It should come as no surprise
then, that the secret state and the capitalist grifters whom they
serve, have zeroed-in on the explosive growth of these technologies.
One can be certain however, securocrats aren't tweeting their
restaurant preferences or finalizing plans for after work drinks.
researchers on both sides of the Atlantic are busy as proverbial bees
building a "total information" surveillance system, one that will, so
they hope, provide police and security agencies with what they
euphemistically call "actionable intelligence."Build the Perfect Panopticon, Win Fabulous Prizes!
In this context, the whistleblowing web site Wikileaks
published a remarkable document
October 4 by the INDECT Consortium
the Intelligence Information System Supporting Observation, Searching
and Detection for Security of Citizens in Urban Environment.
a catchy acronym, but simply put INDECT is working to put a human face
on the billions of emails, text messages, tweets and blog posts that
transit cyberspace every day; perhaps your
According to Wikileaks
INDECT's "Work package 4" is designed "to comb web blogs, chat sites,
news reports, and social-networking sites in order to build up
automatic dossiers on individuals, organizations and their
relationships." Ponder that phrase again: "automatic dossiers."
isn't the first time that European academics have applied their
"knowledge skill sets" to keep the public "safe"--from a meaningful
exercise of free speech and the right to assemble, that is.
Last year The Guardian reported
that Bath University researchers' Cityware project covertly tracked
"tens of thousands of Britons" through the installation of Bluetooth
scanners that capture "radio signals transmitted from devices such as
mobile phones, laptops and digital cameras, and using the data to
follow unwitting targets without their permission."
One privacy advocate, Simon Davies, the director of Privacy International, told The Guardian
"This technology could well become the CCTV of the mobile industry. It
would not take much adjustment to make this system a ubiquitous
surveillance infrastructure over which we have no control."
Which of course, is precisely the point.
researchers scramble for a windfall of cash from governments eager to
fund these dubious projects, European police and security agencies
aren't far behind their FBI and NSA colleagues in the spy game.
The online privacy advocates, Quintessenz
, published a series of leaked documents
in 2008 that described the network monitoring and data mining suites designed by Nokia Siemens, Ericsson and Verint.
Nokia Siemens Intelligence Platform dubbed "intelligence in a box,"
integrate tasks generally done by separate security teams and pools the
data from sources such as telephone or mobile calls, email and internet
activity, bank transactions, insurance records and the like. Call it
data mining on steroids.
Ironically enough however, Siemens, the
giant German electronics firm was caught up in a global bribery scandal
that cost the company some $1.6 billion in fines. Last year, The New York Times described
"a web of secret bank accounts and shadowy consultants," and a culture
of "entrenched corruption ... at a sprawling, sophisticated corporation
that externally embraced the nostrums of a transparent global
marketplace built on legitimate transactions."
According to the Times
"at Siemens, bribery was just a line item." Which just goes to show,
powering the secret state means never having to say you're sorry!Social Network Spying, a Growth Industry Fueled by Capitalist Grifters
trend by security agencies and their corporate partners to spy on their
citizens has accelerated greatly in the West since the 9/11 terrorist
This multi-billion industry in general, has been a boon
for the largest American and European defense corporations. Among the
top ten companies listed
by Washington Technology
in their annual ranking of the "Top 100" prime government contractors, all ten
Lockheed Martin to Booz Allen Hamilton--earned a combined total of $68
billion in 2008 from defense and related homeland security work for the
And like Siemens, all ten corporations figure
prominently on the Project on Government Oversight's Federal Contractor
Misconduct Database (FCMD
), which tracks "contract fraud, environmental, ethics, and labor violations." Talk about a rigged game!
everything from nuclear missile components to eavesdropping equipment
for various government agencies in the United States and abroad,
including some of the most repressive regimes on the planet, these
firms have moved into manufacturing the hardware and related computer
software for social networking surveillance in a big way.Wired revealed
in April that the FBI is routinely monitoring cell phone calls and
internet activity during criminal and counterterrorism investigations.
The publication posted a series of internal documents
that described the Wi-Fi and computer hacking capabilities of the Bureau's Cryptographic and Electronic Analysis Unit (CEAU).New Scientist reported
back in 2006 that the National Security Agency "is funding research
into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about
themselves on social networks."
And just this week in an exclusive report
published by the British high-tech publication, The Register
it was revealed that "the government has outsourced parts of its
biggest ever mass surveillance project to the disaster-prone IT
services giant formerly known as EDS."
That work is being
conducted under the auspices of the Government Communications
Headquarters (GCHQ), the British state's equivalent of America's
National Security Agency.
Investigative journalist Chris
Williams disclosed that the American computer giant HP, which purchased
EDS for some $13.9 billion last year, is "designing and installing the
massive computing resources that will be needed to analyse details of
who contacts whom, when where and how."
Work at GCHQ in Cheltenham is being carried out under "a secret project called Mastering the Internet." In May, a Home Office document
surfaced that "ostensibly sought views on whether ISPs should be forced
to gather terabytes of data from their networks on the government's
reported earlier this year that telecommunications behemoth Detica and
U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin were providing GCHQ with data mining
software "which searches bulk data, such as communications records, for
patterns ... to identify suspects." (For further details see
: Antifascist Calling
, "Spying in the UK: GCHQ Awards Lockheed Martin £200m Contract, Promises to 'Master the Internet'," May 7, 2009)
seems however, that INDECT researchers like their GCHQ/NSA kissin'
cousins in Britain and the United States, are burrowing ever-deeper
into the nuts-and-bolts of electronic social networking and may be on
the verge of an Orwellian surveillance "breakthrough."
As New Scientist
sagely predicted, the secret state most certainly plans to "harness
advances in internet technology--specifically the forthcoming 'semantic
web' championed by the web standards organisation W3C
combine data from social networking websites with details such as
banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build
extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals."Profiling Internet Dissent
alarming, but the devil as they say is in the details and INDECT's
release of their "Work package 4" file makes for a very interesting
read. And with a title, "XML Data Corpus: Report on methodology for
collection, cleaning and unified representation of large textual data
from various sources: news reports, weblogs, chat," rest assured one
must plow through much in the way of geeky gibberish and tech-speak to
get to the heartless heart of the matter.
INDECT itself is a rather interesting amalgamation of spooks, cops and academics.
to their web site, INDECT partners include: the University of Science
and Technology, AGH, Poland; Gdansk University of Technology; InnoTech
DATA GmbH & Co., Germany; IP Grenoble (Ensimag), France; MSWiA, the
General Headquarters of Police, attached to the Ministry of the
Interior, Poland; Moviquity, Spain; Products and Systems of Information
Technology, PSI, Germany; the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI,
United Kingdom (hardly slouches when it comes to stitching-up
Republicans and other leftist agitators!); Poznan University of
Technology; Universidad Carlos III de Madrid; Technical University of
Sofia, Bulgaria; University of Wuppertal, Germany; University of York,
Great Britain; Technical University of Ostrava, Czech Republic;
Technical University of Kosice, Slovakia; X-Art Pro Division G.m.b.H,
Austria; and finally, the Fachhochschule Technikum, also in Austria.
don't know about you, but I find it rather ironic that the European
Union, ostensible guardians of democracy and human rights, have turned
for assistance in their surveillance projects to police and spy outfits
from the former Soviet bloc, who after all know a thing or two when it
comes to monitoring their citizens.
Right up front, York
University's Suresh Manadhar, Ionnis Klapaftis and Shailesh Pandey, the
principle authors of the INDECT report, make their intentions clear.
"security" as the authors argue, "is becoming a weak point of energy
and communications infrastructures, commercial stores, conference
centers, airports and sites with high person traffic in general," they
aver that "access control and rapid response to potential dangers are
properties that every security system for such environments should
Does INDECT propose building a just and prosperous global
society, thus lessening the potential that terrorist killers or other
miscreants will exploit a "target rich environment" that may prove
deadly for innocent workers who, after all, were the principle victims
of the 2004 and 2007 terrorist outrages in Madrid and London? Hardly.
with their colleagues across the pond, INDECT is hunting for the
ever-elusive technological quick-fix, a high-tech magic bullet. One, I
might add, that will deliver neither safety nor security but rather,
will constrict the democratic space where social justice movements
flourish while furthering the reach of unaccountable security agencies.
document "describes the first deliverable of the work package which
gives an overview about the main methodology and description of the XML
data corpus schema and describes the methodology for collection,
cleaning and unified representation of large textual data from various
sources: news reports, weblogs, chat, etc."
The first order of
business "is the study and critical review of the annotation schemes
employed so far for the development and evaluation of methods for
entity resolution, co-reference resolution and entity attributes
In other words, how do present technologic
capabilities provide police, security agencies and capitalist grifters
with the ability to identify who might be speaking to whom and for what
purpose. INDECT proposes to introduce "a new annotation scheme that
builds upon the strengths of the current-state-of-the-art," one that
"should be extensible and modifiable to the requirements of the
Asserting that "an XML data corpus [can be] extracted
from forums and social networks related to specific threats (e.g.
hooliganism, terrorism, vandalism, etc.)," the authors claim they will
provide "different entity types according to the requirements of the
project. The grouping of all references to an entity together. The
relationships between different entities" and finally, "the events in
which entities participate."
Why stop there? Why not list the
ubiquitous "other" areas of concern to INDECT's secret state partners?
While "hooliganism, terrorism, vandalism, etc.," may be the ostensible
purpose of their "entity attributes identification" project, surely
INDECT is well aware that such schemes are just as easily applicable to
local citizen groups, socialist and anarchist organizations, or to the
innumerable environmental, human rights or consumer campaigners who
challenge the dominant free market paradigm of their corporate sponsors.
authors however, couldn't be bothered by the sinister applications that
may be spawned by their research; indeed, they seem quite proud of it.
main achievements of this work" they aver, "allows the identification
of several types of entities, groups the same references into one
class, while at the same time allows the identification of
relationships and events."
Indeed, the "inclusion of a
multi-layered ontology ensures the consistency of the annotation" and
will facilitate in the (near) future, "the use of inference mechanisms
such as transitivity to allow the development of search engines that go
beyond simple keyword search."
Quite an accomplishment! An
enterprising security service or capitalist marketing specialist need
only sift through veritable mountains of data available from commercial
databases, or mobile calls, tweets, blog posts and internet searches to
instantaneously identity "key agitators," to borrow the FBI's very 20th
century description of political dissidents; individuals who could be
detained or "neutralized" should sterner methods be required.
a surveillance scheme such as the one INDECT is building could greatly
facilitate--and simplify--the already formidable U.S. "Main Core"
database that "reportedly collects and stores--without warrants or
court orders--the names and detailed data of Americans considered to be
threats to national security," as investigative journalists Tim Shorrock
and Christopher Ketchum
revealed in two disturbing reports last year.
scale of "datasets/annotation schemes" exploited by INDECT is truly
breathtaking and include: "Automatic Content Extraction" gleaned from
"a variety of sources, such as news, broadcast conversations" that
identify "relations between entities, and the events in which these
We next discover what is euphemistically called
the "Knowledge Base Population (KBP)," an annotation scheme that
"focuses on the identification of entity types of Person (PER),
Organization (ORG), and Geo-Political Entity (GPE), Location (LOC),
Facility (FAC), Geographical/Social/Political (GPE), Vehicle (VEH) and
How is this accomplished? Why through an exploitation of open source materials of course!
researchers readily aver that "a snapshot of Wikipedia infoboxes is
used as the original knowledge source. The document collection consists
of newswire articles on the order of 1 million. The reference knowledge
base includes hundreds of thousands of entities based on articles from
an October 2008 dump of English Wikipedia. The annotation scheme in KBP
focuses on the identification of entity types of Person (PER),
Organization (ORG), and Geo-Political Entity (GPE)."
For what purpose? Mum's the word as far as INDECT is concerned.
escapes this panoptic eye. Even popular culture and leisure activities
fall under the glare of security agencies and their academic partners
in the latest iteration of this truly monstrous privacy-killing scheme.
Using the movie rental firm Netflix as a model, INDECT cites the firm's
"100 million ratings from 480 thousand randomly-chosen, anonymous
Netflix customers" as "well-suited" to the INDECT surveillance model.
conclusion, EU surveillance architects propose a "new annotation &
knowledge representation scheme" that "is extensible," one that "allows
the addition of new entities, relations, and events, while at the same
time avoids duplication and ensures integrity."
ontological methodology that exploits currently available data from
open source, driftnet surveillance of news, broadcasts, blog entries
and search results, and linkages obtained through a perusal of mobile
phone records, credit card purchases, medical records, travel
itineraries, etc., INDECT claims that in the near future their research
will allow "a search engine to go beyond simple keyword queries by
exploiting the semantic information and relations within the ontology."
once the scheme is perfected, "the use of expressive logics ... becomes
an enabler for detecting entity relations on the web." Or transform it
into an "always-on" spy you carry in your pocket or whenever you switch
on your computer.
This is how our minders propose to keep us "safe."CIA Gets In on the Fun
Not to be outdone, the CIA has entered the lucrative market of social networking surveillance in a big way.
In an exclusive published by Wired
, we learn that the CIA's investment arm, In-Q-Tel
, "want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates--even check out your book reviews on Amazon."
Investigative journalist Noah Shachtman reveals that In-Q-Tel "is putting cash into Visible Technologies
a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It's part
of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using
"open source intelligence"--information that's publicly available, but
often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts,
online videos and radio reports generated every day." Wired
crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a
million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums,
Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn't touch closed social
networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized,
real-time feeds of what's being said on these sites, based on a series
of keywords. (Noah Shachtman, Exclusive: U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm
that Monitors Blogs, Tweets," Wired, October 19, 2009)
Although In-Q-Tel spokesperson Donald Tighe told Wired
that it wants Visible to monitor foreign social media and give American
spooks an "early-warning detection on how issues are playing
internationally," Shachtman points out that "such a tool can also be
pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters."
According to Wired
the firm already keeps tabs on 2.0 web sites "for Dell, AT&T and
Verizon." And as an added attraction, "Visible is tracking animal-right
activists' online campaigns" against meat processing giant Hormel.
reports that "Visible has been trying for nearly a year to break into
the government field." And why wouldn't they, considering that the heimat
security and even spookier black world of the U.S. "intelligence
community," is a veritable cash-cow for enterprising corporations eager
to do the state's bidding.
In 2008 Wired
reports, Visible "teamed-up" with the Washington, DC-based consulting firm "Concepts & Strategies
which has handled media monitoring and translation services for U.S.
Strategic Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others."
to a blurb on the firm's web site they are in hot-pursuit of "social
media engagement specialists" with Defense Department experience and "a
high proficiency in Arabic, Farsi, French, Urdu or Russian." Wired
reports that Concepts & Strategies "is also looking for an
'information system security engineer' who already has a 'Top Secret
SCI [Sensitive Compartmentalized Information] with NSA Full Scope
Polygraph' security clearance."
In such an environment, nothing
escapes the secret state's lens. Shachtman reveals that the Office of
the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) "maintains an Open Source
Center, which combs publicly available information, including web 2.0
In 2007, the Center's director, Doug Naquin, "told an
audience of intelligence professionals" that "'we're looking now at
YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness
intelligence.... We have groups looking at what they call 'citizens
media': people taking pictures with their cell phones and posting them
on the internet. Then there's social media, phenomena like MySpace and
But as Steven Aftergood, who maintains the Secrecy News
web site for the Federation of American Scientists told Wired
"even if information is openly gathered by intelligence agencies it
would still be problematic if it were used for unauthorized domestic
investigations or operations. Intelligence agencies or employees might
be tempted to use the tools at their disposal to compile information on
political figures, critics, journalists or others, and to exploit such
information for political advantage. That is not permissible even if
all of the information in question is technically 'open source'."
as we have seen across the decades, from COINTELPRO to Operation CHAOS,
and from Pentagon media manipulation during the run-up to the Iraq war
through driftnet warrantless wiretapping of Americans' electronic
communications, the secret state is a law unto itself, a
self-perpetuating bureaucracy that thrives on duplicity, fear and cold,
hard cash.Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research,
an independent research and media group of writers, scholars,
journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read
on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.