On January 4, the New York Times reported on recently declassified information
revealing that, following the 9-11 attack, the National Security Agency (NSA)
had acted on its own authority to expand surveillance of citizens inside the U.S.
Recent revelations of such governmental spying have generated strong reaction
from both Right and Left, and properly so. But there is little attention regarding
the private sector and its surveillance of citizens.
Go to the NSA’s website, and click
on the word “Business” to get to a page titled “Introduction
to Business”. There you read, “The National Security Agency recognizes
and understands the importance of industry alliances to achieve its goals and
objectives. NSA created an Acquisition
Organization - an organization focused on working closely with U.S. industry
to help integrate technology forecasts and assess the rate of market implementation.
NSA continues to broaden collaborative partnerships with industry and academia
to maximize the return from technology efforts; … As NSA continues on
its path to transform the U.S. Cryptologic System, the Acquisition Organization
must continuously modernize and improve the acquisition process by implementing
best business practices to satisfy mission needs; … Today the Agency relies
more and more on the commercial marketplace for its solutions.”
Clicking on Acquisition
Organization takes you to a short page where you read “Our goals are
focused on the following: Customer - improve customer satisfaction (national
decision makers and military commanders) … “. Oh my.
This collective of NSA plus the corporate sector is clear as to whom
it serves, and “we the people” do not appear in its list. Imagine
where dissenters might fit - peace activists and anyone else in disagreement
with administrative, military, or other governmental “customers”.
But even administrations come and go, while corporations, those mythical “persons”,
are theoretically eternal. As the late Gaylord Nelson warned nearly half a century
ago, corporations had already become so powerful as to “make a Roman emperor
gasp”. As their strength has continued to grow well beyond much of world
government, as their ownership of media, and hence their ability to mold public
perceptions, has increased, and as their lobbyists who outnumber our legislators
56-to-one now insert their wording into legislation, citizen unrest and opposition
is on the increase.
Fascism, the word, was coined by the Italians, and no one has articulated its
most fundamental feature more succinctly than Benito Mussolini with his often
quoted comment: "Fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is
a merger of state and corporate power." The corporate sector is clearly
what is alluded to by the NSA on its website.
Citizen unrest and criticism is an increasing threat to corporate power. How
might corporate abilities to spy, abilities now sophisticated almost beyond
imagination, be directed toward critics of their various activities? And how
might they retaliate? In an environment veiled in corporate secrecy and free
of the theoretical restraints posed by a governmental system of checks and balances,
where would they draw the line? Would they even consider a line? Does anyone
Bill Willers is Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University
of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. E-mail to: email@example.com