by Elizabeth Vos, Disobedient Media:
Suzie Dawson calls the Snowden Files “the gift that keeps on giving,” and with good reason. Legacy media likes to distill the information into only the past tense, a single take-away sound bite regarding the exposure of mass surveillance in 2013. However, as Dawson notes, much of the important content residing in the Snowden documents has never been addressed by mainstream press, due in large part to the volume of the data.
However, as Dawson contends, there is a wealth of knowledge remaining in the files that are often unrelated to the widely publicized revelation of the NSA’s domestic surveillance, but that provides important contextual understanding of intelligence agency intent and motivation.
This author collaborated with Dawson in examining Snowden files that, though published, had not been publicized at this time. Dawson said: “This is information in the public arena, that has not been examined by journalists.” Dawson added: “The true power of the documents is not so much in examining the content of each single document, but in actually pulling together the whole picture.”
Discussion of the results of two previous live streams on the matter are included below.
Dawson told Disobedient Media that analyzing the files had: “Changed the way I think and feel about surveillance, intelligence agencies, the UN, the USA. and the system that ultimately governs the entire world.”
One of the first documents we looked at was in regards to an “Advanced Analysis Seminar” on “Computational Neurobiology.” The event involved the Fair Isaac Corporation, or FICO, a credit scoring company that also describes itself as interested in Artificial Intelligence.
The lecture was presented by Dr. Robert Hecht-Nielson, who spoke regarding Confabulation theory. The intent of the theory is to find a mechanism that explains cognition in humans and animals – a unified theory of mind – that can then be applied to artificial intelligence. Hecht-Nielsen’s association with the credit score company FICO resulted from a merger with his HNC Software, which press reports described as involved in both the credit industry and “After the Sept. 11 attacks, it has also been looking to use its software to help airlines identify high-risk passengers.”
Dawson pointed out that Johns Hopkins and other Universities had been partnering with the NSA to run seminars, which leads to the disturbing implications of the intelligence agency’s influence on academic institutions, a point which would come up again later in our discussion.
Another important point raised by the Snowden documents is the fact that the European Union is considered the top strategic threat to the United States, eclipsing even nations like Russia and China.
The second document we discussed indicated that during the immediate aftermath of the Iraq War, NSA overtime skyrocketed to such an extent that the agency was forced to publish a document outlining limits on overtime and described measures to prevent mental breakdown of employees.
An additional issue raised by the Snowden files was the role of SIGINT regarding ‘hidden meanings’ in public broadcasts. Dawson pointed out the importance of the document because of its relevance to foreign press, as well as for individual live streamers on the ground, who may then face violent repercussions for their ‘public broadcasts.’
This was a significant document because it demonstrates that the NSA’s description of SIGINT differs from its described targets revealed by Snowden. Publicly, SIGINT is described as targeting: “electronic signals and systems used by foreign targets, such as communications systems, radars, and weapons systems.” However, no mention of ‘public broadcast’ is made in this public definition.
This public description is belied by Snowden documents which show that SIGINT also targets ‘public broadcasts,’ which could include individual civilian livestreams. This single document shows that the NSA’s practices significantly differ from their publicly acknowledged activities in both scope and intent.
An additional document, “Winning the War Was the Easy Part: Challenges of Nation Building,” discussed UN involvement in ‘rebuilding’ Iraq after the initial devastation of the Iraq War. This information corroborates the presence of the NSA for economic purposes. The document mentions the “lessons learned from previous Nation-building exercises,” which as Dawson pointed out, appears to be an admission that many past US interventions have been exercises in ‘nation-building.’
The document goes on to differentiate nation-building from peacekeeping, and mentions “Previous UN and US experiences in post-conflict reconstruction.’ This raised the question as to the actual motivations behind the UN’s initial refusal to support the war in Iraq. Dawson asked: “Was this a PR exercise?” The mention of previous experiences in US-UN nation building suggested a “cycle,” where the US invades a country and the UN then acts in the reconstruction phase. Disobedient Media previously reported on problematic paramilitary organizations repeatedly given UN contracts after conflicts and in disaster areas.
Disturbingly, the document states: “Rebuilding a country from scratch is an extremely difficult challenge.” This chilling statement omits and takes for granted the reality that rebuilding a nation “from scratch” is only necessary after that country has been utterly devastated by a military invasion. As the document states, nation-building is not simply peacekeeping. It suggests an active role in both the destruction that necessitates rebuilding, and control of the process of reconstruction both physically and politically.
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