Bilderberg2013
© pic.twitter.com/4c3j4XXlmpA protestor who's come dressed as a CCTV camera surveys the entrance waiting for delegates to arrive #Bilderberg2013
The recent reports concerning National Security Agency (NSA) collusion with the world's largest IT giants provide an insight into surveillance techniques the US government is using to spy on its citizens (and the rest of the world), with blatant disregard of human rights, privacy and legality.

As well as the Orwellian 'Big Brother' ramifications of Stasi cyber spying and digital tracking, the ongoing revelations from 'NSA whistleblower' Edward Snowden provide glimpses of the cooperation between government, the internet giants, private corporations, and private contractors profiteering from what might be termed the
'Surveillance Industrial Complex'.

Despite their denial of any knowledge of the PRISM program, or any wilful cooperation with the US government, the 'leaks' raise serious questions over the extent of complicity between the big internet firms and the NSA.

If the big tech firms were genuinely unaware of government monitoring then it exposes severe security flaws and poses the obvious question of whether they can be trusted to ensure users' data is safe. If, on the other hand, these firms were aware of PRISM, but have been forced to deny it for reasons of 'national security', it means individuals and international businesses are victims of total digital surveillance with minimal oversight.

We are told Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a defence contractor that is involved in virtually every aspect of US government intelligence gathering and mass surveillance, and is majority-owned by the politically-affiliated Carlyle group. How is it that private contractors have access to the most sensitive data concerning 'US national security'? Just how much of the state's intelligence infrastructure is being built, operated and maintained by totally unaccountable private interests?

Outsourcing Big Brother

The timing of PRISM-gate coincided with the closed-door meetings of the world's elite at Bilderberg 2013 in Watford, London. It should therefore come as no surprise that, along with leaders of Microsoft Corporation, Amazon.com and Google Inc, Alex Karp, founder and CEO of Palantir Technologies was among the attendees, alongside Palantir co-founder and Paypal founder Peter A. Thiel. Palantir sells a powerful line of data-mining and analysis software and is one the "hottest players" helping the NSA:
Palantir was initially funded by the CIA, is in the forefront of surveillance technology, and may have provided some of the very technology that the government used to track and find the Boston bombers. Its software is probably being used by the FBI and other agencies in the deepening investigation into their past and potential foreign connections in Chechnya and elsewhere.

And you can imagine how useful it would be to NSA analysts trying to make sense of all the telephone and internet data downloaded from Verizon and nine Internet companies that was described in the latest blockbuster stories in The Guardian and the Post.

"Their bread and butter is mapping disparate networks in real time," a former military intelligence officer who has used Palantir software told me. "It creates a spatial understanding that can be easily used by analysts." The former officer, who's now a contractor himself, half-jokingly called Palantir "an innovative company marketing innovative solutions to the least innovative parts of the federal government."
US homeland security, counter-terror and spy agencies do business with over 1,900 companies1. Former NSA Director Michael V. Hayden, after leaving Government to join the Chertoff Group and cash in on the security industry boom, himself described the frenzy of private contractors cashing into on collecting and analysing private data as a "digital Blackwater." It couldn't be a more appropriate label, given that in 2007 Blackwater (now Academi) was actually being contracted by Verizon for security purposes. About 70 percent of the NSA's budget - some $6 billion - is now spent on the private sector. 2

Whistleblower Mr. Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a defence contractor that is involved in virtually every aspect of intelligence and surveillance. The problem with for-profit operations vying for Government contracts is their aversion to oversight and accountability, as well as the impartiality of their advice to agencies regarding what technology to use given their own interests and business relationships with other companies.

Tim Shorrock, author of the book Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence, describes what he thinks is the biggest question surrounding the use of private contractors for government intelligence:
Well, the most astonishing thing I found in the articles in The Guardian and the revelation that he was from Booz Allen was that, in fact, Booz Allen Hamilton is involved at the - basically the darkest levels, the deepest levels of U.S. intelligence. If Mr. Snowden had access to these kinds of documents, such as these PRISM documents about surveillance on the Internet, as well as this FISA court order, that means practically anyone in Booz Allen who is in intelligence working for the NSA has access to the same kinds of documents. And American people should really know that now we have conclusive proof that these private-sector corporations are operating at the highest levels of intelligence and the military. I think that's the bottom line here. It's not curious - you know, the question is not why this low-level person at Booz Allen got these documents; the question is: Why is Booz Allen involved at this level of intelligence?
It could in part be due to Booz Allen being majority owned by the Carlyle Group, a giant US-based investment fund with $176 billion in assets (companies) that are major players in the arms industry. Forbes reports:
In 2008, the Carlyle Group made a large $910 million investment to buy a majority stake in Booz Allen's government consulting business.

Washington-based Carlyle, which has a long and successful history doing deals involving government contractors, has really made the Booz Allen deal work. The private equity firm has made $2 billion in realized and unrealized profits on the Booz Allen Hamilton deal so far. Its $910 million investment is now worth $3 billion.

There was a time when Carlyle's ties to the government made the private equity giant a target of conspiracy theories, but the firm has worked hard and successfully to improve its image and limit its connections to the government.
In the book The Iron Triangle: Inside The Secret World of the Carlyle Group, Dan Briody uncovers what Forbes dismisses as 'conspiracies' concering the Carlyle Group:
"Among the reams of Republican-friendly recipients of investments was, perhaps not surprisingly, the Carlyle Group. ... It was a stunning example of how big business and politics are never far apart. Tom Hicks, an appointee of George W. Bush, had helped place $10 million of the University's money with a firm that not only had employed George W. Bush a year earlier (via Caterair), but at the same time was also considering employing George H. W. Bush. It was classic Carlyle, commingling business and politics to the point that the lines are blurred."
Employing former President George H. W. Bush apparently reaped bountiful financial rewards. In particular, with his son as President, Bush Senior was able to influence U.S. foreign policy to the benefit of Carlyle and the Bush family (through their share holdings).

The majority of private equity firms are predominately located in New York, Boston or around San Francisco. Carlyle is the only large private equity firm located in Washington, DC. positioned midway between the White House and the Capitol building.

Taking a glance at these former leaders affiliated with Carlyle, including former British Prime Minister John Major, I hardly need to point out the egregious conflicts of interest of such a hedge fund - heavily invested as it is in 'defence', surveillance and war - influencing current US foreign policy. This, if nothing else, ought to raise big question marks regarding who exactly is dictating US and UK foreign policy and driving the 'need' for expensive and expansive global surveillance networks.

Is it really for our own safety to protect us from a terror threat? Or are the surveillance systems about protecting and expanding the profit margins of the 'security industrial complex'?

Corporate Orwellian Espionage

Global surveillance is nothing new. Details of the Orwellian ECHELON operation were published by the London Telegraph on 11th of July, 2001.3 Actually, details of ECHELON and its precursor, Project P415, were published in the New Statesman in 1988. They received a far more muted reaction than the nescient mainstream media pundit reactions to the recent NSA 'revelations'. The media debate, if it can be called a debate, seems to focus attention on the action that should be taken against the whistleblower himself while avoiding the criminality and legality of the actions of Government officials and corporations concerned. The Associated Press actually refuses to use the term 'whistleblower' since it implies wrongdoing and so instead uses such terminology as 'the source' or 'leaker'.

The history of ECHELON goes back to 1947 when an agreement to share and swap intelligence data was made between the UK and US. Norway, Denmark, Germany and Turkey later joined 'the party', signing signal intelligence (SIGINT) agreements to become 'third party' participants4. At the time, the 'common enemy' was the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, but the primary function of ECHELON was to target governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country. As the threat of the "evil empire" (U.S.S.R.) faded, the perpetual 'War on Terror' arrived on the scene to justify continued multi-billion dollar spending on expanding global surveillance networks.5

Reporting on ECHELON's sinister spying capabilities, Ibrahim Erdogan proposes that a primary purpose of state surveillance was industrial espionage:
More worrying is the likelihood of ECHELON's capabilities being used clandestinely to gather economic intelligence from its friends. The EU report confirmed that part of the US intelligence service remit consisted of economic data such as details of developments in individual sectors of the economy, trends on commodity markets, compliance with economic embargoes, observance of rules on supplying dual-use goods, etc.6 At first sight investigating merely general economic facts with the pretext of for example combating attempted bribery may not appear so sinister.

However, the findings of the EU report suggested another conclusion that; the global interception system (ECHELON) has been used to spy on foreign firms with the aim of securing a competitive advantage for firms in the US, although no such case had been substantiated.7 That conclusion was based on a list of allegations published in the report which had been gathered from the press and relevant literature. To count but to give a few examples; the NSA fed information to Boeing and McDonnell Douglas which enabled both US companies to beat out European Airbus Industries for a $6 billion contract; Raytheon received information that helped it win a $ 1.3 billion contract to provide radar to Brazil, edging out the French company Thomson-CSF; the NSA supplied U.S. automakers with information that helped improve their competitiveness with the Japanese.8
Reporting on further previously unleaked information that has subsequently emerged, ZeroHedge writes:
With every incremental attempt to refute some previously unknown facet of the US Big Brother state, a new piece of previously unleaked information from the same intelligence organization now scrambling for damage control, emerges and exposes the brand new narrative as yet another lie, forcing even more lies, more retribution against sources, more journalist persecution and so on."

And like a hole that just gets deeper the more you dug and exposes ever more dirt, tonight's installment revealing one more facet of the conversion of a once great republic into a great fascist, "big brother" state, comes from Bloomberg which reports that "thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said."

The companies extend far wider than the legacy telcos, such as Verizon, that launched the entire NSA-spying scandal a week ago: "Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries."
It's unsurprising that corporate intelligence data is highly coveted, especially when we consider the wide range of financial and technological links of contractors like Booz Allen.

In the first part of this series I looked at the sinister, symbiotic relationship between business leaders and politicians. The surveillance industry is riddled with similar relationships that lead to conflicts of interest that are ignored by the media. Transparency is almost non-existent when it comes to intelligence contracts since the majority are classified and budgets are kept secret.

The go-between agency serving the interests of the surveillance companies is the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA). It is described as a bridge between the private surveillance contractors such as Booz Allen industry and the leaders of national intelligence. In 2005, former NSA Director under the Bush Administration and the then executive vice president of Booz Allen, Michael J. Hayden was elected chairman of INSA. In his 2008 book Spies for Hire, Shorrock explains the significance of this move:
That was a significant oversight, because shortly after taking over as intelligence chief, McConnell elevated INSA into a virtual partnership with the Office of the DNI, and used its non-profit status to promote a dialogue within the broader IC on domestic intelligence. When it first began, that dialogue seemed innocent enough; who could argue with developing an industry consensus on this volatile issue?

But as we will see later in the book, as McConnell's term at DNI progressed, he became the leader within the Bush administration of a drive to greatly expand the domestic reach of the NSA and convince Congress to grant immunity to companies that collaborated with the NSA in its surveillance program from its inception in the months after 9/11 to the present day. Seen in this light, McConnell's experience with INSA, and the role of his company in the Bush-Cheney intelligence regime, takes on greater significance. [...]

Although INSA is a non-profit, some of these activities are money-making ventures that bring in considerable revenue to INSA (the organization's 2005 tax return shows program services revenues of $1.4 million for the year). Yet there is no competition for the contracts; they are essentially sole-source contracts that appear to be awarded at the discretion of the DNI (the DNI press office would not comment on the DNI's ties with INSA).[...]

The fact that contractors and intelligence officials are meeting under the cover of a business association - despite the fact that they are supposedly there as individuals - points to the need to expand the oversight of intelligence to include contracting. "This sounds like a self-policing program," said Armey. "At that point, who's really minding the store?" That's a question that will be raised again and again as we investigate the secret world of intelligence outsourcing.

The National Stasi Agency


The actions of the NSA today are reminiscent of the1950s Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Stasi) ('Ministry of State Security'), the primary intelligence and security agency of East Germany during the Cold War. With a network of informants, agents, and military-trained secret police, Stasi operations focused on political security, espionage and clandestine operations, both domestically and abroad, victimizing at least one-third of the East German population through surveillance, arrest, detention, or torture. Instead of the technologically advanced electronic snooping at the disposal of the NSA, the Stasi utilised a broad network of civilian informants:
These informants were citizens who cooperated with Stasi agents, sometimes in exchange for money or goods. These unofficial informants used their jobs, social influence, and family networks to spy on fellow citizens. Informants were required to report suspicious or anti-government behavior to Stasi authorities. Tips from informants were followed by further agent surveillance or immediate arrest. The Stasi maintained its own network of detention camps and prisons, the most notorious of which was Bauden II. The Stasi garnered a reputation for its use of brutality, torture, and blackmail as routine methods of extracting information and coercing cooperation.

While the threat of Stasi non-member informants was great, the actual agent network of the Stasi was itself comprehensive. The agency used human intelligence to infiltrate factories, schools, and social and political organizations. Stasi officials created vast files on individuals that included photographs, surveillance reports, and even physical samples of hair or clothing. Stasi agents used scent samples, often bits of clothing sealed in airtight containers for storage, to track defectors or known dissidents using dogs.
The NSA is actively storing the virtual personal data equivalent to the physical hair and scent samples of dissidents stored by the Stasi. At a cost of $1.2 billion, the NSA is building a gargantuan digital datacenter in Utah that is designed to sort through and store every e-mail, voicemail, and social media communication it can get its hands on. There are two Israeli companies involved: high-tech firm Verint, which makes security software, and cybersecurity company Narus. Both have longstanding US/Israeli intelligence connections.

The Stasi spies from former communist East Germany would wear wigs, fake moustaches and dark glasses as displayed in a Berlin exhibition of recently uncovered and once highly classified photographs:
Stasi secret police
© (simonmenner.com) The archival photographs reveal disguises used by the Stasi secret police during the Cold War
In our digital age, much of the infiltration of nonconformist and activist groups to quash dissent is now done online by COINTELPRO operations. The Pentagon employs social media trolls and disinformation internet shills to engage in psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups with false media reports. To avoid detection, wigs and dark glasses are no longer required, the diguises can simply be a popular avatar:
Avatars
© syros.aegean.gr/users/dpsd02018Modern day Stasi disguises?
Writing about the methodology of the Stasi, Mike Dennis wrote9:
"The MfS dictionary summarized the goal of operational decomposition as 'splitting up, paralyzing, disorganizing and isolating hostile negative forces in order through preventive action, to foil, considerably reduce or stop completely hostile-negative actions and their consequences or, in a varying degree, to win them back both politically and ideologically (113)."

"...the Stasi's main method of combating subversive activity was operational decomposition (operative zersetzung) (112)"...quiet repression.

"The kind of measures which the ministry employed can be found in documents such as the 1976 guidelines on operational cases, and included: the systematic compromising and isolation of a target by means of rumor, disinformation and deception concerning alleged immorality, excessive drinking, an 'unclean past' and spying for the West; undermining their professional and personal reputation; creating fear and uncertainty though frequent telephone calls at night, inserting fictitious adverts in newspapers, sending anonymous letters, and burglary. Some victims have claimed that the MfS deliberately poisoned food and drove targets to contemplate suicide. Other nefarious methods involve telephone tapping and interception of mail...provoking disagreements among opposition groups, and the criminalization of offences such as alleged tax evasion and the disturbance to public order, targets were also subjected to restrictions on their movements, the withdrawal of driving license and illegal house searches (113)."
A year after the Occupy movement swept across the US, a FOIA request by the Partnership for Civil Justice provided 112 heavily redacted pages revealing that the FBI had targeted the Occupy Wall Street protests as "criminal activity" and, using its own and local terrorism task forces in nine different cities, had investigated the groups as perpetrators of "domestic terrorism". The materials provided evidence that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security effectively function as private intelligence arms for the protesters' targets: Mega-Corporations, Wall Street and the Big Banks. In a three month period, there were 5,425 arrests during the Occupy protests in 94 cities across the United States.

Not only that, the US Secret Service scoured the protests at Occupy D.C. for a man suspected of firing bullets at the White House. One protestor said that authorities came through "searching for a so-called terrorist who shot at the White House and, with no warrant, they went into everybody's tents."

The quote attributed to Mark Twain, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme", seems rather fitting when we compare the data collection and harassment of civilians by the Stasi and it's modern NSA equivalent.

What to do?


There are many articles and guides available for taking steps to limit, or at least make it more difficult for your digital footprint to be hoovered up and dumped on a server in Utah for processing. They include using alternative operating systems, software and communication methods to the established firms connected with the PRISM activity. There is a handy list of alternatives published at www.prism-break.org which are tried and tested by open source advocates around the world.

The way the current NSA PRISM story has been managed by the media raises questions about the validity of what we are being told and the reasons for it. There are Questions surrounding the leaked PRISM document's authenticity and concerns that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be. Given the questionable integrity of the private contractors involved, one has to ask whether the level of surveillance that is being aimed for is worth the massive financial tax-payer cost and the sacrifice of privacy. Perhaps one of the primary motivations for the accompanying press hype is to put the fear of god into people and put a damper on criticism, while persuading us that the erosion of privacy is for our own safety...

Psy-op or whistleblower hero, the guidelines presented by Brandon Smith in his article How to win the war for your mind may provide some mental ammunition we can use to combat the complex and sometimes overwhelming information war that we are on the receiving end of:
For the past century, at least in the United States, a subversive and secret cold war has been waged against the people in the form of psychological subjugation. This cold war is designed to weaken our resolve, our heritage, our self-belief, our confidence and our integrity in preparation for a "hot war" against our time-honored Constitutional rights. The power elite know well that the most effective strategy for victory in any battle is to convince your enemy to surrender before the fight even begins. Today, the American populace is being conditioned to lie down and die a mental death, to give up the inner war, so that when the outer war comes, they will already be defeated.

Corrupt governments rely heavily on what they call "psyops," which are primarily propaganda initiatives meant to demoralize their target (usually the citizenry). In the case of a despotic regime, psyops involves the insinuation of lies, half-truths, threats and brutality that is choreographed to elicit a very specific reaction. It is used to instigate strong emotional responses en masse that will work in favor of the oligarchy. [...]

In order to prevail, we must make ourselves immune to the game. We must walk away, separating ourselves from it completely. We must relinquish all unnecessary fear, doubt, and hatred, and do what we know needs to be done. We must ignore the rhetoric of defeat and nihilism. We must take that long solemn step beyond the veil of doubt, knowing that all great men before us fought their own battles despite the so called "certainty of death".

If we cannot take lordship of our own psychological world, we are doomed to failure in every other fight that envelops us. Without impervious will, we cannot overcome, and we cannot find peace.
In addition, I recommend that people get themselves a copy of Life Is Religion, an informative handbook with valuable tools to assist in relinquishing fear, doubt, and hatred, overcome our weaknesses and use our energies more productively to do what we know needs to be done. The book guides the reader through 12 daily exercises for spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. No matter the extent of what they think they know about you, you can become more self-aware and more knowledgeable about the world than they ever will.

The first part of this occasional series exploring the amalgamation of political and financial interests between Government legislators and the world's biggest industries is here.


Notes


1. Shorrock, Tim. Meet the contractors analyzing your private data Salon.com, 15 June 2013.

2. ibid

3. "Spies Like Us", London Telegraph, Issue 936, 16 December 1997.

4. Duncan Campbell is the author of the European Parliament's 1999 "Interception Capabilities 2000" Report.

5. Stansfield Turner, "Intelligence for a New World Order", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 70 Issue 4, Fall 1991, p. 167.

6. "Report on the Existence of a Global System for the Interception of Private and Commercial Communications (ECHELON Interception System)", 11 July 2001, A5-0264/2001, p. 13.

7. Ibid, p. 14.

8. Ibid, pp. 103-106.

9. Dennis, Mike. The Stasi: Myth and Reality. London, UK: Pearson Education Limited, 2003. ISBN: 0582414229