Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Spy museum film warns on the dangers of cyberterror, especiall to power grid; "All is not as it seems"

The International Spy Museum (link)  in Washington DC (near the Verizon Center Metro) has a few short films scattered throughout its exhibits that fit the theme of this blog.

To cut to the chase, the most relevant “film” is the last one, “Weapons of Mass Disruption”, which is projected on a plasma screen, giving interviews with energy experts, in a room dedicated to cyberterrorism, and especially the idea that cyber attacks could bring down most of the US power grid, even for months. 
The dire consequences for people (pretty much as in the NBC series “Revolution”) are depicted well, but missing is the issue of why critical controls of the power grid software would even be accessible to the “public’ Internet topology.  This issue has been debated since about 2002. 
As noted here, some former conservative politicians (like New Gingrich) are particularly concerned about possible solar storms (and coronal mass ejections), or possibly electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks from terrorists, which could even be localized and don’t necessarily require nuclear weapons  But the museum did not cover that possibility.
The museum tour introduces the whole spy culture with a 6-minute short film “All Is Not What It Seems”. Later, after the visitor has seen the historical period exhibits, the visitor can see the “rest” of this film, comprising about ten testimonials of CIA section chiefs or overseas agents (or a few times, FBI agents) about how they gathered intelligence, particularly in counterterrorism efforts (as against Hamas).  In one case, a female agent described a “brush drop” which is almost invisible even to street security cameras.
The introductory segment is followed in another room with a curious manage of short film clips from the WWII period, including the Disney Donald Duck cartoon “The New Spirit”, encouraging people to pay their income taxes early so that the government can buy munitions for the war effort! There follow some newsreels, one of which shows a 46-year-old J. Edgar Hoover addressing his FBI agents.
There follow more film segments about the counter-intelligence (feeding lies) surrounding the D-day invasion and then the Manhattan Project. 
The museum also offers a film retrospect “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of the Bond Villains”, from Dr. No (1961) to caricatures of Al Qaeda today. 

The museum presents a pretty conventional idea of “spy work”, which (in this context) may mean fake identity (even disguises) and arranging clandestine exchanges of information (one example offered concerns a Boston Red Sox fantasy baseball game).  What happens in sci-fi scenario where some peril (perhaps a pandemic) presents itself and it isn’t clear whether it is natural or from an enemy, or both?

(Note: URL direct link name for post has a different spelling ("soy") because of an initial typo, corrected for display only/) 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

"Noam Chomsky on the World": lecture shows how close we came in 1962

Netflix has a reasonably recent Comsky interview film by Will Pascoe, “Noam Chomsky on the World: The Chomsky Sessions” , dated 2008.  The film comprises his lectures at McMaster University in Hamilton. Ontario, and some personal interviews. 

I had reviewed the interview film “Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times” from John Junkerman, in 2002, on the Movies Blog.  This new interview film seems to have pretty much the same material, and maybe the same lectures.
Chomsky takes the view that world still runs itself for the rich, and that moral calls for personal sacrifice often seem to be given out to benefit the power structure.
He makes a lot of the fact that, even in the world of a global Internet, there is an effort to make sure that more educated people have the “right beliefs”.
The DVD contains as a bonus a 70-minute lecture, “Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?”  Chomsky mentions the historical fact that “one word” from a Russian submarine commander in October 1962 may have prevented the Cuban Missile Crisis from blowing up into nuclear war.  I had covered this event with a review of the PBS film “The Man Who Save the World”  (in the “Secrets of the Dead” series) on the TV Blog, Oct. 23, 2013.