It appears that I’ve gotten momentarily ahead of my editor on Shadow Warfare – either that or she is taking a short course in extreme meditation and karma rebuilding before proceeding. We were moving at a pretty fast pace so she certainly deserves it. In any event, that gives me a short time to catch up on a couple of things and one of them is to post on something I see more and more – the lack of background and context in most current articles such as covert warfare and the marginally related subjects of domestic and foreign surveillance. No I’m not going to go into the Snowden thing in any detail here but to date the articles I’ve read seem to give little history on the subject and none of them differentiate between something that was all too common in the 60’s and 70′, the move beyond simply surveillance to proactive disruption of groups and the blatant attempts to actually destroy careers and even marriages of individuals based simply on their positions on certain social and political issues of the times.
Anyone who has followed that subject of surveillance knows that it has been a constant in American national security, Bamford gives a very good history of it in Puzzle Palace. If you want to see it way in the past take a look at the WWI era or go back to the Civil War when there was no NSA or CIA but there certainly were the Pinkertons. Or go even further and check out George Washington and the Culper Ring. Of course one might think that both surveillance and disruption might be at their heights during revolutions or wars but that’s not necessarily so, all you have to do is check out the FBI’s CONTELPRO programs, which started in 1956. None of the current columnists seem to even have heard of the FBI programs that moved to extreme disruption over some three decades and involved incredibly illegal activities ordered by Mr. Hoover himself (or conducted to please him, hard to tell sometimes) – if you think I exaggerate read James Davis book “Spying on America”. After that you will most likely shudder for a good bit and certainly have a better appreciation of surveillance vs disruption….it makes the current dialogs about “metadata” pale a good bit in comparison.
But let’s back off the domestic front and move to the international angst over the NSA and call monitoring of our allies… Now those folk who read SWHT all the way through including its appendices should not have been all that surprised about that subject – and if anyone in the international diplomatic or security community truly was….well that would be hard to believe, perhaps they were out sick during training that day? If you have SWHT you might refresh your memories by rereading the Kirknewton affair and the remarks on p. 365-367, and no Snowden is not the first NSA deploy to go public (amazingly the others ended up in Russia as well) talking about our eavesdropping on foreign embassy and diplomatic personnel….or for that matter on foreign commercial companies, even “commodities” made it onto the watch list. For a more detail and an update on that take a look at Echelon:
Now I’m not going into PRISM but if you thought it was something new in concept, nope. If you thought it was something new in scope, maybe but only because data mining has become so advanced. In fact my last issue of Information Week talks about how prevalent it is in corporate America and its great potential for projecting individual customers purchasing behavior, shopping habits, product usage etc. Come to think of that I didn’t see that mentioned in any of the recent columns or editorials either?
– its probably just me being a history geek but I’m thinking about offering “back-story” training classes for the media folks, Larry