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The Militari Industrial Internet Freedom Complex

Conférence by Andy Müller-Maguhn at Toulouse, May 2016

D 27 August 2016     A Benjamin Sonntag    


All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Andy is one of the historical members of the German hacker club , the CCC, teachinng computer and security, trying to enhance the policies on data protection and digital activism since 1984. He is also figthing for a better protection of personal data in the law through the Datenreisebüro since 1995. In May 2016, he did this conference at THSF, the annual hacker meeting in Toulouse, France.

With my friend Marine, we were impressed by the ideas launched by Andy, and decided to make a proper editing of the video, including French and English subtitles.

We wish you a nice conference!

During this conference, Andy talk about the miscellaneous ngo fighting for digital freedom, and pointing who is financing them, mostly american foundations, often hiding the CIA behind it...

Everyone get hurt here... but the discussion is very insightful when it come to the influence of the USA in the various countries where those NGO are fighting. andy doesn’t want to destroy them in any way by showing their links with US fundings, but ask us to think about what influences us with smart and insightful arguments.

Even if no definitive answer is given in the end, Andy still proposes interesting ideas and solutions... to be developped...

Andy Müller Maguhn, THSF 2016, in English

The Militari Industrial Internet Freedom Complex

you can see this video on La Quadrature du Net’s Mediakit:

Unfortunately the things I’m going to talk about are from a rather serious context, so
I thought it would be good to give a small warning right at the beginning that my presentation
may contain traces of reality and if you can’t deal with that then maybe you’d better leave

Okay. Okay. If you think you can deal with it we go ahead.

So, freedom of information is obviously one of the basic hacker value

So it’s a bit surprising that we find ourselves surrounded today by a whole industry
by military, governmental, US State Department funded activities,
that all talk about Internet freedom.

Well, Internet freedom, how they spell it might be, and

I think I’ll point out very clearly something totally different that what we talk when we mean
freedom of information we probably mean more WikiLeaks than Google.

And when we talk about unlimited uncensored communication, then we obviously mean access to everything
and not intellectual property.

So, when we talk about transparency of affairs of technology
that we want transparent technology, we want transparent governments, and we want transparent structures
and this is what we associate with freedom of information and these kind of things.

So also the hacker ethics does include some ideas on structures
that authorities for example are rarely helpful in the game of free flow of information
nor the authorities or hierarchies are really helpful

And also that decentralization is a good idea
central places and central also places of control attracts central abuse of control

And so if we look at the corruption of governments and if we look at corruption in all kind of entities
these central places that are inviting to get corrupted, or that are inviting to get abused

So also obviously respect of informational self-determination is all about
whoever puts data in the system should be the one to decide what happens with it

So out there known as privacy, it’s just a basic thing for people like us.
However we’re not only hackers, we’re also human beings
and so there’s obviously some values out there that also make sense. For example Human Rights.

And to not support any activities or actions, structures, that are acting in active violation of Human Rights.

So, like military aggressions, torture, Guantanamo-bay-like, handling a few human beings survivance
That’s obviously a core human thing.

Supporting of non military conflict-resolution also stands for me like a pretty good idea.

Not support of intelligence agencies, so neither feeding them with data, nor providing them with any kind of support.

As intelligence agencies tend to be interestingly the real enemy.
Because their business is to keep information secret to slow down processes
by taking the information out of the process to better control it.
Thats the key idea of intelligence agencies, to
bring the information to just a few and not to everybody involved so that things get slowed down
they’re more easy to control for those who have the information.
That’s obviously not our game.
Respect human beings and their cultures, that also should be something that normally does not need to be explained.

But you’ll understand in a minute maybe why I’m pointing it out to you here.
Then there’s some more complex questions where we might no agree yet on anything.

For example, if nation states, if countries make any sense
everybody who’s travelling these days and we all do that probably a lot
knows this frustration standing at passport control, counters,
dealing with declaring goods for import, export,
all that kind of things that really suck and that we don’t have on the Internet
so where we can travel globally in a second
and we never have to show our passports, and we never have to declare any of our digital goods to custom officer
at least not yet ...

In theory however, governments can also play a hopeful role.
And that’s balancing commercial roles against citizen’s rights

However we might not have a consensus yet how we deal with goverments
if we want to get rid of them, if we maybe ignore them, if we want to destroy them
or if we maybe even think it’s a good idea to support governments and pay taxes for some common interests
like schools and streets and infrastructures and putting people to prison
who just don’t respect anything.

But there is one issue and that is I mean of course I’m also common from that anarchist technocracy
and I’ve never been a big supporter of governments at all
however I do see a problem that if we destroy governments
so we limit the amount of governments, then the remaining governments tend to become more powerful.

And the one government that wants to rule the world is the United State’s one.
They take every chance to weaken governments all over the place
to endorse their power and make them make their structures more powerful
and that’s exactly what they play with the Internet, and what this talk is about.

So you might have already seen that there is a game out there
the United State’s army doesn’t call it ’information warfare’, they call it ’information operations’
and you obviously have seen all the colorful revolutions in Ukraine
in all the former soviet countries
That some of them have been successful and some less successfully
some of them with violence, some of them without violence, but
some of them have succeeded to overthrow governments and replace
some kleptrocrats or some dubious characters with other dubious characters.

So now in some places instead of strange kleptrocrats we have corrupts CIA assets.

And if that is an improvement remains a bit of a question
So this first round of gains, if you look at what Soros has been financing all over eastern Europe
has created in amount of paranoia, in the remaining ones
that is currently an issue.

So if you look at how Assad in Syria has been handling the Internet scene of Syria
he was asking the guys simple questions : are you working for us or against us ?
are you part of the solution or are you part of the problem ? so they were very sensitive
to anyone who would get funding from Soros or from any of these funny CIA
or other US forces, because they were thinking that the Americans would play the same game
and it does matter in such a scenario if it’s true,
paranoia works. It’s its own dimension of changing the rules of the game.

This first round has created serious military conflicts
and these military conflicts have brought a lot of people
leaving their countries, and that’s refugees that we’re handling down there.
So that is part of the traces of reality that I think we have to see, this has to do with the Internet

This has to do with the way the Internet affects countries
and the governments reacts, and we see specific patterns repeating in all kinds of places

Then we have reality and global acting US companies

So in the old days, it was rather simple
for a government to take control of a reality

Reality is not what happens on the street

Reality is what is created in the mind of people, I’m talking about constructivism
so the perceptional things
so what you see on the TV, what you read in the newspapers, what you hear in the radio
that creates the pictures in your head that you think you’re living into
In the old days it was rather simple to put pressure on the publisher
to make laws on media and so on

in Germany for example we have a pre censorship law
just needs every publication has to mention who’s liable for it

So that person can be pressured, brought to jail, or brought in for copyright violation or whatever.

However today this is a little bit more complicated as the main actors, the Google, the Facebook, the Twitter guys
that’s all happening on US jurisdiction

So but however ... [noise from hard drive destruction]

[extract from CitizenFour movie]

you probably have seen this scene before
this is the editors of the Guardian in the basement of the Guardian building destroying the hard disks with the Snowden archive
well, being pressured and watched by the GCHQ, the UK government agency
so as it’s said, but that’s kind of the old game, and that doesn’t work reliably for
Internet as such. So what we have today is a more liberal handling
and that’s what of course made the Internet grow.

So that the US first amendment, the freedom of speech
was a lot better than that we had in many countries, and we enjoyed it
that we overcome the limitations of our own countries
and enjoyed this more liberal handling
but this liberal handling is also bringing mass surveillance
with ensured access to the United States government to everything that happens
it also brings intellectual property witch is a censorship concept of the West
and it also brings de-powering of local governments
and local structures, so the deep state rules

So in a way the US is bringing a totalitarian ideology and it’s a totalitarian liberty
that’s a little bit a liberal handling, it’s a little complicated because
real liberty and liberty and liberal handling of things
sounds like something nice, however it’s the commercialized version of it
so and it also raises a big question and that’s how
do we ensure that we still will have something for us, for our children, for our community, for our country
which would be digital sovereignty
because if we all live in a digital framework where the rules are made by US companies
and at the end of the day by people under control of the US government
this is US jurisdiction where these companies act and they can’t really flee out of that
then the question is what about the sovereignty of our own affairs in that scenario

So this question brings us to the view that indeed we are part of the problem already
because we are the guys providing anonymization, so circumvention technologies
for what local governments try to do and that’s to remain in constant control of the cybernetic infrastructures
creating the reality in the sense of constructivism
so governments try to remain their sovereignty in a way
and we hope to overcome that the all day
that’s part of us are doing as jobs so we have digital rights
we have the whole Soros NGO environment all over the place, I mean, I’ve been talking to people in Holland
and already in the late 80’s when there were this B92 media project
like the whole dutch scene, 50-60 people it was just
like that in those old days, they started to work for Soros, so that’s a little bit strange
to see that some Americans millionaires can buy a whole scene
so and this money of course these people saying
"come on we’re just take the money from the Americans and what we do is still our thing"

but is this money really coming with strings attached ?

is it really free money as in free beer ? or what is it ?
and what does this Internet freedom they talk about today ?
also there was a thing called the — and they run into that in Spain —
thing called the "Internet freedom festival" this year
last year it was called the "Internet"... "the circumvention festival"
so and that was a funny thing I was there in March this year
there were lots of talks about censorship, Internet, how to overcome it
what you can do, what technologies are available, what’s usable, maybe
improvements needed to be made to overcome the difficulties for non-technical people to use this technology
sounds all perfect fine, just the examples in the whole the conference were
funnily only about Syria, Iran, North Korea, it was, you know, the usual evil countries
and no one talked about the NSA and surveillance anymore.

So, and that’s kind of a funny mixture where you look at all the things that
others do. So I’d look at who’s organizing this conference and
the main person actually, so who’s openitp.org that’s the organization
behind it, I found a guy called Sascha Meinrath
from Acorn Active Media Foundation, never heard of him
just googled him, so he has a Wikipedia page, he looks like an asshole but that doesn’t matter
however he is vice president of the New America Foundation and that’s an interesting thing
also his staff so Acorn Active Media Foundation has exactly 3 people and all of them are also working for
the New America Foundation, so what’s the New America Foundation ?

The New America Foundation chairman of the board is a guy called Eric Schmidt
the executive chairman of Google !

Now we start to learn what Internet freedom means : Google everywhere. Okay ...
Here we come. And then I looked at their web page just this morning

and look : Jonathan Soros !

The son of George Soros is also joining the chair of the board, great !

So we start to have them altogether. So I made myself some little Maltego
I guess you know Maltego, it’s a small software which you can also use offline to visualize complex things
so on the right side, you have this festival, you have the actors, Acorn Active Media
it all leads to the New America Foundation, but you also have Google

Soros, the Open Society Foundation, and the regime changes games to the colorfull revolutions

— no one can read this, huh ? —

Soros is on the left, this festival is on the right, however, you roughly see the concept as I explained it

So there is other diagrams on the Internet which try to nail down Soros as he’s known for the
big range of NGOs that he is supporting

Also there were previous projects called Open Government Partnership
and stuff like the monitor group which has been always watching all kind of countries that the US wanted to
overtake or throw away the governments or do some of their funny operations
and so this is just a long history where the US intelligence services together with the British ones
have their front ends covered as NGOs
deployed in all kind of countries, so that’s just the normal game they’re playing for 20 years or longer
and also especially if it comes to the colorful revolutions you find on the Internet a whole lot of
things where people analyze how he’d word, how Soros is training people
who got funded by what, how they knew exactly how the governments would react
it’s like a reflex like acting of some governments and you would know what to do
to make them so angry that they would overreact and then you could accuse them of human rights
violations and then it would be like an automatic process
which would end up in a big even military like conflict.

So and then someone mentioned to me that I should also
not underestimate a person called Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel is an American millionaire who works together with Soros on some projects

He’s also known to working together with the CIA and creating technology companies that
provide tools for the NSA and the CIA

And both of them are also part of the whole game again with the Open Society Foundation

So on. So the bigger picture involves now, so this is a second version of it
you have these Internet Freedom festival guys, you have the CIA guys, Soros, Thiel
you have these three letter agencies, so some of them provide the free Internet
and the others provides the tools for surveilling the free Internet.

So, what a nice world.

And also some of them have sub-partners for overthrowing governments, that’s the other part of the game

So of course we could ask us the question
"wait a moment regime change sounds like a good idea, couldn’t we change the regime in the US ?"
Well, there’s two problems here, the one is you might know this political joke
it never happened a regime change in the US because there is no US embassy
because that’s where normally where the US has an embassy and from there
controls the local figures operating

However the US as we know is the best democracy money can buy so it’s a little complicated
to get involved there without a lot of money, also
obviously what we learned from the Snowden stuff is that the deep state is in full action.

So watching resources, honestly, we’re not that bad technology wise, but we’re little poor in resources
compared to those boys.

So, and then we have projects like Tor, which is honestly one of the best things this scene ever brought up
I mean it’s not that bad, it works at least.

However it’s of course the core of circumvention local censorship or local try of controlling the Internet

So and if we look at the fact that for example Tor RFC now allows
the .onion services to be an Internet standard. To finance that, that was Facebook.

So we can now be all very proud
that we helped the poor people of these oppressed countries of Iran,
of North Korea, of whatever you name it

That they can finally bring that data securely to The Facebook and the NSA system
Coungratulations, we’ve done a great job. What The Fuck [audience applauses]

So. But who finances Tor by the way ? I mean we have all known that for some time
there is this guy called Radio Free Asia

SRI International, the US department of State
and many others who do finance Tor.

And Tor has just started end of last year what they call "community financing"
but i actually talked with Shari Steele, the new executive director of

Tor and funnily she’s married to a NSA operative but
I of course didn’t said that in a public talk
and I asked her about her ideas of community financing and if we shouldn’t start to collect, and "yeah yeah but it’s not so important for the money
for the moment we’re very stable" so their stable financing comes from the Ford foundation, SRI International
Google, Radio Free Asia, which used to be a direct CIA operation
the US State Department, the Omidyar Network, another millionaire in the game

So and alone three of these entities are directly associated with the CIA
it just feel shitty for me, and it raises everybody involved in this knows this for a long time
it just feels funny that these people support us providing free Internet
it just feels little strange. We have to, maybe,
get better understanding why they’re doing this and if we really have the same interests with them and how this will end up

Of course, people would say : "but wait a second, Tor is part of the community of the good guys, don’t
call these guys evil, these are my friends, right" how about this problem because
the opposite of doing something good is not evil
the opposite of doing good is acting with best intentions

As you might also have known for this little scene

[Pulp Fiction extract]

So acting with the best intentions that’s a tricky thing

That was from Pulp Fiction

So talking about Tor, circumvention, good and evil for a second

So of course circumvention of censorship can’t be a bad thing for all of us
However what’s maybe the problem is that it also enables
digital colonialization or market enabling as Google or Facebook would call it

So it allows them to access markets where the government
try to avoid their citizens ending up in the US systems

So the other point is that if you try to have this discussion with Roger Dingledine
who’s like the person that put his, commited his life more or less to Tor and is running the shop
and I has this discussion with him

There is something funny about these American people and that’s that they always think that "oh you don’t understand"
"You and your European view, you know we are the Americans"
"And we will show you that this will all be good once we have established this"

So it’s like, it’s called "exceptionalism". That they feel empowered by God or by what the fuck they believe in

That they can spread their ideology all over the rest of the planet and it will be alright

This is being convinced of doing the right thing

So it is truly acting with the best intentions

However. What they obviously have a lack of
is understanding other cultures because that’s not important for them

Once you feel you’re doing the right thing why do you need to understand other cultures ?
You bring the best solutions to them, right ?

Doesn’t matter what they are, what they think and so on

So that’s what I would call totalitarian liberalism
which is a complex ideology
but if we today look at this, there’s currently a discussion between palestinian rapper actually
and his community, because what this guy thinks is
that what enforces radicalism of Islam is people being afraid
when they see what western media brings them
that people have gender confusions and all kinds of
human problems that they wouldn’t have if they would just stay a little sober
and that’s complex because fear is also a dimension like paranoia
and like feeling empowered that’s just a dimension of acting
and circumvention censorship if that already addresses that fear is an open question
and we have to also realize that there’s human beings out there and this have nothing to do with the Internet
that are driven by fear, and that we have to deal with

So the elephant in the room of all these projects however is OTF : the Open Technology Fund
which is a 100% funded by Radio Free Asia and the Broadcasting Board of Governors
that’s both State Department related in theory we don’t even need to know the details however
as they fund so many projects — I know this is hard to read
the Open Technology Fund, I mean everybody who is a little bit involved in Tor, in Tails,
in doing encryption for email or whatever, it’s kind of hard to not get
shit over with their money currently. So they are everywhere, in all these conferences
and everybody who seems to successfully simulate or know something about security and how to improve
the security of the Internet or do support circumvention technologies, then, he will get funded.
It’s currently hard to not get funded by them for people who are involved

And then of course if we look around we find quite a lot of them and you gotta say "wait a second these are my friends"
so the trouble is not everyone who is paid and serves the government or the CIA is
necessarily aware of it, so I’m not accusing here people of doing evil intentionaly
but just seeing that we have a common interest with these funny things who give
with these funny people who give us money to circumvent censorship and not understanding what is the ideology
behind it and what’s the economics behind it and what’s the government policy behind it

Makes us stupid tools for the US government, and that can’t be it

And the other thing is that if you associate yourself with this money and with those people
depending on where you live and we lost some friends in these last years
in Egypt, in Syria, in other places, because their government is making a very simple assessment
"Are you part of that US invasion or are you our people ?"

And they don’t unfortunately take the in depth time for an analysis
in this conflicts they sometimes acts fast
and some people die and get tortured and so on
and of course we can accuse them of killing and torturing but we have to understand why they’re doing it
to avoid that it happens again
and I mean will be radicalization of Europeans with the upcoming rightwing guys
we might also find a similar situation in our own
well balanced, long history European countries that we don’t want to escalate, it’s better to look at this now

Obviously living in capitalism is complicated, requires an effort to stay independent from funny money
and that’s everybody steady fight, I know, it’s not easy

However what we have to understand is that there is a concept called digital colonialization
and it does goes hand in hand with global disempowerment of local companies
so you might have heard that in India, successfully
a big movement on the street avoided that Facebook brings free Internet to India
however the ruling judge made the argument
that because they provided the service with zero money this would be uncompetitive to local
companies, which is a good argument. Of course Google you don’t have to pay with money, they get be paid by data
which they can sell further on
so what there’s also is uberization of economic processes, the airbnb,
these things where the intermediate is
located in the US and takes the little upcut in the process

So this also means that economic processes
are being transformed from a local economy to the US economy and we shouldn’t support that

This also means that virtual realities are individualized and commercialized
and they don’t really give a shit on common reality, that’s another problem
so our media environment is also getting a little complicated
next to all the advertised and of products, services, ideologies
including the individual impact measurement
of the milliseconds it takes us to click away an ad for
switch to another page, and so on

If we stand back for a second and look at the longer historical development
obviously we had kingdoms, we had national kleptocracies
we had democracies with controlled liberty
and by the way controlled liberty is almost a trademark of a company called "Diebold"
you might know the issue of the electronic voting machine
so Diebold is one of the main manufacturers of them and they have a system collecting from the local district where people
make vote to collect and gather the data, the system is called "liberty control"

So you get the idea of the trust within electronic voting
but also you have upcoming limitations of national governments in international contracts like the TTIP trade agreements things
where national governments can do less and less because they have international
contractual obligations, but the real upcoming threat is of course that we
run into a algorithm governed reality so that
commercial decisions and governmental decisions would be made and based on algorithm and the big data
that they are setting up right now
so it would be becoming even more tricky

And our failures to provide specific services is their biggest strength
so our failure that Facebook is ruling fucking social networks out there and not our decentralized, anonymous
networks that we never build up with control over your own data, I mean
we can accuse Facebook of a lot of things but we also have to
I guess agree that they did make some good investment on people who understand how to make people
use technology in a very easy way without getting technicians and so on

And so we’re still not there creating usable email chat message encryption with no effort and no traces
where people don’t need to think to key exchange and all that kind of things
that normal people just find too complicated
but also intermediating of cultural understanding
so that’s also something about conflicts intermediation here
is our understanding of the Islamic world for example, and their understanding of our world
and so on, there’s still a lot to do, because what the Internet has been doing and the Internet
freedom complex has just been exporting Western ideology instead of
trying to understand the differences of cultures and the complex it would create if these cultures
crash together. So there’s obviously also
a big role where we have failed so far, and that’s to improve the understanding and
the meaningful use of technology by governments and communities
so in theory we should all become governments advisors
and or, if that’s no option for you then please create your own government, I think we need a lot more governments on this planet
so that power is better distributed
so what should we do ?

The big unsolvable problems
we have to break into smaller ones that we can handle, so for example increase the amount of governments
if governments are too big and too complicated to fix is because they are so broken, so corrupted
and so I mean, I guess the French political situation what I heard yesterday in my evening conversations
is as fucked up as the German one, and it’s hard to imagine that we can fix that.

But maybe what we can do is to break governments into smaller parts and the countries in smaller parts
find ways to take over with a reasonable amount of money, reasonable structures.
And also technology wise of course we have to build up decentralized services
where we can develop alternative thoughts and plans first of all
the revolution will neither happen on Facebook nor on TV
we can probably agree on that
and create local data centers and handy cloud solutions that support digital sovereignty

So that’s roughly the to-do list and I could
I thought at the end I have to provide you with some ideas of what you could do so
as I said, become government advisors
to prevent digital colonialization, by the way I had such a conversation, I tried to be a government advisor
invited by latin american countries
but it was a little weird
because they said "yeah we think about that we have to create a framework"
- but the development of the Internet, somehow goes hand in hand with our
economic, cultural, and political process and so on
well they were discussing and they also realized that Google had just decided to connect all the schools on the country
I’m truly not fan of any nazis or of mister Goebels particularly but he was
saying very clear words from time to time, and one of the clearer words he said were "you have the youth, you have the future"

End of story. So if you fail
for 15-20 years to do something with the education system in the Internet, then Google, Facebook come and connect the schools
well then you’re pretty doomed. And that’s the situation in many countries

So this kind of things to do : decentralize, also economic situations to create
and the cultural bridges between the religions and the countries

So. And here obviously I was disrupted while making the slides with good food
so, yeah we had this thing, and here some references

So that was roughly my talk and now I’m happy to get your feedback or questions or answers or

Thank you. [audience applauses]