Saturday, December 16, 2017

LifeSport on my mind

Keith Subero logo57

Mark Fraser

 Throughout the Independence weekend, I found myself celebrating less —thinking of the $400 million LifeSport scandal more. 

The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill debate, the controversy over national awards to two former prime ministers, even the Attorney General’s claim that the “Emailgate” matter had been settled by Google could not lessen my focus on the LifeSport Programme.

I maintained that Finance Minister Larry Howai—particularly as he is about to present another $60 billion budget next Monday must provide taxpayers with credible answers on how a $6.6 million budget allocation in 2012 metastasised into a $400 million cancer in 2014.

The resignation of Sport Minister, Anil Roberts, with no mention of the status of the accounting officer, the permanent secretary, and the tepid explanation that “the matter is now in the hands of the police” provide little satisfaction. 

During the celebrations, friends did recall that yesterday (Sunday) was the second anniversary of the proclamation of Section 34.  I reminded them that I was made aware of it in July 2012, and on Independence Day I was told—before it was even gazetted—that it was already proclaimed.

The discussion, after the AG’s claim that Google had settled the Emailgate matter, caused me “to shake the tree” for answers.

 My first shake was the timeline used by the Integrity Commission’s subpoena in the California court requesting information on three e-mail accounts.  

Why was the period limited to September 2012?  Plans for Section 34 were in place long before September 2012, so to limit the subpoena to the timeline mentioned by the Opposition Leader in the House may not reveal the full Emailgate story.

To obtain the full picture, I believe the commission also needs to re-think its strategy. Thanks to the disclosures of US whistle-blower, Edward Snowden the world is aware of the US government global surveillance system, which enables it “to know everything that everyone is doing, saying, thinking and planning”—foreign governments, their populations, international organisations, even US citizens. 

Surveillance is conducted—with assistance from the “Five Eyes” Alliance, agencies in Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand—through the largest intelligence agency in history, the NSA, a military branch of the Pentagon.

These combined networks enable the NSA to conduct economic espionage, diplomatic spying and suspicion-less surveillance in every corner of the world.

NSA boasts that its mission is “to prevent the slightest piece of electronic communication from evading its grasp”. 

So it has been collecting two types of information: Content—through which it can listen to our phone calls, read our e-mails, browse our histories, etc.; and Metadata—amass our personal email records, telephone calls, their locations, etc.

Snowden’s disclosures reveal the US government can “create a remarkably comprehensive picture of your life, your associations, your activities, including your most intimate and private information”.

Through data tools, as Prism and X-Keyscore the US government collects billions of emails accessing Google, Microsoft, YouTube, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype, Apple and other servers. The billions of calls made on iPhones, Android, etc all can transmit data back to NSA. 

It is through PRISM that the NSA targeted the personal cellphone of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel; the e-mails of Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, her key advisers and Mexican President, Enrique Pena Nieto.

“The possibility that one’s personal content will be published and become known one day—either by mistake or through criminal interference—will always exist,” Eric Schmidt, executive president of Google, wrote in the book, The Digital Age.

“The option to ‘delete’ data is largely an illusion—lost files, deleted emails and erased text messages can be recovered with minimal effort,” he added.

Snowden’s work now poses questions on the extent the US government monitors activities in T&T, through PRISM and other data tools.

Surprisingly, last June, visiting US Assistant Secretary, William Brownfield announced that the murder of Dana Seetahal was a “carefully planned” hit organised by a criminal organisation in T&T.

So is the US government the real source to resolve Emailgate—and not Google and the California court?

Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a career in communication and management