"Putting on the Game Face"
|In the latest incident of weirdness, taking place in Austin Texas a young man, who looked otherwise normal, was compelled to build some bombs and randomly place them in the community. Two people were killed before an intensive search tracked him down and led to his demise.
As I watched the story unfold I was struck by how advanced our means have become in finding perpetrators. While the principles have remained the same, the technology has exploded. Young people have become so dependent on cell phones that everywhere you look one is stuffed into somebody's pocket. For a criminal, carrying such a device is a very bad idea. A cell phone is a transmitter and electronic signals can be tracked and recorded.
In WW2, over seventy-five years ago, locating devices were commonly used for this purpose. How often have you seen in war movies bands of brave partisans being tracked by evil Nazis driving trucks with antennas poking out of the roof. Signals from transmitters were detected by listening devices and used to zero in on their locations. While what was being said was often coded, just the transmission and where it emanated from was enough to track down the embattled resistance fighters. Then came a huge breakthrough.... ENIGMA. Here the Allies were able to not only locate the source of the signal but decode the context of the message.
Anybody familiar with the Vietnam knew that signals intelligence was used by both sides to locate units and listen on telephone lines and radio networks. The locations, name and size of opposing forces played a key role in determining the order of battle. Following Vietnam the technology was used in the drug wars against the Columbian Cartels. By this time the size of transmitters had shrunk from iron boxes that were transported on back packs, to cell phones. Helicopters used scanners to search for signals from the drug lords and determine their locations.
By the time President Obama came along everybody had a cell phone and this became fertile ground to finding individuals involved in various sorts of nefarious activities. We all remember OJ, driving down the interstate while a helicopter flew over head tracking his cell phone signal. That was old tech... and today the state of the art has expanded exponentially.
The National Security Agency (NSA), along with the other Intelligence agencies, have boxes that no longer require real time transmissions to zero in on a source. They can actually go backward in time and locate a source and even listen in on a conversation that took place several years ago. If you think about it what happened in Austin and how electronic surveillance was used to break the case... boggles the mind.
At the end of the Cold War the internet came along. When the early computer networks were established inside, and linking various organizations together I had occasion to caution members of my unit on the dangers of email. I called everybody together and warned them that every email they sent, went through an administrator and that individual (The IT guy) had a record of everything you were saying. That you'd be well served to send nothing over the net that you'd feel uncomfortable reading on the church bulletin board. That was over thirty years ago in the infancy of the information age.
In more recent times we are hearing bits and pieces about the... "gathering of META data." If you have ever gotten a bill from a credit card company you're familiar with what Meta data looks like. These are records that contain the essential elements of information necessary to complete a transaction. For example a record might show a a date/time, an amount, a product description, cost, interest and running total. These records are compiled into an accumulated list that shows a monthly billing statement. Every month this statement is filed on a company server, or perhaps in a "Cloud" which is a huge server, located somewhere in the nethertworld.
With cell phones this META data, we are told, does not reveal the content of the call but rather only records of the date/time, duration of transmission, caller GPS location, and callee, GPS locations. While storing this data is not supposed to intrude on the substance of the call it certainly tells volumes about who the callers were and where they were speaking from.
Now take this several steps further. We know that text messages of emails sent over the internet were stored somewhere and used at FBI Headquarters to tie Peter Strzok and Lisa Page together. We also know that a new type of Black Box has been developed that provides the Intelligence Agencies not with only META data but actual conversations. I submit that if you can recover text messages it is a small step to being able to recover voice or telephonic messages....virtually any conversation that has take place over say.... the past 10 years. The evidence of this is complaints by our European friends that we have access to what they are routinely saying over the telephone.
Zoom forward now to Austin Texas. The bomber left packages at specific GPS locations, and was then captured on video camera at the LOCAL Fedex office. Once a law enforcement agency can determine a location and a time, it is possible to search all the cell phones that were in the vicinity. If the same cell phone turns up at more than one location then BINGO!... the perpetrator can be identified, his cell phone turned on and used to track his whereabouts. Once that is known the contents of his phone calls can be listened in on not using a "Wire Tap" but rather by searching what is stored in the huge server in the sky. In addition his computer can be accessed and anything written in the recent past, put under a microscope.
As widely reported, once the Texas Bomber was pinpointed at the FEDEX building, all the cell phones in his vicinity could be identified and depending on the power of the signal and his exact location at the box drop, his identity determined. As we digest all this it becomes clearer what the true nature of the state of the art, Voodo Black Box, operated by NSA really is and how it is being used at home and abroad.