National Security State
Security State USA
A couple of months ago I started to write a post about the pervasive degree of surveillance in our lives and the increasing amount of comment given to it Surveillance state - Wikipedia. At the time I observed this was mostly on the periphery of the main conversations of our culture. Indirect and delicate when spoken of centrally. My main rhetorical thrust was to to say that Security State USA is here, or at the least we are well down that road. That all seems so quaint now.
The attacks on 11 September 2001 did not "change everything", but there are things they did change, perhaps permanently. One of the things that changed were the bundle of civil liberties clustered around privacy that we were willing to give up for reassurance of safety 1. Particularly if it could be arranged to happen in the background, and mainly to others and in secret laws so we would not have to look at it. This was in response to unprecedented threat of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of 11 September 2001 by commercial aircraft cruelly repurposed as massive flying bombs. This was real, the only other attack of this magnitude brought us into World War Two. The assertion of the moment was that without a massive security apparatus laying across the land this would be a regular occurrence. We live in times of such technological distribution and population density that mass casualty events lie within the grasp of nearly any ad hoc organization. The rise of permanent non state actors removes the diplomatic tool of requiring even hostile states to look after and police the actions of their own.
I have been making notes for this post for a while now, half a year or more on back burner. I had put together a rudimentary outline generally makes something the next post. Then the Boston marathon bombings occurred and part of the set of ideas I wanted to discuss suddenly became the focus of the news and mainstream conversation. This affected my thinking. As well, being from Eastern Massachusetts growing up only 3 miles from where the marathons start (one town over, Holliston) and having taken in the Patriots day package tour (a Red Sox game and Marathon finish line) on occasion with my father growing up. I took its random violent cruelty towards my familiar things hard. I drew a line at recasting this post again for the Snowdon/Glennwald revelations; though, I have thrown in a few links from the last month. As I look over the draft of this post and the articles I was reading in March April and May, it stands out, starkly even, that it was more confirmation than revelation.
Almost as soon as the echoes of the Boston blasts receded forces were at work converting fear into extended control: more surveillance more checks (as long as it didn't restrict guns in any way) more restrictions on movement and on immigration. All towards an ever more extensive counter intelligence program. The markers of this program are clear pervasive and warrant-less surveillance. By our municipal police, the FBI and the NSA. Personal privacy, the autonomy of personal movement is suspect and dangerous. The public not the government must be transparent to be safe.
There is a view of this that is the natural degeneration of careless republics. A fall into a police state (the public transfixed, locked down). A view outlined in Michel Foucault's 1975 work Discipline and Punish [Foucault, Michel Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (NY: Vintage Books 1995)] For those controlling society this is a utopia of the perfectly governed city. This was the ideal; the elevation of control in the bi-modality of order and production against chaotic liberty.
But there was also a political dream of the plague, which was exactly its reverse: not the collective festival, ''but strict divisions; not laws transgressed, but the penetration of regulation into even the smallest details of everyday life through the mediation of the complete hierarchy that assured them capillary functioning of power; not masks that were put on and taken off, but the assignment to each individual of his 'true' name, his 'true' place, his 'true' body, his 'true' disease. (Foucault 197-98)
For all the Foucault quotes, I relied on this websites' online presentation of the third section of Foucault's book listed above Michel Foucault Panopticism PART THREE: DISCIPLINE 3. Panopticism Foucault, Michel Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (NY: Vintage Books 1995) pp. 195-228.
Equally the comparison might be made to a Counter Intelligence State They overlap and differ only in the flavor of their fear. The hall marks of this type of state are the agitation and alienating paranoia we so readily exhibit. The markers of a police/surveillance state [ National Security State - SourceWatch ]-- (paraphrased and abbreviated from this source) are that the military is the highest authority. It establishes that it answers for the security of the state and through gradual unstated veto for the entirety of the state. Political democracy and democratic elections are viewed with suspicion. "The military and related sectors wield substantial political and economic power. They do so in the context of an ideology which stresses that 'freedom" and "development" are possible only when capital is concentrated in the hands of elites." The National Security State is obsessed with enemies. Defending against external and/or internal enemies becomes a leading preoccupation of the state[not equal]Ä¶ a major source of national identity and purpose. These enemies of the state are cunning and ruthless. Therefore, any means used to destroy or control these enemies is justified. The National Security State restricts public debate and limits popular participation through secrecy or intimidation.
It is a test of the depth and morality of a given culture, the choices that are made in adversity. To stick by the principles of due process, individual rights and privacy. Or to sacrifice all to the feeling of security and material comfort. The questions we need to be asking are does all this make us safer? Does any of it makes us better? Are we collecting too much information to accomplish any legitimate and practical concern? As the amount of data doubles and doubles again the challenge of separating actionable data points from the mass of collected integers and vectors disappears to a vanishing point. There is though a hidden efficiency of the Surveillance State: the internalized discipline of the observed. A psychological effect producing the lowered cost to elites of a self subjugating proletariat. Surveillance's purpose; the point of a program of constant surveillance, at end, is internal not external.
He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection. By this very fact, the external power may throw off its physical weight; it tends to the non-corporal; and, the more it approaches this limit, the more constant, profound and permanent are its effects: it is a perpetual victory that avoids any physical confrontation and which is always decided in advance. (Foucault, 203)
The techniques of mass observation can be developed towards external or foreign populations with little or no difference in process, and little or no question or oversight in that process. The National Security Agency (NSA) seems to find it necessary to its works to absorb every bit of data and metadata.passing through a US circuit. The National Reconnaissance Operations Center (NROC) confines itself, in the main, to standard satellite reconnaissance of military or national security nature. These run the gamut of orders-of-battle, industrial and agricultural capabilities and flushing out facilities of special nature such as missile and nuclear weapon fabricators. But beyond these are tactical systems like Gorgan Stare Gorgon Stare - Wikipedia whose subject is not national but very much the individual and their actions. Systems that similarly consolidate and centralize observation and analysis of existing surveillance cameras exist in the hands of certain municipal police forces.
All these means of collection fall into the category of technological dragnet. Their aim every signal every phone call, every email, every unruled activity; observed. Their logic is to capture all. Effectiveness is defined by data being there obtained, to unwrap when needed. Focused intelligence of the sort agencies were traditionally supposed to deliberately and purposefully gather and analyze is a dubious enterprise, unproductive historical romanticism. Modernity demands ubiquitous behavioral surveillance; suspicion equals guilt activity is evidence.
I would like to take a small detour here since I am in the rhetorical neighborhood of the global war on terror (GWOT) and address a few general issues regarding Drones Torture and Incarceration. The processes of counterterrorism insomuch as they demand a militarized response are a choice between drones, special forces, and against occupying land armies. The first has enormous appeal to policy makers for its low cost and low danger to American combatants, perhaps foremost it's relative invisibility to the American public. If not to the publics where it is used. Beyond the drama of incident and heat caused by friction with international law, drone anti terrorism may be the least destructive means of engaging terrorism, militarily. Still drone warfare is a product of the inability to discern genuine national interest, a creature of a temporary unilateral capability which sets the standard, and a bias towards action over diplomacy.
Normalizing engagement with organizations using terror as a war leads to conflict with laws regarding incarceration and repatriation. The regions combatants do not fight as a uniformed army or even as citizens of a state. There is often no standing government they recognize or that recognizes them. They may be captured, but there is no single formal political entity to negotiate the conflict with or remand the combatants to. The government of their geographic point of origin may reject custody on a number of grounds: too dangerous too expensive, too much a unregarded ethnic minority. So the U S incarcerates them indefinitely, on the merits of active hostility observed, declared, impugned or merely suspected. On basis of a simply potential and mutual animosity.
A contingent of policy observers make the argument that due process is a privilege of the pact we made for ourselves within our own body politic. To those outside we owe nothing. Against the hostile or the merely resentful we give nothing away. Having no voice among us, they are de-natured. This ideology of human rights fails to comprehend that due process is, at end, a recognition of inalienable rights) it is a universal concept; to see it existing on distinction only (within/without) loses the ability to perceive or keep it at all.
This slippery slope applies most to such extreme denials of human rights abroad; the application of enhanced interrogation. Our only reward for this appeal to efficacy over morality will be the eventual inability of keeping it external. The gradual acceptance of the irrelevancy of information to torture. It is punishment not interrogation. Confessions and information may be extracted, but these are never the true point, Torture is a outburst of reparation for perceived violence against the sovereign.
Domestic mass surveillance, is in many ways its true context. This is Benthem's Panopticonism Panopticism - Wikipedia. Total clinical observation. A conception he first applied to the prison and the disorderly dysfunctional subjects that found their way there, and as extended by Michel Foucault as a practice, more than metaphor, for the governance of a state or society Its primary characteristics are a constant and unidirectional visual surveillance. The former merely requires a potential of being the latter is key: the disassociated dyad of seeing -- the observed and observer do not "see" each other only the observer sees. This is extended through all the spaces in which the individual exists: workspace, public space, private space. In these places it is marked by random visual surveillance and other ways the behavior of individuals can be discretely observed. Rather than deny these things, they are dismissed as a fact of modern life and modern security. Apologists and the indifferent posit that acclimation and casual evade-ability suffice to ameliorate any untoward effects. If you don't make eye contact with the elephant in the room it isn't there.
There is no aspect of modern life that is not, can not be digitally recorded. Extra-legal data collection proceeds invisibly bending laws for search and seizure on a contingent basis, permanently warehoused and ready for data mining in the future or further today. The warrant process stands on ceremony only. Security insists on information, the law so much paperwork to be filled in after the fact. A society is no more than a sum of its laws and expectations. There is a corrosiveness in the disregard of warrant, the explicit norms of jurisprudence, and society dissolves in their breach.
All this concern only references the surveillance the government directs towards the citizen and not the realm of private observation. With the movement of the commerce sphere the internet and comes endemic online tracking. With a computer in every household, increasingly in every hand, web surfing and purchasing instances are marked by visit click and touch and measured against each other to form profiles and individual predictions of behavior. This sort of quiet passive data collection extends to all networked electronic devices. Ebook readers are a prime example they will report back to the manufacturer one remove to the publisher how fast you read into a book and how far, whether you skip to the end or not An E-Book Buyer's Guide to Privacy | Electronic Frontier Foundation: . Their take maybe simply to measure how genre novels are being received, or the ways "how-to" books are used. They maintain the information is not used in a personalized manner, but at the same time it is the statistical model they use for you and it is information they never had before. All These factor towards a modern reduction in property and privacy rights. Content is no longer an object transferred untethered. Intellectual Property is licensed not owned, a reduced bundle of sticks. And the content's manager always maintains a presence with you.
The notion that there is a difference, somehow, qualitatively if not quantitatively between private sector and state intrusiveness. One depriving you of a measure of liberty the other enhancing your individuality with a preternatural awareness of it, honing your choice sets as a semi-disclosed service. Any distinction here is put beside the point by legislation like CISPA Cyber-Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act - Wikipediaand SOPA which join private and state surveillance for any purpose involving national security or activity deemed to degrade commercial yet not common carrier networks.
There is an idea of Evgeny Morozov's (among others) that the bulk of critical thinking on modern telecommunication (telephony, internet) has been economic rather than sociological or political. Politically engendered rights don't enter into it. There is no public no citizen. only a consumer defined as an demographic object.
A republic, if you can keep it
For a state that takes itself to be democratic and run legitimately. Run for the people and by the people. Not by varying accommodations of faction or social strata. It comes to a question of whether we are genuinely a nation that follows rule of law, or of rule by decree. The rule of men; self-interested and mutable by nature.
The Rule of Law adheres to principles of jurisprudence. They are promulgated laws. That is laws that are known public and published, not secret or arbitrary. They emanate from legislatures, deliberative rule making bodies. They follow due process. Rule by decree is only ever a whim of power. It is often hidden or secret law. Invented and retroactive. Even if passed by legitimizing institutions they are unknown to the public as applied. A semi conscious nod to their unjustifiable nature.
Programs of surveillance which are launched by fiat alone, that is programs with only Presidential authorization, a practice that has recently become known as the doctrine of the unitary executive, are mere paper wrappings of legalism. The Unitary Executive Doctrine claims that there is no oversight or separation of power when the nation is at war. Faced with a mere show of adversity the president is king.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in its current incarnation is a fig leaf of justice. The information accumulation that occurred in the years following the attacks of 11 September 2001 was uncontrolled under our established law. Forced to reconsider the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act was stretched to cover the gap between practice and normal law. It should be clear that all this is only a bare degree better than dictatorial whim. Even with the safeguards to our privacy we are assured surround these programs as with most regulatory regimes they are not designed to exert any actual influence. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court does not like being described as a rubber stamp court but can point to nothing that counters that conclusion. the entire apparatus is expediency outside law, and failing even there. Pathology of power secretly held always trends towards the absolute the tyrannical. The law sheds it's higher form to become a dead mass, a mere weapon: "For my friends, everything; for my enemies, the law" -- (variously attributed: Mussolini, Getulio Vargas, Oscar Benavies )
The question to ask is this: is the surveillance state, this security state, reversible. Despite how positively you initially regard the efficacy of surveillance, you want to ask that question . The key to this task is separating emotional from empirical reactions towards perceived threats. The threat must be assessed in terms of the actual resources it has, and it's dimensions in historic context. And all this against the measured effects of surveillance on populations -- their freedoms of communication and movement -- in the name of security.
The first task is rebuilding a public space. Panopticonism collapses the public sphere, dissolves the very space between individuals where they can interact with each other in a serendipitous manner. Such interaction ought to recommend itself to a societies elite in their self interest, because it's cheaper to have the people sort out their own little problems. And because the peasants have pitchforks and will create a room for themselves one way or another, eventually.
The surveillance state is not compatible with democracy. There is no trust or autonomy for the churning energy of people within such a state. Foucault makes rather clear he does not see these inclinations working in concert. Into the well tempered state the controlling logic of surveillance pushes the "Penetration of Regulation", against multiplicity, confusion disorder.
The plague-stricken town, traversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilized by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies - this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city. (Foucault 198)
and a little further on
Underlying disciplinary projects the image of the plague stands for all forms of confusion and disorder; just as the image of the leper, cut off from all human contact, underlies projects of exclusion. (Foucault 198)
Foucault also speaks of a "Swarming of Disciplinary mechanisms" in Benthem. From prison to barracks, to school house and on to the factory. The Inversion multiplication and state control of these mechanisms. The inversion is of their original use of taking the bad and making it good. Curing ill. To improving good -- making it more purposeful, more directed, more efficient.
The difference in practice and outcome can seem small; after a fact examination as an investigatory tool or before the fact as control. A controlled populace works for those that impose control not themselves. Elites who have captured a political process must impose a double consciousness to maintain it.
Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. (Foucault 201)
Panopticonism is a power relation. That is; it is an internal consideration, directed against those to be ruled, organized. An industrial technic of control, modality of power. It is unlikely to be given up as long as they can impose it
Discipline' may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a 'physics' or an 'anatomy' of power, a technology. (Foucault, 215)
A program of this magnitude while ostensibly directed at an outside threat, at end everything to do with ensuring the internal quiescence of increasingly disorderly populations U.S. Surveillance Is Not Aimed at Terrorists - Bloomberg . The principle of pervasive observation that suggests itself to control is its relative affordability. Not every cell in a panopticon prison need be under observation, nor every frame of video, every computer, phone call, electronic transaction, but they could be. This is the needed efficiency the price point of control that absorbs liberty
At the other extreme, with panopticism, is the discipline-mechanism: a functional mechanism that must improve the exercise of power by making it lighter, more rapid, more effective, a design of subtle coercion for a society to come. (Foucault, 209)
As with most industrial applications of custodial panopticonism. The result is not a harmonious doubling of conscience -- tiny turn-keys of our better (or at least more malleable) nature sat upon our shoulders piloting us down safe and straight channels. Rather it represents, or results in, a coarsening of the public conscience, a schizophrenia, and endemic paranoia. A ruin of the human social instinct. Usually I'm inclined to give a nod to adherents of economist Julian Simon and his notion that our ingenuity will deliver us timely solutions to adversity, against nature if not ourselves. But in the docility of active surveillance the human spirit suffers, lags doubts does not produce, and the world engulfs us
1 A caveat I give here to national security matters is to ask myself what I would do if one of these jobs, within the military and intelligence establishment, were my job. If I had the task of preventing another major terrorist attack. Frankly there is a lot I would do. It may seem strange to bring this up in a footnote, but I do not believe I would do what Cheney and Addington et al did, which now seems near irreversible. I do not believe need can dismiss law. I do not believe human beings need to be treated like one of Temple Grandins' cattle by their leaders to enjoy a civil society.
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