Monday, May 26, 2008

Chairman Mao, Inc. is watching you

File it under "free markets and free people go hand in hand."

Naomi Klein writes, in her current Rolling Stone piece that China's new surveillance infrastructure, Golden Shield, is almost ready to protect China's "market Stalinism."
This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country's notorious system of online controls known as the "Great Firewall." Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder's personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.
Golden Shield (which Klein dubs Police State 2.0) must be inducing surveillance envy among higher-ups in the Bush administration, both for its domestic spying and profit potential. Former Bush CIA chief, George Tenet, is already on the board of Connecticut-based L-1 Identity Solutions, the biometrics firm vying for the contract to supply China with the technology for Police State 2.0. Supplying police-state technology to China is probably illegal under U.S. law, Klein notes, and has been since shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

U.S. business consultant, Stephen Herrington, a former military-intelligence lieutenant colonel, tells Klein that what he's seeing in China scares the hell out of him.
"I can guarantee you that there are people in the Bush administration who are studying the use of surveillance technologies being developed here and have at least skeletal plans to implement them at home," he says. "We can already see it in New York with CCTV cameras. Once you have the cameras in place, you have the infrastructure for a powerful tracking system. I'm worried about what this will mean if the U.S. government goes totalitarian and starts employing these technologies more than they are already. I'm worried about the threat this poses to American democracy."

Herrington pauses. "George W. Bush," he adds, "would do what they are doing here in a heartbeat if he could."
If he hasn't already. "Ready for export to a neighborhood near you," Klein quips.

What’s more ironic is how this new Homeland Security industry isn’t some poster child for free-market capitalist innovation, but constitutes another kind of arms industry. Companies like L-1 Identity Solutions developed their technology using taxpayer dollars. Their principle clients are government agencies funded with taxpayer dollars. And their efforts at getting around export restrictions so they can sell these new "arms" to a lucrative Chinese market are defended by a growing Homeland Security industry lobby funded, again, with taxpayer dollars.

Klein observes,
The global homeland-security business is now worth an estimated $200 billion — more than Hollywood and the music industry combined. Any sector of that size inevitably takes on its own momentum. New markets must be found — which, in the Big Brother business, means an endless procession of new enemies and new emergencies: crime, immigration, terrorism.
Homeland Security player General Electric controls major media in this country and Cisco Systems, a supplier of security hardware to China, is a sponsor of television's 24. For both, fear is their business. Maintaining it makes business sense.

In a sidebar, Klein considers what China's security apparatus means for us.
"... they're becoming more like us and we're becoming more like them. I think this urge to know as much as possible about what people are saying and writing and doing, this is something the police around the world share. They generally want as much information about people as possible. The way I put it in the piece is that there seems to be this global middle ground emerging, not to say that we are like China now, but you do have a glimpse of catching the future and of course it's the future that we've imagined many, many times in every Hollywood movie."

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