“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.” (and your TV, your microwave, and quite possibly your car)

This week Wikileaks released the largest ever collection of intelligence documents reported to be leaked directly from the CIA. Documents that reveal information about the tools and procedures used by the CIA.

According to Wikileaks, its source didn’t do this to highlight concerns in relation to invasion of privacy but wanted a public debate on whether the CIA’s hacking and cyber surveillance capabilities have exceeded the or mandated powers. (In short, has the CIA gone too far?)

The first thing that stood out about these leaks was where they physically came from. Not so much the CIA but the type of network it originated from. These documents weren’t downloaded over the internet, someone didn’t brute force their way into a network. They were taken directly from an “isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.”

In my career (my real job, not my writing) I’ve had the chance to work on a lot of high-end server environments and air-gapped networks. Networks and computers that have never touched the internet. Computers and networks that are isolated whether it be for maintaining the security of intellectual property, for testing code, or for research and development purposes. These types of environments are usually set-up behind multiple layers of both physical and biometric security, the physical devices storing information cannot physically be touched, you can’t run executables on the operating system, you can’t communicate with any WiFi or Bluetooth devices and you can’t print from them. You basically have a secured keyboard and mouse and a screen. That’s it.

I can only imagine the type of biometrics in use by the CIA n the dark basement levels of Langley. I dare say they wouldn’t be standard industry biometrics. We’d be talking military grade, top secret, cutting edge biometrics on multiple layers. Well, I would like to think that places like the CIA and NSA have more security than my house.

So this begs the question. How did the information get out? Undoubtedly there are probably a few very tired security personnel combing through hundreds of hours of security footage whilst cyber security specialists look through thousands of lines of code and log files trying to find out the answer to that question. I suspect that we, the public, will never know and I’m kinda OK with that.

The second thing that stood out is how cool CIA project and codenames have become. Weeping Angel, Fine Dining, RoidRage, and Magical Mutt just to name a few. My last few projects were Emerald and Phoenix… boring!

Now I’m not going to talk about the who, the why or the how too much. I’m sure all these questions will make for a great movie one day much like ‘Snowden’.

The questions I want to ask is: Why is everyone surprised and Why do we care?

I’m a pretty normal, every-day, law-abiding citizen. I work, I pay my mortgage, I pay my taxes and all my bills, and I try my hardest not to break the law.

I have nothing to hide.

So this begs my question: Why do we care that the CIA has these advanced surveillance capabilities and why are we surprised?

These tools and techniques and surveillance programs weren’t created for me and you. The CIA and NSA doesn’t care about every day people, they don’t want to turn your television into a microphone and listen to you talk about how boring your day was or what you’re going to cook for dinner tomorrow night.

They aren’t going to hack into your phone and read your messages, or listen to your calls and they don’t care what you do on Facebook.

You know why? Because these tools and techniques were made to protect people like me and you. Protect us from the people who want to cause us harm, people who want to disrupt our government and our way of life.

One of the reasons the CIA was created was to consolidate and coordinate intelligence efforts after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

We shouldn’t be surprised about all the fancy tools they’ve built, and all the new ways they have created to spy on people over the years.

The mission of the CIA, as written on their website, is: “Preempt threats and further US national security objectives by collecting intelligence that matters, producing objective all-source analysis, conducting effective covert action as directed by the President, and safeguarding the secrets that help keep our Nation safe.”

“Preempt threats and further US national security objectives by collecting intelligence that matters, producing objective all-source analysis, conducting effective covert action as directed by the President, and safeguarding the secrets that help keep our Nation safe.”

After 9/11, the CIA was criticised for not doing enough to stop the terrorist attacks. Since then their workforce and budget has doubled.

The only way you can stop attacks is by proactively gathering intelligence and the only way you can do that is by being smarter than your enemy, and by exploiting the every day technology that they use.

Today the CIA’s budget is roughly $14.7 billion. What did you think they’re were doing with that money?

I look at it this way, if you are being spied on by our government or one of their intelligence agencies there is probably a pretty good reason for it.

So, if you don’t want them to Weeping Angel the shit out of your television, don’t be – in the words of Donald Trump – a bad hombre.

It’s also worth noting that whilst the CIA and NSA are undoubtedly, and aggressively, gathering and analysing all communications such as mobiles, facebook, landlines etc. (here’s a hot tip – whilst the majority of people at Pine Gap are employed as ‘Landscapers’, they aren’t sitting around playing with plants) they need probable cause, actionable evidence, and all surveillance needs to be signed off by the associated departments (FISA courts, DoJ etc). It’s not a simple process to simply start surveilling someone.

Surveillance is a necessity in this day and age. Does it get abused? Yes. Is there a risk that someone can access information illegally and misuse that information for personal gain? Absolutely.

In the words of Edward Snowden:

“No system of mass surveillance has existed in any society that we know of to this point that has not been abused.”

I think we need to look at this very simply. Yes, the intelligence community have built a system of mass surveillance whereby they have the ability to exploit common household and personal devices. Yes, they collect information about everyone all around the world. Yes, they collect information on innocent people, and they are by no means perfect.

Would you prefer they stop?

In my opinion, if there is a risk of my privacy being invaded in order to keep me safe, I think that’s a pretty good compromise.

Just do what I do… wrap your TV in foil. Problem solved.

News: newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events… Or, at least it once was.

Wow, what a day. Trump wakes up from his slumber after a hard round of golf, grabs his phone and tweets that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during his election campaign.

He gave no evidence, referenced no sources, nor has the Whitehouse made any official comment over his morning ramblings. Throughout the day a lot of the mainstream media have highlighted that he may be referring, very vaguely, to a Breitbart article, but even Breitbart doesn’t seem to want anything to do with Trump’s claims.

What else has happened? Well, if you look through Facebook, Twitter and the News Sites you will see that a new trailer for Deadpool 2 has dropped, Ed Sheeran spoke to Aussie media about hitting Justin Bieber with a golf club, Harry Potter fans have come up with a hilarious hashtag, #PotterABook, where they take a popular book title and change it to be related to Harry Potter (e.g. The Fault in Our Scars #PotterABook OR, Lord Voldemoort of the Flies #PotterABook).

Apart from that, Louis Tomlinson of One Direction was arrested over a scuffle at an airport, there’s a lot happening in Sport – UFC209, Clipsal 500, a few NRL games, and Australia vs India in the Cricket.

Oh, I almost forgot. There’s a cyclone off the coast of Darwin, Cyclone Blanche and it’s Clean Up Australia Day.

You know what’s not trending? The fact that in the last 48 hours, over 100 people have died from hunger in Somalia.

That’s right, you didn’t read that incorrectly, in the last 48 hours, over 100 people have starved to death and much of the mainstream media have clearly decided that it’s not important enough to cover.

If you get on to News.com.au you won’t find a reference to this anywhere. Even if you click into the World News section. In fact, the first article you’ll see in the World News section is:

“MORE than 100 million fast food and ready-made meals are consumed every week in the UK. And it’s having a devastating effect.”

The only way you can find it on News.com.au is if you click on Search and type in Somalia. Even then it’s the second story and they’ve only given the article literally 124 words.

I know what you’re saying, “News.com.au is a shit news site, try something more mainstream”. Well, let me go through a list. The process I followed was simple, open up the site, scroll through the main page. Then I did the same thing after clicking on World News, and Breaking News:

  • Sydney Morning Herald – No Reference on Main Page or Site
  • The Australian – No Reference on Main Page or Site
  • The Daily Telegraph – No Reference on Main Page or Site
  • Sky News – No Reference on Main Page or Site
  • The Huffington Post – No Reference on Main Page or Site
  • The Age – No Reference on Main Page or Site
  • Yahoo7 – No Reference on Main Page or Site
  • The Herald Sun – No Reference on Main Page or Site

SBS, ABC and 9NEWS are the only sites in Australia that are reporting on it as a main story.

In the US, it has got a little more coverage but no coverage in a major article, just a small link to a short article. If you weren’t looking for the article, you would miss it.

CNN, Fox News, ABC, Washington Post all jumped on it, however, NBC and the NY Times didn’t give it much of a thought.

My mistrust of the media aside, you have to ask the question: why isn’t this getting any exposure?

To give a bit of background about what is happening:

At least 110 people, most of them women and children, have died from starvation and drought-related illness in Somalia in the past 48 hours, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said Saturday.

Khaire made the announcement while speaking to the drought committee in Mogadishu, four days after President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared the drought a national disaster.

The death toll covers those who died in the rural areas of Somalia’s southwestern Bay region where the drought is more severe than other parts of the country. It was not immediately clear how many others have died in the rest of the country. – Source: CNN

This isn’t just a major news story, it’s downright frightening. At LEAST 110 people have died because they don’t have access to food or clean water and they’re only counting one region within Somalia.

It is a massive humanitarian crisis that needs exposure in order to get the necessary support and funding needed to stop the needless loss of life.

According to the United Nations:

“If we do not scale up the drought response immediately, it will cost lives, further destroy livelihoods, and could undermine the pursuit of key state-building and peace-building initiatives,” he warned, adding that a drought — even one this severe — does not automatically have to mean catastrophe.

According to the United Nations, “Somalia is in the grip of an intense drought, induced by two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall. In the worst-affected areas, inadequate rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock, while communities are being forced to sell their assets, and borrow food and money to survive.”

I don’t know what to say? I’m not like most people on the Internet – I love News, Politics and Current Affairs. I know where to look for news, and I know how to make sure it is true. But most people will just read or listen to whatever is convenient – this isn’t a criticism of readers or listeners, it is a criticism of the media.

People are served up absolute rubbish and are deliberately kept in the dark.

Look, as for Somalia, I don’t know how to fix the problem and I’m not even going to try. I’m a business and technology guy – I don’t pretend to know how to fix complex geopolitical and humanitarian issues such as world hunger. What I do know is these issues do need more visibility to ensure the people who need to know have a platform where they can be informed. A platform for the people who can fix the problem can call on the assistance of World Governments, Big Business, and anyone willing to help in any way they can.

I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal. I know I was luckily enough to be born in a developed country, into a middle-class family, offered an education and brought up by my parents to challenge everything and to ask questions. I live in a country where I have access to free health services, clean water and an abundant food supply.

I’m not oblivious to the fact that I’m well off.

My issue is not with whether I could be doing more – I know I probably could be. My issue is with why the media isn’t doing more and covering this with the urgency that is required.

Anyways, I know this has been long but the media is really starting to get on my nerves more-so than usual.

But hey, don’t worry about Somalia, as long as we have access to Trump’s angry and crazy ramblings and an up to date one-stop shop for all the entertainment news your brain can consume, everything is OK.

One final thing to ponder – whilst you’ve been reading this article News.com.au has posted an update:

Smith’s innings amounted to eight runs off 52 balls faced, by far his slowest Test innings to have lasted 50 deliveries or more. It’s a tough slog for the Aussie batsmen on the second day, with opener Matt Renshaw heading to lunch on 40 after facing a mammoth 144 deliveries.

Oh, and (statistically) 1 more person has died from starvation in Somalia.