Monday, January 18, 2021

Political activity in a surveillance society


Progressive extremists have made clear their intention to silence any and all dissent, up to and including physical violence against those who openly disagree with them.  Deplatforming and verbal attacks against conservatives are the norm these days.  In some cases, that's extended to mobs threatening their homes, keeping them awake, targeting their families.  There have been arson attacks against political offices, and allegedly even against homes.

I expect this to get worse now that the extremists have taken over the United States government.  Just as under President Obama the organs of state were weaponized against his opponents - the IRS auditing them, the ATF running guns to drug cartels in Mexico to (allegedly) provide a convenient excuse to target Second Amendment rights, and so on - we can expect that to redouble in effort under President Biden and/or those manipulating him in the background.  The scope and complexity of information gathering mechanisms available to the powers that be are extraordinary, and getting more so every day.

Back in 2013, blogger "The Lizard Farmer" put up an article describing how criminals and terrorists could be (and are being) tracked down.  It remains an excellent description of how political extremists can use law enforcement tools and agencies, as well as the intelligence and other resources of the state, to do the same to those whom they see as a threat.  Here's an excerpt.

We just happened to get lucky (from our perspective anyway) and kill one of the insurgents and have possession of his body.  He had no identification, the serial number on his rifle had been removed, and he had even gone to the trouble to remove his own fingerprints (talk about dedication).  Those are some significant hurdles to overcome figuring out who this guy is right?  Yeah, but not something we can’t work around.  A quick phone call to the field gets us a good high resolution frontal image of the DIs (dead insurgent’s) face.  The case officer uploads that image into a work file and sends it off to multiple agencies, say the DoJ (FBI specifically), DHS, and the State Fusion Center (there are more but let’s keep it simple).   The Fusion center comes back a few hours later and identifies the individual as Bob Jones of Llano TX. How did they do that? By loading the pic of the DI into a biometric facial recognition program and running a comparison to Texas’s drivers license photo database. If they hadn’t gotten a hit it could have been compared to other states databases as well.  It would have taken more time  but eventually would have given us the identity.   Now we have a starting point.

First thing we do is get a quickie warrant and pull all of Bob’s home and cell phone records for the last 90 days.  Then we’ll identify every call he made or received in a certain radius say 200 miles.  These calls automatically get categorized into business numbers and residential numbers. All calls will be looked at however we’re going to jump into the residential numbers first.  In that pool we’ll separate the numbers into known and assumed family (by last name, tax returns, public records databases, etc.) and unknown reason contacts.  In the last 90 days there have been roughly 300 calls to personal numbers which belong to a pool of 125 individuals. These 125 are now our short list for the time being.

Now we have an identification and an address it’s time to generate physical warrants.  So the local boys go and raid Bob's home and take any and everything electronic, anything that remotely looks like correspondence, and any credit/debit cards or checkbooks. They even go so far as to search vehicles ... Note at this point we’re not trying to build a case against Bob – hell he’s dead.  We’re looking for cross referencing information to identify other remembers of his group.  Once those items are collected they are handed over to a team of forensic technicians which begin to dissect the information and cross check other databases.  Within 24 hours we have a comprehensive list of who he sent and received emails from, the IPs and cookies of the websites he’s visited,  any purchases he’s made online and quite a few of the offline ones as well.  Remember this isn’t all encompassing but intended to give you an idea of how it works.

All of this information gets laid out into what we’ll call a virtual “starfish” with each bit of info representing a point.  We’ve got systems running the phone records down to individual names associated with those accounts referenced by physical location and date, systems referencing any known purchases referenced by location and date, and any and everything else we can dump into the system to expand the starfish.  Once this part is done it’s time to start looking at known associations.  We do this by take the folks we’ve already identified and trying to determine  their association with good old Bob.  For the sake of simplicity we’ll start on phone records – those 125 individuals.  Those individuals names now generate their own starfish.   As the multitude of systems begin to return information on each individual those starfish grow as well.  at 36 hours to keep things simple we’ll reject all information on those other starfish if they do not correspond to any of the kegs on the starfish that represents Bob.  That narrows down things considerably.

. . .

A couple of days later the analysts come back with a narrowed list of 16 people that could still be considered suspect however Bob had no contact with those people within 14-21 days of the attack in which he was killed.  How did they arrive at the 16 people? Remember when the forensic team tore apart Bobs computer? They took his known data (his IP)  and ran it across the stored multiple metadata databases to identify which websites he had been visiting.  Of those websites a dozen were considered radical or fringe (at least under TPTBs definition of such).  they then ran a cross check against those 125 folks from the phone records and 16 other people on our list had visited some of those websites.

. . .

One thing that is puzzling is the fact that Bob didn’t have any phone or email contact with our new 16 person  short list in the period immediately preceding the attack. Attacks are typically coordinated so there had to be some form of communication.  By scrutinizing Bob’s debit purchase records we find that he had bought a “disposable phone” at the local big box store one day before his last contact with any of the 16 individuals we’re looking at.  Getting the number to that phone isn’t hard at all with a quick warrant for the metadata for that carriers phones that were activated within a 36 hour period in Bob’s area.  But for timeliness we’re also going to scrutinize those other 16 individuals transactions for the same type of purchase – disposable phones and we come up with nada for them.

The carrier returns the information from the warrant we wanted and two numbers show up as having been activated in the big box store parking lot within that time frame. A quick cross check shows one of the numbers has no association with any of our existing data however one has a call to his personal cell phone.  Bingo we now have his number.  And we can go back and get all of the metadata for that number including numbers called/received, location, time, and length of call.  The phone data itself is built into a starfish of its own and cross referenced against any known contacts Bob had.

There's much more at the link.  It's an eye-opening description of how just one piece of information can be built into a vast network of facts and educated assumptions that, over time, will uncover almost anything one wants to hide.

Sophisticated criminal organizations are well aware of this investigative capability, of course, and have developed some pretty amazing work-arounds.  I know of one drug cartel that routinely had its operatives purchase prepaid mobile phones (also known as "burner phones") by the dozen in every town where they operated.  They would activate them in that area, using false names and addresses, then send them in ones and twos to other towns, or to a central point from where they were redistributed.  In this way, each major geographic branch of the cartel received a big selection of prepaid phones that were not associated with it, or with the area in which it operated.  They would use each of them no more than once or twice, then discard and destroy it so it could never be traced back to them.  It was expensive in money and time, but they regarded this as a normal cost of doing business.

They also used central message repositories, both e-mail and voice messages.  An e-mail could be written, but left in draft form and not actually sent to anyone.  Cartel members who had the password to that e-mail account could log into it from a burner phone, read the message, and act on its instructions, or compose another draft message with their response.  The same thing could be done using Google Voice and similar services, where verbal messages could be left and picked up by all concerned.  Such methods are open to interception as soon as the authorities learn of them, of course, but by using cryptic language and indirect discussion, useful information can still be conveyed.  The accounts set up for that purpose would be used for only a limited time before being abandoned and replaced by others.

All those techniques are well known by now, and have lost much of their usefulness as a result.  Of course, new techniques have been developed to replace them, but it's probably not a good idea to go into them here.  Suffice it to say that law enforcement agencies are well aware of them.  It's a constant struggle between the good guys and the bad guys.  Sometimes one side is ahead, sometimes the other - but it's very, very hard to know which one is on top at any given time.

Sadly, those suffering under political repression may also have to learn to use such techniques in order to continue their activities.  If one is supporting sensitive causes, it's often best to be very discreet about it;  so adopting clandestine means of communication might be safest for all concerned.  I've long since done that in trying to help former convicts and others whom I encountered during my years of prison chaplaincy.  There's a network of people who try to help former inmates, getting them out of their crime-haunted neighborhoods and gang associations, and arranging a fresh start for them.  Some of those gangs are "blood in, blood out" organizations.  If they learned that one of their members wanted to leave them and/or their neighborhood, murder would be done.  Extreme caution must be observed in making such arrangements.  We've learned the hard way to take that very seriously indeed.

It's also worth noting that any overt communication seeking to whip up support for open opposition to the authorities, or the current majority in Congress, or anything like that, is unlikely to be what it looks like.  Law enforcement agencies (as well as political extremists) are old hands at "false flag" approaches.  Recent posters have called for armed demonstrations in all 50 State capitals and Washington, D.C. against the inauguration of our next President are a good example of such activities.  Do you really think that serious politicians or conservative activists would be dumb enough to openly call for such activities, and ask supporters to come armed?  It would be an invitation to their opponents - and the authorities - to crack down on the spot.  Those posters were almost certainly the acts of agents provocateurs, not the real thing.

Distrust almost everyone who tries to join you, or entice you to join their group, in efforts to oppose government policies and actions.  Most will probably be untrustworthy.  It was said some years ago that "the US is crawling with informers and agents provocateurs".  It's only gotten worse since that article was published.  Trust only those you've known for a long time and vetted as thoroughly as possible, and even then be very, very careful.  All sorts of pressures can be brought to bear to "turn" a trusted friend and colleague into an informant.  East Germany was an extreme example, but that sort of all-encompassing state monitoring of its citizens is much easier in a high-tech era like ours.  Much is already known about past efforts to do so in the USA.  I've no doubt that many more such efforts are currently under way.

With so much of our lives laid bare in the electronic spectrum, who knows just how much Big Brother already knows about us?  It's likely a whole lot more than we think - or that we'd like.



MarcusZ1967 said...

And now after amateur radio users.

jsmalone1 said...

So with all that my predicate confirms that during the riots this summer the funders, organizers and participants could have, and I'm sure we're quickly identified. Yet nothing came of that. Pretty simple to see what is going on.

Old NFO said...

If you have a cell phone, you're tracked...

5stonegames said...

There is a Scots politician Ian something or other I forget his name who noted that future societies, if they are able to wrest power from the current elite anyway , will have to treat mass surveillance with the same revulsion we used to treat torture.

In that case I suspect that our drive for tech progress will either have to be put under extreme levels of control at every level or it will end up making freedom impossible.

How we manage that without taking the ring of power to crackdown on our subversives and other "bad" people will be a challenge for the next leaders, doubly so as our society has a Faustian love of technology and innovation.

Bob said...

" including physical violence"....

Yep. That's all it will take for the worm to turn. They'll start getting their own teeth kicked out, their own bones broken, their own kneecaps ruined.

I am not a violent man, but if some antifa creep comes at me with a deadly weapon, he's going to go down. There will be no discussion, no talk, no pleading. Just lights out.

Aesop said...

Study "The Troubles" in N. Ireland.

Britistan built the very model of the Orwellian police state, and <500 mainline PIRA provos ran them ragged for three decades, despite every modern advantage.

And once the other side starts getting kneecapped, and their cars start exploding, it's not nearly as fun for them to play "tag".

$5 worth of art store supplies and about 20 minutes can make you a license plate that will fool a reader. Random people doing random acts unto others leave no network to trace, no emails to decipher, and no accomplices to identify.

You can also leverage that, and Cloward-Piven the intel apparatus, by choking it with so much noise they can't suss out a signal in any useful time frame.

Send 20 meaningless messages to people you have no connection to.

Encrypt revolutionary rhetoric, and send it to opposition groups. CC a coupe of prominent rabble-rousers of the BLM/Antifa stripe. Attend a few of their get-togethers. Send in ginned up documents, and let TPTB chase your enemies, and their own tail, for your own amusement.

It goes without saying that if there was an amateurish device that failed to explode, and the Feebs or BATFE found matching components in the trunk or behind the shed of the local anarchist poobah, they'd jump to all the right conclusions, and it would take months to sort out, if it ever happened.

Their TTPs and methods are a predictable weapon that can be leveraged to derail the entire Leviathan, if one has but the inclination and wit to make it so.

And even if they know you're doing it, they can't and dare not turn it off.

Think of Paul Newman in Absence Of Malice, crossed with a little bit of Rambo and John Wick.

The other side made the choice that the law doesn't matter, and that they would operate outside of it. Give them the fruit of that tree, good and hard. All that happens if they dare to crack down is that they radicalize a hundred Norm the Normies, and make blood enemies of them for life.

Let an illegitimate regime see what happens when you bypass the consent of the governed, and society responds by withdrawing that consent in every possible way.

In physiology, we call this an immune response.
Let the unwanted invaders know they aren't welcome, and do everything to rid the host of their invasion. If you wait until they're knocking on your door, you've waited too long, and if you're fighting fair, you ain't been paying proper attention. This needs to be a fight between hunters with clubs, and baby Harp seals. Marquess of Queensbury Rules were revoked November 3rd, and won't be coming back anytime soon.

Making it not worth the juice to squeeze the lemon is a help, and in the meantime, you whittle down their numbers of supporters and minions every chance you get.

The US has lost three wars of attrition in the last half-century. Bringing those lessons home to roost stateside would seem to me to be a no-brainer of a strategy.

The Deep State and the incoming illegitimate regime have gone out of their way the past year to make ordinary Americans the enemy. So be it. The Golden Rule of Combat is that "The Enemy Gets A Vote."

Vote early, and vote often.

Mike said...

The British had nothing on current surveillance technology. Go read up on Gorgon Stare and other wide area persistent surveillance systems. Fooling license plate readers isn't going to help.

Seal Of Lion said...

I remember a technique drug dealers were using that was quite interesting. They used tons of burner phones too:

You want to buy some drugs the dealer, who knew you, would tell you to call a certain number. One that was changed every day, maybe every hour. Each dealer had their own list of numbers.

The buyer would call that number and talk to a contact in another city or even another country and get an address from them that they would then drive to. The contact might be handling deals several cities at the same time but never their own.

The contact would then call the supplier on a burner and tell him where the meet up was and the buyer's license number. The supplier keeps a few bags in his mouth and swallows them if needed.

The supplier would make contact with the buyer and have him follow him around for a few blocks. He's looking for any tails. If he's satisfied, they do the exchange through windows without getting out and drive off.

Jimmy the Saint said...

@Bob: "I am not a violent man, but if some antifa creep comes at me with a deadly weapon, he's going to go down."

Watch the videos and read the accounts of their attacks. It won't be "some antifa creep," they make coordinated attacks, in strength, from all angles, but really favor the rear and flanks. If you have to be where they are active, bring allies.

Jimmy the Saint said...

@Aesop: "The US has lost three wars of attrition in the last half-century. Bringing those lessons home to roost stateside would seem to me to be a no-brainer of a strategy."

True enough as a general statement, but before taking part in a war of attrition, you need to make sure: (1) your side can take the losses from a numerical standpoint - you can't win if you run out of people first; (2) your side has the will to stick it out - given that about half of the Right headed for the fainting couch over the "storming of the hallowed halls of the Capitol," will seems to be in short supply at the moment.

Francis Turner said...

The fun bit about the current state of the US is that - as the Bidenites are belatedly discovering and so hurriedly doing loyalty checks on the troops - there is no obvious way to tell whether the Law Enforcement person, Infosecurity researcher, whatever that you use to track a suspect is secretly not on your side. A fair number won't be, and if you try to intrusively validate that you'll piss off a bunch of opposition sympathizers and probably not find the real active opposition in your organization.

Plus there are very good infosec etc. people on the other side and we've watched how cyber criminals, spies and the like evade the efforts to track them down. If you know your movements can be tracked and so on then you can figure out ways to get around them.

Aesop said...

True enough, but if you're going with LGOPs, "will" isn't that hard to plumb, nor master.

If you're the only LGOP, it's going to be a short game anyway. If you're not the only LGOP, it's still going to be short, but not in the way TPTB think of that.

You're not trying to escape detection. You're trying to escape identification. We threw half the at three small countries, three different times, and never controlled more than a fraction of any one of them, despite a decade's patient and deliberate efforts, and thousands of friendly casualties.

You really think they're going to get orders of magnitude better on our home turf??


One Dorner tied up the entire LE assets of Califrutopia for a week, and they knew who he was from the get-go.
One "sniper" team tied up DC for months, and had 'em quaking in their boots.
One 99.9% peaceful rally has them deploying two full divisions worth of troops to protect a single one-hour photo-op.

This is Iraq, except with all the Taliban living inside the Green Zone, 24/7/365/forever.

Leviathan has a serious dose of the squirts now, and this is still the "peaceful protest" stage.

The red range flag is about to go up.

This is time, in the immortal words of Nathan Bedford Forrest, to "keep the skeer on 'em".

If you wanted immortality, you're in the wrong life.