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[liberationtech] Sociological studies of covert mass-surveillance organisations

Caspar Bowden (lists) lists at
Sun Sep 1 02:00:26 PDT 2013

Many thanks Yosem, Luis Felipe & Greg

On 08/31/13 07:14, Luis Felipe R. Murillo wrote:
> On 08/30/2013 01:54 PM, Yosem Companys wrote:
>> From: Caspar Bowden <lists at>
>>   I realize this is an improbable request (I think), but is anyone aware of
>> any Surveillance Studies research on the organisations conducting *
>> covert/secret* mass-surveillance (a "securitocracy")
>> many thanks any pointers
> I am not particularly familiar with this literature, but I know of a few
> pointers.
> This seminar in Brazil brought together researchers studying
> surveillance and social control. They had three panels of interest
> ('Internet and Surveillance', 'New Technologies of Surveillance', and
> 'Institutional Surveillance'):

Yes - that is in the mainstream Surveillance Studies tradition

> These two references are central in the debate (so Caspar must be super
> familiar with them):
> - Foucault, Michel. "Discipline and Punish" (redefining the debate on
> the nature of power and the nature of state power):
> - Deleuze, Gilles. "Society of Control" (updating Foucault's treatment
> of surveillance to the contemporary 'society of control'):

Yes :-)

AFAIK Deleuze, Foucault et al. did not say anything specifically about 
covert (mass-)surveillance, or analyse how the inherently secret nature 
of such organizations might be a causal element in theories of social 
control. Secret surveillance organizations are NOT Panoptic in a 
technical sense - they normally don't want you to know or fear they are 
watching (with tactical exceptions).

In the sense that it aims to remain un-knowable by society, it seems 
academic Surveillance Studies neglects covert surveillance to a large 
extent becuase (a) it's very hard to study (!) , and (b) because it 
doesn't (overtly and ordinarily) interact with Society like overt 
surveillance it is less of interest to Sociologists (!)

To share back, one interesting reference so far:


    Bridget Nolan (PhD thesis) 'Information sharing and collaboration in the United States Intelligence Community: An Ethnographic Study of the National Counterterrorism Center'


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