Remember the old joke about the definition of a paranoid — someone who knows all the facts?
Well, we’re all paranoids now because — since Tuesday’s, unprecedented in size and scope, Wikileaks document dump of massive cyber spying by the CIA — everything we ever thought in our wildest imaginations is true… and then some.
To channel the late Preston Sturges, privacy is not only dead, it’s decomposed. The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch, known as UMBRAGE, is capable of — or is — watching you everywhere you go, even when you think they’re not or such surveillance would seem impossible.
The question about whether President Trump was tapped has been reduced to a joke. The real questions are how often and from how many places. The answer would probably shock us, if we were ever to learn the truth. (And did President Obama know what they were doing? Either that or the CIA, FBI or NSA wasn’t telling him. You decide.)
The Wikileaks documents (everyone believes their downloads now) show how the CIA, via their eerily named “Weeping Angel” program, has devised a method of listening to us through our smart TVs. Even when we think they’re off, they are able to keep them on — and recording — through a “fake-off” program.
Just how many smart TVs does Donald Trump — a known television addict — watch in a day? Who is he talking to at the time? A foreign leader perhaps? And what is he saying in supposed confidence?
These days it’s hard to buy a television that isn’t a smart TV. The Wikileaks documents show only the popular Samsung has been hacked, but since the agency assiduously hacks both Apple and Android cellphones, one can assume all major brands are covered. (They’re not stupid. We are.)
And that’s far from their only way of listening in. Tyler Durden — considerably more tech savvy than I — expresses the amazement of that community that the CIA was able to bypass the purportedly powerful cellphone data security apps (Signal, Telegram) so many business executives, politicians and journalists rely upon, even to using our own anti-virus programs (McAfee, etc.) to spy on us. They also, apparently, can control our cars through the latest automobile computers. (NOTE TO SELF: Skip the Apple CarPlay upgrade.)
Further, Durden quotes Twitter star Kimdotcom’s instant observation that the DNC/Russian hacking connection is also now a joke (at least highly suspect) since the CIA also has a program, via UMBRAGE again, to imitate Russian hacking techniques and leave the Russkies’ “fingerprints” on their own handiwork. Could the CIA have hacked the DNC and then blamed it on the Russians for some purpose? It seems unlikely, but anything’s possible in this crazy and increasingly bizarre and alienating world. If it is true, don’t look now, but our country just exploded.
Our hope, for now, is in the congressional investigations, but it’s hard to have much confidence in them. The media, of course, is ludicrous. They have clearly become the witting/unwitting lackeys of all manner of leakers from any number of intelligence agencies. It’s become dizzying as the internal contradictions mount up daily. (Who told you there was a FISA order again? Oh, wait…) The New York Times and the Washington Post, among others, have reached self-parody in their cock-eyed denials of what they asserted only weeks ago, while the CIA grows progressively more partisan and ominously totalitarian in its values and methods.
Pretty soon every citizen is going to need a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility) of his or her own.
Whatever the case, we all have to do some serious thinking — way beyond the general superficiality and contrived drama of congressional hearings or indeed the quick in-and-out of an op-ed. What is being revealed here is a sea change in the human condition that is almost evolutionary in its implications. What are our lives like without the presumption of privacy? What kind of creatures will we become in this brave new world that appears already to have arrived? It’s not fun to contemplate. Even the medieval peasantry had moments of escape from their feudal lords.
While initially critical of the Snowdens, Assanges or, for that matter, the mystery man behind this latest literally Earth-shattering dump, I now have somewhere between mixed and positive feelings towards them. (Well, maybe not Snowden.) With all the problems we have, having visited the Soviet Union, the Russian Republic and Communist China (when they were still in Mao suits), I know those countries are mostly little more than giant prisons and we are still (again for now) the good guys. Nevertheless, I am increasingly concerned we are creating our own “digital prison” that will make Darkness at Noon seem like child’s play. At least in Arthur Koestler’s novel of the Stalinist purge trials the inmates could communicate by tapping on the walls. What do we do?
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already. You can find him on Twitter @rogerlsimon.