Freedom is Slavery

National Security and the Information Revolution

As far as freedom of speech goes, the information revolution is a dream come true. Steep barriers to entry have been removed from the marketplace of ideas, and the implications are staggering. For the first time in history, ordinary human beings have access not only to a massive, rapidly-expanding archive of human knowledge, but also to a means of mass distribution. And if you have the skills and don't mind bending the "official" rules a little, an open door is an invitation.

Energy, like information, wants to flow free; the only barriers are those erected by human beings, for whatever reasons or justifications. If you know the system better than the people who erected those barriers, whether it's an operating system or a tax system or an alarm system, you can breeze through like Casper the Friendly Ghost. For whatever reasons or justifications.

Hence, for those entities which view the unrestricted flow of information as a potential threat, it's a full-on Freddy Krueger nightmare. The Pentagon has not done a fantastic job of managing security on its labyrinthine web of 2.1 million computers and 10,000 local-area networks. For one thing, the idea of all those hundreds of thousands of unauthorized intrusions into unclassified U.S. military systems scares the hell out of them. But not nearly as much as the idea that they have created a system they neither understand nor control. The Pentagon is also uptight about "losing" several infowar skirmishes against a relatively low-tech opponent during the United Nations' Somalia operation.

The proposed response thus far has been predictable based on past experience: 1) spend a ton of money and 2) blow the crap out of somebody. Dozens of articles and strategy papers on information warfare have been written by military consultants, and a Defense Department task force recently recommended allocating $3 billion over the next five years to line the information superhighway with barbed wire. It also recommended legal revisions to allow the Defense Department to retaliate with debilitating force against suspected attackers. The third major proposal would create an Information Warfare Center, which will fuse together all the various intelligence capabilities of the National Security State.

Whether or not these steps will actually deter, thwart or hinder non-sanctioned computer activity is yet to be seen. It'll probably separate the big dogs from the runts, but as man is imperfect, no system is truly secure. That won't stop them from moving forward with the proposals, though, and their actions could have major ramifications for your digital freedom and civil rights in the very near future. So let's take a closer look at what they're planning to do, and who's doing the planning.