Some critics of the total information awareness police state have mentioned that the fast-spreading corporate state spy network is beginning to look like the old East Germany Ministry for State Security (or Stasi). And many people take issue with that characterization; some get offended by it.
I argue that their reaction may be do to not being aware of the exact nature of the spy network. Actually, I would go a step further and say that when it comes to the modern surveillance police state in this country, what it has evolved into is far worst than the Stasi, by leaps and bounds.
One of its main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by overt and covert measures including hidden psychological destruction of dissidents (Zersetzung, literally meaning decomposition). It also worked as an intelligence agency abroad, the respective division Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung was responsible for both espionage and for conducting covert operations in foreign countries. Under its long-time head Markus Wolf it gained reputation as one of the most effective intelligence agencies of the Cold War. Numerous Stasi officials were prosecuted for their crimes after 1990. After German reunification, the surveillance files the Stasi had maintained for millions of East Germans were laid open, so that any citizen could inspect his personal file on request.Imagine if the Stasi had the total-information-awareness capabilities we have today!
[The emphasis is mine]
Before I present the case to support my assertion, let me go straight to the "elephant in the room" when it comes to the reason why the American Surveillance Police State is so dangerous to civil liberties: The subterfuge used to justify it is national security, protecting the citizenry against terrorist plots, and against crime. It is a fact that that is an important function of the surveillance police state, but it is not the most important function. The most important function (the reason it has the funding it has) is to be used as a tool of repression and oppression against the population to prevent us from organizing and acting against the depradations of the corporate state, in the name of profits.
Hence, as this worst-than-Stasi system takes hold, its real targets will be social justice activist, labor union organizers, environmental activists, and those who threaten the control and profits of the corporate state.
And what I'm describing there is outright fascism.
Today Al Jazeera published an article about how DC police is turning average citizens into spies: "Exclusive: How DC police use citizens as spies - Al Jazeera investigates shadowy surveillance technology revealed in correspondence between law enforcement and TrapWire."
But TrapWire has become a lightning rod for civil libertarian groups and other critics who see its technology — and law enforcement’s hunger for it — as a symptom of a creeping surveillance state in the age of the so-called war on terrorism. That feeling has only been strengthened in the wake of the leaks by Edward Snowden, the former contractor with the National Security Agency who revealed details of mass data trawling by U.S. spy agencies and those of other countries.Let me address one more thing, which I've mentioned in my previous writings about this subject: The reason this situation is so dangerous is because thousands of companies peddling surveillance, national security, and crime-prevention products and services are mainly interested in profits, in increasing market share. Individually, these companies may not seem to be doing anything wrong, and I'm sure none of their employees or executives have the intention of trampling all over our civil and constitutional rights. But that's what the banality of evil is all about. Individually, they are just doing their job. Collectively, they are the precursors of a totalitarian, fascist surveillance police state. The whole thing is operating on auto-pilot, as it were.
Now Al Jazeera has obtained more than 2,000 pages of documents from the MPD in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against the department that casts a rare spotlight into how TrapWire’s technology has been used by law enforcement (read the original contract) and the sorts of activities that are being picked up by the system.
That's the first part of the problem. The second part is the culture of legalized briberythat has engulfed our political system: From Top Cop to the Corporate Boardroom: Ex-Police Chiefs Spin Through Revolving Doors Into the Private Sector
"Bratton's seamless shifting between police agencies and private intelligence firms, or the board of Motorola, raises significant questions," Crockford said. "It's a problem in that police are supposed to serve the public interest. But corporations have other interests, competing interests, and other motives."When public officials are mainly interested in cashing in on their official duties, there will be a tendency to take actions that benefit their future employers, while in office, and then use their influence (peddling) on behalf of those employers when they leave office. If there is a better definition of public corruption, someone please share it with me.
In a Los Angeles Times article in 2009, years before Bratton was hired by Motorola Solutions, former California Assembly member Tom Hayden said "there were obvious red flags" back when Bratton was hired straight out of Kroll Inc. to run the LAPD. "The man monitoring the city's compliance with a federal decree was the friend and former employer of the man he was supposed to be monitoring. Was this really the sort of independent, conflict-free relationship required of a monitor?" Hayden called for an independent inquiry. None was ever undertaken.
Getting back to the Al Jazeera article, if you read, you will become aware about the dangers of turning average citizens into spies. The potential pitfalls are many: racial profiling; the building of dossiers of totally innocent people, kept in government databases for years; the repression, infiltration, and entrapment of social justice activists, civil liberties groups, and environmentalists. And you will learn that the vast majority of that unwarranted surveillance results in very little actionable intelligence when it comes to real crimes.
“These programs are not only wasteful and harmful, they are insulting to our intelligence,” said Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts, who reviewed the MPD’s TrapWire documents obtained by Al Jazeera.[The emphasis is mine]
“Americans aren’t stupid. If we see someone with a gun or a knife, we will call the police,” Crockford said. “The notion that we should report to the police people taking photographs and notes or ‘acting suspicious’ runs contrary to every democratic value this nation claims to defend.
“It’s a waste of public resources, and it promotes a culture of fear, which is corrosive to democracy and an open society.”
Now, and getting back to my argument about this spy network being worst than the Stasi, add to these accounts the recent revelations about the government and a vast network of corporate spies infiltration of social justice groups, as reported by the Los Angeles Times: Corporations increasingly spying on nonprofits, group says.
Corporations are increasingly spying on nonprofit groups they view as potential threats with little fear of retribution, according to a new report by a corporate watchdog group.And then of course, there is the issue of sockpuppets, of which I wrote about in this recent diary: Persona Management, Misinformation Artists, And Propaganda in 2013. And the issue of corporate state propaganda.
The large companies employ former Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, FBI, military and police officers to monitor and in some cases infiltrate groups that have been critical of them, according to the report by Essential Information, which was founded by Ralph Nader in the 1980s.
"Many different types of nonprofits have been targeted with espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing-home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups," the report said.
You put it all together, I and argue that the Stasi had nothing on the current crop of corporatis thugs who have taken over the levers of power.
Finally, one recurring counter-argument I often hear when I call attention to these issues is that the situation isn't that bad, that I'm being hyperbolic, that if we really lived in a police state I (and others) would not be able to write about this things.
My take on those arguments is that sometimes people do need to be hit with the proverbial (or real) two-by-four in order to wake up to certain realities. They would walk to their front window, look at the quiet street, the beautiful trees, and the chirping birds and say, "Nope, no police state or jack-booted thugs out there, so RP is just blowing smoke!"
Folks, as fellow kosack bobswern often points out, we're talking about turn-key totalitarianism (or fascism). The ruling elite is building this cage all around us, almost in plain view. I argue that unless we confront this situation head-on, now, at some point the mask will come off and the system will reveal its true nature. They are building this fascistic infrastructure because they intent to use it.
One final point: Sometimes I'm accused of being pessimistic about the future, when I focus on these issues. That is not the case. I'm actually very optimistic, and one of the main reasons is because of the revelations of crimes committed by the surveillance state, as exposed by Edward Snowden. I'm grateful of the work Glenn Greenwald, and Bill Moyers, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Jesselyn Radack, and the ACLU, and the folks from the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Bob Reich, and the many Daily Kos activists around the country, and the people from Popular Resistance, and countless activists around the country.
We are going to set this straight! And I do feel that by the spring and summer of 2014 the peaceful resistance (against corporate state oppression) will be in full swing. I just can't bring myself to accept that we the people are going to let a tiny group of plutocrats dominate us, exploit us and oppress us so completely. I have to believe that at one point we collectively are going to say, "Okay, enough of this bullshit!" I believe the tipping point is fast approaching.
UDPATE 1: TUE DEC 17, 2013 AT 04:00 PM PST - A few users brought to my attention that Angela Merkel herself used the Stasi comparison.
The Guardian: Merkel compared NSA to Stasi in heated encounter with ObamaUDPATE 2: TUE DEC 17, 2013 AT 06:00 PM PST Thanks to fellow Kosack ApostleOfCarlin for alerting me to the following BusinessInsider article:
In an angry exchange with Barack Obama, Angela Merkel has compared the snooping practices of the US with those of the Stasi, the ubiquitous and all-powerful secret police of the communist dictatorship in East Germany, where she grew up.
Former Stasi Officer: The NSA Domestic Surveillance Program Would Have Been 'A Dream Come True' For East Germany
The National Security Agency's domestic surveillance capabilities would have been "a dream come true" for East Germany, a former lieutenant colonel in the defunct communist country's secret police told Matthew Schofield of McClatchy.
“You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,” Wolfgang Schmidt said. “So much information, on so many people.”
The comments echo those made by NSA whistleblower William Binney, who told documentarian Laura Poitras that the danger of the NSA's domestic dragnet is that "we fall into a totalitarian state. This is something the KGB, the Stasi or the Gestapo would have loved to have had."
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Sockpuppets & Trolls Watch: Their aim is to disrupt, to annoy, to introduce "noise" in order to prevent meaningful discussions of issues. Their tactics include casting aspersions (attack on the reputation or integrity), and ad hominems, where instead of addressing issues, they attack the character of people. They also engage in mockery, and logical fallacies. A good source of information about the tactics used by sockpuppets, trolls and hacks is "The 15 Rules of Web Disruption." Once you familiarize yourself with those tactics, it is pretty easy to spot the potential troll. Once spotted, the best thing is to ignore them. And talking about trolls, visit my "Trolls gone wild! diary to read about how they do their thing, and to see them in action!