Mass surveillance

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Interest of Jacob Applebaum
Subpage(s)Mass surveillance/Technology
Wholesale surveillance of the citizenry is the new normal, introduced under the smokescreen of the "war on terror". In the "art of warfare" surveillance is taught as a preparatory act for more invasive measures such as the suspension of habeas corpus (i.e. the Patriot Act) or other covert operations.

Mass surveillance is increasingly carried out by governments the world over. The most common purported justification is the "war on terror". The extent is not publicly disclosed, but rapid development in mass surveillance technologies and large budgets which remain classified behind veils of "national security" suggest that its extent and sophistication may be more than is generally realised.

Official narrative

Mass surveillance is usually presented by the commercially-controlled media as being a necessary evil to fight the "war on terror". The official opposition narrative - the other end of the spectrum of opinion presented by corporate media - does not question that civil rights must be trade off for protection against "terrorism", so if differs only about only how much mass surveillance is an acceptable compromise between safety and liberty. Both the official narrative and its opposition neglect to mention that, since Edward Snowden's revelations have demonstrated that illegal mass surveillance was being carried out widely and systematically, and since no one has been charged - or even accused - as a result, it is reasonable to assume that the major limitations to mass surveillance are technical rather than legal.


No evidence has been presented that mass surveillance was intended to stopping "terrorism". Several NSA whistleblowers such as William Binney, Russell Tice and Thomas Drake have directly challenged this claim, arguing that by contrast, it makes the US public less safe rather than more.[1] The "Surveillance State Repeal Act" was introduced into US Congress in March 2015, to end the US PATRIOT Act and reform the NSA.

"Corrupt power grab?"

A simpler explanation suggests that it is "a corrupt power grab... not an effort aimed at stopping terrorism".[2] In 2017, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy echoed this sentiment in more diplomat terms. Criticising recent mass surveillance laws in France, Germany, the UK and the USA, he stated that they are "predicated on the... disproportionate though understandable fear that electorates may have in the face of the threat of terrorism" but are informed by "little or no evidence" of their "efficacy or... proportionality".[3]

Bill Binney on mass surveillance

"War on Terror"

Full article: Rated 4/5 “War on Terror”

The "War on Terror" has repeatedly used false flag terror attacks, in conjunction with a compliant commercially-controlled media to try to instill fear in people. Deliberate vagueness about laws and increasing use of guilt by association are intended to chill dissent in an effort to introduce new mass surveillance technologies. This has been particularly useful in countries such as the USA and the UK which had laws and traditions about privacy which, if enforced, would have prevented such surveillance. A widespread culture of impunity for those who control the structures of Western nation states mean that few (if any?) serious commentators regard such objections to mass surveillance as effective in practice - the only remaining limitations on data collection are purely technical in nature. UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy, Joseph Cannataci referred UK's oversight of surveillance as “worse than a bad joke.”[4]


Harry S. Truman was concerned about the power accrued by both the CIA and the FBI. In 1947 he wrote about the FBI: "Edgar Hoover's orgnization would make a good start toward a citizen spy system. Not for me."[5]

Modern Methods

Mass surveillance cartoon.jpg

The rise of electronic communication methods have lead to a burgeoning of the mass surveillance in the 21st century. The blatant - and unpunished - disregard for the law by both NSA and GCHQ should leave little doubt that legal restrictions are mostly left for show.

Internet Surveillance

Full article: Internet/Surveillance

While the Internet was designed to be decentralised, and so non-trivial to censor/monitor, the NSA has been consistently trying for decades to stifle an effective roll out of cryptography for decades. Several whistleblowers have revealed that the NSA has fiber optic splitters which allow for monitoring of huge amounts of data. The connection with internet censorship is clear; when everyone's posting is watched, unwanted content is easily removed, moreover, self-censorship may become endemic due to fear of reprisals - Webster Tarpley and others have suggested that this perspective may help understand the Edward Snowden Affair, and would tally with a large number of disclosures of mass surveillance of other natures made recently.

Watch lists

Full article: Stub class article Watch lists

The official narrative of watch lists is that they help assist law enforcement in prevention of terrorist activity. In practice, however, they are better understood as a means of mass surveillance (because everyone has to give their details, to prove that they are not on a watch list). Since the management of these lists is completely opaque, they can also be understood as a precursor to the enforcement of a heavy-handed police state - one in which individual rights are conditional and can be revoked at a moment's notice without the need for such matters as evidence of wrong doing.

Postal surveillance

Full article: Mail Isolation Control and Tracking

After the 2001 anthrax attacks, which were initially blamed on "Islamic terrorists", although the anthrax was later proved to have come from a US military laboratory, the US government secretly instituted a program to photograph all the mail sent in the US. This went undisclosed to the general public for over a decade. In 2015, it was revealed that the US Postal Inspection Service had installed a utility box "positioned to capture and record the license plates and facial features of customers leaving a Golden Post Office." [6]

Cellphone location data

In 2013, in response to a subpoena for cellphone data, the NSA claimed that "The government does not possess the records the defendant seeks", i.e. specifically denied that they had collected cellphone data, although the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court order stated that they could have collected this data.[7]

Emerging surveillance Technologies

Full article: Mass surveillance/Technology

The US military has developed new surveillance technologies which - with or without trialling in war zones overseas - are being rolled out across the country. Legal barriers are no effective impediment in what many have termed a police state. These include surveillance by Reaper Drones[8], Hand Held Radar[9], Cellphone Surveillance Tools[10], X-Ray vans[11] and automatic recognitino of faces, car license plates and other data from CCTV by computers.[12][13]


The commercially-controlled media has not dwelt on the illegality of mass surveillance carried out continuously by intelligence agencies. Instead, the political establishment has moved to legalise such actions, under the pretext of the threat of "terrorism". Only token discussion has ever been made in corporate meia about whether mass surveillance is helpful in this regard.

“Perhaps the most curious thing about the response to revelations concerning the extent of modern mass surveillance is that most people in the West have not seemed to mind; we have not perceptibly altered our online behavior or demanded a response from our governments. We seem not able or willing to grasp the implications, and we have shown a weary cynicism that evidently masks a deeper indifference. Many have shown an eager complicity, free of defensiveness. If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear, we insist, forgetting the innocence of millions interned and murdered by Western governments within living memory. Surveillance will keep us safe from our enemies, we say, obediently accepting the pronouncements of our governments on the identities of our enemies and the proper sources of our terror.”
Amanda Power (February 2016)  - [14]



     Page name     DateDescription
CONTEST2003 - Present
Internet/SurveillanceWholesale surveillance of the citizenry is the new normal, introduced under the smokescreen of the "war on terror".
Mail Isolation Control and Tracking2001 - Present
NSA/Boundless Informant
Surveillance and censorship program2007 - Present

A victim of Mass surveillance on Wikispooks

Denis RancourtFormerly a former tenured professor of physics, Rancourt was dismissed after covert surveillance and legal maneuverings by the University of Ottawa in Canada.

Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
10 Ways We Are Being Tracked Traced and Databasedblog post10 July 2010'Activist'A summary overview of technological developments in the main branches of surveillance technology with examples of their current and developing application.
File:Full-Disclosure.pdfreport4 December 2013The AdversariesIf your UK internet service and equipment provider is BT (and probably any other of the large UK ISP's), then it is a trivial matter for GCHQ and its agencies to route a duplicate of all your traffic to a spook server, access your home computer network, install malware and retrieve any passwords and encryption keys stored on it. You have been warned.
Hacker Generationsarticle23 August 2011Richard ThiemeOn the origins and real meaning of "Hacker"; a term which, in company with "conspiracy-theory", "Holocaust-denial" and many others has been co-opted/invented by Establishments to marginalise research deemed most threatening to the Official Narratives that define "Consensus trance" reality.
Julian Assange at Moment of TruthVideo transcript15 September 2014Julian AssangeSpeech by Julian Assange to the Moment of Truth event in New Zealand on 15 September 2014
NSA GCHQ and the Death of Gareth Williamsarticle14 November 2011Trowbridge FordA speculative article connecting the NSA with the death of Gareth Williams
File:Operation-shady-rat.pdfreport2 August 2011Dmitri Alperovitch
The Essential Rules of Tyrannywebpage29 July 2011Brandon Smith
Unthinking extremism - Radicalising narratives that legitimise surveillancepaper26 October 2015Ben Harbisher

Related Quotations

Holger Münch“The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action. Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet.”Holger Münch21 June 2017
Peter Thiel“I believe that it is always important to exchange views with people, no matter what their perspectives are. I think we have a lot of problems in our society and we need to be finding ways to talk to people. We need to find ways to talk to people where not everything is completely transparent. Libertarianism is not synonymous with radical transparency. That’s often an argument that Stasi would make in East Germany, when everything had to be monitored by society. And I think you have the best conversations in smaller groups where not everything is being monitored. That’s how you can have very honest conversations and you can think better about the future.”Peter Thiel2016
Transportation Security AdministrationEl Reg: "Sonic Screwdriver is cleared aimed at molesting seized machines, or during black bag operations, not at interfering with factory-fresh products in transit."

Do it at airports during a customs inspection. Take the computer out of the owner's sight and install whatever you want.

Or better still, come up with some sort of bogus excuse to force everyone to put their laptops in checked baggage, and then do it in the baggage handling process. That way the subject wouldn't know they had been targeted. Not that anyone would ever dream of doing something as disruptive as arbitrarily forcing people to check their laptops of course...”
23 March 2017
UK“The UK's communications watchdog Ofcom has overturned its ban on the use of GSM gateways (COMUGs) for overseas phone calls – leaving one of the longest prosecutions in modern English legal history hanging in the balance. The decision comes after a controversial public consultation exercise held earlier this year, in which The Register caught the Home Office's secret spy powers unit trying to anonymously lobby the regulator and keep the ban.”Gareth Corfield10 July 2017
== Rating ==
3star.png 8 November 2017 Robin  A good overview of this important topic
Although rather wordy and in need of better structure, this page gathers a lot of relevant information in one place and presents insight into this important topic.


Facts about "Mass surveillance"
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