Sunday, 1 September 2013


The Listening Post : Grafik Farm
Stop, before you push that button, have a think.

You might be surfing the net, you might be about to press send and jet an email to a friend, you might be putting a blog together with words like 'terrorism', PRISM, NSA, surveillance in it. Whatever you are about to do you can be sure someone, or some android, is watching you...

Of course, the state has now entered, what many of us previously considered, this most private of arenas.

Former CIA agent Edward Snowden, now exiled in the Russian Federation recently revealed the extent of this surveillance when he blew the whistle on the activities of America's National Security Agency and their collaborative work with the UK's GCHQ. We now know, that working under the roof of a secret surveillance programme called PRISM, Verizon, Google and Facebook have all co-operated with state security organisations by gathering data for them and allowing them access.

What Snowden has revealed must have sent a collective shiver through us all.

In the UK, GCHQ at Cheltenham has been watching the wires that carry global communication packages and sharing this data with the NSA in the USA. In Germany, Angela Merkel came under fire when it was revealed that the US were conducting surveillance on unsuspecting German citizens.

President Obama and Chancellor Merkel spoke in stereo when both explained spying activities as a balancing act between citizen privacy and state security.

It was yet another throwaway political sound-bite, a bland statement, devoid of debate or academic research.  There was no attempt at any kind of analytical reference to who the 'threats' might be, or what the state might actually be looking for, and why all - that is every one of us - must be targetted.

Yes, we can all understand the need for state security but does this mean that those with the badge can act illegally, or have the opportunity to commit criminal acts with impunity.

Let's flip it.  Does this also mean that every citizen in every state is a potential terrorist and, therefore, their private cyber life, through necessity, has to be poured over? Every one of us?

More information as to what these people are doing and trying to achieve in the name of the state needs to be forthcoming. The balancing act between citizen privacy and state security is essential, of course, if we are to catch wrongdoers, but the state services and their governments have engendered wrath and scorn at a time when they need public trust.

But some journalists are out there exposing the overkill.

"A programme called XKeyscore," Ian McWhirter, speaking about internet surveillance, wrote in the Herald (August 22, 2013)."Boasts of having accessed 42 billion records during one month in 2012." (Ian McWhirter : We Should Be Spooked By A Campaign Of Intimidation. The Herald August 22, 2013).

Personally, I shuddered when I read this. How many of us realised the extent to which the state and government apparatus delve into our private lives?

Now, I am not saying that we are now living through an Orwellian, dystopian nightmare, where conjured imaginings about terrorism and financial calamity are part of the machinery that act as the control levers for maintaining inequality, injustice, the economic and political elite...but

So, let's get some perspective on this.

As John Thornhill points out in the Financial Times Weekend, August 24/25, ..."As many people have died from hornet, wasp and bee stings as in terrorist incidents in Britain during this century." (John Thornhill : How Can We Defeat Terrorism If All The Trust Has Gone? Financial Times Agust 24/25 2013)

My worry is that the so-called 'war on terrorism' is being, and will be, misused to hide unrelated secrets.

In co-operation with social media platform providers like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, and/or mobile phone companies, the organisers and activists of peaceful protests, or legitimate democratic protests could be identified and jailed under some random, hastily constructed and interpreted law.

This way regimes need not worry about being brought to heel by the plebiscite that gave them power in the first place when they act irresponsibly. Instead, they retain their freedom for the duration of their elected period to, if necessary, break promises, to completely reverse the policies they were elected on in the first place, and wage war on whoever displeases them without public interference.

Social media platforms, of course, contain within them the unseen potential to extend democracy. But the corporate entities, who manufacture and provide these facilities, have a legal obligation to their shareholders to increase profit. The state likes this entanglement for the above reasons, and a cyberspace which has so much potential to provide a base for creating a better world is in danger of being neutered.

That the organisation and operation of our security forces is far more sinister than average Joe's and Josephines ever imagined is without question.

This, piece of writing, is like a dove seeking freedom, only the moment it is released some machinery like XKeyscore or PRISM will be locked onto it like a circling buzzard above the little white bird that represents 'peace'?


      1 comment:

      1. Whenever I go on the Internet now, I fear - perhaps unreasonably - that I am being graded, watched, compared, condoned...
        Bit like skool really