Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ON AMBEDKAR (The Doctor And The Saint Excerpts), ARUNDHATI ROY

Today, India’s one hundred richest people own assets equivalent to one-fou­rth of its celebrated GDP.  [1] In a nation of 1.2 billion, more than 800 million people live on less thanRs20 a day. [2] Giant corporations virtually own and run the country. Politicians and political parties have begun to function as subsidiary holdings of big business.

How has this affected traditional caste networks? Some argue that caste has insulated Indian society and prevented it from fragmenting and atomising like Western society did after the Industrial Revolution. [3] Others argue the opposite; they say that the unprecedented levels of urbanisation and the creation of a new work environment have shaken up the old order and rendered caste hierarchies irrelevant if not obsolete. Both claims deserve serious attention. Pardon the somewhat unliterary interlude that follows, but generalisations cannot replace facts.

A recent list of dollar billionaires published by Forbes magazine features 55 Indians. [4] The figures, naturally, are based on revealed wealth. Even among these dollar billionaires the distribution of wealth is a steep pyramid in which the cumulative wealth of the top 10 outstrips the 45 below them. Seven out of those top 10 are Vaishyas, all of them ceos of major corporations with business interests all over the world. Between them they own and operate ports, mines, oil fields, gas fields, shipping companies, pharmaceutical companies, telephone networks, petrochemical plants, aluminium plants, cellphone networks, television channels, fresh food outlets, high schools, film production companies, stem cell storage systems, electricity supply networks and Special Economic Zones. They are: Mukesh Ambani (Reliance Industries Limited), Lakshmi Mittal (Arcelor Mittal), Dilip Shanghvi (Sun Pharmaceuticals), the Ruia brothers (Ruia Group), K.M. Birla (Aditya Birla Group), Savitri Devi Jindal (O.P. Jindal Group), Gautam Adani (Adani Group), and Sunil Mittal (Bharti Airtel). Of the remaining 45, 19 are Vaishyas too. The rest are for the most part Parsis, Bohras and Khattris (all mercantile castes) and Brahmins. There are no Dalits or Adivasis in this list.

Apart from big business, Banias (Vaishyas) continue to have a firm hold on small trade in cities and on traditional rural moneylending across the country, which has millions of impoverished peasants and Adivasis, including those who live deep in the forests of Central India, caught in a spiralling debt trap. The tribal-dominated states in India’s Northeast—Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Assam—have, since ‘independence’, witnessed decades of insurgency, militarisation and bloodshed. Through all this, Marwari and Bania traders have settled there, kept a low profile, and consolidated their businesses. They now control almost all the economic activity in the region.

In the 1931 Census, which was the last to include caste as an aspect of the survey, Vaishyas accounted for 2.7 per cent of the population (while the untouchables accounted for 12.5 per cent). [5]  Given their access to better healthcare and more secure futures for their children, the figure for Vaishyas is likely to have decreased rather than increased. Either way, their economic clout in the new economy is extraordinary. In big business and small, in agriculture as well as industry, caste and capitalism have blended into a disquieting, uniquely Indian alloy. Cronyism is built into the caste system. Vaishyas are only doing their divinely ordained duty. TheArthashastra (circa 350 bce) says usury is the Vaishya’s right. The Manusmriti (circa 150 CE) goes further and suggests a sliding scale of interest rates: 2 per cent per month for the Brahmin, 3 per cent for Kshatriyas, 4 per cent for Vaishyas and 5 per cent for Shudras. [6] On an annual basis, the Brahmin was to pay 24 per cent interest and the Shudra and Dalit, 60 per cent. Even today, for moneylenders to charge a desperate farmer or landless labourer an annual interest of 60 per cent (or more) for a loan is quite normal. If they cannot pay in cash, they have to pay what is known as ‘bodily interest’, which means they are expec­ted to toil for the moneylender from generation to generation to repay impossible debts. It goes without saying that according to the Manusmriti no one can be forced into the service of anyone belonging to a ‘lower’ caste.

Vaishyas control Indian business. What do the Brahmins—the bhudevas (gods on earth)—do? The 1931 Census puts their population at 6.4 per cent, but, like the Vai­shyas and for similar reasons, that percentage too has probably declined. Accor­ding to a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), from having a disproportionately high number of representatives in Parliament, Brahmins have seen their numbers drop dramatically. [7] Does this mean Brahmins have become less influential?

According to Ambedkar, Brahmins, who were 3 per cent of the population in the Madras Presidency in 1948, held 37 per cent of the gazetted posts and 43 per cent of the non-gazetted posts in government jobs. [8] There is no longer a reliable way to keep track of these trends because after 1931 the Pro­ject of Unseeing set in. In the absence of inf­ormation that ought to be available, we have to make do with what we can find. In a 1990 piece called ’Brahmin Power’, the writer Khushwant Singh said: “Brahmins form no more than 3.5 per cent of the population of our they hold as much as 70 per cent of government jobs. I presume the figure refers only to gazetted posts. In the senior echelons of the civil service from the rank of deputy secretaries upward, out of 500 there are 310 Brahmins, i.e. 63 per cent; of the 26 state chief secretaries, 19 are Brahmins; of the 27 Governors and Lt Governors, 13 are Brahmins; of the 16 Sup­reme Court judges, 9 are Brahmins; of the 330 judges of high cou­rts, 166 are Brah­mins; of 140 ambassadors, 58 are Brahmins; of the total 3,300 IAS offi­cers, 2,376 are Brahmins. They do equally well in electoral posts; of the 508 Lok Sabha members, 190 were Brahmins; of 244 in the Rajya Sabha, 89 are Brahmins. These statist­ics clearly prove this 3.5 per cent of Brahmin community of India holds between 36 per cent to 63 per cent of all the plum jobs available in the country. How this has come about I do not know. But I can scarcely believe that it is entirely due to the Brahmin’s higher IQ.”  [9] The statistics Khushwant Singh cites may be flawed, but are unlikely to be drastically flawed. They are a quarter of a century old now. Some new census-based information would help, but is unlikely to be forthcoming.

According to the CSDS study, 47 per cent of all Supreme Court chief justices bet­ween 1950 and 2000 were Brahmins. During the same period, 40 per cent of the associate justices in the high courts and lower courts were Brahmin. The Backward Clas­ses Commission, in a 2007 report, said that 37.17 per cent of the Indian bureaucracy was made up of Bra­hmins. Most of them occupied the top posts.
Brahmins have also traditionally dominated the media. Here too, what Ambedkar said in 1945 still has resonance: “The Untouchables have no Press. The Congress Press is closed to them and is determined not to give them the slightest publicity. They cannot have their own Press and for obvious reasons. No paper can survive without advertisement revenue. Advertisement revenue can come only from business and in India all business, both high and small, is attached to the Congress and will not favour any non-Cong­ress organisation. The staff of the Asso­ci­a­ted Press in India, which is the main news distributing agency in India, is entirely drawn from the Madras Brahmins—indeed the whole of the Press in India is in their hands—and they, for well-known reasons, are entirely pro-Congress and will not allow any news hostile to the Congress to get publicity. These are reasons beyond the control of the Untouchables.”[10]

In 2006, the CSDS did a survey on the social profile of New Delhi’s media elite. Of the 315 key decision-makers surveyed from 37 Delhi-based Hindi and English publicati­ons and television channels, almost 90 per cent of the decision-makers in the English language print media and 79 per cent in television were found to be ‘upper caste’. Of them, 49 per cent were Brahmins. Not one of the 315 was a Dalit or an Adivasi; only 4 per cent belonged to castes designated as Shudra, and 3 per cent were Muslim (who make up 13.4 per cent of the population).

That’s the journalists and the ‘media pers­onalities’. Who owns the big media houses they work for? Of the four most important English national dailies, three are owned by Vaishyas, one by a Brahmin family concern. The Times Group (Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd), the largest mass media company in India, whose holdings include The Times of India and the 24-hour news channel Times Now, is owned by the Jain family (Banias). The Hindustan Times is owned by the Bha­r­tiyas, who are Marwari Banias; The Indian Express by the Goenkas, also Mar­wari Ban­ias; The Hindu is owned by a Brah­min fam­ily concern; the Dainik Jagran Hindi daily, the largest selling newspaper in India with a circulation of 55 million, is owned by the Gupta family, Banias from Kanpur. Dainik Bhaskar, among the most influential Hindi dailies with a circulation of 17.5 million, is owned by Agarwals, Banias again. Reliance Industries Ltd (owned by Mukesh Ambani, a Gujarati Bania) has controlling shares in 27 major national and reg­ional TV channels. The Zee TV network, one of the largest national TV news and entertainment networks, is owned by Subh­ash Chandra, also a Bania. In southern India, caste manifests itself somewhat differen­tly. For example, the Eenadu Group—which owns newspap­ers, the largest film city in the world and a dozen TV channels, among other things—is headed by Ramoji Rao of the Kamma peasant caste of Andhra Pra­desh, which bucks the trend of Brahmin-Bania ownership of Big Media. Another major media house, the Sun TV group, is owned by the Marans, who are designated as a ‘backward’ caste, but are politically powerful today.

1. See the 20 November 2009 UNI report, “India’s 100 richest are 25 pc of GDP”. Accessed 8 September 2013.
2.  A Reuters report (10 August 2007) based on “Conditions of Work and Promotions of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector” by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector said: “Seventy-seven per cent of Indians—about 836 million people—live on less than half a dollar a day in one of the world’s hottest economies.” 2007/08/10/idINIndia- 28923020070810. Accessed 26 August 2013.

3.  S. Gurumurthy, co-convenor of the Hindu right-wing Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, talks of how caste and capitalism can coexist: “Caste is a very strong bond. While individuals are related by families, castes link the families. Castes transcended the local limits and networked the people across [sic]. This has prevented the disturbance that industrialism caused to neighbourhood societies in the West, resulting in unbridled individualism and acute atomization.” He goes on to argue that the caste system “has in modern times engaged the market in economics and democracy in politics to reinvent itself. It has become a great source of entrepreneurship.” See “Is Caste an Economic Development Vehicle?”, The Hindu, 19 January 2009. 19/stories/2009011955440900. htm. Accessed 26 August 2013.

4.  See “Forbes: India’s billionaire wealth much above country’s fiscal deficit”, The Indian Express, 5 March 2013. news/forbes-indias- billionaire-wealth-much-above- countrys-fiscal-deficit/ 1083500/#sthash.KabcY8BJ.dpuf. Accessed 26 August 2013.

5.  J.H. Hutton 1935.

6.  David Hardiman 1996, 15.

7.  See “Brahmins in India”, Outlook, 4 June 2007. article.aspx?234783. Accessed 5 September 2013. Despite the decline, the LokSabha in 2007 had fifty Brahmin MPs—9.17 per cent of the total strength of the House. The data given by Outlook is based on four surveys conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, between 2004 and 2007.

8.  Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches,Vol. 9, 207.

9. See Singh 1990. Singh’s figures are based on information provided by one of his readers.

10. BAWS 9, 200.

On Jacques Lacan

Liebe Dein Symptom wie Dich selbst

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How the CIA made Google

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. A former Guardian writer, he writes the ‘System Shift’ column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is also a columnist for Middle East Eye. He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work.

Nafeez has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist, Counterpunch, Truthout, among others. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the scifi thriller novel ZERO POINT, among other books. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, western governments are moving fast to legitimize expanded powers of mass surveillance and controls on the internet, all in the name of fighting terrorism.

US and European politicians have called to protect NSA-style snooping, and to advance the capacity to intrude on internet privacy by outlawing encryption. 

One idea is to establish a telecoms partnership that would unilaterally delete content deemed to “fuel hatred and violence” in situations considered “appropriate.” Heated discussions are going on at government and parliamentary level to explore cracking down on lawyer-client confidentiality.

What any of this would have done to prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains a mystery, especially given that we already know the terrorists were on the radar of French intelligence for up to a decade.

There is little new in this story. The 9/11 atrocity was the first of many terrorist attacks, each succeeded by the dramatic extension of draconian state powers at the expense of civil liberties, backed up with the projection of military force in regions identified as hotspots harbouring terrorists. Yet there is little indication that this tried and tested formula has done anything to reduce the danger. If anything, we appear to be locked into a deepening cycle of violence with no clear end in sight.

As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.


Rumsfeld and persistent surveillance

In sum, many of Google’s most senior executives are affiliated with the Pentagon Highlands Forum, which throughout the period of Google’s growth over the last decade, has surfaced repeatedly as a connecting and convening force. The US intelligence community’s incubation of Google from inception occurred through a combination of direct sponsorship and informal networks of financial influence, themselves closely aligned with Pentagon interests.

The Highlands Forum itself has used the informal relationship building of such private networks to bring together defense and industry sectors, enabling the fusion of corporate and military interests in expanding the covert surveillance apparatus in the name of national security. The power wielded by the shadow network represented in the Forum can, however, be gauged most clearly from its impact during the Bush administration, when it played a direct role in literally writing the strategies and doctrines behind US efforts to achieve ‘information superiority.’

In December 2001, O’Neill confirmed that strategic discussions at the Highlands Forum were feeding directly into Andrew Marshall’s DoD-wide strategic review ordered by President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to upgrade the military, including the Quadrennial Defense Review — and that some of the earliest Forum meetings “resulted in the writing of a group of DoD policies, strategies, and doctrine for the services on information warfare.” That process of “writing” the Pentagon’s information warfare policies “was done in conjunction with people who understood the environment differently — not only US citizens, but also foreign citizens, and people who were developing corporate IT.”

The Pentagon’s post-9/11 information warfare doctrines were, then, written not just by national security officials from the US and abroad: but also by powerful corporate entities in the defense and technology sectors.

In April that year, Gen. James McCarthy had completed his defense transformation review ordered by Rumsfeld. His report repeatedly highlighted mass surveillance as integral to DoD transformation. As for Marshall, his follow-up report for Rumsfeld was going to develop a blueprint determining the Pentagon’s future in the ‘information age.’

O’Neill also affirmed that to develop information warfare doctrine, the Forum had held extensive discussions on electronic surveillance and “what constitutes an act of war in an information environment.” Papers feeding into US defense policy written through the late 1990s by RAND consultants John Arquilla and David Rondfeldt, both longstanding Highlands Forum members, were produced “as a result of those meetings,” exploring policy dilemmas on how far to take the goal of ‘Information Superiority.’ “One of the things that was shocking to the American public was that we weren’t pilfering Milosevic’s accounts electronically when we in fact could,” commented O’Neill.

Although the R&D process around the Pentagon transformation strategy remains classified, a hint at the DoD discussions going on in this period can be gleaned from a 2005 US Army School of Advanced Military Studies research monograph in the DoD journal, Military Review, authored by an active Army intelligence officer.

“The idea of Persistent Surveillance as a transformational capability has circulated within the national Intelligence Community (IC) and the Department of Defense (DoD) for at least three years,” the paper said, referencing the Rumsfeld-commissioned transformation study.

The Army paper went on to review a range of high-level official military documents, including one from the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, showing that “Persistent Surveillance” was a fundamental theme of the information-centric vision for defense policy across the Pentagon.
We now know that just two months before O’Neill’s address at Harvard in 2001, under the TIA program, President Bush had secretly authorized the NSA’s domestic surveillance of Americans without court-approved warrants, in what appears to have been an illegal modification of the ThinThread data-mining project — as later exposed by NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Thomas Drake.

The surveillance-startup nexus

From here on, Highlands Forum partner SAIC played a key role in the NSA roll out from inception. Shortly after 9/11, Brian Sharkey, chief technology officer of SAIC’s ELS3 Sector (focusing on IT systems for emergency responders), teamed up with John Poindexter to propose the TIA surveillance program. SAIC’s Sharkey had previously been deputy director of the Information Systems Office at DARPA through the 1990s.

Meanwhile, around the same time, SAIC vice president for corporate development, Samuel Visner, became head of the NSA’s signals-intelligence programs. SAIC was then among a consortium receiving a $280 million contract to develop one of the NSA’s secret eavesdropping systems. By 2003, Visner returned to SAIC to become director of strategic planning and business development of the firm’s intelligence group.

That year, the NSA consolidated its TIA programme of warrantless electronic surveillance, to keep “track of individuals” and understand “how they fit into models” through risk profiles of American citizens and foreigners. TIA was doing this by integrating databases on finance, travel, medical, educational and other records into a “virtual, centralized grand database.”

This was also the year that the Bush administration drew up its notorious Information Operations Roadmap. Describing the internet as a “vulnerable weapons system,” Rumsfeld’s IO roadmap had advocated that Pentagon strategy “should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will ‘fight the net’ as it would an enemy weapons system.” The US should seek “maximum control” of the “full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems,” advocated the document.

The following year, John Poindexter, who had proposed and run the TIA surveillance program via his post at DARPA, was in Singapore participating in the Highlands 2004 Island Forum. Other delegates included then Highlands Forum co-chair and Pentagon CIO Linton Wells; president of notorious Pentagon information warfare contractor, John Rendon; Karl Lowe, director of the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) Joint Advanced Warfighting Division; Air Vice Marshall Stephen Dalton, capability manager for information superiority at the UK Ministry of Defense; Lt. Gen. Johan Kihl, Swedish army Supreme Commander HQ’s chief of staff; among others.

As of 2006, SAIC had been awarded a multi-million dollar NSA contract to develop a big data-mining project called ExecuteLocus, despite the colossal $1 billion failure of its preceding contract, known as ‘Trailblazer.’ Core components of TIA were being “quietly continued” under “new code names,” according to Foreign Policy’s Shane Harris, but had been concealed “behind the veil of the classified intelligence budget.” The new surveillance program had by then been fully transitioned from DARPA’s jurisdiction to the NSA.

This was also the year of yet another Singapore Island Forum led by Richard O’Neill on behalf of the Pentagon, which included senior defense and industry officials from the US, UK, Australia, France, India and Israel. Participants also included senior technologists from Microsoft, IBM, as well as Gilman Louie, partner at technology investment firm Alsop Louie Partners.

Gilman Louie is a former CEO of In-Q-Tel — the CIA firm investing especially in start-ups developing data mining technology. In-Q-Tel was founded in 1999 by the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, under which the Office of Research and Development (ORD) — which was part of the Google-funding MDSS program — had operated. The idea was to essentially replace the functions once performed by the ORD, by mobilizing the private sector to develop information technology solutions for the entire intelligence community.

Louie had led In-Q-Tel from 1999 until January 2006 — including when Google bought Keyhole, the In-Q-Tel-funded satellite mapping software. Among his colleagues on In-Q-Tel’s board in this period were former DARPA director and Highlands Forum co-chair Anita Jones (who is still there), as well as founding board member William Perry: the man who had appointed O’Neill to set-up the Highlands Forum in the first place. Joining Perry as a founding In-Q-Tel board member was John Seely Brown, then chief scientist at Xerox Corp and director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) from 1990 to 2002, who is also a long-time senior Highlands Forum member since inception.

In addition to the CIA, In-Q-Tel has also been backed by the FBI, NGA, and Defense Intelligence Agency, among other agencies. More than 60 percent of In-Q-Tel’s investments under Louie’s watch were “in companies that specialize in automatically collecting, sifting through and understanding oceans of information,” according to Medill School of Journalism’s News21, which also noted that Louie himself had acknowledged it was not clear “whether privacy and civil liberties will be protected” by government’s use of these technologies “for national security.”

The transcript of Richard O’Neill’s late 2001 seminar at Harvard shows that the Pentagon Highlands Forum had first engaged Gilman Louie long before the Island Forum, in fact, shortly after 9/11 to explore “what’s going on with In-Q-Tel.” That Forum session focused on how to “take advantage of the speed of the commercial market that wasn’t present inside the science and technology community of Washington” and to understand “the implications for the DoD in terms of the strategic review, the QDR, Hill action, and the stakeholders.” 

Participants of the meeting included “senior military people,” combatant commanders, “several of the senior flag officers,” some “defense industry people” and various US representatives including Republican Congressman William Mac Thornberry and Democrat Senator Joseph Lieberman.
Both Thornberry and Lieberman are staunch supporters of NSA surveillance, and have consistently acted to rally support for pro-war, pro-surveillance legislation. O’Neill’s comments indicate that the Forum’s role is not just to enable corporate contractors to write Pentagon policy, but to rally political support for government policies adopted through the Forum’s informal brand of shadow networking.

Repeatedly, O’Neill told his Harvard audience that his job as Forum president was to scope case studies from real companies across the private sector, like eBay and Human Genome Sciences, to figure out the basis of US ‘Information Superiority’ — “how to dominate” the information market — and leverage this for “what the president and the secretary of defense wanted to do with regard to transformation of the DoD and the strategic review.”

By 2007, a year after the Island Forum meeting that included Gilman Louie, Facebook received its second round of $12.7 million worth of funding from Accel Partners. Accel was headed up by James Breyer, former chair of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) where Louie also served on the board while still CEO of In-Q-Tel. Both Louie and Breyer had previously served together on the board of BBN Technologies — which had recruited ex-DARPA chief and In-Q-Tel trustee Anita Jones.

Facebook’s 2008 round of funding was led by Greylock Venture Capital, which invested $27.5 million. The firm’s senior partners include Howard Cox, another former NVCA chair who also sits on the board of In-Q-Tel. Apart from Breyer and Zuckerberg, Facebook’s only other board member is Peter Thiel, co-founder of defense contractor Palantir which provides all sorts of data-mining and visualization technologies to US government, military and intelligence agencies, including the NSA and FBI, and which itself was nurtured to financial viability by Highlands Forum members.

Palantir co-founders Thiel and Alex Karp met with John Poindexter in 2004, according to Wired, the same year Poindexter had attended the Highlands Island Forum in Singapore. They met at the home of Richard Perle, another Andrew Marshall acolyte. Poindexter helped Palantir open doors, and to assemble “a legion of advocates from the most influential strata of government.” Thiel had also met with Gilman Louie of In-Q-Tel, securing the backing of the CIA in this early phase.

And so we come full circle. Data-mining programs like ExecuteLocus and projects linked to it, which were developed throughout this period, apparently laid the groundwork for the new NSA programmes eventually disclosed by Edward Snowden. By 2008, as Facebook received its next funding round from Greylock Venture Capital, documents and whistleblower testimony confirmed that the NSA was effectivelyresurrecting the TIA project with a focus on Internet data-mining via comprehensive monitoring of e-mail, text messages, and Web browsing.

We also now know thanks to Snowden that the NSA’s XKeyscore ‘Digital Network Intelligence’ exploitation system was designed to allow analysts to search not just Internet databases like emails, online chats and browsing history, but also telephone services, mobile phone audio, financial transactions and global air transport communications — essentially the entire global telecommunications grid. Highlands Forum partner SAIC played a key role, among other contractors, in producing and administeringthe NSA’s XKeyscore, and was recently implicated in NSA hacking of the privacy network Tor.

The Pentagon Highlands Forum was therefore intimately involved in all this as a convening network—but also quite directly. Confirming his pivotal role in the expansion of the US-led global surveillance apparatus, then Forum co-chair, Pentagon CIO Linton Wells, told FedTech magazine in 2009 that he had overseen the NSA’s roll out of “an impressive long-term architecture last summer that will provide increasingly sophisticated security until 2015 or so.”

The Goldman Sachs connection

When I asked Wells about the Forum’s role in influencing US mass surveillance, he responded only to say he would prefer not to comment and that he no longer leads the group.

As Wells is no longer in government, this is to be expected — but he is still connected to Highlands. As of September 2014, after delivering his influential white paper on Pentagon transformation, he joined the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS) Cyber Security Initiative (CySec) as a distinguished senior fellow.

Sadly, this was not a form of trying to keep busy in retirement. Wells’ move underscored that the Pentagon’s conception of information warfare is not just about surveillance, but about the exploitation of surveillance to influence both government and public opinion.

The MIIS CySec initiative is now formally partnered with the Pentagon Highlands Forum through a Memorandum of Understanding signed with MIIS provost Dr Amy Sands, who sits on the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board. The MIIS CySec website states that the MoU signed with Richard O’Neill:

“… paves the way for future joint MIIS CySec-Highlands Group sessions that will explore the impact of technology on security, peace and information engagement. For nearly 20 years the Highlands Group has engaged private sector and government leaders, including the Director of National Intelligence, DARPA, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Singaporean Minister of Defence, in creative conversations to frame policy and technology research areas.”

Who is the financial benefactor of the new Pentagon Highlands-partnered MIIS CySec initiative? According to the MIIS CySec site, the initiative was launched “through a generous donation of seed funding from George Lee.” George C. Lee is a senior partner at Goldman Sachs, where he is chief information officer of the investment banking division, and chairman of the Global Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) Group.

But here’s the kicker. In 2011, it was Lee who engineered Facebook’s $50 billion valuation, and previously handled deals for other Highlands-connected tech giants like Google, Microsoft and eBay. Lee’s then boss, Stephen Friedman, a former CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs, and later senior partner on the firm’s executive board, was a also founding board member of In-Q-Tel alongside Highlands Forum overlord William Perry and Forum member John Seely Brown.

In 2001, Bush appointed Stephen Friedman to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, and then to chair that board from 2005 to 2009. Friedman previously served alongside Paul Wolfowitz and others on the 1995–6 presidential commission of inquiry into US intelligence capabilities, and in 1996 on the Jeremiah Panel that produced a report to the Director of the National Reconnaisance Office (NRO) — one of the surveillance agencies plugged into the Highlands Forum. Friedman was on the Jeremiah Panel with Martin Faga, then senior vice president and general manager of MITRE Corp’s Center for Integrated Intelligence Systems — where Thuraisingham, who managed the CIA-NSA-MDDS program that inspired DARPA counter-terrorist data-mining, was also a lead engineer.

In the footnotes to a chapter for the book, Cyberspace and National Security (Georgetown University Press), SAIC/Leidos executive Jeff Cooper reveals that another Goldman Sachs senior partner Philip J. Venables — who as chief information risk officer leads the firm’s programs on information security — delivered a Highlands Forum presentation in 2008 at what was called an ‘Enrichment Session on Deterrence.’ Cooper’s chapter draws on Venables’ presentation at Highlands “with permission.” In 2010, Venables participated with his then boss Friedman at an Aspen Institute meeting on the world economy. For the last few years, Venables has also sat on various NSA cybersecurity award review boards.

In sum, the investment firm responsible for creating the billion dollar fortunes of the tech sensations of the 21st century, from Google to Facebook, is intimately linked to the US military intelligence community; with Venables, Lee and Friedman either directly connected to the Pentagon Highlands Forum, or to senior members of the Forum.

Fighting terror with terror

The convergence of these powerful financial and military interests around the Highlands Forum, through George Lee’s sponsorship of the Forum’s new partner, the MIIS Cysec initiative, is revealing in itself.

MIIS Cysec’s director, Dr, Itamara Lochard, has long been embedded in Highlands. She regularly “presents current research on non-state groups, governance, technology and conflict to the US Office of the Secretary of Defense Highlands Forum,” according to her Tufts University bio. She also, “regularly advises US combatant commanders” and specializes in studying the use of information technology by “violent and non-violent sub-state groups.”
Dr Lochard maintains a comprehensive database of 1,700 non-state groups including “insurgents, militias, terrorists, complex criminal organizations, organized gangs, malicious cyber actors and strategic non-violent actors,” to analyze their “organizational patterns, areas of cooperation, strategies and tactics.” Notice, here, the mention of “strategic non-violent actors” — which perhaps covers NGOs and other groups or organizations engaged in social political activity or campaigning, judging by the focus of other DoD research programs.

As of 2008, Lochard has been an adjunct professor at the US Joint Special Operations University where she teaches a top secret advanced course in ‘Irregular Warfare’ that she designed for senior US special forces officers. She has previously taught courses on ‘Internal War’ for senior “political-military officers” of various Gulf regimes.

Her views thus disclose much about what the Highlands Forum has been advocating all these years. In 2004, Lochard was co-author of a study for the US Air Force’s Institute for National Security Studies on US strategy toward ‘non-state armed groups.’ The study on the one hand argued that non-state armed groups should be urgently recognized as a ‘tier one security priority,’ and on the other that the proliferation of armed groups “provide strategic opportunities that can be exploited to help achieve policy goals. There have and will be instances where the United States may find collaborating with armed group is in its strategic interests.” But “sophisticated tools” must be developed to differentiate between different groups and understand their dynamics, to determine which groups should be countered, and which could be exploited for US interests. “Armed group profiles can likewise be employed to identify ways in which the United States may assist certain armed groups whose success will be advantageous to US foreign policy objectives.”

In 2008, Wikileaks published a leaked restricted US Army Special Operations field manual, which demonstrated that the sort of thinking advocated by the likes of Highlands expert Lochard had been explicitly adopted by US special forces.

Lochard’s work thus demonstrates that the Highlands Forum sat at the intersection of advanced Pentagon strategy on surveillance, covert operations and irregular warfare: mobilizing mass surveillance to develop detailed information on violent and non-violent groups perceived as potentially threatening to US interests, or offering opportunities for exploitation, thus feeding directly into US covert operations.

That, ultimately, is why the CIA, the NSA, the Pentagon, spawned Google. So they could run their secret dirty wars with even greater efficiency than ever before.


the Real as trauma, antagonism, or opposition

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Syriza Rides Anti-Austerity Wave to Decisive Victory in Greece

By Eleni Chrepa and Marcus Bensasson - Jan 25, 2015

Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza brushed aside Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s party to record a decisive victory in Greece’s elections, after riding a public backlash against years of budget cuts demanded by international creditors.

Tsipras’s Coalition of the Radical Left, known by its Greek acronym, took 36.5 percent compared with 27.7 percent for Samaras’s New Democracy in Sunday’s election, according to official projections. The far-right Golden Dawn placed third with 6.3 percent followed by To Potami, a potential Syriza coalition partner, with 5.9 percent.

While the projected victory was by a wider margin than polls predicted, it remains unclear whether Syriza will be able to govern alone. Even with a razor-thin majority or in a fragile coalition, the result still hands Tsipras, 40, a clear mandate to confront Greece’s program of austerity imposed in return for pledges of 240 billion euros ($269 billion) in aid since May 2010. The challenge for him now is to strike a balance between keeping his election pledges including a writedown of Greek debt and avoiding what Samaras repeatedly warned was the risk of an accidental exit from the euro.

“The Greek people punished New Democracy for governing in the petty manner of the old regime’s political parties,” Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens, said by phone. “Most Greeks voting Syriza don’t expect a spectacular change but a marginal one. A marginal one would be significant for them.”

Had Enough

Syriza’s victory, based on Interior Ministry projections after about 20 percent of ballots were counted, sends a signal to parties challenging economic and political conventions across Europe from a country whose output has shrunk by about a quarter and where one in two young people is jobless.
Investors must now wait for Tsipras to spell out how he plans to negotiate Greece’s future financing needs. An extension of the current euro-area-backed bailout program expires at the end of February, with Greece projected to run out of money by July at the latest.

The market response to Syriza’s growing lead in opinion polls last week in the run-up to the election was muted. Bonds and stocks rallied in Athens on Friday, the day after Mario Draghi announced the European Central Bank’s new bond-buying program. The euro declined in early trading in New Zealand.

Euro-Area Warnings

European policy makers including German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his Dutch counterpart, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, warned Greece against diverting from its agreed bailout program. 

Finance ministers from the 19 countries that share the euro are due to discuss Greece when they meet in Brussels on Monday. Germany’s Finance Ministry said in a statement that Schaeuble’s position was unchanged after the result and “the agreements reached with Greece remain valid.”

Tsipras, who arrived at Syriza’s headquarters in central Athens to cheering crowds, is due to comment later. In a statement read out earlier by a party official, Syriza said the victory was “historic” and one that represented hope.

“Overwhelmingly the Greek people voted against austerity policies,” the party said. “This result can be the first step for progressive developments throughout Europe. The government will implement its political program addressing the humanitarian crisis and begin the real negotiation with our European partners.”
Parliamentary Seats

The election ends more than four decades of rule by New Democracy or Pasok, the two parties that have alternated in power since the reintroduction of democracy in 1974 following a seven-year period of military dictatorship.

The results so far translate into between 149 and 151 Syriza lawmakers in the 300-seat Parliament, 76 seats for New Democracy, 17 seats for Golden Dawn and To Potami, which was formed less than a year ago, taking 16 seats.

Pasok, which won the 2009 election under George Papandreou before he was forced to request an international aid package in April 2010, will get 13 seats, behind the Communists with 15 seats. 

Papandreou, who was ousted as prime minister in late 2011, failed to be re-elected, with projections showing the new party he founded this month, the Movement of Democratic Socialists, falling at the 3 percent threshold to win seats.

Syriza lawmaker Stavros Kontonis said in an interview that the result represented “a clear mandate to Syriza for renegotiating Greek debt, the implementation of a radical program and governmental stability.”

“We are fully aware of our historic responsibility,” Kontonis said.

Juan de los muertos

Ukraine and its people need peace

Syriza is Greece’s hope

Saturday, January 24, 2015

the creeping rehabilitation of fascism in Eastern Europe

on love

Politics has priority over ethics

Slavoj Žižek, Demanding the Impossible, edited by Yong-june Park, Polity Press, 2013

p. 2: For me, politics has priority over ethics. Not in the vulgar sense that we can do whatever we want—even kill people and then subordinate ethics to politics—but in a much more radical sense that what we define as our good is not something we just discover; rather, it is that we have to take responsibility for defining what is our good.

What's wrong with the notion of the common good?

Slavoj Žižek, Demanding the Impossible, edited by Yong-june Park, Polity Press, 2013

But for me, modernity begins with Descartes, and then with Kant—to be precise, with an ethics that is no longer an ethics of the common good. For example, in Kant, you find it is purely formal ethics: ethics of the moral law and so on. Here, ethics cannot be, in any way, politicized: politicized in the sense that you cannot simply presuppose some common good. Rather, it is a matter of decision. This is what I find problematic about the notion of the common good.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Urgent Necessity of a Syriza Victory in Greece

Critics of our institutional democracy often complain that, as a rule, elections do not offer a true choice. What we mostly get is the choice between a center-Right and a center-Left party whose program is almost indistinguishable. Next Sunday, January 25, this will not be the case—as on June 17, 2012, the Greek voters are facing a real choice: the establishment on the one side; Syriza, the radical leftist coalition, on the other.

And, as is mostly the case, such moments of real choice throw the establishment into panic. They paint the image of social chaos, poverty and violence if the wrong choice wins. The mere possibility of a Syriza victory has sent ripples of fear through markets all around the world, and, as is usual in such cases, ideological prosopopoeia has its heyday: markets have begun to “talk,” as if they are living people, expressing their “worry” at what will happen if the elections fail to produce a government with a mandate to continue with the program of fiscal austerity.

An ideal is gradually emerging from this European establishment’s reaction to the threat of Syriza victory in Greece, the ideal best rendered by the title of Gideon Rachman’s comment in the Financial Times: “Eurozone’s weakest link is the voters.” 

In the establishment’s ideal world, Europe gets rid of this “weakest link” and experts gain the power to directly impose necessary economic measures; if elections take place at all, their function is just to confirm the consensus of experts.

From this perspective, the Greek elections cannot but appear as a nightmare. So how can this catastrophe be avoided? The obvious way would be to return the fright—to scare the Greek voters to death with the message, “You think you are suffering now? 
You ain’t seen nothin’ yet—wait for the Syriza victory and you will long for the bliss of the last years!”

The alternative is either Syriza stepping out (or being thrown out) of the European project, with unforeseeable consequences, or a “messy compromise” when both sides moderate their demands. Which raises another fear: not the fear of Syriza’sirrational behavior after their victory, but, on the contrary, the fear that Syriza will accept a rational messy compromise which will disappoint voters, so that discontent will continue, but this time not regulated and moderated by Syriza.

What maneuvering space will the eventual Syriza-led government have? To paraphrase President Bush, one should definitely not misunderestimate the destructive power of international capital, especially when it is combined with the sabotage of the corrupted and clientelist Greek state bureaucracy.

In such conditions, can a new government effetively impose radical changes? The trap that lurks here is clearly perceptible in Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. For Piketty, capitalism has to be accepted as the only game in town, so the only feasible alternative is to allow the capitalist machinery to do its work in its proper sphere, and to impose egalitarian justice politically, by a democratic power which regulates the economic system and enforces redistribution.

Such a solution is utopian in the strictest sense of the term. Piketty is well aware that the model he proposes would only work if enforced globally, beyond the confines of nation-states (otherwise capital would flee to the states with lower taxes); such a global measure requires an already existing global power with the strength and authority to enforce it. However, such a global power is unimaginable within the confines of today’s global capitalism and the political mechanisms it implies. In short, if such a power were to exist, the basic problem would already have been resolved.

Plus what further measures would the global imposition of high taxes proposed by Piketty necessitate? Of course the only way out of this vicious cycle is simply to cut the Gordian knot and act. There are never perfect conditions for an act—every act by definition comes too early. But one has to begin somewhere, with a particular intervention; one just has to bear in mind the further complications that such an act will lead to.

And what to do with the enormous debt? European policy towards heavily indebted countries like Greece is the one of “extend and pretend” (extending the payback period, but pretending that all debts will eventually be paid). So why is the fiction of repayment so stubborn? It is not only that this fiction makes debt extension more acceptable to German voters; it is also not only that, while the write-off of the Greek debt may trigger similar demands from Portugal, Ireland, Spain. It is that those in power do not really want the debt fully repaid.

The debt providers and caretakers accuse the indebted countries of not feeling enough guilt—they are accused of feeling innocent. Their pressure fits perfectly what psychoanalysis calls superego. The paradox of the superego is that, as Freud saw it clearly, the more we obey its demands, the more we feel guilty.

Imagine a vicious teacher who gives to his pupils impossible tasks, and then sadistically jeers when he sees their anxiety and panic. The true goal of lending money to the debtor is not to get the debt reimbursed with a profit, but the indefinite continuation of the debt which keeps the debtor in permanent dependency and subordination.

Take the example of Argentina. A decade or so ago, the country decided to repay its debt to the IMF ahead of time (with the financial help from Venezuela), and the reaction of the IMF was surprising: Instead of being glad that it got its money back, the IMF (or, rather, its top representatives) expressed their worry that Argentina will use this new freedom and financial independence from international financial institutions to abandon tight financial politics and engage in careless spending.

Debt is an instrument to control and regulate the debtor, and, as such, it strives for its own expanded reproduction.

The only true solution is thus clear: since everyone knows Greece will never repay its debt, one will have to gather the courage and write the debt off. It can be done at a quite tolerable economic cost, just with political will. Such acts are our only hope to break out of the vicious cycle of cold Brussels neoliberal technocracy and anti-immigrant false passions. If we don’t act, others, from Golden Dawn to UKIP, will do it.

In his Notes Towards a Definition of Culture, the great conservative T.S. Eliot remarked that there are moments when the only choice is the one between heresy and non-belief, i.e., when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform a sectarian split from its main corpse. This is our position today with regard to Europe: only a new “heresy” (represented at this moment by Syriza), a split from the European Union by Greece, can save what is worth saving in the European legacy: democracy, trust in people, egalitarian solidarity.