In recent weeks, Americans have been treated to high-profile news stories concerning the administration of former president Barack Obama having conducted clandestine surveillance on the campaign of Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle, the “unmasking” of innocent private citizens subsequent to this, as well as dedicated Obama operatives who remain in government service acting in an orchestrated manner to sabotage the Trump administration.
Over the last few years, Americans have become aware of clandestine and illegal government surveillance that has been initiated against citizens, whether they be journalists, political organizations, elected officials, or unaffiliated individuals who have aligned themselves against the far left international socialist machine. (To be fair, the framework for all of this was put in place prior to the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama, but came into its own during the tenure this president.)
What does the emerging surveillance state mean to the average American, who may not have any political ideology to speak of or possess sensitive information, political or otherwise, but who is duly concerned with regard to the government or anyone else gaining access to their private communications?
Obviously, identity theft has become a significant concern for many of us, and there are certainly both private and business matters in which Americans engage that, while not illegal, could prove to be personal or professional liabilities if certain other individuals were to come into possession of related sensitive information.
Does the average, nonpolitical American citizen have the right to be protected from clandestine surveillance? The Constitution would say “yes,” according to its verbiage and spirit, as would the innumerable court cases decided over the years having to do with First and Fourth Amendment dictates.
The artful arguments of politicos attempting to justify the surveillance state aside, we will presume here that no American citizen who has not been suspect in illegal activity ought to fear to have their private digital communications (telephone, email, or online) made available to government agencies without due process.
That said, what recourse does the average citizen have if this does occur, and what protections, if any, are available to those seeking to prevent such occurrences?
Entertainment media, in the form of science fiction and dystopian fictional representations (mainly films and television), has offered quite a few scenarios wherein intrusive or tyrannical governments in technologically-advanced societies oppress citizens in a myriad of ways. In some of these scenarios, it is citizens themselves who successfully thwart the designs of these governments by being better at utilizing the same technology that is being employed to oppress them. An example of this, as I touched on in a recent column elsewhere, was the short-lived 1980s television series, Max Headroom, but there are many others.
We’ve established that the average American citizen does indeed have the right to be protected from illegal government surveillance. As we’ve learned over the past 10 years, there is certainly a need for same. Certainly, major corporations and governments themselves have the financial resources to contract elaborate security measures – but are there any practical and affordable utilities available to fill this need for the average consumer?
Well, other than those in-house or boutique software houses that can provide whatever one wants if they can afford it, those utilities that claim to shield users’ communications remain encryption-based. It is becoming increasingly evident that this modality is ‘old school’ considering the alacrity with which hackers, criminals, and yes, governments are able to thwart these utilities.
Enter DEAF, or the Defense Enabling and Assisting Framework. It is, as its developers claim, a State-of-the-Art digital communications security solution. Currently available for consumers by the startup DEAFUSA.org, it has been endorsed by such luminaries as Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and former Fox News contributor Gen. Paul Vallely (U.S. Army, Ret.). In fact, the DEAF utility was used to secure the cell phone communications of the Trump campaign, his family, and campaign officials during the 2016 election cycle.
As its website claims, DEAF was developed over a five-year period by three leading computer scientists with backgrounds in physics, optoelectronics, encryption, compression and cryptography. DEAFUSA.org currently offers subscriptions for the coverage of individual cell phone lines for a nominal cost to average consumers. Another phase of its release will include online protection for their customers.
Unlike most digital security solutions, DEAF is not encryption based. The technology behind DEAF is of course proprietary and remains a closely-guarded secret even among those outside the tech realm within the company.
Like the controversial (but now ubiquitous) radar detector available for motorists, digital privacy solutions which stymie government efforts to engage in surveillance activities are likely to come under fire, regardless of the nature of the product (encryption versus non-encryption).
As long as access to such technology remains a function of the market rather than government dictates, it is likely that the proactive citizen concerned with government overreach will indeed have options as regards protecting their private communications for some time to come.