Political Science

Political science is not moralizing. It is not liturgical recitation from sunday school scripture. Nor is it mere statistical interpolation of voting patterns to predict elections. Predicting elections may be a type of science but there may be a more fundamental science to be had if the outcome repeatedly proves irrelevant to the policies enacted or enforced.

Political science, like all sciences, applies a specific methodology(the scientific method) to explain and predict rational patterns within a specific domain of study. In this case, the specific domain of study is the organization and exercise of political power. There may be some that try to divine a type of justice that animates such an organization of power, but such musings preponderate on the side of prescription(“the ought”) and not description(“the is”). Hence, they are the stuff of political church, not science.

In a previous post,The FBI pwns you, I gave an assessment of an observed phenomenon of state security organs defeating network layer obfuscation. The official explanation claimed only innocuous investigative exploitation of “criminal stupidity.” I, however, offered a competing explanation: the FBI was resorting to application layer exploits to thwart network(IP layer) anonymity. I then advanced a prediction: the FBI and other organs of state security are seeking to bundle application layer exploits under an extended legalized wiretapping regime.

Recently, from Boing Boing FBI secretly seeking legal power to hack any computer, anywhere:

But under the proposed amendment, a judge can issue a warrant that would allow the FBI to hack into any computer, no matter where it is located. The change is designed specifically to help federal investigators carry out surveillance on computers that have been “anonymized” – that is, their location has been hidden using tools such as Tor.

The amendment inserts a clause that would allow a judge to issue warrants to gain “remote access” to computers “located within or outside that district” (emphasis added) in cases in which the “district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means”. The expanded powers to stray across district boundaries would apply to any criminal investigation, not just to terrorist cases as at present.

Were the amendment to be granted by the regulatory committee, the FBI would have the green light to unleash its capabilities – known as “network investigative techniques” – on computers across America and beyond. The techniques involve clandestinely installing malicious software, or malware, onto a computer that in turn allows federal agents effectively to control the machine, downloading all its digital contents, switching its camera or microphone on or off, and even taking over other computers in its network

Note, I also offered a corollary to the prediction: the extended wiretapping regime would effectively allow unfalsifiable data laundering from the NSA’s three-hop graphical dragnet. If the “wiretap” failed, the likes of the FBI could make a request up the “corporate intelligence ladder” to the NSA for the mother of all wiretaps: the 3-hop graphical dragnet. The information gleaned from that data could be “reversed-engineered” to fall within the “legal wiretap.” Once the network devices are seized, it is trivial to ex post facto plant a “vulnerability profile” that would “launder” the evidence collection. From a forensics standpoint, it would be difficult to falsify such after-the-fact subterfuge. The only circumvention of this totalitarian “law enforcement technique” would be to have redundant snapshots of the devices in question outside the jurisdiction of any one intervening authority. If the FBI could seize the device but couldn’t get all the redundant snapshots, then a comparative forensic analysis could take place that would expose the subterfuge.

Now, in these two little posts of mine we have seen an actual example of political science. An observed phenomenon: an explanation of the phenomenon, a prediction, a confirmation of the prediction, a prediction corollary that demonstrates the importance of jurisdictional differentiation to stymie the totalitarian pattern of exercised political power.

Of course, for my statement to be a scientific statement, the statement itself has to be subject to falsification. But who is going to falsify it? The political scientists? Let me know when you actually find one…1

1 Death of the Liberal Paradigm