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Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you

A new, in-depth story by Naomi Klein examines “Golden Shield,” China’s prototype for a high-tech police state. She says that China is building its systems with the help of U.S. defense contractors, that the global homeland-security business is bigger than Hollywood and the music industry combined, and that the U.S. Government is mining China’s experiences for ideas for its own surveillance programs.

  • China’s All-Seeing Eye, by Naomi Klein, Rollingstone, May 29, 2008. “Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.”

Klein says that the United States is providing China’s rulers with something even more valuable than surveillance technology: “…the ability to claim that they are just like us. Liu Zhengrong, a senior official dealing with China’s Internet policy, has defended Golden Shield and other repressive measures by invoking the Patriot Act and the FBI’s massive e-mail-mining operations.” And, the Chinese rationalize surveillance of their own citizens the same way many do in the United States: “If you are a law-abiding citizen, you shouldn’t be afraid… The criminals are the only ones who should be afraid.” (See also: Privacy: “I have nothing to hide” and Privacy and the “Terrorist Surveillance Act.”)

Klein notes that human-rights activists say that although the surveillance tools used by China and the U.S. are the same, the political contexts are radically different. “China has a government that uses its high-tech web to imprison and torture peaceful protesters, Tibetan monks and independent-minded journalists.” But she also notes that Guantánamo Bay, the erosion of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal searches and seizures, and the fact that the U.S. currently has more people behind bars than China despite a population less than a quarter of its size all mean that “the lines are getting awfully blurry.”

What relevance does this have for government information specialists? As we at FGI have pointed out before, when the only “authentic” copy of government information is available from government-controlled computers rather than from privacy-protecting libraries, the freedom to read is eroded and the infrastructure for government spying on what you are reading is enabled. (See also: Will GPO guarantee user privacy? Can it?.)

See also: China’s Golden Shield: Corporations and the Development of Surveillance Technology in the People’s Republic of China, by Greg Walton, October 2001, Rights & Democracy.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

Many of you will remember a little over a year ago when it was disclosed that certain phone companies — specifically ATT, Verizon, and BellSouth — were providing assistance to the National Security Agency in their illegal domestic spying. In a bizarre example of scratching each others’ backs, today the Department of Justice came out against Net neutrality. That’s right, since the telcos helped the federal government with their illegal wiretapping, the federal government felt it needed to make a statement again net neutrality. We’ve been tracking the net neutrality issue for a while, and find this blatent example of political favors very unseemly.

The Justice Department on Thursday said Internet service providers should be allowed to charge a fee for priority Web traffic. The agency told the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing high-speed Internet practices, that it is opposed to "Net neutrality," the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user. Several phone and cable companies, such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., have previously said they want the option to charge some users more money for loading certain content or Web sites faster than others. The Justice Department said imposing a Net neutrality regulation could hamper development of the Internet and prevent service providers from upgrading or expanding their networks. It could also shift the "entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers," the agency said in its filing.


Expanded Use of Domestic Spy Satellite Data

The Department of Homeland Security will begin to share spy satellite data with domestic law enforcement agencies next year.  The theory is that satellite images will assist in border security. The most interesting news resport I’ve read on this topic came from Fox News. While all the news reports pointed out concerns about oversight and the effect on privacy, only this article mentioned that *getting* data isn’t the end of the story – to be meaningful, someone somewhere has to analyze it and that this kind of data would be likely be of low priority:

Analysts across the intelligence community are already swamped with incoming data from foreign surveillance, and they may have little time for lower-priority work.

In light of recent expansions on wiretapping, this is, well, unnerving.

Rockefeller: I Don’t Trust What They’re Doing

Jeff Bliss reported for Bloomberg on Friday, January 26, 2007, that Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee may subpoena Bush administration documents related to domestic surveillance.

I don’t trust what they’re doing, Rockefeller said in an interview on taped for Political Capital, a weekly 30 minute Bloomberg television program on politics, economics and public policy hosted by Al Hunt.

The full story, Rockefeller Says He May Subpoena Documents on Spying is available online.

Read the related story Review of prewar Iraq intelligence: Senate Requests, White House does not reply posted by James Jacobs.