Saturday, June 15, 2013

MAJOR UPDATE: Exposing the Link between Climate Change and Our Government's Digital Surveillance of Us All.

 Does climate change and the fear of public unrest explain why Western governments have sharply ramped up domestic surveillance of our digital communications?  According to The Guardian, that's precisely what's going on.

Since the 2008 economic crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests. This activity is linked to the last decade of US defence planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis - or all three.

Just last month, unilateral changes to US military laws formally granted the Pentagon extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic "emergency" or "civil disturbance":
"Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances."
Other documents show that the "extraordinary emergencies" the Pentagon is worried about include a range of environmental and related disasters.

 [In 2008], the Department of Defense's (DoD) Army Modernisation Strategy described the arrival of a new "era of persistent conflict" due to competition for "depleting natural resources and overseas markets" fuelling "future resource wars over water, food and energy." The report predicted a resurgence of:
"... anti-government and radical ideologies that potentially threaten government stability."
In the same year, a report by the US Army's Strategic Studies Institute warned that a series of domestic crises could provoke large-scale civil unrest. The path to "disruptive domestic shock" could include traditional threats such as deployment of WMDs, alongside "catastrophic natural and human disasters" or "pervasive public health emergencies" coinciding with "unforeseen economic collapse." Such crises could lead to "loss of functioning political and legal order" leading to "purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency...
"DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance."
That year, the Pentagon had begun developing a 20,000 strong troop force who would be on-hand to respond to "domestic catastrophes" and civil unrest - the programme was reportedly based on a 2005 homeland security strategy which emphasised "preparing for multiple, simultaneous mass casualty incidents."
The following year, a US Army-funded RAND Corp study called for a US force presence specifically to deal with civil unrest.

Are dissenters to be seen as "enemies of the state"?  Is protest now deemed subversion, terrorism?  Well if it has anything to do with bitumen pipelines, the answer is a big, honkin' YES.   The Harper regime has made no secret of the fact that they consider opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline to be eco-terrorists.  They have even established a secret police force comprising officers from the Calgary and Edmonton police, the RCMP and the national spy agency, CSIS, to keep watch over pipeline opponents and who knows what else?

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Trans-Canada, the company that will operate the Keystone XL pipeline has been indoctrinating federal and local police officers on how to crack down on environmental activists, even how to arrest them under anti-terrorism laws.

What's perhaps most disturbing in the bitumen battles is the apparently seamless melding of governmental and corporate powers.  It becomes difficult to spot where one leaves off and the other picks up.  Perhaps there is no dividing line any longer.  They've teamed up and we, the public, are, in their approach,  the opposition, the threat, the adversary.

This echoes of a recent analysis of this metadata harvesting that has rocked the United States and we now discover is being done in many other countries, including Canada.  It is said that this mass intrusion into our privacy shatters the bond of fidelity between government and the people, digitally transforms us all into suspects, and reduces us to foreigners in our own homelands.


Colleague Troy Thomas linked to a comment from "Badtux" who believably claims to work in the "big data" area in Silicon Valley.  This is his assessment of metadata mining and what it's really for.  It's chilling and you need to know this:

"We’re working on the sort of technological pipe dream that would be able to detect something as nebulous as “terrorist patterns”. But here’s the thing: WE CAN’T DO IT. And if we, with billions more in R&D dollars and hundreds of thousands more smart people than the NSA could ever dream of having, can’t do it, and if the NSA is *still* coming to us hat in hand to buy our technology even though it won’t do much of what they want to do, what does that say for the claims by President Obama that this massive data dragnet is about “catching terrorists”?

It’s not. It can’t be. We just don’t have the technology to churn through that massive pile of data for something as nebulous as “terrorist patterns”. The technology we do have is impressive, and frightening in its implications, but those implications will play out over the next ten year cycle of security technology upgrades. Right now, we aren’t there.
But one thing we *can* do, and can do quite easily, is associate pieces of data with *specific* people. That’s what Google does, after all — shards and indexes massive quantities of data so that you can find out everything related to a specific person, place, or thing. In short, this data pile is useless for the purpose of catching unknown terrorists, but extremely useful for the purpose of surveillance of known dissidents. Because once you know who you’re wanting to track, it’s just an index lookup (a massively distributed one across piles of data, but still, just an index lookup) to pull in everything about that person that you’d ever want to know.

How many of you have things that you’d prefer not to see the light of day, even if they’re not illegal? The impact of this on democracy cannot be understated. Potential opponents of the Hegemons must stop and think about what facts about their life that might be spun to be embarrassing or humiliating before they step forward to oppose the Hegemons, and for all but the most pure, that exercise will lead to them slinking away in humiliation rather than stepping forward in opposition.
So this isn’t about terrorists. This is about dissidents. That’s all we have the technology to do today — and you can’t convince me that the NSA is going to build a massive system that is useful today only for surveillance of dissidents only on the future promise that it might some day, somehow, be possibly capable of identifying “terrorists”. While government boondoggles of that sort aren’t unknown — remember “Star Wars”, which never had a chance of actually working to shoot down Soviet missiles? — those were clear crony capitalism with no use outside of enriching crony capitalists. 

But if a system has been built with one clear *current* use that actually works, then it makes sense to assume that it will be used for that use. Which is surveillance of dissidents.
Welcome to 1984, citizens. Please salute Big Brother as you pass the nearest video camera. Thank you."


deb said...

yes indeed...its exactly where its heading and the corporate kings have known this was coming for awhile. Govts have been comandeered for along time, and the idea of us actually having the power to vote one way or the other is almost laughable(esp when looking at the states).
In Canada, do we really have any power when the states seem to rule whats going on, we follow their example very closely.Our govts seem more tied together year after year, working toward a common goal.

I think Harper has been trying to change the public perception by calling protestors, thugs, and environmentalists, terrorists.

So they own the planet, and the resources and when the folks finally wake up to the fact of whats happening, they own the military. It will be illegal to speak out and the threat of protest will be military action, and labelling the affair as domestic terrorism that needs quelling.
and I bet its water and food that we fight over not oil.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Deb. It's hard to resist yielding to paranoia especially when the corporate capture of the political apparatus in the United States is so blatant and our own government's affinity to the bitumen business prevails over all else.

I have seen no sign from the Libs or NDP that they recognize the powerful and growing influence of corporatism as a threat to our democracy. There was a time I wouldn't have imagined saying that about the New Dems. That, of course, was before they were Blairified by Layton and Mulcair.

karen said...

I wonder what is to be done?

The Arab Spring, Occupy, Idle No More, Quebec's student protests all started with huge energy and the protests in Turkey and Brazil seem to have momentum at the moment, but for how long? It all seems to peter out and not much is coming of any of it.

When I think of history, and not just of mankind, but ancient geographic history, I feel like my existence is so absolutely insignificant, and that anything I might say or do matters not one REAL whit. But rather than make me feel impotent, I feel impelled to actually do something. I may be insignificant, but I might as well immolate myself on something that matters.

Now if I could just figure out what that is.

The Mound of Sound said...

Unrest builds slowly and unevenly, Karen. Think of a canoe. You can rock it from side to side for quite a while before it actually tips.

It has been several years since I felt any affinity for my federal government. Flagging voter turnout suggests this is becoming widespread.

At times it feels as though government and the people are disengaging from each other as the government side is drawn off by corporate influences.

The Mound of Sound said...

A couple of other things, Karen. I think it's important that developments like this, metadata mining, get leaked and brought out into the sunlight. There's a reason this has been done covertly, several reasons, none of which we would appreciate.

Those who expose this chicanery do so at a terrible, personal risk. They go to jail for a long, long time. That's why it's not enough for us to go all wobbly. We have to push back, to demand better, to refuse to accept this affront to our democracy.

We have to keep speaking out, to explain to others the ongoing corporatocracy and the miserable future it holds for our children and grandkids. Talk, write letters, make it an issue. Reject it clearly and forcefully at every turn.

The people behind these backdoor outrages are vulnerable if we choose to stand up to them. They depend on our complacency. Why should we give that to them?

deb said...

well said MOS...well said. I think the apathy is much appreciated by the govt and the corporate leaders. I wonder how many letters are written, phonecalls too, to complain these last few years...I would love to work in the office or mail room to see them;) I wish we had a way to track the unrest and the public complaints, as I dont think the pollsters get a real accurate picture.
I remember thinking during 2008 when the US markets crashed...and the public unrest was seething about the bank bailouts in was stunning. The phonecalls and emails crashed servers for days. I still thought that was very telling...yet they bailed out the banks and asked for no accountability. Regardless of how much the elite and the politicians said that it was necessary...I still thought then...the era has come, the one where the power is no longer with the people. Im sure there are many examples leading up to that tumultous moment but still was very telling.
I dont believe our Country was as honest about how much taxpayer money was usedin our own crisis that occured after the stockmarket crash...or who it bailed out. Harper was telling everyone Canada was fine, but details later suggest would be more informed then me, feel free to correct me if im wrong.
I also think Edward Snowden did the world a favour and yes he will got to jail for along time, for his actions. Too bad more corporate fraudsters and corrupt politicians didnt join they do more damage then the whistleblowers.
I think people are just too distracted by things that arent important or just too busy trying to exist to follow the govt corruption and increasing loss of liberties. Were told its for our safety and protection but thats a line that has been used many times by other leaders in other never ends well for the masses:P

Troy said...

Badtux's comment on Ian Welsh's blogpost was an excellent assessment of what the NSA Prism program can and can't do:

"In short, this data pile is useless for the purpose of catching unknown terrorists, but extremely useful for the purpose of surveillance of known dissidents."

Troy said...

Another comment there was also quite alarming in its assessment of NSA Prism:

"The thing is, the program isn’t “designed” to do anything useful at all. The architecture of secrets and lies is inherently faulty. To mix metaphors, secrets and lies are two sides of the same counterfeit truth, the same plug nickel, these jerkwads are trying to pass off as the coin of the realm. If it is “designed” to do anything at all, it is clearly “designed” to subvert democracy and undermine the republic."

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey, Troy. Thanks for those links, especially the one from BadTux that I liberally added to this post.

I've been having this nagging thought that, when the state wants to go antidemocratic, virtually anyone who dissents and stands up against can be readily smeared as an extremist, a dangerous radical.

Someone needs to begin hacking the shit out of these people. We need to data mine them and lay it all out, right down to the most minute detail of their private lives and actions.

Anonymous said...

" when the state wants to go antidemocratic, virtually anyone who dissents and stands up against can be readily smeared as an extremist, a dangerous radical."

Remember what Goering said at the Nuremberg trials.

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

This too;

"Education is dangerous - every educated person is a future enemy."
Hermann Goering

The Mound of Sound said...

All my life I have spurned conspiracy theories but this time there are too many credible and prominent voices shouting the same alarm.

It's not as though we haven't witnessed a powerful erosion of our democratic institutions, especially over the past decade, and the rise of political corporatism (itself a form of fascism).

Our government, particularly the one we have now, locks down information, operates in secrecy and outright lies to us without hesitation. Why should we trust them not to abuse something so potentially useful and powerful as metadata mining?

deb said...

this was an article I tripped over...relates to the dissendents and military. But im sure the metadata will be used for the same reasoning. Protection of corporate actions and resources. Allows the govt(s) proactively to shut protest down by rounding up the troublemakers.

Anyong said...

Are Canadians ready to take a stand? That is debatable.

Purple library guy said...

It's a sign of weakness in a way. They fear that manufacturing consent is breaking down, so they have to fall back on surveillance and oppression.
This despite all the sophistication of modern marketing.

kootcoot said...

"All my life I have spurned conspiracy theories"

You don't have to believe in "conspiracy theories" to realize that powerful folks with parallel goals and motives can work together without holding meetings in some bat cave to hand out assignments.

The big corporation share many goals, big oil, big pharma, big heathcare/insurance etc. Once they own the media they control the message and only the message that massages their needs is amplified.

I don't believe that Bu$h the Lesser, Dickhead Cheney and a bunch of pentagon types all sat down and planned 9/11 - BUT they could have stopped it entirely, or at least most of it. Too many screwy things made 9/11 possible, like off route airliners wandering all over the most heavily defended air space on earth for hours, FBI agents being shut down that earlier received reports about Arabs at flight schools only interested in learning to steer such planes while amazingly uninterested in take off or landing.

I also don't believe JFK and Kennedy were killed by the accused lone assassins, and that is why Oswald and JW Booth were both killed before they could be a witness at a trial.

Heck without 9/11 the American Enterprise Institute wouldn't have gotten their "Pearl Harbour" moment to justify the continued military contractor profits in spite of the end of the Cold War, or any reason or justification for the ever increasing surveillance/police state.