unexplained "madness" shootings are due to that kind of... "attention".

Clive RobinsonNovember 11, 2015 11:58 PM

@ worriedautist,

I can not perceive how that would be in the interest of rich people. Skilled people should be their very most valuable resource, shouldn't they?

As the old joke has it "If I was you I wouldn't start from here".

It's not about "being rich" or "getting richer" money is the idiots way of keeping score. Nor surprisingly about "power" either. Power and riches are actually just tools, it's actually all about "status" and always has been. The ideal for these people is "To be First amoungst equals".

Money is actually a way to make the assetless poor poorer, and the asseted rich richer. With assets not money comes recognition and thus status. Power is just "a thugs way to excerpt their will", which is why politicos are the pupets of those with real status. A person with real status does not have to make threats or issue commands a quiet suggestion is at most what they do in that respect, their reward to others is to give them a little attention. That is "they look on them with a favourable light" and others see and respond to this and in turn give status to those in favour. It's known as the "Principle of Patronage" and this is the currency of real status.

These people care not for the size of the "Wealth Gap", it's the "Status Gap" that is important. Thus they do not look favourably on those who by "raising all boats" wealth wise actually decrease the "Status Gap".

Further and importantly it's not fame, or adulation they want, that is just a "childish illusion of power" it is "recognition by those they consider their peers". It's encapsulated by the expressions of "The power behind the throne" or more simply the title "King Maker".

Not understanding this is where most people make mistakes in their outlook on life, they thus do not understand what the real "movers and shakers" of the world operate.

You might have heard of an out of the way place called "Davos" in Switzerland, and that it has a "meeting" organised by The World Economic Forum once a year. Outside of the "political faces" few of the attendees are known generally. Well find out about those unknown faces and who they actually represent and respect, then follow upwards and you are starting to get close. In effect those unknown faces at the Davos meeting, are their messengers to give pointers to the politicos as to where favour might be earned.

My Friends & Family Are All PilotsNovember 13, 2015 3:47 PM

@worriedautist

Yep pilot guy, exactly like that. What you sing in the shower, whatever you write "anonymously" online, whatever you say when you talk on the phone et.c. I still don't understand what the objective is. To scare people or is it some type of leadership training? Like a mental "boot camp"?
I would not be surprised if you told me a fair share of unexplained "madness" shootings are due to that kind of... "attention".

No.

That would be like comparing a twentieth century bulldozer to an machine that ate planets.

You are thinking in terms of apex predators to single human beings.

Think in terms of an apex predator of very large organizations.

howtowasteautisttalent101November 23, 2015 12:43 PM

We have plenty of such effects here in the west in westeners too. But here the symptoms (consequences) of surveillance abuse are interpreted as diseases which we conveniently deny to know enough about ( substance abuse, mental illnesses et cetera ). Also the personality traits resistant to the surveillance abuse is labelled "deficiencies", such as ADHD, autism and even nastier ones like sociopathy. If nothing else works we can try portray them as sexual deviants, pedophilia or bestiality are some of the most popular choices if we have to resort to that tactic.

worriedautistNovember 23, 2015 12:58 PM

Yes Clive, I agree on most things you write. But there are many skilled people who react negatively and destructively to surveillance. Who could achieve great things, but become apathetic and go to waste when they realize that no matter if they do good or bad, they will never be free. Yes some of them may be possible to cheer up by some attention nudging from their favourite stars in culture or sports or whatever, but the feeling of never being truly free... I can imagine it makes lots of people lose their will to work and "do their thing".

I can actually understand one of my politician's view "Surveillance is not damaging - if it's covert" as in - if people don't know the depressing state of things, they will only perceive the positive effects of surveillance. It may have been true. But now that people know - I think it works in the complete opposite direction - making people lose their will to do their best.

Clive RobinsonNovember 23, 2015 4:08 PM

@ Worriedautist,

But there are many skilled people who react negatively and destructively to surveillance.

They don't need to be skilled to react negatively and self destructively to surveillance. It's "built in" to most people, and it's the realisation of the loss of "self determination" that causes the harm. It is the loss of the ultimate freedom, thus self harm in it's many forms results. Primate studies have shown in monkeys a loss of hierarchical status cases an increase in the well known symptoms of the onset of heart etc disease (plaque forming in arteries, insulin resistance etc).

The solution is for people to be able to take back their self determination. But for them to do this constructively, they first need to understand the how, where and why of the enemy that is their MO.

Knowing the enemies MO gives insight into what they fear and why, and thus their weaknesses. This enables ordinary people to find a strategy, where they play to their strengths and their enemies weaknesses. And in that way constructively take back their lives and freedoms.

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