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

Shava Nerad shava23 at
Fri Jun 14 15:30:31 PDT 2013

Technically, it's the duty of the military to evaluate these scenarios and
act on the information *wisely*.  It is our duty as activists to hold them
on that and that's where everything collapses, because there is a crisis of

Listen, there is not a single great civilization in the history of the
world that has not fallen to war or environmental impacts -- and many that
have fallen to conquest have fallen to conquest as a side effect of (human
influenced) environmental impacts of some sort (for example, heavy metals
contributions theory of the decline of Rome

Much as I do not trust the conclusions of the military based on the
simulations they may run through, it is, in fact, their duty to run through
simulations based on the four horsemen scenarios they can imagine.  And it
is in fact their duty to to imagine that the environmentalists are going to
trump them by lathering everyone up into freaking out that the sky is
falling (because, nearly literally, it is, and the government are
obscurantist cowards who want to get re-elected --- oops, was that my
outside voice saying that inconvenient truth?) so just as they wiretap the
Society of Friends (Quakers) in times when the peace movement is bucking a
war effort and making their propaganda suppository of casus belli seem not
so smooth an insert, yes -- they are going to track climate change
activists if they are worried about panic in time of crop failure and
rationing and empty shelves in the not-so-supermarkets of the breadbasket
of the world.

Short on petrochemicals?  Most of our crops are made of them you know,
between fertilizer, transportation, and various.  Worried that revelations
that disruptive health effects of glyphosphate (Round-up from Monsanto --
which is responsible for most of the corn/soy monocropping grown in the US
now and a good proportion of other crops in this country and worldwide) in
mammals may make revelations of DDT in the 60s look tame?  Oops, there goes
the 20% of the grain capacity of our current "green revolution" phase.
 That brings the planet down by a billion in carrying capacity, without
global warming.

These are the kinds of ecological messages that might make the military
nervous.  (Hi, for those of you who are listening! :)  And they are correct
to be nervous.  They should be planning for rationing and unrest if a
severe scenario comes up -- if for no other reason than that we will have
hungry neighbors that will make a zombie apocalypse look pastoral.

And these are ugly scenarios to think about.  That's what we delegate to
the military and law enforcement, ideally, as a sacred trust (the other
side of sacred being taboo -- we don't *want* to have to ponder what
happens in our neighborhoods when the food supply should go away for
whatever reason and FEMA isn't the answer).

So this is why one might, as a conservative even, think Prism is an UTTER
TRAGEDY.  Because it represents a broken social contract by pure
dissonance, a lack of trust so profound, a disengagement so deep and
suppurating, that we can't even imagine any more why it is that we would
need a military to know these things that we could trust.  (And as a
disclaimer:  I have family in the military, and have for generations, and
have stubborn hope these things are fixable through both
military/DHS/civilian elected/non-elected leadership)

The problem is NOT that these scenarios are being spun out.  They should be.

The problem is, what is the response to each scenario proposed to be?  I
don't see that?

And I expect that would be in executive control at the time of crisis.

And there's where trust falls apart.

Because this:

essentially repeals this:

...and even with my background?  I have a hard time with that.  A very very
hard time with it.  This is not "the cat is dead and not dead."  The cat is
DEAD, wrapped up in a brown shirt, weighted down with stones and dropped in
the river.

I am sorry, I do not understand how this can happen in this country without
open discussion with the electorate.  This is not something you do,
undermining the Posse Comitatus by a snippet of regulation from the
executive branch.  That is not the way this democracy works.


On Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 3:26 PM, LilBambi <lilbambi at> wrote:

> 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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> Bambi
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Shava Nerad
shava23 at
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