June 24th, 2016
Surveillance, Control and Repression
GPS enabled smartphone apps are being used by private companies to track and surveil employees during business hours and also during off times. A sales executive employee at the international wire-transfer service Intermex has sued because she was being tracked via the Xora StreetSmart app on the company issued phone which she was not allowed to turn off even while not at work. After complaining about the privacy intrusions and spying by the company, she was fired.
Bank of America is one company using ‘smart badges’ to biosurveil the voice and behavior patterns of call-center workers. Monitoring includes how employees talk to customers, who talks to whom within the office, when employees send emails and respond, make phone calls, go on breaks, leave their desk to go somewhere else in the office, etc. The technology and data analysis is done by Humanyze, a spin off from the MIT Media Lab, which works with over 20 companies in banking, technology, pharmaceutical and health care industries monitoring thousands of employees. The analyzed data shows how each monitored employee performs compared to others, which amongst other things can be correlated to sales data and analyzed to assess individual and collective job performance.
In the UK, a Cambridge neuroscientist and former Golden Sachs trader, John Coates, is working with companies to use biosurveillance to create ‘human optimization’ in business performance. This researcher focuses on using technology that measures hormones that increase confidence and other ‘positive’ emotions and those that produce negative, stressful behavior that would impact a trader’s performance. The idea is to monitor employees and alert supervisors with an ‘early warning system’ if traders are getting close to a ‘hormonal danger zone’ where they won’t produce the desired trading results. Such biosurveillance is used on employees at hedge funds, banks, call centers, consultant firms, and many others.
[Read more →]
June 22nd, 2016
Infiltration and Agent Provocateurs
A heavily redacted FBI document revealed that the FBI in 2011 used agent provocateurs against Occupy Houston to gather information and photographs, spy on supporters and activists, and then planned to ‘kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles’. A federal judge ruled that the FBI could refuse to release the documents un-redacted to conceal the identities of the infiltrators who joined OH, which the FBI labeled as an ‘organized violent group’.
In January 2015, Eric McDavid, who had been convicted to 19 years for ‘domestic terrorism’ in his role in an Earth Liberation Front plot in California in 2005, was released from prison after serving 9 years when federal prosecutors agreed to a settlement when it was exposed that thousands of pages of evidence were withheld from the defense during the 2007 trial. The concealed evidence included a plethora of information about the FBI agent provocateur known as ‘Anna’, who had a ‘romantic relationship’ with McDavid, and entrapped the small ELF cell into conspiring to bomb the Nimbus Dam, cellphone towers, science labs and other targets. ‘Anna’ was central to entrapping other protesters as well. [Read more →]
June 20th, 2016
In April 2015, three mercenaries (Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard) of the American private military contractor previously known as Blackwater Security Consulting (now Academi) were sentenced each to 30 years and one mercenary (Nicholas Slatten) to life in prison for the Nisour Square massacre of September 16, 2007 in Baghdad. The jury in this federal criminal case found that the Blackwater contractors opened fire indiscriminately into the busy square, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and wounding 20 others, and were not provoked or in danger as the defendants had claimed. The investigation into the massacre and the subsequent trial were riddled with problems, while the fifth Blackwater mercenary (Jeremy Ridgeway) co-operated with the government and testified against others, and was sentenced to twelve months in prison. This is one of the few court cases in which American mercenaries were found criminally liable for manslaughter of civilians during the second Iraq war, despite widespread abuses, torture and murder.
The Pentagon continues in late December 2015 to stonewall a federal judge’s ruling to release to the public 2,100 photographs of detainee abuse and torture committed by US soldiers and contractors. On February 4, 2016, the Pentagon released only 198 photos which mostly show close-ups of bruises or small wounds on detainees’ bodies. The withheld photographs document torture at Abu Ghraib prison and 23 other locations including ‘black sites’, and are said to be even more sadistic than those made public in 2003. The Pentagon has ‘re-certified’ the rest of the photographs as ‘secret’ to prevent their release, and the government has filed a motion to have the judge’s order vacated. The Obama administration continues the Bush administration’s policies to keep evidence of abuse and torture ‘secret’ despite claiming to be ‘the most transparent administration ever’.
In December 2014, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a highly redacted executive summary (525 pages) of its full 6,700-page report on CIA abuse, torture and rendition programs. No one has been held legally or criminally liable for the abuse and torture detailed in the summary and the report, which included waterboarding; sleep depravation for long periods; forcing prisoners to stand on their broken legs/feet and/or in ‘stress positions’; non-stop interrogation for weeks; rape (including so-called forced ‘rectal feeding/hydration’); sexual abuse; death by hypothermia; the use of music/noise, light and darkness as torture; dragging on the floor naked, chained prisoners; stuffing naked prisoners into tiny boxes or coffins for days; threats of sexual abuse against relatives of the prisoners; conducting mock executions; ‘ice baths’, etc. [Read more →]
June 17th, 2016
‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.’
Article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
It seems fair enough to deduce from this formulation that the denial of this right to freedom from persecution would constitute a human rights violation. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights formulates some essentials of Western democratic self-understanding. It is not surprising that a country like Saudi Arabia refused to sign it in 1948, stating that the Declaration contravenes Sharia Law. Certainly the right wing populist mass movements led by Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, HC Strache or Frauke Petry are not defenders of Sharia Law, but in many ways these movements are the other side of the same coin of the ultra-reactionary movements in the Middle East.
These movements in the West go beyond lobbying their own governments to suspend human rights to keep out those who are trying to flee the carnage caused, in many cases, by Islamic fundamentalists. In the US, Trump has been vocal in advocating even worse torture than is already being used by the current administration as well as the killing of whole families. In Germany, politicians from the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) have stated that ‘if necessary’ refugees, including children, should be prevented from entering the country with lethal force. Despite this, Trump is currently the frontrunner of the Republican candidates in the US presidential race, and the AfD enjoys ratings and election success in Germany outdoing any party to the right of the Christian Democrats since the beginning of the Federal Republic.
We’re witnessing a dramatic brutalisation – at least in the rhetoric – of Western politics. [Read more →]
June 9th, 2016
The brand new Almanac for Noise & Politics 2016 (release date May 28, 2016) is made up of a total of five sections that go into depth on some topics previously examined in datacide. Some of the texts have been previously published, some are new and exclusive or translations.
The first section compiles material about and by Nomex, noise artist and film maker, including a discography of his label Adverse.
The second section consists of two critiques of the Left from a communist point of view, one targeting the knee-jerk anti-Imperialism still prevalent in many sections of the Left, the other is an excerpt from a critique of anarchism by Luther Blissett.
The third section is concerned with our ongoing investigations and denouncements of far Right infiltration in popular culture. We see this as an integral part of antifascist activity. Featured here is the article From Subculture to Hegemony – Transversal Strategies of the New Right in Neofolk and Martial Industrial by Christoph Fringeli from datacide eleven.
Part 4 consists of an appraisal of the Vision label which CF ran out of Basel, Switzerland in 1986-1992. The main text is an edited English translation of a contribution to the book Heute und danach by Lurker Grand and André P. Tschan, which appeared in 2012. As it is 30 years ago now that the first Vision appeared it makes sense to document this pre-history of Praxis, which was founded in 1992 after Vision was disbanded.
To illustrate this further and make a connection to the present we reprint Die Menschenhauttrommel (the human skin drum) by Alex Buess from the Vision zine Flash Team Report (Vision 18) from 1988.
The final part of this almanac is a catalogue of our exclusive titles, back issues of datacide and available books.