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.
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A leaked classified US government document published by The Intercept gives more precise numbers about people placed on various ‘terrorism’ suspect databases as of August 2013. The Terrorism Screening Database (TSDB) has 680,000 ‘known or suspected terrorists’, with 40% or 280,000 labeled as having ‘no recognized terrorist group affiliation’. An additional 320,000 are in Terrorism Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE). This unclassified information is based on ‘reasonable suspicion’ (not facts or evidence), and is routinely shared to intelligence, military, local police, foreign governments and private companies. The second highest concentration of ‘known or suspected terrorists’ is in Dearborn, Michigan, a city with the largest percentage of Arab-Americans, which makes the racial profiling practices of the databases clear. There are 240 nominations a day to TIDE. The no-fly list contains 47,000 people; 16,000 more people are ‘selectees’ given addition airport screening. TIDE includes more than 860,000 biometric files (face scans, fingerprints, iris scans) on 144,000 people. The Intercept also published the leaked March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance document which details the secret procedures that 19 government agencies use to put people on these various databases.
Rahinah Ibrahim is the first person to successfully challenge her placement on the government no-fly list. The federal court judge ruled that she was not a ‘threat’ to national security and had been placed on the no-fly list because of a bureaucratic ‘mistake’ when the FBI official, Kevin Kelley, filled out the form wrong by checking the ‘wrong boxes’. Her name has to be purged from the list, or the government has to certify her name is already removed. Four American Muslims have filed a lawsuit in which they accuse the FBI of putting them on the no-fly list in order to either intimidate them into becoming informants or retaliating against them for refusing. In another American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit on behalf of 13 US citizens, a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional the procedures people on the list must use to contest their inclusion. The government must create a new remedy process, but the judge did not in any way stop the implementation of the no-fly list.
In April 2014, publicintelligence.net made public a 2011 US Army Commander’s Guide to Biometrics in Afghanistan, which thoroughly details the government’s goal to collect biometric data (facial photos, iris scans, and all ten fingerprints) from every person in Afghanistan. The biopolitical war project includes not only attempting to ID ‘terrorists’ by running the biometrics through Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI databases, but also the management of entire populations. [Read more →]
Infiltration and Agent Provocateurs
From 2007-09, John Towery, a criminal intelligence army analyst in the Force Protection Service fusion center at the Fort Lewis military base spied on anarchists and peace activists in Tacoma and Olympia, WA who were part of SDS and the Port Militarization Resistance, which protested international war shipments. Under the name ‘John Jacob’, Towery became close friends with the activists, surveilled them, and shared data with local, state, federal and military agencies. A public records request uncovered the surveillance operation of Towery against the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, IWW, Iraq Veterans Against the War, an anarchist bookshop, amongst others. The 9th circuit court of appeals has ruled in December 2012 that the subsequent lawsuit against Towery can proceed in the narrow terms of intentionally enabling arrest without probable cause in order to repress free speech, but apparently not on the Posse Comitatus law that bars the use of armed forces for law enforcement activities inside the US.
The Earth Island Journal published documents obtained through FOIA requests that show how the Bryan County, Oklahoma Sheriff’s department was spying on the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and other direct action groups against the proposed tar sands pipeline to run from Canada to Texas. Some activists were arrested earlier, the action camp infiltrated and a protest preempted. The targets are described as eco-activists; Native American resisters; Occupy members; Anarchists; and locals from the community. Documents also show how the corporation TransCanada who will build the pipeline works closely with the multi-government agency Fusion Center in Oklahoma advising on policy, changing laws, sharing intel, ensnaring activists, and generally protecting their own interests and facilitating the increase of their profits.
The agent provocateur “Anna” performed extensive FBI surveillance and entrapment of three other activists (see the Life During Wartime book review) used to convict Eric McDavid for 19 years and 7 months, the second longest sentence for recent environmental prisoners. During McDavid’s trial, his lawyer attempted to argue government misconduct because of “Anna’s” intimate relationship with him, however this was dismissed in light of the 1991 9th Circuit ruling in US v Simpson that the government can exploit intimate and sexual relations between the infiltrator and anyone under a surveillance investigation.
Back in January 2011, The Guardian newspaper journalists Paul Lewis and Rob Evans broke the huge story of how Mark Kennedy, a London Metropolitan Police officer, infiltrated numerous European left and direct action networks under the name “Mark Stone” and “Flash”. 22 countries including Germany used Kennedy as an agent provocateur in order to ensnare activists in illegal activities, gather information, maps networks, etc. (The website “Mark Kennedy: A chronology of his activities” gives more details and corrections to the initial news reports, although not on his Berlin spying.) Various British police and government agencies cut Kennedy loose, avoided responsibility, attempted to stop or curtail “reform” of undercover agents’ behavior, and denied their support of his spying, especially concerning how Kennedy had sexual relations with numerous women over the years in order to gather intel and ensnare them. 8 of those women have sued Scotland Yard for sexual misconduct by five agent provocateurs Bob Lambert, John Dines, Jim Boyling, Mark Cassidy and Mark Kennedy. The reporters have in 2013 published a book on the wider use of infiltration and surveillance called Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police.
The Associated Press reporters Matt Abuzzo and Adam Goldmann, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for their series of investigations of the NYPD’s surveillance operations against Muslim Americans (in and outside NYC and the state), have published a new book Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Spying Unit that gives much greater detail through meticulous research on these operations. NYPD’s Demographics Unit spent six years using a huge network of informants to surveil every aspect of life, actions which did not lead to a single arrest, criminal cases or thwarting of so-called ‘terrorism’ plots. (Ray Kelly, the NYPD Commissioner, has been floated to be nominated to run the Department of Homeland Security.) Various lawsuits brought against the NYPD by Muslim Americans affect by the spying are pending in court.
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In the year since the last issue of datacide came out there has been continued fallout from the scandal surrounding the activities of the National Socialist Underground terror group and the involvement of the state security forces in the extreme right. Well, at least until about May, which is when the court case against Beate Zschäpe finally started after a few weeks delay. One reason for the delay was that the 50 seats for the press had been allocated, and not a single Turkish newspaper was allowed to report from inside the courtroom. Needless to say, there is considerable interest in the case in Turkey, as most of the victims had Turkish roots. Finally, the seats were rearranged and the trial could start.
There are obvously many open questions: Where did the NSU come from, and how was it possible it was not detected for so many years despite the fact that the state security had paid agents very close to the perpetrators of the killing spree?
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In late 2012 HSBC, a large international bank, executed an advertising campaign dubbed “In the future…”. These ads, appearing in business magazines and international airports, featured predictions about technology and economics, and pronouced, “a new world is emerging.” Several of the ads presented HSBC’s accord with ‘green’ technologies, such as one claim that, “In the future, we will all fly organic.” The accompanying image places mushroom gills within an airliner turbine, presenting biofuels as an emerging and profitable investment. Alignment of international banking with alternative energy was always going to require careful analysis, but other components of this ad campaign turn downright disturbing. An image of a fish with a barcode on it proclaims, “In the future, the food chain and the supply chain will merge.”i
Another states, “In the future, nature and technology will work as one,” while depicting a bee with camera lenses for eyes.ii [Read more →]