A remarkably consistent pattern has emerged across mainstream media outlets regarding the WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 release. For the most part, the apparent consensus is “Nothing to see here.”
It’s not merely a lack of outrage that we’re witnessing from the Washington Post, NPR, and other major outlets. It’s an active rejection of the assertion that the Vault 7 documents contain significant or particularly damning revelations.
Ignoring, among other things, that part one of Vault 7 allegedly contains less than 1% of the total material that will be released, CNN more or less says that Vault 7 contains nothing of particular interest.
Then there’s the NPR news radio report that Vault 7 was a “hack” of no particular concern to American citizens, since the CIA is not allowed to spy domestically. This immediately misses the detail that wasn’t a “hack,” it was a leak — probably from private contractors who had begun circulating the documents illegally.
But more importantly, the journalists at NPR really so naive and ignorant as to believe that the CIA remains faithful to the law, or the “no domestic spying” part of its mission statement?
Their online coverage quotes a computer scientist who minimizes Vault 7 as evidence that the CIA is “a hacking organization that’s doing a reasonably good job”. Perhaps the reporter, or the computer scientist quoted, missed the part where the CIA lost control of its own hacking tools? Or the part where the CIA intentionally kept hardware and operating systems vulnerable to make it easier to spy, putting everything from the U.S. electrical infrastructure and banking system to the nuclear power grid at risk?
It’s only reasonable to consider the possibility that the editorial board at NPR itself has been compromised by CIA meddling. If editors at NPR being on the CIA payroll seems preposterous to you, remember that Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein revealed in his report The CIA and the Media that hundreds of journalists, columnists, and pundits carried out assignments for the CIA, and that editors, publishers, and executives were bought out by the agency as a matter of course.
One such publisher was Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, former publisher of the New York Times. According to Bernstein, CIA sources reported that Sulzberger “was very eager, he loved to cooperate.”
New York Times executives also handled many logistical arrangements required to provide cover for known CIA agents. Today, The Times is published by Sulzberger’s grandson, and I wouldn’t be surprised if maintaining a robust CIA presence at the paper is now a family tradition. For their part, however, the New York Times’ reporting on Vault 7 has felt like an honest attempt at reporting the facts as we know them and many of their ramifications.
The same cannot be said for the Washington Post. Even if the CIA didn’t have a presence there (and it’d be silly to assume they don’t), its owner — Amazon.com chieftain Jeff Bezos — has over a half-billion dollars in CIA contracts. If his cash cow down in Langley wasn’t indication enough that he’d play nice with intelligence agencies, his company produces the Alexa and Echo, two devices that provide easy openings for the CIA to harvest a continual stream of data from their users.
So, as might be expected, the Washington Post’s coverage encourages readers to suspect Russian involvement with the leaks (despite the fact that thousands of external contractors had access to them and allegedly spread them around). Their coverage leverages just enough actual facts to appear thoughtful to the casual observer, while conveniently ignoring essential points. For example, they expresse relief that now “the (cyber-security) holes identified in the data dump” can be fixed, without acknowledging that the CIA intentionally kept those holes open for their own easy hacking access.
Even in coverage from news outlets outraged by the Vault 7 leaks, the most important point is still usually lost. Sure, it’s terrifying that the CIA maintains its own sort of rogue NSA that listens to us in our living rooms. And it might appear that in an intelligence-gathering context, devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Echo mostly gather almost exclusively mundane conversations and material. Nothing alarming, nothing remarkable, nothing worth sifting through.
This is essentially true on its face, and is often cited by CIA apologists as evidence that we have nothing to worry about. But it misses an absolutely critical point.
The endgame of dragnet digital surveillance is not to catch you spreading anti-government sentiment with your family in your living room, or to find excuses to arrest you based on your Gmail conversations. That’s just a modern repeat of the old-fashioned Stalinist/Stasi model of mass surveillance, which is childishly primitive in comparison to the technologically-advanced Deep State model.
The Deep State model is to leverage AI to eventually achieve the predictive power of a digital God. To know what you’re going to do tomorrow morning at 8:38 a.m., even before you know it yourself. Not only to predict your thoughts, but to manipulate them through automated news feeds, location information, social posts, consumption patterns, and other algorithmically-analyzed inputs.
Having nothing to hide isn’t the point, and in the context of intelligence agencies gone rogue, never was. The point is, to the CIA, we are nothing more than a roving horde of human cattle from which to harvest the Big Data infrastructure to forge a Deep State Surveillance God. This would automate the process of getting closer to absolute predictive power and control.
(Remember, though, NPR says not to worry, because it’s against the law for the CIA to spy domestically. Move right along, put Echo in your living room, and keep Checking In on Facebook.)
The formation of a Deep State-controlled digital surveillance God would be the ultimate, most apocalyptic form of dictatorship. And with ubiquitous digital devices, data-gathering services, and the Internet of Things collecting seemingly mundane information 24/7, we’re opting in to deliver the raw material needed to create it.