As the world pauses to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, it might also reflect that the fall marked the beginning of a slow, slippery slide towards authoritarianism for many western democracies – now a fortress of myriad electronic walls and secret keys. No longer concerned about winning the hearts and minds of the world as a key strategy to stop the spread of communism, our leaders focused on maximizing economic growth and were more prepared to turn a blind-eye to abuses of human rights and civil liberties, and economic inequality at home.
Envious of the high growth rates achieved in authoritarian capitalist systems like Singapore and China our intelligence agencies, sometimes with and sometimes without the knowledge or consent of our governments, moved to steadily erode and override the rights, freedoms and civil liberties that form the basis of our democracies. In doing so, they have weakened many of the social and environmental protections that bind our communities. The result is social polarisation, increased environmental damage and militarization of the police to deal with the ever increasing social and political tensions.
The intelligence agencies and military are inciting and exploiting the public fear of foreign adversaries such as ISIS and Al Qaeda to remove our freedoms in the name of national security, key American freedoms and values which are now deemed impediments to economic growth. While these foreign groups pose only moderate threats, we must guard against surrendering our way of life and the ability to question what our government, military and intelligence services are doing.
The threat is now within as well as without, the lines between good and bad increasingly blurred and confused as the vision of the Founding Fathers based on maximising human potential and freedom is replaced by today’s leaders’ objectives of higher economic growth.
Introduction: the slow death of democracy
The 21st century started with the event now simply known as “9/11”, the first act of external terrorism on American soil since Pearl Harbour. It has made the West a more intolerant and, arguably, less free place than it was a quarter century ago when it stared down the nuclear threat of the Cold War. However, 9/11 has merely acted as a catalyst to a seismic change in America already underway since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ushered in the end of the Soviet empire and the Cold War in 1991.
The politically astute, though flawed and morally tainted accused war criminal Henry Kissinger said at this time the greatest threat to world peace is now American unilateralism. Indeed, the US and its NATO allies have relentlessly advanced on the borders of energy rich Russia, tensions now escalating to crisis point in Ukraine, as Western interests encroach on former soviet territory placing missile bases and other military provocations, contrary to agreement. The Middle East has also borne the brunt US and allied aggression, the centrepiece of which was an illegal war to secure strategic, low cost oil interests in Iraq and help ward off the growth of Chinese influence in the region. Since the end of the Cold War, the US seems to have abandoned even the pretence of caring about the hearts and minds of the people of the world, including the mass of its own citizens.
If the Soviet Union and its call for a global revolution of the proletariat prior to 1991 represented the greatest threat to US status – as the preeminent economic, military and political influence in the world in the second half of the 20th century, the rise of China in the first half of the 21st century based on the success of its high economic growth and elite state model of authoritarian capitalism poses the greatest threat to American global prestige and influence now. The central self imposed challenge of American leadership in the 21st century is how to expand economic growth, even at the cost of jettisoning certain long cherished freedoms of civil society that defined American culture and history for centuries, weakening or removing social and environmental protections that have inconveniently, for them, also served to impede economic growth for powerful entrenched interests.
The paradigm shift in America over the past 25 years with the erosion of human rights and civil liberties has been dramatic, key freedoms lost in the service of extreme economic rationalism. Political scapegoats, Al Qaeda and ISIS stand falsely accused as the reason for these losses though in reality they represent relatively modest threats to US and Western interests and national security. The threat from foreign terrorists to establishment interests has been an issue numerous times in the past century and Western powers prevailed without sacrificing formerly cherished freedoms. There are numerous examples of vanquished threats, including the Red Brigades in Italy, ETA – the Basque separatists in Spain, the IRA in England, the Red Army faction; Baader Meinhof in Germany, and the Nazis and Soviets. In each case, key rights were staunchly defended and protected. The deeper reason for the official withdrawal of our rights and liberties today therefore lies elsewhere and not with claims of an inevitable national security response to a foreign terrorist threat – a dishonest propaganda ploy from the pages of Orwell. At the very least, ramped up personal intrusions should be accompanied by the strongest possible oversight. But they aren’t, reinforcing the notion that there real purpose is the accretion of power.
Today’s real enemies to “homeland security” appear to be those who resist giving up their freedoms and rights to further the nation’s economic growth. Those who would have once been considered true blue American patriots are now the enemies who stand in the way of economic outcomes – higher GDP, who stand in the way of the US aspiration of closing the gap with economic juggernauts like China. The social and environmental protections legislated or regulated in federal, state and local government and variously bureaucratised in taxes, transfer payments and red- and green-tape are to varying extents now being dispensed with. These characteristics are now considered impediments to higher economic growth in America, Australia and other Anglo Bloc countries.
The State well understands that by clawing back freedoms a significant human and environmental toll will be extracted that strikes at the heart of our communities – and which will be met with resistance. To mitigate the coming pushback a two throng strategy is place: deflect and fortify.
The deflection response is classic Orwellian – to incite fear in the public about the threat posed by a distant foreign enemy – in this case Middle Eastern military groups to focus people’s anger, frustration and disappointments away from events at home. The fortification aspect involves the expenditure of vast sums of money on the militarization of the country’s police with weapons and training provided by the Pentagon to confront head on any resulting unrest. If the Occupy Wall Street Movement was the initial peaceful wave of protestor pushback against this transition to less freedom, the government appears to be expecting the main social and political upheaval is yet to come.
The militarization of the police is an alarming indication of the force the government has built at home. The US has reportedly provided over US$5bn in military grade weapons and training, much of it coming via the Pentagon, to domestic police units across the country. We have seen alarming scenes of militarized police action from one skirmish to the next across the US. The most recent dramatic images have come from Ferguson, Missouri where protestors took to the streets following the police killing of a black youth. Police and SWAT teams flooded the streets; eerie night time photos showed lasers beams and search lights piercing a fog of tear gas to depict a chaotic scene of police and protestors clashing. Widely aired footage shows heavily armed officers wearing body armour and helmets, camouflage fatigues, powerful assault rifles, armoured personal carriers, and the liberal use of tear gas clashing with protestors to give a sense of overwhelming force. Individuals’ houses are raided in similar style in the middle of the night – often innocent people are affected – on the pretext of looking for drugs or concern about some terrorist threat. Some local police units have even been armed with grenade launchers.
At the time of writing the media and TV news are dedicating their formats to updates about the Islamic State (IS) gaining purchase in Iraq, Syria and even Iran and political commentators make ominous warnings while all but ignoring the legislative assault and police crackdown at home.
While the publics’ attention is directed to the Middle East, to ISIS and Al Qaeda, it is the Far East, China, that has Washington’s spies fixated. In the meantime, shocking and disturbing new security legislation is passing in the legislatures of major Anglo Bloc democracies removing citizens’ rights to privacy, legal due process and weakening media powers and freedom of speech. Harsh jail terms have been imposed for what were formerly minor infractions. Whistleblowing, for example, previously viewed as a necessary activity to government accountability in support of a vibrant civil society and democracy now in Australia carries a prison term of up to 10 years and the public interest defence removed. The question is quickly becoming what price are America and its Western allies now prepared to extract on society to bring about a transformation in values at home?
How far are our leaders prepared to go to achieve even modest goals? How large a sacrifice will they demand of the governed in order to satisfy their ambitions? There is no limit to what the use of reason might justify in the hands of the authorities as they use the terms “national security” and “economic rationalism” – often interchangeably. As philosopher David Hume succinctly explains: “‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.” Devoid of compassion; economic models set no limits on the secret, and increasingly overt, violation of human, environmental and social rights if it serves economic interests.
There is no universal validity in their worldview, it is just one more of a virtually infinite number of worldviews pitted against each other, just an endless flow of conflict, wars, violent regime change, supply of armaments and advice to foreign insurgents. Bloodshed and killing reduced to an historical phenomenon of human nature, a narrative they tell to absolve themselves of moral responsibility for their handiwork in the death and misery of so many innocents. Bound by dogmatism to Kissinger’s notion of American exceptionalism, their worldview no more legitimate, and possibly less so, than the dogmatism that formed the crutch of the medieval Catholic church which also ruled with the illusion of possessing absolute legitimacy.
How much collateral damage do they demand our society turn a blind eye to in exchange for the next incremental gain in creature comforts and entertainment – victories from military force, not won with education, innovation and dynamism, though these do exist too.
The Anglo bloc insights reflected in the Magna Carta in 1215 that authority must be acquired through trust and respect has in recent decades, certainly since the end of the Cold War, reverted to the notion that authority can be imposed, held in place with force.
Australia: A US test market for authoritarian conversion?
Although this is bad news for Joe Citizen, it is good news for people in government who have always used fear to convey strength of leadership, jack up nationalism and deflect attention from awkward domestic issues. It is also good for the intelligence services keen to use any outside threat (internal/ external or otherwise) to exert ever more control over our lives, movements, opinions and thoughts.
Technology, particularly electronic communication devices, have also radically changed the human landscape during the past two decades, allowing us to access information from any source and to express our views as never before. However, our liberator may also increasingly become our oppressor as governments and the security services try to pass ever more draconian legislation to access and store our personal metadata and its content. Our zest for sharing our every thought via electronic communications makes surveillance, once a slow, hit or miss, labour-intensive business, much easier and vastly increases their ability to monitor the thoughts and content of all citizens, not just those under surveillance. In Australia, where I am now based, these factors are fuelling that creeping sense of Orwellian totalitarianism.
A rallying cry to join “Team Australia,” a singular national identity with uncomfortable overtones of Hitler’s “One Reich, one folk, one leader,” a proposal for telcos to retain personal metadata for two years and the reversal of the onus of proof that would require young men of Middle Eastern origin returning from overseas to prove that they had not engaged in terrorist activity were all fielded during the course of August 2014 alone. That all three were shouted down and rightly labelled “undemocratic” should bring cheer to us all, but the fact they were canvassed by an elected Federal government, not some shadowy, fundamentalist right-wing group, should not.
However, the creep continued during September in the wake of the “Islamic State crisis.” Following a series of “secret” police terror raids, at which the media were oddly present, the government pushed through new national security laws giving what the Sydney Morning Herald described as “…unprecedented powers to Australia’s spy agencies.”
They enable ASIO to access an unlimited number of computers with a single warrant, effectively allowing them to monitor the whole internet, and journalists or bloggers disclosing details of anything ASIO declares a “special intelligence operation” can expect five to ten years jail. It also grants intelligence officers immunity from prosecution or media exposure, even if an innocent member of the public was killed in a botched ASIO raid, similar to the 2005 shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian citizen mistaken for a terrorist, by the Metropolitan Police in London. There are also harsher penalties for former agents who leak confidential information. Public sector whistleblowers should report abuses to their superiors. Lawyers, human rights advocates and media organisations have all warned it will be even harder to report on national security stories in future.
Former Australian intelligence officer and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction whistleblower turned federal politician, Andrew Willkie, who would now likely face jail for his revelations, accused the government of exploiting the current security environment and described the new laws as a “blank cheque” for the security agencies.
“I can only assume the government is wanting to capitalise on and exploit the current security environment. I can only assume that the security agencies are delighted they have been invited to fill in a blank cheque.
….At some point in the future we’ll have spies kicking in doors and using force with no police alongside them and that is another step towards a police state.” 
The Green Party’s Adam Brandt also feared for the fate of the common man.
“As the bill stands, the government can access your computer or mobile and even add files to it, despite the fact you’re not a suspect. If your computer is on the same network as a suspect’s, whether that’s at work, university or even the entire internet, the government will be able to access it.” 
Edward Snowdon and Julian Assange, both currently living in exile, blew the lid on our comfortable complacency and the notion that we are safe from the sort of authoritarian state excesses we see on TV happening in other countries and have read about in history books. They crossed the Rubicon and allowed us a glimpse behind the black curtain of espionage, where they are not just spying on suspected criminals and terrorists, but on all of us. A state crackdown on freedoms and privacy. We are all suspects in as yet uncommitted crimes or potential political dissidents that can be re-defined by a government at any time in response to any crisis that may arise in the name of national, or Homeland security, as it is called in America.
This story is a cautionary tale about allowing the security services too much power and the difficulty of containing it once they have it, trapped within the pages of Kafkaesque Prague, psychologically “roughed up”, placed on a blacklist, career disrupted, privacy invaded, relationships meddled with, industrial strength intimidations and threats; and no access to resolution via oversight agencies, a marginalised media or courts. But it is not all negative: there have been some unintended positives, benefits that have come from all this, as outlined in the first section of the book, including amazing travel experiences, interesting entrepreneurial opportunities, a positive realigning of life priorities, new flexibility and a different type of personal freedom. (click)
However, what’s most surprising of all, given the brazen invasiveness, surveillance, analysis and interference in my life is that it has been done not while living in today’s China, or Prague in another time, but by American intelligence agencies today, with the collusion of the Australians, in direct contravention of all the principles that underpin our cherished democratic values – inculcated in us as sacrosanct and non-violable since we were infants. I was as surprised by the depth of my own naïveté as I was by the extent of the breathtaking betrayal of my government. I was never able to face my accusers, told what I was accused of, read what was written about me, or find out what my current status is. The evidence and reasons remain classified state secrets. This is the element of our agencies’ domestic activities that echo Stasi East Germany and Kafka’s Prague.
The few who have not been co-opted by the agencies among friends, family and journalists I’ve personally told my story to, have little trouble believing it, however routinely respond by asking incredulously about the lack of effective checks and balances; surely there are oversight committees they ask, well informed men and women, statesmen whose job it is to make sure that these type of totalitarian excesses don’t happen to regular and innocent people? That’s what we were brought up to believe. Then suddenly it dawns on them: they realise how the system works in practice – when jobs, reputations, favours, money, promotions and politics are in play; the purpose of oversight has itself metamorphosed and evolved, a grotesque disfigurement of its original form – no longer is their function to stop “them” getting at you, but to stop you getting at “them”. This is now how it works! Senior officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee couldn’t even stop the CIA’s illegal spying on them in 2014 during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture; the President refused to launch a criminal enquiry, his hands tied when it comes to investigating the dark side of the CIA and NSA. This is the jarring realisation the average citizen doesn’t expect. The banality of evil is in evidence in modern day America where nearly no one is immune to the personal advances of the agencies and their persuasive means of co-option; and those in positions of authority – the powerless and pathetic modern day Adolf Eichmanns.
Maybe you think you have nothing to hide. Every time an issue of privacy arises the naysayers tell you, “if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to fear.” But this naive response is to miss the threat, to misunderstand your own vulnerabilities, the extent to which you are linked into and dependent on the system, on others. Embarrassment in the face of privacy violated; exposure and loss of status with peers, or undermining at work and lost job or promotion. Or worse still, they may not tell you what they seek; at some point they may choose to outlaw a religion, to come after Christians, Muslims or Jews; or some hitherto mainstream political affiliation. Or someone might decide they want your job, your land, your house, your wife or your children. Many lives have been lost establishing and protecting our freedoms and rights. Much is at stake. Without them, everything is at risk – without these rights enshrined into law, embedded in culture and actively enforced, as K. remarked in Franz Kafka’s The Castle:
“….all [the authorities] did was to guard the distant and invisible interests of distant and invisible masters.”
It was me today, but it could be you tomorrow. This is a chilling truth – especially given that intelligence agencies focus is now inwards as well as outwards and new authoritarian powers have been granted to them in America, UK, Australia and everywhere else in the West seems to be heading in this direction also. We are giving up personal freedoms, not in exchange for protection from a foreign terrorist threat, but in the hope of achieving higher national economic GDP growth.
The US is no Longer a “Functioning Democracy”
The US government and FBI get away with the abuses I described previously in this exposé following the Wall Street analyst report I authored on US mining company Freeport McMoran’s activities in West Papua (click here or here click for more background) because the US is no longer a representative, two-party democracy, in the sense it once was.
The institutional fractures and political collusion evident from the Snowden NSA disclosures in 2013, and the official response to those disclosures, prompted former US President Jimmy Carter to comment:
“America has no functioning democracy at this moment.” 
Indeed, a joint study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities reported in 2014 that America was no longer a democratic republic, but a republic governed by an aristocratic oligarchy controlled by a small group of influential elites that exert total control over the country. With this shift, the inner logic of managing public sentiment has moved from cultivating honour and virtue to instilling fear, the favoured tool of despots and oppressors.
The power of executive discretion – decisions made in secret and without potential for review – is steadily expanding, diminishing the role for judicial and media scrutiny, and public accountability. The role for the expanding rule of law that took root in the Anglo world with the sealing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215 has in more recent years reversed, so as once again to give rulers increased scope to rule by force through which they hope to maximise their influence, control, profits and the support of vested interests.
In a free society, citizens’ security extends to the invasion of personal privacy and the protection of the institutions of civil society from internal and external state forces. The concept of a free society is not consistent with the “almost Orwellian” National Security Agency (NSA) blanket surveillance of Americans’ communications revealed in internet leaks by whistleblower Ed Snowdon in June 2013. His leaks exposed the self-serving lies of NSA Director James Clapper who told the a March 2013 meeting of the American Congress’ select committee on intelligence that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect and store data on American people.
The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald found the agency’s efforts to hide its true intent and ambitions from congress and the American people the most troubling and revealing aspect of all.
“The general revelation that the objective of the NSA is literally the elimination of global privacy: ensuring that every form of human electronic communication – not just those of “the Terrorists”™ – is collected, stored, analyzed and monitored.
The NSA has so radically misled everyone for so long about its true purpose that revealing its actual institutional function was shocking to many, many people, and is the key context for understanding these other specific revelations.” 
Despite this serious breach of the Constitution, the 72 year-old Clapper was not fired nor retired. In fact, President Obama, in a tacit admission he knew about the program, merely admonished the Director of National Intelligence for not choosing his words more carefully. Greenwald went further in an article the same year entitled, Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA “repeatedly deceived the American people.”
“James Clapper lied to the faces of the Senate Intelligence Committee about core NSA matters, and not only was he not prosecuted for that felony, but he did not even lose his job, and continues to be treated with great reverence by the very Committee which he deliberately deceived. That one fact tells you all you need to know about how official Washington functions.” 
Another former US President, Bill Clinton said of the intelligence agency abuses, including Clapper’s lying to congress:
“….I think we should be on guard for abuses…by our government. You can destroy freedom with false claims that you have to do it to make everybody secure, but usually when somebody’s doing it, they don’t give a rip about security, they’re just trying to get more power. And so the key here is accountability, transparency and protection.” 
State security laws and secrecy are being used in ways never intended by the constitution, the legislature and the people to surveil and manipulate its citizens, hide mistakes, and cloak routine and egregious violations of the law. It keeps the public and the judiciary from exposing and convicting suspect officials who abuse the law and public trust. The government has failed to ensure that national security powers and secrecy are used responsibly, failed to protect the media, make appropriate use of the judiciary and legislature, and has prosecuted whistleblowers that have acted in the public interest. The main oversight of the intelligence agencies is internal to the agencies themselves, they are “captured regulators” operating within the executive branch.
Americans have already given up too many civil liberties and freedoms in the hope of increasing national security and too many others stolen by intelligence agency bureaucrats hoping to enhance their careers by drawing positive interest from the FBI and other security agencies.
The FBI in the US and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in Australia is already using targeted surveillance tactics in violent, secret attacks on political critics and to expand the number of “targets” they wish to influence, secretly manipulate, “payback,” or isolate; indeed, the blacklists have grown exponentially in recent years. It seems the foundations of a police states are already firmly in place in the West, including the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
The frightening part is this is not some blundering, hapless error, but a wilful, highly sophisticated, carefully conceived and executed assault on our democracy. It is a shift in accountability and power away from the people into the hands of powerful oligarchs as complete as under any coup d’état. And new, tough legislation is continuing to be passed that transfers further power to our effectively unaccountable, authoritarian and secretive spy agencies.
In recent decades, this “creeping totalitarianism” in America has undermined civil liberties, influenced and groomed political candidates for election and undermined the separation of powers and the independence of democratic institutions. The public is only just beginning to get a taste of what the US has become, something I have experienced for the past seventeen years.
Who are “They”?
Abandoning the high ideals of the Founding Fathers like Benjamin Franklin has been a necessary expedient for a post-war generation of American intelligence agencies and politicians that brought us the Vietnam War, the “War on Terror” and many other lesser-known catastrophes in places such as West Papua and Guatemala. “They” are the aggressive, hardline warriors, hawks – the sort of people the intelligence agencies find young, groom and then champion. In their ranks are men like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger, and George W. Bush: hand selected “culture carriers” of America and Western civilisation; self-serving hardliners. However, their reckless, ideology-fuelled aggression has delivered American’s into the uncompromising hands of state – secretive intelligence officials, militarized police and captive bureaucrats – the oligarchs that rule obsessed with economic growth, the fruits of which flow through almost exclusively to those at the top.
It moved John Tirman, Executive Director at the MIT Center for International Studies to declare there has been a “coup d’etat” in the US by what he described as a “parallel state” that has existed for the past dozen years and which operates “….by its own rules, in secret, and in ways that would be considered unconstitutional.“ However, it is not the violation of Fourth Amendment rights, covering the right of the people to be secure in their persons and homes against unwarranted searches, seizures or the serving of egregious and intrusive warrants, that troubles him alone. He says:
“So we have had now for at least a dozen years the growth of a parallel state that operates by its own rules, in secret, and in ways that would be considered unconstitutional…. what’s important here is not the mere incidence of the government violating the Constitution, but the creation, nurturing, shielding, and rapid growth of structures that institutionalize an alternative authority, set of rules, and permissible action.
…’the deep state’ — those hidden, powerful, extralegal agencies and cadres that would act on their own authority. Other countries would have them too, usually enabled by police ministries or intelligence agencies. Dissidents, out-of-line newspaper editors, priests and nuns speaking truth to power, union organizers — these types would come under the scrutiny and often the harsh reprisals of the deep state.
Now we know: the United States of America is partially governed by a deep state, undemocratic, secret, aligned with intelligence agencies, spying on friend and foe, lawless in almost every respect.” 
Tirman further argues that their power comes from our naïve belief that our personal information is secret and will not be used against us. The, state, he maintains, has a long track record of using personal information in tandem with new and ever-more intrusive surveillance technology to intensify its infiltration of civil society. As I can testify, few people even realise they have been targeted with friends, work colleagues and even family recruited to interfere in their lives.
Once this power is established it is difficult to take back. It is as if a silent, bloodless coup d’etat over the past decades has taken the America of our Founding Fathers and handed it to a small, secretive group of intelligence agency leaders that have transformed the country from a democracy into a highly controlled security state. They have manipulated the legislature, ushering in new restrictive laws, one by one, stripping Americans of their freedoms and Constitutional rights. New powers have been demanded and given to them with increased secrecy around everything they do. Even the laws they act under are protected by state secrecy laws…. With great care and secrecy they have established a new version of the American dream – a vision now imbued with extensive inequality, unexplained “truths”, and military and social injustices. Indeed, Hillary Clinton, while a Senator from NY, observed a “vast right wing conspiracy” in the US, commenting on the inexorable force pushing the country to the political right. There is a massive disconnect between public opinion and government policy, irrespective of which party is governing.
This is not the vision for America imagined by the Founding Fathers. It is not an environment that nourishes and enables individual potential to flourish, to challenge injustices, to create a world that reflects a kaleidoscope of values, dreams and visions. It is a system vulnerable to capture by a despot, not easy to rectify, a government that operates with no meaningful checks or balances, no transparency or accountability. It is a form of governing where the loyalty each individual gives to the government is the key standard by which we are measured.
Before the Snowden leaks on the extent of the NSA domestic digital dragnet implemented with the assistance of some of America’s biggest corporations in IT, finance and other institutions that hold private personal data, the public had little clue as to the extent and sophistication of the domestic intelligence operations directed at them. The Snowden revelations of the NSA’s activities make no representation about the scope and scale of operations conducted by other US intelligence agencies such as the FBI and CIA against the US public and political system.
The NSA leaks and Clapper’s lies might be news, but none of it is new. This kind of political targeting has been going on for decades. Its principal architect and founder was the despotic J. Edgar Hoover, founding Director of the FBI for an unprecedented 48 years (1924-72), whose legacy is arguably more enduring than many of the eight US Presidents he served under. Hoover perfected the art of surveillance to support his and the FBI’s agenda and gradually turned the intelligence agencies from technocrats defending the national security into kingmakers and political henchmen.
His critics accused him of turning the FBI into his own personal police force, exceeding its jurisdiction to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leader and collect evidence using illegal methods to even intimidate and threaten elected Presidents.
Agencies like the NSA, FBI and the CIA have the surveillance tools to access and threaten people where they are most vulnerable, their private lives. As Hoover knew, targeting and revealing individuals’ privacy is the realm where real power resides; the files that allow its keepers to coerce presidents and senators, indeed anyone who gets in the way. Understanding people’s desires and fears in relation to wealth, power, influence and status and to be able to collect information to control these outcomes is the real key to power.
In his book Secrets of the FBI, author Robert Kessler revealed some of Hoover’s tactics describing how Hoover opened fissures and breached privacy at the FBI, establishing a way of doing business that today is still very much a part of the FBI’s modus operandi:
“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” said William Sullivan, who became the number three official in the bureau under Hoover, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”
Lawrence J. Heim, who was in the Crime Records Division, confirmed to me that the bureau sent agents to tell members of Congress that Hoover had picked up derogatory information on them.
He [Hoover] would send someone over on a very confidential basis,” Heim said. As an example, if the Metropolitan Police in Washington had picked up evidence of homosexuality, “he [Hoover] would have him say, ‘This activity is known by the Metropolitan Police Department and some of our informants, and it is in your best interests to know this.’ But nobody has ever claimed to have been blackmailed. You can deduce what you want from that.” 
Kessler goes on to say that President Truman, a month after taking office in 1945, sounded the alarm bells about Hoover’s FBI, “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail.” He followed this up 2 years later adding, “all Congressmen and Senators are afraid of him.” 
But Hoover’s reach expanded way beyond elected representatives, the rich and the politically powerful. Paranoid about subversion by foreign agents, activists and civil libertarians. While Senator Joe McCarthy and the investigations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) were given free reign, the courts and the Attorney General were unwilling to sanction Hoover’s demands that thousands of Americans be arrested and habeus corpus, the legal cornerstone of democratic justice, be suspended. Hoover founded the infamous COINTELPRO (an acronym for counter intelligence program) a “dirty tricks” campaign to surveil, infiltrate, discredit and disrupt domestic political organizations. The FBI’s methods included burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planting forged documents and spreading false rumours about key members of target organizations, inciting violence and even murder. It was first used to disrupt the Communist Party, where Hoover went after everyone from everyday spies to celebrity figures such as Charlie Chaplin and later, leaders and their organizations such as the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and others. The FBI also targeted leading Americans opposed to the Vietnam War, including senators, journalists and athletes among anyone who had public influence. The FBI justified these tactics claiming they were necessary for “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.”
The intelligence agencies frequently see domestic threats and use their powers to disrupt and interfere with political targets in secret claiming national security; whereas the public, arguably more astute, optimistic and progressive, sees only opportunity, justice and equality. Sometimes the FBI’s perceived “threats” are nothing more than to the entrenched status quo:
“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” so disturbed the American power structure that the F.B.I. started spying on him in what The Washington Post called “one of its biggest surveillance operations in history.” The speech even moved the head of the agency’s domestic intelligence division to label King “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of Communism, the Negro and national security.”
Of course, King wasn’t dangerous to the country but to the status quo.”
Many of these FBI tactics came to light when an activist group, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI field office and stole dossiers that incriminated the agency.
The bigoted claims by the FBI about King as a leading threat to US national security were no more a “national security” issue than the absurd claims made by the church in England that Charles Darwin was the most dangerous man in England after publication of his theory of evolution by natural selection. He postponed publication for many years fearful of incurring the church’s wrath. His work was a brilliant scientific theory that represented a threat to the established order; and the establishment’s neanderthal response clearly revealed that a shakeup in that order was long overdue.
Despite the outlawing of the tactics used by the FBI in its counter intelligence operations there is a wide consensus based on experience that illegal and highly abusive FBI tactics are still at the heart of their political activities today. These have been taught to, and adopted by, other intelligence agencies other countries, such as Australia and the UK, as well as other US agencies, such as the NSA. These programs continue to build on Hoover’s legacy made all the more powerful by the advent of the internet which makes for much easier data gathering and aids more secret and cost-efficient surveillance, which only came to light through Ed. Snowden who revealed the NSA’s covert data-gathering program, not just involving political rivals, dissidents and activists, but tens of millions of US citizens.
NSA documents released by Snowden exemplify how individuals’ “personal vulnerabilities” were gathered through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target’s credibility, reputation and authority.”  As it was in Hoover’s day, private information gathered through surveillance is exploited to neutralise targets, by leaking that information publicly, or to a closed network of friends, work colleagues, peers and associates of the target specially recruited for that purpose. Once they have the information, the agencies have multiple options in how it can be used, by whom and when. They now control a realm of your life previously controlled only by you.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said these revelations give rise to serious concerns about abuse.
“Wherever you are, the NSA’s databases store information about your political views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities online,” he added. “The NSA says this personal information won’t be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines ‘abuse’ very narrowly.”
An insightful blog from American journalist and author Naomi Wolf on the new shadowy security state we now inhabit in America:
“There is not ‘reality’ and ‘spy novels’ any more, with no interpenetration. On the contrary — the surveillance/security world and ‘the real world’ are being more closely knit all the time, and both reporters and commentators need to lose their naivete about this interpenetration.
The security state and its apparatus is a now a massive part of our economy; billions and billions of dollars…the hiring of vast numbers of people whose job is to do what they do while not appearing to do what they do, in terms of surveillance and other forms of domestic scrutiny of dissent…
…the things that spies were tasked with doing overseas, to destabilize ‘enemies’ in foreign countries through various kinds of hidden interventions and fake identities — are now legal to direct against ‘enemies’ of the government, or of the police state, or of the intelligence services, here at home. (Or are made legal, as we see, through secret law).”
Personal surveillance is not a tactic reserved only for high-profile leaders like Martin Luther King. The FBI has a history of watching anyone of potential influence on issues they have an interest in. And the list of issues today that they have an interest in is growing rapidly to extend economic protections, even for small gains, at the expense of social and environmental protections we once took for granted across America.
The State is targeting ordinary people as domestic political dissidents. Funding provided by our tax dollars, we are told, is used to direct resources to defend the country against foreign threats to our values, like terrorism, but increasingly these funds are diverted into domestic programs that target regular citizens and paradoxically subvert the very values they claim to be defending. It is deliberate, systematic and widespread and it is directed to serving vested interests and big business. The FBI is enforcing values, not the law; in a secret “cultural” police war against citizens – the American establishment version of sharia law – enforced to shape western capitalist values and morality. The FBI and other western intelligence agencies have spearheaded a crackdown on the citizens of formerly free Anglo democracies.
There is a naïve view that if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. But what if the security agencies get it wrong – intentionally, through incompetence, or through vast expansion of their mission and definition of who is considered a “threat” – and you become a political target for illegitimate reasons as has happened to many before you across the world and through history. Something imperceptibly shifts on the political front and that slippery line is crossed in America and Australia and elsewhere in the West? Who will stop them if they come after you? What happens if it occurs as a result of doing your job, informing ethical investment funds about concerns with Freeport McMoran, for example, as happened with me, or defending your rights and interests under the constitution? Do you expect your employer to go out on a limb for you; or even your congressman or senator? They don’t and they won’t.
What happens if you make an off-the-cuff remark about some political or social issue, for example, and it is recorded at a party, in a bar, over the phone or in an email and that remark is taken at face value or misconstrued by a spy who is listening? They decide when to interfere in your life, or when to leave you alone. But there is no due process. You do not know what their trigger points are, what issues they are concerned about today, whether they have a stake in a minor, let alone major issue that might affect you – social, economic, environmental. Only, you now find yourself in their way, opposed to something they want – national healthcare, chemical contamination limits for aquifers and drinking water in your neighborhood, opposition to a new easement for a large road, fracking, social inequality, some hitherto right to civil society involvement you thought you had reflected in red- or green-tape protection of your interests – now put you, and your small community group of resisters, squarely in the sights of the new internal micro national security agenda.
If you challenge the new status quo, you, and hundreds of thousands or millions of people like you, on aggregate will be categorized, labelled and accused of, or blamed for, causing economic adversity that impacts the profits of state coffers and those of certain oligarchs, an impediment to progress and a breach of the redefined “national security” in this new world. You will be part of a new, burgeoning class of political offender which the authorities have huge capacity to contain, the electronic age analogue to the boom in the criminal prison population.
In this new state, the battleground is located on new ground, the frontline moved further down the economic chain. Do you have a favourite beach you don’t want built up, a local patch of forest you love and don’t want bulldozed, an industrial or retail site you don’t want built at the end of your street? That makes you a potential activist.
From this humble provocation begins the infiltration of, and interference with, your group, or the quiet undermining of your life in defence of their goals for “national security” and economic growth. They help themselves to your private information, to your list or friends, family members and work colleagues, medical records, academic records, library, video and browser history. They take what they want and use it in ways that help them. Once placed on a list, agents will work to harness or undermine your influence; secret surveillance might even extend into bedrooms or hotel rooms and routinely does. All of these tactics I can attest to, and Susan, as an undercover FBI agent, on occasion alluded to (see first section of book).
Your secretly recorded statements, sarcastic or caustic humour, taunts, provocations, angry or frustrated remarks, mocking, – the sort of thing that might get you hauled off and interrogated by security if you make such comments at the airport check-in counter, but now said in private make you vulnerable. You might be subjected to a smear campaign, with or without a quiet investigation to support it, or your cause may be derailed by a commanding new leader secretly designed on acting as saboteur and spoiler, a newcomer or existing insider recruited to double cross you.
When you realise you or your group have been targeted, played, and diminished or purged, your rights enshrined in the contract between you and the state seriously violated, do you hope the captive oversight regulators will suddenly find a way to help you when they have ignored everyone else in your situation? You will find there is no recourse available to you, no way to verify and correct a terrible “error”, or even to know what allegations have been made against you.
Domestic spying is also making a mockery of the separation of powers – enabling unchecked power to be concentrated in the hands of the few – the antithesis of democracy.
Insiders try to justify spying by claiming there is adequate oversight and regulation by other branches of government, but as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg notes in the Why Care About NSA Spying video current oversight is grossly inadequate:
“How can that oversight be meaningful if the NSA’s huge storehouse of information contains the private…habits of every senator, representative, and judge? When the only protection against abuse is internal policies, there is no serious oversight. Congress needs to take action now to rein in the spying.”
In 2014, the CIA was caught spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee which oversights it, breaking into its internal computer system and removing files. The Committee at the time was preparing a secret report on the CIA’s controversial and illegal use of torture. No one in the CIA was punished, no one went to jail – indeed the scandal was dead and buried without ever receiving the media attention it deserved. The Committee and even the President of the US refused to investigate these brazen alleged abuses of the CIA.
The intelligence agency apparatus is closed, circular and self-referencing. The complex marks its own homework and anyone, such as myself, that has tested the effectiveness of the oversight safety net, knows that the official oversight mechanisms do not work. As a result, unauthorised disclosure is the only safety valve outlet that seems to partially function in this democracy, and accordingly, there has been a spate of damaging revelations about the government and agencies leaked in recent years. Disturbingly, even these seem to have had little or no impact, no enforcement action against those whose crimes were revealed, and no new policy commitments from legislators to stem the abuse. The deafening silence and apathy to oppose this disturbing trend is profound.
There is a value to having intelligence agencies – there are legitimate needs for certain of their capabilities, 9/11 makes that clear; but their long term value only accrues to the public good if there is effective, independent oversight. This oversight must be able to separate legitimate uses of state secrecy from abuses and be prepared and able to hold the officials that transgress, such as Clapper, accountable.
Secrecy claims, however, are being widely used for political ends, to hide the techniques and methods the agencies use and whom they target. The general population has little clue about the agencies’ techniques, methods and extent in the war of propaganda and control at home; no clue about how heroes and villains are created and rewarded or punished. With these techniques the agencies strive to influence work place culture, public policy and society at large to reflect their interests – those of the oligarchs – the wealthy and politically connected. Often, this may be to the detriment of weaker, though far more numerous, members of broader society.
The path to the Iraq War in 2003 showed in disturbing, slow motion detail how the US and allied governments and their agencies used dodgy dossiers to devastating effect; in this case to conjure non-existent weapons of mass destruction as a justification for going to war. The world saw the manipulation and impact of the “dodgy dossier” scam where the intelligence agencies had misrepresented or pressured independent experts to include allusion to weapons of mass destruction which were later shown to be a non-existent threat.
Disturbingly, western intelligence agencies manufacture dodgy dossiers to create propaganda that justifies their own legitimacy, which often does otherwise not exist, to justify nefarious activities – from smearing their targets to justification for illegal war.
This is how former intelligence officers, Lance Collins and Warren Reed, described the use of dodgy dossiers – “bulletins”:
“These bulletins can simply tell the story as ‘things’ rather than ‘facts’ become known. But this sort of narrative is highly susceptible to individual preconceived notions, organisational bias and hostile-force deception measures – when ‘misleading evidence’, or bait, is deliberately trickle-fed to…[readers], who are then lured along an intellectual false trail”
Intelligence agencies also use this tactic against regular citizens. Just as the motive above was to win public support for a war that would destroy the leadership of Iraq, the FBI and ASIO play to destroy domestic political targets at home. Instead of a military war, they wage their battle against their political targets through available civilian channels such as prison, or psychiatric and physical injury, suicide, or by marginalising them using the most expedient means available, including the doctoring and distribution of dodgy dossiers.
Directed at individuals on a personal level, conniving schemes incorporate misinformation into reports prepared by experts – a weapons inspector, a forensic physician, a psychiatrist, chemist, or any relevant authority – a secondary theme, misplaced emphasis, innuendo or commentary about unrelated matters. It’s an alternative story within a story, incorporating other people, themes and topics. The author engages in a deceptive ploy, a feint that makes it look like a minor, unintentional and incidental fact and therefore that it is not concocted with an eye to manipulating the reader – like a boxer feinting with a forward jab while the knockout punch comes from a blind spot, takes the target by surprise to get the result intended. Subtle secondary themes woven into the fabric of a report through abstract, generalised statements from experts, industry wisdoms espoused with great authority entangled with speculation about the target. A secondary, subtle theme emerges, planted to make it look unintentional, and subtly diverts attention.
An intricately constructed hatchet job built on deliberately crafted fiction and misconstrued facts with the sole intention being to mislead readers and to cause personal embarrassment and discomfort to the target. The document is placed as part of a permanent record, on file indefinitely, a part of history, in a court or other repository, a situation not lost on the agencies that deliberately put it there for that reason. It is a common ploy, one of the tactics used to undermine the target; to damage the messenger in an effort to undermine the message.
Denigrating and smearing a target with allegations of sexual abuse was a key tactic of the FBI (and other western intelligence agencies), something Susan had said was not hard to do. It merely involves finding someone from which allegations could be concocted or extended. If adult and college life threw up no opportunities for smearing, the FBI would then look very closely, investigate in detail the people a target knew around the puberty years, both prepubescent and adolescent, class mates, neighbourhood kids, any kind of association – sports, church, extracurricular, in the hope of finding something that could be magnified or exploited.
The agencies draw from derivative material they know to be tainted, because they themselves tainted it with hearsay, they quote a canned sound bite from a collaborator or present fabricated evidence and brazenly lie, on the assumption they will never be held to account, never face independent judicial scrutiny, be subject to discovery and sanction. They understand their power and the practical limits on others of constraining it. Merely their act of raising certain allegations or making insinuations can leave a lasting smear, even when retractions, corrections, clarifications or exaggerations are made. Even once a ruse is uncovered or facts corrected, toxic residue remains in some peoples’ minds. As Susan described it, in the worst case, if the target is convicted of sexual offences and goes to jail, they will be are at the bottom of the prison hierarchy and treated abysmally; in the best case, a niggling doubt will remain in some peoples’ mind. The target is damaged no matter the outcome, it is just a question of degree.
It is a widely held belief that this strategy is being used in the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who has received political asylum and is currently confined in Ecuador’s London embassy, hounded by authorities in the US, Sweden, UK and Australia over unsubstantiated, contradictory, and retracted or concocted, statements regarding encounters he had with apparently consenting women. John Pilger reports:
“One of the women’s messages makes clear that she did not want any charges brought against Assange, ‘but the police were keen on getting a hold on him’. She was ‘shocked’ when they arrested him because she only ‘wanted him to take [an HIV] test’. She ‘did not want to accuse JA of anything’ and ‘it was the police who made up the charges’. (In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been ‘railroaded by police and others around her’.)
…a war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the ‘Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch’. It described a detailed plan to destroy the feeling of ‘trust’ which is WikiLeaks’ ‘centre of gravity’. This would be achieved with threats of ‘exposure [and] criminal prosecution’. Silencing and criminalising this rare source of independent journalism was the aim, smear the method. Hell hath no fury like great power scorned.”
Perhaps the most shameful and notorious example of the personal impacts of the “dodgy dossier” scam in recent times involved British weapons inspector and authority on biological warfare, Dr David Kelly, who disputed the “facts” in the British Joint Intelligence Committee report making the case for an invasion of Iraq in 2003. He alleged the government had transformed reports on the existence and capabilities of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, making it “sexier” for the purposes of securing a mandate to go to war. What happened next, murder or suicide, is still hotly disputed, but either way Kelly was found dead in a wood on July 17 2003. Some used the official verdict of suicide to discredit his good reputation and original claims. Even after the truth that a report had been “sexed up” by Blair’s “spin-doctor,” Alistair Campbell, the former Prime Minister still described Kelly as a “…crazy person…[who]… had probably gone over the edge” in his memoirs. The coroner’s report, which allowed the 2004 Hutton Inquiry to absolve the British government of complicity and to controversially declare that Kelly committed suicide, was put under a secrecy order for 70 years. The full truth behind the most infamous personal “dodgy dossier” of recent times will only finally be known after all the antagonists are long dead.
Ironically, former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, recently said he was “embarrassed” that the intelligence used to send Australia to war in Iraq was inaccurate, implying he was not involved in applying political pressure to doctor reports as widely alleged. Irrespective, if Howard’s confession signals that there needs to be more transparency, and not just in moments of national crisis, his successor, Tony Abbott, ensured that no Australian Prime Minister will ever be embarrassed again because such matters will now be covered under new secrecy laws that will see future Andrew Wilkie and David Kellys jailed.
Even public domain documents are brazenly altered by government agents. Inconvenient data, records and facts simply disappear from the internet and blatant fabrications inserted. It is a double edged sword; censorship and propaganda. There have been routine covert and abusive alterations made to Wikipedia profiles to alter public perceptions about individuals and events – multiple cases have been formally documented and reported in the media. Examples include this one from the Washington Post in the US:
“On August 5, a watchdog computer program that monitors the activity of the Internet addresses on Capitol Hill caught someone with an anonymous address in the US House of Representatives editing Wikipedia to smear Snowden. A Wikipedia article was edited to refer to Snowden as ‘the American traitor who defected to Russia.'” 
And in the UK:
“With respect to Jean Charles de Menezes [the innocent Brazilian chased and gunned down by police in a London tube station in 2005], an official government computer was reportedly used to delete a crucial section of a Wikipedia article that criticized the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) handling of the deceased man’s case….[O]fficial government computers were also used to incorporate slanderous information into one section of his Wikipedia article. On this occasion the editor alleged the deceased had “a high level” of Class A drugs in his system. Wikipedia editors were also approached to alter the rationale followed for employing the decision to shoot the young man.” 
[A spokesman for the de Menezes family said:] “Like all ordinary members of the public, I’m shocked. This is yet one more smear and attack on the family. We’ve seen over many years lies, misinformation and smears during the family’s attempt to find the truth and justice and answers about how an innocent young man on his way to work was gunned down by police officers,” he said.”
In Australia, the Wikipedia entry for former liberal MP, Ross Cameron, excludes reference to his courageous, outspoken opposition to the Iraq War, while directing primary focus to his subsequent downfall. This case relating to Ross Cameron, while not documented in the mainstream media, is further considered elsewhere in this book.
If a target can’t be nailed through misinformation they can do it through the deep penetration of undercover intelligence agents and their comprehensive networks of informants and collaborators.
The intelligence agencies in the West, like their kin in parts of the world with more notorious reputations, use their powers ‘strategically’ – for institutional advancement or to embellish individual career paths, but not necessarily to protect and advance American (and Western) values – values we still like to think of as truth, justice, and human rights. These values have been surrendered to the political expediency of realpolitik by wealthy and political oligarchs. As MIT professor Noam Chomsky said:
“The governments seek to extend power and domination and to benefit their primary domestic constituencies – in the U.S., primarily the corporate sector…We see that all the time.”
Through the deep penetration of undercover intelligence agents and their comprehensive networks of informants and collaborators, anthropologist and sociologist Eben Kirksey accounts for how the “architecture of power” is constructed using the metaphor of the Banyan tree – a strangler fig from Indonesia that chokes and kills its host. This alternative architecture of power as Kirksey describes it, sheds light on the construction and institutional growth of alternative power structures right over the top of existing structures. It is a model of political “subversion, replication, and domination” which describes the Indonesian subjugation of West Papua, as an example.
In this model, the domestic US intelligence agencies secretly links together disparate, notionally independent and unconnected institutions by recruiting high ranking and strategically positioned individuals from different institutions.
As Kirksey points out, examples of these individuals include “…journalists, professors, pastors, corporate executives, and development workers” or any individual, organisation, or institution of influence right down to folk singers and actors and poets. In the US, this network is vast, with over three million people reportedly having security clearance representing a complete cross – section of society. These secret “latticed network of connections” constructed “inside key structures of power” are invisible to outsiders and are a powerful tool of subversion. They work together in subtle ways to influence the national dialogue. In this new system, much more is achieved through hidden channels rather than the public forums of earlier times. Public opinion and political debate is blunted, human rights increasingly ignored and abuses difficult to defend against. The intelligence agencies are calling the shots in our new system of government in the name of “national security”.
The methods of the FBI and ASIO, as well as other Western security forces, are driven by ideological factors. If the public is apathetic and passive in its acceptance of the intelligence agency decision to move away from democratic values to a state controlled system of government, they only have to look at history to see how centralised governments respond in times of great social stress. Populations that want the benefits of centralised control in the good times, give up the benefits of being part of a democracy, with the protection of due process for individuals, in difficult times.
Spies have brought their tradecraft home, particularly since the end of the Cold War. Careers uprooted and caught flatfooted by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, what was once an overseas focused preoccupation is now being directed against new found “enemies” of the government and intelligence services here at home under the cover of terror legislation and they are forging strong alliances with their international partners. Jurisdiction of oversight and responsibility is blurred through internationalisation and outsourcing of their operations: We are now living in what Wikileaks refers to as the “transnational security state.”
As I discovered, even if a political target is forced to move overseas, the American intelligence agencies have international arrangements and relationships they use to subvert any jurisdictional constraint on their activities. They share secrets within a circle of cronies and collaborators outside the purview of oversight.
In the Anglo bloc, this cabal is known as the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance, and consists of: USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This so-called “Anglo Club” is led by the US and UK and has brought our much-vaunted democracies to the point of brutish tyranny. Are we past the point of no return? Writing in 2005 former Australian spies Lance Collins and Warren Reed were prescient about the internal threats posed by these agencies, and optimistically, back then, they thought we still had time:
“Without the benefit of hindsight, it is premature to say we are irrevocably at such a point. Nonetheless, there are indicators in the Anglo Club that are both perplexing and concerning. The most noticeable and relevant is the continuation of political and military violence.
Other indicators are subtler, like the increasingly intrusive surveillance of a docile public by and through government; like spin, dazzling official lies, and a level of deceit before Parliament and Congress that was unimaginable a few decades ago. Truth and accountability seem despised by those handling the governance of some Anglo nations. And then there’s increasing national and personal debt, job insecurity, the decay of infrastructure and services.” 
In 2014 it is not so clear that we have not already passed that “tipping point” and lost the critical features of our democracy that protects civil liberties and respect for human rights.
Concerns about a docile public and aggressive state surveillance have been shown to be correct in light of the NSA blanket surveillance disclosures. There have been disturbing disclosures about the West’s path to war in Iraq, and there have been even more disturbing disclosures about how that war was fought, including the secret existence of CIA “black sites” and torture of detainees. Ironically, while Iraq was found to have had no weapons of mass destruction, the US made rampant use of depleted uranium in its munitions during the war, which contaminated vast tracks of Iraq and will cause illness and deformity to civilians that live there for generations to come. Tellingly, these are part of a long list of recent US traits that have more in common with a totalitarian state than an accountable, representative democracy.
Where the Constitution or national legislation precludes invasive wiretaps and data harvesting, by whichever country whether it be, Australia, America or any other allied country, it is simply outsourced to one of its partnering agencies out of the jurisdiction out of the oversight agencies and courts. As former MI5 operative, Annie Malcolm, observed,
“….if the capability continues to exist to watch the rest of the world, how can Americans be sure that the NSA et al won’t stealthily go back to watching them once the scandal has died down – or just ask their best buddies in General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to do their dirty work for them?
I’m sure that the UK’s GCHQ will be happy to step into the breach. It is already partially funded by the NSA, to the tune of $100 million over the last few years; it has a long history of circumventing US constitutional rights to spy on US citizens (as foreigners), and then simply passing on this information to the grateful NSA….In fact, this is positively seen to be a selling point to the Americans from what we have seen in the Snowden disclosures. 
She adds that the UK’s GCHQ has received NSA funding to the tune of $100 million over the last few years and has a long and dishonourable history of circumventing US constitutional rights by spying on US citizens (as foreign nationals) and then passing on the information to a grateful NSA. Indeed, the US and closely allied Anglo Club countries routinely collect and share intelligence with each other, potentially circumventing each nations’ domestic restrictions and allowing agencies to circumvent legal boundaries on what can be collected and disseminated in country. It is an insolent and cynical disregard by bureaucrats of lawmakers in parliament and congress.
In response to revelations of the egregious, illegal spying programs developed by the NSA in the USA and its allies (including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and Anthony Romero Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union in a joint statement in 2013 said:
“The Guardian’s publication of information from Edward Snowden has uncovered a breach of trust by the US and UK Governments on the grandest scale. The newspaper’s principled and selective revelations demonstrate our rulers’ contempt for personal rights, freedoms and the rule of law.”
As a sign of how prickly the increasingly emboldened conduct of the agencies is becoming, even the conservative Murdoch/News Limited publication The Australian said of ASIO in discussing its activities during the Cold War: “ASIO got a lot wrong during the Cold War. It sometimes abused its power. It monitored people who posed no risk to security.” 
ASIO has a long history of operating outside its mandate. In my opinion, ASIO’s track record is no better these days, especially given their close association with the activities of foreign intelligence services over which Australian oversight regulators have no jurisdiction. However, in jumping to the defence of the security agencies conservative commentator for The Australian, Gerard Henderson, attempted to distance comparisons of ASIO operations in Australia to the Stasi in East Germany made the misleading assertion that, “…ASIO has not murdered or tortured Australian citizens.” 
This defence has been repeated by Attorney-General George Brandis as the Abbot government sought to push its draconian national security laws through a hostile Senate that contained provisions for tortures such as waterboarding, sensory depravation and drugging. The Green and the Labor parties raised immediate concerns and were entitled to be sceptical given recent cases involving Australians during the decade-long “War on terror” campaign.
In 2010 the Australian Government made an undisclosed payout to Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib to avert a high-profile court case after he had detailed allegations of abuses by ASIO officers complicit in his kidnapping and rendition to Egypt and in attendance during his torture. His claims were substantiated by an Egyptian intelligence official, the ASIO agent present at the “interrogations” was named and it was revealed that there were recordings and video evidence.
Another Guantanamo Bay inmate, Australian citizen David Hicks, who was held by US authorities for six years on suspicion of having been trained by, and having fought with, Al Qaeda alleged he was tortured during his time in Cuba. Despite having broken no Australian law the then Prime Minister, John Howard, abandoned Hicks into detention conditions that did not accord with international law or the Geneva Conventions and did not press the Americans for his return as other nations did.
Whistleblowing has an honourable tradition in post-war western democracy. Although they were branded traitors and vilified at the time, history has judged the likes of Daniel Elsberg (Pentagon Papers), Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein (Watergate), Andrew Wilkie and Dr David Kelly (Iraq WMD) kindly and will do likewise for Assange, Snowden and Manning when we reflect on this era.
The emergence of whistleblowers and leakers in the US is a natural response by independent minded and resourceful people to an oppressive government that disrespects and ignores their rights as enshrined in the constitution. It is a sign of the depth of state repression that the abuses hiding behind state secrecy laws and revealed by whistleblowers could not find currency through official oversight channels. The powers that decide things unelected, behind closed doors, are neither transparent nor accountable, may need to gird their souls against deep embarrassment in the future as the technically gifted and morally motivated hackers and defenders of the public freedom find new ways to release their secrets to the public.
If citizens don’t stand up for the principles of truth, justice and human rights, then we will get the society we deserve: a society that reflects the sort of people it governs, ignorant of and indifferent to the abuse of human rights, one in which the government has no respect for the governed and their lives, where military and social injustice becomes the norm. Indeed the people of this society will have no rights to speak of. We will create for ourselves the sort of state that reflects the type of people we are.
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin.
Author: John Wilson
Ben Grubb and Matthew Knott, 1 October 2014 New national security laws pave way for ‘police state,’ says Andrew Wilkie, SMH http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/new-national-security-laws-pave-way-for-police-state-says-andrew-wilkie-20141001-10ojxq.html
 Ben Grubb and Matthew Knott, 30 September 2014 Labor “picks battles” in backing new spy laws, SMH http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/labor-picks-battles-in-backing-new-spy-laws-20140929-10no60.html
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 Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, Ryan Grimryan, 26 November 2013 Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’, Huffington Post.
 Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, Ryan Grimryan, 26 November 2013 Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’, Huffington Post.
 Naomi Wolf, 16 June 2013 Some aspects of Snowden’s presentation that I find worth further inquiry – an update, facebook.com. https://www.facebook.com/notes/naomi-wolf/some-aspects-of-snowdens-presentation-that-i-find-worth-further-inquiry-an-updat/10151561401552949
 Brian Knappenberger, 25 November 2013 Why Care About NSA Spying, The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000002571435/why-care-about-the-nsa.html
 Lance Collins and Warren Reed, 2005 Plunging Point: Intelligence Failures, Cover-Ups and Consequences, Harper Collins Publishers, p30.
 John Pilger, 16 November 2014 The siege of Julian Assange is a farce – a special investigation, johnpilger.com.
 The betrayal of Dr David Kelly, 10 years on, Daily Telegraph (UK), 21 July 2013 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10192271/The-betrayal-of-Dr-David-Kelly-10-years-on.html
 ABC News, 22 September 2014 Former prime minister John Howard ’embarrassed’ by Iraq WMD intelligence; says Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech was ‘nonsense’ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-21/howard-embarrassed-by-intelligence-that-iraq-had-wmds/5759132
 Tom Carter, 7 August 2014 Washington Post Accuses Snowden of Aiding Al Qaeda, Global Research. http://www.globalresearch.ca/washington-post-accuses-snowden-of-aiding-al-qaeda/5395099
7 August 2014 ‘History is a human right’: UK govt. Wikipedia edits obscure high profile killings, RT. http://rt.com/uk/178652-internet-censorship-police-uk/
 Eben Kirksey, 2012 Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power, Duke University Press, p68-p73.
 Lance Collins and Warren Reed, 2005 Plunging Point: Intelligence Failures, Cover-Ups and Consequences, Harper Collins Publishers, p300-301.
 Annie Machon, 5 October 2013 Intel union: Spy agency heads won’t roll with US and UK allied, RT. http://rt.com/op-edge/nsa-gchq-prosecute-spy-leaders-770/
 James Ball, 26 October 2013 Leaked memos reveal GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret, The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/25/leaked-memos-gchq-mass-surveillance-secret-snowden
 Troy Bramston, 11 January 2014 Communist Party’s shadow man pursued utterly discredited ideal, The Australian.
 Gerard Henderson, 11 January 2014, Totalitarian slurs ignore the truth of ASIO activities, The Australian.
 Anti-terror laws will open door to torture, says Senator David Leyonhjelm, SMH, September 18, 2014 http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/antiterror-laws-will-open-door-to-torture-says-senator-david-leyonhjelm-20140918-10inlj.html#ixzz3EwiULD4e