The Road to Resilience: How Real Hacking Redeems a Damnable Profession

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Two years ago Richard Thieme spoke on “Playing Through the Pain: The Impact of Dark Knowledge on Security and Intelligence Professionals” for Def Con 24. He relied on dozens of experiences provided by colleagues over a quarter-century, colleagues from NSA, CIA, corporate, and military. Responses to the presentation have often been emotional and have corroborated his thesis. The real impact of this work on people over the long term has to be mitigated by counter-measures and strategies so scars can be endured or,even better,incorporated and put to use. In this presentation, Thieme elaborates those strategies and counter-measures. In what is likely his final speech at Def Con, he speaks directly to the “human in the machine” AS a human being. It’s not about leaving the profession: it’s about what we can do to thrive and transcend the challenges. It‘s about “saving this space,” this play space of hacking, work and life, and knowing the cost of being fully human while encountering dehumanizing impacts. It is easier to focus on exploits, cool tools, zero days, and the games we play in the space that “makes us smile.” It is not so easy to know how to play through the pain successfully. The damage to us does not show up in brain scans. It shows up in our families, our relationships, and our lives. Thieme is not preaching, he is sharing insights based on what he too has had to transcend in his own life. They call a lot of us “supernormals,” which means we discovered resilient responses to deprivation, abuse, profound loss … or the daily challenges of work that makes clear that evil is real. We are driven, we never quit, we fight through adversity, we create and recreate personas that work, we do what has to be done. It pays to know how we do that and know THAT we know so we can recreate resilience in the face of whatever comes our way. A contractor for NSA suggested that everyone inside the agency should see the video of “Playing Through the Pain.” A long-time Def Con attendee asks all new hires to watch “Staring into the Abyss,” a talk Thieme did a few years before. This subject matter is seldom discussed aloud “out here” and by all accounts is not taken seriously “inside,” which is perhaps why there have been half a dozen suicides lately at NSA and a CIA veteran said, “I have 23 suicides on my mind, the most recent senior people who could not live with what they knew.” The assumption baked into this talk: real hacking, its ethos and its execution, provides the tools we need to do this damn thing right. This talk is in honor of Perry Barlow and the EFF.
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so this is Richard theme I will give him the stage thank you thanks very much thanks it's okay thank you how to turn off the phone because of course one of my friends always calls to tell me how I look on the states from the audience this in the middle of a very poignant moment when simple nomads did that he said you're doing great great my mistake for answering okay technological problems always crop up and the one that cropped up here is when we translated the slides from PDF from PowerPoint and Keynote to PDF some of them look like that and some look like that it can't help but remind me of that mockumentary right where the stonehenge came down spinal tap and instead of a full-size stone hinged a head of one foot stone heads and they had to dance around it without stepping on it so I'm gonna try to read I will read the slides to you when those come up what that one says is the title the road to resilience strategies for playing through the pain it says this is DC 26 and it gives the date and the roads resilience is kind of a follow-up of a talk I did two years ago called playing through the pain that one was focused on the impact of dark knowledge on security and intelligence professionals and maybe not unsurprisingly over 50 people responded with stories they wanted me to hear when I made that request for that talk people from the intelligence community from the security world and from military and corporate this time it goes a step further because what we wanted to focus on was resilience in other words when this stuff happens what do you do to recapture yourself and relocate yourself in the universe that makes sense because what we're talking about now has a technical term that's becoming more popular called moral harms popular in the sense of the army military studies are using it a lot it's not the same as PTSD it simply means that you have a self and you have an ethic whatever it may be and you have been too constrained and put into a position to do something or know something or learn something or see something which so assaults your sense of self that it shatters it's like pulling the cornerstone out of the foundation of the construction of reality that you have built and in which you thought you could live comfortably for the rest of your life and suddenly it's gone so we're gonna talk about some serious stuff and and trying I'm gonna try not to trivialize it because as you will hear what the people have shared with me who responded with their narratives required arduous what you might call you don't hear the word soul work often at Def Con but it required them to really wrestle with who they were in order to reconstruct themselves scarred but but resilient resilience is the ability to survive a threat or injury while engaging healthy coping strategies that move you toward health you don't ever arrive at full health but they move you toward it it's a strategy to restore a life worth living so I want to be clear with some of the examples I'm going to give you that I'm not bashing the intelligence intelligence world it's easy to do that it's low-hanging fruit that's not what I'm doing the work needs to be done security work needs to be done both domains may have many flaws and dark-dark misses in them too which we will have to refer but I'm not doing in order to saying it's all nonsense or to make some simplistic rejection of the need to defend ourselves in a world often without honor we need all of that and even if I thought we didn't the multi-billion dollar industries you all have created have their own momentum and are not going to go away even if the need for security goes away which I can count on you to make sure it will not okay so you recognize the truth of that statement the point of this talk is that we can encounter shocking challenges to our very sense of self in the face of which we need to be resilient and as I say relocate ourselves in a universe that makes some sort of sense again when the foundations of our construction reality has been rocked what does that feel like a reporter very very good Pulitzer prize-winning reporter contacted me after the first talk which they watched on YouTube and I I know why they did they wanted to be in touch literally in touch with another human being who understood what they had gone through they referred to a number of times when their sources at CIA have shared things that so rocked their sense of the real that in their words is very good phrase of course they're journalists prize-winning I felt like I lived under water for six weeks and what stood out was when they said they tried to tell other human beings not what they had been told cuz we can't do that exactly but what it was like to have that existential experience no one understood and so I recognized that the reason I got that call was because we need to reach out to people who have a clue about what we're talking about when we have been plunged down to our very depths really to the depths of the reality in which we live and we need community and community is going to come up again and again because of all the different things I'm going to share with you community and relationship is what people referred to again and again as essential to restoring a sense of wholeness but it's not just any community it's often a counterculture community working on an eff us that supports your best self not just any self now okay that's a quote from John Perry Barlow maybe you can can read that recently died he dreamed of what cyberspace could be and he said I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us he's talking to the man right you have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement breathe it's funny right to have true reason to fear we have true reason to fear of course now a number of years after cyberspace is isn't is systemic and everywhere we know of course we have reasons to fear the enforcement of their rules because they are so potent and often destructive now he was speaking in a different world of hacking back then hacking looking back 23 years when there were 300 of you out there when I said to the small audience that included Mudge and others like him you will be the thought leaders of the 21st century to watch those guys at the loft panel the other night 20 years after they spoke to the Senate and fulfill that prophecy of mine that was a different world than the one in which we live now back then no one could afford a workstation and the only way you could get on was to hack through a university system storage and access were both expensive and hacking made a smile how did it feel when you scored how did it feel when you broke through and went to the next level saw somehow dots connected I was going to hit a video now from wargames and Matthew Broderick when the computer said would you like to play a game gave this wonderful rendition of a hacker going oh because he had gotten in and you all know what that feeling is like to break through they wouldn't let me show that clip because they're gonna load this tape onto YouTube and it would violate their Terms of Service even though I downloaded the clip from YouTube but that's true so John Perry Barlow love'em love this fantastic fantasy head that cyberspace somehow floated above like Lando Calrissian Cloud City above the rest of the real earth it did not it did not it
was human and so a lot of hackers saw themselves as individual vigilantes like my here on my novel foam Don coyote tilting with the windmills of the man and the system and so we imagine ourselves as you recognize mr. robot the myth of the lone hacker the lone hacker who can do it all himself but from the beginning you could never do it all yourself Def Con and all hacker cons were meritocracies where you came to learn and they were based on relationships and those with whom you got into relationship made all the difference when you look a little off guys for example and women who weren't on stage but were powerfully present as part of the loft you you realize that they carefully chose and kind of intuitively screened one another and when you went online you didn't say to somebody well some did this if they were stupid they said teach me how to hack and they were ignored but others stayed up all night at the bookstore reading over Riley books and when they went online and asked the question people knew they had done all the homework and had a decent question asked and they were respectful it's just like the Mafia really respect the dawn you know kiss is rigged it's appropriate because they have earned that respect and so the meritocracy of real hacker demand that day was based on relationships and it was based on community even though in that community were a lot of individuals some of whom were pretty high up on the spectrum like mr. robot who thought of themselves as isolated and alone
no you recognize that that's Einstein and we used the phrase speaking of someone of genius he's an Einstein and we talked about Einstein as if this the theories of relativity general and special just popped into his head all at once without and he helped that too is the myth of the lone genius in one of his notebooks when he was struggling and stuck you see this war Grossman with exclamation points why because this guy Marcell Grossman who's
named nobody knows because all of the collaborators disappear in the dustbin of history had taught him something very very important that made him suddenly see above all that space was relational that space was relational which Einstein hadn't been able to get and Einsteins work is riddled with numerous mistakes that he made trying to discover what he finally was able to put together with the help of all these unsung heroes this work is the same we need community and I'm gonna
return to that theme again and again that's something some of you may recognize what you what you're looking at there is from loop quantum gravity and what you are looking at is called a spin network thanks to Roger Penrose who conceived it as a way to illuminate visually in a graph the relationship of cybers of that cyberspace but of all space-time space-time is granular and what you're looking at is a set of relationships and those numbers along those lines designate areas which have as their sole substance their relationship to one another so using that as a metaphor even at that level of quantum space-time space-time consisting of granularity rather than infinite smoothness we find that relationship is key and that's what this is all about relationship now cyberspace changed no
that's not supposed to be there quite yet let's see what that is okay that is
I wrote a little piece many years ago let's see if I can read it 1998 first the explorers I said then the pioneers then the merchants that's the way the West Was conquered you know in the Episcopal Church which I served once upon a time they joked that the Episcopalians wouldn't come until they had really good stagecoaches and ways of traveling that's why the Baptist's and the Methodists got their first truth in that but first the Dare errs go out the first people who hacked we're in unchartered territory and then the real pioneer is the civil cyberspace came after them and then as you know it was taken over by all the people for whom you work it's just the way it's
just the way it is you have been assimilated well let's face it doesn't take long this is Margaret Mead a famous anthropologist Margaret Mead said and you can't read
that either one must spend at least a year after the first week in a new culture to learn as much as you do in that first week why did she say that because the culture assimilates you so quickly by giving you unconscious cues of how to structure time and space and love and relationship and everything that you become part of it even in spite of yourself that's why Timothy Leary said you never get the truth from the company memo and when I would do consulting I would often talk to the janitor or the secretary and say what's it like here because the higher up you go it's like the invasion of the Body Snatchers they open their mouths but out comes this alien wah-wah-wah sound that reflects the company line you know that that's Oh Timothy Leary knew that it was so so he said it it's just the way it is you're assimilated into a board there we are
back to the board so we become part of
something whether we want to or not because that's what it means to be human beings that word is super normals can anybody read that that's wonderful you must be under 30 what is this super normal well one of the things they've looked at a lot of hackers if you look back in the histories a lot of a hardcore people have they they share some characteristics but it was also true of people who made great accomplishments like Churchill who was always chased he said by his Black Dog which was deep deep deep depression which he always responded to by with resilience by rushing off into a new creative endeavor and a lot of you do that and there's some characteristics for super normals you exceed the average in intelligence and accomplishment that's just a fact this is an exceptional assembly of human beings at least most of you you know but you know who you are nevertheless 130 or marriages will end in divorce my first marriage did many of you lost a parent before you were 20 my father died when he was when I was 2 my mother when I was 20 and that's one of the reasons I had to invent a life I had to invent a persona and created out of whole cloth by trying to choose with broken-field running the assemblages of people who would help support a persona that I wanted to develop and this group did so we share those things and we learned to fight super normals when you question them they always say I'm a fighter I'm a survivor I'm determined I'm a scrapper I'm tough I'm strong I never give up I keep going I always do it has to be done I'm driven I'm a striver I always find a way I do what has to be done that could describe all of you in the way you pursue your work and you know how to fight because somewhere you made a decision deep inside yourself then I'm not gonna let this stuff that happens to me destroy me and you responded by fighting or with fight if not fight you went inside some of us use dissociation I was told by a therapist once that's a very good tool you've developed there mr. theme as long as you remember how to come back it's like a shaman shaman goes crazy on behalf of the community he's he or she serves but you have to learn how to come back you can't stay there because then it's called a psychotic break so you don't want to do that you'll learn to be invisible you'll learn to hide you'll learn to be inconspicuous you'll learn to create a private world you learn to create your own language your own code and your own community out of all of that and above all you develop vigilance some of you have powers of second sight you become hyper aware of the environment you sense cues of impending trouble you sense sniff out in cyber worlds when something is about to happen I remember at the knock at the Pentagon it was a very non-standard set of software that was running on all of us all the computers around us and the head of it suddenly from across the room he simply squinted he said just a minute and he went over and he said that's not right he just knew having finely-tuned his own brain to the software and vice versa when something was anomalous and didn't belong there and you know how to do that you start to know you start to know what isn't right and you learn when to take cover so you become super in achievement Oprah is a good example when you look at how Oprah grew up and what she created out of it so you never shake the feeling though of being alien my novel is about an alien who came to earth to do improv because we were the sexiest and the funniest species in the galaxy so he studied the internet and cable TV to learn how to behave as a human with predictable consequences loved writing it but my wife read that book bless her heart and she said okay SEP 10 he said this is no alien I know this man who knows how many times you're gonna be able to say from this platform what you can say you want to say the truth that's true I had to use my energy to try to act like other people in an antihero or superhero way and a lot of us do that to right wrongs we become defenders and protectors a lot of us are family heroes and when a friend of mine tested a big group of computer technical people she found they all were is fj's which is the pattern of a protector and defender the problem of course is everyone on the her security team was to protect you in a guardian and that's why they were attracted to this work but then they hit something which is going to be the substance of this talk that they couldn't protect their guard or defend and then what happens they found out how inadequate they were to the task they had set for themselves how small and how did they respond to the crisis they had to learn to respond in a way again a word that is not often heard at DEFCON but it really is gonna matter in a spiritual way which simply means they had to reach down into their own deaths and take the darkness they found therein and fashion it into a weapon with which to beat back the beasts of reality in other words that requires humility we can't do it all but the butterfly effect is real my friend said she made a decision to choose to do what she could do and make a difference in that way it's all we've got and later on I will talk about what helps super normals ameliorate the consequences that are more negative of living our lives the way we do so there's no teeny word this comes from Langdon winter Langdon was a great philosopher of technology in the 90s and he was very concerned about what we were building without examination in terms of did it create freedom for people did it create dignity for people did it really empower more people than it didn't we are technologically saamne bliss he said wandering through an extended dream we don't know where we're going but boy we're sure on our way we get excited about every new it doesn't have to be an iPhone or a Discovery or new exploit we get so excited but we don't keep the big picture and in that we resemble this guy that's under Wiggins you might recognize him from Ender's Game he thought he was playing a game and hackers often start out gaming and the Internet is the biggest game of all and playing it is the biggest reward of all so it's kind of like being a drone pilot those are great we love playing with
drones the attempt to assassinate Maduro in Venezuela was a proof of concept right I'm sorry you from Venezuela I checked immediately to see if the sale of drones in Washington DC had gone up but couldn't get the data so I don't know but drone pilots have the same kind of problems that I've been studying to talk about they go into a bunker they're there twelve hours there at war they kill people they see people die they see innocent people die they see and experience terrible things at six o'clock they go home and have dinner with the family and go to their child's soccer game and they are having numerous problems in response to the crisis this is creating for them fancy computer models and convoluted technical language about war organizations like Google Amazon Facebook Apple Microsoft their fancy technical language is an obfuscation and as what they create is woven into the texture of everyday life the devices techniques and systems we adopt shed their tool like qualities and they become part of our very humanity so one question you might ask yourself is what kind of a society do you really want and what did the organizations for which you work actually create in the world Google do no evil really Facebook will clean it up ourselves really Apple well we'll use child labor to make billions we're the first trillion-dollar company in the history of the pen oh no that was Amazon forgive me wouldn't want to installed either one of them by comparing them to the other the the fact is yeah was Apple wasn't it the fact is once we become assimilated into those organizational structures we cease to see what it is we might be creating I was asked to be on an advisory panel for a university in Minneapolis where it's recently moved and I was talking to about the kind of talk I might give for the students and he said don't confuse them they don't care about the meaning of life we're just trying to prepare them for jobs and that kind of said it all so when we go back to Barlow saying you want to play a game like wargames we have to face the fact that that world doesn't exist anymore but this one does James Baldwin said the price that we pursue pay for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its dark side and of course you know Nietzsche's observation whoever battles monsters should take care not to become a monster too but if you stare long enough into the abyss the abyss stares back into you and that sets up our discussion of moral injury moral injury occurs when you betray what's right what you know innately is right in a high-stakes situation if you act contrary to your own moral code or do nothing or say nothing while others are so acting or realize that your actions led to unacceptable consequences like what we call euphemistically collateral damage the principles that gave purpose meaning and direction to our lives are violated and then we feel estranged and alienated from ourselves and lives the external world loses its values and seems pointless thousands are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq reporting this experience we become strangers in an alien environment we need to be relocated in the world and somehow reconcile to our cells one said my perception of good and evil just slipped away I lost the world that made moral sense so what do you think does an employer have a responsibility for recognizing the likelihood of moral injury to his or her employees and doing something proactively about it is this something that your companies should be addressing and thinking about because it matters do they recognize that individuals may have a self separate from the persona they are asked to play as a cog in their own machine well let's take a look they do formulate ethics this comes from a William Webster former CIA director he said in the United States we obey the laws in the United States abroad we uphold the national security interests of the United States euphemism for saying in the United States we obey the law everywhere else we don't and then after 9/11 except here too and that's that's not a joke that's one of the one of the challenges people face this is a URL for a document an ethics code for US intelligence officers that was intended to counter what happened after 9/11 I was a co leader of the group that developed it over several years and then it was filtered kind of secretive into the agency as a standard others might consult the document is written by Clint brookson and Brian snow it lasted for a while as a document that had no teeth and then a new director came in and it disappeared it was attending to find a way to say how do we take into account the well-being of the citizens of the United States of America themselves when they implement these new instructions and it's not it wasn't just Bush Obama was more Bush than Bush it was a direction in which everything was going so it's not the same for everybody there's a sliding scale of moral harm some are really really serious now these are just what you encounter every day in your ordinary lives but let's take a look at what some people report they have encountered this is one who said well I was asked to do something for one of the agencies and I said we don't do that when they described and then the agency representative said it's really good money and he said well how much he told him and he said we could do that yeah I think we can do that and I asked him how he felt dealing with that reality
afterward we'll get to that and he said
he said well it was kind of like Woody Allen writing a movie about how you when you've killed your mistress you can learn to live with it he said well yeah it's just let's move on okay that happened so if you can do that this is not going to become about 5:30 okay this is not going to become that kind of thing another person in work for the NSA said my time wasn't traumatic I only became paranoid later when I realized that people inside were keeping track of me I was approached and asked to work informally as a source by people who knew everything about my past and present work in one case a colleague I'd known for years we never realized he had covert icy ties there's a gray zone of people like us who are neither in nor out of the IC I'm kind of like like I'm one of those luckily he said I'm not important so they leave me alone but when I see a white unmarked van parked on my street I start to wonder so one of the least lethal consequences is you become hyper vigilant paranoid and suspicious and it interferes with your ability to screen reality successfully as well as your relationships another said he does non-classified cybersecurity work for the government a branch of the DoD the service branch can't give the name was hosting an event for industry and other federal entities to discuss non-classified cybersecurity challenges he was part of a team of five and they were told we will not allow naturalized citizens of the United States to attend this meeting are you all natural-born American citizens he said that really threw them because they could have all said well yes we were all born here but they chose instead to say we will not attend under those strictures we asked you to waive that condition for the meeting and the answer was then you aren't going to attend and we are not going to waive that condition for the meeting and what it left them with in this current climate that you all know is that more widespread was there a presidential directive PDD was their executive order to say that naturalized American citizens should be treated as second-class citizens and even when non-classified non secret material is being discussed should not be allowed to attend any meetings to the pi2 security because we can't trust anyone who came here from somewhere else when you ask people like that what their game plan is they tell you the country they will move to more and more people are telling me what they ask what what country have you picked well we live in Minneapolis it's a straight shot to Canadian border and according to a program the other day on television there are many places on the Canadian border where we can get across unobserved so he said you know all businesses have a disaster plan don't we need to have one too in case the disaster we fear actually comes to pass in this country in other words they became hyper vigilant hyper aware frightened paranoid he said it's a question of anticipating that everything we do is dual-use and it reminded me of someone who's worth the CIA for a while saying to me what if you discover that you have sold your soul but you didn't realize it until after you had signed the transaction well this other guy can get another job but a single mother raising children might not and she might have to sign a document saying she want to attend a meeting with anyone who wasn't born here that's how it happens creep by creep people in another country once asked me to help consult with them because they were offered a contract that was significant for part of our security military industry and some of the people objected the things we were doing and the question posed was can we in good conscience do that work and my answer was you made that decision when you went into the information security business because you never know who you're working for and you certainly don't know what secret contracts they've had with what government organizations it's not a conspiracy theory it's a fact that I know from experience that early on all the big players work Consulting and agreeing to consult with all of the relevant government entities in order to build what they mutually agreed not as a conspiracy but with all good intentions was the right thing to build so once you've entered the industry you might have some white flag operation is it really Israel that wants you or is it somebody else is it really Serbia that wants you or is it somebody else well this kind of stuff can add up somebody told me they didn't realize the pressures had put on them they were coming home through Dubai after some work abroad went out alone for dinner and collapsed just collapsed he said I almost didn't get back to the hotel I had not recognized what was happening to me a CIA woman told me her therapist told her it was fighter-pilot syndrome ten minutes or you have all ten fingers in fighter pilots syndrome you do it when you're there you're hyper vigilant and present but when the emergency is over your brain goes haywire well he said ten minutes so I'm gonna have to skip a couple of these testimonies I always have marmots but I want to get to some of the ones that spoke most loudly to me I included Equifax only because when the Equifax debacle took place this was just to point out that there are other kinds of stress that are put on interest information and security people
Susan Malden was vilified for having a degree in music Mudge who was on the stage as a hero the other night has a degree in music but he's never vilified for it are told he has no business being in the industry because he wasn't prepared properly and I have a whole list of people I won't read who did not
have those credentials but if you have the right looks I mean just look at the difference right is there a difference
why this arch-criminal it said Sara knows was accepted for so long committing amazing fraud that risk the lives of many people when the blood tests they said they could process were fraudulent I'm not gonna go there but I
think I think there's a reason this one gotta pass but you know about that okay
what you're looking at is a coca field coca as I'm sure 80% of you know makes cocaine and it has to be processed and when I requested help one of my friends said you can use this story because it it was so monumental for him he was the scientist at CIA and he developed on a very effective way of using crop duster to spray the coca crop and destroy it and he went to Peru to test it he put together materials from very ingenious right this smart leafcutter ants provided a fungus a species of butterfly provided a toxin and so on and it worked beautifully it's just wiped out the coca crop he went there undercover tested it and came back and said we're we're ready to go the executive branch had to sign off on it and they said no I don't want you to do this he said why he said because people will think it's it's biological warfare we don't do that he showed them why it was it and they sell will reconsider then they came back and they said it'll destroy all the armed orange groves and he said no we tested it doesn't destroy anything but the coca they said Oh we'll reconsider and they came back and they said what about the cocaleros they make their whole living from coca and he said twenty million dollar check written from the Treasury we'll take care of it and they're set for life they'll take our money and not grow coca there they're good with it let's go ahead with it and they said we'll think about it and they came back a final time each time the person responding to him escalated closer and closer to cabinet level and ones came back and said just forget it this program is dead it's not going to happen and he said why and they said you don't understand what we're saying to you do you and he said I just want to know why he said because way too many people in the executive branch make way too much money from cocaine and they're not going to allow this stream of income to be disrupted that offended his moral sense and his sense of who he was after all those years in the agency doing work on behalf of the good guys and he said well that's out them let's be whistleblowers then we could expose them and the answer he got back and I quote stop it now or you will become dead he left the agency that year it took him ten years to reconstitute himself in the face of first of all guilt and shame and not blowing the whistle even though there was a viable death threat made to him but above all how his grandiose ego shrank to bean size when he realized that up against the real systemic endemic evil of the world he was powerless we talked about blowing the whistle I have all section on that that it'll be in another talk when I do this again whistleblowing is not for the faint of heart and none of us know what we will really do when the chips are down and threats are made some get away with it Ellsberg did a masterful job some others haven't and a number have told me that they would never do it again well what did this guy do facing anger and fear because he had been threatened and powerlessness and he didn't have the guts to do anything about it or the courage to do anything or really the power to do anything he removed himself from that arena he focused on actually his daily life and what I called spirituality unforgiveness he did an intensive four year program for spiritual grounding and in ten years he came to focus on the necessity for discernment in order to do that I ran this past a friend of mine the CIA since I checked out all the details that I was given to make sure they they had it up and he said oh yeah a lot of people who leave CIA have stories like that they come back from a job or a mission and they do that or they say I need to go get another ladle of patriotism and and bone up again I'm a good guy doing good guy stuff this is corroborated by an Army Ranger who came to me in this this conference a while ago and he and he said I was sent to Haiti as part of a special operation with the team Haiti was in chaos and it was going to affect the cocaine trafficking through that island at that time and they understood their mission was to go down there to stop the cocaine he said when we got there we found out our mission was to keep those channels of cocaine flowing they didn't want the chaos to interfere with the flow of the cocaine where was it going well if you've seen the movie American made about Barry seal that's the real Barry seal that's Tom Cruise
playing Barry seal
you know you do eat over your emotions
when you're cocaine runner right sometimes so that's a statement about
how Haiti was used to make sure you knew
that he was telling the truth and that's where it was going Maina Arkansas Maine Arkansas Airport through with see american-made is fictionalized but it's a Jewish story Maina was awash in cocaine that was Arkansas I don't know if I could sell rings any bells for the rest of you I could just tell you that he pardoned his brother and Lassiter and all the people who are distributing cocaine at a major level the use of the pardon to over overtake criminality and excuse it is not new it's not happening here or how about this one quickly when one joins an intelligence service when is involved in low-level apprentice tests assignments removed from profound moral considerations in the course of a career such actions grow into being almost imperceptibly you suddenly awake to where you are guys you haven't been prepared for this and you're so deeply into it well beyond a poison where you might have stepped back if it'd been presented for the start but it's always if this is the case too late to do anything about it okay this talk is about some antidotes let me quickly read to you what Steve mild said Steve wrote the book oh the trade and he's reading a book now called the tortured doctors he's dealt with this stuff he said when I go to disaster areas I decompress on the way out in a non affected part of the country after horrendous times I was restored in everyday rhythms of life in a coffee shop a beer at sunset for a couple of days local detox helped me see the loveliness of the people in place a week in a small town with a decent market after six weeks of parades of dump trucks loaded with bodies in Indonesia after tsunami was the test of my strategy I developed it over the years it sure beats breaking down in an upscale grocery market stateside because I got the cultural bends from ascending to fast from my first experience in a guerrilla war zone what heals super normals sorry always I thought I had this how many two minutes right okay thought I had this all planned out what helps family family if they're saying that's not always true but you know choose your family carefully friends helps community helps all 12 step communities seem to help because they give you a place to tell the truth about your real self one at one time in my life saved my life they give you feedback and you provide mutuality of people who are non-judgmental because they're just like you so you're not going to get judged by them and they give you a place above all of accountability some kind of spirituality that enables you to manage your ego that helps so what are we saying this is I've never heard this word said in 23 years at Def Con the word really is respond to the crisis with love now where did this slide come from [Applause] these are three slides respond with love not what you see how you see and be
loved not feel loved and that came from a deputy director at NSA who told me it is love but we are so conditioned in my environment and culture that one would not even think about saying that out loud I don't know what else works I'm 74 years old I'm not the smartest person in the world but I've tried a lot of things that I thought would work and they don't often work that works find a way to get a hold of the darkness within yourself that you have seen when you have faced the abyss but above all as that NSA friend said described a long program he was part of and he said I found two other people we were all cleared for the program and we stayed up late at night because he was losing sleep over the ethical issues of how to defend this country and protect its people from under surveillance at the same time and they found a way to strike a balance that made sense to them it was his opinion that if Snowden had had three people like that to struggle with far into the night one of them might have said think through what you're doing because he didn't think Snowden was a hero a community even two or three trusted friends if you get into those agencies if you get into Google if you get into Microsoft if you get into all of the little brothers or the big brothers you need a counter community to help you find your way when the light is very very faint it doesn't mean you won't be without scars at the end of the road but the scars will merely be signs that you have lived a genuinely human life okay we're done we're done thank you