25 June 2014

Mass surveillance, political dissent, and the coming open source revolution

Over the last two weeks, I've authored a series of investigative Guardian articles connecting up the increasing propensity of the national security system to criminalise political dissent with the growing recognition of environmental, economic and energy crises. My latest post follows up those somewhat disturbing stories with an immensely powerful and positive vision for 'open source everything', articulated by former senior CIA spy Robert David Steele, widely recognised in the international intelligence community as the pioneer of the practice of Open Source Intelligence. 

The first piece in this series focuses on the US. The story investigates how a little-known Pentagon-funded social science research programme partnering with universities up and down the United States (and around the world) is sponsoring academic research to track the danger of new threats in an age of uncertainty due to new risks. Most prominent in this programme is the tendency of the research to view all political dissent as a source of potential terrorism. Social science is being co-opted to develop innovate new research, analytical and data-mining tools that can be mobilised quickly in field operations to track peaceful activists, social movements, and NGOs. 

The second story extends this investigation to the UK, highlighting how Britain's major research councils have been co-opted by Ministry of Defence and related UK government officials, once again with a view to fund research which is demonstrably concerned with generating information that can be operationally useful for government defence priorities, as opposed to supporting the sort of sound, critical and independent scholarship so sorely needed in the social sciences (and particularly in social science research on government counter-terrorism policies). As with the US case, analysis of little-known official government planning documents demonstrates that the Ministry of Defence's thinking in response to the convergence of major global environmental, energy and economic crises is increasingly regressive. Lacking a holistic, systemic and causal approach to gauging the nature of these crises, the MoD ends up projecting anti-capitalist activists, black and ethnic minority groups, immigrants, Muslim minorities, and Muslim-majority populations abroad all as potential security threats to the integrity of the functioning of global capitalism.

The third story in this series is an extended interview with Robert Steele, former CIA case officer and co-founder of the US Marine Corps Intelligence Command, where he was civilian deputy director. Steele, the author of The Open Source Everything Manifesto (North Atlantic Books, 2012), offers his insights on what he believes are the preconditions for revolution in the US and UK (and much of the west), and the prospects for challenging state corruption and corporate domination of the global commons. Steele's vision is an exciting one, and demonstrates that the counter-movement of open source everything holds the real possibility of transforming the current order for the benefit of all. Most striking is his expert assessment that the pre-conditions for revolution in the west already exist - all we need, he says, is our 'Tunisian fruitseller'.

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