CCC talk — the Four Wars

Here is my recent talk at the CCC in Ham­burg, dis­cuss­ing the war on ter­ror, the war on drugs, the war in the inter­net and the war on whis­tleblowers:

30C3 — The Four Wars; Ter­ror, whis­tleblowers, drugs, inter­net from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Snowden, privacy and the CCC

Here’s an RT inter­view I did about the media response to Edward Snowden, the media response, pri­vacy and what we can do.

Apt, as I am cur­rently at the Chaos Com­mu­nic­a­tion Con­gress (CCC) in Ham­burg, and shall be speak­ing about sim­ilar issues this even­ing.

Most UK media con­cer­tedly ignore Snowden rev­el­a­tions, under gov’t pres­sure from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Rendition and torture — interview on RT

Here’s my recent inter­view on RT’s excel­lent and incis­ive new UK polit­ics pro­gramme, “Going Under­ground”.  In it I dis­cuss rendi­tion, tor­ture, spy over­sight and much more:

Going Under­ground Ep 22 1 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

TPP — copyright versus free speech

First pub­lished by RT Op-Edge.

We, the cit­izens of the world, already owe NSA whis­tleblower Edward Snowden a huge debt of grat­it­ude.  Even the lim­ited pub­lic­a­tion of a few of the doc­u­ments he dis­closed to journ­al­ists has to date pro­voked a polit­ical and pub­lic debate in coun­tries across the planet — and who knows what other nas­ties lurk in the cache of doc­u­ments, yet to be exposed?

Thanks to Snowden, mil­lions of people as well as many gov­ern­ments have woken up to the fact that pri­vacy is the vital com­pon­ent of free soci­et­ies.  Without that basic right we are unable to freely read, write, speak, plan and asso­ci­ate without fear of being watched, our every thought and utter­ance stored up to be poten­tially used against us at some neb­u­lous future date.  Such pan­op­tic global sur­veil­lance leads inev­it­ably to self-censorship and is cor­ros­ive to our basic freedoms, and indi­vidual cit­izens as well as coun­tries are explor­ing ways to pro­tect them­selves and their privacy.

As I and oth­ers more emin­ent have said before, we need free media to have a free society.

But even if we can defend these free chan­nels of com­mu­nic­a­tion, what if the very inform­a­tion we wish to ingest and com­mu­nic­ate is no longer deemed to be free?  What if we become crim­in­al­ised purely for shar­ing such un-free information?

The global mil­it­ary secur­ity com­plex may be bru­tal, but it is not stu­pid. These cor­por­at­ist elites, as I prefer to think of them, have seen the new medium of the inter­net as a threat to their profits and power since its incep­tion. Which is why they have been fight­ing a des­per­ate rear­guard action to apply US pat­ent and copy­right laws globally.

Pirate_Bay_LogoThey began by going after music shar­ing sites such as Nap­ster and impos­ing grot­esque legal pen­al­ties on those try­ing to down­load a few songs they liked for free, then try­ing to build national fire­walls to deny whole coun­tries access to file shar­ing sites such as The Pir­ate Bay and per­se­cut­ing its co-founder Ana­kata, mer­ci­fully fail­ing to extra­dite Richard O’Dwyer from the UK to the US on trumped up charges for his sign­post­ing site to free media, and cul­min­at­ing in the take down of Megaup­load and the illegal FBI attack against Kim Dotcom’s home in New Zea­l­and last year.

But for all these high-profile cases of attemp­ted deterrence, more and more people are shar­ing inform­a­tion, cul­ture, and research for free on the inter­net. Using peer to peer tech­no­lo­gies like Bit­tor­rent and anonymising tools like Tor they are hard to detect, which is why the cor­por­at­ist lob­by­ists demand the sur­veil­lance state develop ever more intrus­ive ways of detect­ing them, includ­ing the pos­sib­il­ity of deep packet inspec­tion. And of course once such invas­ive tech­no­lo­gies are avail­able, we all know that they will not only be used to stop “pir­acy” but will also be used against the people of the world by the mil­it­ary sur­veil­lance com­plex too.

But that is still not enough for the cor­por­at­ists.  Largely US-based, they are now try­ing to flex their polit­ical muscle glob­ally.  First the US claims that any site end­ing with a tier one US domain name (.com, .org, .net and .info) comes under US law — any­where in the world — and can be taken down without warn­ing or redress by a diktat from the US government.

More egre­giously still, the US cor­por­at­ists have been try­ing to impose their legal domin­ion glob­ally via a series of secret regional trade agree­ments: ACTA, TTIP/TAFTA, SOPA, and now in the recently Wikileaked details of the Trans-Pacific Part­ner­ship (TPP) tar­get­ing the coun­tries around the Pacific rim.

These agree­ments, writ­ten by cor­por­ate lob­by­ists, are so secret that the demo­cratic rep­res­ent­at­ives of sov­er­eign coun­tries are not even allowed to read the con­tents or debate the terms — they are just told to sign on the dot­ted line, effect­ively rubber-stamping legis­la­tion that is anti­thet­ical to the vast major­ity their cit­izens’ interests, which gives greater sov­er­eign powers to the interests of the cor­por­a­tions than it does to nation states, and which will crim­in­al­ise and dir­ectly harm the people of the world in the interests of the few.

One of the pro­pos­als is that mul­tina­tional cor­por­a­tions can sue national gov­ern­ments for future lost profits based on pat­ents not gran­ted or envir­on­mental restric­tions. This is noth­ing short of full-on cor­por­at­ism where inter­na­tional law and global treat­ies serve a hand­ful of large cor­por­a­tions to the det­ri­ment of national sov­er­eignty, envir­on­mental health and even human life.

For by pro­tect­ing “intel­lec­tual prop­erty” (IP), we are not just talk­ing about the cre­at­ive endeav­ours of artists. One does not need to be a law­yer to see the fun­da­mental prob­lem­atic assump­tions in the goals as defined in the leaked doc­u­ment:

Enhance the role of intel­lec­tual prop­erty in pro­mot­ing eco­nomic and social devel­op­ment, par­tic­u­larly in rela­tion to the new digital eco­nomy, tech­no­lo­gical innov­a­tion, the trans­fer and dis­sem­in­a­tion of tech­no­logy and trade;

This state­ment assumes that IP, a made-up term that con­fuses three very dif­fer­ent areas of law, is by defin­i­tion bene­fi­cial to soci­ety as a whole. No evid­ence for these claimed bene­fits is provided any­where. As with “what-is-good-for-General-Motors-is-good-for-America” and the the­ory of ”trickle down” eco­nom­ics, the bene­fits are simply assumed and altern­at­ive mod­els act­ively and wil­fully ignored. The idea that most soci­et­ies on the planet might vastly bene­fit from a relax­a­tion of pat­ent laws or the length of copy­right is not even up for debate. This des­pite the fact that there is plenty of research point­ing in that direction.

These secret pro­posed treat­ies will enforce pat­ents that put the cost of basic phar­ma­ceut­ic­als bey­ond the reach of bil­lions; that privat­ise and pat­ent basic plants and food; and that pre­vent the shar­ing of cut­ting edge aca­demic research, des­pite the fact that this is usu­ally pro­duced by pub­licly fun­ded aca­dem­ics at our pub­licly fun­ded universities.

The price, even today, of try­ing to lib­er­ate research for the pub­lic good can be high, as Aaron Swartz found out earlier this year.  After try­ing to share research inform­a­tion from MIT, he faced a witch hunt and dec­ades in prison. Instead he chose to take his own life at the age of 26. How much worse will it be if TPP et al are ratified?

It is thanks to the high-tech pub­lisher, Wikileaks, that we know the sheer scale of the recent TPP débacle.  It is also heart­en­ing to see so many Pacific rim coun­tries oppos­ing the over­ween­ing demands of the USA. Aus­tralia alone seems sup­port­ive — but then region­ally it bene­fits most from its mem­ber­ship of the “Five Eyes” spy pro­gramme with America.

The intel­lec­tual prop­erty wars are the flip side of the global sur­veil­lance net­work that Snowden dis­closed — it is a clas­sic pin­cer movement.

hAs well as watch­ing everything we com­mu­nic­ate, the cor­por­at­ists are also try­ing to con­trol exactly what inform­a­tion we are leg­ally able to com­mu­nic­ate, and using this con­trol as jus­ti­fic­a­tion for yet more intrus­ive spy­ing. It’s the per­fect self-perpetuating cycle.

By cur­tail­ing the powers of the spy agen­cies, we could restore the inter­net to its ori­ginal func­tion­al­ity and open­ness while main­tain­ing the right to pri­vacy and free speech — but main­tain­ing a 20th cen­tury copyright/IP model at the same time is impossible. Or we could give up our pri­vacy and other civil rights to allow spe­cific pro­tec­ted indus­tries to carry on coin­ing it in. A last option would be to switch off the inter­net. But that is not real­istic: mod­ern coun­tries could not sur­vive a day without the inter­net, any more than they could func­tion without electricity.

As a soci­ety we’re going through the pain­ful real­isa­tion that we can only have two out of the three options. Dif­fer­ent cor­por­at­ist interest groups would no doubt make dif­fer­ent choices but, along with the vast major­ity of the people, I opt for the inter­net and pri­vacy as both a free chan­nel for com­mu­nic­a­tion and the free trans­fer of use­ful information.

Like any social change (the abol­i­tion of slavery, uni­ver­sal suf­frage), this is also accom­pan­ied by heated argu­ments, legal threats and repres­sion, and lob­by­ist pro­pa­ganda. But his­tor­ic­ally all this sound and fury will sig­nify.… pre­cisely noth­ing. Surely at some point basic civil rights will make a comeback, upheld by the legis­lature and pro­tec­ted by law enforcement.

The choice is simple: inter­net, pri­vacy, copy­right. We can only choose two, and I know which I choose.

Voice of Russia radio interview about spies, oversight, whistleblowers, and Snowden.

Here is an inter­view I did for Voice of Rus­sia radio in Lon­don last week about spies and their rela­tion­ship with our demo­cratic pro­cesses, over­sight, Edward Snowden and much more:

Voice of Rus­sia radio inter­view from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

BBC World interview re UK spy accountability

Here’s a recent inter­view I did for BBC World about the three top Brit­ish spies deign­ing, for the first time ever, to be pub­licly ques­tioned by the Intel­li­gence and Secur­ity Com­mit­tee in par­lia­ment, which has a notional over­sight role:

BBC World inter­view on UK Par­laiment­ary hear­ings on NSA/Snowden affair from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

It sub­sequently emerged that they only agreed to appear if they were told the ques­tions in advance.  So much for this already incred­ibly lim­ited over­sight cap­ab­il­ity in a notional West­ern democracy.….

RT interview about the recent Iran nuclear deal

Here’s a recent inter­view I did about the recent Iran nuc­lear deal, adding some con­text and his­tory and try­ing to cut through some of today’s media myths:

Rus­sia Today inter­view in Iran nuc­lear deal from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Cryptofestival, London, 30th November

Big_Brother_posterHere’s one for the diary, if you’re in the UK and value your basic, enshrined right to pri­vacy (UDHR Art­icle 12) in this NSA/GCHQ etc dystopic, pan­op­tican world.

Come along to the Cryptofest­ival at Gold­smiths, Lon­don on 30th Novem­ber, where con­cerned hackt­iv­ists can help con­cerned cit­izens learn how to pro­tect their online privacy.

And if you believe the “done noth­ing wrong, noth­ing to hide” garbage, have a look at this.

Crypto­parties, where geeks offer their help for free to their com­munit­ies, were star­ted by pri­vacy advoc­ate Asher Wolf in Aus­tralia just over a year  ago.  The phe­nomenon has swept across the world since then, helped along by the dis­clos­ures of the heroic Edward Snowden.

I hope to see you there. You have to fight for your right (crypto)party — and for your right to pri­vacy! Use it or lose it — and bring your laptop.

The German BND does the bidding of USA spies

An inter­view on the Ger­man main­stream TV chan­nel ARD.  The pro­gramme is called FAKT Magazin:

BND will bei Spi­on­age mit­mis­chen from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Channel 4 interview re UK spy accountability

On the day the UK spy chiefs were called to account for the first time by the Intel­li­gence and Secur­ity Com­mit­tee in the Brit­ish par­lia­ment:

Spy account­ab­il­ity and the ISC — Chan­nel 4 News from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

The spies are called to account

First pub­lished on RT Op-Edge.

As the Snowden-related dis­clos­ures con­tinue to flow, each new one refut­ing the last dis­sem­bling state­ments of the des­per­ate spies, dip­lo­mats around the world must be curs­ing the over­ween­ing ambi­tions of the NSA and it vassals.

Amer­ican ambas­sad­ors are being summoned from their for­ti­fied embassies to account for US mal­feas­ance in coun­try after coun­try: Brazil, Spain, France and, of course, Germany.

In this last coun­try there has been scan­dal after scan­dal: first the hoover­ing up of bil­lions of private com­mu­nic­a­tions; the rev­el­a­tion that the Ger­man intel­li­gence agency, the BND, had been an enthu­si­astic part­ner of the NSA in devel­op­ing the XKey­Score pro­gramme and more; then, des­pite this, humi­li­at­ingly to learn that Ger­many is only con­sidered a 3rd Party intel­li­gence part­ner by the Yanks — put­ting them on a par with coun­tries like Iran, China and Russia.

The pièces de résist­ance, how­ever, are the two most recent dis­clos­ures: that Angela Merkal’s private phone had been tar­geted, and that there was a NSA spy base embed­ded in the US embassy in Ber­lin.  This, reportedly, has now ceased oper­a­tions as the US gov­ern­ment tries to appease an incan­des­cent Angela.

Now it is the turn of the Brits, whose ambas­sador, Simon McDon­ald, was also this week given a car­pet­ing by the Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter — for doing pre­cisely what the Amer­ic­ans did and hid­ing a GCHQ spy out­post at the Brit­ish embassy in Ber­lin, flout­ing all kinds of treat­ies and dip­lo­matic pro­to­cols in the pro­cess.  As the embassy was only built in the early 1990s after Ger­man reuni­fic­a­tion, they can­not even claim that this is merely a hangover from the bad old days of the Cold War.

Of course, the Ger­mans are par­tic­u­larly sens­it­ive to encroach­ing sur­veil­lance states, after exper­i­en­cing the hor­rors of the Gestapo and the Stasi. How much more con­cerned need they be, when faced with the sheer scale of the mod­ern tech­no­lo­gical capability?

Even before the Snowden story broke, Ger­man courts were uphold­ing the con­sti­tu­tion in the face of gov­ern­ment moves to expand the intel­li­gence cap­ab­il­ity to fight the “war on ter­ror”.  Indeed, even some mega-corporations took a stand. In 2009, on the anniversary of the fall of the Ber­lin Wall, the head of T Mobile in Ger­man refused to store the com­mu­nic­a­tions data of ordin­ary Ger­mans, on the off-chance that one or two of them might sub­sequently turn ter­ror­ist — the good of the many out­weighted the threat from a few.

So the Brits are some­what out of favour with the rest of Europe, and espe­cially Ger­many. It was clear, with the rev­el­a­tions about GCHQ’s Tem­pora pro­gramme and the huge fund­ing acquired from the NSA, that GCHQ was no longer primar­ily con­cerned with pro­tect­ing Brit­ish national secur­ity, but had become the European off­shoot of the NSA.  Indeed, internal doc­u­ments have shown a man­age­ment obses­sion with pleas­ing their Amer­ican pay­mas­ters.

This is the very heart of the so-called spe­cial rela­tion­ship — the com­bined cap­ab­il­it­ies of the NSA and GCHQ.  Even as the old Brit­ish Empire crumbled in the mid-20th cen­tury, the spooks could still build out­posts for eaves­drop­ping in hot­spots around the world: Cyprus, the Middle East, Hong Kong and, er, Ber­lin.  They were happy to offer up the product to their new Amer­ican over­lords, as this gave them a con­tinu­ing place at the inter­na­tional top table.

This the Brit­ish would find very dif­fi­cult to relin­quish. And this is why, in stark con­trast to all other European coun­tries, the politi­cians have moved to defend the spies, why the mono­chrome phrase “we never dis­cuss intel­li­gence mat­ters” is now wear­ily rolled out on a daily basis, and why intel­li­gence lack­eys across the national media have defen­ded the status quo and respect the vol­un­tary DA Notice gag­ging order.  This is also why the Guard­ian’s hard drives had to be sym­bol­ic­ally smashed up and why there have been calls to pro­sec­ute the news­pa­per under the dra­conian Offi­cial Secrets Act.

It is not the Guard­ian that has dam­aged Brit­ish national secur­ity (a leg­ally neb­u­lous concept) by print­ing the truth about our spy agen­cies work­ing for the NSA and tramp­ling over our basic rights and freedoms. It is the spies them­selves that have caused the harm, by run­ning amok with leg­ally dubi­ous sur­veil­lance schemes, kid­nap­ping sus­pects around the world, and get­ting involved in torture.

So tomor­row is poten­tially an his­toric date in the annals of Brit­ish intel­li­gence. For the very first time in their 100 year his­tory, the heads of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ will be called to account by the Intel­li­gence and Secur­ity Com­mit­tee in par­lia­ment.  Not only that, the event will be live streamed so we plebs can hear what is being done secretly in our names.

Well, almost live streamed — appar­ently there will be a few seconds delay, in order to ensure no “dam­age to national secur­ity” occurs. My mind is bog­gling some­what at the pos­sib­il­ity that three spooks who have made it to the top of their respect­ive organ­isa­tions would be so inept as to blurt out state secrets on live TV, but you never know…

So, can we hope for a full and frank dis­cus­sion around the Snowden dis­clos­ures? Well, prob­ably not. I have writ­ten at length before about the cosy estab­lish­ment ineptitude of the Prime Minister’s hand-picked stooges who pop­u­late the ISC. Plus the chair­man, Sir Mal­colm Rif­kind (him­self a former For­eign Sec­ret­ary notion­ally in charge of MI6 and GHHQ), has not only pub­licly sup­por­ted the work of GCHQ, post-Snowden, but has also ruled out any dis­cus­sion of “tech­no­lo­gical cap­ab­il­it­ies” at the hearing.

I hope to be sur­prised.  After all, even the US — the home of the NSA and cause of all this pain — is hold­ing con­gres­sional hear­ings and hav­ing national debates. But I fear the good old Brit­ish estab­lish­ment will yet again rally around and pro­tect its own.

White­wash all round!

BBC World Service interview about NSA and spy oversight

Here’s an inter­view I did for BBC World Ser­vice radio about the NSA’a global elec­tronic sur­veil­lance and spy over­sight:

London Cryptofestival panel discussion

On Octo­ber 31 st Goldsmith’s Uni­ver­sity on Lon­don organ­ised a super-cryptoparty called the CryptoFest­ival. I spoke and dis­cussed pri­vacy and the use of tech­nical means with Prof. Ross Ander­son, Nick Pickles and Smari Mccarthy. Over 500 people atten­ted the fest­ival to dis­cuss pri­vacy and share know­legde on tech­nical means to pro­tect it.

Crypto Fest­ival Panel ses­sion 2013 Prof. Ross Ander­son, Annie Machon, Nick Pickles, Smari Mccarthy from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

BBC “World Have Your Say” debate

A recent inter­view on BBC World Ser­vice radio, on “World Have Your Say”.  An inter­est­ing debate with some other former intel­li­gence types:

BBC World Ser­vice “World Have Your Say” inter­view from Annie Machon on Vimeo.