Last month in The Thirteenth Year, I suggested a few dreadful government actions that would make 2013 memorable. I missed one: mea culpa. This was the year in which a minor government in the Mediterranean turned an island into a verb. Its subject is a government, its object is the money someone holds in a bank in its jurisdiction, and its meaning is that the subject grabs the object while denying its owner access, and calls it “legal.”
On September 6th, there was another significant event which brought that one into sharper focus: a further truckload of Ed Snowden's revelations about the NSA was published by the Guardian, in partnership with Pro Publica and The New York Times; and the latter sent Nicole Perlroth to be interviewed on PBS' “News Hour” that evening. I've never watched there a more astonishing clip. The transcript is here.
Interviewer Hari Sreenivasan said, “When you purchase a product online or bank online with a secured and locked HTTPS connection, you have protected your password and financial information. But the news reports say the NSA can unlock that information . . . so, Nicole, how significant is this?”
Read, and relish, her reply. And recall, this is not a committed anarchist, or a libertarian given to colorful exaggeration, or an anti-government activist of any kind. This is a reporter for the most compliant Establishment journal in America, which has hardly failed to convey the statist line to its readers in four decades (when it did play an honorable part in the Pentagon Paper scandal that Daniel Ellsberg uncovered). A sampler:
“This is huge. This was the last bastion of privacy on the Internet. And what we have discovered is that, for the last two decades, the NSA has been actively working to crack or circumvent the encryption technologies that we all use, not just for Internet banking and to protect medical records . . . .”
“There's been a sustained multipronged effort to break or circumvent many of the encryption technologies that have been developed over the last two decades.”
“[The NSA is] using secret court orders, in some cases through its intermediaries, to grab encryption keys from private companies.” Secret court orders! In the US of A!
“I spoke with a number of technology companies that said off the record that they were compelled by court order, and faced in some cases contempt of court, if they didn't hand the government their encryption keys or build out these custom solutions. And they're not able to talk about this because they are under gag order or secret court orders forbid them from talking about exactly what these relationships look like.” Gag orders! In the US of A!
“American lawmakers accuse [Chinese] companies of planting back-doors in their systems that would allow the PLA to spy on American corporations. And what we have been finding out essentially in our report today is that the U.S. government has been doing the exact same thing.”
Place this alongside the Cypriot scandal, and it becomes clear that ordinary online banking and credit card transactions, which we thought were private, are actually open in plain sight to FedGov spies; and that after the Cyprus government grabbed money from holders of bank accounts in that country because it was running short, both the precedent and the opportunity are now ready for “our” government to do the self-same thing any time it wants.
Bank accounts haven't been a safe place to keep money for a long time, it's true; any retail bank is little more than a collection agent for the IRS. But this does raise the risk by an order of magnitude; money can be stolen now not just because the IRS imagines you owe it money, but because the Feds know your password and can just go and draw it out whenever it's a bit short. That is what Ed Snowden's latest contribution, with the report in the organ that puts out “all the news that's fit to print,” has shown to anyone with a bank account or credit card.
Whereas during this summer many complacent fools reacted to the news that their emails were no longer private by joking that if the government wanted to read theirs, it was welcome, today they know their money is at stake. I wonder if they are joking now.
Almost everyone has a bank account and/or credit card, so this news reaches home to almost everyone. It tells Middle America, loud and clear, that government is their enemy. We have been saying that, for a host of good reasons, for years; but now they are hearing it from their favorite paper and most trustworthy TV news program. I reckon that spells Opportunity.
The news to be spread is that it's very unsafe to keep money in a bank, and so it's wise to keep no more there than is essential to receive wages and pay some bills. The rest is best kept in “liquid” form such as gold and silver, or as Bitcoins for the tech-savvy, or even as Legal-Tender Notes, in the short term. The reasons are right there, on PBS.
There will then arise a public demand for acceptance by retailers of those forms of money. This will be a useful step towards ending the era of fiat money and all the evils it enables government to bring.
Another effect will be to deprive banks of a good chunk of their deposits. We need not worry about that, for when they get short, Uncle Ben will print up some more. Until, that is, the public starts ignoring the legal-tender law and refuses to use his paper.
This discovery that government is not its friend will shock the Booboisie. As well as offering this friendly advice for protecting money, we can be ready to explain how the need came about. It's a good opportunity, for example, to let folk hear the URL strike-the-root.com