Weaponized Data: A New Front in Global Capital's Control GridFrom driftnet surveillance to data mining and link analysis, the secret
state has weaponized our data, "criminal evidence, ready for use in a
trial," as Cryptohippie famously warned.
longer the exclusive domain of intelligence agencies, a
highly-profitable Surveillance-Industrial Complex emerged in the 1980s
with the deployment of the NSA-GCHQ ECHELON intercept system. As investigate journalist Nicky Hager revealed in CovertAction Quarterly back in 1996:
ECHELON system is not designed to eavesdrop on a particular
individual's e-mail or fax link. Rather, the system works by
indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications
and using computers to identify and extract messages of interest from
the mass of unwanted ones. A chain of secret interception facilities has
been established around the world to tap into all the major components
of the international telecommunications networks. Some monitor
communications satellites, others land-based communications networks,
and others radio communications. ECHELON links together all these
facilities, providing the US and its allies with the ability to
intercept a large proportion of the communications on the planet.
the exponential growth of fiber optic and wireless networks, the mass
of data which can be "mined" for "actionable intelligence," covering
everything from eavesdropping on official enemies to blanket
surveillance of dissidents is now part of the landscape: no more visible
to the average citizen than ornamental shrubbery surrounding a strip
That process will become even more ubiquitous. As James Bamford pointed out in Wired Magazine,
"the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications
network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (10
to the 24th bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes--so large
that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)"
needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco,
global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015," Bamford
reported, "reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a
yottabyte.) ... Thus, the NSA's need for a 1-million-square-foot data
storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte
of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion
(500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text."
A former top NSA
official turned whistleblower, William Binney, who resigned in 2001
shortly after the agency stood-up the Bush regime's warrantless
wiretapping programs (now greatly expanded under Hope and Change™
huckster Barack Obama), "held his thumb and forefinger close together"
and told Bamford, "We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state."
Last week, Binney said on Democracy Now
when queried whether there were any differences between the Bush and
Obama administrations, "Actually, I think the surveillance has
increased. In fact, I would suggest that they've assembled on the order
of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S.
Add to that the Transportation Security Administration's invasion of "travel by other means," as Jennifer Abel pointed out in The Guardian,
through the agency's usurpation of "jurisdiction over all forms of mass
transit," and it should be clear to Americans (though it isn't) that
there is no way of escaping the secret state's callous trampling of our
Glenn Greenwald pointed out that the "domestic NSA-led Surveillance
State which Frank Church so stridently warned about has obviously come
"The way to avoid its grip is simply to acquiesce
to the nation's most powerful factions, to obediently remain within the
permitted boundaries of political discourse and activism."
that bargain," Greenwald noted, "enables one to maintain the delusion
of freedom--'he who does not move does not notice his chains,' observed
Rosa Luxemburg--but the true measure of political liberty is whether one
is free to make a different choice."
But in a militarized Empire such as ours the only "choice" is to shut up, keep your head down--or else.
'Lower Your Shields and Surrender Your Ships'
Militarist solutions to intractable social contradictions, the oft-maligned class struggle,
do not appear out of the blue. Indeed, NSA's ECHELON system, the
template for STELLAR WIND and the agency's associated email and web
search database known as PINWALE, were technological responses by
Western elites to challenges posed by the "excess of democracy" decried
by Samuel Huntington and his cohorts in The Crisis of Democracy, published by the Rockefeller-funded Trilateral Commission.
Social critic Andrew Gavin Marshall observed
that for Huntington and the right-wing ideologues who mounted an
intellectual counterattack against the democratic "excesses" of the
1960s, the "massive wave of resistance, rebellion, protest, activism and
direct action by entire sectors of the general population which had for
decades, if not centuries, been largely oppressed and ignored by the
institutional power structure of society," were "terrifying."
forward to today. As the global economic crisis deepens and hundreds of
millions of people worldwide reject the "austerity" boondoggles of the
financial sharks who brought on the crisis through massive frauds
disguised as "investment opportunities," our corporatist masters are
fighting back and have turned to police state methods to prop-up their
Nor should it surprise us, as George Ciccariello-Maher pointed out in CounterPunch
in the wake of last summer's London "riots," a mass response to police
murder (coming soon to an "urban exclusion zone" near you!):
"Irrational, uncontrollable, impermeable to logic and unpredictable in
its movements, these undesirables have once again ruined the party for
everyone, as they have done from Paris 1789 to Caracas 1989. In Fanon's
inimitable words: 'the masses, without waiting for the chairs to be
placed around the negotiating table, take matters into their own hands
and start burning...'"
Call it the great fear of those lording it over the slaves down on the global plantation!
attributes of Jeremy Bentham's "Panopticon" and George Orwell's
ubiquitous "Big Brother," the National Security State, as it works to
stave-off its own well-deserved collapse, seeks to root out and
marginalize "dangerous" individuals and ideologies thereby "inoculating"
the body politic from what were euphemistically called in the halcyon
days of J. Edgar's COINTELPRO operations, "subversive elements."
matters little whether today's "usual suspects" are landless peasants,
displaced workers, investigative journalists, civil libertarians or
innocent citizens mistakenly caught in one dragnet or another: "threats"
will be "neutralized" or more pointedly, in the evocative language
employed by spooks: "Terminated with extreme prejudice."
alongside tried and methods--police repression and
violence--contemporary crackdowns are guided by "robust situational
awareness" gleaned from the wealth of personal data stored on multiple
digital devices (the spies in our pockets) and in huge databases. As
Cryptohippie averred: "An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen.
All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks
"When we produced our first Electronic Police State
report," the privacy professionals wrote, "the top ten nations were of
1. Those that had the will to spy on every citizen, but lacked ability.
2. Those who had the ability, but were restrained in will.
But as they revealed in their 2010 National Rankings,
"This is changing: The able have become willing and their traditional
restraints have failed." The key developments driving the global
panopticon forward are the following:
• The USA has
negated their Constitution's fourth amendment in the name of protection
and in the name of "wars" against terror, drugs and cyber attacks.
The UK is aggressively building the world of 1984 in the name of
stopping "anti-social" activities. Their populace seems unable or
unwilling to restrain the government.
• France and the EU have given themselves over to central bureaucratic control.
As Marxist critic and Situationist troublemaker Guy Debord pointed out decades ago in The Society of the Spectacle,
"the spectacle is not the inevitable consequence of some supposedly
natural technological development. On the contrary, the society of the
spectacle is a form that chooses its own technological content."
Mark that well.
the orthodoxies and received wisdom of his day, Debord argued that "The
reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its
technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same
isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the
spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for
constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender 'lonely crowds.'
With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own
It is again worth noting that the much-vaunted
"global village" which sprung to life with the widespread deployment of
the internet in the 1990s, as a profit-center for the giant telecoms and
a spy machine for the secret state, was, after all, a casual by-product
of the Pentagon's quest for a wartime digital communications system.
But now that every facet of daily life has become a war theater,
what are we to make of the electronic walled gardens offered for sale
by Apple, Facebook and Google, replete with their multitude of
proprietary apps which, like Bentham's "panopticon," have become prisons
of our own choosing?
Ponder Debord's rigorous theorems in this
light; substitute "cell phone" or "GPS" for "automobile," and "internet"
for "television" and it becomes clear pretty quickly that unbeknownst
to the militarist inventors of the "digital highway" they had stumbled
upon the perfect means for enabling a global control grid.
Debord averred: "If the spectacle, considered in the limited sense of
the 'mass media' that are its most glaring superficial manifestation,
seems to be invading society in the form of a mere technical apparatus,
it should be understood that this apparatus is in no way neutral and
that it has been developed in accordance with the spectacle's internal
"Internal dynamics" geared only towards its own
survival and reproduction come hell or high water. Endless wars on
"terror," "drugs," "crime," take your pick. Prison-Industrial Complexes?
Genetically-engineered plagues? Ecological collapse? Step right this
way! There's an app for that and much, much more!
Indeed, "if the
social needs of the age in which such technologies are developed can be
met only through their mediation, if the administration of this society
and all contact between people has become totally dependent on these
means of instantaneous communication, it is because this 'communication'
is essentially unilateral," that is, "the product of the social
division of labor that is both the chief instrument of class rule and
the concentrated expression of all social divisions."
mind that Debord's seminal text was penned in 1967, long before the wet
dreams of securocrats had been brought to life like Frankenstein's
monster. Once a disquieting and uncanny shape looming on some far-off,
dystopian horizon, the world of smart phones and dumbed-down people is,
simply put, an Americanized Borg cube where "resistance" is always "futile."
The question is, in our fallen Republic does anyone even notice?
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