N° 35. June 2013
Article published on 30 June 2013

by C.P.
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[*INTERNATIONAL*]
- “This Square is Our Home. The Organization of Urban Space in the Spanish 15-M Movement, Álvaro Sevilla-Buitrago
- The Orwellian Warfare State of Carnage and Doublethink, Norman Solomon
- Snowden Coverage: If U.S. Mass Media Were State-Controlled, Would They Look Any Different?, Jeff Cohen
- Total Surveillance, Kate Epstein
- Edward Snowden, William Blum
- The Making of a Global Security State, Tom Engelhardt
- Pope Francis and Argentina’s Dirty War: Nine Questions He Needs to Answer, Steve Weissman
- The Clintons and the Rich Women, Jeffrey St Clair
- Genetically Modified Democracy: Monsanto and Congress Move to Stomp on Your Rights, Ronnie Cummins
- Zionism and the Shah: On the Iranian elite’s evolving perceptions of Israel, Lior Sternfeld
- The Russians Came. The New Power Behind the Israeli Rightwing, Uri Avnery
- Israel, Hawking and the Pressing Question of the Boycott. On the Freedom and Dissent, Ramzy Baroud
- Israeli Propaganda, With Warts, Louis Proyect
- The NSA spy scandal’s Israeli connection, Asa Winstanley
- Women of the Wall. Breaking the Taboo, Uri Avnery
- Kerry and Chutzpah, Uri Avnery
- France condemns Israeli decision to build new settlements

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- Return to Homs, Patrick Cockburn
- Living with No Future: Iraq, 10 Years Later, Dahr Jamail
- Horror on the Roof of the World, Uzma Aslam Khan
Dirty Wars and the Cinema of Self-Indulgence, Douglas Valentine
- Lives of the Rich and Careless. Baz Lurhmann’s "The Great Gatsby", Kim Nicolini
- Little Companies That Bring You Films That Matter, Louis J. Proyect

[*ON THE NET*]

- Women
- War
- Capitalism
- Money
- Work
- Nobel Prize
- Afghan Info War
- Thanks Jesus
- Illegal Immigrantes
- National Security Service
- Free Society
- Resistance
- Brasil

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

With remarkable prescience, sci-fi author Isaac Asimov wrote a story about an all powerful global computer system that gathered data on everyone with the aim of pre-empting criminal activity. When Asimov’s tales of a machine called Multivac first appeared, back in the days of the valves and punch cards of computing in the 1950s, the idea seemed far fetched - indeed pure science fiction.

Hollywood churns out endless thrillers with vaguely similar plotlines portraying all-seeing state machinery subverted for the corrupt political interests of a shadowy inner group who have hijacked the system. But the recurring Hollywood fiction is that the corrupt cabal is always undone by our hero - a brave lone agent with a conscience who against all odds survives all the digital dirty tricks and both long and close-range violence that ’the system’ can mete out. It has been a form of repeated social conditioning to persuade us that ubiquitous surveillance endows state (and corporate) security services with extraordinary powers, but that if anyone were to abuse these powers, there is always a hero somewhere to save the day.

The revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden of the extent of the Prism program of data surveillance undertaken by the US National Security Agency have been greeted with faux surprise as if no-one was aware that secret services - with or without the collaboration of the major international corporations that virtually own the digital planet - really do vacuum up all our telephone calls, emails, texts, Tweets, Facebook postings and other internet traffic in super-computer searching for the keywords and clues that may pre-empt what the US machine views as criminal activity (or the state deems to be intelligence gathering).

Now no-one doubts that the sinister capacity to intercept, track and trace everyone’s actions and movements is an every day reality even if the whisteblower confirmation only reinforced what otherwise has been often dismissed in the past by the more incredulous as evidence of paranoia. Much was revealed a few years ago by Shane Harris in his book, The Watchers - The Rise Of America’s Surveillance State, listed as one of the best books of 2010 by The Economist. In a New York Times article last summer, Harris recalled how a Pentagon program called Total Information Awareness was exposed and supposedly dismantled a decade earlier in America’s post-9/11 panic. Only the National Security Agency, he claimed, still had much the same program running and was building a massive complex in the Utah desert to handle it. Nevertheless, he argued, Americans have surrendered their digital privacy in exchange for some expectation of pre-empting large scale terrorism. "These days, we are more likely to be outraged by airport screening, and its public inconvenience and indignity, than by unseen monitoring," Harris concluded.

What seems to be overlooked in much of the debate and the reportage headlining the feeble protests of innocence by Internet conglomerates and computer corporations, is that there are existing well-sourced accounts which help us to join together the dots and see the bigger picture. The reaction to Edward Snowden’s testimony of a corporate contracted conspiracy to spy on everyone, everywhere, is questionable, especially knowing how much was already revealed. In 2005 computer engineer Mark Klein, a whistleblower who retired from telecom giant AT&T, revealed how an Israeli company provided a secret system to ’enable the government to look at every individual message on the Internet and analyze exactly what people are doing.’

In 2009, security specialist James Bamford named names in his book The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America . He identified two Israeli intelligence-linked companies at the centre of the mass monitoring and surveillance system servicing telecoms giant AT&T and Verizon and wrote: “Verint and Narus are super-intrusive conducting mass surveillance on both international and domestic [US] communications 24/7. What is especially troubling, but little known, is that both companies have extensive ties to a foreign country, Israel, as well as links to that country’s intelligence service – a service with a long history of aggressive spying against the U.S.”

It seems the majority of Americans can only perceive the issue in terms of another Hollywood fantasy tale, and are even ready to support the intrusive monitoring of our digital world. But should they really welcome Israeli-linked internet spying as the price to be paid to counter terrorism on the scale of the attacks that brought down the World Trade Center?

Few will recall the strange incident of the five Israelis reported to be seen dancing with joy as they filmed the Twin Towers falling. They were deported in a deal with the Israeli government after they had been detained and interrogated for 71 days. Jewish media reports suggested they were agents, and one was reported to have spoken on Israeli television on his return stating;"Our purpose was to document the event."

Assuming they were not psychic, this begs one question. Asimov’s Multivac was created to detect criminal intentions and prevent the crime taking place, not document crime as it occurred. Does the massive Prism program mean security services actually prevent terror attacks or are there cases where despite having advance knowledge they have allowed events to take their course?

In the opening scenes of the Greek tragedy Agamemnon in Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, the Watcher bemoans the fact that he has had to remain wearily vigilant throughout the night. Even with banks of super computers, watching on the scale of the Prism program still demands tireless human vigilance to be effective. But Juvenal’s Satire offers a more appropriate question that remains unanswered in all the current outrage over the NSA scandal: who is watching the watchers?

Neville Rigby

Events to come

No events to come


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