The national security state thanks you for your participation

On a cold night in January 1990 in Berlin, a mob of angry citizens and western intelligence agents struck a blow for freedom. They stormed the headquarters of Stasi, the secret police service of the GDR. Guards were beaten, furniture was thrown, files were stolen, files were destroyed. The most effective and pervasive apparatus of surveillance the world has known until today was exposed and dismantled.

After the dust settled and the CIA agents had spirited away the files that concerned them most, the public of a reuniting Germany was confronted by a harsh reality: their world was riddled with secret policemen and snitches. According to some estimates, as many as one in 166 East Germans spied on their fellow citizens as a full time employee of the Stasi and as many as one in seven were parttime snitches. Spouses spied on each other. The system was effective and rewarded the citizen who participated materially and psychologically.

Recently, both the and the Washington Post began to reveal NSA programs to track the every move and phone call of every citizen. Unsatisfied with merely knowing where every citizen is at all times, the NSA also taps into the servers of Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and other tech giants to view every email, video, photo, like, share and friend request made by everyone, everywhere.

Silicon Valley executives formed a tight media phalanx to deny they had ever heard of PRISM, the program under which Obama uses your Facebook likes to determine whether you are worthy of murder by drone while he eats breakfast every morning. The executives may have been telling the truth, as PRISM refers not to the wiretapping itself, but the data integration software that shapes and filters it.

PRISM, created by Palantir technologies, relies not only on wiretaps to enable it to spy on dissidents, but on the public at large purchasing the technology to enable it. Citizens actively aid by entering data about themselves, their coworkers, their families and their friends. Without Facebook users tagging photos, the photos would not be of much use, and thus the public is converted into a vast unpaid labor pool that spies on itself. Palantir got its early start- up capital from In-Q-Tel, a CIA venture capital non-profit that help companies bring technologies to market that the intelligence community can then use further for total surveillance.

Although the T-shirted tech titans of Silicon Valley deny their participation in or knowledge of the wiretapping and data mining of the whole world, their complicity in the spying cannot be denied. Indeed it is written in both their words and their corporate histories.

In a recent essay published by the New York Times, Julian Assange reviewed “The New Digital Age,” a blueprint for the future written by Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, a former high-level State Department employee who is now the head of Google Ideas. In his review he exposed how consumer feedback on gadgetry becomes conflated with democracy and democracy is consumer culture to be exported world-wide at the barrel of a gun. The book begins with the meeting of the authors in the bleak landscape of 2009 Baghdad, a place both smashed by imperialism and ready to embrace our consumer culture. Henry Kissinger is quoted extensively in the book and is listed first in the acknowledgments.

The New Digital Age was a not a place where Kissinger and his associates have crossed paths with Google nor was Baghdad. Long before Schmidt started getting ideas for Google from Cohen, he was buying technologies from Kissinger, and the CIA was assuring our participation in the new Stasi at our own expense.

Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, In-Q-Tel invests for the CIA in technology companies that they hope will both enhance espionage against the world and bring them a profit. One member of their board is Jami Miscik, former Deputy Director of the CIA, who is also vice-chairwoman and president of Kissinger Associates, Henry Kissinger’s secretive consulting firm.

One such startup was Keyhole, a company that built satellite and 3D mapping programs. Once Keyhole had been funded and guided by In-Q-Tel and its products were mature, In-Q-Tel sold it off. Today you use its products under a different name, Google Earth. Not content to get merely get directions to where we are going, and thus uploading our itinerary to the NSA, the public constantly tags Google Earth with links and information. Consider this program:

“The Business Photos program enables merchants to create 360-degree, interactive tours of their establishments. This imagery is published on Google so potential customers can look inside and explore businesses before they go.”

For the private consumer who doesn’t have the budget to pay a graphic designer to help the intelligence community build its worldwide database, In-Q-Tel brought another technology to maturity. Last Technologies invented a very easy to use friendly drafting and 3D modeling program (disclaimer: the Author has used this program to create blueprints in his former incarnation as a residential building contractor). It allows a user to very quickly draw a house, or chair, or table, or anything at all and then upload this model for other users to incorporate into their own designs. In-Q-Tel sold this company to Google where the product is now known as Google SketchUp.

If a SketchUp use is not content with a bland surface of what they have modeled, SketchUp allows them to photograph the reality of their creation and upload it to Google Earth. Beyond the ability to incorporate exterior shots of buildings not yet photographed by Google Street view, SketchUp invites the user to photograph and add interior shots of their own homes.

In the government-corporate espionage future that Kissinger, Schmidt and Cohen are building we have met the new Stasi and he is us.

Date Originally Published: 
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
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