[Air-L] DATA-PSST! Seminar 3, Brunel Univ. 8 July 2015

Andrew McStay mcstay at bangor.ac.uk
Tue Jun 16 09:23:42 PDT 2015


There are a few spaces and travel bursaries left for DATA-PSST<http://data-psst.bangor.ac.uk/>’s upcoming inter-disciplinary seminar, Media Agenda-Building, National Security, Trust & Forced Transparency<http://data-psst.bangor.ac.uk/events/media-agenda-building-national-security-trust-forced-transparency-21145> on 8th July 2015, Brunel University, 10am to 5pm.

If you’d like to participate, please send Vian Bakir a brief Position Statement asap (to v.bakir at bangor.ac.uk<mailto:v.bakir at bangor.ac.uk>). Please also indicate if you need a travel bursary (these will be awarded on the strength of the Position Statement).

This is the third of six seminars in the ESRC-funded seminar series, DATA-PSST!<http://data-psst.bangor.ac.uk/index.php.en>

We posit that we are in a techno-cultural condition of increased, normalized and forced transparency. If liberal transparency opens up machinations of power for public and democratic inspection, radical transparency adds to this the private lives of citizens for inspection (as Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed). We suggest that forced transparency is the negative consequences of radical transparency, i.e. where resistance to transparency is tantamount to guilt and where choice and autonomy are stripped away.

Led by Journalism, Security and Information theorists and practitioners, we explore state attempts to manage public and political opinion of secretive national security and intelligence surveillance methods. We discuss implications of forced transparency for whistle-blowers, journalists, debate on national security issues and trust in government. Our key questions include:

-       Should Snowden have revealed state surveillance methods? Is there a 'privacy-security' trade-off?

-       How, when secretive intelligence methods are leaked, do states attempt to manage public and political opinion?

-       How do such leaks, and subsequent state media management efforts, impact public trust?

-       How are national security whistle-blowers presented to the public: heroes, traitors, lunatics, narcissists or something else? What drives these representations, and what is their impact on public understanding of national security issues?

-       Do we have a healthy public debate on national security and intelligence issues in the UK? If not, what would improve its quality?

-       Are intelligence agencies sufficiently accountable to the public and politicians? What would improve intelligence agencies' public accountability?

To encourage participants’ engagement, the seminar will function through position statements, roundtable discussions, and open discussion. Participants include:

-       Prof. Richard Keeble, Lincoln Univ.

-       Prof. Mark Phythian, Univ. of Leicester

-       Prof. Michael Levi, Cardiff Univ.

-       Iain Bourne, UK Information Commissioner's Office

-       Tom Gaffney, F-Secure

-       Tony Bunyan, Statewatch director, and investigative journalist (The Guardian)

-       Christopher Hird, former editor Head of Bureau of Investigative Journalism

-       Loz Kaye, Former Leader the Pirate Party, Founder Fightback Org UK

-       Jim Killiock, Open Rights Group

-        Birgitta  Jónsdóttir, International Modern Media Institute

-       Jamie Woodruff, Ethical hacker


The seminar will take place in the Antonin Artaud Building at Brunel University

09.45– 10.15    Registration and refreshments. All seminars in the music room AA109

10.30 – 11.00    Seminar series introduction: Vian Bakir and Paul Lashmar

 11.00 – 12.30   Roundtable 1: Two years on from Snowden.

12.30 – 13.30    Lunch 1st floor room AA Building AA103

13.30 – 14.45                   13.30 – 14.45   Roundtable 2: Media agenda setting.

14.45 - 15.00    Refreshments

15.00 – 16.15                   15.00 – 16.15    Roundtable 3: Trust and accountability.

16.15 – 17.00   Discussion and final thoughts

17.30   End of seminar: meal at the Lancaster Lodge Restaurant at Brunel (participants pay for own meal)

Selected Position Statements from Experts

Vian Bakir and Andrew McStay, Bangor Univ.

Forced Transparency or Equivellant Transparency, post-Snowden

(or who is challenging the state’s agenda of radical transparency?)

The 2013 leaks by US national security whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed intelligence agencies’ indiscriminate bulk data collection and storage of suspicionless citizens’ digital communications. The leaks showed that through PRISM<http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/prism>, internet and telecommunications companies were secretly being compelled by intelligence agencies in the USA, UK and other liberal democracies, to collect and hand over citizens’ digital communications data. This is complemented by ‘Upstream’ collection where intelligence agencies tap into underwater fibre-optic cable networks that carry telephone and internet data into and out of the country.  With PRISM data stored in the USA for five years and upstream data stored for two years, this facilitates targeted future analysis of identified suspects and their networks to prevent terrorism and crime.

So, we are dealing with a techno-cultural condition of increased and normalised transparency. However, transparency of whom and for what ends?

Transparency types

Transparency takes several forms. Liberal transparency is, historically, a liberal and enlightenment norm that opens up machinations of power for public inspection, rationally using the knowledge gained as a force for promoting societal net benefit and happiness (Bentham 1834). Radical transparency opens up not just public processes but also the private lives of citizens for inspection (Bentham 1834; McStay 2014). Where this is done without citizens’ knowledge or consent, we enter the domain of forced transparency where resistance to surveillance is tantamount to guilt, and where choice, control and autonomy are stripped away (McStay 2014). In a less dystopian vein, equiveillant transparency is achieved when the forces of surveillance and sousveillance balance out (Mann and Ferenbok 2013: 26).

Today’s transparency regime: forced or equiveillant?

Before Snowden’s revelations, we didn’t know about intelligence agencies surveillance of our digital communications. Once leaked, the mantra ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ took sway among many. These both suggest a dystopian condition of forced transparency. The pre-Snowden secrecy meant that the surveillance took place without citizens’ knowledge or consent. The post-Snowden mantra implies that resistance to surveillance is tantamount to guilt.

However, Snowden’s revelations have also provoked resistive challenges (paradoxically including by corporations who exploit our data for commercial gain). So, have we moved a little closer to equiveillant transparency? For Mann and Ferenbok (2013) equiveillant transparency is where surveillance (ie monitoring from a position of political or commercial power by those who are not a participant to the activity being watched) is counter-balanced by sousveillance (ie monitoring from a position of minimal power, and by those who are participating in the activity being watched). Accepting the inevitability of surveillance, Mann and Ferenbok (2013: 26) seek to counter-balance surveillance by increasing sousveillant oversight from below (‘undersight’). They suggest this can be facilitated through civic and technology practices such as better whistle-blower protection, public debate, participatory projects and systems innovations.  Examination of post-Snowden resistance to surveillance highlights where these civic and technology practices need strengthening, to move us closer to equiveillant transparency. We conclude thatsousveillance seems to be most powerfully expressed when libertarianism meets private and corporate wealth, and ask if this is the sort of ‘undersight’ that we really want.

Loz Kaye – Former Leader the Pirate Party, Founder Fightback Org UK

Mass Surveillance and the Crisis of British Politics

The 2015 general election was a bruising campaign with a shocking result. What is particularly alarming, if not surprising, is the first political project rolled out by the Tories- a full on assault on civil liberties and digital rights.

Theresa May wasted no time in announcing the return of the Communications Data Bill, dubbed the Snoopers' Charter, the plans to rubber stamp the blanket scooping up of all our communications. This comes in the wider context of the Tories digital authoritarianism for example new alarmingly diffuse plans against “extremism” which the Home Secretary has been utterly unable to articulate precisely. These apparently include the idea of powers to ban people from  broadcasting and compelling them to send every Tweet, Facebook post or other web communication to the police to be vetted. This would be chilling if it weren't so obviously absurd.

These types of political assault have been continuing throughout this century under successive governments in the UK, notably with Intercept Modernisation and plans for the Communications Data Bill during the 2010-15 coalition. The essential problem has been the inability of many MPs, journalists and commentators alike to see the distinction between targeted and blanket surveillance, and how the latter fundamentally re-aligns our relationship with the state in a very dangerous way.

Two main political strategies to sell this to the public have been:

1. The 'upgrade' narrative. This is the disguising this fundamental shift in the nature and intent of intelligence gathering as merely keeping up with advances in technology. In reality, programmes like TEMPORA, XKEYSCORE and OPTIC NERVE do not show any lack of capability.

2. The 'present danger' narrative. No political 'hook' has been missed to try and justify the expansion of mass surveillance , be it ISIS or the cynical exploitation of the death of Lee Rigby. While the report into Rigby's death showed that his attackers were indeed known, no action was taken anyway partly because of the overload of data.

The problem has been these narratives are very difficult to counter politically – a calm discussion of the facts still feels emotionally 'wrong' for many voters.

This is a symptom of a deeper democratic problem. The digital rights movement has had some successes, notably in heading off the Snoopers' Charter twice, first from the Commons then in a disgraceful attempt in Lords to add it in its entirety to another bill. However, thanks to Snowden we know these bills have been attempts to legitimise practices already taking place. In real terms GCHQ has utterly undermined the British democracy it claims to defend.

The election campaign and the result leave real challenges ahead. For all the Liberal Democrats were seen as the main political opposition to the Snoopers' Charter, they were in government during the Snowden scandal and failed to do anything about the revelations. Worse still, if they remain the leading political voice on digital rights they will make opposition to laws like the Snoopers' Charter as toxic as their brand.

Prof. Richard L. Keeble, Lincoln Univ.

 After Edward Snowden: Journalism and the secret state

This talk will examine a range of questions thrown up by the Snowden revelations - and their implications for journalism and the democratic process.

How legitimate is it for Glenn Greenwald and his close circle of journalists (now grouped around The Intercept) to hold a monopoly on the distribution of the Snowden revelations. Are there not conflict of interest issues to consider whenThe Intercept is funded by the billionaire owner of Paypal, Pierre Omidyar. Is it not interesting that Sibel Edmonds, whistleblower and founder of the boilingfrogspost website, has reported an NSA leaker revealing close ties between the NSA and PayPal corporation?

Why is only one media outfit (the website Cryptome) keeping a tally on the continuing publication of the Snowden files. How many files are there, in fact? We, the public, have still no idea. We know that only a tiny proportion has been revealed – just 2 per cent possibly. Why? What is being held back?

Was not the dissemination of the Snowden files an extremely ‘managed operation’? Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said he had over a hundred meetings with government representatives discussing publication. Intriguingly Chris Blackhurst, of the Independent, said he would never have published the revelations. ‘If MI5 warns that it is not in the public interest who am I to disbelieve them?’

How original are Snowden’s revelations? Had not much of the same data been previously revealed on Cryptome website and by James Bamford (in say his The Shadow Factory: The Ultra Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, New York: Doubleday, of 2008)?

Journalism is dependent on the ability of reporters to maintain sources’ confidentiality. Yet do not Snowden’s revelations about state surveillance of electronic communications (emails, Google searches, Facebook and other social media) and the breaking of encryption protections indicate that such confidentiality is no longer possible?

Do not the recent revelations about intelligence and police snooping on reporters’ communications and the attacks on whistleblowers in the UK and US (Assange, Kiriakou, Manning, Russell Tice, Thomas Drake, Jeffery Sterling, William Binney, Mark Klein etc) provide evidence of further threats to journalistic activities?

Research suggests that corporate media have long been too closely tied to dominant political, military/industrial, economic interests and so are largely unable perform their essential democratic function and operate ‘in the public interest’. Historically many mainstream journalists have worked as agents of the secret state – and recent revelations suggests this continues to this day. Does this not make Roy Greenslade’s comment: ‘Fleet Street is a mere plaything of the intelligence services’ all the more relevant?

How should journalists and citizens react? Do not schools of journalism now have to teach that only radical journalism is relevant? Is not all the rest mere ‘churnalism’ for the powerful interests in society? With radical politics there has to be radical journalistic techniques: since electronic communication is now compromised, face to face interviewing of sources has to be the priority.

And are not now the most important media on the secret state and its secret wars non- corporate alternatives such as tomdispatch.com, counterpunch.org, globalresearch.ca; boilingfrogspost.com; lobster, whowhatwhy.com, intelnews.org, wsws.org, infowars.com, coldtype.net, anti-war.com; the writing of Pepe Escobar at Asian Times etc?

Prof. Mike Levi, Cardiff University

Technology, Privacy and Economic Crimes

In the criminological firmament, white-collar and organised crime have been treated as two separate dimensions of criminal behaviour, except that as Sutherland argued in the 1930s, they were both learned in ‘differential association’. They were reacted to differently, the latter being seen as a threat to ‘society’ or to the ‘corporate state’, while attacks on the former were seen as the preserve of political ‘radicals’.  This difference has been embraced by conventional researchers and scholars, who like to view themselves as one or the other as a form of identity politics: though ‘organised crime’ scholars from Alan Block onwards have shown the ways in which gangsters were used by US corporations to break strikes and by the US government to eliminate Italian communists post-war and then later Latin American communists.  There have been parallel analyses of the prioritisation and powers of enforcement agencies and, to a much more limited extent, of the role of the media in relation to business/political elites and gangsters. This white-collar/organised crime disjunction has begun to break up somewhat under the pressure of research in Central and Eastern Europe showing the interpenetration of organised criminals and politicians locally - especially in countries like Bulgaria and Romania – in regimes more democratic than Russia.

The paper will examine the role played by technology and privacy arguments in the commission and in the ‘policing’ of the range of economic crimes – a rather loose term used more in continental Europe.  It is a common phenomenon that there is a partial shift in the application of policing models used for organised crime to at least some forms of white-collar crime, e.g. plea bargaining for sentencing reductions and non-prosecutions (currently used in the FIFA case), sometimes using covert wires (e.g. Boesky in the 1980s) plus sometimes Sting operations.  Given the Snowden and other revelations, one might have expected a large range of material on economic misconduct by and against elites to be within the purview of the agencies.  The question is does anyone look at this or do anything about it, or is their main task ‘national security threats’, again loosely defined?  Given the raised profile of regulatory agencies, and the volume of data sought by police and regulatory investigators nationally and cross-border, the whole issue of corporate privacy and the privacy of actions taken in a corporate context become relevant.  Who has ownership of these?  Under what conditions are they made available to the authorities (e.g. News International)?  And given that so many major financial services firms have come under serious assault in relation to acts done for individual and/or corporate self-interest (e.g. money laundering, LIBOR, FOREX), how is dataveillance developing in the corporate sphere and what are the implications for the public sphere? What are the implications of growing ‘responsibilisation’ of regulated entities to monitor potential and actual clients and report suspicions (if any) to financial intelligence units, and what issues does this raise for both liberty and effectiveness of controls?  Finally, what are the intersections between these developments and the practice of journalism in different parts of the world?



Senior Lecturer for School of Creative Studies and Media
Director of Media and Persuasive Communication Network (MPC)
Bangor University

Recent book: Privacy and Philosophy: New Media and Affective Protocol<http://www.peterlang.com/index.cfm?event=cmp.ccc.seitenstruktur.detailseiten&seitentyp=produkt&pk=68001&cid=533>
Other books and papers: here<https://bangor.academia.edu/AndrewMcStay>
T. +44 (0)1248 382740
Tw. @digi-ad<https://twitter.com/digi_ad>

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