by J.M. Porup (@toholdaquill)

95 Theses of Cyber

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martial law


the secret police have declared martial law in the cyber domain and pre-emptively seized control of the internet’s civilian infrastructure

what does this mean?

Martial law. You know it when you see it: armed troops patrolling the streets, tanks creaking and squealing past your window, curfew, suspected rebels dragged from bed in the middle of the night, television and radio stations and newspaper offices occupied by soldiers, news replaced by propaganda.

Really obvious, isn’t it? If you were living under a military dictatorship, you’d know it. You’d think.

But on the cyber domain, martial law looks very different than in meatspace. Our use of the phrase “militarization of cyberspace” reveals our struggle to come to terms with the military regime we now live under.

Ask yourself: What would “militarization of meatspace” look like? Cyberspace, like meatspace, is owned and run almost exclusively by civilians for civilian purposes. Isn’t “militarization of cyberspace” clearly an awkward attempt to describe martial law?

In any when or where, martial law means controlling the movement of both people and information, and doing so without the consent of the governed.

On the cyber domain, people have become data, electromagnetic spurts of radiation pulsing across a global network of data pipes – and the army today no longer cares about patrolling the streets, they care about patrolling the pipes.

Checkpoint: papers, please.

Sawhorses and sandbags and machine guns are replaced by deep packet inspection and IP blacklists and pre-emptive seizure of civilian infrastructure. The NSA “hunt sysadmins” [0], the Snowden docs warn. Why? Are sysadmins “terrorists”? All of them? Really? Of course not. Own the sysadmin, own the network – university, corporation, hospital, doesn’t matter, seize control now and apologize later, if they can catch you.

Sniff It All, Collect It All, Know It All, Process It All, Exploit It All. [1]

Martial law.

When the NSA hacks your university [2], your network no longer belongs to you, any more than if soldiers stormed your office and seized control of the building. No data – and data are people too – pass without the permission of the occuping force, which has the power to interfere and disrupt any movement they don’t like.

Consider the Third Amendment to the US Constitution:

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

This law prohibits the military from commandeering your home and forcing you to feed and shelter soldiers – an egregious and obvious symptom of martial law.

But when the military hacks civilian infrastructure – your home – your laptop – your smartphone – without your consent or even knowledge – the secret police declare martial law, an act every bit as offensive to the Third Amendment and democracy as quartering troops on a civilian homestead.

As Edward Snowden once said [3], “Maybe you paid for it, but if you get hacked, it no longer belongs to you.”

The rampant practice of interdiction [4] drives this point home: intercepting Cisco routers or other computer gear – destined for civilian users – in order to install malware on them is the cyber equivalent of sending soldiers to pre-emptively occupy civilian infrastructure.

We see evidence of martial law also in the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, which makes it legal for the government to compel software backdoors from tech companies under gag. In 2013 Bruce Schneier declared the NSA was commandeering Silicon Valley [5], so we may reasonably conclude the US has found its own way to declare martial law under a more hodge-podge legal framework.

No SEAL Team lounges insolently about the Google campus, flicking cigarette butts at people and threatening them with rifles. No need. That’s what lawyers are for. A court order from a compromised or foolish judge carries the full force of government violence.

The use of force by the state to control the flow of people and information – and to use such force without the knowledge or consent of the people so governed – constitutes martial law, and betrays the constitutional order we have so long enjoyed.

The people who work for the American secret police swore an oath to protect the Constitution. Those who engage in such conduct break their oath on a daily basis, betray their country, bring shame on themselves and their families, and commit treason against the Constitution.

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