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Forum Post: Noam Chomsky | Security and State Power

Posted 6 years ago on March 3, 2014, 3:12 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Noam Chomsky | Security and State Power

Monday, 03 March 2014 13:40 By Noam Chomsky, Truthout | Op-Ed


This article, the first of two parts, is adapted from a lecture by Noam Chomsky on Feb. 28 sponsored by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif.

A leading principle of international relations theory is that the state's highest priority is to ensure security. As Cold War strategist George F. Kennan formulated the standard view, government is created "to assure order and justice internally and to provide for the common defense."

The proposition seems plausible, almost self-evident, until we look more closely and ask: Security for whom? For the general population? For state power itself? For dominant domestic constituencies?

Depending on what we mean, the credibility of the proposition ranges from negligible to very high.

Security for state power is at the high extreme, as illustrated by the efforts that states exert to protect themselves from the scrutiny of their own populations.

In an interview on German TV, Edward J. Snowden said that his "breaking point" was "seeing Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress" by denying the existence of a domestic spying program conducted by the National Security Agency.

Snowden elaborated that "The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name, and that which the government is doing against the public."

The same could be justly said by Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and other courageous figures who acted on the same democratic principle.

The government stance is quite different: The public doesn't have the right to know because security thus is undermined - severely so, as officials assert.

There are several good reasons to be skeptical about such a response. The first is that it's almost completely predictable: When a government's act is exposed, the government reflexively pleads security. The predictable response therefore carries little information.

A second reason for skepticism is the nature of the evidence presented. International relations scholar John Mearsheimer writes that "The Obama administration, not surprisingly, initially claimed that the NSA's spying played a key role in thwarting 54 terrorist plots against the United States, implying it violated the Fourth Amendment for good reason.

"This was a lie, however. Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, eventually admitted to Congress that he could claim only one success, and that involved catching a Somali immigrant and three cohorts living in San Diego who had sent $8,500 to a terrorist group in Somalia."

A similar conclusion was reached by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, established by the government to investigate the NSA programs and therefore granted extensive access to classified materials and to security officials.

There is, of course, a sense in which security is threatened by public awareness - namely, security of state power from exposure.

The basic insight was expressed well by the Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington: "The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate."

In the United States as elsewhere, the architects of power understand that very well. Those who have worked through the huge mass of declassified documents in, for example, the official State Department history "Foreign Relations of the United States," can hardly fail to notice how frequently it is security of state power from the domestic public that is a prime concern, not national security in any meaningful sense.

Often the attempt to maintain secrecy is motivated by the need to guarantee the security of powerful domestic sectors. One persistent example is the mislabeled "free trade agreements" - mislabeled because they radically violate free trade principles and are substantially not about trade at all, but rather about investor rights.

These instruments are regularly negotiated in secret, like the current Trans-Pacific Partnership - not entirely in secret, of course. They aren't secret from the hundreds of corporate lobbyists and lawyers who are writing the detailed provisions, with an impact revealed by the few parts that have reached the public through WikiLeaks.

As the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz reasonably concludes, with the U.S. Trade Representative's office "representing corporate interests," not those of the public, "The likelihood that what emerges from the coming talks will serve ordinary Americans' interests is low; the outlook for ordinary citizens in other countries is even bleaker."

Corporate-sector security is a regular concern of government policies - which is hardly surprising, given their role in formulating the policies in the first place.

In contrast, there is substantial evidence that the security of the domestic population - "national security" as the term is supposed to be understood - is not a high priority for state policy.

For example, President Obama's drone-driven global assassination program, by far the world's greatest terrorist campaign, is also a terror-generating campaign. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan until he was relieved of duty, spoke of "insurgent math": For every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.

This concept of "innocent person" tells us how far we've progressed in the last 800 years, since the Magna Carta, which established the principle of presumption of innocence that was once thought to be the foundation of Anglo-American law.

Today, the word "guilty" means "targeted for assassination by Obama," and "innocent" means "not yet accorded that status."

The Brookings Institution just published "The Thistle and the Drone," a highly praised anthropological study of tribal societies by Akbar Ahmed, subtitled "How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam."

This global war pressures repressive central governments to undertake assaults against Washington's tribal enemies. The war, Ahmed warns, may drive some tribes "to extinction" - with severe costs to the societies themselves, as seen now in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. And ultimately to Americans.

Tribal cultures, Ahmed points out, are based on honor and revenge: "Every act of violence in these tribal societies provokes a counterattack: the harder the attacks on the tribesmen, the more vicious and bloody the counterattacks."

The terror targeting may hit home. In the British journal International Affairs, David Hastings Dunn outlines how increasingly sophisticated drones are a perfect weapon for terrorist groups. Drones are cheap, easily acquired and "possess many qualities which, when combined, make them potentially the ideal means for terrorist attack in the 21st century," Dunn explains.

Sen. Adlai Stevenson III, referring to his many years of service on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, writes that "Cyber surveillance and meta data collection are part of the continuing reaction to 9/11, with few if any terrorists to show for it and near universal condemnation. The U.S. is widely perceived as waging war against Islam, against Shiites as well as Sunnis, on the ground, with drones, and by proxy in Palestine, from the Persian Gulf to Central Asia. Germany and Brazil resent our intrusions, and what have they wrought?"

The answer is that they have wrought a growing terror threat as well as international isolation.

The drone assassination campaigns are one device by which state policy knowingly endangers security. The same is true of murderous special-forces operations. And of the invasion of Iraq, which sharply increased terror in the West, confirming the predictions of British and American intelligence.

These acts of aggression were, again, a matter of little concern to planners, who are guided by altogether different concepts of security. Even instant destruction by nuclear weapons has never ranked high for state authorities - a topic for discussion in the next column.

© 2014 Noam Chomsky

Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate



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[-] 2 points by JGriff99mph (507) 6 years ago

"For example, President Obama's drone-driven global assassination program, by far the world's greatest terrorist campaign, is also a terror-generating campaign. "

And yet Congress will still have a 90% re election rate this upcoming year.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

" For example, President Obama's drone-driven global assassination program, by far the world's greatest terrorist campaign, is also a terror-generating campaign. "

A functioning perpetual motion machine.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 6 years ago

sounds like china's created it's own terrorist incident to control the people

Several men and women burst into Kunming station, south-west China, on Saturday, stabbing people at random and wounding more than 130.


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

Amazing - the worlds largest population control police force - and yet . . . .


[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

New Cases of Corporate Spying Bolster Troubling Trend: What Is Being Done About It?

Tuesday, 04 March 2014 09:08 By Candice Bernd, Truthout | Report


In the past few weeks an alarming number of national and international cases of corporate spying have emerged revealing a clear pattern of abuse with no clear end in sight.

The trend has grown in tandem with damning revelations about governmental surveillance capabilities and practices by the English-speaking "five eyes" alliance revealed by former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. But cases of corporate espionage are tricky in many ways to pin down and often overlap with governmental spying since private intelligence firms contract with government agencies.

"There has been a dramatic increase in the supply of espionage capacity and the specification of it, and so what that means is that it’s much easier to hire espionage capacity, whether . . . it’s human or technological, and that capacity is much more effective and intrusive than it was 10 years ago or 15 years ago, so that’s one thing that’s happening," says Gary Ruskin, director at the Center for Corporate Policy. Ruskin authored a detailed report called "Spooky Business" for the center, which is one of the first to comprehensively document a number of cases of corporate espionage operations against nonprofit groups and activists.

"The other thing that’s happening is that the corporations are increasingly concerned about the potential impact of activists, nonprofit organizations and truth tellers . . . number one on their bottom lines but number two - and perhaps more importantly - on their most important asset, which is typically their brand reputation," he said.

In his report, Ruskin documented in detail a 2011 joint surveillance operation conducted in secret by three private firms, HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies against the US Chamber of Commerce’s nonprofit critics. The three firms called themselves "Team Themis," and worked together to gather information on organizations such as the Center for American Progress, Move On, Move to Amend, US Chamber Watch, The Brad Blog, Brave New Films and the Ruckus Society, among others.

The firms proposed hiring former intelligence veterans and using extreme - and potentially illegal - tactics, such as creating false documents and false personas to discredit activists who may engage with them.

The tactics were worryingly similar to the "dirty trick" tactics currently being employed by Government Communications Headquarters’ Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group unit to discredit online "hacktivists," revealed by Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept last week.

But a new rash of reports documenting corporate espionage cases has steadily trickled out of the media in 2014, expanding on the known cases of private organizations gathering information on dissenters and using it to publicly shame them or permanently damage their reputations, with no accountability.

International human rights organizations in South America recently discovered their meetings were being infiltrated by the Vale and Belo Monte companies, according to Latinamerica Press. Organizers with the Xingu Alive Forever Movement in Para determined that a new member who called himself "Antônio" was recording a meeting attended by groups like Amazon Watch, Global Justice and Brazil’s Socio-environmental Institute. The groups are working to pressure the Belo Monte Construction Consortium (CCBM) to obey the law and respect human rights of the communities affected by the Belo Monte Dam.

"Antônio" told organizers that CCBM hired him to spy on their movement. He passed along photos and inside intelligence about the groups’ members and meetings with a CCBM employee.

And more has also come out this month, in files published by WikiLeaks, that the Austin-based private intelligence firm Stratfor, in 2010, was paid more than $13,000 a month by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to gather information about environmental activist organizations and campaigns around energy and climate change.

The firm tracked groups including the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oil Change International, 350.org, the Center for American Progress, Clean Energy Works, the Sierra Club, Forest Ethics, the Union of Concerned Scientists and ProPublica on behalf of API.

And in a case with roots in both the US and the UK, the FBI will be asked to investigate eight American companies that allegedly hired UK-based private investigators and illegally gathered information about the public in the so-called "blue-chip hacking scandal." The scandal erupted after it was discovered that several US companies used rogue private investigators who helped the companies fuel unlawful trade in personal data. The British Information Commissioner announced he plans to contact US authorities.

But in one of the most compelling stories of the month, the New Yorker revealed that Syngenta, the company that manufactures the herbicide atrazine, relentlessly followed Berkeley scientist Tyrone Hayes, whose experiments have repeatedly shown that atrazine causes birth defects in frogs. The company used its vast public relations apparatus to plot ways to discredit Hayes’ work and reputation.

Syngenta’s public relations team even proposed investigating Hayes’ wife and purchasing "Tyrone Hayes" as a phrase on search engines, so that when someone searches for Hayes’ studies, the first thing they will see is Syngenta public relations material. The company also prevented Hayes from acquiring a job at Duke University in North Carolina, where Syngenta’s crop-protection headquarters is located. Syngenta sent representatives to his public speeches to poke holes in his methods. Hayes is still seeking justice, however, as no action has been taken against the company.

"The manufacturer should be held accountable for how they manipulated the EPA, for how they manipulated the legislature, how they manipulated scientists," Hayes told Truthout. "They essentially made it very difficult . . . for me to get funding and continue the research."

But he also thinks the EPA should be held accountable for knowingly allowing Syngenta employees to influence their panel decisions approving the use of atrazine. "The EPA directly collaborated with the manufacturer while the testing was being done," he said.

Foreign governments are also purchasing commercial spyware from companies like the Hacking Team, and others whose "products are capable of stealing documents from hard drives, snooping on video chats, reading emails, snatching contact lists and remotely flipping on cameras and microphones so that they can quietly spy on a computer’s unwitting user," according to a report in The Washington Post. The targets of the spyware have been US citizens and journalists.

"It’s quite hard to talk about these things when all we really know about these items is one little news clip," Ruskin said. "Corporations engage in espionage of nonprofits, and activists and other truth tellers, and scientists, with near impunity, can suffer nothing more than a minor adversity in the coverage of their espionage being exposed . . . is that all?"

While the FBI clearly makes investigating whether foreign governments are spying on corporations to obtain trade secrets a priority, it is not entirely clear whether the agency is doing much to hold corporations who spy on nonprofits and the public accountable.

FBI supervisory special agent Jonathan Zeitlin told Truthout that many corporate spying cases sound more "like tortious conduct, not federal criminal conduct," and did not disclose whether the agency was looking into any kinds of cases in which private organizations and corporations spied on advocacy groups and activists.

But a secretive partnership between the FBI and the private sector, called InfraGard, designed to share intelligence, is, or could become, another avenue through which unethical or potentially illegal espionage against advocacy groups is conducted, according to Ruskin’s report.

In any case, it’s clear the FBI prioritizes cases in which corporations are spied on rather than cases of corporations unethically spying.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Intelligence Gathering and the Threat It Poses to Free Press Monday, 03 March 2014 13:22 By Michael Ratner, Truthout | Op-Ed


The latest Snowden revelations - including Julian Assange figuring on a manhunting timeline and a possible classification of WikiLeaks as a malicious foreign actor - clearly demonstrate the National Security State's conflation of journalism and whistleblowing with terrorism.

If you have ever searched for "WikiLeaks" on the internet, then British Intelligence (and the NSA) probably knows who you are.

Last week, documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept reveal that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) - the British equivalent to the National Security Agency (NSA) - collected the IP addresses of people who searched for or visited WikiLeaks as part of the agency's effort to gather information on the "human network" that supports the publisher's site. But the documents also expose some serious potential repercussions for freedom of the press as a whole.

It all starts with WikiLeaks publisher - and my client - Julian Assange. The documents revealed last week show that the NSA designated Assange as a target on a level with members of al-Qaeda, that the agency attempted to pressure foreign allies to pursue criminal prosecution of Assange, and that the NSA considered designating WikiLeaks as a "malicious foreign actor," which would expose anyone in contact with the site - from passive readers to volunteers, including United States citizens - to surveillance. Such tactics make it clear that Assange was right in petitioning for asylum and that Ecuador was justified in granting his request.

The NSA placed Assange on what the agency calls a "manhunting timeline." People on these lists are targets that the NSA seeks to locate, prosecute, capture or kill, and include members of al-Qaeda. The fact that Assange, an individual who published information by whistleblowers, is on such a list shows that the NSA isn't afraid to use its intelligence gathering authority to hinder the free flow of information.

In Assange's case, the document released last week details how the Obama administration urged allies - including Australia, the United Kingdom, Iceland and Germany - to prosecute Assange for publishing the Afghanistan War Logs. And that was before WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs and the series of diplomatic cables that came to be known as Cablegate. It does not strain credulity to think that such efforts would have escalated following the series of high-profile publications that came after 2010 (when the document released last week was dated), and that the United States would have continued to abuse its power to pressure other countries into targeting Assange to stop him from publishing.

Classifying WikiLeaks as a "malicious foreign actor" would subject the website, its staff, and its readers to the widest possible surveillance and allow for spying on United States citizens who are WikiLeaks personnel - including attorneys like me.

These disclosures do more than illustrate the use of overreaching surveillance to target publishers like Assange. They also expose other news outlets, like The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, all of which have worked with Assange to publicize documents featured on WikiLeaks. The NSA dragnet could expand to them, particularly considering the NSA has shown little hesitation to surveil United States citizens.

Also last week, the British High Court in London upheld the British government's decision to detain David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, in Heathrow and hold him for hours of questioning under UK terrorism law, despite the fact that the trip was part of journalistic activities. Miranda was carrying documents to be delivered to The Guardian on his way back from visiting journalist Laura Poitras in Germany. The court determined that journalistic freedom was trumped by terrorism law, which opens up a dangerous door in curtailing the activities of a free press in the name of antiterrorism.

An increasingly powerful intelligence community, given such carte blanche by governments, is not good news for the fourth estate. There can be no free press under these conditions. And there can be no true democratic system without a free press.

The light that these disclosures shine on NSA activities serves only to lengthen the agency's shadow and show us just how much we don't know about the practices used in intelligence gathering.

We know that the NSA and the US government implemented a program to discredit and destroy WikiLeaks. We don't know how the government plans to continue that program.

We know that British Intelligence is capable of, and has previously implemented, programs to monitor WikiLeaks readers and supporters in real time. We don't know if those programs were ended or if they continue today.

We do know that the NSA placed Assange among the likes of terrorists on a so-called "manhunting timeline." We don't know if NSA general counsel ever "got back" to the agents interested in expanding surveillance of WikiLeaks to the widest possible extent by designating the site as a "malicious foreign actor."

We do know that a grand jury was convened in Virginia to investigate WikiLeaks, and that US officials said that investigation will continue. We don't know if Assange has been indicted (but think he may have been), forcing him to continue to live in isolation in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

We do know that British courts aren't afraid to belittle freedom of the press. We don't know how far those allowances can or will reach.

And if whistleblowers, publishers and journalists continue to be silenced, shut down and targeted, we very well might never know.

Copyright, Truthout.