Once a sleepy farming region, Silicon Valley is now the hub of a global industry that is transforming the economy, shaping our political discourse, and changing the very nature of our society. So what happened? How did this remarkable change take place? Why is this area the epicenter of this transformation? Discover the dark secrets behind the real history of Silicon Valley and the Big Tech giants in this important edition of The Corbett Report.
For those with limited bandwidth, CLICK HERE to download a smaller, lower file size version of this episode.
For those interested in audio quality, CLICK HERE for the highest-quality version of this episode (WARNING: very large download).
Silicon Valley. Nestled in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, the Valley is not just a geographical location. It’s an idea. It’s an expression of the urge to digitize all of the information in the world, and to database, track and store that information. And as we are now beginning to learn, the result of that digitization of everything is a world without privacy. A world where our ability to participate in public debate is subject to the whims of big tech billionaires. A world where freedom is a thing of the past and no one is outside the reach of Big Brother.
For many, this is just a happy coincidence for the intelligence agencies that are seeking to capture and store every detail about every moment of our lives. It is just happenstance that the information-industrial complex now has enough information to track our every move, listen in on our every conversation, map our social networks, and, increasingly, predict our future plans. It is just a series of random events that led to the world of today.
But what the masses do not know is that Silicon Valley has a very special history. One that explains how we came to our current predicament, and one that speaks to the future that we are sleepwalking into. A future of total surveillance and total control by the Big Tech billionaires and their shadowy backers.
You’re tuned into The Corbett Report.
Once known as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight,” the Santa Clara Valley was a bucolic, agrarian area known for its mild climate and blooming fruit trees. Until the 1960s, it was the largest fruit-producing-and-packing region in the world.
Today there are few reminders of the valley’s sleepy farming past. Now dubbed “Silicon Valley,” it is home to many of the world’s largest technology and social media companies, from Google and Facebook to Apple and Oracle, from Netflix and Cisco Systems to PayPal and Hewlett-Packard. It is the hub of a global industry that is transforming the economy, shaping our political discourse, and changing the very nature of our society.
So what happened? How did this remarkable change take place? Why is Silicon Valley the epicenter of this transformation?
The answer is surprisingly simple: WWII happened.
The influx of high-tech research and industry to the region is the direct result of the advent of WWII and the actions of one man: Frederick Terman.
Frederick was the son of Lewis Terman, a pioneer of educational psychology at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. An avowed eugenicist, Lewis Terman popularized IQ testing in America, helping to conduct the first mass administration of an IQ test for the US Army during America’s entry into the First World War.
Frederick Terman attended Stanford, earning an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in electrical engineering before heading to MIT to earn his doctorate in electrical engineering under Vannevar Bush. This connection came into play at the outbreak of World War II, when Bush—now heading up the US Office of Research and Development, which managed nearly all research and development for the US military during wartime—asked Terman to run the top-secret Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University. There, Terman directed 800 of the country’s top researchers in the emerging field of electronic warfare. Their work included the development of some of the earliest signals intelligence and electronic intelligence equipment, including radar detectors, radar jammers and aluminum chaff to be used as countermeasures against German anti-air defenses.
The Valley as we know it today was born in the post-World War II era when Terman returned to Stanford as dean of the School of Engineering and set about transforming the school into the “MIT of the West.”
STEVE BLANK: Terman, with his war experience, decided to build Stanford into a center of excellence on microwaves and electronics, and he was the guy to do it. The Harvard Radio Research Lab was the pinnacle in the United States of every advanced microwave transmitter and receiver you could think of. And what he does is he recruits eleven former members of the radio research lab and says, “You know, we really don’t have a lab, but congratulations! You’re all now Stanford faculty!” “Oh great, thanks.” They joined Stanford and they set up their own lab: the Electronics Research Lab for basic and unclassified research. And they get the Office of Naval Research to give them their first contract—to actually fund in the post-war Stanford research into microwaves. By 1950, Terman turns Stanford’s engineering department into the MIT of the West, basically by taking all the war innovative R&D in microwaves, by moving it to Stanford, by taking the department heads and key staff.
SOURCE: Secret History of Silicon Valley
With the military research funds flowing into the region, Terman began transforming the San Francisco Bay Area into a high-tech research hot spot. In 1951, he spearheaded the creation of Stanford Industrial Park—now known as Stanford Research Park—a joint venture between Stanford and the City of Palo Alto to attract big technology corporations to the area. The park was a huge success, eventually luring Hewlett-Packard, General Electric, Kodak and other important technology firms, and cementing Silicon Valley as a nexus between Stanford, big tech and government-sponsored research.
And this connection was not tangential. As researcher Steve Blank writes in his own history of Silicon Valley’s military roots:
“During the 1950s Fred Terman was an advisor to every major branch of the US military. He was on the Army Signal Corps R&D Advisory Council, the Air Force Electronic Countermeasures Scientific Advisory Board, a Trustee of the Institute of Defense Analysis, the Naval Research Advisory Committee, the Defense Science Board, and a consultant to the President’s Science Advisory Committee. His commercial activities had him on the board of directors of HP, Watkins-Johnson, Ampex, and Director and Vice Chairman of SRI. It’s amazing this guy ever slept. Terman was the ultimate networking machine for Stanford and its military contracts.”
It is no secret that Silicon Valley has thrived since the very beginning on Pentagon research dollars and DoD connections. From William Shockley (a rabid eugenicist who spent WWII as a director of Columbia University’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Group and who is sometimes cited as Silicon Valley’s other founding father for his work on silicon semiconductors) to the Stanford Research Institute (a key military contractor that had close ties to the Advanced Research Projects Agency [ARPA]) the US Defense Department has had a key role in shaping the development of the region.
The Stanford Research Institute (SRI) was spearheaded by Terman and created by the trustees of Stanford University in 1946. From its inception, the SRI was instructed to avoid pursuing federal contracts that might embroil Stanford in political matters. But within six months it had already broken this directive, pursuing contracts with the Office of Naval Intelligence. In the 1960s, at the same time that the institute’s Artificial Intelligence Center was creating “Shakey,” the “first mobile robot that could reason about its surroundings,” SRI was targeted by Vietnam War protesters for its contract work with ARPA, the Pentagon arm devoted to developing cutting edge technology. The pressure caused Stanford University to formally cut its ties with SRI in the 1970s, but the institute’s military-funded research did not stop there.
The Stanford Research Institute was to become the second node in the ARPANET, the Pentagon-created packet-switching network that gave birth to the modern-day internet. The first message ever sent between two computers was sent on the ARPANET between a computer at UCLA and one at SRI.
It was the head of ARPA’s command and control division, Robert Kahn, who set up the first experimental mobile network (known as “PRNET”) around Silicon Valley and formed the initial satellite network (“SATNET”) that connected the early internet internationally. In 1973, Kahn enlisted the help of Vint Cerf, an assistant professor at Stanford University, to develop—as a Department of Defense project—the TCP/IP protocol suite that would help make the internet possible.
In a recent panel discussion hosted by DARPA, the latest moniker for what was originally ARPA, Vint Cerf admitted that the entire ARPANET project was dictated by the Pentagon’s needs for a command and control system that would be responsive to military requirements:
VINT CERF: The internet was motivated by a belief that command and control could make use of computers in order to enable the Defense Department to use its resources better than an opponent. In that particular case—Bob in particular started the program at DARPA in the early 1970s—[we] realized that we had to have the computers in ships at sea, and in aircraft, and in mobile vehicles, and the ARPANET had only done dedicated, fixed . . . You know, machines that were in air-conditioned rooms connected together—you know, roughly speaking, dedicated telephone circuits. So you can’t connect the tanks together with wires because they run over them and they break, and the airplanes, they’ll never make it off the ground, you know, you can see all . . . So this led to the need for mobile radio communication and satellite communication in a networked environment.
The question about global nature here is easily answered. At least I thought we were doing this for the Defense Department, which would have to operate everywhere in the world. And so it could not be as a design that in some way was limited to CONUS, for example. And it also could not be a design that depended at all on the cooperation of other countries allocating, for example, address space. I mean, the sort of silly model of this is if we use country codes to indicate different networks . . . different network identifiers. Imagine that you’ve got to invade country B and before you do that you have to go and say, “Hi, we’re gonna invade your country in a couple of weeks and we need some address space to run another call system.” Yeah, you know, it probably wasn’t gonna work. So we knew it had to be global in scope.
One of the first demonstrations of the protocol—a 1977 test involving a van equipped with radio gear by SRI that is now dubbed the birth of the modern internet—even simulated “a mobile unit in the field, let’s say in Europe, in the middle of some kind of action trying to communicate through a satellite network to the United States.”
But while direct investment in this technological revolution suited the purposes of the Pentagon, the US intelligence community was pursuing other, more covert avenues for harnessing the incredible potential of Silicon Valley and its surveillance technologies. With the advent of the Cold War and the increased tensions between the US and the USSR in a new, highly technological game of “spy vs. spy,” the funding for research and development of cutting edge technology was placed under a cover of national security and classified.
BLANK: But in the early 1950s, the Korean War changes the game. Post-World War II—those who know your history—we basically demobilized our troops, mothballed our bombers and our fighters, and said, “We’re going to enjoy the post-war benefits.” 1949, the Soviets explode their first nuclear weapon. The Cold War, with the Korean War, becomes hot. All of a sudden, the United States realizes that the world’s changed again, and spook work comes to Stanford.
The military approaches Terman and asks him to set up the Applied Electronics Lab to do classified military programs, and doubles the size of the electronics program at Stanford. They said, “Well, we’ll keep this separate from the unclassified Electronics Research Lab.” But for the first time it made Stanford University a full partner with the military in government R&D.
SOURCE: Secret History of Silicon Valley
The arrival of intelligence agency investment money created a new relationship between the government and the researchers in the Valley. Rather than directly hiring the technology companies to produce the technology, consumer electronics would increasingly be regulated, directed, overseen and infiltrated by government workers, who could then use that technology as the basis for a worldwide signals intelligence operation, directed not only at the militaries of foreign countries, but at the population of the world as a whole.
Now cloaked in a shroud of national security, the government’s role in the development of Big Tech has been largely obscured. But, if you know where to look, the fingerprints of the intelligence agencies are still visible on nearly every major company and technology to emerge from Silicon Valley.
Take Oracle Corporation, for instance. The third-largest software corporation in the world, Oracle is famed for its eponymous database software. What many do not know is that the “Oracle” name itself comes from the firm’s first customer: the CIA. “Project Oracle” was the CIA codename for a giant relational database that was being constructed on contract by Ampex, a Silicon Valley firm. Assigned to the project were Larry Ellison, Bob Miner and Ed Oates. Although Project Oracle “was something of a disaster” it did lead Ellison and his partners to spin off Oracle Corporation, which to this day gets 25% of its business from government contracts.
Or take Sun Microsystems. Founded in 1982, the Silicon Valley software and hardware giant’s flagship Unix workstation, the “Sun-1”, as ComputerWorld explains, “owes its origins rather directly to a half-dozen major technologies developed at multiple universities and companies, all funded by ARPA.” Sun was acquired by Oracle in 2010 for $7.4 billion.
But to an entire generation growing up today, this is ancient history. Sure, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department were involved in the founding of these Silicon Valley stalwarts. But what about the Silicon Valley of today? What does this have to do with Google or Facebook or PayPal or the Big Tech giants that have become synonymous with computing in the age of the internet?
The modern era of Silicon Valley began in the 1990s, when the advent of the World Wide Web brought the full potential of the computing revolution into homes across America and around the globe. This was the era of the dotcom bubble, when small start-ups with no business plan and no revenue could become million-dollar companies overnight. And behind it all, steering the revolution from the shadows, were the intelligence agencies, who helped fund the core technologies and platforms of the modern internet.
One of the first problems confronting early users of the web was how to search through the dizzying array of personal web sites, corporate web pages, government sites and other content that was coming online every day. In order for the web to turn from a playground for tech geeks and hobbyists into a ubiquitous communication tool, there would need to be a way to quickly sort through the vast amount of information available and return a relevant list of websites to lead users to useful information. Early iterations of online search, including personally curated lists of interesting sites and primitive search engines that relied on simple keyword matching, failed to live up to the task.
By happy coincidence, the problem of cataloguing, indexing, sorting and querying vast troves of information was one that the intelligence agencies were also working on. As the masses of data flowing through the internet gave rise to the era of Big Data, the NSA, the CIA and other members of the US intelligence community recruited the best and the brightest young minds in the country to help them store, search and analyze this information . . . and those searching for it. And, as usual, they turned to Stanford University and the Silicon Valley whiz kids for help.
Google—as the now familiar story goes—started out as a research project of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two graduate students at Stanford University. Unsurprisingly, one does not have to dig very deep to find the connection to the Defense Department. DARPA—the current name of the oft-rebranded ARPA—was one of the seven military, civilian and law enforcement sponsors of the “Stanford Digital Libraries Project,” which helped fund Page and Brin’s research. DARPA was even thanked by name in the white paper where the idea for Google was first laid out: “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.”
Less well-known is the “Massive Digital Data Systems” project spearheaded by the US intelligence community and funded through unclassified agencies like the National Science Foundation. As an email introducing the project to researchers at major US universities in 1993 explains, it was designed to help the intelligence agencies take “a proactive role in stimulating research in the efficient management of massive databases and ensuring that I[ntelligence] C[ommunity] requirements can be incorporated or adapted into commercial products.”
As Jeff Nesbit—former director of legislative and public affairs for the National Science Foundation—detailed in a revealing 2017 article for qz.com on Google’s true origin:
“The research arms of the CIA and NSA hoped that the best computer-science minds in academia could identify what they called ‘birds of a feather:'[sic] Just as geese fly together in large V shapes, or flocks of sparrows make sudden movements together in harmony, they predicted that like-minded groups of humans would move together online.[. . .]
“Their research aim was to track digital fingerprints inside the rapidly expanding global information network, which was then known as the World Wide Web. Could an entire world of digital information be organized so that the requests humans made inside such a network be tracked and sorted? Could their queries be linked and ranked in order of importance? Could ‘birds of a feather’ be identified inside this sea of information so that communities and groups could be tracked in an organized way?”
The project dispersed more than a dozen grants of several million dollars each to help realize this goal of tracking, sorting and mining online behavior in order to identify and categorize communities and track groups in real life. And one of the first recipients of this grant money? Sergey Brin’s team at Stanford and their research into search query optimization.
From its very founding and continuing right through to the present day, Google has maintained close ties to America’s intelligence, military and law enforcement apparatuses. As with all matters of so-called “national security,” however, we only get a window into that relationship from the public and declassified record of contracts and agreements that the tech giant has left in its wake.
In 2003, Google signed a $2.1 million contract with the National Security Agency, the US intelligence community’s shadowy surveillance arm that is responsible for collecting, storing and analyzing signals intelligence in foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations. Google built the agency a customized search tool “capable of searching 15 million documents in twenty-four languages.” So important was this relationship to Google that when the contract expired in April 2004, they extended it for another year at no cost to the government.
In 2005, it was revealed that In-Q-Tel—the CIA’s venture capital arm and itself the perfect encapsulation of the intelligence agencies’ relationship with Silicon Valley—had sold over 5,000 shares of Google stock. It is not exactly clear how the CIA’s venture capital firm ended up with 5,000 shares of Google stock, but it is believed to have come when Google bought out Keyhole Inc., the developer of the software that later become Google Earth. The company’s name, “Keyhole,” is a none-too-subtle reference to the Keyhole class of reconnaissance satellites that the US intelligence agencies have been using for decades to commit 3D imaging and mapping analysis. Keyhole, Inc. worked closely with the US intelligence community and even bragged that its technology was being used by the Pentagon to support the invasion of Iraq. To this day, the CIA itself describes Google Earth as “CIA-assisted technology” on its own page dedicated to “CIA’s Impact on Technology.”
In 2010, details of a formal NSA-Google relationship began to emerge, but both parties refused to divulge any further information about the relationship. Subsequent reporting suggested that Google had “agreed to provide information about traffic on its networks in exchange for intelligence from the NSA about what it knew of foreign hackers.” More details emerged from a Freedom of Information Act request in 2014, which revealed that Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt were not only on a first name basis with then-NSA chief General Keith Alexander, but that Google was part of a “secretive government initiative known as the Enduring Security Framework,” and that this initiative involved Silicon Valley partnering with the Pentagon and the US intelligence community to share information “at network speed.”
The Enduring Security Freedom initiative is just one window into how Big Tech can reap big dollars from their relationship with the NSA. In 2013, it emerged that the participants in the PRISM program—the illegal surveillance program which allowed the NSA backdoor access to all information and user data of all of the Big Tech companies—were reimbursed for the program’s expenses by a shadowy arm of the agency known as “Special Source Operations.”
MARINA PORTNAYA: The entire process reportedly cost PRISM participants millions of dollars to implement each successful extension, and those costs, according to US documents, were covered by an arm of the NSA known as “Special Source Operations.” According to The Guardian newspaper, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has described Special Source Operations as the “crown jewel” of the agency that handles all surveillance programs that rely on corporate partnership with telecoms and internet providers to access communication data. Now, this revelation is being considered evidence that a financial relationship between tech companies and the NSA has existed. And as The Guardian newspaper put it, the disclosure that taxpayers money was used to cover the company’s compliance costs raises new questions surrounding the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA.
The PRISM program itself proves that the military and intelligence agency ties to modern day Silicon Valley do not end with Google. In fact, every one of the Silicon Valley stalwarts that dominate the web today have similar ties to the shadowy world of spooks and spies.
In June 2003, the Information Processing Techniques Office—the information technology wing of DARPA that had overseen the original ARPANET project in the 1960s—quietly posted a “Broad Agency Announcement” to its website to request proposals for an ambitious new project. Labeled “BAA # 03-30,” this “proposer information pamphlet” requested proposals from developers to build an “an ontology-based (sub)system” called LifeLog that “captures, stores, and makes accessible the flow of one person’s experience in and interactions with the world.”
The idea, which seemed somewhat fantastic in 2003, was that users of LifeLog would wear a device that would capture and record all of their transactions and interactions, physical movements, email and phone calls, and a variety of other information. The LifeLog would be presented to users “as a stand-alone system to serve as a powerful automated multimedia diary and scrapbook,” but, as the announcement goes on to reveal, the data collected would be used to help DARPA create a new class of truly ‘cognitive’ systems that can reason in a variety of ways.”
If it had gone ahead, LifeLog would have been a virtual diary of everywhere that its users went, everything they did, everyone they talked to, what they talked about, what they bought, what they saw and listened to, and what they planned to do in the future. It immediately drew criticism as an obvious attempt by the government to create a tool for profiling enemies of the state, and even supporters of the plan were forced to admit that LifeLog “could raise eyebrows if [DARPA] didn’t make it clear how privacy concerns would be met.”
But then, without explanation, the announcement was withdrawn and the project was dropped. DARPA spokesman Jan Walker chalked the cancellation up to “A change in priorities” at the agency, but researchers close to the project admitted that they were baffled by the sudden stopping of the program. “I am sure that such research will continue to be funded under some other title,” wrote one MIT researcher whose colleague had spent weeks working on the proposal. “I can’t imagine DARPA ‘dropping out’ of such a key research area.”
The cancellation of LifeLog was reported by Wired.com on February 4, 2004. That very same day, a Harvard undergrad named Mark Zuckerberg officially launched “TheFacebook.com,” the first incarnation of Facebook, which collects vast amounts of data on its users, offering them the promise of “a powerful automated multimedia diary and scrapbook,” but, as has become more and more evident in recent years, using and selling that data for ulterior motives.
But it is not just this interesting coincidence that connects Facebook to DARPA. Once again, the money that helped “TheFacebook” go from a Harvard “student project” to a multi-billion user internet giant involved a relocation to Silicon Valley and copious injections of venture capital from intelligence-connected insiders. Facebook moved to Palo Alto, California, in 2004 and received its first investment of $500,000 from Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal. But the real money, and the real interest in Facebook, arrived in 2005, in the form of a $12.7 million investment from Accel Partners and an additional $1 million from Accel’s Jim Breyer. Breyer, it turns out, had some interesting connections of his own.
NARRATOR: First venture capital money totaling $500,000 came to The Facebook from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, founder and former CEO of PayPal. He also serves on the board of radical conservative group Vanguard DAC. Further funding came in the form of $12.7 million dollars from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Accel’s manager, James Breyer, was former chair of the National Venture Capital Association. Breyer served on the National Venture Capital Association’s board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. This firm works in various aspects of information technology and intelligence, including, most notably, nurturing data mining technologies. Breyer has also served on the board of BBN Technologies, a research and development firm known for spearheading the ARPANET, or what we know today as the internet.
In October of 2004, Dr. Anita Jones climbed on board BBN along with Gilman Louie, but what is most interesting is Dr. Jones’ experience prior to joining BBN. Jones herself served on the board of directors for In-Q-Tel and was previously the director of defense research and engineering for the US Department of Defense. Her responsibilities included serving as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense and overseeing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
This goes farther than just the initial appearances. DARPA shot to national fme in 2002, when knowledge of the existence of the Information Awareness Office (IAO) came to light. The IAO stated its mission was to gather as much information as possible about everyone in a centralized location for easy perusal by the United States government, including but not limited to: internet activity; credit card purchase history; airline ticket purchases; car rentals; medical records; educational transcripts; driver’s licenses; utility bills; tax returns; and any other available data.
SOURCE: Facebook CIA connection
It should come as no surprise, then, that the ex-director of DARPA, Regina Dugan, was hired by Google in 2012 to head its Advanced Technology and Projects group, and that she was then hired by Facebook in 2016 to head their “Building 8” research group focusing on experimental technologies like brain sensors and artificial intelligence. Nor is it a surprise to learn that DARPA is already working to weaponize Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality technology for fighting cyberwar.
Nor is it a surprise that Facebook seed money investor Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, developed Palantir—a data-mining and analysis tool used by the NSA, FBI, CIA and other intelligence, counterterrorism and military agencies—from PayPal’s own fraud-detection algorithm. Or that In-Q-Tel was one of the first outside investors in the Palantir technology, which has gained notoriety in recent years for “using War on Terror tools to track American citizens.”
Nor is it a surprise to learn that Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and current technical advisor to Google parent company Alphabet, is now the chairman of the Pentagon’s “Defense Innovation Board,” which seeks to bring the efficiency and vision of Silicon Valley to the Defense Department’s high-tech innovation initiatives.
Nor is it surprising that Schmidt, in addition to being a member of the elitist Trilateral Commission, is on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group, a cabal of financiers, industrialists, high-ranking public officials, military brass and royalty that has been meeting annually in nearly total secrecy since 1954. Nor is it surprising that the Bilderberg Group now counts a number of Silicon Valley stalwarts among its ranks, from Schmidt and Thiel to Palantir CEO Alex Karp and former Electronic Frontiers Foundation chair Esther Dyson.
In fact, it would be more surprising to find a major Silicon Valley company that was not connected to the US military or to the US intelligence agencies one way or another. This is not an accident of history or a mere coincidence. The very origins of the internet were in shadowy Pentagon programs for developing the perfect command and control technologies. From the earliest attempts to form electronic databases of information on counterinsurgents in Vietnam right through to today, this technology—as Yasha Levine, author of Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, explains—was intended to be used as a tool of warfare against target populations.
YASHA LEVINE: To understand what the internet is and what the internet has become, you have to go back to the very beginning. Back to the 1960s, when the internet was being created by the Pentagon. Back then, America was a relatively new global empire facing an increasingly chaotic and violent world. There was the Vietnam War—that was central—but the US was facing insurgencies all around the world, from Latin America to Southeast Asia. It was also facing an increasingly volatile and violent domestic environment. You had the anti-war movement. You had militant black activism. You had groups like The Weather Underground that were setting off bombs seemingly daily in cities all across the country. You had race riots in major cities.
And America’s paranoid generals looked at this, right, and they saw a vast communist conspiracy, of course. They saw the Soviet Union expanding globally, underwriting insurgencies all around the world, backing countries that were opposed to America. At the same time they were underwriting opposition movements in America, and they saw this as a new kind of war that was happening. This is not a traditional war that you could fight with traditional weapons. This is not a war that you could drop a nuke on. It was not a war that you could send a tank division into, because the combatants did not wear uniforms and they did not march in formation. They were part of the civilian population of the conflict that they were taking part in.
So it was as a new kind of war and new kind of global insurgency. And in certain rarefied circles in the military, people who were familiar with the new kind of computer technology being developed, they believe that the only way to fight and win this new war was to develop new information weapons—computer technology that could: ingest data on people and political movements; that could combine opinion surveys, economic data, criminal histories, draft histories, photographs, telephone conversations intercepted by security services; and put that all into databases that could allow analysts to perform sophisticated analysis on it and run predictive surveys. The idea was you have to find out who the enemy is and isolate it from the general population, and then take that enemy out. And at the time some even dreamed of one day creating a global system of management that could watch the world in real-time and intercept threats before they happened in much the same way that America’s early warning radar defense system did for hostile aircraft.
This is the general background from which the internet emerged. Today the counterinsurgency origins of the internet have been obscured. They’ve been lost for the most part. Very few histories even mention it, even in a little bit. But at the time that it was being created in the 1960s, the origins of the internet and the origins of this technology as a tool of surveillance and as a tool of control were very obvious to people back then. At the time people did not see computers and computer networks as tools of liberation or utopian technologies, they saw them as tools of political and social control—and that specifically included the ARPANET, the network that would later grow into the internet.
SOURCE: Yasha Levine: Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet
The internet was never intended as a tool of liberation. It was from its very inception intended to be a tool for tracking, surveilling and, ultimately, controlling a target population. And in the volatile environment of the 1960s, that “target population” quickly morphed from the Viet Cong counterinsurgents into the American public itself and anyone else who could pose a threat to the Pentagon’s ambitions at home or abroad.
Seen in the light of this history, recent developments on the internet make more sense. Silicon Valley did not spring out of the California soil by itself. It was carefully seeded there by the military and intelligence agencies that require this technology to fight the information warfare of the 21st century.
The Department of Defense did not announce in 2003 that they were going to “fight the net” as if it were an enemy weapons system because they were afraid the internet could be weaponized by their enemies. They knew it was already a weapon because they themselves had weaponized it.
The US government is not afraid of the Russians and their ability to “undermine American democracy” by purchasing thousands of dollars of advertising on Facebook. They were the ones who envisioned a LifeLog system to observe and control the population in the first place.
The Pentagon does not fret about the security vulnerabilities of the internet. It exploits those vulnerabilities to develop some of the most destructive cyberweapons yet unleashed, including the US/Israeli-developed Stuxnet.
And, as the next generation of networking technologies threatens to add not just our Facebook data and our Google searches and our tweets and our purchases to the government’s databases, but actually to connect every object in the world directly to those databases, the military is once again at the cutting edge of the next internet revolution.
SEAN O’KEEFE: Internet of Things is penetrating an ever0wider swath of daily life and the global economy. Our good friends and helpful proliferators of information at Wikipedia define the Internet of Things as the network of physical objects—things embedded with electronics (software sensors, network connectivity)—which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. Essentially it allows objects to be sensed and control remotely, creating an integration between physical world and computer systems. Think smart grid: energy systems related to each other to maximize efficiency and all tied to that objective. Internet of Things is transforming modern business, leveraging embedded sensors, connectivity, digital analytics, and the automation to deliver greater efficiency and effectiveness on a wide range of market fronts.
The military has been a leader in developing many of the Internet of Things component technologies, but can do more to leverage the benefits of Internet of Things solutions. The broader national security establishment also faces unique challenges in adopting Internet of Things technologies ranging from security and mission assurance to infrastructure and cost constraints and cultural hurdles. Now, in September, just a couple of months ago, the CSIS Strategic Technologies Program released a report: Leveraging the Internet of Things for a More Efficient and Effective Military, which outlines how the military can adopt lessons from the private sector to take advantage of these broader benefits of Internet of Things.
From the earliest days of networked computing—when the ARPANET was still just a twinkle in its engineers’ eyes and famed ARPA computer scientist J. C. R. Licklider was writing memos to his colleagues in Palo Alto updating them on his vision for an “Intergalactic Computer Network”—to today, when DARPA scientists are plotting military uses for the Internet of Things,the technology underpinning the US government’s plans for full-spectrum dominance of the cyber world has advanced by leaps and bounds. But the vision itself remains the same.
In this vision, every person is tracked, their conversations recorded, their purchases monitored, their social networks mapped, their habits studied, and, ultimately, their behaviours predicted, so that the Pentagon and the spies of Silicon Valley can better control the human population. And, with the advent of technologies that ensure that every item we own will be spying on us and broadcasting that data through networks that are compromised by the intelligence agencies, that vision is closer than ever to a reality.
And there, helping that vision to come to reality, are the giants of Big Tech who were founded, funded, aided and, when needed, compromised by the spooks, spies and soldiers who desire complete control over the cyber world.
This is the secret of Silicon Valley. In a key sense, the Big Tech giants are the Pentagon and the intelligence community. The DoD and the intelligence agencies are the Big Tech giants. It was this way from the very dawn of modern computing, and it remains this way today.
We should not be surprised that the world of the internet—the world bequeathed to us by the ARPANET—is increasingly looking like an always-on surveillance device. That was what it was intended to be.
Yet the public, blissfully unaware of this reality (or willfully ignorant of it) continues to record their every move in their Facebook LifeLog, flock like birds of a feather to ask their most intimate questions of Google, and feed their personal data into the gaping maw of the PRISM beast.
It may be too late to pull back from the brink of this always-on, always-surveilled, wireless networked precipice . . . but until we look squarely at the facts showing that Big Tech is a front for the US government, we will never hope to escape the silicon trap that they have laid for us.
Filed in: Podcasts