The Blog That Proves Islamic State Jihadists Were Listening To Edward Snowden: Locked In A Digital Arms Race With The Western Intelligence Services Stay Anonymous Online – Thanks To Edward Snowden
Jamie Bartlett, writing in the March 31, 2015 London’s The Telegraph, writes that Western intelligence services are having a much more difficult time tracking al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other darker angles of our nature because these groups/individuals are taking advantage of what Edward Snowden told them. Alex Younger, Head of Britain’s MI6 [London’s Foreign Intelligence Directorate], said yesterday “Britain’s intelligence services are involved in a “technology arms race,” as they attempt to tackle threats posed by the “dark side of globalization,” facilitated by the Worldwide Web. And, that digital arms race got more sophisticated and complex, in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks, as al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and others have substantially increased their use of encryption on the digital highway. Rob Wainwright, the Head of Interpol, told London’s Radio 5, this past weekend, said sophisticated encryption software was “perhaps the biggest problem for the police and security service authorities in dealing with the treat of terrorism.”
“Since the Edward Snowden leaks, there has been a significant increase in the availability, and use of various types of privacy enhancing encryption systems, and techniques. Anonymous browsers like Tor, which are used to browse the net without giving away your location [and are used to access the ‘Hidden Services,’ an encryprted, and complicated maze of network sites using a non-standard protocol — which makes it close to impossible for users to be tracked) are becoming even ,more popular — there are now an estimated 2.5M daily users,” Mr. Bartlett wrote.
Compounding this issue, is that fact that “many of the large technology companies, have also become more hesitant to work with intelligence agencies; and, are making their hardware harder to snoop on/breach. Mr. Younger said that he “anticipates soon, there will be a new generation of easy-to-use, auto-encryption Internet services, services such as MailPile, and, DarkMail, where everything is automatically encrypted. There are dozens — hundreds perhaps — of new bits of software and hardware like this — that cover your tracks — being developed as you read this — and, mainly by activists motivated not by profit, or terrorism; but, by privacy.”
And while you would expect the paranoid, the off-the-grid types, civil libertarians, etc. to partake heavily in this growing genre, the bad guys have migrated there as well. To demonstrate just how up to speed the Islamic State and other terrorist groups are with respect to encryption and hiding one’s digital footprints, Mr. Bartlett cites as evidence, a blog that he recently visited — that allows the individual to upload text and image documents anonymously. Not surprisingly, members of the the Islamic State were signing its praises and advertising to their followers to adopt encryption and anonymity in cyber space. In a note on the blog, the Islamic State “lists all the ways to get around surveillance; and, list all the tools that help reduce or hide one’s digital presence.
Mr. Bartlett recognizes the futility of somehow insisting that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have some kind of special privilege or access to monitor these dark web sites as they deem appropriate. That kind of recommendation or activity just isn’t going to past muster, post-Snowden. Mr. Bartlett therefore, recommends that intelligence agencies “get back to old fashioned intelligence collection, by focusing on specific targets; and, ditching the bulk data collection/dragnet type intelligence collection programs — that the public is uncomfortable with. In their place, Mr. Bartlett contends, the intelligence agencies need more powers and resources — such as hacking or using malware on devices — that are focused on individual targets, rather than everyone.”
“Second,” he writes, “we need to transform how we oversee spy work.” Who watches the watchers, is a big pole in the tent as we used to say. “Typically,” Mr. Bartlett writes, “the oversight and scrutiny systems are typically staffed, by people drawn from the same establishment they are supposed to be overseeing. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Secretary of State for Defense, is London’s Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). Mr. Bartlett says, “I am not degenerating their work; but, they are hardly a reflection of society. We need to bring in more ordinary people into the scrutiny apparatus,” he argues, “to make it more like the jury system (naturally with all the vetting that this would require).”
“Finally,” Mr. Bartlett argues, “we need to worry less about censoring online content — such as the pointless and unwinnable whack-a-mole against the Islamic State — or chasing uncomfortable propaganda around the net; and instead, focus our limited resources on actual murders and actual attacks. That also means,” he adds, “striking up new alliances with groups like Anonymous — who showed last month they can be a vital ally in beating the Islamic State online.”
I think Mr. Bartlett is making some sound points here and the Intelligence Community would be wise to take his thoughts under advisement; and, include them in a larger intelligence collection and monitoring framework — that is more suited for the post-Snowden era, rather than the former.
Least, but not last, it is clear that Mr. Snowden’s reckless leaks of sensitive intelligence sources and methods of collection, monitoring, and surveillance — has aided the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other darker angles of our nature avoid monitoring and discovery by the West — something that will not doubt cost lives, if it hasn’t already — and, an inconvenient fact consistently ignored by Snowden’s defenders and enablers. , RCP