June 19th, 2013
There’s no doubt that millions of Americans have long since suspected their government was spying on them regularly. Of course these people have also long been referred to as paranoid conspiracy theorists.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of Edward Snowden, now we know if that paranoia was unfounded. Hint: it was not. A number of people had asked us to do an episode on the topic of the NSA and so we did – albeit reluctantly.
Despite the smoking gun being hand-delivered to each and every American, Jad and Kevin discuss the likeliness of anything actually changing domestically.
Speaker 1: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
Speaker 2: No, sir.
Jad: Hello and welcome to the JK Podcast, an antiauthoritarian philosophical endeavor recorded in Austin, Texas. We draw our topics from the entire scope of the human experience with central connecting themes focused on the grand ideas of liberty, humanity, and equality.
Kevin: The JK Podcast is hosted by Jad Davis and Kevin Ludlow. Welcome back to another episode. There’s no doubt that millions of Americans have long since suspected their government was spying on them regularly. Of course, these people have long been referred to as paranoid conspiracy theorists, however, and thanks to the heroic efforts of Edward Snowden, now we know.
A number of people had asked Jad and I to do an episode on the topic, and so we did – albeit reluctantly. Despite the smoking gun being hand delivered to each and every American, we discussed the likeliness of anything actually changing domestically.
While we’ve got a little bit of time here –
Jad: Yeah, man.
Kevin: Just to go ahead and –
Jad: Just to do it?
Kevin: There’s people who are expecting an episode out of this. I actually had many of them write to me today and say, “Wow, I can’t wait to hear the NSA JK Podcast because I assume it’s coming.” But I don’t even know what to say about it, I mean it’s just, I mean I’m just kind of beside myself. It was actually one of the things that was talked about – you were basically talking about how you know, we know that the NSA is listening to all of our phone calls despite the fact that they say over and over and over that they don’t, but there’s enough information that suggests very clearly that they are, and of course that recording was before any of these stories had been fully blown, so I thought it was kind of interesting that not an hour ago I just happened to listen to you say this from a few months ago.
Kevin: I don’t even give a shit about the government, it’s the people. The story just makes me angry at people. I was just thinking about all the things that I’ve posted before – in a real non-threatening and real non-aggressive manner – the Facebook or wherever else, and I was just thinking of all those people who write back and they’re just like, “you libertarian type of people are fucking nuts. You think that people are just spying on you, you’re paranoid, you’re crazy”, and I’m like, “listen, I’m not paranoid because A, I know it’s happening, and B, I don’t really give a shit about it because I’m just doing the shit that I always do anyway. But the fact is that it is happening, right? And you know people don’t wanna hear it. Look, this is obviously as picture perfect fucking clear as could be at this point.
I think it’s impossible to deny at this point that the NSA and God knows how many other you know, governmental bodies are doing all sorts of horribly nefarious things with information, and my question – or my big question – is going to be you know, coming up in let’s just say a few months’ time but certainly the next election cycle, does anybody really give a shit about it at all, and my guess is no, but –
Jad: Good guess.
Kevin: Yeah. I wish it weren’t, I think there will be a lot of cries about it and then people make a big deal and then they just kind of – it’s incredible how – and again, this is speculative but pretty sure I can look back at this recording and turn out to be right – I just think it’ll be incredible how quickly the complacency will start to set in.
Jad: Sure. Well I mean it’s not even quickly, right? Like, who would you vote for –
Jad: I guess hypothetically, like a Rand Paul could run and give some – it would be like Obama with war, Rand Paul with privacy would be the same thing where he could possibly run and say, “look, we’re going to – this is going off the rails and we’ve gotta drop back in and then not do anything.
Jad: But I mean, if it’s anybody else then I don’t think it’s even mentioned. I think it’s kind of like the war in 2012 – was it just last year? Yeah. This wouldn’t even come up because both sides were planning on engaging in lots of war, so it was not on the table as a topic of discussion. So I mean, I don’t think – again, barring a Rand Paul – I don’t think it’s even talked about, I bet.
Kevin: Well I guess I’ll find a curious you know – I mean one of the things that I’ve of course brought up time and time again, and to the point where I guess it just pissed people off when I would refer to President Obama and I would – in 2012 and in 2008 as well because I was pretty goddammed sure that he was gonna do exactly what I thought he was gonna do and of course, he did exactly that and then worse.
I didn’t think he’d be quite as bad as Bush, it turned out he is probably far worse but none the less, I’m just curious to see what the conversation is like between just people that I engage in dialogue with – be it online or wherever else – and with respect to you know, with the wars, people came up with these various rationalization justifications for why we’re doing what it was that we were doing, right? And that’s something that you and I speak about with some frequency, you know? How people just come up with these, just those bullshit fabrications, or bullshit justifications for what it is that – to fit the narrative that they need to tell themselves, and with respect to the privacy one though, I’m just very curious to see how that one gets spun because I mean, is it just gonna be in a six month time period that all these people I know who otherwise would’ve – who certainly would’ve been – well I’m sure they were outraged when you know, the Bush administration was starting to you know, go through all sorts of wiretapping laws and things like that or just circumvent them.
I mean this is just as blatantly horrible as could be. Are these people just gonna start speaking very passively about this now and say, “well, it needs to happen for this, and this, and this” you know, “yeah, it’s not the best thing in the world, but at the same time like, we do need to be safe.” I don’t know if that type of systemic response is just gonna kick in with these people on a matter of privacy and if it does, I don’t know, I actually don’t know how I’m gonna feel about it. I’m a little worried about my mental state because it’s took me a long time to tolerate – not even tolerate, but to just like, accept that’s just how people were with the war. It didn’t matter that you opposed the war when Bush was launching it. Then the next year when we killed another hundred thousand people under Obama, you’re just like, “oh, it’s okay now. That’s not a big deal I mean, Obama had to do it. What are you gonna do”, right?
And of course I’m just sitting there spinning my head like, no, a lot of fucking people still died, that’s still wrong. Can’t we agree on that? And in this case you know, if all of a sudden people are just like, “oh you know, it’s not the worst thing”. I mean, they probably need to listen to what we’re doing a little bit. I don’t know that I’m gonna be able to take it.
Jad: Well, hang onto your hat then, sir because that’s exactly what’s gonna happen.
Kevin: Yeah I think I know that you’re right; I’m just trying to –
Jad: Well the thing is now I think I could see an argument happening which is it’s kind of the same argument, the argument that the other side will be worse or whatever, but now, think about the argument you can make, like if the President can kill you without a trial or indefinitely detain you –
Jad: – if again, by some secret process they decide that you are a threat to the nation and they can surveil anybody they want anytime they want, even in the past, then you really can’t have a republican in charge of that, or a democrat depending upon which side you’re on, right? So basically you’ve built up this just murderous awful apparatus, and now you have to decide who’s in charge of it –
Jad: – as if you’re actually deciding something, but that’s the – again, that could be the great narrative that people be like, “we’ve got to have somebody on our side in charge, otherwise” –
Kevin: I see what you’re saying. I see what you’re saying.
Jad: I don’t know, like I said it’s – go ahead.
Kevin: No, you’re right that you’re instilling your own dictator, essentially.
Jad: Exactly. You’ve got to have – you’ve built such a monstrous state, or these people have built such an awful apparatus that you have to keep your people in charge of it [?] just for safety’s sake, for the preservation of human kind even though it switches back and forth every four years and no one seems to notice, but yeah I don’t know, it is pretty amazing. But that’s kind of what I was – I kind of – maybe it’s just a rationalization on my part – but that’s kind of what I think of when I see the thing where it says like you know, some majority of Americans say it’s totally cool that the surveillance state is being built.
Jad: And I have to think that there’s got to be a way to – again, I don’t think anyone gives a shit. I just think they just – if there was no surveillance state, they would say, “we have to maintain our freedom and not have the surveillance state”, right? If there is a surveillance state, they’re gonna say, “We need to maintain our security and have a surveillance state.” They just want whatever is to be the thing that should be, right?
So you don’t – I guess what I was saying earlier in our conversation is that maybe it’s the case that if there was some way to circumvent the surveillance state or dismantle it, or I mean let it fall of its own accord then people would be like, “oh, this very nice not having a surveillance state, it is the way it should be”, and you don’t have to actually interrupt their football game to convince them that it’s a good idea to actively oppose it, do you know what I mean?
Jad: Again, it’s just a thought, I really don’t – maybe I’m just trying to keep myself sane.
Kevin: Well, you gotta send some of the shit my way because I’m telling you, I really think this one’s gonna take me over the top.
Jad: Did you see – I posted a something the other day, it wasn’t specifically about the NSA, but it was just about the – because I guess the NSA’s building a giant data center, right?
Kevin: [?] like an [?] thing?
Jad: I don’t know if it’s part of prison or if it’s a different thing altogether, but in Utah they’re building a 4 billion dollar complex with just like ridiculous amounts of memory because they are storing everything.
Jad: Yeah. And the Homeland Security people are building a new headquarters for 5 billion dollars, and so I was just saying all of this – and Bruce Schneier, I don’t know how you say his last name, but he’s a security guru guy – a computer security guy – and he was basically just doing an analysis where he’s like, “there’s a one in a million chance that you’re gonna get killed in a terrorist attack, and anything that’s above a one in” – I can’t remember the exact numbers, but if it’s above 1 and 800,000 chance, it’s something that you shouldn’t even worry about.
Jad: Something that you can’t do anything about anyway, so just let it go. So all of this extraordinary amount of wealth is being spent to do nothing, I mean it’s not doing anything, right?
Kevin: Right. Well, it’s doing something, but definitely –
Jad: Sure, maybe doing negative things.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s definitely not helping –
Jad: It’s certainly not helping you out. Right.
Kevin: Right. Right.
Jad: It’s trillions of dollars when you include military invasions and global empire in the name of keeping you safe, which is obviously doing other things, but certainly not keeping you safe. All of that wealth has just vanished for nothing and at the end of the thing I kind of go rant on it a little bit where I’m just like, “this is an awful thing and” – I don’t know.
Kevin: Oh, was this the thing that you wrote and you sent me?
Kevin: Oh yeah, you know I got the link on my phone and then I haven’t looked at it yet, I apologize, I will.
Jad: Oh don’t worry about it, yeah.
Kevin: I definitely will look at that, I meant to.
Jad: It’s not super exciting, but I express my frustration in the last paragraph.
Kevin: Well no, I’d love to read it. I haven’t been able to put pen to paper with it. I mean I’m like genuinely having a difficult time just looking at this, and not from the government side, I know – like I say all the time – I know the government’s trying to do bad shit.
Kevin: It’s just – it’s the fucking people that you know, I don’t know what to say about it. There are ways to solve privacy issues like this pretty easily, you know? They’re not gonna happen because people are gonna keep using the same things that the always use and it’s just kind of one of those things. Like, if you wanted to stop I don’t know, child labor from existing, rather than passing all these laws about it you know, just stop fucking shopping at Wal-Mart for example and that will fix it real quick. And then when Wal-Mart says, “why are our sales down 100%?” And you say, “well, we don’t think that you should be able to use children”, and then they’ll say very quickly like, “okay, we assure you at this point we are not using any children for any of our manufacturing”, and miraculously, their shopping will start to continue again. I mean, that’s kind of the inherent magic behind capitalism except it doesn’t work because people don’t give a flying fuck.
Jad: Well kind of. I mean that’s kind of true, but it’s a pretty high hurdle.
Kevin: Oh it is. It is.
Jad: To be like I mean, is there even – can you have – is there a cell phone company that’s not Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T? I mean –
Kevin: There is an interesting story about one – I have to look it up – but I read a big article about this and it broke on Wired Magazine about 2 years ago maybe, but maybe like 5 or 6 years ago, there was a guy who started a private cell phone company up in I think New York or possible even New Jersey – since we were speaking about it – who every single thing that went back and forth through it was encrypted, and anyway as the story goes, the guy immediately got into – it was the NSA or one of the big agencies, I assume the NSA – that basically like filed an injunction against the guy and said, “you can’t have this.” Well then the question became, “well why can’t I have this”, because if you’re not allowed to tap the phones without information in the first place then why does it matter that you can’t actually tap this phone?
Kevin: In the event that you actually needed to get to it, we could turn the subscriber’s phone off, or we could do any number of things. Well I forget exactly what happened, but it was this multi-year court case and they had all sorts of crazy gag orders on the guy until it finished, and then it eventually did conclude and I mean, of course he just tried to bankrupt him entirely, but somehow the guy prevailed and I guess the circuit judge ruled that they weren’t in violation, that you couldn’t do that, that the guy had done nothing wrong because you didn’t have permission to tap into that in the first place, so there’s nothing wrong with it.
So anyway the point is that there actually is this guy from what I understand who has successfully created a small private cell phone network that is exclusively run on an encrypted or some sort of encrypted protocol.
Jad: Right. So again, it’s just a high hurdle.
Kevin: Yeah, sorry, long story –
Jad: No, no, no –
Kevin: – to say the exact same thing, but –
Jad: – it’s a fascinating story. I’m surprised it came out and [?] not in jail, it’s pretty remarkable actually. But yea, no that’s a – it’s one of those chicken in the egg things because clearly if it was the case that nobody would send you to court for a years and years if you try to start a cell phone network, then there would be lots of encryptable options and then you would have lots of people choosing the easily available encryptable option, and same thing with everything else. But if there are no other options or if they are 10 times more expensive, or more time consuming, or more difficult to research, then again, I just fall on the position – my default position – is not to blame people for following incentive curves, you know? That’s why they’re built the way they are.
Jad: And it’s really too bad, but I don’t – it’s kind of too much to ask that everyone pay attention to everything they buy so they don’t accidentally encourage slave labor across the globe and pay attention to service they consume, to make sure that it doesn’t have a tie into the government – everything has a tie into the government – so it’s very – I mean it’s – anyway. Your point is extremely well taken and I think what I go for is you know, even if you can’t take the time out of your schedule – which is totally fine – to subvert undermine these systems with your day to day actions – I can’t, I don’t – then at least don’t call them good or necessary, at least understand what they are.
Like I have a shitty service that is monitored forever, keeping me entirely powerless because that’s all there is for me to purchase, you know? Not I am so happy that the government is tracking my calls so that we can be safe from terrorists – that doesn’t require much, that just requires not being stupid.
Kevin: That is true.
Jad: But yeah and like I said in my post at the end, I’m like, “I understand people are in difficult psychological situations as well where their thinking has been confounded by 12 years of public education and a society that is all an amassed illusion of religious proportions and so I get that, but sometimes like you said, it’s just hard not to be like, “how are you this fucking stupid?” So sometimes I have to say it, even just between us.
Kevin: Well say away because I’m on page with you right now, for sure. I mean I always am but in this case it’s just – I guess to be fair, like I haven’t seen a lot of people – I mean even people that I would’ve expected to be a little bit more I don’t know, obtuse about the whole thing. I mean some of them have even come out on Facebook and you know, just started posting like, “well, not really surprised that this is the case”.
I mean there definitely seems to be quite a bit of outrage about the situation both from people on the left and the right that I’m friends with anyway – not that that really matters because unfortunately, those people are of a small, considerably more educated class of people I’m sure, and while their outrage will be expressed, it’s not really gonna amount to anything and unfortunately they’re in too small of a minority of people to really assemble and have any impact at anything, so that doesn’t really matter anyway. There is a lawsuit that was filed I think – I forget who it was, Rand Paul was involved in part of it – but anyway there was somebody, they filed a lawsuit against Eric Holder, and NSA, and President Obama, and all sorts of stuff and it’d kind of be interesting to see if that goes somewhere.
I assume at this point that this whole thing’s gonna have to go the direction of the Supreme Court at this point in time. To your points, this is all gonna remain within you know, within the collective system, right? Like even if it goes to the Supreme Court, does it really change anything? I mean I guess it kind of defines what the law may or may not be but the fact that this is the sort of thing that could go to the Supreme Court is just – there’s a level of absurdity with it that’s I don’t know, it’s just – you know, actually who gave a really good interview – I thought today, I mean I know I like him obviously but I saw Ron Paul – did you see this interview?
Kevin: It’s pretty good actually. He was interviewed by Piers Morgan.
Jad: Oh, God.
Kevin: Yeah, and I – fucking Piers Morgan, I just – Jesus Christ. But anyway, Piers Morgan was asking him about it and Ron Paul – towards the end of it – he goes off on some of his regular tangents that he does, you know, how the government does this in basically every regard. But he speaks pretty poignantly about the whole NSA thing and he actually makes a pretty good slight against Obama and he says specifically with respect to Edward Snowden, he’s like, “well frankly I think that President Obama needs to send Edward Snowden a thank you note”, and Piers is like, “well, what are you talking about?” He’s like, “well I mean, President Obama was the one who campaigned endlessly and tirelessly on this notion of transparency and I mean Edward Snowden just handed it right to him.”
So he’s like, “finally, we’ve got a little bit of transparency in the government. I’m glad somebody was able to do it”, and he was saying how he liked him so much. But anyway, he started speaking specifically about the NSA and just the egregiousness of this and Ron Paul, he’s like, “never mind the Constitution at this point”, he’s like, “this undermines – they’re trying to roll back the Magna Carter for God’s sakes.” You know, he’s like, “I mean, you’re taking this to a whole different level of anti-diplomacy, and I mean, just completely undermining the entire Western notion of any type of democratic process or due process whatsoever”, and I mean obviously I agree with these statements, but you know, unfortunately there’s him and well I think as you said on one of our episodes a long time ago, you’re like, “and so long as Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich were the only two talking about it, it doesn’t really matter, does it”, you know?
Jad: Yeah. It’s really in the abstract to me because I haven’t really heard any public opinion that makes me think people are that happy about it. It’s all – like I said – it’s all been abstracted, so nobody I know – like you said, Facebook wise and all that – is saying that it’s a good idea, which that does make me happy.
Jad: But just the idea that the majority of Americans are happy with it is disturbing. But I was actually thinking that it could be, I mean at some point we’re gonna slip into [?] time where the polls are just bullshit numbers too, right? And I mean I’m not saying that’s the case now, I mean I’m totally willing to accept that a majority of Americans are happy that everything is being surveilled, but historically speaking, if at some point in the downslide and the tyranny, there’s always some point at which the President wins by 99% of the vote, you know?
It’s like where the public opinion is so far skewed from the reality that they just have to start making things up. And like I said, I’m not saying we’re there yet or anything, but I guess it makes you feel a little bit better, that’s a possibility at least because again, I haven’t – other than the fact that every politician except for Ron Paul is calling – what’s that guy’s name, what’s his first name?
Kevin: Edward Snowden.
Jad: Edward is calling that guy like – you know, charging him with treason.
Jad: And I don’t know if you saw, but some insane psychopath who’s a senator in New York or something is calling for Glenn Greenwald to be arrested.
Jad: Yeah because he interviewed a traitor, right? So he wants –
Jad: Yeah. Yeah.
Kevin: That’s crazy.
Jad: [?] find that, something King, maybe? New York?
Kevin: Let’s see, [reading] Glenn Greenwald to Pete King, is it Pete King?
Jad: Yeah, I’m not sure. I think it might – his last name might be King.
Kevin: Yeah it is, [reading] GOP’s Peter King wants Glenn Greenwald arrested.
Jad: Yeah. Read the thing, he’s really just genuinely saying that they should prosecute him.
Kevin: [reading] [?] Greenwald, the Guardian journalist should be subject to criminal prosecution. Jesus fucking Christ.
Jad: It could just be smoking mirrors, but that’s what just makes my head spin, like you said. Just makes me want to like, what the fuck is going on? Is everyone crazy? You’re gonna arrest a journalist for interviewing a guy that did a tremendous public service to all of humanity? And in the meantime you know, what’s his name, I can’t believe I can’t remember his name – I started drinking again during episodes.
Kevin: Well this explains a lot of –
Jad: Bradley Manning –
Kevin: Oh, Bradley Manning, yeah.
Jad: – is like, on trial now. And you know, there’s a reasonable public response to that, but it’s just not covered in the news at all, like it’s zero coverage.
And that’s where we leave this episode. Thanks to Lee Caffey[Sp?] and Chris Baton[Sp?] for providing us with quality sound engineering and editing – we wouldn’t get far without them. Hosting services are provided by CityCore LLC. Our graphical caricature was provided by our friend, Sayeed Mod Badril Sham [Sp?] in Malaysia, and transcription services are provided by Deidra Alexander of Galaxy Creative Media.
If you have any questions, comments, ideas for a show, or just want to say hello, we love receiving e-mail. You can find Jad at www.Jad-Davis.com, and you can find Kevin at www.KevinLudlow.com Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll be back with another episode soon.