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[liberationtech] [tt] NSA Prism is motivated in part by fears that environmentally-linked disasters could spur anti-government activism

LilBambi lilbambi at
Fri Jun 14 12:26:56 PDT 2013

Thanks for all the great food for thought.

So much going on...

On Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 10:24 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at> wrote:

> Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks
> NSA Prism is motivated in part by fears that environmentally-linked
> disasters
> could spur anti-government activism
> US domestic surveillance has targeted anti-fracking activists across the
> country. Photograph: Les Stone/REUTERS
> Top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) documents disclosed by the
> Guardian have shocked the world with revelations of a comprehensive
> US-based
> surveillance system with direct access to Facebook, Apple, Google,
> Microsoft
> and other tech giants. New Zealand court records suggest that data
> harvested
> by the NSA's Prism system has been fed into the Five Eyes intelligence
> alliance whose members also include the UK, Canada, Australia and New
> Zealand.
> But why have Western security agencies developed such an unprecedented
> capacity to spy on their own domestic populations? Since the 2008 economic
> crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political activists,
> especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests. This
> activity is linked to the last decade of US defence planning, which has
> been
> increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by
> catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic
> crisis - or all three.
> Just last month, unilateral changes to US military laws formally granted
> the
> Pentagon extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic "emergency" or
> "civil disturbance":
> "Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency
> circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and
> duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to
> engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale,
> unexpected civil disturbances."
> Other documents show that the "extraordinary emergencies" the Pentagon is
> worried about include a range of environmental and related disasters.
> In 2006, the US National Security Strategy warned that:
> "Environmental destruction, whether caused by human behavior or cataclysmic
> mega-disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis.
> Problems
> of this scope may overwhelm the capacity of local authorities to respond,
> and
> may even overtax national militaries, requiring a larger international
> response."
> Two years later, the Department of Defense's (DoD) Army Modernisation
> Strategy described the arrival of a new "era of persistent conflict" due to
> competition for "depleting natural resources and overseas markets" fuelling
> "future resource wars over water, food and energy." The report predicted a
> resurgence of:
> "... anti-government and radical ideologies that potentially threaten
> government stability."
> In the same year, a report by the US Army's Strategic Studies Institute
> warned that a series of domestic crises could provoke large-scale civil
> unrest. The path to "disruptive domestic shock" could include traditional
> threats such as deployment of WMDs, alongside "catastrophic natural and
> human
> disasters" or "pervasive public health emergencies" coinciding with
> "unforeseen economic collapse." Such crises could lead to "loss of
> functioning political and legal order" leading to "purposeful domestic
> resistance or insurgency...
> "DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the
> disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to
> domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might
> include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United
> States. Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for
> the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil
> conflict or disturbance."
> That year, the Pentagon had begun developing a 20,000 strong troop force
> who
> would be on-hand to respond to "domestic catastrophes" and civil unrest -
> the
> programme was reportedly based on a 2005 homeland security strategy which
> emphasised "preparing for multiple, simultaneous mass casualty incidents."
> The following year, a US Army-funded RAND Corp study called for a US force
> presence specifically to deal with civil unrest.
> Such fears were further solidified in a detailed 2010 study by the US Joint
> Forces Command - designed to inform "joint concept development and
> experimentation throughout the Department of Defense" - setting out the US
> military's definitive vision for future trends and potential global
> threats.
> Climate change, the study said, would lead to increased risk of:
> "... tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other
> natural
> catastrophes... Furthermore, if such a catastrophe occurs within the United
> States itself - particularly when the nation's economy is in a fragile
> state
> or where US military bases or key civilian infrastructure are broadly
> affected - the damage to US security could be considerable."
> The study also warned of a possible shortfall in global oil output by 2015:
> "A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of
> production and refining capacity. While it is difficult to predict
> precisely
> what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might
> produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the
> developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate
> other unresolved tensions."
> That year the DoD's Quadrennial Defense Review seconded such concerns,
> while
> recognising that "climate change, energy security, and economic stability
> are
> inextricably linked."
> Also in 2010, the Pentagon ran war games to explore the implications of
> "large scale economic breakdown" in the US impacting on food supplies and
> other essential services, as well as how to maintain "domestic order amid
> civil unrest."
> Speaking about the group's conclusions at giant US defence contractor Booz
> Allen Hamilton's conference facility in Virginia, Lt Col. Mark Elfendahl -
> then chief of the Joint and Army Concepts Division - highlighted homeland
> operations as a way to legitimise the US military budget: "An increased
> focus
> on domestic activities might be a way of justifying whatever Army force
> structure the country can still afford."
> Two months earlier, Elfendahl explained in a DoD roundtable that future
> planning was needed:
> "Because technology is changing so rapidly, because there's so much
> uncertainty in the world, both economically and politically, and because
> the
> threats are so adaptive and networked, because they live within the
> populations in many cases."
> The 2010 exercises were part of the US Army's annual Unified Quest
> programme
> which more recently, based on expert input from across the Pentagon, has
> explored the prospect that "ecological disasters and a weak economy" (as
> the
> "recovery won't take root until 2020") will fuel migration to urban areas,
> ramping up social tensions in the US homeland as well as within and between
> "resource-starved nations."
> NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was a computer systems administrator for
> Booz Allen Hamilton, where he directly handled the NSA's IT systems,
> including the Prism surveillance system. According to Booz Allen's 2011
> Annual Report, the corporation has overseen Unified Quest "for more than a
> decade" to help "military and civilian leaders envision the future."
> The latest war games, the report reveals, focused on "detailed, realistic
> scenarios with hypothetical 'roads to crisis'", including "homeland
> operations" resulting from "a high-magnitude natural disaster" among other
> scenarios, in the context of:
> "... converging global trends [which] may change the current security
> landscape and future operating environment... At the end of the two-day
> event, senior leaders were better prepared to understand new required
> capabilities and force design requirements to make homeland operations more
> effective."
> It is therefore not surprising that the increasing privatisation of
> intelligence has coincided with the proliferation of domestic surveillance
> operations against political activists, particularly those linked to
> environmental and social justice protest groups.
> Department of Homeland Security documents released in April prove a
> "systematic effort" by the agency "to surveil and disrupt peaceful
> demonstrations" linked to Occupy Wall Street, according to the Partnership
> for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).
> Similarly, FBI documents confirmed "a strategic partnership between the
> FBI,
> the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector" designed to
> produce intelligence on behalf of "the corporate security community." A
> spokesperson remarked that the documents show "federal agencies functioning
> as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America."
> In particular, domestic surveillance has systematically targeted peaceful
> environment activists including anti-fracking activists across the US, such
> as the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Rising Tide North America, the
> People's Oil & Gas Collaborative, and Greenpeace. Similar trends are at
> play
> in the UK, where the case of undercover policeman Mark Kennedy revealed the
> extent of the state's involvement in monitoring the environmental direct
> action movement.
> A University of Bath study citing the Kennedy case, and based on
> confidential
> sources, found that a whole range of corporations - such as McDonald's,
> Nestle and the oil major Shell, "use covert methods to gather intelligence
> on
> activist groups, counter criticism of their strategies and practices, and
> evade accountability."
> Indeed, Kennedy's case was just the tip of the iceberg - internal police
> documents obtained by the Guardian in 2009 revealed that environment
> activists had been routinely categorised as "domestic extremists" targeting
> "national infrastructure" as part of a wider strategy tracking protest
> groups
> and protestors.
> Superintendent Steve Pearl, then head of the National Extremism Tactical
> Coordination Unit (Nectu), confirmed at that time how his unit worked with
> thousands of companies in the private sector. Nectu, according to Pearl,
> was
> set up by the Home Office because it was "getting really pressured by big
> business - pharmaceuticals in particular, and the banks." He added that
> environmental protestors were being brought "more on the radar." The
> programme continues today, despite police acknowledgements that
> environmentalists have not been involved in "violent acts."
> The Pentagon knows that environmental, economic and other crises could
> provoke widespread public anger toward government and corporations in
> coming
> years. The revelations on the NSA's global surveillance programmes are just
> the latest indication that as business as usual creates instability at home
> and abroad, and as disillusionment with the status quo escalates, Western
> publics are being increasingly viewed as potential enemies that must be
> policed by the state.
> Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research
> &
> Development and author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And
> How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed
> --
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