Guest Post: The New Praetorians And The New Cold War
Originally posted at Golem XIV blog,
In a democracy rule is by consent. In a dictatorship it is by control.
Which do we have in the West? It seems to me, it is no longer clear. We certainly still have the rituals of rule by consent. But behind the elected front men and women is a shadow state. It’s people ritually swear allegiance to those we elect. They declare themselves there to serve and protect. But when it is us they spend their time spying on, whose interests are they protecting? Can you really serve those you do not trust?
In 2008 we discovered that behind the banking system we knew about, there was a vast shadow banking system whose size most of us never suspected. In 2013 we have glimpsed not only the scale of the shadow state but the degree to which it, like the shadow banking system, is out of control and not working for us at all.
Of course Mr Obama and the ‘security chiefs’, brought blinking into the unwelcome light, justify themselves by telling us that all those things they never saw fit to mention to us, or even to the people we spend so much time electing, have been saving us from un-named terrors. Are we to take such unverifiable assurances at face value from people who we know do not trust us and who make a profession of lying to us? I remember when Treasury Secretary Paulson told the US Congress that unless they stopped asking questions and simply handed him $600 billion to bail out the shadow banking system, there would be anarchy and tanks on the streets. Am I wrong to see a parallel?
Before I go on I would like, for the sake of clarity, to make it clear that I am not a Libertarian and therefore my criticisms of the State do not spring from a prior antipathy. I do not consider the State to be an intrinsically bad or untrustworthy thing. I do think the State, like any organization can be, and I think has been, corrupted and perverted. I think some people within the ‘State as we know it’ – the elected part and its attendant civil service – have colluded with the rise of what I am calling the Shadow State. Libertarians may feel the idea of a Shadow State is superfluous. To them I would say, they might, a few years ago, have thought the idea of a shadow banking system was similarly superflous. But it exists nevertheless.
The New Praetorians
The problem with giving people and institutions power over us, even when those people are supposed to be there to protect us, is that power begets the desire for more power. The Praetorians began as an elite corp of body guards, sworn to protect Rome’s military commanders and later the Emperors. But in less than 50 years between the Emperor Augustus and Claudius, the Praetorians changed from protectors of the Emperor, to the force who chose him. The Praetorians put Claudius on the throne, not the people not the Senate. They did not protect, they chose.
I am not suggesting that the shadow state is already in charge but I am saying they are in position already to wield huge and carefully hidden, almost unchallengeable power. They are already operating without oversight and outside of the laws which we thought were there to protect us from the state. Ask yourself, when the heat has gone from the embarrassing headlines, will the shadow state of the NSA, GCHQ and allied military, do any different? Will they stop spying on us ? Of course not.
The ugliest truth is not how much America has spied on its own citizens or those of its ‘allies’, but how complicit so many other governments have been. The UK has long been America’s fluffer. But I think it is slowly sinking in, in Germany, that the shadow German state knew what was going on and cooperated. I suggest that the New Cold war isn’t between Nations, it is between the machinery of the Shadow State, in every State, and the citizens of every state.
The New Cold War
Of course European governments want to be seen by their people, to be outraged on their behalf. And some of them genuinely are outraged – those who hadn’t been told. But at the top of our governments and key people in various departments, they were told and they did know.
I recently had a conversation with a former British foreign secretary and asked him if he had been aware of some of the MI6 operations that I happen to know about that had gone on in the 70?s. He told me he was not aware of them and frankly didn’t believe they had gone on. Now of course, if those operations were still classified – and they are – he would hardly have blurted out, “Oh yes, I remember that one.” So saying he didn’t know about them is not proof he didn’t. He could very well have been lying to me.
All I can say is I don’t think he was lying. From how the conversation continued I think he really didn’t know and didn’t believe . What he did tell me, quite frankly (or so it seemed to me) was that the security and intelligence services make a point, for security reasons, of not telling the Foreign Secretary about missions. Which on one level seems reasonable. IF, that is, you trust that the operations being kept from you were in the interests of the people you are there to serve. It is easy, I imagine, for a Foreign Secretary to tell himself that a mission should be kept from him, so long as he convinces himself that it is still going to be congruent with the government’s over all policy. But what underpins this comforting idea?
If a mission is secret why not a whole series of missions, a whole policy? Who says the New Praetorians will limit themselves to protecting and serving the interests and policies of an elected parliament or Congress. What is to stop them having their own policy? After all, the shadow state and its directors remain while Congressmen come and Ministers go.
There will be, as I mentioned, those in our governments who are genuinely shocked, because they were not privy to the shadow state and its secrets. I believe the French government genuinely is outraged. France’s secret state is not part of the Anglo/American axis, never has been and does not want to be. Their security service is arranged in a very different manner to ours. But the upper levels of Britain’s and Germany’s State are playing a game for public consumption. In the UK the public formula is ‘questions will be asked’. Which we all know is UK government speak for the exact opposite.
In Germany the outrage of being spied upon and being referred to as a ‘target’ by the Americans is real and feeds in to the already long running rivalry between Washington and Berlin. Washington did not and does not not like the new assertiveness of the German state that surfaced at the G20 a few years ago. Washington arrived at the meeting with a plan and found Europe led by Berlin simply refused to comply. The German state had its own plan and as paymasters of Europe it was in a position, with French support, to tell Washington to run along.
I believe it is clear that there is an old-cold-war rivalry between Europe/Germany and Washington. With the UK playing its habitual role of Perfidious Albion. Nominally in Europe but acting as agent for America’s interests at the same time. No one in Europe is ever sure whose interest the UK is aligned with. All they are sure of is that the UK cannot be trusted. And they are right.
The problem, I think, is that this old cold war national rivalry is so familiar and easy to see, that it distracts us from the much more insidious new cold war which is not nation against nation , but shadow state, in every state, against the people of every state. The battle lines in the new cold war are very different from the old cold war, and we must get used to them.
While some in Germany are outraged because they were not aware of American spying, Merkel and a few others, I feel quite sure, are only shocked that the truth came out. They are angry with the Americans more for letting Snowden reveal the truth more than they are with spying itself.
Some in the German state (and not necessarily those you might imagine – remember the British foreign secretary I spoke to) and some in the BND or perhaps some other part of German Security did know. I think we will find they were collaborating and cooperating with Anglo/American spying. Of course I cannot know this for sure, though I think it will become evident in the coming weeks. The question is, why would they cooperate with a foreign intelligence network spying on German citizens, diplomats and politicians? Especially when they are all telling us how outraged they are.
But beyond the posturing and mock shock, the truth is none of our governments, neither those doing the spying nor those spied upon – none of our governments – trust any of us. None of them are content any longer with rule by consent. They all now want control. And given the endless financial and economic situation, the ratcheting of austerity, embedded and growing inequality, and the likelihood of another financial crisis within 5 years, they all feel they must have control and they are right – they will need it.
The Americans with the help of the British are the ones who have created the vast, off-balance sheet, unnaccountable machine for keeping records of everything we say to each other, but Germany and other governments are, I strongly suspect, keen to enjoy its fruits. So while many in Germany will focus upon and be genuinely angry at the American state spying upon German people and their representatives, the danger is they will be so focused on this familiar old cold war picture, they will not see the more insidious new cold war, of the shadow state in their own country, spying on them.
Which brings me to the last point I want to make about spying on and collecting data on citizens.
If you want to collect and collate data, and spy upon your citizens why do it yourself and risk being caught? Much like torturing people, it is far better to have other people, in other countries do it. That way, when asked you are able to say, “We do not torture and we do not spy on our own citizens’.
In the intelligence world what they want to be able to say, as reassurance to the politicians not in the inner circle and to the rest of us targets – what they want to say is, ‘We are not allowed to spy on you willy-nilly without judicial and political oversight and without permission. A thin lie but they would like to be able to point to some tissue of oversight and control. They are, after all, servants and protectors of democracy are they not?
So the answer is to have other people do the bit of spying and intercepting that might be embarrassing if it was known about. All that other foreign organization has to do, is freely offer to ‘share’ their intelligence with you and bingo, you have what you were after but did not spy to get it nor even collude with those who did spy. They offered to share, that’s all.
So who could be of help in this effort? Well Canada , Italy and India are ready and, I suspect, quite willing to arrange an informal, off the books, hush hush, no oversight, reciprocal agreement
Canada is obviously well placed to help the US – if they needed help – with a particularly sensitive target. Italy can help Europe, and India can help anyone who off-shores sensitive data handling to Indian companies.
Canada has its own programme for spying on its citizens run by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), which is part of the Department of National Defence. The programme was first set up in 2005. In 2011 its license was renewed by the Canadian Defense Secretary, Mr Peter MacKay. The renewed programme is, according to an article in the Globe and Mail, now run under,
…a regime of ministerial directives – decrees not scrutinized by Parliament ….
So it was set up without bothering with parliamentary scrutiny. What do you bet it is felt – by the agency itself and the in-crowd of vetted ministers and officials, that there is no need for parliamentary oversight of its running either?
Of course its only metadata. So don’t you worry yourselves.
In Italy, Mario Monti ‘s out-going, unelected government of technocrats also decided to skip any sort of partlimentary scrutiny and pesky court orders, and issued a Presidential decree, (24th Jan. 2013), outlining new guidelines for
…the protection of national cyber security .
According to Italian Lawyer Fulvio Sazrana in this article, It basically gives Italian security services almost unlimited access to data and with hardly any oversight at all by parliament or even the courts. Mr Sazrana quotes part of the decree which I ran through a translate programme ( I don’t read Italian)
Article. 11 of Decree obliges operators of telecommunications and internet service provider, but not only, for example, who also manages the airports, dams, energy services, transport, to give access to security services to their databases, for purposes unspecified “security.”
So in Italy it’s not just emails and phone calls, its going to be whole data bases as well. That opens up a whole new lot of data about you.
And then there is India. According an article in the Indian National Newspaper, The Hindu, the Indian state is about to set up a new agency the NCCC (National Cyber Coordination Centre) in which all India’s other security and communications agencies will have a role. According to a government note,
“The NCCC will collect, integrate and scan [Internet] traffic data from different gateway routers of major ISPs at a centralised location for analysis, international gateway traffic and domestic traffic will be aggregated separately … The NCCC will facilitate real-time assessment of cyber security threats in the country and generate actionable reports/alerts for proactive actions by the concerned agencies,”
The Indian agency, it is made quite clear, will spy on its own citizens as well as international traffic. It will be real time, so content, not just metadata. Given that Indian citizens log on to Google in America, and UK citizens read articles in the Indian press let’s not fall in to the trap of thinking that what Italy or Canada or India does will not effect us in our own country. Data and those who handle it are not bound by national boundaries, rules and laws. You only have to look at corporate tax avoidance and evasion to see that.
Now here is my speculation - unfounded as yet – that another tranche of your supposedly privatec and personal data may yet be opened and read. The British state, like many other western nations off-shores its public data handling. NHS records and some tax records are now handled in other countries – the US and India so far.
In Britain such records are protected. But once abroad they are private corporate data. How bound by the laws of a distant State will global companies feel? If they broke UK law who would arrrest them? Undercover British reporters have already found they could buy the health data of British patients from Indian data companies, including,
Databases of information including names, addresses, and NHS numbers are being sent overseas along with private health notes as managers come under increasing pressure to cut costs.
It is illegal but they did it. How open would such data be for a very powerful, lightly overseen Indian intelligence organization? And might the Indian cyber snooper be very willing to share such information if asked by a curious sister intelligence organization in Britain or America?
Just speculation at the moment.
But what I want to emphasize is that there is a New Cold War but it is not like the old one. It is not country against country. It is the shadow state in every nation against its own people, with the collusion of an inner core within the regular State. If this is correct, and I believe Mr Snowden has made it very difficult to believe otherwise, then we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by politicians and media barons telling us stories in the familiar mold of the old cold war, of one whole country against another, America against Germany, Britain against France, or Greece against Europe. There are, of course, still real rivalries between nations and they do compete with each other and do try to destabilize each other – but this is not our most pressing problem as citizens, as free men and women. I believe our real problem is what I have called the New Cold War. Because our enemy in that war is here among us.
Nominally we live in democracies but the trust which makes government by consent work is eroding fast. Distrust, fear and control are replacing it. And it is not you and me pushing that change. It is the shadow state allied, as I believe it is, with the shadow financial world, which is pushing it.
As I have said before, we are at war – a frighteningly cold war – of austerity and spying, poverty and trial without jury – but the lines are not between nations any more. They are between you and me on one side and an elite who style themselves as technocrat experts and cyber praetorians, here to help, but in reality here to control us and do away with democracy wherever they can.
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