Friday, April 29, 2016

I was a Spy for the FBI

Last night I acted as a foreign intelligence officer who received a signal from my handler for a dead drop, and I successfully retrieved the package.

This  FBI Citizen's Academy session on Counterintelligence was one of the best yet, cause who doesn't love a good spy story? 

One of my favorite places in Washington DC is the International Spy Museum.  The first time I toured this museum I was struck by the high number of documented female spies, and how good they were.  Apparently, women are very successful at espionage.  Who woulda thought?*

The more I think about it, the easier it is to understand why women make such good spies.  We are adept at:
  • Hiding our emotions
  • Faking our emotions
  • Telling people what they want to hear
  • Persuading others to tell us their secrets
  • Multi-tasking in general, and
  • Flying under the radar in a career considered to be male dominated

But enough of that and back to my FBI spy experience.  The session began with a Counterintelligence briefing that significantly increased my fledgling understanding of "Encryption" and explained why the FBI hates "Going Dark."  Shortly before I started this Academy I read a long Time magazine article** about the Apple vs FBI iPhone debacle. The briefing brought back all my lingering concerns and questions about which of these concepts is more important to Americans?   
  • Protection or Privacy?  
  • Security of our possessions and information, or Security of our physical bodies and beings?  
Basically, the 4th amendment protects our right to unreasonable search and seizure, and an entity like the FBI has to prove that they have a really good reason for access.  They need probable cause, search warrants, court orders.***  The problems arise when encryption prevents access even if there is probable cause and a warrant or an order. 

Everyone has heard about the San Bernadino iPhone and why the FBI wanted to get into it (terrorism, 14 killed, 22 wounded...).  Given the fact that Americans did not overwhelmingly insist that Apple get the FBI into that phone, I doubt that anyone will be swayed by other examples of how this kind of data protection (encryption) prevents the FBI from catching the bad guys, but I am going to provide them anyway:

There are cases that illustrate how encryption protects all of these individuals:
  • Child predators- they are more free to acquire and spread child porn
  • Terrorists - the are more free to communicate and store information
  • Murder and Kidnap victims - law enforcement are unable to access their computers and mobile devices
  • Thieves - they are more free to steal tech/trade secrets/intellectual property/ state secrets
I cant speak for anyone else, but if I had to choose, I would say that security of my personal being trumps the security of my personal devices any day.  Case closed. 


**My tweet stream during my reading on a plane of the Time FBI/Applie/iPhone article by Lev Grossman:

***As seen on TV. 

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