A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone that I know who is an analyst for a US intelligence agency. I’m going to keep this as generic as I can, because even though he says that he told me nothing that could get him in trouble, well, you never know. We had an hour long conversation. A few of the things that he said were things that I found VERY interesting.

  1. The government collects so much intelligence from American citizens that it is almost too much. That is the reason for the massive data centers. It’s difficult to sort through all of the stuff they collect, but they do get a lot of stuff that they pass on to law enforcement. Apparently, they aren’t allowed to collect intel on American citizens on purpose, but if they cast a wide net and get stuff by accident, well, nothing says it can’t be passed along.
  2. Social media and smart phones are the main source. Many of the Apps that are on your phone are collecting massive amounts of data: your location, your secret information, credit stuff, banking information, and more. Many apps have keyloggers that save any information put into your phone and forward it to other parties.
  3. Burner phones are useless. Ten years ago, using a burner was a good way to dodge those collecting information. Not anymore.
  4. If you are a target of clandestine government investigation, there are pocket-sized devices that allow them to walk nearby and download the contents of your phone. Whatever is in your phone now belongs to the government.
  5. He confirmed that the government can and do clandestinely activate the camera and microphone of any internet connected device, including your phone, smart TV, whatever.
  6. Nearly every electronic device and app has some sort of backdoor access installed in it at the request of one government intel agency or another.
  7. He said that, as far as phones go, iPhones were the most compromised, then Android, and believe it or not, Google phones are the most secure. I’m not sure I trust that, but that’s what he said.
  8. He said that many VPNs are routed through China, and you are giving your information to China by using them. I pointed out that I am less afraid of China than I am the US government. I said China wouldn’t care about me because I am not that important. He smiled and just shook his head.
  9. The US government has its hands in more online porn than almost any other entity. The content/pages/etc of online porn sites is riddled with malware and malicious code that belongs to the NSA. According to him, almost everyone looks at porn, and even in Muslim countries, they catch a lot of people and get a lot of information as a result of this.

The scary part is that talking to spooks like this makes you paranoid. I don’t know this guy THAT well, he is more acquaintance than friend. He is a friend of a friend, and I wouldn’t count either of them as being in my inner circle. So why is he telling me all of this? Is this an official interview? Is he skimming my smartphone? (see 4 and 5, above) Is this really a friendly conversation, or is he working?

Either I am being paranoid, or I am not being paranoid enough. No matter what, I’m going to have trouble sleeping while I think about it.

Categories: Police State


fporretto · September 18, 2023 at 5:07 am

If this fellow still works for the government, he could have been telling you — and those who read this site — what he and his superiors want you to believe. This is the Age of Deceit, and deceit is never more successful than when rebroadcast and amplified by a trusted voice.

    Robert (Not Rob) · September 18, 2023 at 12:32 pm

    Of course, this “friend of a friend” with all the information was working under orders.

    You can get quite a bit more effect in behavior control if your targets know something about your surveillance capabilities and have reason to fear them. Selective truth is the most effective type of propaganda.

    Remember that the agencies are very short-staffed for the task of tightly controlling 330 million people. So, they pick out a few and make harsh public examples of them. Let the rest of the people believe they are being watched by an all-seeing eye. Fear does all the rest.

    Until it doesn’t.

    The bureaucracies running the “all-seeing eye” systems are quite stupid and get less effective the longer they operate. They select too many of the wrong people for attention and simply antagonize them, to no useful effect. Then they get used to monitor dissident factions within the government and antagonize insiders who can and do sabotage the systems to protect themselves.

    People eventually catch on. The machinery has nasty teeth, but most of it is smoke and mirrors. Avoid interactions with it, and things go a lot better. In the worst case, “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work”. Maybe we really don’t want efficient, effective government departments after all.

    Totalitarian systems rot from within and collapse from their own misdirection. Factional disputes are what take them down, amplified by an angry population that won’t obey orders any longer.

    Rob · September 18, 2023 at 2:48 pm

    Wouldn’t they be downplaying their capacities, in that scenario?

      Robert (Not Rob) · September 19, 2023 at 10:55 am

      The capabilities may be downplayed or exaggerated as needed to produce the desired effect. The key point is misdirection as to what methods are actually in use.

      The target audience must be aware that they are under surveillance, but not exactly sure of what methods they should be evading.

Anonymous · September 18, 2023 at 5:40 am


He pretty much explains all issues with smart phones and devices

Boneman · September 18, 2023 at 6:02 am

I remember years ago bumper stickers that said “KILL YOUR TELEVISION!” I’m thinking an updated version of “KILL YOUR CELLPHONE” would be apropos but I would bet the “modern” automobile has about the same amount of surveillance / tracking capability as a smartphone so it seems a bit pointless.

Orwell must be laughing himself silly in his grave these days.

    It's just Boris · September 18, 2023 at 10:37 am

    More than cellphones. Check out the recent post on auto privacy at Borepatch’s blog.

    Then go shopping for a ’67 Chevy.

      exile1981 · September 18, 2023 at 7:33 pm

      We recently made the decision to get rid of two vehicles that are circa 2014 and replace with 80’s vehicles. Other than the work truck which can be replaced with an older vehicle. We are going old school.

Joe Blow · September 18, 2023 at 6:21 am

We are long passed the point of being a lawful nation.
The Constitution is dead, elections are rigged, cops ignore the law.
Prove me wrong?

Tractorguy · September 18, 2023 at 8:15 am

Please elaborate on your statement #3, that burner phones are useless. Why?


    Divemedic · September 18, 2023 at 10:36 am

    Apparently, the IMEI number becomes associated with the person through signal intercepts. He says that’s what the NSA data centers are for. He didn’t elaborate, but my guess is that they have a database of voice prints or something like that.

      It's just Boris · September 18, 2023 at 10:40 am

      Just powering it up for the first time at home would give a pretty solid indication of whose it is, thanks to cell tower triangulation (even if the phone doesn’t have gps).

TJ · September 18, 2023 at 8:41 am

Just because you’re not paranoid, doesn’t mean their not out to get you. Words to live by …

    Tree Mike · September 18, 2023 at 5:59 pm

    Really, I don’t see a down side to paranoia at this point.

Jonesy · September 18, 2023 at 8:53 am

Well, if the sum total of what he told you is true, there is literally no where to hide, and really no way to keep a low profile. To achieve that it sounds like you would have to go 100% off grid. 0 electronics (save for HAM) and 0 connectivity, no bank accounts. Live off the land and severely limit exposure to civilization.

That is highly impractical for almost all of us, so just live life, but be careful with your associations. I’ve mentioned before the folks that seem to get in trouble are those who belong to groups making alot of political noise or would already be considered questionable by the Feds (militias, etc). And while I agree with those who argue we should be able to exercise our rights without limits, some of that will get you noticed pretty quickly. The timing for such things is maybe better with a just in time approach related to warranted events.

    Noway2 · September 19, 2023 at 7:40 am

    Makes a case for going gray and blending in. Be as average as possible. Don’t stab out, don’t draw attention. The more you unplug the more odd you appear and you stand out.

    Of course, im not saying give up because it’s pointless as your appearance could be a false deception, if you know what I mean.

dc · September 18, 2023 at 9:17 am

Interesting. I worked 25 years ago in a scif, I spent three years in that environment… We used different computers than outside the office because there was supposed to be no back door entry to the computer system. Our knowledge was that Gates’ MS had created every program with a hidden entry point built in. So we used another system. Fifty one more years left on my debrief agreement.

Jonestown Democracy · September 18, 2023 at 10:37 am

The golden panopticon of convenience.
It is for your well being, your safety, the we’re all in this together, comrade.
The glorious new civility unity hive collective egalitarian workers paradise, si se puede!
No bad thoughts now, deplorable kulak untermenschen scum.

Anonymous · September 18, 2023 at 10:47 am

As Fred Reed pointed out, the intelligence community failed to predict the collapse of its primary object of study, the Soviet Union. So what is the intelligence community actually doing? Probably just collecting blackmail material on Americans, like Hoover did. The first casualty of war is truth, so any policing job includes selling as many exaggerations about performance as they can. This includes every police procedural TV show since ever.

But suppose somebody did create a phone without backdoors, which is illegal because it wouldn’t implement lawful intercept. Suppose the phone builder was prosecuted, then he illegally defended himself. Would you accept the phone is of military utility, protected by 2A? Would you accept it is moral for a person to defend his rights? Or is everyone still a subject of the (term-limited) king?

tfourier · September 18, 2023 at 1:56 pm

Firstly, not a lot new to those us who have some dealings with this stuff over the decades. At the bare iron level. Title 22 stuff etc.

My first “interesting” conversation about this whole area was back in the mid 1980’s with someone who it later turned out has his name on the wall in the Fort Meade lobby. What sparked the conversation , he saw I was reading The Puzzle Palace. Now that was an interesting conversation. Mostly tech. With the usual dance around “cant talk about that” deflections

The lots of data, little or none looked at – goes back to the early 1990’s. Nothing new. Data mining only works when you have well formed queries. That’s still the hard part. Think looking for a single penguin in the Antarctic ocean and you got an idea what the problem is. You got to know where to look.

Social media is voluntary social engineering on a massive scale. But if you know how its harvested you can shape the crop yield in your favor. So its mostly weeds. For social media nothing like bots + ML to give you a whole lot of chaff around your online footprint.

If you have your SSL certs set up correctly both ends VPN tunnels are very difficult to compromise. You really have to be worth it for the stream to be cracked. Which it can be. If they throw enough hardware at it.

All western cryptography books etc are worthless. Some Israeli ones and the ex Soviet ones from 1990’s are much more interesting. And accurate. You better have all your eggs in a row if you expect encrypted data to stay secure. The weaknesses are not where most people think.

Backdoors? Of course. Going all the way back to the DES days. So you work around them.

Most secure phone. Definitely not iPhone. For a lot of reasons. Starting with the technical. iOS/NextStep etc is like a sieve for exploits. Grad student amateur hour top to bottom. Android down to the HAL hardware implementation layer is completely open source so many eyes security. Roll your own Android build and stick in some HAL hardware monitoring for bad behavior (and from drivers / on SOC custom cores of course) and thats about as secure as it gets for a mobile planform. You can really lock it down tight.

Windows secure? Wait for me to stop laughing. Now Linux is not bad but use a distro with many paranoid eyes looking at it. But still watch those third party comms drivers very carefully. Thats how Linux installations are usually cracked.

Anything Intel CPU wise has huge backdoors in them. And has for decades. AMD maybe. ARM, going to be difficult to compromise except on Chinses phones / comms equipment. Assume everything with Chinese CPUs/SOCs in them is compromised and you wont be wrong. Anything Chinese on the local net compromised the local net. In non obvious places. So firewall and actively monitor for peace of mind.

Want to keep a low profile. Steganography and one time pads still work in their modern form. Want to gets peoples attention? Start sending SSL/TLS packets to somewhere. That gets the backbone sniffers attention real fast. Stick sluff in packets were nobody looks. Like a MPEG4 video stream over a point to point RTP. Lots of nooks and crannies in there. Send it over an unexpected route and its needle in a haystack time. Even for the NSA “Cray Farms”. Although they are no longer Crays. The last cool looking super computers.

Anonymous · September 18, 2023 at 3:27 pm

I always get a kick out of listening to the delusional ‘christians’ ranting about the “Mark of the Beast” nonsense in their Buy-Bull. With a Cell Phone in their Hand.
It’s not hard to Minimize your ‘footprint’ without Hiding in the Woods, the two key things are No Spy Phone, and no (((bank accounts))). I expect that most people will be getting into the Boxcar with their Phone in hand, texting to their friends.

When things go ‘Kinetic’, the Data Centers are soft Targets. Few people actually work there, and they don’t live in a “Green Zone”. Eventually, all of those places will have to be Burned and Bulldozed completely, and never allowed to be rebuilt.

Danny · September 18, 2023 at 4:43 pm

Maybe they’re collecting “data” on everyone in order to support their claims about “climate change” being the number one threat to our country.

Personally, I think everyone is paranoid about being constantly surveilled. I really don’t give a rat’s ass if they know I drove across town and went to the pet store yesterday.

I also regularly insult various racial groups and “identities” in the presence of my cell phone and couldn’t care less if Google or the FBI or anyone else hears it. It drives my wife crazy.

Anonymous · September 18, 2023 at 5:58 pm

There is no such thing as paranoia in IT security, and has not been for some time. Check your junk email or, if you have such, web server logs; people are trying to break in more or less constantly.

Then, your computer or at least some major component such as the motherboard was probably made in China. Have you checked for unexpected additional components? The operating system is quite likely from a business with deep ties to Government; if it’s not, if it’s open source, it very likely contains a security package provided by NSA (SELinux).

So, do you believe none of those entities makes use of their access to your system? If they don’t, presumably they don’t need to. For some reason.

joe · September 18, 2023 at 6:36 pm

think about the stuff they are doing that he didn’t tell you about…that should make you paranoid…

mike · September 18, 2023 at 7:36 pm

This is somewhat related. I had an old friend over who is fond of his hobby drone. He was going to demonstrate it to me at my place as I have been considering one to modernize and extend my defensive surveillance capabilities. They look like they have great range and usefulness for seeing what is going on a mile away or so, but I found out that such capability comes at a price.
The first problem he had, (and he says he always has technical problems with it), is that he could not login to his drone account with his password over his tablet. When not logged in over the internet, the drone would no go any higher then the treetops. Not good. That means the drone is really controlled by the manufacturer and you need some kind of Internet or call phone connectivity to use the thing. Not impressed. He never did get the password to work with the tablet and had to use the cell phone attached to the controller to fly and see through the drone camera in flight. Much smaller screen display almost to the point of uselessness. I could make out known objects in the distance with effort, but a column of tanks coming down the road would have been hard to find. Not impressed. He went to show me how high it could go, and it did indeed go straight up until it was barely visible. The cell phone display immediately warned that he was likely in restricted airspace at an operational altitude for aircraft and advised that he drop back down per FAA regs and his user’s agreement. He told me that dji could disable the drone when he does that and has in the past on him in areas with more air traffic. Not impressed. So where and when the drone is used is recorded by the manufacturer and they can shut it down whenever they want. I guess I won’t be getting one for any questionable hypothetical missions. To top it all off, the 2 flights he made just to show me this burned through a full nights battery charge in about 10 mins each, so we were done for the day. The battery died in the middle of the last flight, so it dropped right where it was and we had to conduct a search for it. Not impressed. I was thinking of dropping a grand on one since they seemed to be a real force multiplier, but now i’m not so sure. If these are real limitations, then hobby drones will have a very short lifespan in the hungergames. GPS disruption, power and call service failures are all likely in the cards and appear to be something we can count on, and they appear to be critical drawbacks and vulnerabilities for hobby drones. Having to allow a Chinese company to manage my ability to use something I purchased from them and the ability to disable it any time they like is also not a strong selling point.

Anonymous · September 19, 2023 at 2:19 am

All phones have GPS, it’s a required part of the 911 service.

Let’s hope the data centers are recording our porn watching habits, instead of teaching the IBM Jeopardy game show machine to be a military general.


Anonymous · September 19, 2023 at 2:27 pm

They Collect the data in case they can use it as in J6.general Mike Hayden is the one who ramped it up. Saw a documentary years ago on the creator of meta data collection

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