How the Surveillance State Protects the Interests Of the Ultra-Rich
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Bank of America might be breathing a sigh of relief this week, as a breakaway WikiLeaks member told Der Speigel that he had destroyed 5 gigabytes of information from the troubled bank. Daniel Domscheit-Berg claimed that he destroyed the data in order to make sure the sources would not be exposed. Julian Assange claimed this winter to have damning information on the big bank, but held out on releasing it.
But just the threat alone was enough to send BoA to web security firm HBGary—or so we found out when hacker collective Anonymous broke into HBGary's files and found a file containing a plan to take down WikiLeaks, including attacks aimed at reporters and bloggers like Glenn Greenwald.
Whether it's government secrets or corporate secrets, the response is the same: more surveillance, more crackdowns on civil liberties, more arrests. As Greenwald notes, Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is sponsoring a bill that would require Internet service providers to keep logs of their customers' activities for a full year. MasterCard and Visa shut down donations to WikiLeaks back when the information coming out was mostly just embarrassing to the government; the crackdowns on hackers and other techno-activists show the other side of the symbiotic relationship between the national security state and its secrets and corporations and their secrets.
As a burgeoning international protest movement takes shape, opposing austerity measures, decrying the wealth gap and rising inequality, and in some cases directly attacking the interests of oligarchs, we're likely to see the surveillance state developed for tracking "terrorists" turned on citizen activists peacefully protesting the actions of their government. And as U.S. elections post- Citizens United will be more and more expensive, look for politicians of both parties to enforce these crackdowns.
Despite growing anger at austerity in other countries, those policies have been embraced by both parties here in the States. Groups like US Uncut have stepped into the fray, pointing out the connection between the tax dodging of banks like Bank of America and other corporations and the slashing of the social safety net for everyone else. The new protest movements are led not only by traditional left groups like labor unions, but a generation of young, wired activists using the Internet for innovative protest and revolutionary activism.
Paul Mason of the BBC calls them “the graduates with no future.” Here as well as around the world they have no future—youth are unemployed at nearly double the rate of the rest of the US population and many are laden with student debt, networked, and increasingly in touch with others around the world even as they feel disconnected from the political process here at home.
Laurie Penny wrote of how they've been treated in the UK as they fight desperately against the government's austerity agenda:
“The Metropolitan Police have made their priorities extremely clear. Up to 200 officers have been devoted to hunting down students and anti-cuts activists, knocking on the doors of school pupils and arresting them for their part in demonstrations against education cutbacks that took place nine months ago. Thirty UK Uncut protesters are still facing charges for their part in a peaceful demonstration in Fortnum and Mason, footage from the police recordings of which shows some dangerous anarchists waving placards in the foyer and batting a beach ball over a stack of expensive cheese. Up to 300 activists have been arrested so far, in a joint operation that has already cost the taxpayer £3.65m. By contrast, only eight man-hours were spent in 2009 investigating the allegation that feral press barons were being permitted to run what amounted to a protection racket at the Met.”