On September 11th, 2001 the world changed. Not only was it the first time commercial airplanes were used as missiles, it was the sudden realization that we collectively were all under attack by something few, if any, fully understood or could measure but its power and pain was most certainly felt around the world. The 9/11 Commission Report was published on January 1, 2004.(10) One of its key findings was the lack of sufficient intelligence collection and an apparatus for sharing that information across all governmental law enforcement agencies.(11) In November 2002, the Department of Homeland Security was born to consolidate and reorganize the structure of U.S. National Security apparatus.(12)
In the wake of the terrorist attacks the United States government also responded with new legislation in the name of the U.S. Patriot Act. This piece of landmark legislation expanded government surveillance and law enforcement agencies power to flex their already significant capabilities. This was all done with the single mission to fight terrorism and terrorism only. Terrorist hide in the shadows and the U.S. needed to shine its intelligence apparatus in every direction legally possible, even within its own domestic borders in order to find patterns that possibly correlated with anything or anyone related to terrorism.
In parallel during this period of time the Internet was maturing, as were the tools and technologies that enabled people to communicate via multiple methods globally. Innovations in software and hardware systems, especially in cloud computing, data analytics, smart phones, artificial intelligence, processing, and storage were already accelerating at a rapid pace. This nontrivial technological evolution is still evolving to this day. Given the rapid consumption of technological devices and high-speed wireless Internet on a global basis meant that the U.S. was going to be fighting a war in a new and unfamiliar domain. Some call this Cyber Warfare. In an effort to find terrorists lurking in the shadows it had to rapidly mature in its ownership and understanding of these technologies and how their utilization could be meaningful to the U.S. intelligence and governance apparatus.
Cyberspace became one of the new battlefields in the war on terror. Since the majority of the worlds major technology and telecommunications companies reside within U.S. legal jurisdiction, an opportunity arose that was probably too attractive for even the most principled of leaders to show reasonable restraint. There are two types of National Surveillance States, Democratic and Authoritarian, which will be discussed in more detail later on in this blog.
Prior to events of 9/11 and the enactment of the U.S. Patriot Act, one could have strongly argued the U.S. intelligence apparatus was reasonably emblematic of a Democratic National Surveillance State. However, almost 13 years after 9/11, the war on terror still continues but the meaningful utilization of both the legislation enacted and the intelligence capabilities acquired in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks have undergone meaningful changes that now impact humanity at large.
With recent revelations of a secret surveillance and court system operated by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) called “Prism”, has given the domestic and international system, at least publicly, a moment of pause and reason to seriously reevaluate where on the spectrum the United States of America lays on the National Surveillance State spectrum. Has the country that was founded on the tenets of liberty, freedom, and justice for all morphed principally into what the fathers of our nation despised most and sacrificed their lives for while ruled by the King of England? Let’s examine further into the nature of National Surveillance States. Jack Balkin’s paper on “The Constitution in the National Surveillance State” provides a useful and meaningful framework into understanding the true heart of the notion of “Big Brother”.(13)