The Obama Administration has approved new guidelines on the Government's collection, retention and use of information on American citizens. The new rules will allow the National Counterterrorism Center to drag-net personal data from any and all sources, public or private, even when there is no suspicion that the individual is connected to terrorism. As reported by the New York Times, the data can be retained for up to five years and data mined "to search for patterns that could indicate a threat" or as the NCC puts it, "that might relate to a potential attack."
Ah yes... once again grammar; that pesky little technicality toward which Americans are so indifferent. They key words here are: "might," "could" "potential" and "threat". Could is the present conditional tense of "can" meaning "susceptible to" or "capable of". It denotes a potentiality; something which is latent but not active or which is not present but might, with some uncertain degree of probability, realize itself. A threat is "the expression of an intention to inflict evil or injury on another; the declaration of an evil, loss, or pain to come." (Websters, 1913 Ed.) By extension, the word "threat" has come to mean the existence of an evil to come; i.e., a potential injury or loss. Used in this sense the word "threat" is equivalent to "danger" wherein both words refer to an injury or loss which could occur.
And so, we have entered the realm of the potentially potential. Once we take cognisance of the meaning of words, we can understand that the Government has asserted the power to plow through personal information to search for patterns that might point to a person's potential or capability to inflict harm. Once such a pattern is detected, it follows that the Government can effect a preemptive strike in order to neutralize the person presenting the potential threat.
Where have we heard this before? We have heard it in the Bush Administration's assertion of a right to effect a preemptive strike against nations that could present a threat to the United States.
The policy of pre-emptive "power-projection" was first articulated in then Defense Secretary Cheney's 1992 Defense Planning Guide which redefined the America's military mission as "precluding the emergence of any potential global competitor." (Planning Guide Memorandum, 18 Feb. 1992, I 91/28291, p. 4.) "Preclude emergence" or in simple English, "killing weeds before they sprout."
Eight years later, the same zio/con cabal which was involved in Cheney's opus, banded together to come up with a think tank whitepaper called Rebuilding America’s Defenses published by the defense-industry funded Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The PNAC paper formulated the strategy of "full spectrum" action to prevent "potentially powerful states" from being able to either challenge the United State or even expand their own regional influence. Result? Iraq, Afghanistan and now possibly Iran.
Although these interventions were all justified as the response to an alleged "attack" on the United States, the events of 9/11 merely provided the spectacular cover for a policy that rejected response-based strategies in favor of pre-emptive action against possible threats.
In the 10 years since 9/11 virtually no one (and certainly no one in the American mudia) has focused on the import of "could" or the meaning of the word "potential". What more or less modern industrialized nation could not present a potential harm to the United States? Virtually all modern states are capable of inflicting harm or loss on another state. Any state presents a potential threat to the United States.
Anyone who thinks this is an exaggerated interpretation, need only remember the talk that was bandied about prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was repeatedly urged as a casus belli that Saddam had a "weapons-of-mass destruction program" and that we needed to remove his "capacity" to inflict harm on his people or neighbors (i.e. Israel).
Needless to say, everyone forgot the substantive object of the phrase (i.e. "program") while the pseudo Boolian adjectival string (WEAPONS MASS DESTRUCTION) clanged around in the bell of the collective brain.
In the run up to that trillion dollar disaster, the U.S. mudia repeatedly barraged the American public with images of U.N. inspectors being turned away from complicated looking machines at "installations" that turned out to be fertilizer factories and the like. The key point here is not that a fertilizer factory was falsely passed off as a weapons center but that fertilizer factories and the like represent the industrial "capability" to create weapons of mass destruction should that be the intent of the government.
The Western regime of sanctions against Iraq was simply aimed at reducing an emerging industrial nation to the state of undeveloped, impoverished third world country. When Saddam Hussein refused to voluntarily return his country to the stone age, we blasted it back for him.
That was the policy against Iraq; it is the policy in Afghanistan and it is urged as the policy against Iran. It is the policy of preemptive power projection or, in plain Anglo-Saxon English, the policy of bully-boy ass kicking around the world.
This is the reason the Graham/Lieberman bill pending in the Senate seeks to mandate preventing Iran from being "capable" of manufacturing a nuclear weapon.
At the risk of repetition, let us make sure the point is driven home. There is no evidence that Iran is making a nuclear bomb. All the talk from Israeli and pro-Israeli propagandists is whether Iran has decided to embark on a nuclear program -- i.e. whether it "intends" to make a bomb. Of course that is only dubiously knowable and so the policy ends up insisting that we need to cut off a man's hands because, since that we can't know if he will punch us, we might as well make him incapable of doing so should he want to.
That dis-abling is what the so-called "war on terror" is about and the war on terror has also finally come home. The same paradigm that is applied to nation states is applied to American citizens, with the same arbitrary and destructive results.
What person is not potentially capable of presenting a threat to the government? No one. All of us by are very existence are potentially dangerous. This blogged warned about it when we wrote over ten years ago,
“What the Government will have to presume is that everyone is at least a potential terrorist. In the most fundamental sense that is a presumption which is entirely antithetical to the concept of civil friendship, i.e., societas." (Woodchip Gazette, 010915)
We also warned about it when we explained that under the concept of data mining, all information is guilty information because all of it is of potential significance.
In traditional military or criminal intelligence there is always a specific suspect and question in mind. But in the world of data mining no specific information is sought. What counts is the possible relation between apparently unconnected and insignificant pieces of data. Since any person in the security zone can possess such a piece of connect able data no arrest is “arbitrary” and every one is a potential “suspect” in “possession of potential information” .
In line with the PNAC white paper, the US military has explicitly applied these concepts to so-called "security zones" such as Iraq. But of course, as the Government's policy papers never cease to remind us, the "core" security zone is the "Homeland" itself. And so now, inevitably, the same drag-net data acquisition and mining that was applied to those Iraqi's and those Afghans, is now to be applied to us, Murkans.
The question will become not what is prohibited, but what is allowed.
But it does not and will not end there. Once we realize that Iraq and Afghanistan serve merely as the experimental phases of what will inevitably be applied in "the Homeland" the end comes into clear and fearsome focus.
As summarized by the PNAC whitepaper, the U.S. military's "full spectrum" strategy included "shaping the security environment" with "acquisition and management of information" and the use of "organic intelligence units". In simple English, data-mining on the one hand combined with the use of moles, undercover operatives, entrappers and agents provocateurs agents on the other. What this means is that "shaping the security environment" includes provoking the incident responded to -- creating the reality of ongoing instability requiring ongoing "heightened" response.
It has to be this way because the only way to neutralize a potential is to destroy the very forces which make it effective. In other words, the policy calls for a kind of civic fracking which destroys the living force within society by rendering people suspicious of their neighbors, afraid of themselves lest they betray a pattern of potential threatfulness, misinformed, ever unsure of everything.
We are blithely creating our own living hell.
©Woodchip Gazette, 2012