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Bryan Preston


December 9, 2013 - 6:54 pm

The NSA: Gaming for America.

More Edward Snowden documents have come out, and as usual, they paint a picture of a government that is simply spying on everyone, everywhere, all the time.

Stories carried Monday by The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica said U.S. and U.K. spies have spent years trawling online games for terrorists or informants. The stories, based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, offer an unusual take on America’s world-spanning surveillance campaign, suggesting that even the fantasy worlds popular with children, teens, and escapists of all ages aren’t beyond the attention of the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ.

Virtual universes like “World of Warcraft” can be massively popular, drawing in millions of players who log months’ worth of real-world time competing with other players for online glory, virtual treasure, and magical loot. At its height, “World of Warcraft” boasted some 12 million paying subscribers, more than the population of Greece. Other virtual worlds, like Linden Labs’ “Second Life” or the various games hosted by Microsoft’s Xbox _ home to the popular science fiction-themed shoot-em-up “Halo” _ host millions more.

Spy agencies have long worried that such games serve as a good cover for terrorists or other evildoers who could use in-game messaging systems to swap information. In one of the documents cited Monday by media outlets, the NSA warned that the games could give intelligence targets a place to “hide in plain sight.”

So the suspiciously good 13-year-old who owns you at “League of Legends” isn’t the worst you have to worry about online? That sexy elven warrior you’ve been questing with isn’t just probably a guy. It may be a spy.

The companies involved swear that they had no knowledge that G-Men were all up in their online games. Microsoft says it’s going to see about locking the government out of X-Box Live.

I’m for NSA doing its thing when and where it’s warranted, but is there a single documented case of terrorists meeting up in “Second Life” to plot attacks? Or WoW or any other game space? And what kind of “virtual weapons training” can one really conduct in “Halo” or “Star Wars: The Old Republic?” One? Anywhere?


Cross-posted from PJ Tatler

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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It gets "better":

"Spying on video games is certainly not unique to the NSA or GCHQ … it has happened in Canada also. In 2010, the National Post ran a front page article entitled “Tales from the hate crime underworld”. (National Post Feb 5, 2010, original not on NP website, but FD has a copy) which describes how ridiculous Canada’s “hate crimes” Keystone Cops really are. The article described a speech given by a ‘virtual hooker’ named Abbe Corb, whom the article describes as “Open Source Intelligence Operations Specialist”. (...)

"It is more like a private video game, set in an imaginary tropical paradise in the online virtual world of Second Life, where "Internet neo-Nazis" gather around a digital tiki bar "for planning and plotting recruitment efforts and gatherings," according to an Ontario government hate crime expert. […]"

"The expert's account of how she won a rare invitation to the island -- and the imaginary stripping and prostitution that helped pay her imaginary boat fare" (...)

"Lets just pretend that “White Power Island” exists and it is packed full of the worst Nazi’s known to man, who spread the worst Nazi propaganda (and who aren’t cops or ‘human rights activists’). It is only illegal in Canada to PUBLICLY promote so-called “hatred.” So why on earth are police acting like hookers and turning tricks to spy on people on “White Power Island” who are; at worst … promoting hatred in private to their own invitation-only island? Not a single Canadian has ever been arrested, nor prosecuted for posting “hate” speech in a private video game. Why the hell are we spending millions a year to pay for such things as police hookers who turn tricks online to investigate something that can never – and has never – been a crime in Canada? Welcome to Absurdastan!"
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