› You Are Our Secret (2) | Tom Engelhardt
For this vast, restless, endless expansion of surveillance of every sort and at every level, for the nearly half-million or possibly far more private contractors, aka “digital Blackwater,” now in the government surveillance business — about 70% of the national intelligence budget reportedly goes to the private sector these days — and the nearly five million Americans with security clearances (1.4 million with top security clearances, more than a third of them private contractors), the official explanation is “terrorism.” It matters little that terrorism as a phenomenon is one of the lesser dangers Americans face in their daily lives and that, for some of the larger ones, ranging from food-borne illnesses to cars, guns, and what’s now called “extreme weather,” no one would think about building vast bureaucratic structures shrouded in secrecy, funded to the hilt, and offering Americans promises of ultimate safety.
Terrorism certainly rears its ugly head from time to time and there’s no question that the fear of some operation getting through the vast U.S. security net drives the employees of our global security state. As an explanation for the phenomenal growth of that state, however, it simply doesn’t hold water. In truth, compared to the previous century, U.S. enemies are remarkably scarce on this planet. So forget the official explanation and imagine our global-security-state-in-the-making in the grips of a kind of compulsive disorder in which the urge to go global, make the most private information of the citizen everywhere the property of the American state, and expand surveillance endlessly simply trumps any other way of doing things.
In other words, they can’t help themselves. The process, the phenomenon, has them by the throat, so much so that they can imagine no other way of being. In this mood, they are paving the way for a new global security — or rather insecurity — world. They are, for instance, hiking spending on “cybersecurity,” have already secretly launched the planet’s first cyberwar, are planning for more of them, intend to dominate the future cyber-landscape in a staggering fashion, continue to gather global data of every sort on a massive scale, and more generally are acting in ways that they would consider criminal if other countries engaged in them. [++]
No other country in the world presently stands out so nakedly—the Manning-Snowden symbolism—in clamping down hard on internal dissent, on erecting secrecy into a principle of the state (now capitalized in practice as the State, the National Security State), on developing the legal arguments and provisions which legitimate the suspension of the Constitution in the name of the law. Supplementary baggage doesn’t help: the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, targeted assassinations, illegal, unwarranted intervention, all of these, now under Obama, as the continuance and intensification of the work of his predecessors, for which he must therefore take full responsibility (even more so, since the previous contours of policy were well-known, and he willingly followed suit), places the US in the unenviable position of representing a society almost alone, by its action, in combining domestic repression and foreign aggression, becoming the more integrated the further each is pursued, in order to cover up the other.
Norman Pollack, America at the Precipice
I.B.M.’s Watson, the supercomputing technology that defeated human Jeopardy! champions in 2011, is a prime example of the power of data-intensive artificial intelligence. Watson-style computing, analysts said, is precisely the technology that would make the ambitious data-collection program of the N.S.A. seem practical. Computers could instantly sift through the mass of Internet communications data, see patterns of suspicious online behavior and thus narrow the hunt for terrorists. Both the N.S.A. and the Central Intelligence Agency have been testing Watson in the last two years, said a consultant who has advised the government and asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak.
Revelations Give Look at Spy Agency’s Wider Reach
In order to obfuscate the failure of the US National Security State, the corporate media takes center stage—with the advice and consent of America’s elite—to get the prevailing national narrative back on track. It’s predictable: everyone in the world is evil; the USA is a force for good; no one could have foreseen the event, and on and on ad nauseam. In short, blame it on someone else and ignore the structural problems in America’s violent, myth-heavy cultural landscape.
US National Security State Fails in Boston
› Ian Welsh: Boston is the end result of a broken system
The tempo of mass killings and bombings IS going to increase. The generation coming up is much more detached from your society. They are much less likely to believe in it, to think it’s fair, to believe they can have a good life, or a purposeful life in it. They are burdened with debt, they know that one slip up can condemn them to a lousy life, they see the good jobs going, going, going and they understand, in their bones, that the society is a corrupt one. Make no mistake, bankers killed far more people than these boys, and they didn’t go to jail. The people running the plant in Texas which blew up and the bureaucrats who made the decision not to shut it down, killed more people than these kids did, and they did it for money. A society which is fundamentally unjust, and which is seen to be fundamentally unjust, is going to have more and more problems like this. The older generations still sort of believed, or still thought they could make it through. The new generations coming up, will less and less believe the myths, less and less believe that if they just play by the rules, they’ll be taken care of. Less and less believe that if they fail, well, the system is basically fair and they had it coming.
Obama-Brennan-CIA, a lovely troika qua hegemonic battering ram, reached a structural convergence, aka The National Security State, just in the nick of time, as America has begun an accelerated decline from numero uno in global power and now perhaps vainly seeks to reassert its unilateralism in world politics at the very moment alternative modes of organization—the rise of multipolar centers of power—some quite possibly even socialist, are on the historical boards. For our troika, anything goes! Assassination, torture, covert operations, the wider use of paramilitary forces, cyberwarfare, massive ‘defense’ spending (what a misnomer), modernization of nuclear weaponry, naval power, from itty-bitty littoral craft to supercarriers,…god, the list is inspiring, as thrilling to recite, as is the experience of watching Stealth flyovers at the halftime of big football games. I already have a lump in my throat. And we owe this resurgence of American power to Barack Obama, his man at CIA, and, not to be forgotten, the CIA’s partner in spreading democracy, JSOC, itself running the military wing (remember, the CIA is, yes, civilian) of the drone assassination program, or in today’s terms, the more neutral-sounding ‘project.’
Where Democracy Ends, Fascism Begins
The Washington Post has reported that there are 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies in 10,000 locations in the United States that are working on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence, and that the intelligence community as a whole includes 854,000 people who hold top-secret clearances. According to a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, private contractors make up 29% of the workforce in the US intelligence community and cost the equivalent of 49% of their personnel budgets.
United States Intelligence Community (Wikipedia).
1,271 government organizations working on national security and intelligence. The Washington Post report in question noted that “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”
If this isn’t an indication that the Leviathan is out of control, I’m not sure what is.
› Gore Vidal on the ‘National Security State’ of America | The Dissenter
In March 1998, Vidal delivered an excellent speech on the subject [of the National Security State] at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It was based on an essay he wrote for Vanity Fair in November 1997, and it highlighted the fiftieth anniversary of the National Security Act, which Vidal introduced as an act that, “without any national debate or the people’s consent, replaced the old American republic with a national security state very much in the global empire business.”
Vidal gives a brilliant description of the cultural post-World War II climate that created the conditions where the powerful could pass the National Security Act. He says, “A novelty, television, had begun to appear in household after household, its cold, gray, distorting eye relentlessly projecting a fun house view of the world.” This is all a setup for why the powerful in the country felt they needed to launch a Cold War.
As he notes, the “official explanations” given for why America needed to increase income taxes to pay for weapons to go after the Soviet Union made “very little sense.” But, Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson narrowly observed:
“In the State Department we used to discuss how much time that mythical average American citizen put in each day listening, reading, and arguing about the world outside his country. It seemed to us that ten minutes a day would be a high average.” So why bore the people? Secret bipartisan government is best for what, after all, is or should be a society of docile workers, enthusiastic consumers, obedient soldiers who will believe just about anything for at least ten minutes.
The NATO alliance and forty years of the Cold War all began at this moment. Elections from this point forward were meaningless when it came to challenging the wartime state at home:
Of course, there were elections during the crucial time, but Truman-Dewey, Eisenhower-Stevenson, Kennedy-Nixon were of a single mind as to the desirability of inventing first a many-tentacled enemy–communism, the star of the chamber of horrors–then, to combat so much evil, install a permanent wartime state at home, with loyalty oaths, the national peacetime draft, and secret police to keep watch over homegrown traitors, as the few enemies of the national security state were known.
Then followed forty years of mindless wars, which created a debt of $5 trillion that hugely benefited aerospace companies and firms like General Electric, whose longtime TV spokesman, Ronald Reagan, eventually retired to the White House.