The kind of surveillance techniques the NSA uses against “terrorism suspects” are now being deployed to help big business trample the rights of
average citizens. At least that’s the conclusion of Philosophy Professor Peter Ludlow in a recent New York Times blog.
There are a number of for-profit organizations that create psyops, propaganda campaigns and disinformation for the government, Ludlow noted. These organizations also provide similar services for large corporations. These organizations are also heavily involved in the surveillance business. Information gathered by surveillance operations is often used for purposes such as Psyops.
If you’re wondering what psyop stands for, it is short for psychological operations or an effort to change opinions or perceptions by the military or government. The military uses them to try and build good will among people in places like Afghanistan or Iraq. Now psyop techniques are being used against Americans by big business.
Team Themis vs. the world
A shadowy organization called Team Themis, which is composed of NSA contractors, now sells NSA surveillance and disinformation capabilities to private companies, Ludlow noted. Team Themis’s clients include Bank of America and the US Chamber of Commerce.
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Bank of America hired Team Themis to discredit WikiLeaks and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald (the man who broke the Edward Snowden story), Ludlow claims. The bank wanted WikiLeaks and Greenwald discredited because they had gotten their hands on 75,000 emails that exposed many of its activities. Those activities included foreclosing on family homes and falsifying documents used to justify foreclosure.
The US Chamber of Commerce, an organization that represents the interests of large corporations, hired Team Themis to discredit a group called Chamber Watch. Chamber Watch often criticizes the Chamber and its lobbying efforts. Team Themis proposed creating false documents or press releases that could be used to discredit Chamber Watch in the eyes of journalists.
More about Team Themis
Team Themis is an alliance of three organizations:
- Palantir Technologies, a private company partially funded by the CIA. Palantir develops data mining technologies like those used in the NSA’s PRISM program. It originally sold its services to intelligence organizations like the CIA, NSA and the British GCHQ. Now Palantir is selling its services to corporations such as JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Rupert P. Murdoch’s News Corp (which owns the Fox networks and the British tabloids caught up in the phone hacking scandal). Forbes reported that Pallantir is worth between $5 and $8 billion and is considering going public (selling stock). Billionaires like Peter Thiel who helped found PayPal and Facebook have invested in it. Some observers think Palantir developed the software that enabled the U.S. military to track down and kill Bin Laden.
- Berico Technologies, an outfit in Virginia that develops tracking software for the US military and intelligence agencies. At least one of Berico’s founders is a former US army intelligence officer named Guy Filippeli. Berico claims to be a “veteran-owned small business” involved in data analysis and data integration. It employs a social scientist with a PhD in political science.
- Endgame Systems, a company that claims to be in the cyber security business. Yet its CEO is Nate Fick who brags about his experience in the security community in his online profile. He also says he focuses on defense and intelligence communities.
- HBGary and HBGary Federal, two “cybersecurity” firms that were hired to track down the hacker group Anonymous by MasterCard and Visa. HBGary claims to offer defenses against hacking another cyber security threats.
To summarize: Technologies and tactics developed to fight terror are now being deployed against private citizens, activists and journalists by big business. The surveillance state doesn’t work for citizens; it works for corporations.
Professor Ludlow’s allegations are the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other companies providing these services, including Booz Allen — the company Edward Snowden worked for before turning whistleblower. Nation journalist Tom Shorrock estimates that 70 percent of the intelligence budget goes to such private firms rather than to the spies looking for real terrorists. Shorrock wrote:
Tens of thousands of Americans working for private intelligence contractors have access to the personal information of millions of their fellow citizens, including their phone and e-mail communications as well Internet chats on Yahoo, Google and other ISPs.
In other words, your tax dollars are being used to finance the development of the tools big business wants to use to spy on you and misinform you with. The surveillance and intelligence industrial complex is a threat to individual freedoms, and it is giving large corporations and the wealthy frightening weapons to deploy against those who threaten their position.