Used to be the stuff of archives, historians and libraries. Discovered documents. Long lost letters. Musings of the bard. Caesar’s notebooks. Leonardo’s Codex. Dead Sea Scrolls. Written words, unintended for publication, found among the random mementos of long deceased luminaries, used to go centuries — millennia — until unearthed and analyzed by the scholars.
Now everybody’s e-mail can be trafficked for instantaneous access to pop history. In real time we can witness pithy deliberations of a political party or governing department. We can see candidates debate issues and consequences and make policy recommendations. We can judge their scenarios and make fun of their grammar. We can watch, listen and read their words and claim to derive insight into their thought processes and motives in advance of any actual history taking place.
Hackers enable you and me to justify our demand to know the inside story. So gullible for anything labeled True Story, yet so paranoid of being hoaxed, we trust nobody and still fall prone to conspiracy theories when lone wolfs band together. This is America where we need no pundits or elite intellectuals to interpret data, just give us the data. The paparazzi of the internet troll day and night.
No wonder Hillary Clinton kept her own server at the State Department. Who trusts the privacy security of any government intranet platform right now, even the FBI? Classified may not mean mishandled or abused. The innuendo of something going on will affect the vote. Unanswered allegations taint the fact that all the e-mails in question remained perfectly secure and confidential until the FBI hacked them open.
Between the earliest days of Edward Snowden and the pursuit of Anthony Weiner, the secret reach of government into the cybersphere is well known and accepted as a working meme of the 21st century. It is an unfortunate irony that Hillary Clinton’s fate entwines with Weiner. The words Clinton and Weiner in the same story don’t connote well even if their denotations couldn’t be further apart. You can bet Donald Trump has his own server and always will.
FBI Director James Comey is famous for his stance for civil liberty by his opposition to provisions in the renewal of the Patriot Act authorizing covert domestic surveillance. He’s also clashed with hardware makers over back door encryption access to data banks on computer devices used by criminals. Using a proper search warrant to examine a laptop seized from an unrelated federal investigation he — we can say it is he here because he is the director and has made a public statement via Congress that an investigation is in progress — is examining a trove of e-mails pertaining to Hillary Clinton to determine if any of these missives in any way show willful treachery against the United States of America, which is what her political opponents charge is already true.
650,000 is a lot of e-mails. It’s amazing that a laptop computer has memory capacity to store so much information. Think of future historians poring over unearthed memory chips. What will they think of our middle class ponderings? What the FBI determines from Huma Abedin’s e-mail isn’t being challenged as spousal privilege, focused only on her communication with her boss doing government business. They bureau is looking for messages sent and received through a non-government server that are of a secret nature — state secrets — and determining whether these secrets were conveyed deliberately by said private server to intentionally secure the information against a government secured server.
Most of what what one expects to find is Good Morning Boss, How Goes… But what if on a bad day in an unguarded moment of passion somebody wrote somebody they are so glad they’re on a private server secure from government control because government servers are constantly getting hacked from without and within, would that get leaked to the media?
Recall the days of J Edgar Hoover when we used to worry about being subject to mail cover surveillance for opposing the Vietnam war. We used to talk in code about reefer on the phone because we were paranoid of being tapped. Those days are gone the way of hijacking the Pony Express.
As a portable laptop today sports the computer capacity it used to require a unit the size of a house in the days of J Edgar Hoover, so advanced are the means of surveillance. Algorithmic software programs seek and sort megamega information like lightning. James Comey risks his own top secret technology when he can confide to Congress before the election that the e-mails were reviewed and nobody broke the law so let’s end the innuendo and put away this notion of e-mail criminality. It won’t end, though, even if the FBI gets hacked and all the e-mails go public.
Spyware is bad, invades privacy, compromises individual liberty and corrupts personal identity. Spyware is good when it catches perpetrators of evil.
Malware is really really bad, like home invasion and kidnapping for ransom. Malware is good when it disrupts evil regimes and despots who plot catastrophic goals.
State Secrets are what undid the Soviet Union, specifically the government’s increasing inability to control information. Globalization and its culture without borders has democracized knowledge in a cacaphony of tongues never witnessed before on the planet, bringing immense potential for shared understanding. Yet bad political leaders seek new ways to control propaganda, manipulate information, censor criticism and consolidate power over cybersphere, which is all data and all media.
If this historic presidential campaign means anything it foretells the power of metadata in daily life. E-mail, Facebook and Twitter. (Remember when DOS was the name of a computer language you had to learn for work? Now it’s an acronym for denial of service.) A candidate openly invites hackers to go after his opponent’s computers, so what would stop him from using the power of the presidency to hack your computer or mine? He questions the validity of the election process, casts aspersions on the privacy of the voting system and scorns the honor system as if he knows personally how to rig the outcome, and he is believed without proof because, like metadata itself, it’s out there. He implies he will use the means to track every undocumented immigrant and deport them. He says he doesn’t know if the Russians hacked the DNC or not, but he admires the governing methods of Vladimir Putin. In the digital hands of Donald Trump the cybersecurity of the modern world could go nuclear.
Hillary Clinton called half of his supporters a basket of deplorables. Soon we will see a measure of just how big that basket is and who will beg to identify with that other half. The deplorables are not the same as les miserables though they will self-select themselves in the aftermath of the vote and make themselves evident by their behavior after inauguration day. Maybe it isn’t half of them, but there is a basket of people who side with Trump for deplorable reasons. They will push their point of view and demand attention. Like caesar on a balcony, Donald Trump rallies crowds with the ghost of George Wallace, mobilizing jackboots and evoking law and order while inspiring vigilantes, and it scares me what a society or world order it portends — terrifies — terrorizes me.
Hillary campaigns like the nerd girl running for student council. I try to get inside the heads of those who despise her. Like hacking into their mindsets. What’s the grudge? Who is she to them and what has she done and what does she symbolize that makes her the enemy of the state to so many people? Are liberal public servants deplored as a class by a certain class? Maybe not, as her detractors trend across all social classes. It’s the liberal philosophy Hillary Clinton epitomizes that her craven critics deplore. It’s the professional public servant who preaches social justice and equal opportunity who wrote It Takes A Village and espouses principles of community cohesion. She sees government as an instrument of progress towards a better society and a better world based on enlightenment as a way we govern ourselves as a free society. She believes all people should have health care insurance. She sees our infrastructure as a path to environmental sustainability and jobs, believes in peace through diplomacy, and realizes that the good standard of living and exceptional prosperity of the USA isn’t cheap and the cost of sustaining and growing a vibrant and fluent middle class has to be shared by taxpayers who benefit most from the economy and make the most money. She has given speeches to Wall Street, and why not, they’re a powerful institution like the FBI. It’s not about the little people unless you call out the big people. Hillary Clinton expressed a vision of borderless trade — free commerce around the planet — this includes unimpeded internet — and if not as mighty as I Have A Dream, it seems a modest version of Imagine There’s No Heaven, Above Us Only Skies.
When supporters of Donald Trump say this country is going the wrong direction I am alarmed and don’t understand what that means. It suggests we should reverse ourselves and go back. We should reverse civil rights. We should unfund education, shrink our economy, reduce productivity and decrease jobs. Roll back regulations protecting air and water quality and prohibit shady financial dealings and prevent monopolistic predatory practices in the consumer marketplace. It suggests a return to subsidizing coal mines. When I hear people say the country is going the wrong direction and Donald Trump will make America great again, I wonder what is so wrong with who we are that people cannot see how great it already is.
Troubling enough the negative direction Donald Trump leads this country. Presumably the other basket of his supporters are afraid of him — afraid if he wins he will fire them if they don’t join his locker room fraternity. When he said he preferred war heroes who weren’t captured, someone should have said they preferred businessmen who didn’t cheat workers and investors and go bankrupt. Who ever heard of a business that actually used a tax cut to actually create a job instead of padding profits and dividends? No one should earnestly suggest hacking his tax returns, invading his privacy, not even for the sake of history.
His word is no good. He should not be elected.
History gets written by victors, they say. Today thanks to mega-metadata we’re always on the verge of history. The verge of victory. We talk of living on the right side of history as if we truly know what historians will say about us in the future. We anticipate — those of us who see ourselves inching the right direction — for all our flaws we will strive for that more perfect union. We shall overcome our deplorable history of slavery and subjugation of native peoples as evidence of mistakes never to make in the future. Even white women were not allowed to vote until 1920 — that’s less than 100 years ago in a country 240 years old.
In less than a week we should elect Hillary Clinton the first woman President of the United States. That would be cool.
History could be determined by the intercession of the FBI. Wouldn’t that be huge.