American Counter Intelligence Begins With the Revolutionary War
Spying began on the American continent before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. The Central Intelligence Agency has an area devoted to recounting the espionage stories of our Revolutionary War heroes, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, who spied for the Colonists. Nathan Hale was the first Colonist to be put to death for espionage. American history is filled with the narratives of spies and espionage. World history is also rife with tales of espionage, even from the time of Jesus. If you think about Judas as a spy, then it is easy to understand that his mission might have been something other than a payoff.
Pre World War I
Prior to WWI, the American government began spying on its citizens in earnest. In the beginning of these observations, many writers and artists made the list of those being observed. When the WWI vintage Espionage Act was passed by Congress, it was the fear of immigrants, which was the impetus for this legislation. Woodrow Wilson, who was president at the time, feared that immigrants might be forced to choose between their native land and America, might have more of an allegiance to their “old country,” therefore they might be more likely to spy against the US if asked. (This Day in History, 2010)
Though all nations from the beginning of advanced structures of government, have spied on their citizens, as technology emerged with newer better methods of communication, spying became more sophisticated, and a facet of government on its own.
WWI notwithstanding, the US continued to make tighter control and supervision of its citizens a priority. Executive Order 9066 created exclusion zones for “certain classes” of people that may pose a threat to US security. This allowed military commanders to hold Japanese and German Americans in camps until the war was over.
Pearl Harbor; A Game Changer
Before Pearl Harbor, the United States had been in a period of relative isolationism. Recovering from the Depression was the major goal of the government and populace. Although the US government was wary of its ability to stay out of the fray, prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US was unprepared for intelligence gathering on a scale that would be needed during the war.
WWII created the first opportunity for governments to use what was then cutting edge technology for spying and espionage. There was still a great deal of hands on spying during this war and it was necessary to cull information from the Germans and Japanese. The American public was overall a united front for the prevention of spying and espionage, and many Americans volunteered to keep watch on their neighborhoods.
The Internet Creates New Opportunities for Intelligence Gathering
With the advent of the Internet and computer programming, keeping track of its citizens has become easier for the US government. Today there are massive archives of information on many Americans who do not realize that there is this information gathered about them.
Nixon Years and The Domino Theory
During the Nixon, years there were many people who had FBI files compiled on them for very flimsy reasons. The government was, as the President at the time, in a state of constant paranoia and everyone who disagreed with any part of the Nixon doctrine was an enemy of the State.
In a similar but not quite as dramatic fashion as Joe McCarthy, Mr. Nixon went about making sure that dissidents and anyone who disagreed with the government was watched. During the 1970’s there was widespread abuse of citizen surveillance. The abuses stemmed mostly because of Nixon’s concerns over Communism, the Viet Nam War protests, and its resulting political dissent. Nixon, we must remember, was a product of the “Domino Theory” which stated that if one country in a region fell to Communism, then all the others near it would also, falling like dominos until eventually finding its way to the United States. The theory was dramatic and caught the imagination of Americans who were afraid of Communism.
Eisenhower’s vice-president, who was Richard Nixon, was a devout follower of this theory. In a speech made in 1953, Nixon argued, “If Indochina falls; Thailand is put in an almost impossible position. The same is true of Malaya with its rubber and tin. The same is true of Indonesia. If this whole part of South East Asia goes under Communist domination or Communist influence, Japan, who trades and must trade with this area in order to exist, must inevitably, be oriented towards the Communist regime.”
This map gives the Domino Theory trajectory for Southeast Asia
Eisenhower influenced Nixon, John Kennedy, and others who would one day be influential in deciding the fate of Americans at war. (Katz, 2004) The fact that there were bad people, like Joe McCarthy who were able to raise their own esteem by “Red Baiting” and by using the Domino Theory, does not diminish the fact that in some ways, this theory was correct. (Katz, 2004) Overall, the theory stood up where it came to China and the Soviet Union; however, it did not resolve itself in the way that Eisenhower thought it would. Eisenhower’s famous “Domino Theory” speech outlined his fears that the Communists were indeed trying to take over the world, one country at a time. At the time, it was a sobering realization for many Americans who took the threat very seriously.
Tracking Terrorist in The Computer Age
The issue with tracking terrorists is not that we are attempting to mitigate damage done by people who would do this country harm. The issue is that there is the penchant for those in power to use these tools to keep track of their political enemies and to create misinformation about their opponents. Nixon’s dirty tricks and many other political misdeeds came about in the name of nationalism and patriotism.
George W. Bush – Policies of Patriotism
During President G.W. Bush’s tenure, many citizens claimed that they were being unfairly tracked by the government. Of course, at the time, they were made out to be crackpots by the government, so little heed was paid to their complaints. The US Patriot Act was created to make certain that the government was able to take whatever steps it deemed necessary to “protect” Americans. The problem is that what the government might deem necessary and the populace might deem necessary are two very different items.
It is reasonable for even law-abiding citizens to have a healthy distrust of the government. However, most citizens come and go as they please. There is very little that a US citizen cannot do or say, as long as it is legal, in the US. There have been glitches where small children get on the “no fly” list because they share a name or birthday with a “person of interest.” Often grannies in wheelchairs are patted down at the airport but sometimes these issues occur in a system as large as this one with no intention of malice on the part of the government. What most people who have concerns think about when they voice their fears is that anyone who disagrees with the current political regime will be observed. This is unlikely, because after Nixon and even George W. Bush some changes were made to the way that the US investigates terrorism.
The issue is no longer, whether the government has a right to electronically spy on its citizens, the issue is now whether the government has the right to spy for so many unsubstantiated reasons. During George W. Bush’s term as president, he allowed the Pentagon to spy on millions of international calls and emails without warrants. The National Security Agency (NSA) who had previously only spied on overseas communications began a departure from its mission in 2002 when Bush authorized domestic surveillance. There were no warrants requested and issued for monitoring of overseas conversations by American citizens, however the government maintains that the NSA did continue to obtain warrants for spying within the U.S. only. (Risen Lichtblau, 2005)
Business Use of Anti Terrorism Technology
Using similar technology, US companies can provide better risk assessment for their systems, as well as improved cyber-intruder prevention methods. The same methods that the government uses to track incoming and outgoing data can be used by industry to implement safeguards against hackers. In fact, the White House has a report on their Web site that details some of the initiatives that the Obama Administration has set forth for government and industry in this area. The last sentence of the report states, “It includes a focus on public-private sharing of information regarding cyber threats and incidents in both government and CIKR.” , which is very telling in that the government wants information from the private sector on cyber security and it is willing to share its information as well.
Another interesting part of the software used for profiling can be implemented to profile customers and create the ability for an industry to see what it is their clients may want. Creating a profile of a customer is not new; however, the tools provided by new programs are making this a much more sophisticated endeavor.
Training is another area that fits into the corporate use of tools developed for terrorist tracking. Tools that provide the ability of staff to detect and ascertain risks to a company’s systems are a way that industry can create opportunities with the programs that have been designed for tracking cyberterrorists. Writeprint is a tool that any industry can use to protect itself from anonymous attacks. By being able to use some of these applications, industry is providing a resolution for some of its own security problems.
Dark Web – Research or Defense?
There are those who liken the Dark Web Project to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Total Information Awareness (TIA) initiative. This initiative was controversial because it sidestepped a number of legal rights that Americans take for granted. Funding was cut off by Congress in 2003 over civil-liberties concerns. However, Dark Web is now funded through grants from NSF, which means that essentially the government is not directly funding it. The budget for Dark Web is now part of the budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF’s 2009 fiscal year budget request documents state as follows:
“Cybersecurity. The FY 2009 Request includes $116.9 million for cybersecurity research and education, with $30.0 million specifically devoted respectively to research in usability ($10.0 million); theoretical foundations ($10.0 million); and privacy ($10.0 million) to support the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. These investments in cybersecurity and information security and privacy will produce research results that allow society to more fully exploit the potential benefits of an increasingly networked world. In addition, the Scholarship for Service
program, which funds scholarships to build cadre of federal professionals with skills required to protect the Nation’s critical information infrastructure, increases by 30 percent to $15.0 million.”
Goals at Odds Between a Free Society and Counter Intelligence
How do we keep our free society at a time when terrorism threatens us? Americans are accustomed to doing and saying what they please, when they please. It would be difficult for American citizens to work with identification rules like those in some foreign nations. In essence, when we cross a border we go to another state, which is still part of the U.S. The difficulty is that without borders and guards, anyone can travel freely and go relatively unnoticed. This relativity is of course what is at issue at the moment. The ability to live our lives as we please and go unconcerned by things such as being noticed by law enforcement is what Americans consider one of their basic rights.
The heightened sense of security in the U.S. and Europe has left its mark on the human rights world community. Some countries have used terrorism as an excuse to use more forceful and aggressive measures against their own people. Even in the U.S. there are thousands of people on the government’s “no fly” list, many of whom have no legitimate reason to be detained except for possibly sharing a name of birthday with a known terrorist. Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an organization that observes areas of the world where human rights may be violated as a result of governmental anti-terrorism and other activities. In 2009, HRW was concerned with Ethiopia’s proposed counterterrorism laws because it gave the Ethiopian government the right to detain and question its citizens with no charges. HRW’s concern included free speech issues, which could easily be violated by being construed as anti-government speech. Joanne Mariner, who is the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program director at Human Rights Watch, stated that: “As drafted, this law could encourage serious abuses against political protesters and provide legal cover for repression of free speech and due-process rights.” (Human Rights Watch, 2009)
The Heritage Foundation, which is a very conservative Republican think tank, has this to say about the Patriot Act: “The challenge of maintaining the balance between security and constitutionally protected freedoms inherent in responding to the threat of terror, in the particular context of civil rights laws and obligations.” Paul Rosenzwieg, who is a senior legal research fellow at the Foundation, gave testimony before Congress on the Patriot Act, and the subsequent backlash of liberals who he identifies as being an anti-anti-terrorism group. Mr. Rosenzwieg’s opinion was that the Patriot Act “as perceived by the public” seemed a lot broader in scope than it actually was. The idea was that the public felt that the Patriot Act had gone too far, and that George W. Bush’s policies towards counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering had created an opening for the loss of certain rights to privacy that Americans have. (Rosenzwieg, 2004) Of course, the Heritage Foundation’s arguments were pro Bush doctrine and anti terrorism policies.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a different take and approach in the matter of the Patriot Act. The ACLU clearly feels that the government has gone too far in its measures, and it is denying Americans protected rights with the Patriot Act and other anti terrorism policies. On their website’s front page, the ACLU has a banner that reads: “Keep America Safe and Free. Illegal government spying, indefinite detention without charge or trial and government-sponsored torture programs after 9/11 transcended the bounds of law and our most treasured values in the name of national security. There has never been a more urgent need to restore individual freedoms, due process rights and our system of checks and balances.” In the view of the ACLU, the U.S. government has gone over the line of protection to repression in searching for and eliminating terrorism in the U.S. and abroad. There are numerous articles detailing the issues with the anti terrorism program currently in place in the U.S., as well as a list of lawsuits which the ACLU is involved in regarding the civil rights of accused terrorism suspects. The “Keep America Free and Safe” ACLU campaign is asking ACLU members and the general public to contact President Obama to ask for a review of anti terrorism legislation and to study further its impact on American’s rights. (ACLU, 2010)
There have been many instances when I have had conversation with Armed Forces members and people who work in some facet of anti terrorism. There is a recurring theme to these conversations. The idea is that if the general public knew what these “insiders” know, that we would all be willing to give up certain freedoms for safety. The implication is that terrorism is rampant everywhere in the world and the U.S. is only semi safe not only because of the laws it has enacted to protect us, but our ability to use technological advances to follow the terrorist “chatter”. The other argument is that there is so much anti terrorism work going on that the public does not know about, that if it did, we would all want to put a stop to it because of its scope.
It is not possible to argue with someone who says that if you knew what they knew, you would think the same way. It is not possible to know what someone else knows if they will not tell you. The fact remains however, that this country has laws that protect individual rights and protect our expectation of fair and unbiased treatment from the government. We cannot give those freedoms up for safety if it then means living like the citizens of repressive regimes. While the U.S. is hardly a repressive regime, the beginnings of repression are always formed in a way to make the citizens of a country feel safer and more protected.
Technology is the key to anti terrorism activities, and it is the most used method of observation of U.S. enemies. Where the line is drawn will make all the difference in what occurs in the future to our civil rights, and to our borders. Safety, balanced with the ideals of an open society is a very difficult and complex problem to solve. It will be in contention long after we are all gone.
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