I spy, you spy, everybody’s spying

This is not to say that Russian president Vladimir Putin suffers from paranoia.

This is to say that he believes that everybody’s against him. Not even that: Vladimir Putin is perfectly convinced of it.

This can be the only explanation for his statement that the Internet is the brainchild of the U.S. espionage agency, the CIA, and that the American spooks have been controlling it all along, since its inception, all the way up to today.

One wonders what former U.S. vice-president, one Al Gore, would have to say about that. After all, Gore has become famous (or infamous, depends on your point of view) when he announced to the world that Internet was his brainchild, and nobody else’s.

If one were Al Gore, one would demand explanations from Vladimir Putin, and pronto.

One wonders, however, whether Putin’s answers would be forthcoming any time soon. The guy is extremely busy so far as the Inernet is concerned. First, he had his people infiltrate the management of VKontakte, a Russian version of Facebook. Then, he had his intelligence service people demand that Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte, share his network users’ information with them. In particular, Durov would reveal later, they were interested about the accounts of those who hadn’t been happy with Vladimir Putin’s works and had enough courage to say it publicly.

Durov, quite properly, turned the Russian intelligence service down, was kicked out by Putin’s management crowd, told his programmers he was leaving, the programmers said they would be leaving with him and, for the time being, Durov and his group are somewhere else, but definitely not in Russia.

To make everything look and sound legal, Russian parliament (Duma) voted in a new law, one that says that foreign social media networks must have their servers in Russia, as well as keeping their users’ data for six months.

Governments’ control manias

Not that this is anything new. The European Union (EU), obsessed as it is with controlling everything that exists wherever it can look, has been trying for years to get control of the Internet (and Internet-based communications especially). The Bruxelles bureaucrats base their demand on security, just as the Chinese government has done some time ago, when it demanded control over anything Google did in their country, including censoring some parts of the search engine’s results that could be accessed by Chinese citizens.

As it is, some of the most important parts of the Internet are controlled by ICANN. What the heck is THAT?

Here’s your answer: is is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is anon-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world. ICANN says it is dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. As it says itself, ICANN promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.

Through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.

Why is there nobody else?

One reason: size of the North American market.

The other, just as important: the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations body, hasn’t been able to come to an agreement how to operate the Internet. That led to fractioning of the entire thing, with ICANN sitting on top, but with an ever-growing number of other non-governmental (and non-profit) groups taking part in operating it.

So far as the Internet is concerned, this is a much better state of affairs than having governments making sure nobody’s able to stir the stagnant waters of their governing by being too nosy.

A spy is a spy is a spy

Of course, it is quite logical that Russia’s Putin would believe an opponent’s intelligence agency is behind everything he cannot control. Himself a former rather high-ranking KGB officer (and a spy), this kind of thinking is in his blood.

Putin is not alone. German chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff  want to get the Internet out of American control, and take it straight under their respective governments’ control. They are both perfectly livid – to the point of hysteria – about U.S. spy agency NSA’s monitoring of their own communications.

All of this flies in the face of what the Internet is and is supposed to be.

Granted, the networking projects – spawned originally in very individualistic minds of computer scientists – got a boost when U.S. military became interested enough to fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, a.k.a. the ARPANET. The network would, first of all, link a number of universities. That would eventually get it from under U.S. government control.

Government control, or, rather, financing, helped get the fledgling computer networking off its diapers, out of the world of fantasy not even the most imaginative computer scientists of the time would dare think of. It made it reality.

Anything wrong with that? Well, that would be another topic for another day.

Government control as some governments like to achieve it now, is all about George Orwell’s 1984 and its concepot of Big Brother.

Not so shocking in Brazilian president Rousseff’s case. Her father, Petar Rousseff, fled Bulgaria when, as an active member of the local communist party, he was justifiably afraid of prosecution. On arrival in Brazil he’d become an entrepreneur. His family would move up the social ladder. His daughter Dilma, as has been usual in such and similar cases, would return to leftist politics, and she wouldn’t abandon them even after becoming rich herself.

Bluntly: governments have the right to control everything, including people’s thoughts. That would be as natural to Dilma Rousseff as breathing in and breathing out. She would couch it all in anti-American propaganda which only goes to show that she knows what’s fashionable these days amongst the intelligentsia.

It’s funnier in Angela Merkel’s case. A former research scientist in the field of physical chemistry, she spent her youth in the frightful atmosphere of her communist homeland, the GDR (German Democratic Republic). What was so democratic about the GDR, one fails to figure out.

But if you decide to learn more about Frau Chancellor’s past, you won’t be as surprised.

A few details: her father was a pastor, yet, the family not only could travel (and travelled) frequently from the East to the West, but did so using one of the two automobiles it owned. Both situations unheard of. Travel, especially travel between the East and the West, was strictly under the control of Stasi (secret police and intelligence service). Automobile ownership was under strict control, too. Owning a car was a sign that the person who had received the voucher to buy one was a reliable comrade. Owning TWO cars? This has had led to a few eyebrows shooting up. Some went so far as to conclude that Merkel’s father had a “sympathetic” relationship with the communist regime. Such freedom and privileges for a Christian pastor and his family would have been impossible in the GDR otherwise.

Angela Merkel was a member of the Free German Youth (FDJ), a body under the strict control of the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED), a communist party under any other name. It would be difficult to hold this membership in and of itself against her. While voluntary on paper, membership or lack thereof would open (or shut) doors to education beyond grade eight.

Except: Merkel became a member of the FDJ district board and secretary for “Agitprop” (Agitation and Propaganda). She would claim later that she was secretary for culture, something her former chairman contradicted with passion deserving of better things.

Not that she’d be a dissenter of any kind. Her science was what mattered, and if it involved membership in this or that communist front organization, so be it.

Why ought one wonder that Angela Merkel has no issues with government snooping all over Internet servers that it has under its control? Is she not aware of what such approach cost most people who used to live in what used to be the communist GDR?

Yes, it is true that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) used the Internet’s social media networks to gather information on what they termed “people of interest.”

This hasn’t got as much to do with those networks as it has with the NSA. Would you punish a hammer because it gave a nail such a terrible headache?

Gone are the times – if they ever existed – when it wasn’t sporting for gentlemen to read others’ mail.

We can debate ad nauseam to what degree it is kosher and to what degree it is not, to cast vast surveillane networks all over the place, in the hope that such nets may help catch fish that one’s been chasing all over the place. Whether it’s permitted is one thing, whether it’s done is another matter altogether.

And, by the way, if the Brazilian and German spy agencies hadn’t been spying in the U.S., they weren’t doing their job.

Calling the Internet a CIA invention and tool, as Russian president Putin is doing, that would be hysterically funny. If he didn’t mean it, that is.

The tragedy is, he means it.

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One thought on “I spy, you spy, everybody’s spying

  1. jiradl01 April 26, 2014 at 23:13 Reply

    ahoj brasko,

    moc zajimave, ale dve pripominky preci jenom mam – promin. Al Gore pry nikdy nerekl, ze vynalezl Internet, jenom ponekud neobratne rekl, ze pomahal internet tlacit kupredu. A druha pripominka- prozen to kontrolou hlaskovani. Fakt se mi to libilo, ale myslim, ze tyto dve malickosti si zaslouzi tve pozornosti.

    Ahoj, Jura

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