On August 12, the London 2012 Olympic Games closed with performances by Britain’s biggest international stars to celebrate the achievements of the world’s great athletes. The month-long hype and fever of the Olympics that grabbed world attention was finally coming to an end.
The mainstream media have been in a frenzy about the Olympic events and continued to focus on trivial differences between Obama and Romney for the US presidential show. Meanwhile behind the scenes in the US, civil liberties are being stripped away. The chilling signing of NDAA, illegal drone attacks implementing Obama’s kill list, along with his unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers have been unfolding quietly in the background. Many seem to be asleep to the shift in the fundamental nature of government.
After World War I with the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich, Germany fell into a totalitarian murderous police state where citizens were stripped of guaranteed basic rights. A heightened climate of fear back then kept people in silence and made them blind to the fast changing direction of society. How did this happen? Why did ordinary Germans allow fascists to take over their country?
History repeats itself. After 911, the political climate in the US rapidly changed. With rhetoric of a ‘War on Terror’ and the image of the Twin Towers collapsing, the mood of ultra patriotism and vendetta was activated. As waving American flags swept across the country, the nation was led into the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. With the passage of the Patriot Act, American legal structures and power balance post 911 have changed dramatically.
Now in the summer of 2012, behind the glorious spectacle of the Olympics, the final links in the chains were being welded. Welcome to 1984. Orwell’s dystopian Police State is already here. The word ‘Anarchist’ has become a twisted propaganda term for terrorist, expanding the use of that concept to include peaceful protesters, making it possible to treat anyone who challenges state authority as a criminal. The term was used as a pretext to justify police brutality and FBI raids of activist’s homes.
For those in the West who think that censorship and blanket surveillance only happens in China or Iran, they are mistaken. Western countries are moving to become full-on surveillance states and now the interception goes across borders. There are repeated efforts to set up censorship of the internet. Along with the UK and Canada, the US’s NSA illegal spying on US citizens has gone exponential. In Australia, a bill is under consideration with new ‘security’ measures to retain customer’s phone and Internet data and compel the populace to give up their computer passwords.
Yet in this digital age, information mobilizes incredibly quickly across borders. Government actions taking place behind the scenes are not so easily kept secret. Recently, The Twitter hashtag #TrapWire started trending and making the rounds on social media and the word about this spying program spread like wildfire, all the while being ignored by corporate media.
Hacked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor released by WikiLeaks as the Global Intelligence Files (GIF) revealed a discussion about implementing this massive electronic spying system called TrapWire, originating from a firm called Abraxis. Russia Today (RT) reported how a major aspect of this program involves installing thousands of sophisticated surveillance cameras with highly accurate facial profiling technology in many major US cities and interfacing this with other data collected on ordinary citizens not suspected of a crime. The creation of this system is reported to be linked to former senior CIA intelligence officials and recorded data is being stored at a massive central database center.
The Age, a Melbourne – based newspaper on August 13, reported that the aim of TrapWire is “to prevent terrorist attacks by recognising suspicious patterns in activity. It forwards its reports to police departments across the US and law enforcement organisations such as FBI and US Department of Homeland Security.” The article also revealed that the page on TrapWire’s website listing their executives and their ties to the CIA has been recently removed.
Kenneth Lipp @kennethlipp on Twitter noted how all of the US Army contracts for TrapWire were posted within two weeks after the emergence of OWS. This finding helps paint a fuller picture when it is seen in context with the timing of Obama’s signing of NDAA.
The PrivacySOS article Trapwire and Data Mining: What We Know put the recent revelation of this spying program in fuller context by listing samples of egregious abuses of power in the US in the past months to show how learning about TrapWire isn’t necessary to realize the severity of the emerging total surveillance state in the West. Nevertheless, the TrapWire story is confirmation of a subtle but deep change in the fundamental nature of a society devolving into a high-tech police state. No matter the fine details of the program, the reality is that all US citizens are being treated as potential enemies of an increasing militarized government that primarily serves the corporate elite.
At the 2012 June Socialism Conference, writer and constitutional attorney Glenn Greenwald talked about increasing surveillance in this society. He spoke of how we are now being watched at an unprecedented level. He then articulated the power of information control and manipulation that comes with gaining this much knowledge about someone. He shared various cases of experiments showing the effects of being watched in a total surveillance environment. For instance, some experiments showed how students in the presence of cameras altered their behavior. This breeds conformism and suppresses creativity. He noted how this kind of surveillance is like a one-way mirror behind which those who surveil hide their identities and conceal actions and intentions.
Perhaps this one-way mirror is a fitting metaphor for the culture we now live in. Over the years, increasing government secrecy has created a wall between governments and the common people who the politicians are supposed to serve. This wall has become a mirror that separates those who govern and the governed with a degrading and inherently corrupt power structure. Those on the reflecting side of the mirror are silently and unconsciously deprived of their power to shape and guide their own society.
We are all inside the mirror. Everywhere we look, what most people see is the reflection of corporate values and fears that penetrate us from the other side of this one-way mirror. To the degree that we are not aware of it, we are shaped by this invisible web; misguided perspective of corporate governance as the norm. We are manipulated and rendered passive in the activity of perception. The force of surveillance works to reduce us into distorted reflections in a mirror and its secret operation keeps most people blithely unaware of how far society has degraded.
Greenwald ended his presentation on an empowering note as he showed how we can counteract this insidious surveillance. He pointed out that WikiLeaks punched a hole into the one-way mirror and technology such as the TOR network can assist anonymity online to get beyond the prying eyes.
Freedom in all communication needs to be guaranteed in a free society. Shared information brings awareness. It becomes knowledge that awakens us to the existence of the mirror and connects us to our fellows. More and more people are coming to realize how they are watched, controlled and governed by forces that they didn’t consent to. This awakening generates the power to resist and the will to change the situation.
We have seen this rising collective power arising in the case of the online protest of SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). After WikiLeaks released the secret draft of ACTA in 2008, the intentions and motives of the Motion Picture of America and their partners were revealed for what they are.
ACTA is an international instrument of censorship camouflaged as intellectual property/ copyright law, which bans free sharing and controls the flow of information. When people begin to see true motives of what is concealed, then they can act on what they know and prevent this slide toward an extreme authoritarian society. Massive global internet protest arose and stopped these censorship bills. Though other versions are trying to get through the backdoor, this was clearly an epic win for the global online community. It is undeniable that information provided by WikiLeaks and mobilization of citizens were vital factors for that victory.
Now once again, thanks to WikiLeaks release of these Statfor emails, the heightened level of surveillance is now exposed. The courage of those who access and spread vital information fuels online social networks and creates a powerful flow of information sharing. In the case of TrapWire, @not_me and @Asher_Wolf played this vital role.
Is this kind of information dissemination and awareness of the despotic nature of government the very thing that those in power are afraid of and want to suppress or censor? Perhaps this would explain Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistle-blowing.
As WikiLeaks released the trove of documents concerning TrapWire, their site, its mirrors and other affiliated sites came under massive continuous DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. On August 9, WikiLeaks Press tweeted insight into this attack:
On the following day WikiLeaks account tweeted:
Later, a group identifying itself on Twitter as AntiLeaks claimed responsibility for the attack. The power of sharing versus the desperate clinging to secrecy and control of information are clashing online. This regime of surveillance and censorship is attempting to seize the basic autonomy of citizens that is protected by the Constitution. It is desperately trying to maintain control over a growing global network of citizens who are calling for transparency and free flow of information.
Dennis Aubrey sang a song on Sunday 15th July for Julian Assange at a rally in support of Assange and WikiLeaks at Sydney townhall.
You’re dirty little secret ain’t secret anymore. We know what you’re re doing in your dirty little war. It’s the same thing you been doing time and time and time before …. It’s hard to keep a secret in the age of information, one little button pushed, and its out there for every nation. Everybody understands the current situation because Julian Assange is around.
WikiLeaks has been effective with revealing the secrets and this is why Julian Assange was held without charge on house arrest and is now holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy seeking asylum.
In late 2010, John Perry Barlow, political activist and essayist tweeted:
This battle continues, now escalating into full-on surveillance onto the city streets. Australian activist Asher Wolf tweeted:
She called for a non-violent campaign on Twitter against TrapWire. There is a coalition building to develop strategy for fighting against this new development. The online collective Anonymous launched #OpTrapWire to bring attention to the issue.
WikiLeaks smashed a hole in the one-way mirror of secrecy and surveillance. Nothing can stop the movement of information once it is freed. Mirror sites are being put up to maintain access to vital information. Informed citizens spread information around the globe faster than the hands can work to take them down. The more those in power attempt to suppress either speech or sharing information, the more the eyes of the world are opened, triggering greater awakening to see the true face of fear-based power that clings to this crumbling façade of Democracy.
History will always repeat itself unless those actors that are in it wake up to their vital role in shaping it. By sharing of information and creatively developing alternatives to a broken economic and political system, people around the globe can awaken within the rapidly changing scenery and participate in shifting its direction. Active awareness will penetrate the surveillance cameras and render them useless. Only collective knowledge and actions infused by openness and sharing can shatter the glass of this one-way mirror and free the world from this epidemic of control and illegitimate governance.
Note: This piece was originally published at Associated Whistleblowing Press (AWP) on August 13, 2012. The article published by the Age cited in this article was pulled since this article was published. Here is a commentary by Barrett Brown on this action by the Age.