US Gov Geeks Build Technology for Freedom
By Staff News & Analysis - June 16, 2011

US funds secret 'internet in a suitcase' for dissidents … The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy "shadow" internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks. The effort includes secretive projects to create independent mobile phone networks inside other countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype "internet in a suitcase." – New York Times

Dominant Social Theme: The US, defender of democracy and freedom, to the rescue.

Free-Market Analysis: What on earth is Ms. Hillary Clinton doing? The CIA and state-department initiated AYM youth rebellions have already achieved success in such countries as Egypt and Tunisia. Libya and Syria are on their way. But this is not enough for the US State department. (See above excerpt.)

This astonishing article explains to us that the US Gov supports dissidents in various countries around the world with increasingly elaborate technology. The idea apparently is to ensure that leaders of every country on earth, corrupt or not, are aware that the US can undermine them at will. We would admire the chutzpah of this program except for one thing. How can those organizing this elaborate effort believe that no other countries will ever try to do the same thing to the US?

Is the US truly such a beacon on the hill? Do the people working on these programs really believe the US will remain immune. These are seemingly acts of war in our view that the US is encouraging on a broad scale. If a country sent trained dissidents into the US with advanced technology to engage and then overthrow the government wouldn't it be considered an act of war?

These programs plunge merrily ahead. The article, written by two NY Times reporters, informs us that the new technology being developed has been financed with a $US2 million State Department grant. The suitcase we learn could be "secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet."

This is not the only dissident technology the US is working on. The article calls such new hardware and software "liberation technology" and the reporters claim it is a movement "sweeping the globe." But in a sense this seems questionable; the article immediately returns to The State Department wireless technology that will allow communication in Iran, Syria and Libya; it then mentions the Pentagon. These two bodies, illustrious as they may be, do not likely constitute the vanguard of radical libertarianism.

In fact, the writers inform us in the next breath that the State Department and Pentagon have gotten together to spend US$400 million on a mobile phone network in Afghanistan using towers secreted on military bases. This is intended to thwart the Taliban that have grown adept at turning off open-air phone systems, presumably with strategically placed explosives.

The whole effort seems shrouded in the noblest forms of patriotism: the rationale is defending free speech and nurturing democracy – both of which could actually use a bit of strengthening in the US. But that is not where these efforts are headed. They are being constructed by "diplomats and military engineers, young programmers and dissidents from at least a dozen countries, many of whom variously describe the new approach as more audacious and clever and, yes, cooler."

We never considered the State Department cool, but the New York Times does. It's especially cool to bury mobile phones in China near the North Korean border for use by Korean dissidents. Ms. Clinton is said to be a prime mover of this program.

The "invisible web" (software mentioned above) is being built in anonymous offices on L Street in Washington, we learn. The four young programmers are creating a "mesh network" technology that operates without a centralized hub, making an end run around official networks. The article makes it clear that such networks-in-a-box (suitcase) will be aimed at aiding operations undermining Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, etc.

The idea of shadow mobile phones arose from a chat between top US officials. We learn that in February 2009, Richard Holbrooke and Lieutenant General John Allen were riding in a helicopter through Southern Afghanistan's rolling hills discussing the mobile phone towers below them. As they talked, they both realized how vulnerable the system was to attack. The result of this epiphany was a "shadow" mobile phone system built within the confines of US military bases. The towers are almost finished and will function as a 911-style system that would allow anyone with a mobile phone to contact the US military about suspicious movements of guerilla forces.

Then there are the buried phones. In May 2009, a North Korean defector told American officials how he and others communicated around the border areas of North Korea. After much probing it emerged that the communication involved buried mobile phones. The phones used faint signals from towers in China to work; apparently the US is now supporting the effort.

The article adds that US "activist geeks" and military engineers are cooperating on such projects to bring freedom and democracy to oppressed countries. They quote Ibrahim Sahad, the son of two Libyan dissidents who uses an Internet satellite connection in Benghazi to pop on line. He's working with the rebels (seemingly supported by Iran) to overthrow the current regime. "I don't think this revolution could have taken place without the existence of the World Wide Web."

It is fairly obvious this story is meant to be inspiring and uplifting. But it is hard to forget even if you are a US citizen that the US itself in the 20th an 21st century has been behind numerous wars and coups. What comes across most powerfully is that the US leaders are now providing this destabilizing technology to youth dissidents around the world. As we pointed out, this is perilously close to an act or war.

US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have literally poisoned millions with depleted uranium, which causes cancer and birth defects. Several millions of Afghans and Iraquis have died because of these wars, neither of which is concluded. The cost to America directly is probably around US$3 trillion and this does not include the human cost of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands wounded.

After Thoughts

American officials apparently continue to have an appetite for political and military confrontation. Why do these leaders not realize that the strategies and weapons they are creating with such zeal can be turned on the US itself? Their attitude is one of either a measure of misplaced confidence or breathtaking arrogance – or both.

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