More spying and focused energy beams? NSA, say it ain't so.

More spying and focused energy beams? NSA, say it ain't so.

Summary: I have it on good authority that paranoia can destroy ya but the allegations against the NSA are mounting and becoming weirder by the day. This post is my reaction to the latest round of NSA banter. I think it's a clear case of wagging the dog.


A nation that spies on its own people neither trusts nor can be trusted.

That quote is my own. Use it. Believe it. Explore it. But be discerning in what you choose to believe about allegations and accusations.

I just watched a video on titled "To Protect and Infect. Part II" presented by Jacob Appelbaum.

Jacob "Jake" Appelbaum makes some pretty serious accusations and allegations against the NSA for illegal spy activity—not against other nations but against its own people—in other words, you and me.

If the charges are true, then we, as a nation, should pressure the government into dismantling the operations and into abandoning the agency. If, however, the allegations are false and the "leaked" documents are found to be fake, then the NSA's accusers should stand up and apologize for what they've said and have taken as gospel. I'm no lawyer, so I don't know if they should stand trial or not but they need to answer for their assumptions, if found to be wrong.

I'm skeptical of the lengthy and elaborate accusations. Sorry Jake.

Let me give you some background for my skepticism as a prologue to this discussion before continuing.

Supposedly this domestic spying began during the "Cold War" and has escalated to the point at which it currently stands. If that's true, then allow me to warn you to not believe everything you hear, see, or read—even if it looks like an official government document.

During the so-called Cold War, there was a lot of spying, sabre rattling, brinkmanship, and careful release of "leaked" documents. It is those "leaked" documents that I want to focus on here for the purpose of this discussion.

Intelligent espionage includes the release of real and fabricated documents. Officials leak the real ones to give spies and the public a "taste" of what's going on. The fake ones are released to confuse and to bait the enemy into chasing red herrings. Chasing those tasty tidbits is expensive and fruitless. It also makes the chaser look like a fool, which is their intended purpose.

Remember "The Defector" episode from Star Trek: TNG? The Romulan defector was a high-ranking officer and Romulan official who was privy to Romulan "secrets" and strategies. The truth of the matter was that he hadn't been trusted by the Romulan high command for some time and most of the information he had was false and useless.

But the Romulans made it look like he was vital and that his loss would cause a great incident between the Federation and Romulus. It was all fake.

That's Cold War stuff. And it's often more effective against an enemy than real bombs are.

To further prove my point, how much money did the US spend on building up a legitimate nuclear arsenal to defend itself against Russia's overestimated warhead fleets? What was the price of President Kennedy's spy surveillance of Cuba during the "missile crisis?"

If I were spying on someone, I'd let that person believe that I had near magical powers and that I could see into his very soul. His sleep would be disturbed. His level of paranoia would be so high that he would take crazy precautions against my spying ability. He would drive circuitous routes to try to shake my surveillance. He would pay in cash. He would disconnect his phone.

He would live in the dark.

In essence, I would own (pwn) him and his life. 

How would I do it? How would I convince him that I knew everything there was to know about him, his movements, his habits, and so on?

I would do some preliminary spying. You'd be surprised to know what all you can find out about a person through the internet, public records, and a bit of personal research. It doesn't take much to convince someone that you know more than you know and that you have more power than you have.

That too is a cold war.

Heightened vigilance is expensive, time-consuming, and exhausting.

It makes you do things that you wouldn't normally do.

All in the name of protecting yourself from this enormous beast that lurks in every crevice of your being.

In the aforementioned video, Jake describes some very elaborate exploits for mobile devices and computers in general.

Some of the technologies he talks about seem magical and unreal to me. Some of the accusations are downright silly.

For example, saying that the NSA intercepts your purchases to plant malicious software onto your hard drives, into your BIOS, or into your networking hardware. He also accuses the NSA of using technology to "beam" energy into your body.

He suggests that the NSA can compromise your powered-off WiFi from eight miles away.

He also says that he and other security researchers have been targeted by the NSA and are under attack.

At one point during his presentation, he asks the audience, "Who's crazy now?"

I'll take a guess at that. It will be a lot easier than trying to guess how many jelly beans are in that jar at the grocery store I'll betcha.

It's cute and lucrative to play on people's paranoia. I see it all the time at the local gun shows that come through town. It got so crazy at one point, during the Clinton years, that I stopped going to gun shows.

"The government is going to take our guns". "The government is spying on us". "You should go off the grid". "You should stock up on water, dehydrated food, and put half your assets into cash and gold".

Crazy, right?

I hope you said "Yes".

And, of course, by saying that this is all paranoia, there are those of you who will retort with, "That's what they want you to think; that's how they'll get you". To which I respond, "You should stock up on some of those yummy antipsychotic medications your doctor prescribed you (or should prescribe you)".

Before you assume anything about me, I'm actually one of those people who believes in certain conspiracies. Examples: John Kennedy's assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, Anwar Sadat's death, and a few more. They were not perpetrated by a single person. Each of them was carefully orchestrated with multiple possible scenario options, many people involved, and scapegoats/patsies available to take the fall when something goes wrong.

Yes, Eric Snowden is such a patsy. He is the Romulan defector. He is L.H. Oswald. He is part of the bigger plan. See? Conspiracy. I'm in on that level.

I wasn't fooled when I saw General Colin Powell testify before Congress about WMDs in Iraq. He didn't convince me. His pictures didn't convince me. He was also a patsy. When he realized it, he bailed. I had a lot of respect for him but he was tricked or part of the trick to invade Iraq, which I believe to be a criminal action by the US government. There, I said it.

I won't live my life steeped in paranoia*. I won't change the way I drive home from the grocery store. I won't power off my WiFi router at night. I won't power off my phones at night. I won't go off the grid. I won't be a victim of silliness. And neither should you.

If the NSA is guilty of said charges, then they should be held accountable for them.

And Jake Appelbaum would be a lot more convincing if he weren't dressed like an actor from Star Trek: TNG in that video. He also lost a great deal of credibility when he accused the NSA of beaming energy into people. I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't judge him too harshly. Maybe the NSA is working on an actual Phaser and this is the prototype for it.

Maybe guys like Jake are being used to perpetuate this kind of paranoia to take the focus off of the real problems: jobs, economy, literacy, hunger, orphaned children, welfare, gangs, and the disaffectation of our voting population.

Think about it. If I were trying to cover up a real problem, I'd leak something else to do it. Wag that dog, dude, wag that dog.

*With the exceptions of my foil helmet, the bits of foil in my car's hubcaps, and the foil lining I've put up all around the eves of my house.

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Topics: Security, Hardware, Software


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • It's Simply Laughable

    Oh my, first Jason Perlow telling us "Forget the NSA, Facebook spies on you even worse!", now Ken Hess telling us "Why do you think NSA spies on you at all?"

    Do ZDNet authors think they are writing for young children or for total morons? Or maybe they do, and it's my fault that I am reading ZDNet not intended for me?

    And dear Mr. Hess, there is no such idiom as "wagging the dog" per se. There is "tail wagging the dog", as in, for example, NSA wagging the U.S. government.

    Happy New Year!
    • @BaldObserverInBlackHat

      Wrong. There was even a movie titled, "Wag the Dog." It's a thing. And I don't think I'm writing for children or morons unless you believe everything guys like Appelbaum say.
      • Appelbaum

        Do you think Appelbaum made up the information in his recent presentation?
        • @Roody15

          I think that he is making mountains out of molehills. And he, like others, are being deceived about all this alleged techno-espionage treachery. There's a big difference between science fiction and science fact. In magical worlds of potions, spells, and ten-sided dice...anything can happen. Here, in Midgard, not so much.
  • I am the opposite..

    I think Lee Harvey acted alone, sirhan sirhan was just a disaffected waiter, diet coke doesn't cause brain cancer, and I think Bush thought there really were WMD, but I do not trust anyone ANYONE at face value, especially progressofascist politicians like obama.
    • Wow

      You obviously have no idea about what facism really is.
  • Wow is this a rea

  • overly broad statement

    "A nation that spies on its own people neither trusts nor can be trusted."

    that would be EVERY Nation!

    Can you really "trust" or distrust a nation! (regardless of if they spy or not, which ALL DO)

    is it therefore true that the only nation you trust is alienation?

    shall we explore that statement further?

    what is a 'nation' ? and what is "its own people" ? and what is 'spying' ?

    If you local sheriff is watching cars to find speeders is he a 'nation' and is he spying on its 'own people' ?

    "trusts" what is that, should that be 'assumed' or earned ? so because a cop is 'spying' on cars speeding, they therefore should be assumed and untrustworthy by default?
  • Hide your wife, hide your kids.

    If you don't have anything to hide, then who cares?
    It's only the nay sayers, that do because they do have something to hide. They do drugs or look at illegal porn or are terrorists. Hess is only opposing the NSA because he has something to hide. So as long as people like hess are around I can sleep much better knowing that our children are safe from being exploited by pervs like him.