Parental Controls on Everyone
In Part one of my piece, I attempted to explain the nature and scope of the US Warrantless Wiretap Program and the growing Surveillance Regime being built in this country. In Part 2, I will compare and contrast the growth and structure of the aforementioned Surveillance Regimes with other countries’ corresponding Systems of surveillance and control. I will also spotlight the International Surveillance Industry and its efforts to market its products by offering this technology to governmental power centers around the world.
Back in 1992, I was living in Vallejo, Ca, a working-class/Navy town in the northeastern San Francisco Bay Area. At that time, there was a local news story about a local drug dealer facing his third-strike conviction under California’s Three-Strikes law who had a brilliant idea. If I blow up the police evidence room and destroy my incriminating evidence, they can’t convict me. He knew the local police evidence storage wasn’t in the Police station, but at the local library of all places. He also knew that if he blew up just the library, sooner or later, the police would get around to him as a suspect. So he hired two other guys he knew who actually managed to find and steal enough explosives to construct three bombs. They planted the first bomb outside the local Solano County government office which detonated late at night doing little damage. The second bomb they planted against the outside wall of the evidence storage room at the library, but a local kid discovered it and the police were able to successfully defuse the bomb. So the two guys planted the third bomb next to the ATM at the local Wells Fargo branch, which also detonated with little damage, as another diversion. Unfortunately, for all concerned, the ATM camera had captured perfect pictures of the two men and police were able to solve the case in short order.
I offer the preceding story to illustrate a point. Had those 2 men just left town in 1992, taken a powder, gone to Buffalo, chances are they would have probably gotten away with it as the surveillance technology had not become so advanced, ingrained and integrated into society. Had those guys attempted the same crime today, their first bomb placement would have been recorded by surveillance cameras surrounding the government building, their facial features subjected to facial recognition software and their identities established from police and prison records, their fingerprints correlated to evidence from the explosives theft site, and their movements tracked from RFID chips embedded in their new “Real ID” driver’s licenses thus apprehending them before they had a chance to place their second bomb.
I had my first personal experience in Biometric Access in 2000 at Level 3. I had been administratively transferred from the Outside Plant Department on the Central Coast of California to the LA Metro office as I had responsibilities for their fiber routes out to San Bernardino and up to Santa Barbara. Level 3 had installed fingerprint scanners at all access points into their equipment rooms and my prints had to be inputted into the system. I also saw the installations of workplace cameras throughout the facility, where the main long haul fibers terminated into my equipment and then branched off to two floors full of Cisco routers. Since Level 3 was marketing itself as “The Carriers’ Carrier” and selling off a lot of dark fiber to other firms, I took note.
I had been following Britain’s efforts to beef up its internal security systems using lessons learned from dealing with the IRA. I was also familiar with China’s telecommunications architecture and it’s conversion to a DWDM fiber optic-based system, ending any effective NSA electronic eavesdropping on the Chinese government’s communications. So, after Klein’s revelations, I started seeing stories like This in trade magazines. I had been familiar with the growth of the security industry after the Atlanta Olympic Bombing and 9/11.
Then, last year, Naomi Klein’s article on China appeared in Rolling Stone in advance of the Beijing Olympics. Her analysis of the convergence of governmental and corporate power in the surveillance and control of China’s minorities and populations was very insightful. I began seeing similarities between the Communications Security infrastructures. The methods the Chinese government used in their news reports of the Tibetan unrest prior to the Olympics as well as the recent Uigher uprisings controlled information flow out of those areas to images favorable to the government. The rapidly growing surveillance camera networks integration into first local and then regional network control centers allowed Chinese authorities to track and identify strikers and demonstrators while utilizing images of violent demonstrators juxtaposed with police showing restraint. The facts that most of this technology was supplied by Western Corporations and the true scope of the international security business was staggering.
I watched the methods of security control for both the Denver and St. Paul conventions in 2008 with the police’s use of biometric and DNA information gathering and pre-event detentions of political activists at St. Paul and Denver as National Special Security Event and started to see the convergence of architecture and methodology of these geographically diverse systems with the drumbeat of system integration as the war cry.
Despite all this doom and gloom of what appears to be shaping up as a global security regime, there are datum of hope that crop up here and there. The Chinese government’s efforts to channel civic discontent into existing governmental institutions and it’s immediate reactions to the devastating quakes there stand in stark contrast to FEMA’s woeful performance in the wake of Katrina. The use of alternate web hosting to facilitate the demonstrations in Iran after last year’s election was another possible bright spot. They show that mass action is still possible and can be effective using the Internet and Telecomm systems as political organizing tools. But it also spotlights the need for greater dialogue and cooperation among dissident populations across the globe to counterbalance corporate influence on government to ensure some semblance of control by the governed. At the same time, these same efforts show a strategy to channel popular discontent and unrest into approved channels without effecting any real change to the overall state structure. It also shows how little difference there is in the main goals of all these surveillance regimes. Witness the Latest Frontier of data mining being used by
Iran, Britain and the US. The last article linked also illustrates how Police and Security entities have used their systems to identify and arrest dissidents and perceived enemies of the regime..
In conclusion, the Global Authoritarian Capitalist Security State I see being established will be a two-class system. If you’re one with a skill or with capital to offer to it, you’ll be thoroughly vetted before being allowed into your job, or school. You’re movements will be tracked to and from work, on the job and at any recreational activity. You’re banking and spending habits will be scrutinized along with every other form of electronic communications activity. Your associations and friends will be catalogued and, as long as you represent no threat to authority, you will live in a new, worldwide Pax Corporatica with the freedom to indulge in any form of material consumption. If you’re poor or marginalized, you will live outside that world with the full panoply of state and corporate power utilized against you to keep you from becoming an organized threat to the Pax Corporatica.
Forty-seven years ago, Marshall MacLuhan wrote in “The Guttenberg Galaxy”, addressing what he termed “The Global Village”:
“Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library, the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. […] Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. […] In our long striving to recover for the Western World a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture.”
Are we conforming to that vision, something darker or a hybrid of the two? What Village do YOU want to live in?
Be Seeing You.
from the archives: