I received an email from a blogger friend this morning. She had received a note from a friend of hers – a gun owner – suggesting that she tamp down her posting/writing/emailing about guns because the government was watching everyone and the implication I drew from the note to my friend was that they were especially watching gun owners. She asked for my thoughts and it seemed to be a pretty good idea for a post! So . . . . some thoughts . . . . .
Are you being watched??
Let’s tackle the “foil hat” brigade first – the one where we are all Mel Gibson in “Conspiracy Theory”. I do not believe that every word is being listened to, that every email is being individually read or that every citizen that expresses concern is placed on a watch list. Those that fall into this category meet my “foil hat” test and while I will listen to their thoughts (folks this dedicated to a specific line of reason will put an amazing amount of research into their concerns – which can be beneficial to everyone), personally I will use their research, but I do not subscribe to their level of paranoia. However, that said, remember that in the movie – Gibson’s character was right . . . .
So let’s talk about reality for a bit . . . . first from an intelligence gathering POV, then talk about “soft intelligence” (that information readily available on you to the government) and finally the gathering of “hard intelligence” – individual specific, real-time intelligence. While there are many categories of intelligence gathering, let’s talk about those that could be used to gather information about you, specifically.
HUINT – Human Intelligence
Human Intelligence is that information gathered by direct human intervention. Your friends, family, employers – anyone that my know you are quizzed about you. I have actually had this happen to me.
Long ago and far away, in another life – I had a Top Secret military clearance. I met with the agent responsible for the investigation of my life. It was the mid 70’s and he was dressed like a bad joke of a used car salesman. We sat in a small room (a-la NCIS) and he simply said “What do you want to tell me? I’ll find out everything about you, anything you want to get off your chest?”. While I had no crumbs to share, over the next couple weeks I received calls from family/friends, even my old Kindergarten teacher – wanting to know if things were “OK” cause a government agent came and talked to them about me. Honestly, pretty darn impressive!
Human Intelligence can be the most reliable when done by an experienced agent but it is painfully slow and expensive.
GEOINT - Geospatial Intelligence
Geospatial Intelligence is that information gathered via satellite, UAV or manned aircraft. Perhaps the most common example that comes to mind is Google Earth. With a name and address I can find your home, measure its dimensions, view your surroundings, count the buildings on your property, see the number of vehicles you have (at the time of the image anyway) and see the progress to your property over the time span of Google Earth images. Kinda makes you suck in your breath just a bit if you view this from a bad guy’s POV.
GEOINT also implies manned and unmanned air craft. While manned aircraft can be really expensive, many UAVs are fairly cheap for short duration flights. Here in Iowa where has been a few kur-fluffels about the EPA using Predator drones to survey hog confinement and feed lot operations looking for violations.
OSINT – Open Source Intelligence
Open Source Intelligence is that information easily and quickly available to virtually anyone. This is where folks who are not familiar with information gathering or “intelligence work” have a tendency to make themselves vulnerable. They believe that “Tweets”, Texts, Facebook posts, Blog posts are – for some reason – “private”. As has been proven by folks like Representative Weiner – few things electronic are “private” even . . . . well . . . . their “weiner”.
Google is another eye opener. With as little information as my name, city and state you can find pages and pages of info on me, my business and many of my writings.
SIGINT – Signals Intelligence
Signal Intelligence is that information that can be gathered electronically. Everything from electronic eavesdropping through an unsecured home router to electronic scans of your emails, texts, tweets, Facebook posting, cell phones calls, cell messages – there is a host of information available on you provided an individual or organization has access to the “right” equipment.
MEDINT – Medical Intelligence
Medical Intelligence covers all things medical. Your doctors, dentists, therapists, counselors, pharmacists – anyone who provides you with some type of medical service unique of you. What is your physical condition? What is your mental condition? Are these temporary or long term issues? Are they inexpensive or could they do you long-term financial harm?
FININT – Financial Intelligence
Financial Intelligence is all things financial. What are your savings account, retirement account or investment levels? What are your spending habits? What are you purchasing? Do you have any overseas accounts? Do you deposit large amounts or money frequently?
What are your credit card purchasing patterns? What do you buy? Where do you buy? When do you buy?
While these forms of intelligence form only a sub-set of a full spectrum suite of “tools”, they would be those that would be most frequently deployed against you. As you can see from the depth of their combined ability, anyone can learn a tremendous amount of anyone with just a little effort.
What about a determined person looking to REALLY find out about you as an individual and just using open sources? It can be an eye opening experience to simply go about starting with your name, address and city to see what you can find out about yourself.
I will call these things that can be accessed by a broad range of folks “soft intelligence” – easily found, easily compiled and most assuredly gathered by specific agencies focused on specific concerns about you. Can you say the words “credit score”? Think what those folks know about you when you see that magic number appear before your eyes.
Now, let’s look at what I will call “hard intelligence” – that information that can be gathered on you by an entity with virtually unlimited power – the power to seize information, seize equipment, subpoena records and files and all manner of electronic information, can close companies and threaten imprisonment. What could they find out about you?
They would use the same intelligence gathering disciplines detailed above but without boundary. Let me say that slowly . . . . . “without boundary”.
The friend who emailed me was specifically interested in this from a gun owners POV – is she “being watched”.
That question, in it self, should raise red flags. She is a reasonable young woman, smart, talented, educated – she assures me she has the same feelings about her friend that first raised the questions with her. Yet, today, in December 2012 – she has concerns if her government is watching her exactly because she exercises her 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
This should be disquieting to us all – a canary in the coal mine
So, are they?
Well, with their resources they – as this pertains to me – know what weapons I own, who I purchased them from, what NRA certifications I have, that I am ex-military, what military skill sets I have, what my education level is, that I have held a T/S security clearance, what my spending habits are, what my level of debt is, whether I have ever been arrested, what my travel patterns are through my cell-tower history, what my electronic accounts are including email, blogging and Facebook . . . . . and many, many other things.
The real question is . . . . are they watching?
In years gone by . . . . before government though they were the be-all, end-all to America’s success I don’t believe much watching was done. However, as you read about McCarthy, J. Edger Hoover, Nixon – those who became enflamed by power, I find myself looking at Holder, Napolitano, Obama and wonder . . . . .
Has the flame of power been kindled in them by the ease of data gathering in today’s world? When enemies are found in the political arena and the tools of a government are brought to bear against these perceived enemies of a differing ideology, nothing good will come of it.
So, today . . . . is a tin had required?? No . . . . not yet . . . .
But, does that imply that data gathering and the preparations of lists is not underway??
My advice – speak your mind, take a stand . . . . because if we fear a government so much that we must hide our weapons and our relationships . . . .
. . . . the fight is already lost.