The American Rise of the Surveillance State

*Originally written as a term paper for Vivek Chibber’s course of Contemporary Marxism in Theory

An Israeli Hermes 450 drone flies over the Palestinian Gaza Strip in southern Israel on April 9, 2011. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

An Israeli Hermes 450 drone flies over the Palestinian Gaza Strip in southern Israel on April 9, 2011. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Ghassan raised his head to the incessant buzzing noise that broke the unending ringing in his ears from the last shelling. He could feel in his gut the atmosphere of panic re-emerge within his home. Sprinting to the corner of his house, looking outside the window amidst the raising dust clouds and leveled homes, he had to squint his eyes past the red sun and past the horizon of the separation wall. Looking over the un-ending watchful eyes of the CCTV cameras and panopticon of the separation wall set up by his occupiers, he noticed a looming silhouette approaching the open-air prison he called home. This was Ghassan’s first experience with seeing an Israeli predator drone fly over his home, in the wake of the assault and the subsequent blockade of the Gaza Strip. Feeling enclosed, surrounded, and always under watch from afar, Ghassan was used to this lack of agency, but felt a shift. Something has happened since he was younger, when he used to throw rocks at the tanks that used to roam freely throughout Gaza amongst both Palestinians and Isrealis, something far more insidious and far reaching.

Past the 55 km of concrete, security systems, armed soldiers, and multiple checkpoints, we see the other half of this assault at work. As Israel mortared the Gaza Strip as a “collective punishment” for the Palestinians electing their own independent leadership, Hamas, they were also exporting $18.4 billion of high tech and surveillance, making Israel an economic powerhouse in the region. On top of the states reaping within the technological sectors, it also sat on top of the $62.5 billion it has received in foreign “aid” from the United States from 1949 to 1998 alone. The sinister theme that underlies this economic expansion, however; is that this very same technology and services Israel is providing to foreign investment is being tested upon the colonized, the Palestinians. The underlying issue amongst all of this, though, is that this is not a new process. This process, of the civilizer becoming the un-civilized, has been a staple within the economic expansions of nation states for centuries. However, what makes this process so repetitive is that a century prior, the United States began this expansion of surveillance and counterinsurgency under very different yet similar circumstances surrounding their fostering colonial endeavors. The United States in its own colonial endeavor was pushed towards instilling an immense and sophisticated surveillance state due to the historical conditions that laid bare within the post-Spanish Philippines. This pressure, coinciding with the United States’ insatiable hunger towards profit maximization and technological innovation amongst its capitalist class, led to the State’s rationalization of re-importing its surveillance and information heavy counterinsurgent tactics from the Philippines to the United States internal strife’s during WWI.


This specific pattern of colonizing where a state sets up a strong surveillance apparatus and later re-imports these tactics amongst the civilian population has since become repeated and perfected with subsequent occupations instigated by the United States. In this paper, I will put forward the idea that because of the structural mechanisms and class conflict that capitalism produces, as well as the drive to expand, manage, and perfect technology in the eternal pursuit of profit, we have historically seen a rise of the surveillance state associated with colonial projects as the initial spark to which the colonizing state applies the same repressive methods upon its citizens.

The Philippines: An Imperial Lab

“Water Cure” (essentially water-boarding learned by the Spanish) during the Philippine – American War.

The United States surveillance state, although riddled with scandal, has historically been incredibly difficult to understand as a larger historical process. The apparatus of deep surveillance and monitoring was put in place completely out of the public’s sight, as well as its policies it set in motion both internally and internationally, in a quick fashion with not much political debate amongst the state managers. Causing confusion amongst both citizens and politicians alike, the surveillance apparatus that was put in place was easily complicated by the further bureaucratization and privatization where much of the history becomes lost in the narrative of unwinding these complicated structures. This has led much of the literature surrounding the actual structures of the surveillance state to delve into the primary documents that are leaked or released as well as focusing on the consequences of these policies. Although these analyses are both helpful and rich with information, they unfortunately do not reach the actual origins of this apparatus’ supposed apparition on American soil.

Amongst most historians it is agreed upon that much of the surveillance apparatus has its roots in the early 19th century surrounding WWI where the U.S. department quietly approves the creation of the Cipher Bureau, or commonly known as Black Chamber. However, one historian in particular, Alfred W. McCoy, makes the connections that the surveillance state has much deeper and more troubling origins. McCoy, looking past the possibility that state surveillance was just a set of rational decisions the state made to suppress a growing discontent amongst the American people behind closed doors, really hits the root of its origins within the United States’ first colonial expansion. McCoy’s theory rests upon what had occurred within the colonial state that the United States had set up upon it’s opportunistic appropriation of the Philippines through it’s revolution against the Spanish.[1]

Policing America's Empire: The United States, The Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State by Alfred W. McCoy

Policing America’s Empire: The United States, The Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State by Alfred W. McCoy

Alfred W. McCoy’s Policing America’s Empire puts forward the very important connection between colonization and the development of a strengthened surveillance state that had been executed by the Americans as a historical necessity to suppress the Philippines under its colonial rule during its nationalistic uprising. Wading through the ashes of a failed revolution, the United States began colonizing the Philippines in 1898. The United States finding itself amiss organized crime, “messianic peasants”, and guerilla armies, it quickly began to hit the ground running whilst trying to recruit the former security apparatus that was set in place by the previous imperial rulers, Spain. During this formulation of trial and error within the first skirmishes amongst the occupying American military and the Filipino resistance after the attempted revolution, the United States began to realize that simply smashing and grabbing will not stand as a policy while trying to control the social order of a previously colonized country with a present and organized national liberation movement amongst a clandestine underworld. The United States already feeling the pressure towards reaching world recognition as an imperial force, it was simultaneously experiencing an information revolution at the time. Innovations in technology as well as advancements in communication helped put in motion in the Philippines was best described by McCoy:

“As one of history’s accidents, the Filipino flair for counterintelligence and the American appetite for information combined to create an advanced form of military espionage that fused combat intelligence and political surveillance. The U.S. Army applied its advanced data management techniques to counterinsurgency through a complex of a new security forces: the Manila Metropolitan Police, the Philippines Constabulary, and its own Division of Military information”[2]

McCoy here points to the intersection of two important events that were necessary to occur to achieve a surveillance state to express the specific interest of compiling extensive and well organized information on it’s colonial subjects for omni-present control and social order.

McCoy sees that the intersection of the U.S.’s drive towards technological advancement and its need to control its colonial subjects as essential for the formation of the U.S.’ surveillance state. The United States during this time period experiences a burst of technological advancement that pushes them to the forefront of communication technology. This technological advancement in communication included the quadruplex telegraph, the commercial typewriter, the telephone, the transcontinental telegraph line, and the transatlantic cable over the span of less than ten years.[3] This was essential for the U.S. to be able to set up the appropriate state it needed to be able to control its newly acquired colony. McCoy aptly quotes Benedict Anderson referencing this technological advancement being a key component to the control of these colonies where Anderson states that it was, “impossible without the kind of financial and technological resources that high industrial capitalism made possible.”[4] Anderson points to a very powerful point within this quote on the internal structures and dynamics that had been occurring within the capitalist world market at this time. As European states had grown and expanded, we see that only the states that had the large enough economic size, a centralized state, and the technological capabilities to hold a colony to do so, but this was because of capitalism’s internal compulsion of profit maximization and development of new profit maximizing technologies through forms of industrialization.

The United States was a “late bloomer” comparatively to these European empires to actively colonizing other countries. This latent emergence could have been attributed to a number of processes within the United States due to both the internal struggle it had coming out as a fully capitalist state after the Civil War as well as its internal politics of strict isolationism due to its own internal expansion. This however changed with both the expansion of the U.S.’s global market and the incessant competition it began to participate in, where it had inevitably began to participate in the race to resources amongst the other colonial empires. This led to the historical intersection that McCoy spoke of, where the second half of this equation comes in, which is the historical necessity for the United States to smash political dissidents and keep social order amongst the Philippines once it began it’s colonial process.

The United States, differing from other countries with interacting with their colonies’ culture on an academic level, chose not to learn the culture and language but to observe and mold it where it was, “forced to develop techniques for which there were no names: psychological profiling before warfare was a military doctrine.”[5] This led to the United States not just absorbing the former surveillance state left by Spain, but as well perfecting its ability to compile and monitor information on a mass amount of dissidents through communication vectors as well as an expansive system of spies moving about the political dissidents. This tactic of social control, enacting laws around much of the societies culture around gambling, drug use, and political dissidence, appeared to be both effective and appropriate, with agents being able to take note of the everyday activities as well as prying into the private lives of the colonized. This window into each and every political dissidents’ personal lives assisted and worked incredibly well for the U.S. technologically advanced recording system and inspired military and state managers all around the world with importing this method of social control amongst its populations, but especially the United States amongst its growing radical dissidents amongst the workers movement during the beginnings of the First World War.

Surveillance Imported Home

Simultaneously, as the United States was fighting for control in the Philippines, they where fighting a war at home as well. This was an emerging war internationally, which appeared as the form of class war. Across the United States at this time, there was an emergence of both a political alternative and a fighting workers movement that began actively fighting both employers and the state. Workers and radicals across the country during this time period where emerging out of the Populist era, and hammering out some of the more integral battles for fighting for unions throughout the entire country as well as basic labor rights. The tumultuous battles that began to ensue throughout the United States working sectors could be described as militant, radical, organized, and passionate and led to workers of differing ethnic backgrounds growing comfortable to not only identify with their class together, but demand the ability to collectively organize as a Union as well.

Class in this instance is the relation these individuals have in the labor process, where these individuals who where often of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, would have to sell their labor to make a living and be able to reproduce themselves. This results in the antagonism that is created through capital, where the workers are removed from the ownership of the means of production, and endure extraction of surplus from the labor value that it creates by capitalists. This antagonism quite present throughout the history of American Capitalism led to the rationalization of the state in the interest of capital, to seek out ways to prevent this growing and militant movement that sought the interests of workers to define the relations of labor rather than capitalists. This antagonism played out in the material world during the early 20th century in incredible violent outbursts amongst the working class organizing collectively to achieve victories against the capitalist class such as the Ludlow Massacre and West Virginia Coal Wars. These interests during this time period, often able to be balanced through losses and state intervention, became much more threatening when they began to impede upon the interests of the state and the flow of capital internationally as well as its interest in entering World War I.

Private Militiamen, Detectives, and the National Guard assigned to suppress miners during the Ludlow Massacre. Many of them were Philippine war vets.

Private Militiamen, Detectives, and the National Guard assigned to suppress miners during the Ludlow Massacre. Many of them were Philippine war vets.

The United States prior to its emergence as an imperial power had a law system that was more “controlled by urban political machines that used police for patronage, inhibiting both innovation and professionalism”.[6] This caused immense difficulty for the state to act as a unified force, as well as it was for capitalists to be able to suppress workers movements with ineffective surveillance tactics. American cities began to have “full time police forces” starting in 1845; much of its records and criminal files where de-centralized as well as sparse.[7] However, with the emergence of the electric alarm system and the advancements in communication technology, centralization and management of these institutions began to become much more smooth and key to preserving the teetering social order during the tumultuous workers movements occurring within various major cities and hubs for capital. This began the slow merge between the private detective agencies that were used to suppress the growing workers movement, including Burns, Pinkerton, and Thiel, began to occur as well as the perfection of surveillance tactics by a “cadre of clerks trained in management and photographic identification,” within the police structures as well as governmental organizations that began to formulate in 1919.

Previous to the governmental structures prior to intelligence being centralized in 1919, much of the apparatus that was used within the United States for internal policing methods could be referred to both outsourced to private detective agencies, such as Pinkerton or Baldwin-Felts, or loose gangs of armed vigilante’s. McCoy describes the trajectory of governmental structures in the sense that the U.S.


Ludlow “Death Special” Car manned by private detectives of the likes of Pinkertons, Baldwin-Felts, and other Labor spys.

“During its first century the federal government had created a few small enforcement units, each restricted to a narrow investigative ambit: the U.S. Marshals Service (1789) to support the federal courts; the Postal Services’s special agents (1801) to investigate mail fraud; and the Secret Service (1865) to prevent counterfeiting. For most of the Gilded Age Washington left policing go the cities and private detectives. When the Justice Department was first established in 1870, Congress denied it an enforcement arm but allocated funds for investigations the attorney general used to hire the Pinkerton Agency’s private detectives.”[8]

This re-allocation towards such agencies like Pinkerton resulted in what McCoy described as the “golden age of private detective work” in 1920 to a combined total of 135,000 employees and 10,000 local offices.”[9] This sheer explosion of this private detective work was encouraged by the state, as it sought to ensure dissidents in the beginning of WWI to be removed from the growing workers movements that where shacking the country. To acquire an expertise of intelligence and tactics to politically suppress internally, much like recruiting former Filipino spies from the Spanish surveillance state, the United States sought expertise from the group of detectives that knew how to dismantle radical organizing professionally.

These private detective companies were noted for their incredible connections to the fostering industrial military complex, recruiting former veterans from the Spanish-American war to employ similar tactics that they had employed upon the Filipinos to the now revolting and armed striking workers fighting the state and company militias in various coal mines across the country. These revolts, ranging from what had occurred during the Ludlow Massacre and the West Virginia Coal wars, employed many similar techniques to which the Filipinos used during their armed uprising. These tactics included tightknit and quick guerrilla tactics that relied on knowledge of the land as well as quick defensive strikes. These guerilla tactics would often be quite effective due to the discombobulating amongst private detectives attempting to acquire as much information they could with any coercive ability necessary. This discombobulating was aptly noted in Thomas Andrews book, Killing for Coal, where he alludes to the National Guard and hired militiamen noting both how overwhelming it was fighting off the strikers, as well as noting the tactical character of their campaigns being quite similar to Greek guerrilla tactics.

Creating a Security Apparatus

Dr. John M Manley (above, left) publicly identified by Yardley as one of the Black Chamber’s cryptographers. Photo from University of Chicago Centennial Catalogues.

Dr. John M Manley (above, left) publicly identified by Yardley as one of the Black Chamber’s cryptographers.
Photo from University of Chicago Centennial Catalogues.

Departing from WWI, behind closed doors and sifting through dusty manila envelopes, the U.S. began to quietly usher in the beginnings of the long desire amongst military personnel to centralize intelligence resources. This chapter in U.S. history was marked by a small dusty office on Manhattan’s East 37 Street, starting humble beginnings for what would later become one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world. On East 37th, posing as a commercial company, was an illustrious government organization known as the Cypher Bureau, or commonly referred to as Black Chamber. Put together as the first peacetime investigation unit, the organization was led by Herbert O Yardley and overseen by General Malborough Churchill as well as being comprised of predominately former military personal. This new bureau, designed internally encouraging bureaucratic structures, was the first peacetime cryptologist organization put forward by the government, where it was designated to intercept and monitor communication coming in and out of the United States. This measure, although pre-emptively counter balanced with the Radio Communication Act of 1912, had begun operations in to which they monitored telegrams as well as other assorted confidential operations surrounding shutting down dissidence. [10]

Herbert O Yardley and General Malborought Churchill had a significant barrier to acquiring the communications they desired to monitor. The Radio Communication Act of 1912 barred these communications the private telecom company’s’ had where the act stated that telegraphers could not hand over any information or communications to anyone. However, although this was the law to be observed by the state, Black Chamber sought to ignore this with their notorious “Operation Shamrock”. “Operation Shamrock” was a joint operation that the organization of Signals Intelligence Service (another proto-NSA organization) went through with going to every telecom office at midnight to grab those days’ telegrams and records.[11] This operation was paved however by Black Chamber’s relations with Western Union, the largest telecom provider at the time, with intimidation to the President by Yardley and Churchill themselves. Black Chamber had quite the small lifespan compared to other organizations though where Henry Stinson, both former Governor-General of the Philippines and Secretary of War under Taft, stated famously with shutting down the secret cryptology bureau with stating that “gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail.”[12] However, this was subject to change, for the former Governor-General saw that with internal dynamics of the U.S. shifting towards unrest again, he appeared to change his mind while Secretary of War under FDR’s administration.

The National Security Act of 1947 was the public beginning of the Central Intelligence Agency as well as the National Security Council. The National Security Council was what finally achieved centralized link between both military and intelligence policies within one governing body, which previous administrations had desired to achieve although against Military opinion. The Central Intelligence Agency was as well created to both centralizing intelligence gathering both internally and abroad, as well as carrying out covert paramilitary operations against governments the United States deemed threatening or harmful to the international community. These two bodies would soon become central for the United States intelligence capabilities in conjuncture with the National Security Agency, secretly formed by President Truman in a confidential document, where they would implement much of these tactics in a simultaneous format of both internally and internationally.

The Cold War: Dissidents at Home

The formal formation of these governmental structures was essential for the integration of the United States centralizing an actual surveillance apparatus as well as a paramilitary arm for covert operations and abroad intelligence gathering. This was crucial for the state to universalize internally, for this gave the United States the capabilities to not only suppress possible dissidence at home, but as well be able to implement their foreign policy of “containment”. The surveillance apparatus at home was consciously set up in such a manner that we begun to see J. Edgar Hoover and his “Americanism” acolytes within the FBI begin to hammer down, during his ascension to the head of the bureau, within all aspects of U.S. life starting from the Bureau’s beginnings with suppressing radicals internally since 1919 with the formation of the FBI’s “Radical Division”. As Hoover ascended amongst the ranks in the Bureau, he became obsessed with implementing and suppressing any radicals he found throughout the country. This obsession in conjuncture with the rise of McCarthyism during his reign in the FBI resulted in extensive suppression across all aspects of American life, including the epicenters of the later student revolts on campus.

J. Edgar Hoover beginning at the FBI during the

J. Edgar Hoover beginning at the FBI during the “Red Scare”.

As McCarthyism swept across the country there began to be a serious drive within both labor organizations and campuses destroying the structures laid prior by radicals. Within the various labor unions, the implementation of CIA, FBI, and NSA agents throughout different sections of the left led to the ultimate drive and ‘red scare’ tactics those on the left know well for dismantling and causing one of the darkest time periods within labor organizing. Leading to large sections of the left being driven out of labor unions in packs, the United States saw a mass-conservatizing phenomenon across these various organizations attempting to prove their “Americanism” in a ploy of political posturing. This witch-hunt was not limited towards labor organizations as well, where there was also mass surveillance within campus activities and repression amongst what can and cannot be studied through intimidation practices used amongst professors deemed un-sympathetic towards American policy. This mass surveillance on campuses during this time period, as stated by Arthur J. Vidich, remarking on Sigmund Diamond’s thesis in Compromised Campus, that we see the

“university president [being] transformed from an educator into an administrator (the captain of erudition). The professorate become bureaucratized and suffered a loss of its intellectual independence. Clergymen were replaced by businessmen as university trustees, and the university as a whole was governed with an eye to public relations and favorable images of itself, regardless to truth.”[13]

This mass de-intellectualizing and de-skilling of the academic sphere was justified with the universities’ boards being compliant with coming down on communist and homosexuals as spearheaded by McCarthy due to not only their interests lying with these “left” professors being chased out of elite institutions, but as well many elite universities often staffed much of the intelligence offices resulting in the internal culture growing in compliance with the mass conservatizing effort put forward by these agents. Such agents included H.B. Fisher on Yale’s campus that established The Social Research Committee as a front NGO for the FBI, where he embraced his role patrolling the private lives of students. Fisher saw his role as coming down on campus as encouraging

“…every American university… will recruit such [investigative] service men trained by one or more of these Federal Agencies such as the F.B.I. or Central Intelligence Administration [sic]. Such men would be invaluable in Public Relations fields, Intelligence Directors in Security Posts [sic]. The new world we are now forging will require such a post in every American University.[14]

Fisher believed, with Hooveresque American fervor, that these values had to be protected and upheld, where unfortunately these values lied within a small minority available within these elite universities such as Yale, which is that of WASP’s, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants of New England. This attitude of preservation of values shows an honest reflection of the then consequences of the student revolts throughout the globe during the 1960’s.

Besides cultural values being protected against “progressive” elements amongst elite universities, these spying agencies hampered serious academic thought as well as driving communist or homosexual professors off campus. The term communist amongst these professors can be used quite lightly however, for often these professors spanned from far-left communists to center-left moderates who had various criticisms of the aggressive policies was pursuing in the post-war period. This threatened the pool of those who they sought to recruit to reproduce the intelligence apparatus’ that they have formulated as well as constructing counter arguments to the hegemonic demands the foreign policy of “containment” demanded of the U.S. assuming a defensive role of it’s “values” and ambiguous fights for “freedom” while instilling Coup D’état’s abroad in capitals interest. This drive was not just through intimidation of personal information being released of the professors, but as well as constraints upon the professors funding.

A Student Group Concedes It Took Funds from C.I.A. February 1967; New York Times

A Student Group Concedes It Took Funds from C.I.A. February 14, 1967; New York Times

On the front page of the New York Times on February 14, 1967, the headline read “A Student Group Concedes It Took Funds from C.I.A.” The headline, in reference to the National Student Association, the nation’s largest and oldest student association, at the time was confirmed with not only taking monetary funds from the CIA amounting to $200,000 annually as confirmed by chairman Eugene Groves from the early 1950’s until 1966. The article confirmed that, “it has used students to spy, it has used students to pressure international student organization into taking Cold War positions, and it has interfered in a most shocking manner, in the international workings of the nation’s largest and oldest student organization.”[15] This came to a shock to those all around the U.S. during this tumultuous time period within American political history, where many had begun to see the corruption and miscalculations the U.S. state had begun making outside the eyes of the public. The CIA, FBI, and NSA during this time period had large presences on campuses, not just through implantation in classes, office positions, and administrations, but as well their serious economic influence on campus through the funding they gave Non-Governmental Organizations that served as fronts for these agencies or to various student organizations. As McCarthyism began to fade, within the confines of the “new left” rising with Civil Rights struggles and anti-Vietnam protests sparking across campus’ we began to see a much larger backlash against this apparatus as it began to become far more aggressive on home with it’s conscious repression of dissidents. The CIA’s specific funding went to such organizations ranging from, “University of Miami, Florida, the American society of African Culture, The International Commission of Jurists, the American Newspaper Guild, and even the American Federation of Labor”, covering multiple sections of where democracy and autonomy of citizens are designated. This added constraints upon the actors within these organizations, for although they may have had best intentions, these actors as desired the significant funding that came with such organizations like the CIA, FBI, and NSA as well, even at the cost of a lack of autonomy amongst the rank ‘n file.

The investigation was brought about during a larger congressional investigation of tax-exempt status of certain private foundations after investigative journalism prior to these investigations pushed these structures to take it out in public. As it turns out, eight of these foundations investigated turned out to be umbrella organizations for the CIA instigating a larger scale debate surrounding the National Security Act of 1947. During this time period as well their began to materialize an actual war on U.S. soil, but this war was not one of civil war, but comprised of the growing new left and labor movements during the instability caused during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s surrounding anti-Vietnam and anti-American sentiment. This war, instigated by the FBI and the U.S., was to spread misinformation and employ psychological warfare amongst the actors who the United States and FBI deemed subversive and a problem. These groups included varying left groups, civil rights activists, anti-war activists, as well as various other journalists and athletes to silence dissidence. Employing tactics which where specifically used to disrupt these burgeoning activists, predominately students, the tactics escalated from small disruptions of the personal lives of the activists to a full frontal assault amongst the most prominent political groups. These political groups, including the Black Panthers, endured assassinations and full frontal assaults by security agencies across the country including the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark who where leading the Black Liberation struggle in the United States. This assassination of these Black Panther leaders is interesting within the context of larger operations put on by the FBI, for it instilled using the police as a paramilitary unit as well as surveillance tactics of implanting an FBI agent as Hamptons body guard. These tactics, although at the time thought of as new by the general public, have now been used for 60 years by the United States within it’s colonial and neo-colonial occupations to disrupt political dissidence on the ground as well.

Fred Hampton's Floor Plan by FBI informant. (1969)

Fred Hampton’s Floor Plan by FBI informant. (1969)

The Surveillance State Abroad: Coup D’état’s, Containment, and Counterinsurgency

Operation Ajax - Iran 1953, with the CIA backed overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh with the assistance of the United Kingdom.

Operation Ajax – Iran 1953, with the CIA backed overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh with the assistance of the United Kingdom.

Surveillance abroad has been the staple in the experimentations and perfections with the U.S. deployment of psychological warfare amongst citizens of other countries. The obvious first lab being the U.S.’s first colonial prize, it comes to no surprise that within the post-war period that the U.S.’s newly formulated Central Intelligence Agency as well as the centralization of intelligence officers within the CIA, the Office of Policy Control (OPC). The OPC having encouragement amongst top ranking officers and the state department where they often saw their paramilitary activity abroad as, “measures short of war”, where Chief of the OPC, Frank Wisner, spoke to the idea that, “it is possible to avert a third world war by drastic actions of an affirmative character short of war.” The National Security Council in May 1948 addressed that covert operations for the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence agencies was not just propaganda but, “Preventative direct action, including sabotage, anti sabotage, demolition…subversion against hostile states, including assisting to underground resistance movements, guerillas and refugee liberation” where as well later after NSC10/2 passed it gave basically “a loose charter to undertake the full range of covert activities incident to the conduct of secret political, psychological, and economic warfare together with preventive direct action (paramilitary activities) – all within the policy direction of the department of defense.” [16] These internal descriptions shed significant light to the actual character of these CIA operations scaling from the support to pro-monarchist Greeks, the Iranian Coup d’état, the significant failures of overthrowing communist Albania, and the policy of containment encouraging intelligence organizations to grow en mass.

The surveillance and intelligence apparatus appears to grow exponentially as involvement internationally grew tenfold, involving differing campaigns and funding towards counterrevolutions and insurrections ranging from Chile 1973 with Allende’s overthrow, to the training of death squads in El Salvador and other Central American countries, and eventually exporting these paramilitary units into the Middle East. These surveillance structures encouraged long after the Cold War the tactics that where implemented under the guise of containment. With containment, the USSR, and the language surrounding our foreign policy slowly became outdate, we saw a drastic shift within the U.S. surveillance apparatus once 9/11 occurred.

9/11 and the Secondary Rise of the Surveillance State

“The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”—Senator Frank Church (1975)

Church Committee in 1975.

Church Committee in 1975.

Senator Frank Church, after leading his extensive investigation surrounding covert operations the CIA, NSC, and FBI, had been conducting throughout all of American Society. Leading what would later become known as the Church Committee, he led U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, which came to multiple conclusions of the U.S.’s paramilitary operations, surveillance of progressive American leaders, and the support of wars amongst third world countries. Among these discoveries, Church, as well as the committee, helped formulate what was called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The FISA of 1978 put in place the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was a separate court from the Supreme Court that ruled extra judicially surrounding surveillance both internally and abroad. This act, long forgotten until 9/11, was amended by the USA PATRIOT Act, to include the language of terrorism on the behalf of groups that are not specifically backed by a foreign government. This language, reminiscent of “insurgents” in the Philippines during the colonial process, allowed for a very flexible provocation of surveillance to anyone the U.S. deemed a “terrorist”. As McCoy stated, “While nuclear armadas contained communist armies behind the Iron Curtain, a mix of covert intervention and counterinsurgency suppressed any dissidence inside the allied nations that lay on America’s side of this global divide”.[17] This expansion of the language as we know resulted in the en mass invasion and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the expansion of the newly formulated Drone Program, that combined both assault and surveillance into one.

The United States, implementing a language that can easily replace the dilemma of what was their previous foreign policy of containment, sought to bring “freedom” and “justice” to these war torn countries with terrorists that were “aggressive” towards the United States. With little evidence, the United States was able overnight, to collect en mass American communication under the guise of future terrorist attacks. Reminding citizens of former operations the United States carried through during peacetimes such as Operation Shamrock, the NSA, FBI, and CIA expanded to the point where internally the U.S. was “increased every year since 9/11, where twenty trillion transactions have been recorded since, not including financial transactions yet” as former NSA intelligence officer William Binney stated after resigning from his post October 31, 2001. His leaks, as well as many others including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, have been subject to the old tactics of using the Espionage Act to silence dissent and critique of overextension of the surveillance state both internally and abroad. These large information dumps revealed that the U.S. has kept extensive tabs on the American people throughout the years past 9/11, showing the complicity of private companies with surveillance and implementing it within their own workplace, as well as relying much more on private companies for surveillance. As it was revealed within the Bush administration, he acquired records with relative ease with private companies including AT & T and Sprint, as well relying on private surveillance companies outsourcing governmental surveillance companies abroad as well as having much closer ties with the remaining organizations. As more leaks are released, it is becoming more and more obvious that much of this expansion was both excused and practiced in give and take relationships with the occupied countries of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and lately with information trade offs with Israel’s suppression of the Palestinians, there appears to be a much more lucrative market and incentive that comes along with surveillance technology. Appealing to both capital and the state for use of social control and manipulation, it appears that this surveillance technology is now being maximized to its fullest potential by the United States to implement control and coercion both amongst its citizens and its “subjects” abroad.

Conclusion: Theory

Five Eyes

Five Eyes

The State under capitalism has structural mechanisms to which it will side with capital. These mechanisms past just the social background of the state managers, shows that although the state may appear to be indifferent to either “interest groups” has a compulsion to bend towards capital’s will because capitalists still have private control over investment, and the state is still reliant on capital for public revenue. This reliance upon capital within the state pressures state managers to see much farther than capitalists in specific ways where they both try to ensure social order as well as a lucrative economy for the capitalists that reside within its boundaries. This being said however, state managers as well have to have a much further view when it comes maintain social order as well. Interestingly enough, thanks to the compulsions that were implored by colonialism historically in the United States in congruence with its imperialistic aspirations, we see surveillance become a much more rationalized tactic the state uses for social control when countervailing much riskier economic polices that we see with the privatization of markets. This being said, it comes to no surprise that, during a time period riddled with military occupations and growing political dissent and discomfort amongst a volatile economy that the surveillance state grows with both its lucrative ability for capital to privately sell its abilities and technology that it constantly perfects for the market as well as being encouraged by the state itself through subsidies and governmental encouragement to ensure full knowledge of citizens private lives.

This omnipresence the state has begun to implement with the rise of technological development and strengthening of the ruling class has begun to show a thinner and thinner line that is usually drawn thick between the interests of capital and the interests of the state. As the interests are beginning to align in certain ways and perspectives of its short term perceived goals, where simultaneously they both desire social control and a level of ‘social’ de-skilling, the encouragement amongst these actors desires to take away the last vestiges of privacy ensured by the hours citizens are not working. Just as in the labor process, the mass de-skilling of workers takes away both their autonomy and bargaining abilities of holding their skills as leverage in an already imbalanced economic system, it is interesting to see the rise of surveillance with the mass de-privatization of the personal lives of colonial subjects, citizens of opponent nation states, and citizens occur at a much more accelerated level as the markets become more and more unstable with neoliberal and privatizing reforms.

[1] McCoy, Alfred W. Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 2009. Print.

[2] Ibid. p. 28

[3] Ibid. p. 21. Thomas A. Edison’s quadruplex telegraph (1874), Philo Remington’s commercial typewriter (1874), Alexander Graham Bell’s Telephone (1876), Translcontinental telegraph line (1861), Transatlantic cable (1866)

[4] Ibid. p. 20. Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, “Introduction,” in Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, ed., Violence and the State in Suharto’s Indonesia (Ithaca, 2001), 10.

[5] Ibid. p. 34

[6] Ibid. p. 23

[7] Ibid. p.25

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid. p. 27

[10] “Building America’s Secret Surveillance State.” Web log post. Reuters. Reuters, 10 June 2013. Web.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Vidich, Arthur J. “Intelligence Agencies and the Universities: Further Implications of the Thesis Advanced by Sigmund Diamond InCompromised Campus.” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 6.3 (1993): 365-77. Print.

[14] Ibid. p. 369

[15] De Vries, Tity. “The 1967 Central Intelligence Agency Scandal: Catalyst in a Transforming Relationship between State and People.” Journal of American History 98.4 (2012): 1075. Print.

[16] Dujmović, Nicholas. “Drastic Actions Short of War: The Origins and Application of CIA’s Covert Paramilitary Function in the Early Cold War.” Journal of Military History 76.3 (2012): 775. Print.

[17] McCoy, Alfred W. Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 2009. Print. p.20

About bolshevikpunk

Mainline Marxism or Die. Activist, Student, and Degenerate.
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