by Tom Burghardt
March 16, 2010
A truism perhaps, but before resorting to brute force and open repression to
halt the "barbarians at the gates," that would be us, the masters of
declining empires (and the chattering classes who polish their boots) regale
us with tales of "democracy on the march," "hope" and other banalities
before the mailed fist comes crashing down.
Putting it another way, as the late, great Situationist malcontent, Guy
Debord did decades ago in his relentless call for revolt,
The Society of the Spectacle:
"The reigning economic system is a vicious
circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they
contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the
goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as
weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender 'lonely
crowds.' With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its
And when those "presuppositions" reproduce
ever-more wretched clichés promulgated by true believers or rank
opportunists, take your pick, market "democracy," the "freedom to choose"
(the length of one's chains), or even quaint notions of national
"sovereignty" (a sure fire way to get, and keep, the masses at each others'
throats!) we're left with a fraud, a gigantic swindle, a "postmodern"
refinement of tried and true methods that would do Orwell proud!
Ponder Debord's rigorous theorem
and substitute "cell phone" and "GPS" for "automobile," and "Internet" for
"television" and you're soon left with the nauseating sense that the old "infobahn"
isn't all its cracked up to be.
As a seamless means for effecting control on the
other hand, of our thoughts, our actions, even our whereabouts; well, that's
another story entirely!
In this light, a new report published by Cryptohippie,
The Electronic Police State - 2010 National Rankings,
delivers the goods and rips away the veil from the smirking visage of
well-heeled corporate crooks and media apologists of America's burgeoning
"When we produced our first Electronic
Police State report" Cryptohippie's analysts write, "the top ten nations
were of two types:
Those that had the will to spy on every
citizen, but lacked ability
Those who had the ability, but were
restrained in will
But as they reveal in new national rankings,
"This is changing: The able have become
willing and their traditional restraints have failed."
The key developments driving the global
panopticon forward are the following:
The USA has negated their Constitution's
fourth amendment in the name of protection and in the name of
drugs and cyber attacks.
The UK is aggressively building the
the name of stopping "anti-social" activities. Their populace seems
unable or unwilling to restrain the government.
France and the EU have given themselves
over to central bureaucratic control.
In France, the German newsmagazine
Spiegel reported that a new law passed by
the lower house of Parliament in February,
"conjures up the specter of Big Brother and
the surveillance state."
Similar to legislation signed into law by German
president Horst Köhler last month, police and security forces in
France would be granted authority to surreptitiously install malware known
as a "Trojan horse" to spy on private computers.
Remote access to a user's personal data would be
made possible under a judge's supervision.
While French parliamentarians aligned with right-wing President Nicolas
Sarkozy insist the measure is intended to filter and block web sites
with criminal content or to halt allegedly "illegal" file sharing, civil
libertarians have denounced the legislation.
Sandrine Béllier, a member of the European Parliament for the Green
Party, said that,
"when it comes to restrictions, this text is
preparing us for hell."
Additionally, the new law will include measures
that will further integrate police files and private data kept by banks and
other financial institutions.
French securocrats cynically insist this
is a wholly innocent move to,
"maintain the level and quality of service
provided by domestic security forces," Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux
Generalized political measures such as these
that hinder free speech and expression, whilst enhancing the surveillance
capabilities of the state, also indicate that so-called "Western
democracies" are not far behind beacons of freedom such as China, North
Korea, Belarus and Russia when it comes to repressive police measures.
Indeed, Cryptohippie's rankings place the United
States a mere 2/100ths of a point behind Russia when it comes to Internet
and other forms of electronic spying.
The top ten scofflaws in 2010 are:
In a capitalist "democracy" such as ours where the business of government is
always business and individual liberties be damned, grifting North American
and European telecommunications and security firms, with much encouragement
and great fanfare from their national security establishments and a lap-dog
media blaze the path for Western versions of the sinister "Golden Shield."
Recently in the United States, whistleblowing web sites such as
Slight Paranoia have come under attack.
Both sites have been hit by take down notices
under the onerous
Digital Millennium Copyright Act for
posting documents and files that exposed the close, and very profitable
arrangements, made by giant telecommunications firms and ISPs with the
American secret state.
In Cryptome's case, administrator John Young had his site shuttered
for a day when the giant software firm, Microsoft, demanded that its
so-called "lawful spying guide" be removed by Young. All five files are
back on-line as Zipped files at Cryptome
and make for a very enlightening read.
But the harassment didn't stop there.
When Young published
PayPal's "lawful spying guide,"
the firm froze Cryptome's account, in all likelihood at the behest of
America's spy agencies, allegedly for "illegal activities," i.e., offering
Cryptome's entire archive for sale on two DVDs!
Why would the secret state's corporate partners target Young?
Perhaps because since 1996,
"Cryptome welcomes documents for publication
that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on
freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies,
national security, intelligence, and secret governance - open, secret
and classified documents - but not limited to those.
Documents are removed from this site only by
order served directly by a US court having jurisdiction.
No court order has ever been served; any
order served will be published here - or elsewhere if gagged by order.
Bluffs will be published if comical but otherwise ignored."
previous reports, Cryptohippie
characterized an electronic police state thusly:
It is criminal evidence, ready for use
in a trial.
It is gathered universally
("preventively") and only later organized for use in prosecutions.
Silent and seamless, our political minders have
every intention of deploying such formidable technological resources as a
preeminent - and preemptive - means for effecting social control.
Indeed, what has been characterized by corporate
and media elites as an "acceptable," i.e. managed political discourse,
respect neither national boundaries, the laws and customs of nations, nor a
population's right to abolish institutions, indeed entire social systems
when the governed are reduced to the level of a pauperized herd ripe for
How then, does this repressive
What are the essential characteristics
that differentiate an Electronic Police State from previous forms of
"In an Electronic Police State, every
surveillance camera recording, every email sent, every Internet site
surfed, every post made, every check written, every credit card swipe,
every cell phone ping... are all criminal evidence, and all are held in
searchable databases. The individual can be prosecuted whenever the
"Long term" Cryptohippie writes, the secret state (definitionally
expanded here to encompass "private" matters such as workplace
surveillance, union busting, persecution of whistleblowers, corporate
political blacklisting, etc.), "the Electronic Police State destroys
free speech, the right to petition the government for redress of
grievances, and other liberties. Worse, it does so in a way that is
difficult to identify."
As Antifascist Calling and others have
pointed out, beside the usual ruses deployed by ruling class elites to
suppress general knowledge of driftnet spying and wholesale database
indexing of entire populations.
For Example, "national security" exemptions to
the Freedom of Information Act, outright subversion of the rule of law
through the expansion of "state secrets" exceptions that prohibit Courts
from examining a state's specious claims, one can add the opaque,
bureaucratic violence of corporations who guard, by any means necessary,
what have euphemistically been christened "proprietary business
In a state such as ours characterized by wholesale corruption, e.g.,
generalized financial swindles, insider trading, sweetheart deals brokered
with suborned politicians, dangerous pharmaceuticals or other commodities
"tested" and then certified "safe" by the marketeers themselves, the
protection of trade secrets, formulas, production processes and marketing
plans are jealously guarded by judicial pit bulls.
Those who spill the beans and have the temerity to reveal that various
products are harmful to the public health or have deleterious effects on the
environment (off-loaded onto the public who foot the bill as so-called
"external" costs of production) are hounded, slandered or otherwise
persecuted, if not imprisoned, by the legal lackeys who serve the
How does this play out in the real world?
According to Cryptohippie, the objective signs
that an electronic net has closed in to ensure working class compliance with
our wretched order of things, are the following:
Daily Documents: Requirement of
state-issued identity documents and registration.
Border Issues: Inspections at borders,
searching computers, demanding decryption of data.
Financial Tracking: State's ability to
search and record all financial transactions: Checks, credit card
use, wires, etc.
Gag Orders: Criminal penalties if you
tell someone the state is searching their records.
Anti-Crypto Laws: Outlawing or
Constitutional Protection: A lack of
constitutional protections for the individual, or the overriding of
Data Storage Ability: The ability of the
state to store the data they gather.
Data Search Ability: The ability to
search the data they gather.
ISP Data Retention: States forcing
Internet Service Providers to save detailed records of all their
customers' Internet usage.
Telephone Data Retention: States forcing
telephone companies to record and save records of all their
customers' telephone usage.
Cell Phone Records: States forcing
cellular telephone companies to record and save records of all their
customers' usage, including location.
Medical records: States demanding
records from all medical service providers and retaining the same.
Enforcement Ability: The state's ability
to use overwhelming force (exemplified by SWAT Teams) to seize
anyone they want, whenever they want.
Habeas Corpus: Lack of habeas corpus,
which is the right not to be held in jail without prompt due
process. Or, the overriding of such protections.
Police-Intel Barrier: The lack of a
barrier between police organizations and intelligence organizations.
Or, the overriding of such barriers.
Covert Hacking: State operatives copying
digital evidence from private computers covertly. Covert hacking can
make anyone appear as any kind of criminal desired, if combined with
the removing and/or adding of digital evidence.
Loose Warrants: Warrants issued without
careful examination of police statements and other justifications by
a truly independent judge.
It should, since this is the warped reality
manufactured for us, or, as Debord would have it:
"The spectacle cannot be understood as a
mere visual excess produced by mass-media technologies. It is a
worldview that has actually been materialized, a view of a world that
has become objective."
That such a state of affairs is monstrous is of
course, an understatement.
Yet despite America's preeminent position as a
militarist "hyperpower," the realization that it is a collapsing Empire is a
cliché only for those who ignore history's episodic convulsions.
If, as bourgeois historian Niall Ferguson suggests in the
March/April 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs,
the American Empire may,
"quite abruptly... collapse," and that this
"complex adaptive system is in big trouble when its component parts lose
faith in its viability,"
...what does this say about the efficacy of an
Electronic Police State to keep the lid on?
Despite the state's overwhelming firepower, at the level of ideology as much
as on the social battlefield where truncheons meet flesh and bullets fly,
Marx's "old mole" is returning with a vengeance, the "specter" once again
haunting "rich men dwelling at peace within their habitations," as Churchill
described the West's system of organized plunder.
Against this loss of "faith" in the system's "viability," Debord points out,
although the working class,
"has lost its ability to assert its own
independent perspective," in a more fundamental sense "it has also lost
In this regard,
"no quantitative amelioration of its
impoverishment, no illusory participation in a hierarchized system, can
provide a lasting cure for its dissatisfaction."
Forty years on from Debord, sooner rather later,
an historical settling of accounts with the system of global piracy
called capitalism will confront the working class with the prospect of,
"righting the absolute wrong of being
excluded from any real life."
As that process accelerates and deepens, it will
then be the "watchers" who tremble...