Towards an Atlantic police state? (12) Total Information Control and e-Warfare

9/11 made it possible to push through any policy simply by invoking ‘terrorism’, ‘a political technique of framing policy questions in logics of survival with a capacity to mobilize politics of fear’. The idea of checks and balances has no place in this context. Between 1979 and 2011 almost 40,000 requests for wiretaps were made to the secret court deciding over their legitimacy, the FISA court; only eleven were denied. After a public scandal, the law was amended and the NSA was now asked to inform the FISA court once a year… of the general principles under which it picks up private communications. That was the reform! 

How far the definition of ‘terrorism’ can be stretched to stifle dissent transpired in the arrest of Glenn Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow, on the claim that releasing the Snowden documents was ‘designed to influence a government and is made for the purposes of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism’. During the Paris climate summit, several French green activists were given control orders on terrorism grounds. In fact, several think tanks maintain that the US economy is in danger of being attacked with ‘economic jihad’, not only by al-Qaeda but also by countries like China or Iran. This would imply that another serious recession might be interpreted as a declaration of war. 

Google is the main force sweeping up data mined from the Internet or otherwise, but the largest US corporation in data collection is the marketing firm Acxiom which through its 23,000 servers collects information from social media to compose ‘premium proprietary behavioural insights’, placing everyone into one of 70 lifestyle clusters. Working closely with FBI, Pentagon and Homeland Security, Acxiom also sells its data to credit card companies, banks and brokerages and insurance companies, retailers, media, and pharmaceutical companies. In 2001 it appointed Wesley Clark, former NATO commander, to its board and through Clark began collaborating with the Total Information Awareness office at DARPA, headed by Reagan’s disgraced National Security Adviser, Admiral John Poindexter. Poindexter was appointed head of this office by Bush in 2002. This highlights that once data are in the US, which is where the NSA’s partners in Europe and elsewhere send them unsorted, they drift into a vast public/private network holding them for profit and/or security reasons.
The new US doctrine of information warfare also required upgrading electronic surveillance and answering the question ‘what constitutes an act of war in an information environment’. ‘Russian hacking’ in elections, or just ‘fake news’ would then become the basis for making claims about ‘acts of war’. At the RAND Corporation, strategists were meanwhile elaborating how far the goal of ‘Information Superiority’ should be taken, for instance by surveying and manipulating foreign leaders’ communications. Information warfare included targeting Iran’s nuclear research programme with the Stuxnet virus, which the US and Israel jointly developed to sabotage the Islamic Republic’s centrifuge programme.

The Evidence Extraction and Link Detection (EELD) programme became the main global electronic eavesdropping and data-mining program after 9/11. It had been set up by Poindexter at DARPA. Much of its research was contracted out to Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s employer; its head of the intelligence division was the former NSA director and later director of National Intelligence (under father and son Bush, respectively), Mike McConnell, a close associate of Poindexter. Again Poindexter ran into trouble when it turned out Total Information Awareness was being used for an online futures trading market speculating on terrorist attacks and the programme was defunded in 2003, but continued privately.

In light of the intelligence services’ storage of medical data, including DNA profiles, DARPA research on ‘behaviour-based profiling,’ ‘automated detection, identification and tracking’ of terrorist activity and other data-analyzing projects are of key importance. Ultimately, programmes such as Acxiom’s 70 personality types will use this sort of data and with Artificial Intelligence on the way, people may one day find themselves in the crosshairs of a security investigation without ever having undertaken anything illegal.

Kees van der Pijl

For a complete text with full references see Surveillance Capitalism and Crisis

Geen opmerkingen:

Een reactie posten