Wired’s Danger Room blog has published pictures of what may be the hitherto secret CIA drone base in Saudi Arabia, revealed as part the confirmation hearings for John Brenner as proposed Director of the CIA…
So much has been happening over the US drone warfare program over the last few weeks that it’s hard to keep up.
First, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, instigated an inquiry into the targeted killing programs operated by the USA, largely using drones, and focusing on the issue of civilian casualties. The rapporteur, Ben Emmerson, made it clear that the inquiry would pull no punches and might result in war crimes charges against the US, should evidence be discovered of such crimes.
Second, NBC television in the USA revealed a leaked Justice Department document laying out the legal justification for the targeted assassination of US citizens using drones. The full memo is also available from this link and assembles a tortuous argument about how US citizens can be killed by their own government from above if there an “informed, high-level” official decides that the person has “recently” been involved in undefined “activities” threatening a violent attack against the US and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.”
And now, the Washington Post is reporting that the nomination of President Obama’s counter-terrorism guru, John Brennan, to head the CIA, has led to all sorts of revelations and difficult questions for Brennan to answer about the CIA’s targeted assassination program, including the acknowledgement of a secret drone base, at a still undisclosed location, in Saudi Arabia.
A while ago it looked like Obama’s drone strategy was unassailable despite increasing public knowledge via the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and criticisms from groups like the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. Now, this is going mainstream and it’s not looking so good for what former CIA Director, Leon Panetta, called the ‘only game in town’.
Architecture seems increasing implicated in the generation of a ubiquitous surveillance society, not simply in the relatively longstanding modernist obsession with glass and visibility, but with security increasingly considered not as option but as infrastructure. It was nice to see at least some people concerned with creating anti-surveillance architectures. Two great examples are Deborah Natsios, and Eyal Weizman, and another I recently came across (via The Verge), is Asher J. Kohn, whose Shura City project, aims to create a living environment in an Islamic cultural context, that is protected from drone surveillance. As Kohn states:
“Shura City is constructed to be livable. It is built according to local logic, using local materials, and amenable to local needs. It is meantto be alien – but not hostile – from the outside while homey and familiar from the inside. It is meant to confuse the machines and their distant operators while creating a safe zone forpeople whose lives are being rended by war. Shura City is not about judgment on the survivors or destruction of their persecutors. Shura City is about using architecture to create a space for humanity in an increasingly inhuman sphere.”
Boing Boing contributors have been doing a fascinating job of documenting the place of the Internet and social media in the ongoing turmoil spreading across Arabic countries. Until recently the focus had been on the use of social media tools by activists, but in the last few days, the empire has struck back. In particular the Egyptian state has effectively ‘turned off’ the Internet, cutting Net access and communications between Egypt and the rest of the world.
What’s particularly interesting is that the rulers of western ‘democracies’ seem to want similar powers. I’ve been writing about the growing movement amongst states to develop powers to split or close the Internet entirely for some time (see here, here and here, for example). Most recently, I reported on French efforts to develop Internet censorship power in wide-ranging circumstances, and as Sean Bonner on BB points out, a bill was introduced into Congress last year by, it’s that man again, Joe Liebermann, to give the USA government even greater powers to cut off civilian access to the Net entirely in the event of a ‘cyber-emergency’.
This is not a drill, people, this is happening…
The Surveillance Studies Centre says: Congratulations to Elia Zureik, David Lyon, Yasmeen Abu-Laban and all the contributors on their new book Surveillance and Control in Israel/Palestine, now available from Routledge. The book is an edited collection of papers from the research workshop, States of Exception, Surveillance and Population Management: The Case of Israel/Palestine, organized by The New Transparency Project in Cyprus, December 2008.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface – Elia Zureik, David Lyon and Yasmeen Abu-Laban
Part I: Introduction
1. Colonialism, Surveillance and Population Control: Israel/Palestine – Elia Zureik
Part II: Theories of Surveillance in Conflict Zones
2. Identification, Colonialism and Control: Surveillant Sorting in Israel/Palestine – David Lyon
3. Making Place for the Palestinians in the Altneuland: Herzl, Anti-Semitism, and the Jewish State – Glenn Bowman
Part III: Civilian Surveillance
4. Ominous Designs: Israel’s Strategies and Tactics of Controlling the Palestinians during the First Two Decades – Ahmad Sa’di
5. The Matrix of Surveillance in Times of National Conflict: The Israeli-Palestinian Case – Hillel Cohen
6. The Changing Patterns of Disciplining Palestinian National Memory in Israel – Tamir Sorek
Part IV: Political Economy and Globalization of Surveillance
7. Laboratories of War: Surveillance and US-Israeli Collaboration in War and Security – Steven Graham
8. Israel’s Emergence as a Homeland Security Capital – Neve Gordon
9. From Tanks to Wheelchairs: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Zionist Battlefield Experiments, and the Transparency of the Civilian – Nick Denes
Part V: Citizenship Criteria and State Construction
10. Legal Analysis and Critique of Some Surveillance Methods Used by Israel – Usama Halabi
11. Orange, Green, and Blue: Colour-Coded Paperwork for Palestinian Population Control – Helga Tawil-Souri
12. “You Must Know Your Stock”: Census as Surveillance Practice in 1948 and 1967 – Anat E. Leibler
Part VI: Surveillance, Racialization, and Uncertainty
13. Exclusionary Surveillance and Spatial Uncertainty in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – Ariel Handel
14. “Israelization” of Social Sorting and the “Palestinianization” of the Racial Contract: Reframing Israel/Palestine and The War on Terror – Yasmeen Abu-Laban and Abigail B. Bakan
Part VII: Territory and Population Management in Conflict Zones
15. British and Zionist Data Gathering on Palestinian Arab Land Ownership and Population during the Mandate – Michael Fischbach
16. Surveillance and Spatial Flows in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – Nurhan Abujidi
17. Territorial Dispossession and Population Control of the Palestinians – Rassem Khamaisi
Part VIII: Social Ordering, Biopolitics and Profiling
18. The Palestinian Authority Security Apparatus: Biopolitics, Surveillance and Resistance in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – Nigel Parsons
19. Behavioural Profiling in Israeli Aviation Security as a Tool for Social Control – Reg Whitaker