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.
An important overall finding discussed during the live stream was the issue of finance as a means of power. Some documents analyzed in the second live stream with Dawson indicate that the NSA is very interested in financial gain in its decision making process, and also views money as an instrument of achieving dominance that in many ways surpasses violent forms of control.
In the second stream, we looked at a number of documents discussing the use of Intelink, a private government intranet that differs from the public internet in that it is an internal, private network. Intelink allows an increased ability to share information between agencies.
We also noted that NSA staff had been deployed to Saudi Arabia, a fact that has not been widely publicized. The relationship between the NSA and Saudi Arabia as revealed by the Snowden documents was reported by RT, but did not cover the issue of NSA deployment to the region. Furthermore, one document admitted that the NSA sometimes sources intelligence from public sources such as newspapers. This is troublesome because of the issue it raises regarding the credibility of intelligence gained from sometimes inaccurate legacy press.
A document detailing the collaboration between “IAD and SID with GCHQ on force protection in Iraq” mentioned ‘Transformation 2.0,’ which Dawson had discussed in previous streams. Transformation 2.0, Dawson explained, was an initiative that began just after 9/11 but prior to the invasion of Iraq. Former Director of National Intelligence, Michael Hayden described the initiative: “NSA Transformation 2.0 aims to get agency personnel to work together more closely and to team with other Defense Department, State Department and allied government agencies.”
As Dawson pointed out, the Transformation 2.0 as referenced in the Snowden files also appeared to reference foreign partnerships rather than only domestic agencies. Another important issue raised by this particular Snowden file was the fact that the Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement (UKUSA Agreement) took place without the consent of the leaders of some of the participating countries. In fact, the Australian Prime Minister did not become aware of the agreement until decades after it was put into place in 1946. The agreement was not publicly acknowledged until 2005.
That elected leaders would remain unaware of such important agreements for multiple decades raises serious questions regarding the extent to which elected leaders are ultimately responsible for important aspects of governance. Suzie Dawson tweeted on the matter:
The existence of the 1946 agreement that established the Five Eyes, was hidden from the Australian Prime Minister for 27 years.
One of the things we discovered in Snowden files tonight: in 2004 GCHQ + NSA signed another agreement together.
Intelligence agencies rule the world. pic.twitter.com/f9ZezOjpOm
— Suzie Dawson (@Suzi3D) November 11, 2017
One Snowden document titled ‘NIC 2020 And NSA Engagement‘ described an essay contest hosted by the International Affairs Institute. The IAI is reportedly a member of the NSA’s ‘Council of Learned Organizations.’ Submissions would be used for the purpose of future scenarios planning. Although an essay contest in and of itself sounds relatively innocuous, the document demonstrates the concerning degree to which NGO’s, academia and intelligence agencies have become intermeshed.
The International Affairs Institute was described in a separate Snowden file as a “recruitment tool” for the NSA. It is important to note that the NSA indicates the IAI ‘sponsors’ their events, and is a 501c3 registered non-profit. Dawson pointed out that this suggests a financial relationship between the IAI and the NSA.
The file stated that the Institute was founded in 1971, with the express purpose to: “Present the NSA populace a variety of distinguished speakers from the fields of business, politics, the military, and academia… That mission continues today, as the IAI routinely hosts speakers from classified and unclassified areas to lecture on hot topics in international affairs and encourage its members to write and publish papers on related subjects.” When we researched the subject, we found that International Affairs Institutes existed in a vast number of countries as separate NGO’s.
The document also listed what it called “seven key drivers” of global trends, including: “Demographics, Natural Resources and the Environment, Science and Technology, Global Economy and Globalization, National and International Governance, Future Conflict, and the role of the US.” The 2004 document specified that a new driver had been added for the 2020 study: “Social Identity.” Dawson found this addition particularly compelling in its possible inference regarding the role of social media before the astronomical rise of massive social media giants like Facebook.
According to the same file, Toffler Associates participated in the future planning essay contest with the NSA, and the Strategic Planning Office. Toffler Associates is independently involved in future scenario planning and by its own account is interested in artificial intelligence. As Dawson noted, the document indicates the increasingly blurred lines between intelligence agencies, the corporate world and academia.
Toffler Associates describes their unique use of AI: “Toffler Associates is integrating a new evolution in AI in a way that may surprise you. The technology identified the Kentucky Derby Superfecta with absolute accuracy. It predicted that President Trump would be the Time Magazine Person of the Year and then forecast his 100 Day Approval Rating perfectly, weeks before he took office.” Toffler Associates specified that: “We see the results of leveraging biological thinking all around us in nature. In fact, as the term implies, Hive Mind has its roots in bee studies.”
This continues the theme observed in previously discussed Snowden documents regarding Dr. Robert Hecht-Nielson’s confabulation theory. Hecht-Nielson’s focus was an attempt to identify a mechanism that explains cognition in humans and animals and would provide a ‘unified theory of mind.’
Alvin Toffler, founder of Toffler Associates, was a future planner and author of “Future Shock,” in which he coined the phrase ‘information overload.’ He also authored “Power Shift,” in which he described a ‘Trinity of Power’ comprised of knowledge, wealth, and force. Toffler believed that knowledge was the most important form of power, followed by wealth, which he described as more flexible than violence because of its use as both a punishment and a reward. The association of the NSA with Toffler Associates is significant because it demonstrates the agency’s interaction with the corporate world, and especially because it emphasizes the NSA’s interest in power through knowledge, wealth and force.
The overall impact of these documents is that the Snowden files revealed much more than the undeniably significant fact of domestic mass surveillance. They also reveal the extent to which intelligence agencies rely on the corporate and academic world, and the surprising degree to which elected leaders are often unaware of important intelligence sharing agreements made by agencies of their own countries.
Each topic raised in the analysis of the Snowden files deserves individual coverage, and Disobedient Media will continue to report on such important revelations.