'The Root': Digging deeper on The Black Chamber, Panopticon society, and a new battlefield

Watch 'The Root: The Birth of Big Brother' and all of 'The Root' episodes HERE

Segment 1: Panopticon society; A New Battlefield; Black Chamber

Panopticon Society 

Glenn began the program demonstrating the massive size and scope of the current levels of domestic surveillance in the United States. The NSA released a memo in 2013 claiming it ‘only’ touches 1.6% of all internet traffic, and attempted to calm snooping fears by saying it’s like a dime on a basketball court. That dime, however, is 29.21 petabytes of data a day, a far more amount than Google, which is by far and away the largest website on the internet. Glenn compared the new model of surveillance, watch first ask later, to that of a panopticon like society. A panopticon was a prison design created by Jeremy Bentham in 1787 and he wrote an extensive proposal to have one built – you can read that proposal here.

One of the common themes throughout the program is America’s pattern of trading liberty for the promise of security. Benjamin Franklin warned against this and famously said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” but that’s not stopping the practice from becoming the norm. Time after time in American history, we can see the 4th Amendment getting brushed aside in the name of ‘national interest’ or ‘national security’. With technology rapidly advancing, this justification is used more and more. It especially ramped up when cyber warfare went from theory to reality.

A New Battlefield: Stuxnet

With two wars raging in the Middle East, America wasn’t exactly in a good position to deal with Iran. Glenn has long called Iran the ‘head of the snake’ and in 2006 they were dangerously close to weaponized nukes. Negotiations were going nowhere. Options were limited. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ordered the resumption of uranium enrichment at their underground enrichment site at Natanz. On top of that Ahmadinejad announced that tens of thousands of more centrifuges were planned to aid the enrichment effort. With only a single nuclear reactor in the country it appeared obvious that Iran was after more than just civilian nuclear capability. Their nuclear program was being weaponized.

The conventional military response would be to eliminate the underground facility at Natanz. This would involve a combination of either airstrikes, sabotage, boots on the ground or all of the above. Both the United States and Israel were looking into all military options available. More so for the latter. Israel just couldn’t afford to wait any longer and a strike seemed inevitable.

With full scale war already being waged right next door in Iraq President Bush looked for another option. General James E. Cartwright of the United States Strategic Command would provide it. General Cartwright proposed a new kind of warfare. One that hadn’t been attempted by any other nation or individual. The proposal was to weaponize the NSA and the U.S. cyber program with the goal of causing actual physical damage to another nation. Rather than spying, hacking and gathering information we would now look to destroy enemy property by pressing enter on a keyboard. Streams of ones and zeroes would replace tanks and missiles. Operation Olympic Games was born.

The program would take 4 years to develop. Israel was brought in as a full partner utilizing not only their own equally capable cyber warfare program, Codename Unit 8200, but also their extensive human intelligence network within Iran. The weapon, code named The Bug, would be inserted into the computer network of Iran’s underground nuclear facility at Natanz. The Bug’s purpose was to cause Natanz’s centrifuges to spin so fast that they’d eventually shatter under the pressure. At the same time The Bug hid it’s existence and forced Natanz’s systems to report that all systems were operating normally.

Operation Olympic Games was both a success and a failure. It successfully destroyed over a thousand Iranian centrifuges. On the other hand The Bug accidentally escaped the Natanz facility and hit the open internet. This alerted the entire world to it’s existence and allowed civilian experts to analyze it. The Bug would later be named Stuxnet by the public and that’s probably how you know it by.

In the end some say the result of The Bug/Stuxnet effectively set the Iranian nuclear program back over 2 years. The launchpad of this attack wasn’t from a missile platform, a battleship or a howitzer. This weapon launched from a mere thumb drive. Warfare had forever changed.

We now live in a world where attacks such as Olympic Games are a very real and very dangerous possibility. If we could successfully cause physical as well as virtual destruction via our cyber program so can others. Olympic Games style attacks on our power grid, water supply or own nuclear reactors can happen at any time. We’ve proved it. And we continue to engage in this new battlefield.

The real danger this new sort of warfare presents isn’t from foreign enemies, although they are a threat. Technology of this level of sophistication is being used by our own government to monitor law abiding citizens – just in case they go off the rails and do something illegally. As high profile hacks such as Sony and Blue Cross/Blue Shield increase fear among Americans, history has shown we will easily do exactly what Ben Franklin warned against: trading liberty for temporary security.

That’s where we’re at – but how did we get here? We have to go back to the progressive era.

Black Chamber

In the domestic surveillance world, Herbert Yardley was the original. The NSA’s origins can be traced back to this one man with a knack for cracking codes, who after World War I launched the first peacetime domestic & foreign surveillance operation. He would later turn on government after he felt they wrong him and hampered his efforts with budget cuts and other disputes. He wrote a book exposing nearly every trick of the trade, which didn’t sit well with the government.

Herbert Yardley was born in Worthington, Indiana in 1889. He was the son of a railroad telegraph operator and, like many boys his age at that time, he apprenticed under his father to continue the family business. Yardley endeavored for more than what rural Indiana had to offer. Passing the civil service exam and with his skills as a telegraph operator he would eventually land a job with the State Department as a code clerk.

Yardley’s pivot point would come one afternoon while looking at a secret message to President Woodrow Wilson. After quickly breaking the code, Yardley deemed U.S. communications far too easy to decipher. He would make improving the communications security of the United States his life’s mission. After ensuring U.S. communications were secure he continued his work by breaking the codes of foreign governments in anticipation of war.

War indeed came for the United States on April 6th 1917. Yardley was transferred to a new unit within military intelligence. MI-8 was responsible for identifying enemy communications and breaking their codes. Under Yardley’s leadership MI-8 was responsible for breaking nearly every German military and diplomatic code in less than a year. He would go on to visit both Britain and France training and learning from the best cryptanalysis minds in the world. After the war was over Yardley came back to the States and MI-8 was disbanded.

The story should end right there. But it doesn’t. Instead, General Marlborough Churchill of U.S. Army Intelligence pleaded with the State Department to keep Herbert Yardley’s work active. The nation was no longer in a state of war and Yardley’s work would be directed not only overseas but within the United States as well. The State Department approached a pivot point of their own. Deciding that the 4th amendment was up for interpretation they funded an off the books covert operation within the continental United States.

Due to the illegal nature of their work Yardley couldn’t set up shop in Washington D.C. The decision was made to base the operation in New York City. Those who knew of it often referred to it as the Cipher Bureau. Yardley preferred to call it the Black Chamber. Named after the French intelligence equivalent Chamber Noire.

We were now in uncharted waters. The threat of world war had prompted our government to not only continue but to dramatically advance a wartime intelligence operation. Realizing that the law stood in his way Yardley approached the CEO’s of nearly every major communications company at the time to seek their cooperation. Pretty soon Western Union, Postal Telegraph and All-American Cable Company all secretly agreed to let the Black Chamber read the mail of both foreign nationals as well as United States citizens.

A relationship had been established between United States Intelligence Agencies and private American communications corporations. That relationship would snowball. It was at this point that the government asked for too much. They had crossed the line but we as citizens had the chance to stop it. Sadly we chose to enable it. The early foundation for the National Security Agency was set.

On Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.