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9/11: The day we lost our privacy and power

9/11: The day we lost our privacy and power
Every day, we have to prove we have ‘nothing to hide’

By Duncan Campbell

In 1999, the European Parliament commissioned reports on Echelon, and then asked for further checks and legal recommendations for controlling spying from EP vice president Gerhard Schmid. Schmid’s detailed recommendations were passed without exception by the full parliament on 5 September 2011. They would have been an important new step to protect the privacy of global communications. But in less than a week, the project to control Echelon and its like lost moral authority. The proposals soon sank into the dustbin of history.

In their wake, quite apart from the now well-publicised episodes of kidnapping (rendition) and torture, a new archipelago of monitoring and control and extrajudicial punishment has come into being. The US has according to a major new study published this week, created a vast and almost unseen archipelago of secret operations and control centres.

Top Secret America is the product of two years’ of research by former military intelligence analyst Bill Arkin and a team from the Washington Post. They found that since 9/11, more than 1,200 government agencies and 2,000 private corporations at over 10,000 locations within the United States alone have created an unstoppable and barely controllable top secret network to support the GWOT.

Like Arkin and his team, I have tramped around recondite suburbs and industrial parks in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Colorado and elsewhere to view the architecture of this new world. In Washington alone, the new homeland security, intelligence and counterterrorism real estate includes 33 new building complexes erected since 2001, with a net floorspace 22 times greater than the Congress.

Constellations of these centres have grown everywhere: in the UK at Menwith Hill in the Yorkshire dales; in the US in Texas, Georgia, Colorado. The monolithic and windowless nature of the buildings is dictated by an extreme electronic security requirement that they be SCIFs (Secure Compartmented Information Facilities). Apart from physical security and personnel control systems, the signature physical aspect of a SCIF is that no electronic emanations reflecting what happens inside should be carried out by cable, fibre or through a window. Not a photon shall escape.

Some are merely windowless and featureless blockhouses. Others sport multiple satellite connections that supplement the buried and unseen fibre global networks.

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