Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is France

Sometimes I don’t know if I ought to laugh, cry, or just become a hermit and not follow the news…

Turns out that the USA / NSA was not just soaking up the phone calls of Ms. Merkel in Germany, but also those of the French leadership.

That fact is now leaked… and the French are livid.

In related news, the French parliament is passing a law to allow France to soak up all internet and communications traffic and without even a warrant needed.

Such an amazing juxtaposition, an unbelievable gift to those of us amused at the structural absurdity of what passes for human morality.

I thought of quoting the Guardian on this one, but I’ve not used The Blaze much, so I’m going to quote them, even though it just looks like they are quoting the BBC:


French President Calls Reported NSA Spying on the Country’s Top Leaders ‘Unacceptable’

Jun. 24, 2015 6:33am Liz Klimas

PARIS (TheBlaze/AP) — French President Francois Hollande is holding an emergency meeting of top lawmakers to discuss documents released by WikiLeaks that showed the U.S. National Security Agency spied on Hollande and his two predecessors.

Hollande called the NSA intercepts an “unacceptable” security breach.

France is one of several U.S. allies that rely heavily on American spying powers to prevent terrorist acts and other threats, but Hollande said the country would “not tolerate” such potential threats to its own security, BBC reported.

Just for Serioso, I’ll quote the NYT on this bit, though I heard on broadcast news that the bill had passed and this is about an earlier step, the NTY being a bit out of date on the story (not as fast as broadcast news…)


Lawmakers in France Move to Vastly Expand Surveillance

The lower house of the French parliament held a vote on Tuesday to adopt new surveillance rules. Credit Ian Langsdon/European Pressphoto Agency

PARIS — At a moment when American lawmakers are reconsidering the broad surveillance powers assumed by the government after Sept. 11, the lower house of the French Parliament took a long stride in the opposite direction Tuesday, overwhelmingly approving a bill that could give the authorities their most intrusive domestic spying abilities ever, with almost no judicial oversight.

The bill, in the works since last year, now goes to the Senate, where it seems likely to pass, having been given new impetus in reaction to the terrorist attacks in and around Paris in January. Those attacks, which included the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery, left 17 people dead.

Here’s a source with The Latest. Just hours old. The law is now passed both houses and adopted.


French Parliament adopts law boosting surveillance powers

Published Wednesday, June 24, 2015 | 11:43 a.m.

Updated 11 hours, 15 minutes ago

PARIS (AP) — The French Parliament has adopted a controversial surveillance law aimed at broadening eavesdropping of terrorism suspects, despite protests from privacy advocates and concern about U.S.-style massive data sweeps.

Wednesday’s vote in the National Assembly, months in the making, came as French officialdom was decrying revelations less than a day earlier that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on three French presidents and senior officials.

The law won’t take effect until a court rules on whether it abides by France’s constitution.

The law will entitle intelligence services to place recording devices in suspects’ homes and beacons on their cars without prior authorization from a judge. It would also force communication and Internet firms to allow intelligence services to install electronic boxes to record metadata from all Internet users in France.

But hey, who needs any privacy…

Some Tech Talk

Guess it’s time to put together an “encrypt and tunnel out of the country to an external ISP” kit and publish the “how to” on it. Just using TOR is helpful and will do most of it. But putting that inside an encrypted VPN to an external site in another country gets you more. Yeah, they get to record that you have an encrypted link, and that it goes to the ISP “over there”, but “over there” is not in their jurisdiction… and then if they get inside the tunnel, they find an encrypted TOR link running. Slow, but hey, that’s the cost…

The Dongle Pi is useful for “internet cafe” type use:


With a disposable $10 wireless dongle and a disposable SD card (flash it as soon as you are done with a session for paranoid circumstances) and you can be pretty well clean with every boot. Dispose the dongle after any really critical use so there’s no hardware fingerprint (MAC address can be changed for “good enough” use most of the time, but to really be sure, just pitch it in the BBQ… or ocean… or…)

As Microsoft comes “pre hacked” to NSA specs (the encryption is known crackable) you simply must use open source, i.e. Linux or BSD based, systems for actual secure encryption. Also, since UEFI bootloader in newer PCs is 100 MB of black box, expect that is is pre-hacked under your OS, so get a system without it. Either an older PC, or a single board computer SBC like the R.Pi. Something where you can “flash the bootloader” with an open source one like SeaBIOS.

While I’ve not used it (so don’t know how English Friendly it is) nor have I looked through the code (so don’t know if there are any subtle Chinese hacks in it) there is also Kylin OS. Designed by the Chinese based on initially BSD, then a port to the Linux kernel done. Basically, after the Chinese found the NSA pre-hacks in all the shit they were getting from us, they made a system they expected to be secure against that crap. It is now used inside China. (Then they used what they learned to exploit the built in weaknesses in MS et. al. against the US Gov; thus the recent hacks. NSA, meet petard…) At any rate, you can get a Kylin Ubuntu version:


The link to the “community” there to help you is Chinese at the other end of the link… so probably a language problem for “help”. (One hopes the OS is still multi-lingual).

On my “someday” list was “make an English equivalent of Kylin”, but maybe that needs to be a French one instead… with built in automatic VPN / deep encryption / dark web access ready out of the box and torrified. (The Tails folks hate that idea, as one of the ‘defenses’ from their POV is that the OS has a very strictly limited set of programs so a small “attack surface” while also all being identical so things like fingerprinting a system via fonts installed and browsers used is impossible. I’m not that paranoid as I don’t do anything of interest, but their point is valid for hard core uses.)

UPDATE: Thought I’d add a couple of links to Tails information. The Amnesiac Incognito Live System. Be advised that just talking about them or going to their site now causes an interest in you; since it was used by Snowden in shipping out his ‘findings’. So I’m going to be “on a list” for talking about them. (Then again, I’m “on a list” for so many things already… likely started about 35 years ago when dating the daughter of a nuclear bomb lab’s head honcho…) So, general intro to Tails: https://blog.malwarebytes.org/privacy-2/2014/05/tails-the-amnesic-incognito-live-system/ and where to get it: https://tails.boum.org/. If you are really interested in privacy and security and not being tagged, bagged, and tracked; do the ‘looking at’ and ‘download’ using something like a Dongle Pi or disposable system at an open internet hot spot.

In Conclusion

Well, one simply must laugh at the indignation of The French juxtaposed with their doing it more and with less oversight than the NSA uses.

It’s the direction the world is going. Welcome to the New KGB, same as the old KGB… just speaking more English and French…


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Political Current Events, Tech Bits and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is France

  1. Petrossa says:

    As i said in another comment recently, if you value your privacy in Europe you can’t do without an encrypted VPN. This law only makes legal what was done since decades already. But given the huge (almost 10%) muslim population the greater part of which lives in ghetto’s the risks they have for islam inspired terror attacks is quite big so the reasoning behind makes some sense.

  2. Ben Palmer says:

    “the risks they have for islam inspired terror attacks is quite big so the reasoning behind makes some sense.” Yet, according to French law (or its practical application), singling out an ethnic/religious group would make your statement “racist” even though it is confirmed by evidence. Go figure …

  3. Larry Ledwick says:

    A recent post I saw on twitter by one of the former three letter agency types was that every industrialized nation has security folks who’s job it is to break the laws of other countries to gather intelligence. That has been true since before Napoleon was a private. It is a necessary part of survival in a world of competing governments, and everyone should understand that.

    As noted before, the French are much more proactive on counter terrorism activities than most governments because of their experience in North Africa in the 1950’s and 1960’s. They fully understand the true nature of the groups that they are dealing with and where things go if you don’t have the means and methods to shut them down. They are one of the few examples where a well developed insurgency was systematically destroyed, but they did it with methods which are best discussed only in whispers, and not publicly acknowledged. Their methods were straight out of the play books of some of the most brutal internal security organizations in history. They used agent provocateurs to encourage the bad guys to do really extreme and stupid things which destroyed their credibility with the local population and local support. That killed a lot of people in the short term but it was the necessary price of success to accomplish their goal of breaking the back of the insurgency.

    Their outrage over spying on their leaders is like Germany, all for public show, they do exactly the same thing and have since before they agreed to assist a fledgling colony break away from the British.

    One thing people need to realize is that when you get to the top level intelligence agencies there is really very little you can do to block them from getting to your data if they are motivated to get it. The average person simply does not have the technological means to seriously interfere with their data gathering, short of going back to very low tech methods like personal couriers and one time pad codes. Even then, just by the act of trying too hard to hide information, will make you more interesting to those who want to know. At some point you cross a line that you become very interesting just because you work so hard to be secure.

  4. Jason Calley says:

    Ranchers do not let the cattle live in the bunkhouse. The same is true in politics. Rulers have one set of laws for themselves, and another set of laws for hoi polloi. The French leaders are upset because they were treated like commoners.

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    French and Americans spying on one another! Heavens who would have thought!
    Americans have been spying on the French Government since their revolution against the British. Ben Franklin was Our most prominent Spy of that Era. The French have never been dependable allies, so spying is/was the only way to stay ahead of their double dealing. pg

  6. E.M.Smith says:


    I’ve not used a commercial VPN site, having mostly set up VPNs for companies, but I suppose a short review of what’s available (and which is likely to be a government infiltrated front…) is likely something to add to a ‘keeping private’ posting…

    @Larry Ledwick:

    Good point. The limit case on that one is that both the UK and the USA have laws against their agencies spying internally. So they just reached an agreement that each would “spy” on the other, then share the resultant data. “No, honorable sir, we do NOT spy on our citizens. {stage voice aside: we just get our friends to do it for us and share.} Absolutely NOT, sir, not a single intercept of our citizen’s data.”

    Though with the Patriot Act I think the need for that ended (though the program likely continued).

    “Fledgeling”? We weren’t fledgling. We were a full fledged bird! ;-)

    One of my favorite code methods is the shared book. Just send a set of digits for page, paragraph, sentence, word, letter. (Or leave off letter code if the whole word works and both word and letter code for the whole sentence). As long as “which book” is not ever shared in public, well, tis a whole library to search. One could also include a leading ISBN number to specify which book, but then the code depends on folks not being bright enough to detect / figure out that it is an ISBN number. It’s essentially then just “security by obscurity” instead of “shared secret”. But for ‘fast and dirty’ you can just slip someone an ISBN on a card, then use the page/paragraph/sentence/word system in the sent text. (I’d not be surprised, though, to find out that the Google “suck up all the books in the world” has a nice fat pipe to the NSA for searching with this in mind – so you might want to ‘mix it up’ some with some salt. Different number order and such. I’d thought of having a specific number that codes for “next N bytes are garbage” to litter it with dross. So 945:43:12:34 might mean “The next 43 entries are bogus”. Enough of that kind of stuff tends to break the computer driven match searches. You could also have a code that means “use reverse order for the next N” and similar permutations.)

    And yes, the “hiding too hard” makes you stand out. For example, the “save all your data” law in the USA says they must dump it after a while (a few years?); except that encrypted communications can be kept forever (waiting for crypto cracking to improve enough to break anything that’s not breakable today). So this comment will be kept forever as it is going through an encrypted https to get to the server… Also using Tails gets you flagged for further looking (thus the suggestion to only look at it / down load it via “deniable” systems and at a public open hot spot). But, since I’m a security geek and most likely tracked 8 ways from Sunday already ( after all, I did send my resume to the NSA after 911, they just didn’t want me; but I’m sure that put me “on a list”…) having them find out I looked at Tails isn’t all that important to me. (They would then also find all my blog stuff with the specific Chromebox hardware tag and my IP with physical location tag and realize I was not very interesting to them… yes, it is sort of a ‘vanilla top story’; but it also just happens to be true.)

    I probably ought to add that “agencies” watch all the TOR exit nodes as they figure that’s where the most interesting stuff is located. Having a lot of folks using TOR for “nothing of interest” is one of the goals of the TOR folks as that helps fuzz over what is important. Had I the money I’d also have a few exit nodes hosted at various data centers around the world and periodically rotate which was “up” and where. (Consistent monitoring of a huge volume of data at many nodes is one of the few weaknesses of TOR. Fuzzing up the set of nodes, and periodically having traffic change where it goes, helps.)

    @Jason Calley:

    Nicely put ;-)

    I’m more fond of the system where the ‘house’ is the upstairs part over the ‘barn’ so heat from the cattle keep you warm; and you are all sharing the same housing… but that’s gone out of favor…


    The general rule is that everyone spies on everyone. I just found it funny that the French would be shouting out of both sides of their mouth at the same time…

    I actually find the GCHQ / NSA / CIA coordination the most interesting arrangement. We spy on the UK for the UK agency, they spy on us for our agencies, then everybody shares…

    Oh Well…

  7. radozw says:

    Just look on ESP8266. SoC with WiFi on a chip. Works with arduino IDE. Works with R_Pi. Costs 3-5$ – disposable.

  8. Pingback: VeraCrypt – A TrueCrypt replacement / follow-on | Musings from the Chiefio

  9. Sandy McClintock says:

    The blurred lines between ‘Government Intelligence Gathering’ and ‘Commercial Espionage’ can be seen here:-
    I saw an TV interview with James Woolsey where he did confirm the leaking of a faxed Airbus tender document to Boeing. If such behaviour is acceptable to all then it’s better to take steps to encrypt sensitive communications.

  10. Larry Ledwick says:

    A book code is a pretty standard basic solution, but it does not have to be a book. The base document could be any per-arraigned block of text of any imaginable size. With the help of simple scripts you could generate a ref document off of public documents like the first 1000 words of some fixed text, then apply some odd ball parsing to stir it up a bit and put it in a standard form.

    The classic example of a simple version of this was the POW knock code based on a 5 x 5 matrix.

    You could apply the same method (by pre-arraingment) to any block of text and any arbitrary matrix size. With a computer, script, (or if necessary by hand) you could walk through the text block of say 1000 rows by 100 columns of text from some source document everyone has access too and you avoid the difficulty of making sure each user of the book code has exactly the same reference book.
    Then apply a very simple encryption to the matrix coordinates and you would get a coded message that would defy common techniques like letter frequency analysis and many other common techniques. Even if the top layer encryption was cracked then they would still have to crack the nature and source block for the matrix and figure out the proper dimensions.

    Simple enough to remember the basic key algorithm to generate the source document but very difficult to break. If you never re-used exactly the same source text and matrix dimension size it would effectively become a one time pad, as it would take an enormous number of intercepts to figure out how the code works.

  11. Larry Ledwick says:

    Last post got eaten by the spam filter I suspect.

  12. Petrossa says:

    @Ben Palmer Well i guess you see why i use a double encrypted tunnel ( it masques it is encrypted so you don’t get flagged for using one) with a private DNS :)

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    Spam Filter took it. No idea why. I fished it back.

    One of my sometimes muses is a ‘meta code’ inside an encoding. You add a couple of tokens that look like all the others (say a number sequence for a ‘letter’) but it has a ‘mutate the code’ meaning.

    In particular, say you use a 2 digit letter encoding, that’s 99 choices. 100 if 00 means something. That gives 26 capital letters, 26 lower case, and and at least 48 left over for special characters. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need near that many…

    So a couple mean things like, oh, “skip the next N letters” where N can be a fixed digit for that code, or could mean “the size of the next letter value”. Then, for example, 12 32 77 `15 might mean the twelfth letter, thirty second, skip code, 15 count to skip. Similarly you might have a code for “read the next N backwards”. 12 32 78 15 being as above, only now the next 15 letters get reversed. Simlar codes for “skip ever other letter until done” or “end all skips” or “skip all letters to marker” and “end marker”. By doing that, you can incorporate trash that has non-typical letter counts or inverts the meaning. (by, for example, having a skip code just before the word “not”…) While it dilutes the amount of message per block sent, it confounds the decription attack in a fairly simple way. (And by having something like “skip block of 1000” and then having things like the “end all skips” code inside the 1000, it even confounds the meaning of those codes…as you must agree in advance what to do then.)

    Even simple “shift by N” ring shifts can be done to mutate letter counts, or “swap pairs of letters” and more. If using a book or one off pad, it can encode “change to book NNNN” type things, or ofset the page by +20 from what is in the sent text (until a ‘reset’ offsets).

    By doing that kind of thing, a whole bunch of bulk text attacks are hobbled. You must break the structure of the meta code before you can break the code… And since the meta code can change the values used for following meta codes (by, say, ‘shift by +4’ and ‘read each block of 10 backwards for count of 100’) that, too, is made harder.

    Then again, it also makes the whole thing very hard to remember and keep straight in use ;-)

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    BTW, are you familiar with the 5 or sometimes 6 digit number codes used by some SW radio stations “in the day”?

    Don’t know if they are still around (havn’t listened in a while), but for a long time in the ’70s and ’80s you could hear radio stations reading off blocks of 5 digits. Just a voice, saying numbers.

    One Seven Three Three Eight….. Two Nine Seven Two Four… etc. etc.

    No idea what they were communicating, or to whom. There were a fair number of theories at the time. I think that was the inspiration for my idea about embedding a meta code inside the number code. Thinking about how the number blocks could be attacked with a letter count, and how to defend against it.

    (He does a web search…)

    Looks like they still exist, though fewer, and using computer synthesized voices now:


    A numbers station is a type of shortwave radio station characterized by unusual broadcasts, reading out lists of numbers or incomprehensible morse code messages. The voices are often created by speech synthesis and are transmitted in a wide variety of languages. The voices are usually female, although sometimes men’s or children’s voices are used. Some voices are synthesized and created by machines; however, some stations used to have live readers. Many numbers stations went off the air due to the end of the Cold War in 1989, but many still operate and some have even continued operations but changed schedules and operators.

    The first known use of numbers stations was during World War I, and the first possible listener was Anton Habsburg of Austria. The numbers were most likely sent through the use of Morse code. It is widely assumed that these broadcasts transmit covert messages to spies. The Czech Ministry of Interior and the Swedish Security Service have both acknowledged the use of numbers stations by Czechoslovakia for espionage, with declassified documents proving the same. With a few exceptions, no QSL responses have been received from numbers stations by shortwave listeners who sent reception reports to said stations, which is the expected behavior of a non-clandestine station.

    The best known of the numbers stations was the “Lincolnshire Poacher”, which is thought to have been run by the British Secret Intelligence Service.

    In 2001, the United States tried the Cuban Five on the charge of spying for Cuba. That group had received and decoded messages that had been broadcast from Cuban numbers stations.[10] Also in 2001, Ana Belen Montes, a senior US Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, was arrested and charged with espionage. The federal prosecutors alleged that Montes was able to communicate with the Cuban Intelligence Directorate through encoded messages, with instructions being received through “encrypted shortwave transmissions from Cuba”. In 2006, Carlos Alvarez and his wife, Elsa, were arrested and charged with espionage. The U.S. District Court Florida stated that “defendants would receive assignments via shortwave radio transmissions”.

    In June 2003, the United States similarly charged Walter Kendall Myers with conspiracy to spy for Cuba and receiving and decoding messages broadcast from a numbers station operated by the Cuban Intelligence Directorate to further that conspiracy.

    It has been reported that the United States used numbers stations to communicate encoded information to persons in other countries.[10] There are also claims that State Department operated stations, such as KKN50 and KKN44, used to broadcast similar “numbers” messages or related traffic.

    Which just leaves me wondering how they proved these folks were listening. Microphone in the home? Radio sidebands from the tuner? Use of a computerized voice makes sense these days now that voiceprints are usable to identify a person.

    Suspected origins and use

    According to the notes of The Conet Project, which has compiled recordings of these transmissions, numbers stations have been reported since World War I. If accurate, this would count numbers stations among the earliest radio broadcasts.

    It has long been speculated, and was argued in court in one case, that these stations operate as a simple and foolproof method for government agencies to communicate with spies working undercover. According to this theory, the messages are encrypted with a one-time pad, to avoid any risk of decryption by the enemy. As evidence, numbers stations have changed details of their broadcasts or produced special, nonscheduled broadcasts coincident with extraordinary political events, such as the August Coup of 1991 in the Soviet Union.

    Numbers stations are also acknowledged for espionage purposes in Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton’s Spycraft:

    The one-way voice link (OWVL) described a covert communications system that transmitted messages to an agent’s unmodified shortwave radio using the high-frequency shortwave bands between 3 and 30 MHz at a predetermined time, date, and frequency contained in their communications plan. The transmissions were contained in a series of repeated random number sequences and could only be deciphered using the agent’s one-time pad. If proper tradecraft was practiced and instructions were precisely followed, an OWVL transmission was considered unbreakable. […] As long as the agent’s cover could justify possessing a shortwave radio and he was not under technical surveillance, high-frequency OWVL was a secure and preferred system for the CIA during the Cold War.

    Others speculate that some of these stations may be related to illegal drug smuggling operations. Unlike government stations, smugglers’ stations would need to be lower powered and irregularly operated, to avoid location by triangulated direction finding. However, numbers stations have transmitted with impunity for decades, so they are generally presumed to be operated or sponsored by governments. Additionally, numbers station transmissions in the international shortwave bands typically transmit at high power levels that might be unavailable to ranches, farms, or plantations in isolated drug-growing regions.

    All of which kind of confirms that the “one off pad” is not breakable unless the pad is captured.

    Your method of “pad creation by algorithmic assembly” would be even tighter as the “pad” is not in physical existence to be captured. But the “secret sauce” would need to be kept very secret.

    It might be fun to set up a SW transmitter that just turns ASCII directly into speech synthesized numbers (with no encoding other than the ASCII value, or maybe UNICODE value these days…) and broadcast something like the works of Shakespeare… Could keep some otherwise bored agents interested. Or maybe a live ‘play by play’ of soccer games would be better ;-) “Honest, chief, I’m working hard on that decoding. This one station is really got me focused on breaking the code!… I’ve got the top text decoded, but it’s a devil trying to decode the hidden message.”

    Curiously pleasing to find out that computerized everything hasn’t taken the old number stations off the air entirely.

    Ah, further down that Wiki it says how they proved the use:

    The “Atención” station of Cuba became the world’s first numbers station to be officially and publicly accused of transmitting to spies. It was the centerpiece of a United States federal court espionage trial following the arrest of the Wasp Network of Cuban spies in 1998. The U.S. prosecutors claimed the accused were writing down number codes received from Atención, using Sony hand-held shortwave receivers, and typing the numbers into laptop computers to decode spying instructions. The FBI testified that they had entered a spy’s apartment in 1995, and copied the computer decryption program for the Atención numbers code. They used it to decode Atención spy messages, which the prosecutors unveiled in court.

    So caught the writing, and the computer decoder ring…

    Interesting stories and details in that wiki…

  15. Larry Ledwick says:

    Yes I remember the numbers stations, on several occasions I have listened to them over the years.

    There is a documented case of a book code being used in the Grenada invasion to communicate with the medical students at the Grand Anse campus. I was working at the Colorado Office of Emergency Management at the time, and was the assistant communications officer and we had this really nifty Harris short wave radio in the com center. We listened in on the goings on during the Grenada invasion. Shortly after the invasion got going and it was discovered that there was a second medical campus at the Grand Anse location, and some stranded American medical students there. A student there came up on the short wave bands trying to get out word of their condition. Several large American HAM radio operators were communicating with him and passing health and welfare traffic. About that time a communications emergency was declared and that frequency was closed to all but those approved by “net control”. Somebody came on that we nicknamed “the voice of God” because he had a very very impressive signal, he used no normal amateur radio call sign, and his demeanor was very no nonsense and professional. They began passing some odd radio traffic.

    The military folks on the ground were seriously handicapped because they were forced to use tourist maps of the island, and were having difficulty locating the exact location of the students at the Grand Anse campus. There were also some problems with Cuban troops manning antiaircraft guns very near the campus. The student radio operator reported that one of those AAA guns was very close to the campus. Then “The voice of God” came in and asked the student to listen for a jet aircraft and let him know when he could hear it. Apparently they have a Navy Jet Fighter come over the campus very hot and low, and the student called out when the jet passed over their dormitory. About that time there were communications passed which were just number groups. Later it was reported that they were using a book code based on a dictionary that they had at the campus, to inform the students what was about to happen. The students were holed up terrified of what was going to happen to them as there was a shoot to kill curfew in place and the New Jewel Movement governing the island had gone nuts the week before the invasion and were very unpredictable. The students literally kissed the ground when they got off the planes in the U.S. (contrary to all the new sterilized info on the invasion which now dominates the web, the students were definitely glad to see the rescue troops.)

    The student would periodically come on and report very terse responses to TVOG operator. You could tell by the hushed tone in his voice that he was genuinely scared, and worried about if the gun crew from that AAA emplacement discovered they were there, then suddenly almost in mid sentence, he signed off with “I’ve got to go” followed by silence. Turns out he signed off as the U.S. Military entered the compound and to take them out to safety. Just goes to show that in the right circumstances even the big boys use book codes for adhoc secure communications when it is appropriate.

  16. Mack says:

    Well? Say something!….OK ….hypocrisy…isn’t it Smithy? :)

  17. E.M.Smith says:


    “Smithy” is the workplace with forge where smithing is done. Not seeing how a workplace and tools can be hypocritical, so not getting your remark. Maybe you need to clarify.

  18. gregole says:

    Chinese Curses in escalating order of badness:

    May you live in interesting times
    May the authorities become aware of your importance
    May all your wishes come true

  19. Mack says:

    Just …hypocracy vs hypocrisy….spelling E.M. Sorry for me being pedantic….pedanticity,.pedantickness..pedanticosity…bugger. ..no…cancel.
    Anyhow., keep up your good science and scepticism. E.M. .

  20. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EMSmith; perhaps this Blog should be called a “Smithy”, Where Mr Smith hammers out disordered bits of scrap information into well ordered concepts of reality. ;-) pg

  21. E.M.Smith says:


    OK, my standard position on spelling: It Changes. There is no absolute correct value. Only if the meaning is made wrong does a spelling “error” matter. Go read Chaucer, the founding documents of our country, and Beowulf – in the original Olde English. Then tell me you KNOW what the ONLY ONE right spelling must be.

    So since the Pedantic Police have shown up, I’ve changed the posting to bring comfort to those of limited flexibility and hardened mental arteries ;-)

    (In my own defense, at one time I spelled more or less OK. Then, at a very early age, ran into Olde English via some old books and had Spanish starting in 5th grade – about 10, but had been learning bits with a neighbor kid friend from about 6 or 7 ish. As I read even more “old stuff’ like Twain, and variety works with deliberate spelling variation for effect like accents, dialects, etc. my spellin’ became even mo’ various. W/ a large aceptanse of varriasions. Then, in college, I had French to French Lit, German for a quarter, Russian for a misserable allmost worked, and linquistics with a couple of phonetik splling systmes. Aftr that, diskovrd tht smtk languages lft ot vwls n rlzd cld wrk 2 as I lrn3d 733t w/ cmptrs and then there was FORTRAN, ALGOL, COBOL, PL/1, Forth, Pascal, C, sh and csh, Perl, Python, … and long th wy dscvrd tht I cud reed Portugues OK and soked up som Latin so word order matter not cud; yet OK was. Fnly fst thnk. insyd symbl fst thnk. wrd shrt thk fst. Smb logic clss w/ not sym line over and internlize fst sym thnk. NOT Eng, now sym. And then it goes all visual with image flashes and words need not apply… And after all that progression away from Engish – and wichever era of Englsh U chuse – U xpct me 2 use 1 N only 1 splln’ ‘o a wrd? Why, for God’s sake wuld I do that? FWIW, Iv lukd at lrnin’ hieroglyphics as a faster visual form, so just be glad you are not getting a strying of hroglfs hre… )

    ;-) 1/2 ish… I really do ‘fast think’ internally with whatever words or symbols or images work best for a given thought. Things get translated to English for external consumption and it’s a very slow process to then spell check all that and assure it ne ave pas des leftovers der oder CALL SUB(lang.form) internal fragments… Yes, mostly English, but heavily modified…


    Well, in reality, it IS a smithy. Not only because a smithy is just the place where the smith works, but also due to my love of fire ;-) and tendency to be intolerant of poorly controlled flames ;-)


    Nice list. Didn’t know about the other two.

  22. Larry Ledwick says:

    I also am guilty of not caring much about spelling if the meaning is clear. Shortly after I got out of the Navy I took a speed reading course (worst thing I ever did!). It teaches you to see entire phrases words and even paragraphs on a quick scan. You quickly quit looking at individual words and see entire thoughts. I also tend to write stream of consciousness, and my brain helpfully speed reads when I proof read. I have proof read a post 2-3 times, hit post and the moment I see it in full page context one or two typos jump out and grab me, and I wonder how I did not see them even though I was looking for precisely that sort of error. Speed typing also causes me to miss-stroke keys, typing “they” I often fail to fully stroke the y and never notice, because spell check misses it, same with an or and, often when I am typing intending to type “an” I due to muscle memory blurt out “and”. My stream of consciousness typing also leads me down the path of run on sentences. To those who experience pain when they see those things — “oops sorry”, if word press had an edit function I would fix them but alas, they can’t be bothered to provide that feature.

    If I really need to proof read something error free, I have to print it out and go over it with a pen or pencil to see the typos. Not sure why but on screen my brain does not see things that jump out at me from a piece of paper.

    Even in grade school I was a not particularly good speller, I have no ear for the difference in sound for various vowels in words. I often have to type the word two or three times to decide which one looks right, or depend on spell check. For rare words I seldom write but use frequently in speech or thought I sometimes need to use a brute force attack to figure out how to spell it well enough that spell check will give me the right option. (google search engine is also very good at anticipating what your phonetic gibberish was intended to be and offering a proper spelling alternative. I often use google for that on words that my brain simply refuses to phonetically spell well enough for spell check to recognize.

    Dyslexic, lazy eye who knows but that is how my brain works and I gave up long ago giving my self brain damage trying to type a spur of the moment post with typo error free text. If you understood what I meant I succeeded in communicating which is the goal. The web is not a spelling or grammar test in spite of what some folks think.

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry Ledwick:

    Oh Yeah… I forgot to mention MY speed reading course and that impact…

    And that I was profoundly deaf for a while (now fixed thanks to surgical eardrum fixes) and got very used to not paying attention to the actual sounds. Still have significant loss, especially in high end (think sibilants like sss and shshsh and vowels that are soft) so, for me, it is often quite true that there is no difference in sound between {see | she | fee | sea } and between things like { that | Tet | thet | fet | fat | fit | sit | set | sat |…} so I pick up a lot from context.

    After a while of being profoundly deaf, you start to forget what the “real” sound value is. That results in the “Deaf Accent” you all know. “Eye Wan Son Coffyee Pyeez”… Then you start to spell that way too… There was a time (before the eardrums returned) when I had to train myself to speak “by touch” with tongue position and such memorized… or maybe remembered. Having the hearing fixed to “just hard of hearing” instead of “profoundly deaf” was a big win…

    But yeah, vowels totally optional now in many words and substitutions work fine as I’m often picking up which word from context anyway…

    We won’t talk about the number of times I type a word of phrase into Duckduckgo or Google to get a spell check / correction…

  24. M Simon says:

    Unless you know the code or the general gist of the message finding a key can be quite difficult. Because any message can reproduce a block of code given the right key.

    Eat at Joes
    Drop bomb

    Which is the correct decript? And suppose the real meaning of “Eat at Joes” is “Drop Bomb” ?

    It all gets quite complicated.

    Me? I assume I’m of interest due to various intersections. I go unencoded. So there is no doubt when I have a personal message for the spooks. And given that they are probably doubly watching this thread – Give up Prohibition you fools.

  25. E.M.Smith says:


    Due to having many friends with clearences and working in defense labs and companies, a couple of us used to call up a friend and ask them to dinner… in Russian :-)

    Somehow he thought the joke wore thin, but we reminded him that Clarence Clearance changed shifts from time to time…

    For a while we put a list of key words in out .signature to assure traffic for the automated sniffers. Like: bomb, drugs, president, nuclear, target, uranium…

    Eventually we got tired of it, but the Me filter is likely still on file…

  26. EM – I note you changed the spelling of the title. I thought the original was a pun – a government by hypocrites would be a Hypocracy, in the same way as one run by idiots would be an Idiocracy.

  27. E.M.Smith says:


    Nice, and would that it were true (and maybe subconsciously it has an element…) but the reality is mostly just “sounded close enough”.

    As another example (outside of English) where there is a long history of folks not being any too careful of “one and only one” spelling…


    This is an introduction to the problems that you may encounter with Latin vocabulary and grammar in documents from the period 1086 to 1733.

    It is important to remember that the Latin used in the period covered by this tutorial was not consistent. As a living language, its vocabulary, meanings and grammar changed over time.

    Read through these problems and be aware that you may face any or all of them. However, do not worry about them. In time and with practice, you will find that you can deal with them easily.


    There was no consistent way of spelling even common words in the medieval, Tudor or Stuart periods. Look at the different spellings of these words, meaning grace

    gratia, –e (f.) First declension
    gracia, –e (f.) First declension

    Spelling changed over time and varied between individuals. You will often see a word spelt more than one way within a single document.

    If you cannot find a word in the dictionary, think about other ways to spell it and try looking these up.
    Consider letters that sound similar, like ‘a’ and ‘e’, ‘m’ and ‘n’, ‘c’ and ‘t’.

    Interchangeable letters

    In medieval documents, many letters are almost indistinguishable, for example
    ‘c’ and ‘t’
    ‘u’ and ‘v’
    ‘i’ and ‘j’
    Sometimes it is not possible to differentiate between ‘i’, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘u’ or ‘v’!
    Are you looking at an an unfamiliar word in your document?
    Consider whether these interchangeable letters might help you identify it.
    For example, could that letter that appears to be a ‘c’ really be a ‘t’?

    So I’m not a lousy speller who doesn’t really care; I’m just a medieval scholar in the long honored traditions…


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