While budgets are being slashed by governments around the world, national intelligence agencies are not only flush with money but they are increasingly networking their resources against the “threat.” What is the threat? It is whatever national leaders and their governments deem it to be. One day it is “Al Qaeda,” the next day it is Iran, then North Korea, then global narco-terrorists, and so on and so on . . .
Just as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is becoming a global military past without a distinct enemy, the Central Intelligence Agency, Britain’s MI-6, and other intelligence agencies are increasingly pooling their intelligence and networking their information-sharing networks. To what purpose would such citadels of secrecy wish to cooperate? The answer is simple. In a world of the tiny minority “haves” and the super-majority “have nots,” the intelligence agencies, like national armed forces, believe there is safety in numbers. In a conflict between the minority super-wealthy and the rest of society, intelligence agencies are increasingly protecting the interests of corporations and not countries. Intelligence agencies, therefore, have decided to become a global “Panopticon” where no one can hide and no secrets are held.
For many years, attempts to create a worldwide database of personal data, beginning with basic criminal information, were forestalled by the fact that the chief promoter of such a combined on-line repository of information, the United States, lacked a government department akin to other nations’ Interior Ministries that would be natural partners of the Americans. The American Interior Department had nothing to do with internal security because it had jurisdiction over such areas as federal lands and national parks. The aftermath of the 9/11 attack on the United States created the impetus for the creation of global communication networks and data warehouses for use by intelligence agencies in the new Department of Homeland Security, America’s version of the Interior Ministry.
The Homeland Security Department, National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation now represent a massive governmental data gathering behemoth that is building on traditional and new relationships with foreign intelligence and national security agencies to build a network of shared databases. However, the network is a one-way street. The Americans want to draw the world’s intelligence into its own databases while only allowing its partners, including longtime intelligence allies like Britain and Canada to have access to only a small portion of what America is amassing in terms of surveillance and stored personal data.
In 2012, the European Union and United States agreed to allow the Americans to store for up to fifteen years Passenger Name Records (PNRs) on every European Union citizen who flies. Although there are supposed “safeguards” to prevent the exploitation of the data, attempts by some member so the European Parliament to take the agreement before the European Court of Justice were scuttled by the Eurocrats in Brussels. PNR data, like national identification numbers, are keys that unlock countless files on individuals. PNR data on a passenger’s religious dietary choices identifies a person’s religious beliefs. That information may open up additional links to databases containing details of an individual’s ethic group, health condition, and sexual orientation. Further refinement of personally-identifiable information can open up an individual’s phone and e-mail records.
Currently, the National Security Agency is building the Utah Data Center on a National Guard base in Bluffdale, Utah a massive data storage center that is the size of 17 football fields. The center will contain stored communications records as well as transactional data, including financial, travel, and medical information, on perhaps billions of people around the world. The center is designed to store a yottabyte of data—equivalent to 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.
The data will range from that derived from relatively open sources to “deep data.” Deep data is that which is obtained through sophisticated computer espionage programs, including those that crack passwords, encryption schemes, and data hidden by pixel steganography and other sophisticated methods. Microsoft is a “silent partner” of NSA in collecting massive amounts of stored data from clouds and from interactive networks like Skype. Microsoft took over control of Skype in 2011 and it is believed by many privacy experts that the firm routinely shares customer data with the NSA and other intelligence and security agencies.
The location of the NSA data center in the heavily Mormon state of Utah is also problematic. The Mormons, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, maintains the world’s largest genealogical databases owing to their affectation for baptizing the dead, even non-Mormons. The records are maintained in a granite mountain 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Five billion documents on microfiche and in computer databases are held in the nuclear blast-proof mountain facility.
Combine the Mormon geological records collected from every nation on the planet with the transactional data maintained by the NSA in nearby Bluffdale, and the world’s “all seeing eye” or computerized Panopticon not only knows every detail about living individuals but an immense amount of information about their deceased ancestors. That is the sort of information craved by despotic leaders.
The Dutch rapporteur for the EU-US PNR agreement, which has also been expanded to include Australia and Canada, was Sophie in ’t Veld of the Democrats 66 Party. She withdrew her sponsorship of the PNR agreement because of misgivings over the privacy controls afforded the data. Ms. In ’t Veld has been subjected to extra security screening every time she visits the United States and U.S. authorities have refused to tell her why.
In the future, the massive international connected spy grid will make similar decisions with or without the intervention of a human being. Individuals will find themselves under arrest based on artificial intelligence analysis of databases. In some jurisdictions, people have been targeted for surveillance and arrest based on a belief by law enforcement that they may commit a crime. The storage of massive amounts of personal data will make such “pre-crime” enforcement a common occurrence.
And, if the past is any indication, the collection of data by the United States will be a one-way street with “second party” intelligence allies like Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand; “third party” friends like Germany, Denmark, Norway, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Greece, and the Netherlands; and “fourth party” partners like Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Singapore, France, Finland, India, Taiwan, Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Hungary receiving smaller amounts of the intelligence “take” from the huge data repositories. In the 1980s, an internal NSA document likened the sharing of small amounts of signals intelligence intercepts with Third Party partners, in return for base rights, to the European colonialists giving Native American tribes “wampum,” usually cheap beads, as gifts in return for plundering tribal lands.
In addition to Microsoft, it is believed that the NSA will be fed data from massive commercial data centers, including the Apple iDataCenter in North Carolina, the EBay data center also in Utah, as well as Microsoft’s massive data center in San Antonio, Texas, which is located close to another NSA intelligence-gathering facility called NSA Texas.
Geo-spatial analysis programs linked to NSA databases will ensure that the location of individuals who leave an electronic fingerprint through the use of a mobile phone, a credit card, a chipped passport, or any item with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip will be immediately known to intelligence and police agencies. There will be nowhere in the world to hide indefinitely.
What has been called the “Brave New World,” “1984,” and “New World Order” is longer speculative, it is a reality. Big Brother exists in Utah and he is spying on every single person on the planet.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).