An Underview of State Surveillance
By Paul Cox
Some readers may take the anaesthetic view that what you are about to read is just the mad ravings of yet another conspiracy theorist. So be it, if the only bugs that worry you are the ones that share your bed at night… Some of us do not share this happy-go-lucky view of man’s socio-political makeup.
“I am not a number”…
…I am an individual. Most people can identify themselves with this theory, and probably believe it true. Think again — come in Number 69, your time is up!
Let us begin by taking a look at the “harmless”, indeed “positively beneficial”, ways in which we are already allotted identification.
Not all of us drive, but those of you that do have a driving licence, unless you are a bit of a devil. Go on, take a good look at it — your driving licence has a unique identifying number, even your car has a unique identifiable number. Yes, that might have its uses, if your car is stolen then its unique number will indeed help the police track it down, but the State can also use it against you…. more on that later.
Okay, so you don’t drive, but you do have a bank account — and look, that too has a unique identifying number. Nothing sinister about that, you might say — after all, without a unique number how would the bank know how much money each of us had; just think, I could be spending your money! How true, but nowadays it’s highly likely that you will have a debit card or a credit card, probably both, and maybe you are even considering using the latest VISA cash card.
In addition to having a unique identifying number, debit/credit cards operate by way of a system called EFTPOS (electronic fund transfer point of sale). EFTPOS does not just take funds out of your account and pay them into the account of Mr Marks and Mr Spencer. By its very nature EFTPOS provides a wealth of computer data, and if tapped by the State such data would chart personal movement and as a bonus provide an astounding, if incomplete, profile of your lifestyle.
Okay, okay, so you’re unemployed and do not have a bank account — but hey, you don’t escape the net that easily… The State will not give you any benefits without you first presenting them with your National Insurance card — and yes, you quessed, it too has a unique identifying number. And as for that child of yours… sorry folks, no woman in the Western or Communist world may give birth without being obliged, under threat of sequestration, to register her newborn with the authorities.
Then of course there are the television licence; the electoral roll; the Census — and just in case you thought that the European Community might reduce this intrusive surveillance, the 1991 census was co-ordinated through the EC. On a global scale the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — you know, those people that can help you with your family tree — the Mormons, have a mass of personal records. It has been suggested that in the United States the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has insider access to these records….
“it’s good to talk” and “surf city”….
Modern technology provides a massive injection of succour to the Intelligence Services. Gone are the days when in order to spy on a citizen the State agent would stand on street corners and then follow the suspect to monitor his/her activities. Nowadays we tell the State who our friends are — don’t believe me ? Take a look at your telephone bill; it details who you speak to, when, and for how long. And if the State wants to know just what exactly we are talking about then it will simply bug your telephone line. Ever wandered what caused that strange sound or volume change on your telephone? Ever heard sounds coming from the telephone when the handset was hung-up, or your telephone often rings but there is nobody there or just a tone/beep? Then perhaps, just perhaps, your telephone is bugged….
But of course I am forgetting, you use the internet to communicate on a global scale, and it’s free from both censorship and manipulation by the Intelligence Services…. Sorry folks, wrong again, just look at the origins of the internet, for starters.
In the 1970s the United States Defense Department created the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), a web of linked computers designed to act as a post handler, passing on electronic mail until it reached its destination. Primitive by todays’ standards but nevertheless it worked; ARPANET was the precursor to the internet, made by and for the Intelligence Services.
Still not convinced? Then listen to someone who should know :
The Internet offers intelligence agencies an amazing potential source for information collection and for monitoring the activities of their targets. They not only can plug into communications through the names of senders and receivers of e-mail, but also through keyword monitoring of messages as they have done for many years. If you add e-mail to their monitoring of telephone and other credit card transactions, they can get a very complete picture of a given person’s activities…
The above description is from former CIA officer Philip Agee.
And, before we fool ourselves that such snooping and invasion of privacy requires a warrant, picture this scenario concerning the American National Security Agency (NSA), and our very own Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), amongst others. According to some reports, such agencies…
…all practice what might be termed the “sister agency gambit”. They do this by stationing liaison officers in each of the other agencies. When they want to tap their own citizens without a warrant, they just call over the liaison officer to throw the switch.
Daniel Brandt, Big Brother Covets the Internet in Flatland No.12, May 1995, p.44-46.
And, before the whizz kids amongst you scream out that encryption is the answer — sorry, but all the British intelligence agencies are already suggesting that encryption should be illegal. On a less authoritarian front they have shown increased interest in the US example of the NSA, which has managed to secure legislation which guarantees all communications equipment conforms to standards ensuring all communications lines are “wire-tap friendly” (known as the twin escrow system), and has developed a technology known as the “clipper chip”, an “official” form of encryption which allows the intelligence agencies back-door entry.
“smile, you’re on candid camera…..”
Gone are the days when closed circuit televisions (cctv) were only found in shops as a method of catching shoplifters. Today they are to be found in shopping centres; in the high street; inside football stadia and other entertainment venues; on motorways; and in housing estates. Indeed, by the turn of the century Britain will have in excess of half a million cctv systems…. The images will be digital, as will the photo archive, placing a name, ID number and “other” details alongside the anonymous faces in the crowd. Our streets and motorways are lined with state of the art cameras using the latest optical pattern recognition scanners…
…scanners which can look at live scenes, photographs or text, read number plates, identify faces, observe and analyse motion, codify and identify fingerprints or rapidly turn written text into computer data.
On the Record by Duncan Campbell & Steve Connor, 1986, p.49.
In theory, the scanners observe only the registration numbers of vehicles passing by, which are then checked against the Police National Computer (PNC) list of stolen or suspect vehicles. But would the intelligence services waste such a tehnological achievement on tracing stolen cars? No, of course not… The PNC alone has extensive details of the membership of pressure groups, and details of the owners of cars parked near demonstrations, even of those with no connection to the demonstration. What better way to monitor the movements of such people?
the Future…”scanners” and “implants”….
Another scanner which could monitor our movements might be introduced soon. When we travel from one country to another we take with us our passport, a rather outmoded method of identification. Make way for the introduction of machine readable passports (MRP); we have already had early, if unsuccessful, trials of MRP scanners at Heathrow in February 1983.
The MRP scanner when introduced will automatically advise the authorities of the movements of suspect persons; create a “traffic index” of all persons entering or leaving the UK; and monitor all those visitors subject to immigration control, identifying those who have outstayed their welcome and passing their names on to either the police or special immigration tracing units.
In Europe, Germany leads the way in MRPs. The German MRP doubles as an ID card which every citizen has to carry in public, and clearly possessess a surveillance function as defined by its connection with the INPOL computer and the subsequent BEFA (beobachtende fahndung = observation and search) categorisation. BEFA has 9 sub-categories including persons suspected of terrorism (BEFA 7) and those attending demonstrations (BEFA 9). For those readers who say “yes, but membership of the EC means less frontier controls” — think again : yes there would be an easing of formal checks, but only a total easing when all of Europe has ID cards like those of our German cousins…
In 1989 trials were undertaken in Britain on criminal offenders, in which an electonically tagged bracelet was worn. It included personal details and would trigger an alarm if the offender left a designated area. The trials were a failure, however, due to 40% of the offenders removing the tags and absconding. Implants were the natural successor, whereby the same information would be surgically implanted. Such implants have been used on animals for years, and it was only a matter of time before we moved on to implanting humans — but will it stop at criminals? “No!” is the answer, I am afraid to say. What makes me so sure? Well, plastic surgeons are already implanting a chip called a “smart device” into patients, containing medical/product details in case of future complications, and the information it holds is accessed in much the same way as a bar-code is read in your local supermarket.
The future is not bright, nor is it orange*, the future is under surveillance…..
* a reference to the slogan used in adverts for a make of mobile phone.