People are probably tired of hearing about my years working in Viet Nam from ’66-’70 as a civilian aid worker and brief stint as a ABC News correspondent. During those years I had reason to interact with various intelligence services in order to survive as an unarmed non-combatant. I can tell stories that demonstrate that none of the intelligence people knew what was going on. After all their primary job is to confuse each other. Whoever is least confused wins.
The reality of intelligence work as I saw it up close is nothing like what people imagine. Granted terrible things are done by terrible people, but the belief that it is highly and intelligently organized is a myth. These are bureaucracies of the worst sort that routinely do the most inept things and spend most of their energy protecting their asses and their paycheck. Wing-nuts seem particularly attracted to this cloak and dagger stuff, and apparently the ability to think ones way out of a paper bag is a drag on promotion. Of course that presents little difficulty since there is so little reality involved that virtually any bat feces idea can circulate and do its job of creating ever more massive government subsidies.
My experience led me to believe that the higher one went in those hierarchies the stupider people got. No one wants to believe this, even though they complain constantly about the bureaucracy this and the bureaucracy that, and herald the stupidities they encounter with bureaucracies, particularly governmental bureaucracies, such as CalTrans. Please believe me, 007 is just a film fantasy. And this system that Snowdon is describing is a perfect example. Unless it was deliberately tweaked by organized crime to make it a perfect mechanism for black mail and coercion (something not to be dismissed) it is essentially a useless thing to the country as a whole and particularly to national security.
Real intelligence data has a very short half life whereas black mail data lasts, and lasts, sitting there waiting to be used to coerce someone. Figuring out what the opponents secrets are is not possible, contrary to the sales pitches of the folks selling these massive data storage facilities, on a mass production model. Adding hay to the haystack does not make it easier to find the needle. No, the only possible use for this facility, and mind you the people in charge may not be smart enough to use it this way, is as a coercive tool of use against US citizens.
This system was first prototyped, according to unnamed sources, in Taiwan, where the Nationalist government faced the job of coercing a reluctant native Taiwanese population to support them. Just like now, but using magnetic tape as the high tech element, if you can imagine, there was the attempt to record all telephone calls. I don’t think it worked out very well there, at least for the native Taiwanese, but the US government seems to have a limitless appetite for expensive boondoggles and the idea of tapping everyone’s phone and making oodles of profit from it suits the corporate monster that rules the country just fine. And, although the record of all communications over time, fully indexed by participants, topic, etc. can be assembled with the use of these massive storage devices, the only practical use is going to be blackmail.
Blackmail is a clever crime. Victims rarely complain. This may be more successful for US organized crime than the heroin epidemic that was deliberately engineered during the Vietnam war. Not to mention the utility for stock and security swindles, of course that would be greatly enhanced by the ability to poke around in peoples presumably confidential communications. Already large corporate entities have sealed themselves off digitallty and are not threatened by the Total Information Awareness program. But you can be sure they are prepared to buy the information they feel they need from the public source, one way or another.