Well, this is terrifying:
According to Prof David Price, a cultural anthropologist at St Martin's University in Washington DC and author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, "when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project."
Prof Price has previously exposed how the Pentagon's Human Terrain Systems (HTS) programme – designed to embed social scientists in military field operations – routinely conducted training scenarios set in regions "within the United States."
Citing a summary critique of the programme sent to HTS directors by a former employee, Price reported that the HTS training scenarios "adapted COIN [counterinsurgency] for Afghanistan/Iraq" to domestic situations "in the USA where the local population was seen from the military perspective as threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order."
One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club. Participants were tasked to "identify those who were 'problem-solvers' and those who were 'problem-causers,' and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the 'desired end-state' of the military's strategy."
Such war-games are consistent with a raft of Pentagon planning documents which suggest that National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilising impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.
I often write about the militarization of the police, but this is a parallel, disturbing trend: the domesticization of the military. These trends, taken together with increasing economic inequality and the coming climate collapse, do not bode well for our collective future.
Remember that when you organize to oppose police militarization and mass surveillance, you're not just fighting for yourself. You're fighting for the possibility of a decent future for young people, to leave them a world that doesn't resemble a dystopian nightmare.
The Pentagon's spooky plan to disrupt activists fighting for a better world is extremely creepy and awful, but its publication shines a spotlight on a crucial fact that's gone largely undiscussed even a year since the Snowden affair began. When police become militarized and the government routinely intrudes on the private lives of citizens, monitoring innocuous behaviors as a matter of course, the possibility for effective dissent is completely neutralized. The brightest minds at the Pentagon know this, which is why they're hell bent on collecting all available information about us.
Surveillance is about control, as this story so eloquently illustrates. When the Pentagon is working to stop citizens from "threatening the established balance of power and influence," it's clear that "protecting national security" doesn't mean protecting us. When the established balance of power and influence oversees a system of mass incarceration, rampant poverty and economic inequality, and climate collapse, the established balance of power must be challenged.
It won't be, as long as the NSA knows everything about all of us.