Roots of the surveillance state lie in imperialism


In this fascinating look back through history, Alfred J. McCoy [previously] traces the rise of the modern snooper state to the nation’s first overseas colonial war, the brutal suppression of Philippine rebels following the Spanish-American War. He also plied his trades against Cubans unhappy with Americans lording it over their island in the wake of the same war.

McCoy, who first documented the corrupt ties between Southeast Asian heroin barons and the Central Intelligence Agency, is an expert on the history of the American surveillance state.

Latter-day viewers might be surprised to hear McCoy’s account of the first great struggle against federal domestic spies came not from the left but from conservative Republicans in the 1920s, who forced a radical reduction in homeland [to use the modern term] espionage .

The massive spying efforts which today vacuum up our phone calls, emails, and countless other facts about each of us have their roots in military intelligence. Today’s massive data bases were born in the military’s collection of intelligence on Filipino citizens, which included, for example, separate files on the majority of Manila residents.

After the end of World War I, Ralph Van Deman, the creator of the military intelligence program, targeted radicals, African American activists, the Industrial Workers of the World, and other allegedly “subversive” individuals and organizations.

An old source of esnl‘s said that after Van Deman’s retirement to San Diego, he eagerly provided extensive information to police department “red squads” in California and other states, much of it assembled in the course of his military career. J. Edger Hoover was another beneficiary of Van Deman’s generosity.

Another legacy of that long-ago war is targeted assassination, which Barack Obama’s bunch has taken to a new low by authorizing the extra-judicial murders of American citizens.

Obama’s move was foreshadowed, McCoy reveals, by Sen. John Kerry during his failed 2004 presidential bid, when the Democrats abandoned any stance on torture because focus group reports showed that American’s were tired of hearing about those murderous misdeeds committed in their name.

McCoy also touches however briefly on another theme of deep concern to esnl: the coming “war over water.”

It’s a fascinating talk by an expert — he’s on the University of Wisconsin faculty — who has been charting the troublesome course of America’s spies and spymasters for 40 years. A review of his latest book, which focuses on the subject of his talk, is here.

Surveillance State: Philippine Pacification & the Making of the U.S. Internal Security Apparatus, 23 April 2010, 1:16:44

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