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Decoding the new information war

The U.S. security and military apparatus is a system rooted in the restless struggle to quench American capitalism’s thirst for resources and markets. It subordinates other nations by means of “trick or treat” ? in the form of trade, fear and force ? to secure profits for its leading companies. The ultimate objective of this machinery of security and warfare is not the containment or oppression of other nations or peoples, but the oppression of the majority inside the United States. The unity of the United States of America is a carefully crafted myth designed to conceal the exploitation of the workers who produce the profits of giant capitalist corporations. America’s richest 400 people own more wealth than half of all Americans combined, which amounts to 150 million. The country belongs to those 400 and their hangers-on. They are the United States.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. intelligence agencies carved out new operational spheres for themselves based on technical solutions which came to be known as Information Warfare. With the ubiquitous extension of computers and the Internet, the name changed to Command, Control, Communications, Computing and Intelligence, or C4i. More recently, cyber war and network-centric warfare have become the in-vogue terms in the U.S. intelligence community.

War requires the defeat of antiwar. It was hoped that the automation of information gathering technologies would reduce human costs and exposure in espionage activities. Unmanned drones and remote targeting to guide missile strikes were designed to result in fewer U.S. casualties, which would also reduce the danger of an anti-war backlash hampering military operations or leading to demoralization. Thus, the specter of America’s defeat in Vietnam would be exorcised.

The dazzling display of laser-guided airstrikes in the 1991 Gulf War, the first computer war, signaled a vast shift towards information warfare. The “War on Terror” provided powerful justification for this new type of engagement and produced an atmosphere of paranoia, which secured a huge boost for the budget of the military-security complex and eradicated the “peace dividend” which the end of the Cold War was supposed to herald. The rising influence of the cyber war lobby corresponded to ongoing revolutions in storage, processing and communications capacity and the fantasies of their innovators were fed with vast resources.

Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) taps into the resources of the world’s most widely used Internet companies, supposedly to monitor “foreign threats,” using a program they code-named PRISM. But U.S. citizens become “legitimate targets” as soon as they communicate with foreigners. When Snowden revealed this in Hong Kong, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Larry Page both issued carefully worded legalistic denials. Both claimed never to have “heard” of PRISM before, and said they don’t provide the NSA with “direct” access to their servers. It is natural that the NSA would not have told either of them that the program is called PRISM and not having “direct access” is irrelevant to the substance of the issue.

Privacy and Big Brother issues are serious problems for Google and Facebook, both of whom cultivated their “cool face of capitalism” image. They appear to provide services that help mankind ? on the communist principle “to each according to their needs” ? by giving everyone free access to information, social networks and email. This conceals the fact that they acquire individuals’ personal information without consent and feel free to share this with the military-security state! The truth is that the data held by these companies should belong to the provider of the data, i.e. the user. These companies should pay us for our data and only use it with our explicit consent.

The ubiquitous and universal spying by Internet giants and the U.S. security services recalls British philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s concept of the perfect prison, Panopticon. There, from a central point, a single guard could observe all prisoners in their cells, and by such supervision, reform and remold behavior at minimum cost. But what are Bentham’s dreams of an ideal prison compared to the elegance of Facebook, Google and Microsoft’s dancing with the U.S. state security apparatus? They unite the whole world with their universal surveillance engines.

In 1961 U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower warned that, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

We now live in the era of the military-information complex. The parameters between the military-surveillance state and the world’s largest Internet corporations are non-existent. From the standpoint of the U.S. state they serve a dual purpose. They are strategic national corporations and part of the everyday societal system of circulation and they are a means of monitoring and controlling people at home and abroad. The art of the NSA is to use this infinite source of human interaction to mine whatever data it wants and identify courses of action which enhance “national power.” This, by chance, includes enhancing the power of its Internet allies!

Specialists in U.S. cyber war theory constantly harp on about the China cyber threat. They warn of China’s growing capability to fight battles on the information front. For example, Colonel Jayson Spade’s thesis, “China Cyber Power and America’s National Security” draws an ominous picture of China’s plots to access U.S. data, or to implant back-door bugs to access information from U.S. companies. He cites from China’s National Defense 2008, which identifies China’s primary objectives as “defusing crises,” and “deterring conflicts and war.” Our brilliant Colonel Spade sees these objectives as hostile to U.S. interests!

He warns that Chinese state entities try to get what they can out of joint ventures. They acquire knowledge from trade and investment, and set up cyber militias as the basis of Peoples’ War in the Information Age. Paradoxically, it is now perfectly reasonable to conclude that China’s restrictions on access to such websites as Facebook, Google and Yahoo have prevented, or at least hindered, U.S. espionage against China on a colossal scale. Yet hacking was precisely what China hawks in the U.S. kept squawking on about for years!

Global alternatives to capitalist visions of the Internet are required. We need a vision in which personal data is personal property, innovation and invention are collective property and the Internet will serve as the basis of the communications infrastructure of communism, which Marx described as the free association of producers and consumers.

Heiko Khoo
 The text has been originally published
 on China.org.cn where the author is
 a regular contributor.

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