"Managing" Data and Dissent: Where Big Brother Meets Market Fundamentalism
As the securitization of daily life increase at near exponential rates (all to keep us "safe," mind you) the dark contours of an American police state, like a pilot's last glimpse of an icy peak before a plane crash, wobbles into view.
In the main, such programs include, but are by no means limited to the following: electronic surveillance (call records, internet usage, social media); covert hacking by state operatives; GPS tracking; CCTV cameras linked-in to state databases; "smart" cards; RFID chipped commodities and the spooky "internet of things;" biometrics, and yes, the Pentagon has just stood up a Biometrics Identity Management Agency (BIMA); data-mining; watch listing; on and on it goes.
Pity our poor political minders, snowed-under by a blizzard of data-sets crying out for proper "management"! Or, as sycophantic armchair warrior and New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, would have it, "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist--McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15."
So true; yet neither can an aggregate of repressive police and intelligence agencies function without an army of corporate grifters who guide that "hidden hand" and not-so-hidden fist into highly profitable safe harbors. Call it Big Brother meets market fundamentalism.
As Tim Shorrock revealed in CorpWatch, in 2004 and 2005 Lockheed Martin "acquired the government IT unit of Affiliated Computer Services Inc., inheriting several contracts with defense intelligence agencies and Sytex, a $425 million Philadelphia-based company that held contracts with the Pentagon's Northern Command and the NSA/Army Intelligence and Security Command. By 2007 the company employed 52,000 IT specialists with security clearances, and intelligence made up nearly 40 percent of its annual business, company executives said."
According to Shorrock, one of the firm's "most important intelligence-related acquisitions took place in the 1990s, when the conglomerate bought Betac Corporation. Betac was one of the companies the government hired during the late 1980s to provide communications technology for the secret Continuity of Government program the Reagan administration created to keep the U.S. government functioning in the event of a nuclear attack."
As readers are aware, secretive Continuity of Government programs went into effect after the 9/11 attacks. Details on these programs have never been revealed, although investigative journalists have discovered that some portions of COG have to do with the national security indexing of American citizens in a massive, classified database known asMain Core.
As investigative journalist Christopher Ketcham revealed in 2008, one "well-informed source--a former military operative regularly briefed by members of the intelligence community--says this particular program has roots going back at least to the 1980s and was set up with help from the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has been told that the program utilizes software that makes predictive judgments of targets' behavior and tracks their circle of associations with 'social network analysis' and artificial intelligence modeling tools."
Ketcham's source told him that "'the more data you have on a particular target, the better [the software] can predict what the target will do, where the target will go, who it will turn to for help,' he says. 'Main Core is the table of contents for all the illegal information that the U.S. government has [compiled] on specific targets.' An intelligence expert who has been briefed by high-level contacts in the Department of Homeland Security confirms that a database of this sort exists, but adds that 'it is less a mega-database than a way to search numerous other agency databases at the same time'."
Shorrock writes that "Under a 1982 presidential directive, the outbreak of war could trigger the proclamation of martial law nationwide, giving the military the authority to use its domestic database to round up citizens and residents considered threats to national security. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army were to carry out the emergency measures for domestic security."
And one of the "biggest winners" was Betac Corporation, "a consulting firm composed of former intelligence and communications specialists from the Pentagon. Betac was one of the largest government contractors of its day and, with TRW and Lockheed itself, dominated the intelligence contracting industry from the mid-1980s until the late 1990s."
"Its first project for the Continuity of Government plan," Shorrock reveals, "was a sole-source contract to devise and maintain security for the system. Between 1983 and 1985, the contract expanded from $316,000 to nearly $3 million, and by 1988 Betac had multiple COG contracts worth $22 million. Betac was eventually sold to ACS Government Solutions Group and is now a unit of Lockheed Martin."
While it is de rigueur, particularly since the rise of the Obama administration, to deride critics who point out the perils of an out-of-control national security state armed with meta-databases such as Main Core and secretive COG programs as "conspiracy theorists," such "whistling past the graveyard" is done at great peril to an open and transparent democratic system of governance based on accountability and the rule of law.