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SNOWDENIs the world’s most trusted security expert a US Government shill?

For nearly ten years, the US government has been legally enabled to disseminate misinformation and propaganda domestically. They’ve been doing it for centuries internationally, and of late this criminal organization has taken a very clear stance that its own population is now its greatest enemy.

Of course, this has been going on illegally for much longer. If we define misinformation as the telling of half-truths or outright lies to the public, then we’ve just accurately characterized what every politician, bureaucrat and military officer who ever appeared in the mass media does.

Shortly after the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1987 were neutralized, a savior appeared. Risking life and limb, a former CIA and NSA technical contractor leaked classified materials giving Americans an updated look at just how pervasive the US surveillance state had gotten. I say ‘updated’ because, to most in the know, it was no surprise at all. It’s been common knowledge since before the days of Echelon that mass domestic electronic spying (“Sigint”) was going on.

Snowden was paraded around the world by mainstream media outlets to tell his story. He set up a Twitter account to continue his revelations and further cultivate his image. Not one, but two films (fiction and non-fiction alike) were produced. He even published a book to explain why he did it. All the while Senators, Congressmen and intelligence officials would call for his head – but for some reason seemed powerless to do anything about this one, lone man. How can that be so? The US government has clearly demonstrated it has no problem murdering American citizens and their children, without due process of law, for far less, wherever they may be.

And therein lay the problem.

The Open Technology Fund

In the war against European fascists the US government created the Voice of America. This was a radio station broadcasting into enemy territory purporting to tell “the truth” about the war. This propaganda war was later expanded to include the Asian communists and Arabian theocrats. An additional four stations were created. Throughout the 90’s these operations were consolidated under the banner of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. In 2018 they changed their name to the US Agency for Global Media.

This agency is not under the direct oversight of any department of the US government. Its funds are separately appropriated and is overseen by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

In the same year that the US legalized using propaganda on its own citizens the USAGM started a sixth initiative – this one unlike any of the others. Called the Open Technology Fund, its mission is to “fund internet freedom technologies at every stage of the development cycle from proof-of-concept, to on-the-ground deployments, to multi-year efforts.”

In less than ten years its impact has been staggering. Over 2 billion people around the world now use OTF-supported technology every day. More than two-thirds of all mobile devices play host to at least one application funded by the OTF.

The standard rejoinder to all this hand waving is that the technology they produce is encrypted and censorship resistant. While technically true, this is (surprise!) misdirection. The goal is not to see the contents of your messages, but to gather your metadata. As NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker has said, “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” When journalist David Cole quoted Baker at a 2014 debate at Johns Hopkins University, his opponent, General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, called Baker’s comment “absolutely correct,” and raised him one, bragging, “We kill people based on metadata.”

The Pied Piper of Journalism

By now I think you should be starting to see just how the devolution in the quality of mainstream journalism has been driven, and one of the men at the wheel of this appears to be the wonder boy Snowden himself. For years now he has relentlessly promoted the use of technology and groups with direct money ties to the OTF.

Let’s start with your operating system. Snowden claims to have used TailsOS (OTF funds: $208,000 to-date) to siphon information out of the NSA and promoted it as a useful tool for journalists through multiple venues. As revealed by security researchers at Exodus Intelligence, this OS suffered from zero-day flaws that all but neutered its privacy and anonymizing components. Shortly after that debacle, he switched to promoting another OTF-funded project, QubesOS (OTF funds: $570,000 to-date).

Snowden’s track record with instant messengers is no better. He has made it no secret that Signal (OTF funds: $2,955,000 to-date) is his preferred application. This is the same company who claims to have simply stumbled upon one of law enforcement’s most advanced hacking tools.

In an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast he promoted the services of Citizen Lab (OTF funds: $147,277 to-date) a security research group operating out of the University of Toronto, calling them a “World Leader.”

He talks constantly about using Tor (OTF funds: $3,107,300 plus an additional $1,180,777 in Tor-related projects) and while it may hide the contents of what you’re browsing we know that’s not really the point. It’s the people who use Tor that the government is precisely interested in extracting metadata from

Eventually any responsible person must ask: Is it mere coincidence that nearly every product Snowden has promoted over the years can trace its funds directly to the US government? Is it simply by accident that the products Snowden’s advocacy group provides to journalists (like SecureDrop and Haven) use these same platforms and rails?

Internet Censorship and More

Probably most disturbing of all is one of the OTF’s latest projects, the Claims and Memes Database (OTF funds: $144,850 to-date). This is quite literally the digital ministry of truth, allowing journalists to quickly ensure they never deviate from approved narratives.

The OTFs money can be found everywhere, from mail encryption add-ons like Mailvelope (OTF funds: $261,320 to-date) to the emerging Signal competitor, Briar (OTF funds: $361,100 to-date). They’ve even inserted their influence into the deepest layers of the internet with SSL certificates (OTF funds $236,400 to-date), and VPN protocols (OTF funds: $250,000 to-date). Even the Noise Protocol, which underlies dozens of “secure” messengers was built with OTF support. The amount for that project, however, is not disclosed on the OTF website.

So, What’s Safe?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but next to nothing. As you can clearly see, not even the free and open-source software traditionally touted as “secure” can well and truly be trusted. Unless you produced, audit, and operate the entire technology stack that you use, it’s unlikely you’ll ever find respite from this invasive and unlawful surveillance. Expect things to only get worse in the future, too.

The internet as we know it has been transformed into a giant, all-seeing beast with the means to track and identify absolutely anyone of interest. The only thing you can do is be cognizant of the fact that every computer out there is now a spy device, dutifully reporting to parties unknown on the activities its users engage in and the data it handles.

It’s a Brave New World, and Orwell is rolling in his grave.

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