Category Archives: Surveillance state

CIA Whistleblower Sentenced to 42 Months Based on Metadata

Yves here. I’m featuring this Real News Network report, which may seem to be harrow for our non-financial coverage, for two reasons. First, the interview is with Marcy Wheeler. I suspect many readers know and admire her work but have not seen her speak. Second, her talk flags a particularly disturbing element of the government’s successful case against CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, namely, that it was weak and depended almost entirely on circumstantial metadata evidence. That should give consumers pause about their casual attitude towards the government’s data hoovering: “Oh, there’s nothing they can see that is of interest.” As this story indicates, the officialdom was able to use inconclusive information as the basis of a narrative that worked in court.

Read more...

Big Data Is Watching You (at Work)

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. There’s been some admiring coverage in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere of UPS’s Orion system of algorithmic route selection (driver reactions), but not much discussion of how electronic monitoring structures the UPS driver’s entire working day (or what we “professional” types are wont to call our “workflow”). A recent […]

Read more...

The New Authoritarianism

In recent decades, new forms of dictatorship based on manipulating information rather than on mass violence, have emerged. This column explores the trade-offs and techniques of the modern dictator. Such dictators can survive using little violence in the face of moderate economic underperformance. Economic downturns often prompt an increase in censorship and propaganda. Though new information-based dictatorships are better adapted to a modernised society, modernisation and access to information, as well as economic contractions could undermine them.

Read more...

Tom Engelhardt: The New American Order: 1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

Based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

Read more...

Tom Engelhardt: In Whose America? Machine Guns, MRAPs, Surveillance, Drones, Permanent War, and a Permanent Election Campaign

The occasion for such reflections: machine guns in my hometown. To be specific, several weeks ago, New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton announced the formation of a new 350-officer Special Response Group (SRG). Keep in mind that New York City already has a police force of more than 34,000 — bigger, that is, than the active militaries of Austria, Bulgaria, Chad, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kenya, Laos, Switzerland, or Zimbabwe — as well as its own “navy,” including six submersible drones.  Just another drop in an ocean of blue, the SRG will nonetheless be a squad for our times, trained in what Bratton referred to as “advanced disorder control and counterterror.”  It will also, he announced, be equipped with “extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns — unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.” And here’s where he created a little controversy in my hometown.  The squad would, Bratton added, be “designed for dealing with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”

Read more...

Snowstorm Post Mortem: How Safety and Administrative Convenience Trumped Needs of the Working Class

When it became clear that the supposedly epic blizzard of earlier this week was overhyped, at least as far as New York City was concerned, we wondered about the thinking process that led to the only shutdown of the entire public transportation system for a snowstorm.

We raised doubts about this measure, on a philosophical as well as a practical level. As we noted,

I’m bothered by the continued creep of safety concerns being used to restrict individual movements. Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but citizens used to be deemed competent to make prudent choices.

But the real, largely untold story of the transit shutdown and travel restrictions was the impact on people who were working what amounted to second and third shift, meaning not white collar professionals but service workers and their managers, most of all those with long commutes, as well as staff (nurses, orderlies, cooks, cleaners) in New York’s many hospitals.

Read more...