In 2002 David Brown, a.k.a. DB Grady, graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in computer science. Soon after graduation he joined the Army and did a tour of duty in Afghanistan. At various points in his life, he has alley docked eighteen-wheelers, flipped burgers, jumped out of airplanes, and written Bezier spline generation algorithms. Currently, he is a member of the Authors Guild and the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, as well as a grant recipient from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
David Brown has investigated and discussed how the government secrecy industry has grown exponentially and how personal privacy is facing attacks from numerous fronts. “It’s astonishing and it’s only getting worse,” Grady commented about the incredible amounts of information that has been labeled as ‘secret’ by our government. According to his research, the amount of government workers or contractors who have ‘secret’ or ‘top secret’ clearances is in the millions and could account for the entire population of the city of Chicago. He explained that this is because so much information has been classified over the years that such clearances are required “just to do your typical day-to-day job.”
Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host, Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show. This is your host Jason Hartman, where we talk about protecting the people places and profits you care about in these uncertain times. We have a great interview for you today. And we will be back with that in less than 60 seconds on the Holistic Survival Show. And by the way, be sure to visit our website at HolisticSurvival.com. You can subscribe to our blog, which is totally free, has loads of great information, and there’s just a lot of good content for you on the site, so make sure you take advantage of that at HolisticSurvival.com. We’ll be right back.
Start of Interview with David Brown
Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome David Brown to the show. He is a freelance writer and novelist, generally published under the pseudonym D.B. Grady. His latest books are Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry and The Command: Deep Inside the President’s Secret Army. Both were published by John Wiley & Sons and coauthored with his friend Marc Ambinder. David, welcome. How are you?
David Brown: I’m very well. Thank you.
Jason Hartman: Well good. It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I should also mention that you’re a correspondent for The Atlantic and a regular contributor to The Week and Mental Floss, which I enjoy.
David Brown: Glad to hear it.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, good stuff. So these are works of fiction, but they seem all too true in today’s era, don’t they?
David Brown: Well, Deep State and The Command are both non-fiction. They reported explorations of the secrecy apparatus of the United States. We take a hard look at the national security agency, the joint special operations command and the various components of the intelligence community.
Jason Hartman: Well, it’s interesting that an organization based on secrecy and intelligence has become so famous recently, thanks to mister Snowden. But tell us about. What goes on in this world?
David Brown: The national security agency is charged with signals intelligence and cyber security for the United States. They basically have one job: listen to other countries. That’s their job. They have one rule: do not listen to American citizens. Well, wouldn’t you know? The one rule they have, they’ve seemed to have broken repeatedly, really since their inception. But most recently as the world becomes digital, so to speak, the violations have become egregious and quite shocking.
Jason Hartman: Sure. Most definitely. The NSA was in the news yesterday with this whole thing of is one suspicious email comes into your account, that they’re looking at, then they basically download your whole account. And I guess the FISA court ruled that they can’t do that. They claimed it was a technical glitch and that now it is fixed. But who the heck can possibly keep track of this? I can’t fix technical glitches on my own personal computer. And who’s looking over the NSA’s shoulder?
David Brown: That’s one of the arguments that transparency advocates have been making for years. We make that point in Deep State. The national security agency operates in almost entire total secrecy, the FISA court operates entirely secret, the congressional oversight communities hold closed hearings. And when the leaders of the national security agency and the director of national intelligence testify before congress, we now know they lie. So there’s really very little accountability there, and that’s really the heart of the problem.
One thing that I would add to what you mentioned earlier about the downloading email via one email – there is in place what is called the three hop rule. So, if Bob the terrorist is spotted by the national security agency, the FBI or the CIA, the national security agency can not only monitor Bob the Terrorist, they can go on hop away, everyone in Bob the terrorist’s phonebook, they can go two hops away, everyone in the terrorist’s friend’s phonebook, three hops away, everyone in that person’s phonebook. So what you’re looking at, for every one terrorist mathematically, 2.5 million people can be monitored at any given time. So that’s a pretty horrifying thing, and that’s legal.
Jason Hartman: Unbelievable. The three hop rule, very interesting. That is just unbelievable. We can talk all day or for days about the abuses and the concerns, but maybe I’d just like to jump to asking you, if anything, what can we do about it? America was built on the idea of individual rights and being secure in our possessions and effects. And so much of our possessions and effects, if you will, are in the digital world nowadays. It’s just incredible.
David Brown: You’re asking a very good question. Generally any issue in politics, you’ve got the left and the right kind of doing a tug of war. So if you talk about abortion, one side’s against it, one side’s for it. If you’re talking about, well really anything, go down the line: war, peace, anything, there’s the left and the right pulling each other and we kind of end up in the middle somewhere, kind of like a middle safe ground. Domestic surveillance, or at least the activities of the intelligence communities and especially the national security agency, it’s the only issue I know of where republicans are like, absolutely let’s keep it going, and democrats are saying sure let’s keep it going. There’s no opposition really in elected government today. Everybody is running in the same direction, and that is continue surveillance.
And a lot of this has to do with power. The democrats don’t want to go against president Obama, the republicans are afraid of going too hard against Obama because they might get a president elected in the next election. So everybody’s afraid of sacrificing what is a tremendous amount of power, and that alone should tell you why we should be a little bit concerned about the NSA and about the capabilities they have. Why are people wanting to protect and perpetuate this power?
Jason Hartman: Oh, no question about it. I think if we’re not living in fear of this, we all should be. The fact that, who knows what you post on your Facebook page today, when you watch something on the news and go complain about it, isn’t going to be brought up ten years from now and say, you know this guy posted anti-government things on his Facebook page. Well I do that a couple times a week. Isn’t the whole point to be critical of our government? That’s what we should be doing.
David Brown: That’s the great concern. And historically the infrastructure has not been there for this massive collection of data stored for a long period of time. The problem is technology has advanced to such a point where yes, now we can do exactly what you just said. The United States government and governments around the world can collect your data, and we know they are for a fact, vacuuming up the data in your social network and in your profile, and sticking it in a database and keeping it there. And that data is constantly being mined and churned for information. Now extensively its purpose is to thwart terrorist attacks, which is a good worthy goal. The problem is the data is still there, and you have to trust that everyone we elect now and for the rest of time will always be sort of a benevolent leader, never misuse this power. I’m not willing to make that bet.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, I’m not willing to make that bet either. I think it’s already being misused today. It’s just incredible. The whole concept of freedom of association. Facebook must have been the data mining opportunity of a lifetime for the government, because that whole freedom of association concept is out the window. How many people really know all of the “friends” in their Facebook circle? Say you’ve got a bad apple in there – oh, well you were friends with that person. What’s a friend nowadays?
David Brown: One of the big fears is once you get into these databases, you’re not getting out. So if, for example, you do have say, if not a direct friend on Facebook, or whatever any social network profile, but maybe two links away, your name gets brought into that database and it stays there. So whenever it comes time to begin doing investigations, your name will make an appearance. And that’s the horrifying thing. You will be eligible to be listened to by the government. Congratulations.
Jason Hartman: And it’s even more horrifying than that, because we’re assuming all the data stays intact. On my own computer from time to time, files get corrupted, data gets messed up. I’ve noticed that. And the address book on my iPhone, it will mess things up occasionally, where if I have your phone number in my phone, it’ll later after a couple of times of syncing it with the computer, it will say your name with someone else’s phone number. I’ve had that happen before and probably many people have. This can happen with the NSA databases too and you can be basically falsely thought of as associating with someone you’re not even associating with.
David Brown: These are systems built by man, so they will have flaws and they will have mistakes. The long term ramifications I don’t think have been felt, but will be and it will be a very bad day indeed.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. Something else, it really is. Well, tell us about the president’s secret army, if you will. Let’s kind of switch gears a little bit here.
David Brown: Sure. Mark and I wrote a book called The Command: Deep Inside the President’s Secret Army. This was in 2012. We’re referring to the joint special operations command, which is a component of special operations command designed for inner agencies special operations missions. Really, what you’re talking about here is Delta Force and Seal Team 6 and units like that. We can call them the president’s secret army, because to a large degree they don’t really fall inside the traditional chain of command. So a 30 man unit in the 80 second airborne isn’t likely to get a call from the president himself and say hey, do this. Delta probably will.
So the president has tremendous power. We saw that really with the Bin Laden raid. By any legal measurement, the Bin Laden raid was illegal. It simply was. It was an illegal invasion. That said, everyone’s glad it happened. And that’s where the president’s power comes in with regard to J-SOC, with regard to the Seal Teams and Delta.
Jason Hartman: And are you saying that this can be misused or is there a civil rights concern here too?
David Brown: Can it be misused? Absolutely. And again, that comes back to the same issue as the national security agency. Nobody’s saying that the analysts at the NSA are out to get you. There’s no evidence of that. The problem is one day – we’re not very far removed from a time when they can do that. Likewise, with units like J-SOC where there’s very, very minimal oversight. Today, nobody’s saying well, they’re secretly going to do whatever 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now – without adequate oversight, who can say what the problem is? And that’s why it should be the order of the day for government to provide as much transparency and offer as much sunlight to these types of programs as humanly possible. For example, Seal Team 6. There’s not a person on the planet who hasn’t heard of Seal Team 6…
Jason Hartman: Not now, no.
David Brown: One person you’ll never hear use the words Seal Team 6 is the president. Why? Because it doesn’t officially exist. These are the kinds of things, go ahead and be classified, go ahead and acknowledge that, because that’s the first step toward getting accountability.
Jason Hartman: Right. Very interesting, very interesting. Well, back to the NSA issue for a moment. I just wanted to ask you about Snowden because obviously he’s so in the news. Did he actually release anything that was of national security interest, or did he just tell us that our own government is spying on us, which we really didn’t know before that or at least not to that extent.
David Brown: Sure. One thing of course that would be highly illegal would be releasing, for example, the names of operatives in the field and endangering human lives. That of course would be unforgivable and that hasn’t happened, so that’s a good thing. In terms of the revelations that have come out, it’s very similar to the Bradley Manning WikiLeaks situation where everything that really has been revealed so far, has generally been suspected, has been reported on peripherally, I know in Deep State with regard to our section on the national security agency, we’ve actually been vindicated entirely by the revelations by Edward Snowden. It turns out we were right. So that’s good that we have confirmations of these things. So we always had an idea – we’re now getting kind of refinements to those ideas. We’re getting more details and we’re learning to a certain extent. One sad thing that we’re finding out is even the wildest dreams of the most insane conspiracy theorist, turns out he was right. So, that’s a pretty scary world to live in.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. It sure is. So I guess he has said, or the government believes he has a lot more information he could release and do a lot of damage if anything ever happens to him. Julian Assange was on 60 minutes too recently and he was kind of eluding to the same thing as kind of the insurance policy for these guys. Did you have any thoughts on that?
David Brown: Well, it’s a very clever plan in the event that Snowden or Julian Assange are captured or killed, these massive encrypted databases will be decrypted and suddenly all this information… look, they’re telling you the stuff that is safe to know. Wait until they start telling you everything. The whole truth and nothing but the truth is a scary thing. So that’s clever on their part, that’s a good self-defense mechanism. You can look at Bradley Manning to see why they’re doing it. Bradley Manning is basically going to be put under the prison. We’re never going to see him again. And these guys, these whistle blowers, need to have these sorts of protections, because the United States has very weak, if you could say they have whistle blower protection at all.
Jason Hartman: So, Bradley Manning, is he going to be in solitary the rest of his life?
David Brown: No, I don’t think he’ll be in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. That said, the actual conditions of his incarceration I’m not sure we know just yet. We know after he was arrested, for the first few months in fact, he was essentially tortured. It was a living hell for him and that’s what you can expect. I’d like to think that because there’s so much public attention brought to his case and because there’s so much sympathy for what he’s done, that no, he won’t have to live in this kind of caged animal environment.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. How was he tortured?
David Brown: Sleep deprivation was one of the big ones. You could look at the general conditions that he was living in. I think at some point he was put on suicide watch. Now, in the army suicide watch isn’t what you might generally think. Somebody’s going to be in the room with you 24-7 no matter what you do, everything will be removed that you can kill yourself with including shoelaces, belts, I think at one point he was stripped naked for an extended period of time. These are inhumane treatments for what is an entirely non-violent offense.
Jason Hartman: Cruel and unusual punishment. Just what our founders told us we couldn’t do, and now we’re doing it. It’s just amazing what this country’s trying to do.
David Brown: Now that we’re doing it, it’s legal. If these were things that well, the NSA is just violating the law and we need to get them, that would be one thing. They’re following the law to the letter and that’s the scarier part.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, it really is. Well, any more tips, just to wrap up, on what people can do? I always like to ask, gosh, rather than complain about this and spread the word about it so you create more awareness, what can we do?
David Brown: What you can do in your direct personal life to protect your communications, I advise everyone I talk to, to look for email encryption software. There’s one called GPG which is based on the PGP encryption software. It’s free. You can install it in your email program, Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail, all that stuff. You create a private key and a public key and you’re able to encrypt your email. And decrypting a PGP encrypted email takes somewhere on the order of 2 billion years.
Jason Hartman: Oh nice. Even for the government?
David Brown: For anyone. It’s mathematically impossible at this point. So, you’re basically looking at military grade encryption for your personal communications. It’s something worth looking into and that’s GPGtools.org.
Jason Hartman: GPGtools.org. Now that means the other person on the other side of your communication has to have the key, right?
David Brown: That’s correct, but they have to have the public key. The way it’s going to work is both sides have to have this program on their computer. Once you both have that software, really it’s automated. So when I send you an email, for example, it’ll encrypt it and when you receive it, it’ll automatically decrypt. You won’t have to do anything fancy. So that’s one thing that people can do in their lives today to make their communications a little bit safer.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, that’s great advice. You know what concerns me about these things like these anonymous browsing tools that are out there and so forth, and maybe GPG, is how do you know it wasn’t created by the NSA and there’s a backdoor in it? There’s no way I could know that.
David Brown: The beauty of this free software is that it is open source, so what is going on in the background is actually available for information security specialists to monitor, to read, to track, to figure out what’s going on, to make sure there’s nothing like what you worry about happening. Is it possible? Well anything’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely that GPG has been penetrated or somehow violated by the NSA.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, that’s great. Great advice. Well, give out your website and tell people where they can learn more about you.
David Brown: Sure. My website is dbgrady.com. You can find out more about the book at deepstates.org. And by all means, send me an email or buy many copies of the book for your friends and family.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Well David, thanks so much for joining us today, and keep getting the word out there about this stuff. We’ve got to be very vigilant. These are very, very important times in which we live. This is not business as usual for the US government, at least in my opinion. We’ve got to be very vigilant nowadays. So just encrypting your emails, great advice. Simple and easy to do right there. So good stuff, and dbgrady.com and again, I’m sure the books are on Amazon and published by John Wiley. So I appreciate you joining us today.
David Brown: Thanks for having me.
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Narrator: Thank you for joining us today for the Holistic Survival Show. Protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Be sure to listen to our Creating Wealth Show, which focuses on exploiting the financial and wealth creation opportunities in today’s economy. Learn more at www.JasonHartman.com or search “Jason Hartman” on iTunes. This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, offering very general guidelines and information. Opinions of guests are their own, and none of the content should be considered individual advice. If you require personalized advice, please consult an appropriate professional. Information deemed reliable, but not guaranteed.
Transcribed by Ralph
Guest: David Brown
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