Adam Saltiel

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What is psychotherapy -

relationship version

simple idea of resolving things through discovery of feeling

22/08/2013 13:13

Lord Falconer has stepped and is quite clear in his interpretation of the law.

It is an interesting intervention since it is, necessarily, political and shows how the law and politics overlap.

Lord Falconer makes a point and it increases Labour's standing while attacking the government's credibility.

While this legal issue touches on politics, it also touches technology and human psychology.

The Mona Lisa analogy.

I am part of a gang and my confederates have stolen the Mona Lisa.

The role that has been assigned to me is to take it across the border, not from the original country from where it was stolen, but across the borders of some other countries to a final destination, where it will be most valuable.

All of this takes place some time in the past, let's say for the sake of argument, the 1950's, when people were not generally familiar with the Mona Lisa so would not have recognised it, let alone appreciated it, were they to see it.

Here we imagine that the painting, the Mona Lisa, represents the picture of data gathering. Let's just say the shapes, her eyes, her nose etc. represent where this activity takes place, the colours, the names of the data gathering programs and so forth.

We divide the painting into its surface and its structure. Those things I have mentioned are on the surface. The structure would be, for instance, the thickness of paint, its exact composition and many other things of detail. This is intended to be analogous to the many secrets that security agencies must hold. Further, it is claimed by some that the surface shows something more than just colours representing names of spy programs etc. but something about the nature of this huge communication medium used by billions of people.

Continuing my analogy, my gang knows that with knowledge of both what I have called surface and structure we can reproduce a fraudulent copy and that we could dupe buyers - or even interest buyers without duping them, because of its faithfulness to the original. Very valuable to us. We are a gang of thieves:we want to make money at all costs.

Now, let's call reproducing the painting in this way a terrorist act.

To recapitulate, we have something stolen, we have passed this over borders and we have a potential terrorist act.

Just as in the 50's most people would not have recognised either the original or a reproduction of the Mona Lisa (indulge me), nor appreciated it in its complexity as an object of great beauty so today people are not understanding the larger picture of people communicating with one another using the internet and, inserted into this picture, data gathering by either friend or foe.

Now, taking up my analogy again, we do not know if the information that has been stolen does really contain enough about the 'structure of the painting' to enable the commissioning of an act, or acts, of terror.

All there may be, despite that there are thousands of classified documents, is information about the 'surface of the painting'.

Information that, for these issues to be debated and so that the credibility of these facts cannot be denied, are of legitimate interest to you and I.

I should add that there is a twist to this in that this information gathering is predicated on the activity of the general public, it relies on there being a haystack within which needles can be found. This means there is a strong incentive to keep this whole charade going in order to create cover for finding the least resourced terrorists.

Of course, this is far short of a genuine threat to national security.

In the analogy, it would be like flooding the market with reproductions of the Mona Lisa and watching all purchases called 'Mona Lisa' so that when one goes for a great deal of money the safe bet would be it is one of my gangs indistinguishable copies of the original.

Now, with this flood of reproductions, people think they recognise the Mona Lisa, but, arguably, their ability to really appreciate it has been blunted. I will not pursue this angle here apart from making the obvious point about the importance of democracy.

So what if the situation is that there is both information about structure and surface sufficient to facilitate these acts of terror?

Here the issues are the law concerning the following:-

1. Journalism - journalists can make the judgement call as to what to reveal of their original material.

2. Retained (not for publication) material - there should be no risk that it falls into the wrong hands. This may explain why Miranda was transporting it? But I find this an odd aspect of the claim that these thousands of documents are 'journalistic materials'.

3. Whether anything this material contains pertaining to structure cannot be found out by other means or is common knowledge for people with an interest in such things.

This last point needs some expansion.

After all, it would be the least resourced putative terrorist who would be interested in the most gross and obvious pieces of information, which, on the other hand, would surely be sufficient for an open debate.

More sophisticated and complex facts would be pieced together by more sophisticated terror organisations for themselves, so what help would any publication be to them?

There is a whole area between naive communication between the disaffected and huge acts of terror where electronic stealth would be the way. This includes targeting infrastructure e.g. in DOS attacks and other nefarious activities. Would the Guardian be so careless as to publish such information? So far they haven't. But the state cannot rely on that and my questions above remain.