By Tom Burghardt
From driftnet surveillance to data mining and link analysis, the secret state has weaponized our data, “criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial,” as Cryptohippie famously warned.
No longer the exclusive domain of intelligence agencies, a highly-profitable Surveillance-Industrial Complex emerged in the 1980s with the deployment of the NSA-GCHQ ECHELON intercept system. As investigate journalist Nicky Hager revealed in CovertAction Quarterly back in 1996:
The ECHELON system is not designed to eavesdrop on a particular individual’s e-mail or fax link. Rather, the system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and using computers to identify and extract messages of interest from the mass of unwanted ones. A chain of secret interception facilities has been established around the world to tap into all the major components of the international telecommunications networks. Some monitor communications satellites, others land-based communications networks, and others radio communications. ECHELON links together all these facilities, providing the US and its allies with the ability to intercept a large proportion of the communications on the planet.
With the exponential growth of fiber optic and wireless networks, the mass of data which can be “mined” for “actionable intelligence,” covering everything from eavesdropping on official enemies to blanket surveillance of dissidents is now part of the landscape: no more visible to the average citizen than ornamental shrubbery surrounding a strip mall.
That process will become even more ubiquitous. As James Bamford pointed out in Wired Magazine, “the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (10 to the 24th bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes–so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)”
“It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015,” Bamford reported, “reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) … Thus, the NSA’s need for a 1-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.”
A former top NSA official turned whistleblower, William Binney, who resigned in 2001 shortly after the agency stood-up the Bush regime’s warrantless wiretapping programs (now greatly expanded under Hope and Change™ huckster Barack Obama), “held his thumb and forefinger close together” and told Bamford, “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”
Last week, Binney said on Democracy Now when queried whether there were any differences between the Bush and Obama administrations, “Actually, I think the surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.”
Add to that the Transportation Security Administration’s invasion of “travel by other means,” as Jennifer Abel pointed out in The Guardian, through the agency’s usurpation of “jurisdiction over all forms of mass transit,” and it should be clear to Americans (though it isn’t) that there is no way of escaping the secret state’s callous trampling of our rights.