Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Corporate/Government Alliance to "Reengineer" the Internet?

"The United States must also translate our intent into capabilities. We need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace, identify intrusions and locate the source of attacks with a trail of evidence that can support diplomatic, military and legal options -- and we must be able to do this in milliseconds. More specifically, we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment -- who did it, from where, why and what was the result -- more manageable."

-- Washington Post Op-Ed by Michael McConnell, Executive Vice President of Booz Allen, one of the nation's largest private intelligence contractors. McConnel has also served as head of the National Security Agency under Bush 41 and Clinton, and was also W. Bush's Director of National Intelligence (DNI)

As you might expect, after a 7 day vacation I've got a ton to catch up on, so my time is short here today. Nonetheless, I just HAD to pass on this article by Constitutional scholar Glenn Greenwald regarding the absolutely astonishing, outrageous, and outright constitution eviscerating op-ed in the Washington Post by Michael McConnell.

Just be prepared to possibly lose some sleep tonight...because his central thesis - and what this guy says represents a growing consensus in the "security industrial complex" - is downright frightening and TOTALLY antithetical to EVERYTHING this country was supposedly founded upon.

I'll let Greenwald do the heavy lifting on this topic today, but suffice it to say, McConnell's proposal appears to go even further than the Bush Administration's Orwellian parody - but it wasn't - called the Total Information Awareness program (which he also had a hand in). Now, that massive data mining scheme was a bit much for even our post 9/11 frightened and shocked public, so never went very far. But astonishingly, it appears a similar concept is being peddled by yet another fear profiteer.

As I have often written about here, there is an emerging Fear-Industrial-Complex in this country, consisting of a growing host of characters and interests, from the Department of Defense to talk radio to the “the intelligence community” to conservative pundits to weapons/defense contractors to fearmongering politicians to the corporate media itself.

Many of these same interests that took advantage of 9/11 to ram through the Patriot Act are out in force once again - aided this time by a much more influential and powerful security industry.

As we all should be acutely aware of now, advancements in security technology may serve certain important purposes in specific situations, but more often than not, represent the continuing expansion of Big Brother's ability to monitor and record nearly everything we do - usually under the guise of "keeping us safe".

But another driving force in the expansion of the surveillance state, in addition to stifling dissent, monitoring "enemies" (both foreign and domestic), increasing power and control, or even ostensibly "protecting America", is the enormous sums of money that can be made from it.

It is this "revolving door" between private industry and the government, in this case as it relates to surveillance technologies and civil liberties, that lies at the heart of Greenwald's analysis of McConnell's inherent conflicts of interest, our totally corrupted political system, and that the grave threat it, and the proposals espoused in the Washington Post op-ed pose.

Greenwald writes:

In every way that matters, the separation between government and corporations is nonexistent, especially (though not only) when it comes to the National Security and Surveillance State. Indeed, so extreme is this overlap that even McConnell, when he was nominated to be Bush's DNI, told The New York Times that his ten years of working "outside the government," for Booz Allen, would not impede his ability to run the nation's intelligence functions.

That's because his Booz Allen work was indistinguishable from working for the Government, and therefore -- as he put it -- being at Booz Allen "has allowed me to stay focused on national security and intelligence communities as a strategist and as a consultant. Therefore, in many respects, I never left."

As the NSA scandal revealed, private telecom giants and other corporations now occupy the central role in carrying out the government's domestic surveillance and intelligence activities -- almost always in the dark, beyond the reach of oversight or the law.


Aside from the general dangers of vesting government power in private corporations -- this type of corporatism (control of government by corporations) was the hallmark of many of the worst tyrannies of the last century -- all of this is big business beyond what can be described. The attacks of 9/11 exploded the already-huge and secret intelligence budget. Shorrock estimates that "about 50 percent of this spending goes directly to private companies" and "spending on intelligence since 2002 is much higher than the total of $33 billion the Bush administration paid to Bechtel, Halliburton and other large corporations for reconstruction projects in Iraq."


Think about how dangerous that power is in relationship to the war I wrote about this weekend being waged on WikiLeaks, which allows the uploading of leaked, secret documents that expose the corruption of the world's most powerful interests. This "reengineering of the Internet" proposed by McConnell would almost certainly enable the easy tracing of anyone who participates. It would, by design, destroy the ability of anyone to participate or communicate in any way on the Internet under the shield of anonymity. Wired's Ryan Singel -- noting that "the biggest threat to the open internet is . . . Michael McConnell" -- documents the dangers from this "cyber-war" monitioring policy and how much momentum there now is in the Executive and Legislative branches for legislation to implement it (as a result of initiatives that began during the Bush era, under McConnell, and which continue unabated).

But there's something even worse going on here. McConnell doesn't merely want to empower the Government to control the Internet this way; he wants to empower private corporations to do so -- the same corporations which pay him and whose interests he has long served. He notes that this "reengineering" is already possible because "the technologies are already available from public and private sources," and explicitly calls for a merger of the NSA with private industry to create a sprawling, omnipotent network for monitoring the Internet...


In other words, not only the Government, but the private intelligence corporations which McConnell represents (and which are subjected to no oversight), will have access to virtually unfettered amounts of information and control over the Internet, and there should be "no borders" between them. And beyond the dangerous power that will vest in the public-private Surveillance State, it will also generate enormous profits for Booz Allen, the clients it serves and presumably for McConnell himself -- though The Washington Post does not bother to disclose any of that to its readers. The Post basically allowed McConnell to publish in its Op-Ed pages a blatant advertisement for the private intelligence industry while masquerading as a National Security official concerned with Keeping America Safe.


So here we have a perfect merger of (a) exploiting public office for personal profit, (b) endless increases in the Surveillance State achieved through rank fear-mongering, (c) the rapid elimination of any line between the public and private sectors, and (d) individuals deceitfully posing as "objective commentators" who are, in fact, manipulating our political debates on behalf of undisclosed interests.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

I'll get to this more in future posts...

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