Friday, November 21, 2014

CitizenFour at the Limelight: "The Age of Surveillance" , "No Place to Hide" , "Spies for Hire"

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. " Thomas Jefferson, 1st Inaugural Address (March 1801)

"The IRS is a bureaucrat's dream...But it was quite uncommunicative in informing the public or tax professionals about the Special Service Staff (SSS). The internal documents tell us that the unit's mission was to neutralize "an insidious threat to the internal security of this country.[30] In another place we are told that its mandate was to "coordinate activities in all Compliance Divisions involving ideological, militant, subversive, radical, and similar type organizations....

No less than 41 percent of the file subjects were minority groups and activists in race relations movements; 29 percent were drawn fron the anti-war and New Left movements. Organizational targets included: the National Council of Churches, the Americans for Democratic Action, the Fund for the Republic, the American Library Association, Common Cause, the Carnegie and Ford Foundations as well as the Black Panthers, the Ku Klux Klan, the United Jewish Appeal, the American Jewish Committee..."
Donner, Frank J. (1981). "The Age of Surveillance. The Aims and Methods of America's Political Intelligence System pp 333 - 336. Vintage Books 

“We’re dealing here with matters of the utmost sensitivity,” Cheney said in the slow, chilling cadence that has become his trademark. “It’s not even proper to confirm whether any given company provided assistance. But we can speak in general terms. The fact is, the Intelligence Community doesn’t have the facilities to carry out the kind of international surveillance needed to defend this country since 9/ 11. In some situations, there is no alternative to seeking assistance from the private sector. This is entirely appropriate.” This way of thinking marked a qualitative change from the old regime, which respected the Constitution and merely asked private companies for technical assistance in the legal monitoring of telephone calls and e-mails. The system envisioned by McConnell and Cheney is a new kind of private-public partnership, operating in secret and beyond the reach of the law— and has laid the groundwork for what has become a massive system of domestic surveillance.
Shorrock, Tim (2008-05-06). Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing (Kindle Locations 5465-5472). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. 

"One document from the Snowden files, dated October 3, 2012, chillingly underscores the point. It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express “radical” ideas and who have a “radicalizing” influence on others. The memo discusses six individuals in particular, all Muslims, though it stresses that they are merely “exemplars.” The NSA explicitly states that none of the targeted individuals is a member of a terrorist organization or involved in any terror plots. Instead, their crime is the views they express, which are deemed “radical,” a term that warrants pervasive surveillance and destructive campaigns to “exploit vulnerabilities.” Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a “U.S. person,” are details of their online sex activities and “online promiscuity”— the porn sites they visit and surreptitious sex chats with women who are not their wives. The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility."
Greenwald, Glenn (2014-05-13). No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (Kindle Locations 2573-2581). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition. 

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In preparation for the CitizenFour opening at the Limelight tonight, I've been reading Frank J. Donner, Tim Shorrock and Glen Greenwald (and some John Locke and Thomas Jefferson as well...).  Greenwald's "No Place to Hide" is thrilling reading and constitutes the literary accompaniment to Laura Poitras'  CitizenFour documentary. "No Place to Hide" is unfairly panned in a  number of online reviews.  The book is essentially broken into three parts, the most interesting is the middle part that discusses the breadth of the NSA's surveillance programs with classified slides and documents (87 MB download)  many of which I had not seen in previous Snowden disclosures. Greenwald paints a picture of a mammoth intelligence community leaving no form of communication untouched or not subject to surveillance. The technical capacities discussed are stultifying in their power and scope. Clearly, never before has our government had the ability to gather this much information.

Many inside and outside the NSA might say that this is precisely the problem: Once you've gathered everyone's data, what could you possibly do with it? Here lays the crux of the issue for surveillance: "What are they going to do with all of my information?" But this question is irrelevant in the era of big data. The true question is: "What can't they do with it?" With enough data, entire economies can administrated and shaped on the basis of a understanding of consumer  needs and citizen awareness. Forget polling. Political organization can be stopped or pre-empted in near real time. Have an area where you need a "fake grass roots" movement to get out ahead of a real one? Just implement plan 'BigMediaCoopsTheLocalGreensNimbysParentsWhoWantSafeRoutesToSchoolsAndOtherUsefulCommunityAmenities'. Have the local media run poor statistics on traffic deaths, cover up the data near the ever so dangerous mall, have the Mayor throw a few bucks toward traffic calming, establish some committee condemned to endless meetings for bike and pedestrian safety.... This template is being applied locally and nationally across the nation for some number of years now on any issue those in control want stopped,diverted,turned, etc.

Outright killing or intimidating of activists has grown passe, although I'm sure it still happens. But if you know everything about someone, it's far easier to silence them. Angry at the President? Have a few big Democrat donors you want to punish as a warning to others? Find some obscure insider trading infraction the target's broker didn't warn them about and send them to jail.  Scared a black comedian and prominent Democratic donor is making a comeback? Just dig up some burned paramours. That should silence him and quite a few other big time Democratic donors will take note....  Have an agenda of war and profiteering you need to implement for your country? Reward your insider class with fabulous wealth. Impoverish the rest so that their sons and daughters have no choice but to join your military state and throw their lives away killing people of color in foreign countries in the path of your planned resource domination.  Need to solve an economy that can not create enough useful jobs from the foreign investments and tax evasions of the 1%?  Build a persecutory and punitive legal system that keeps the poor locked in constant struggle; their only economic resort to trade the narcotics your IC helps ship to urban centers across the country. This keeps 'that troublesome demographic' of inner city youth involved in crime and  jail while offering brutal but well paid careers to the militarized local police force designed to battle/enslave their targets. To make the beat  up and ready to snap cops feel like they are part of your artificial military state brotherhood, you can ship them surplus military equipment paid from your brothers in arms the military-intelligence-industrial complex who are raking in the big bucks watching local neighborhood activists (e.g. domestic terrorists) document high level corporate involvement in narcotics trafficking.  The entire  country, our wars, our economy, our culture is now run on the basis of data analysis paid for by the nervous 1% who will do anything to keep the 99% from drowning the front lawns of their mansion like suburban homes in flames. That's what total surveillance means for you and me, brothers and sisters!

Oh no, the watchers say. We would never use big data and total surveillance for such ends. We would never use our pervasive surveillance to control and define your behavior or your activism, your freedom of speech. We're just watching prominent Muslims and Terrorists! Behold America your own history: The Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, the suppression of labor, race, class equality movements, CointelPro, Operation Shamrock, Operation Minaret, and a litany of unspeakable horrors our military-intelligence-industrial complex has brought us in the last 14 years: the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, the Patriot Act, the seamless co-opting of all of the telecommunication industry, a fascist NDAA. 

Big Brother is here comrade. He's in your heart, your mind, your family, your news, your community, your thoughts. Take heed.
"I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question. Thomas Jefferson, 1st Inaugural Address (March 1801)
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