John Whitehead's Commentary
We the Targeted: How the Government Weaponizes Surveillance to Silence Its Critics [SHORT]
Ever since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his groundbreaking “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963, the Deep State has been hard at work turning King’s dream into a living nightmare.
The end result of the government’s efforts over the past 60 years is a country where nothing ever really changes, and everyone lives in fear.
Race wars are still being stoked by both the Right and the Left; the military-industrial complex is still waging profit-driven wars at taxpayer expense; the oligarchy is still calling the shots in the seats of government power; and the government is still weaponizing surveillance in order to muzzle anti-government sentiment, harass activists, and terrorize Americans into compliance.
This last point is particularly disturbing.
Starting in the 1950s, the government relied on COINTELPRO, its domestic intelligence program, to neutralize domestic political dissidents. Those targeted by the FBI under COINTELPRO for its intimidation, surveillance and smear campaigns included: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, the Black Panther Party, John Lennon, Billie Holiday, Emma Goldman, Aretha Franklin, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Felix Frankfurter, and hundreds more.
In more recent decades, the powers-that-be have expanded their reach to target anyone who opposes the police state, regardless of their political leanings.
Advances in technology have enabled the government to deploy a veritable arsenal of surveillance weapons in order to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” perceived threats to the government’s power.
What this adds up to is a world in which, on any given day, the average person is now monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.
Consider just a small sampling of the ways in which the government is weaponizing its 360 degree surveillance technologies to flag you as a threat to national security, whether or not you’ve done anything wrong.
Flagging you as a danger based on your feelings. Customs and Border Protection is reportedly using an artificial intelligence surveillance program that can detect “sentiment and emotion” in social media posts in order to identify travelers who may be “a threat to public safety, national security, or lawful trade and travel.”
Flagging you as a danger based on your phone and movements. Cell phones have become de facto snitches, offering up a steady stream of digital location data on users’ movements and travels.
Flagging you as a danger based on your DNA. By accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.
Flagging you as a danger based on your face. Facial recognition software aims to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business.
Flagging you as a danger based on your behavior. Rapid advances in behavioral surveillance are not only making it possible for individuals to be monitored and tracked based on their patterns of movement or behavior, including gait recognition (the way one walks), but have given rise to whole industries that revolve around predicting one’s behavior based on data and surveillance patterns and are also shaping the behaviors of whole populations.
Flagging you as a danger based on your spending and consumer activities. With every dollar we spend, we’re helping Corporate America build a dossier for its government counterparts on who we know, what we think, how we spend our money, and how we spend our time.
Flagging you as a danger based on your public activities. Private corporations in conjunction with police agencies throughout the country have created a web of surveillance that encompasses all major cities in order to monitor large groups of people seamlessly, as in the case of protests and rallies.
Flagging you as a danger based on your social media activities. As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies are increasingly investing in and relying on corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior.
Flagging you as a danger based on your social network. Not content to merely spy on individuals through their online activity, government agencies are now using surveillance technology to track one’s social network, the people you might connect with by phone, text message, email or through social message, in order to ferret out possible criminals.
Flagging you as a danger based on your car. License plate readers are mass surveillance tools that can photograph over 1,800 license tag numbers per minute, take a picture of every passing license tag number and store the tag number and the date, time, and location of the picture in a searchable database, then share the data with law enforcement, fusion centers and private companies to track the movements of persons in their cars.
Flagging you as a danger based on your political views. The Church Committee, the Senate task force charged with investigating COINTELPRO abuses in 1975, concluded that the government had carried out “secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power.” The report continued: “Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles… Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials.” Nothing has changed since then.
Now the government wants us to believe that we have nothing to fear from these mass spying programs as long as we’ve done nothing wrong.
Don’t believe it.
The government’s definition of a “bad” guy is extraordinarily broad, and it results in the warrantless surveillance of innocent, law-abiding Americans on a staggering scale.
Moreover, there is a repressive, suppressive effect to surveillance that not only acts as a potentially small deterrent on crime but serves to monitor and chill lawful First Amendment activity, and that is the whole point.
Weaponized surveillance is re-engineering a society structured around the aesthetic of fear.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the police state wants us silent, servile and compliant.