Spy vs. Spy (With a Nod to Mad Magazine)

Did you see 60 Minutes last night? The first story was about how vulnerable our government’s computer systems are and our utility companies and our banks. All these have been hacked into or otherwise compromised. “Otherwise” being electronic components that were installed had been embedded with code that could allow them to be controlled by someone outside the system. (Brazil has already had their power grid shut down a few times in a few different places.)

Who does this? Foreign governments and organized crime groups. During the interview, Jim Lewis, a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Steve Kroft that we do the same thing. We get into the systems of other countries.  Mr. Lewis sounded sort of proud as he said “we are really good” – the “top of the league”! Oh? The US has the best hackers on the planet? Then Mr. Lewis said when Russia and China asks how we can complain about them getting into our stuff when we get into theirs, he said it was worse for them to get into our systems.  Mr. Lewis said we depend on the internet more than other countries and it is woven into our economy and military in ways that other countries haven’t done. I turned to my son who was watching this with me and said, “Look at that guy polish his halo!”  As he continued to justify and explain it dawned on me that this is Spy vs. Spy (with a nod to Mad Magazine) and this stuff has gone on probably ever since there were at least two different government entities. Unfortunately, it will continue to go on til the end of this age. This sort of thing started off with no technology – just humans getting into other humans’ government and military business for the purpose of gathering information, then it just advanced as technology advanced.  I suppose it would have moved on to interception of communications when it was just letters being carried from one person to another to use of binoculars and listening devices and wire-tapping and so on. It would be interesting to read a good book on the history of spying. The internet is just the latest technology.

As far as our power grid, Ret. Admiral Mike McConnell, who is the former director of National Intelligence, said he “would be shocked” if our power grid has not been infiltrated. He said it could be gotten into in a way that could start in one place and spread. All anyone would have to do is cause a generator to self-destruct. I think it’s nuts that those generators can’t be readily replaced. They used to be made here in this country but not anymore. Did you know they have to be ordered from overseas and it takes 3 to 4 months to get the new one? Have you ever lived without electricity? I have for a few days after a hurricane and it’s different. I’m glad I have a gas stove so I can cook and my water is also heated by gas. I have a clothesline but would have to do laundry by hand. Gas can not be pumped without electricity. Many jobs could not be carried out without electricity. I supposed retail stores would figure it out but how would food be trucked in? Would there be tanker trucks that would normally deliver gas to the gas stations parked on parking lots and selling fuel right out of the truck? That was done after one of our hurricanes. (Can’t remember which one – they all start to run together after a few of them blow through.) What really concerns me is folks in hospitals and people who have to have kidney dialysis (like a relative of mine). What would they do without electricity? Would they have to go to another part of the country to get the treatment they need? Well, I guess this is what modern warfare would be. While we wonder about ‘dirty bombs’ and missiles, our water supply could be contaminated or, our power grid or banking system could be wiped out. Yeah, someone could wipe out the records at the banks. Wouldn’t that be a mess?

But as serious as all this is, I am not so scared of the enemies of this country as I am of my own government. I’ve told as much to my senators and congressman, too. I live near ports and refineries and this would be just the place to hit if someone wanted to mess with us. I remember hearing that we were a target when we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was only about 6 years old. What has always concerned me more was that our government would compromise my freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, religious freedom and privacy, in a misguided effort to keep me ‘safe’. From whom? From a take-over by another country who would take away my freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, religious freedom and privacy? They have always played their spy games. But don’t go overboard and chase after US citizens. I’m just a homemaker down here in the armpit of Texas and I want to be left alone.

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