Democracy is at stake as the surveillance industry gains influences in the life of private citizens. But the protection of privacy still seems possible.
In his latest film The Maze (2017), Friedrich Moser brings forth additional considerations and information about a most frightening vision of the near future. He resumes that in each of the fourteen major terrorist attacks in Europe, conducted by 32 perpetrators who killed 429 and injured 2472 people, at least one of the aggressors was already known to the police as a member of an organized, radicalized network, manifesting itself on public online media.
Traces of radicalization are not at all hidden on the Internet. Practical advice from ISIS can be easily accessed and downloaded. Taking this into consideration, three specialists came together in Vienna in 2015 to develop preventive strategies. They pooled together their knowledge in mathematics, system and software engineering, artificial intelligence expertise, as well as online content and network analysis – focusing on open sources without violating anyone’s privacy by hacking into telephone or email accounts. They developed a program effective enough to draw extensive conclusions.
Even these specialists were astonished to see that a very similar program called “ThinThread” – a program involving wiretapping and sophisticated analysis of the recorded data – had been developed a decade before by Bill Binney, a former official at the American National Security Agency. The ThinThread project was abandoned for strategic reasons a few days before the September 11 attacks. Moser takes his time referring to facts on the same issue, already presented in his previous film A Good American (2015), which at the time it was released did not resonate well in the mass media. In fact, it appeared to be too risky to confirm that the September 11 attacks could not only have been prevented, but they had been a very useful and even necessary strategic element for the growing security and surveillance industry, which today is a hundred-billion-dollar business.
«Human intelligence services delegate more and more tasks to the commercial industry that deliver a huge range of services.»
However, in January 2007, Bill Binney and ThinThread manager Curt Viver, who had both been dismissed from the NSA, were invited to collaborate with the Vienna team. Billey was also given the opportunity to be a speaker in a Joint Parliamentary Committee in the UK to discuss a new mass surveillance law. But his warnings against the alliance between intelligence services and the billion-dollar surveillance industry, which used the collected data for a myriad of purposes under the umbrella of protection and prevention against terrorism, were ignored. New surveillance laws were implanted in several European countries.
In the second part of the film, Moser focuses on the transformation inside the defense system. Human intelligence services delegate more and more tasks to the commercial industry that deliver a huge range of services. Major general Jonathan Shaw, the former Head of UK Cyber Security, regrets the CIA’s abandonment of human intelligence functions in favor of simple signal intelligence technologies like drone observation, which have been marked by a high degree of devastating inaccuracies – in short: killing the wrong person. Also torture has been delegated to private companies. As an example, Caci Enterprise hired 19,000 employees in 2016 with an operating income of $264,8 million.
«Also torture has been delegated to private companies. As an example, Caci Enterprise hired 19,000 employees in 2016 with an operating income of $264,8 million.»
Not to forget an ongoing transfer of Secret Service agents into the surveillance industry as contractors, functioning as a simple employment exchange and where the former agents deliver knowledge about government strategies that includes also future projects to the “security market”. These contractors offer their services back to the state – including the military – with huge profit margins. Secret budgets for secret contractors clear of any control are also developing.
Security goals are perverted when records of diverse potential “terrorists” are established in the US and UK without any legitimacy, as security expert Ben Hayes confirmes.
Activist groups of all kinds, including their supporters are criminalized without any validated communication or dialog, also without any public democratic discussion whatsoever. Movements like “Occupy Wall Street”, anti-war, anti-fracking, Green Peace activists in the UK and even animal rights activists in Austria, have already been targeted and hacked by state surveillance with the assistance of private companies.
Undermining the democratic process, which takes people out to the streets, denying their legitimacy and defining them as a threat, can easily prevent these movements ever taking shape or influence. We shouldn’t forget: the fight for freedom and human rights came from street movements.
«Security goals are perverted when records of diverse potential “terrorists” are established in the US and UK without any legitimacy.»
So, how can democracy act without disappearing? The Maze ends with two essential arguments. In terms of technology, the protection of privacy still seems possible. The Vienna group offers technology that protects privacy rights, while also offering full data access only on the basis of a set of clear criteria that need to be confirmed by different bodies, such as the intelligence services, the judicial system and an overseeing legislative control group. Every infraction has to be clearly documented for future legitimation and upon request.
Even more profound is the second argument: terrorism will continue to exist as long as it proves to be effective. If we take away its benefits, such as the mobilization of armies, change of governments, stirring hatred of strangers and the treatment of immigration as a political problem, terrorism will disappear. The private security and protection industries will experience the most beautiful crisis on the planet. Democracies can survive.