In the hardcore world of espionage, government agents are posing as elves and gnomes to help better protect our American freedoms. “Lok’tar ogar!” “For the Guild!” Are these the innocuous battle cries of game characters in World of Warcraft, or secret communications between “terrorists”? And guess what? This is real, folks. According to The New York Times, The Guardian, and ProPublica, our government is infiltrating online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life. Video game surveillance is just one more thing, next to the massive NSA spying reveal, that is being uncovered by Edward Snowden.
[Government spies] have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.
…But for all their enthusiasm — so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions — the intelligence agencies may have inflated the threat.
The documents, obtained by The Guardian and shared with The New York Times and ProPublica, do not cite any counterterrorism successes from the effort. (The New York Times)
No one has forgotten about the NSA spying scandal, the ongoing NSA scandal, and as amusing as it is to think that a “terrorist network” might be using orcs and elves to take over the world, there’s a more serious issue underneath all of this. Yes, it may be a game. Sure, there might be a “probable threat” but does that mean they have free range to spy on everyone? And to infiltrate every aspects of our lives?
“The NSA says because we can collect every one of your phone calls and imprints and everything else, we need to be able to do it in case someday we need it. Well, you can imagine if the local police department said, ‘We’re just going to break into your house, steal everything out of your files, everything out of your records, because someday we may need it,’ everybody would be in an uproar. But if they can do the same thing electronically, we ought to say wait a minute. Also, I get the response when I criticize them, they say, ‘we’re going to be very careful, we’re going to protect these records.’ Baloney. This is the same NSA that couldn’t protect their greatest secret from a 29-year-old subcontractor who stole them all.…”— Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (The Nation)
And this is coming from one of the guys who helped draft the Patriot Act, according to The Nation.
If you dig deep into that article from The New York Times, you’ll find my ‘favorite’ bit:
“The Pentagon’s Special Operations Command in 2006 and 2007 worked with several foreign companies — including an obscure digital media business based in Prague — to build games that could be downloaded to mobile phones, according to people involved in the effort. They said the games, which were not identified as creations of the Pentagon, were then used as vehicles for intelligence agencies to collect information about the users.”
The government is making their very own unmarked games. This sounds like Big Brother baiting us with shiny toys. Don’t be deceived by the “Made in Prague” logo. So what happened to warrants? What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”?
What is objectionable is a system in which government has unlimited and privileged access to the details of our private affairs, [Paul wrote in June on The Wall Street Journal,] and citizens are simply supposed to trust that there won’t be any abuse of power. This is an absurd expectation.
…We fought a revolution over issues like generalized warrants, where soldiers would go from house to house, searching anything they liked. Our lives are now so digitized that the government going from computer to computer or phone to phone is the modern equivalent of the same type of tyranny that our Founders rebelled against.
You may want to drop your cellphone into the ocean now, but will you? Cell phone data has been the front and center complaint in the NSA spying scandal, but your cell phone is not the only thing you use. Will the average American citizen disconnect, unplug, remove every electronic thing from their lives? I don’t think so. What happened to our Fourth Amendment?
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