US Government shoots itself in the foot.

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You have to love the Americans. No country in the world has such a diverse range of people from all over the world as they do. The funny thing is you can easily categorise them into classes.

1. The absolute geniuses. These people account around 0.0001 % of the entire population and they are primarily working in some HiTech industries like IT, Aerospace and others where you need some significant time at University or some other area where you need an more than average brain.
2. The Joe Average who has an ordinary job at an office, wife, maybe some kids and leads a regular life with the usual social engagements in sports, etc. They make around 95% of the population.
3. The useless ones. Have no idea what life is about, don’t contribute to anything and make other peoples lives miserable. Criminals amongst them fall into this category. They can make up to even 4.9% of the population
4. And then we have the complete morons. These people are born with stupidity as a baseline. They have no idea what the others want. Act as headless chickens one any unforeseen event and stand in awe when somebody asks them a question. Others refer this category as Politicians.

From a geographical standpoint they are also easily recognisable. The first category is a bit scattered around some specific areas like Silicon Valley in California, Boston in Massachusetts, some high class suburbs in Seattle, Houston, Austin and a few more.  The second category you find everywhere. You most likely know them very well and drink a couple of beers with during the weekend. I’m one of those. The third category are often in places where category 1 and 2 do not show up and don’t want to be.
And then there is category 4. These people like to hang out with each other and the vast majority is seen in the Washington DC area.

When G.W. Bush took office in the early 2000’s everyone already new he wasn’t one of the brightest minds in the field of politics and after many occasions of making a complete fool out of himself he, and his entire administration, reacted on the 9/11 attacks in only a way morons would do. Most likely being pushed by the security and intelligence agencies they came up with the now notorious “Patriot Act” and as a sideline he started a war against two countries who had nothing to do with the entire affair in New York. The PA is a massive document which can be summarised in one sentence: “I we want, we can go through your entire life without permission, consent or any other form of legal justification.” So basically it means the entire US security and intelligence force can throw your life upside down whenever they feel like it and not having to present any accountability.

So why the subject? 10 Years after the 9/11 attacks and the ratification of the Patriot Act, in the IT industry it was the year of CLOUD. (no they didn’t start to predict the weather, search on cloud computing if you want to know what it is.) Companies like Rackspace, HP, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and many more were building huge data-centre’s were other companies could rent computing and storage space. This provides many great options for business who wanted to outsource all (or part) of their IT infrastructure and thus be able to significantly save on capital and operational expenditures. (Refer to other sites on the technicalities.)

The problem

This may seem a fantastic solution for any company to be able to off-load a significant portion of non-core business to those hosting companies however the problem is that the moment your data reaches one of the servers of the hosting provider it immediately falls under the scrutiny of the US Security and Intelligence agencies via the PA.

The Patriot Act shows that any company based in the US OR HAS THEIR HEADQUARTERS ON US SOIL automatically falls under the PA legislation. This even means that US based companies who have data-centre’s in India, Europe, or any other country in the world had to provide all data either owned or managed by them to the US government without any means to appeal to the request. Even agreements between the EU and US (like the “Safe Harbour agreement”) does not prevent this.

Now if your have a small logistics firm and want to host your applications with these providers you might not have a problem with it. You often don’t compete with anyone in the US if you’re located in Spain. If, however, you are working in an industry with highly sensitive information, either from a security perspective or other industry competitive areas like defence, IT, aerospace you name it, you have absolutely no guarantee that your data will not show up, via whatever obscure way, on a desk at a US security agency for “investigation”.

Given the fact that these agencies have proven in the past they are not the most trustworthy government departments in the world I would think not twice but 10 times which data I would send to “the cloud”. You should not be surprised if companies like GE, Northrop Grumman, Intel and you name them, suddenly bring a product to market which look extremely similar to your design.

Even EU politicians have asked via the EU counsel to provide a formal response on this very delicate matter but up to today nobody has received anything. Also senior executives of these “cloud companies” will NOT give any guarantee your data will be safe with them and not leave your countries soil.

As can be seen in many articles around the web, the majority of medium to large scale business are holding off dealing with US based cloud companies because of this “catch 22” situation. This in turn means that these US based companies are missing millions, if not billions, of $$ each day since they are not able to get customers in countries and industries as mentioned above.

To rephrase and emphasize the subject line, the US government has, without them even realising the ramifications of ratifying the PA, closed off a huge portion of international business and thus losing a significant amount of money which could have helped creating new wealth, jobs and other much needed facilities the US economy and people are screaming for.

Great job, morons.


P.S. a six part short analysis is done by Jennifer Van Bergen and can be found over here.

She starts of with “The USA Patriot Act is an insult to Americans. The name, itself, is insulting, given what the Act contains and what it will someday be known for: its complete abdication of democratic law and principles. It should be called the Constitution Shredding Act. “. Recommended reading.

If you have 2 hours to spare take a look at “Zeitgeist, The Movie“. Wait a while past the religious part and see an analysis of US politics in history. Another one is “Fahrenheit 9/11”.

About Erwin van Londen

Master Technical Analyst at Hitachi Data Systems
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