The Many Eyes of God
I have discovered that I may be more important than I thought. The story begins nearly 50 years ago, in April 1959, when I was having lunch in the restaurant of the Dupont Hotel on Dupont Circle in Washington, D C with an amiable gent named David Hoopes.
I was the only black face in the restaurant; Washington had only recently been desegregated and most of the black Americans I met still did not dare to set foot in such a place.
David Hoopes was a liberated man; he had several black acquaintances. He was my handler in a State Department-sponsored fellowship which allowed me to visit the United States for the first time, ostensibly for an internship with an American radio station. They weren't ready for somebody like me, so I got, instead, a series of appointments with bored executives of radio and TV stations in Washington, New York and Utica, in upstate New York and in Puerto Rico.
My talk with David Hoopes got round almost inevitably, to the racial situation in the United States. Having been in Washington for six weeks or so, what did I think of the chances of an America in which all men were equal? This was five years after Brown v Board of Education, not quite four years after Rosa Parkes had been arrested for refusing to give up her seat in a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and a little more than two years after the ensuing 13-month Bus boycott had forced desegregation on transportation in Alabama.
Martin Luther King, who led the boycott, was becoming better known. Ghana and Guinea had been independent for a year and blacks in Washington speculated that that was the reason the US capital had been desegregated. It would not do to have an Ambassador arrested for trying to eat in the wrong place.
Two years before, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Governor Orval Faubus was doing his damnedest to prevent the integration of the Central High School. Someone said Eisenhower could have solved the problem symbolically by taking a little black girl by the hand and leading her into the school.
Satirist Mort Sahl said he knew that Eisenhower was perfectly happy to do that, except that, according to Sahl, the president, an enthusiastic golfer, was preoccupied in trying to decide whether to use an overlapping grip when he held the little girl's hand.
Few people had heard of Senator John F Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson, the Senate majority leader, was still thought to be a simple segregationist wheeler dealer from Texas.
I was pessimistic about the chances of racial equality, integration and peace in the US. Not entirely seriously, I suggested to David Hoopes, who I liked, that perhaps the Black Muslims had the right idea: give Georgia and Alabama to the blacks for an independent nation. It wasn't that I was sympathetic to the Black Muslims, only that I didn't see white America ready to integrate or mate with Black America. I thought divorce was the obvious solution. That was probably a mistake.
I don't know why, but I've had the feeling that since that day in 1959 I became a person of interest to the American intelligence services. There were several signals later, particularly when, during the first JBC civil disobedience demo at Half-Way-Tree in 1964, one of the two CIA photographers present seemed to concentrate on documenting my every move.
Then in 1991, the US Embassy here told me they didn't know why I had been denied a visa, the instructions had come from Washington. "It is political," they said. At that time Gorbachev and Trevor Monroe were honoured guests in Washington. Michael Manley interceded with the ambassador. Surprise! I got a 10-year multiple entry visa.
No one has called me anti-Jamaican for criticising Mr Patterson. The Jamaican yuppie culture, however, abhors the slightest criticism of the president of the United States. He is the fount from which all blessings flow and who must be praised, flattered and brown-nosed whenever the occasion or the fundament presents itself.
Since I was not impressed by Mr Bush either as candidate or as appointed president, I have been sharply criticised for being anti-American, partly because I do not see Mr Bush as representing American values. He does represent Texas oil-man values, but that cannot be an avatar for the United States.
Most Americans have seen their standards of living drop since 1975 and never more precipitously or disastrously than under Mr Bush's programmes to subsidise the rich and devalue the poor.
And my contention is that a war on terror is an oxymoron, since you cannot fight an abstraction. The real meaning of the War on Terror is that Americans - like their prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Diego Garcia, Bagram and the rest of the gulag archipelago - have been subjected to a psycho-sexual campaign to reduce them - like Pauline Reage's eponymous victim "O" - to be accomplices in their own degradation, abasement and debasement. This Orwellian campaign began to lose its effectiveness when, last August, Cindy Sheehan discarded her assigned victimhood and thereby confined to barracks the inhabitant of the Summer White House in Crawford, Texas. It's been downhill all the way since then.
Here in Jamaica, I managed to collide with the interests of the US Embassy in public debates with their spokesmen before the Iraq war. I clearly have a serious problem. My mentors in journalism, including Hector Bernard, Vic Reid and Peter Abrahams were, like me, people who believed that the proper place for a journalist was between the oppressor and the oppressed and that the first loyalty is to the truth and the public interest. That means that journalists like me are unlikely to be either rich or popular.
Many of us entertain the delusion that our phones are tapped and our electronic communications intercepted. I've actually had proof of both things. A few years ago, I got an apology from a website in Israel which had been messing with my computer. I got no apology from another in Stanford, California or from a number of unused sites/servers apparently owned by respectable entities such as Cable and Wireless, Level Three Communications and America Online.
But these last few days have been more exciting than usual. My computer has been under systematic attack by two servers, one named "Black Hole" and another called "Venera" or "TNT", both owned by the Information Sciences Institute, a division of the School of Engineering at the University of Southern California.
The attacks began a few weeks ago and were apparently initiated through a piece of software called Windows Media Player, which I downloaded to view what turned out to be an X-rated video clip e-mailed to me by a friend. Then, on Wednesday, March 15 the fun started. Instead of my daily burden of 60 to 100 e-mails, I got less than half-a-dozen. Same thing next day.
And I was finding it difficult to send mail. This sort of interference has happened before, especially on the days when I am scheduled to e-mail my column to the Observer. We employ a number of artifices to make sure the column gets through. Very occasionally it doesn't.
To make a long story less boring, I have discovered that Windows Media Player (WMP) is basically spyware, and its preferences included sending back data concerning references to words like 'intifada'.
I deduce that WMP signalled its authors that my computer was an object of interest to Mr Bush's illegal wire-tapping and electronic surveillance programme and therefore introduced my computer to the supercomputers of an outfit named the Information Sciences Institute (ISI), part of the School of Engineering of the University of Southern California.
According to the ISI website: "The Artificial Intelligence Group at ISI is one of the largest in the US, and is continuing to experience rapid growth. Research here follows three main threads: intelligent agents and organisations, information/knowledge management and human language processing."
ISI research areas include knowledge-based systems, natural language processing and machine translation, intelligent agents and robotics, machine learning, virtual reality, polymorphic robots, data mining, information integration, human computer interfaces, interactive education and digital government (!)
In other words, they are perfectly equipped to act as elements of Messrs Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld's international Thought Police, mining data from computers anywhere in the world. ISI has contracts from several US agencies, including NASA and the Pentagon.
Some time ago, I wrote about Echelon, the immense, all pervasive American electronic spying initiative which, in September 2001, was being opposed by the French, among others, because it could mean that other people's trade secrets would soon become available to American entrepreneurs.
As it happened, Echelon was what I was researching on the morning of September 11, 2001, when somebody phoned me to tell me to watch television as the horrific events of that day unfolded.
I have no idea what happened to Echelon, but I doubt that the system has been dismantled since 9/11. What I don't understand is why it is thought necessary to duplicate the system. Or, perhaps ISI is a part of the Echelon system. However, it is not for mere mortals to question the actions of the Lords of the Earth.
What I do know is that particularly since March 15, two Wednesdays ago, my computer has been under systematic, incessant and relentless attack by the supercomputers of the Information Sciences Institute.
Among other things, these supercomputers have tried to change the ownership of my machine and may very well have done so temporarily, in order to instal their own preferences on it. They also attempted - or may have managed - to sign into my machine as "Root User", giving them administrative privileges over my computer.
Here is a snippet of one of my computer's logs on March 19. (I use the 24-hour clock) Mar 19 18:07:06 John-Maxwells-Computer ipfw: 35000 Deny UDP 192.168.1.1:1900 126.96.36.199:1900 in via en1
Mar 19 18:07:06 John-Maxwells-Computer ipfw: 35000 Deny UDP 192.168.1.1:1900 188.8.131.52:1900 in via en1
Mar 19 18:07:06 John-Maxwells-Computer ipfw: 35000 Deny UDP 192.168.1.1:1900 184.108.40.206:1900 in via en1
Mar 19 18:07:15 John-Maxwells-Computer ipfw: Stealth Mode connection attempt to TCP 192.168.1.100:50395 from 220.127.116.11:80
Mar 19 18:07:19 John-Maxwells-Computer ipfw: Stealth Mode connection attempt to TCP 192.168.1.100:50395 from 18.104.22.168:80
These attempts are made at the rate of between 10 and 15 per minute, which means that my computer spends a great deal of its time in fending off these indefatigable interlopers. This adds up: 15 strikes per minute means nearly 22,000 strikes per day if I keep my broadband connection switched on.
If they e-mailed me and told me what they wanted from me it would save both of us lots of computer effort, but that is not the way of spies. The other possibility is, of course, not that they want something from my machine, but that they want to put something on it.
Eventually, I presume, they will break in again, because although my Mac's security systems are good, they can't, I believe, withstand the persistent electronic frottage of a government suitor.
Sooner or later the resources of the ISI and NASA, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the CIA, must overwhelm the resources of an IBook. What happens then is anybody's guess.
I do not intend to go quietly into their baleful night. I am assembling my logs with a view to instituting legal action against those who are trespassing on my intellectual property and those who are enabling them to do so.
I don't think I need to state that I have not, am not, and have never been an associate of terrorists. I am, however, a critic of whatever seems to me to be wrong. If a man's quality is to be judged by the character of his enemies, it seems to me that I must be doing something right.