• Living in Fear: A Fable for Trayvon

    July 16, 2013

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy

    The Commerce Department in 2012 claimed it suffered a foreign cyberattack that put its entire computer network at risk. It had to do with Trayvon.

    Commerce destroyed hardware worth $175,000, stopping only when they ran out of funding. Meanwhile, an outside cybersecurity contractor was hired at $823,000 to implement a $688,000 unneeded “solution.” After that, Commerce bought $1.1 million worth of new computers. The expenses ate up half the department’s technology budget.

    A year later, the Commerce Department’s inspector general determined the devastating attack was nothing of the sort, actually just a small malware infection on six computers that could have been erased with off-the shelf anti-virus tools.

    What Happened?

    Have a look at some of the explanations:

    — “In an environment of heightened vulnerability to cyberattacks, once you’re infected you often overact.”

    — “You feel violated.”

    — “All you feel is somebody’s in my house and I’ve got to get them out. And you get overly conservative.”

    — “[Commerce] did not know what it was facing. Under those circumstances, given the cyber risks, one has to be cautious.”

    — “It’s a question of which side do you want to err on?”

    — “Fear of foreign cyberattacks was so high that the department called in help from the Homeland Security and Energy departments, the National Security Agency and a private cybersecurity contractor.”

    — “Fear led the Office of the Chief Information Officer not to question the accuracy of the extent of the malware infection, despite a lack of supporting evidence.”

    Lessons Learned?

    At first brush this story is just another government screw up. Instead of assessing the situation, incompetent bureaucrats faced with a problem spent taxpayer money, lots of money. Expensive beltway bandit contractors sucked up panic spending cash to implement unneeded solutions. The whole thing was then hidden away until another beleaguered Inspector General stumbled upon it. The story gets reported with an eye-roll, fodder for the Daily Show.

    But look a bit deeper for the real lesson. Anyone controlled by fear will act this same way, desperate for solutions to the scary things they think are hiding under the bed. Actions capture more emotion than fact. That’s always the problem, isn’t it, trying to stay inside the lines when you’re boiling inside your heart.

    Even in 2001, considerably more Americans died of drowning than from terror attacks. Since then, the odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack in the U.S. or abroad have been about one in 20 million, even less if you don’t work for the U.S. government or military. This real-world low risk isn’t evidence that homeland security spending has worked: It’s evidence that the terror threat was never as great as we thought.

    Indeed, from 2005 to 2010, federal attorneys declined to bring any charges against 67 percent of alleged terrorism-related cases referred to them from law enforcement agencies; the cases just weren’t terrorism.

    What you get is a society controlled by its fears. A lot like a guy I knew, Depression Kid, he kept old aluminum foil and shopping bags folded up in the basement, never threw out anything, used to lick the dinner plates clean in the kitchen when he thought nobody was looking. No matter what he achieved, Eagle Scout, college degree, captain’s rank, he could never rest. Nothing was ever, could ever, be enough.

    This leads in a direct line to gunning down an unarmed teenager because you fear the way he is dressed or the color of his skin. It leads to an internal spying system that can’t stop itself from trying to vacuum up everything for fear of missing something. It leads to a foreign policy that abandons hundreds of years of standards, norms and morality over a single “fugitive” person. It leads to an endless war on someone (Reds, Terrorists). You ban nail clippers on airplanes and force millions of travelers to trod through airports without shoes.

    Once you give in to the fear there is no end to things to be afraid of. When most of those fears turn out to be just made-up shadows– even non-viruses inside a computer network– unreal and unsubstantiated, nothing you can do can make them really go away. They don’t live externally and are not vulnerable to your countermeasures. Safety and security are fleeting, grabbed only in moments before the next threat grows inside you. Armed, you look for targets.

    Like an old Twilight Zone episode, the boogie men are inside you. Once you’re infected you often overreact.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      For the love of God, will someone turn off the George Zimmerman noise so the important issues can get some attention?

      07/16/13 2:51 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      …like the Deedy murder trial.

      07/17/13 9:26 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      The Deedy situation is our US foreign policy in a nutshell: young men wandering around in a foreign land where they are not wanted, drunk with power. Gee, whoever thought that would end badly?

      07/17/13 12:14 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Now that the Zimmerman show trial is over the MSM has time to discuss important issues that affect US all. While we were distracted by a cable reality show trial, Amerika was slow to realize our technology could be used against US until some buildings fell down. As Snowden, Drake, and the other Cassandras have warned, the abuse of technology and distractions like the Zimmmerman trial will bring our downfall.

      07/17/13 12:36 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Well, it’s ironic the theme of surveillance is also embedded in this American tragedy.

      It reinforces why we need proper laws with real oversight, transparent procedures in place to prevent zealous-minded people from going overboard, and an independent judicial system, not one that is going to cover for the system when things go horribly wrong or give free passes for profiteering in the name of faux security or kindly cover for the politicians who helped people on the judicial side secure their positions

      Yesterday, it seemed alot of articles just in the Post and Times dealt with surveillance themes, and it’s not looking like it’s going away just yet

      07/17/13 2:16 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      I haven’t commented on the Zimmerman thing for one reason..I completely abandoned any interest after the first week of MSM’s commentary, which made me sick to my stomach. It didn’t matter what I thought, and wasn’t going to make a damn bit of difference..although, the same could be said for most of the issues I bla bla bla about. 🙂

      However, I do know this. Rich Bauer is correct…

      quote:”…like the Deedy murder trial.”unquote

      Or the Reese Family trial. Or any number of other stories the MSM doesn’t want to let America focus on. And the reason is simple. INTERLOCKING DIRECTORATES.


      In reality, the corporate ruling class controls ALL the MSM, by virtue of the Interlocking Directorate between Corporations. And these Corporations are actually UNDER the Media Corporations. For instance..BoozAllen, majority owned by the Carlyle Group. And guess which MSM this investment company is Interlocked with…you got it…The NEW YORK TIMES….
      This is exactly why NOTHING has come out about the Carlyle Group in relationship to the Snowden revelations. In fact, clear back in the 1800’s, these Corporations were so intertwinned, a field of study to determine the relationships was began.

      And now, each company and it’s foremost employees have been mapped.


      Incredible. Living in a fable indeed. If America as a whole understood this..there would be a revolution overnight. Instead, they’re given the Zimmerman curtain.

      whudda thunk.

      07/18/13 3:33 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Jimmy Carter, ex-prez and hard-core radical apparently, agrees with you:

      Former US President Carter lambasted US intelligence methods as undemocratic and described Edward Snowden’s NSA leak as “beneficial” for the country.

      Carter lashed out at the US political system when the issue of the previously top-secret NSA surveillance program was touched upon at the Atlantic Bridge meeting on Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia.

      “America has no functioning democracy at this moment,” Carter said, according to Der Spiegel.

      He also believes the spying-scandal is undermining democracy around the world, as people become increasingly suspicious of US internet platforms, such as Google and Facebook. While such mediums have normally been associated with freedom of speech and have recently become a major driving force behind emerging democratic movements, fallout from the NSA spying scandal has dented their credibility.

      07/19/13 12:51 AM | Comment Link

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