by Tom Burghardt
April 23, 2012
Tom Burghardt is a researcher
based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In addition to publishing in
Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, he is a Contributing
Editor with Cyrano's Journal Today.
His articles can be read on
Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and
the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
He is the editor of Police
State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning,
distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book The
Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.
From 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.
No longer the exclusive domain of intelligence agencies, a highly-profitable
Surveillance-Industrial Complex emerged in the 1980s with the deployment of
ECHELON intercept system.
As investigate journalist Nicky Hager
revealed in CovertAction Quarterly back in 1996:
The 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.
With 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
"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.)"
"It 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
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
Last week, Binney said on Democracy Now (below
queried whether there were any differences between the Bush and Obama
"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.
National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney
Growing State Surveillance
April 20, 2012
Add to that the Transportation Security
Administration's invasion of "travel by other means," as Jennifer Abel
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 rights.
Commenting, Salon's Glenn Greenwald
pointed out that the,
"domestic NSA-led Surveillance State which
Frank Church so stridently warned about has obviously come to fruition."
"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."
"Accepting 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
The Crisis of Democracy, published by the Rockefeller-funded
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,"
Fast 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!
Combining 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."
It 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."
Operating 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
"When we produced our first Electronic Police State report," the privacy
professionals wrote, "the top ten nations were of two types:
Those that had the will to spy on
every citizen, but lacked ability.
Those who had the ability, but were
restrained in will.
But as they revealed in their
"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
Mark that well.
Rejecting the orthodoxies and received wisdom of his day, Debord argued
"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
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
As 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 dynamics."
"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,
"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
Keep in 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
The question is, in our fallen Republic does anyone even notice?