Hidden History: The Close Link Between Silicon Valley, the Pentagon and US Intelligence

The Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Big Tech Doesn’t Want You to Know

Directed by James Corbett (2019)

Film Review

This documentary explores the hidden Pentagon and US intelligence role in the development of of Silicon Valley, the Internet and tech giants like Google and Facebook.

Corbett traces the rise of Silicon Valley to the 1946 appointment of Frederick Terman as the dean of Stanford engineering school. During World War II, Terman ran the top secret radio research lab at Harvard. There he supervised 800 scientists in researching microwaves, radar detection and jamming and other forms of electronics warfare. Eleven of these scientists accompanied him to Standford, where they immediately received Pentagon contracts for military projects.

ARPANET, initially funded by the Department of Defense, became known as the Internet in 1991 when it was officially privatized.

Over the years, other technologies that began as Stanford graduate student projects were spun off as private ventures. Examples include Oracle Integrated Cloud Applications and Platform Services, derived from Project Oracle, a vast CIA database project; SunSystems Financial Management Software, also based based on Pentagon-funded research; and Google, which started as a project funded by DARPA, the CIA and the NSA.

In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA, initially owned 5,000 shares in Google, which they sold in 2005. On their webpage, the CIA describes Google Earth as a CIA-assisted technology. A 2014 Freedom of Information Act Request indicates Google was (is?) part of a secret government project called Enduring Security Framework Initiative. The latter paid (pays?) the company to share data they collect on search engine users with US intelligence and the Pentagon.

Google’s founder and former CEO Eric Schmidt is now the chair of the Defense Efficiency Initiative. He’s also a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group’s steering committee.

Facebook has a similar history of Pentagon and US intelligence backing. By a remarkable coincidence, Facebook was launched the same day (Feb 4 2004) that DARPA scrapped a proposed study to predict behavior by collecting massive amounts of data on subjects’ daily interests and activities.

Facebook received most of its startup funding from venture capitalists closely linked to the Department of Defense and US intelligence – including $12.7 million from Accel Partners, whose managing director previously served on the board of In-Q-Tel.


*ARPA – Advanced Research Projects Agency – has since been renamed DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Agency).

 

 

If It’s Free, You’re the Product

Digital Dissidents Part 2

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

“If It’s Free You’re the Product”

In Part 2, Digital Dissidents reminds us that Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple daily collect and “monetize” (ie sell) millions of data points about us (including records of financial transactions).

The documentary also features rare commentary by Julian Assange on Sweden’s attempts* to charge him with sexual assault. These charges mysteriously surfaced exactly two weeks after Anonymous hacker Jeremy Hammonds released hacked emails between intelligence contractor Stratfor and the US government about potential charges against Assange under the 2017 Espionage Act. Was this mere coincidence? It seems unlikely.

NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake and William Binney also talk candidly about the devastating effects of whistleblowing on their personal lives. His career in software systems management ruined, Drake presently clerks in an Apple retail outlet.

Binney, who refers to the NSA as “the Stasi** on super steroids, calls for the total dissolution of NSA. He maintains it has too much power to be reformed.


*Sweden dropped the sexual assault charges against Assange in Sept 2017. As Assange points out in the film, neither woman filed a police complaint and one accuses the police of inventing the crimes she supposedly accused him of.

**As the intelligence/security service for the former East German Republic, the Stasi was one of the most viciously repressive secret police agencies ever.

The video, which can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, can be viewed for free at the Al Jazeera website: Digital Dissidents

Working Class Reality TV: The Final Episodes

Hard Earned – Episodes 5 and 6

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

The final episodes of Hard Earned (“Fight for Fifteen” and “New Beginnings”) reveal mostly positive outcomes for the five families – in part due to their resourcefulness and in part (in my view) to extremely good luck.

Chicago: DJ loses his union job because it requires a car and he can’t afford the expense and upkeep. He finds a new job as field director for a voter mobilization campaign.

Montgomery: The couple finally find a house and mortgage they can afford and refurbish it to enable Elizabeth’s parents to move into their basement. They have been paying the $1700 mortgage on her parents’ home since her father developed cancer. Jose finally passes his math class and starts a part-time internship at a radio station to supplement his full time job at the courthouse.

Silicon valley: Hilton quits his Google job after he learns enough English to pass a food handlers exam. However he is forced to take a second job as a busboy to pay their medical bills and higher housing expenses (they have moved out of the garage into a house they share with another couple). His girlfriend takes a minimum wage job at a market.

Milwaukee: Percy finally lands a full time maintenance job that pays $11.25 and hour, and his wife, who has severe arthritis in her knees, is finally able to retire.

Evergreen Park: Emilia finally finds a good-paying waitress job and receives additional income from speaking tours about her struggle with drug and alcohol recovery.


For earlier episodes see Fighting Homelessness: Reality TV That Depicts Reality and  Reality TV: More Truth About the American Working Class

Offline is the New Luxury

Offline is the New Luxury

VPRO (2017)

Film Review

This documentary is about taking back control of our Internet connectivity. Ironically it starts by recommending a new app that allows you to identify increasingly rare “white spots” – areas of the earth that aren’t blanketed with WiFi signals. One MIT psychology professor, who bans cellphones, laptops and tablets in her classes, is part of a movement to create sacred spaces in these white spots – areas where people fully engage with each other instead of their electronic devices.

The filmmakers also talk about the late Steve Jobs and other prominent Silicon Valley moguls not allowing their kids to have cellphones and tablets and sending them to low tech Montessori and Waldorf schools. Increasingly the well-to-do are seeking out expensive retreats and detox facilities to cure their Internet addiction. While growing numbers of law firms and security agencies patronize a highly successful Dutch firm selling Faraday cages and microwave shields to protect clients from electronic snooping and damaging microwave radiation.

The Amish, of course, have a cheap low-tech solution to Internet addiction – namely a value system that rejects most advanced electronic technology.

The video concludes by explaining the concept of “surveillance capitalism,” in which our personal information is “monetized,” ie in which the data Google, Facebook and Amazon collect on us is sold to advertisers.

A key strategy of surveillance capitalism is to use drones, satellites and giant balloons to expand connectivity to remote areas of the developing world. At the time of filming, Facebook was pressuring the Indian government to allow the introduction of Free Basics (free Internet connectivity) to all Indian residents, with Facebook retaining control of their Internet access. Google, meanwhile, is pushing to extend 100% connectivity to Sri Lanka by launching giant WiFi balloons.

According to one analyst, the drive to acquire massive troves of Indian personal data is a ploy to placate shareholders. The latter are understandably concerned about a drop-off in Facebook users in the developing world – due to privacy concerns and the recognition that most Facebook content is meaningless drivel.

The Myth of Internet Freedom

Stare Into the Lights My Pretties

Jordan Brown (2017)

Film Review

This documentary takes an honest look at the dark side of what they call “screen culture.” The notion that the Internet is “free” is a total myth propagated by the corporate PR industry. The Internet has maximized corporate power more than any other technology, while significantly accelerating globalization.  It also enables government and corporations to spy on virtually every aspect of our lives

The overall premise of the film is that technology never arises in a vacuum. Although falsely portrayed as fulfilling our needs and desires., it ALWAYS serves the ideology and interests of ruling elites who pay for its development. Moreover once people allow new technology into their lives, it changes the way they think.

In Stare Into the Lights My Pretties, neuroscientists express concern about the harmful effect of six-plus hours a day of screen time on concentration, memory, problem solving, empathy and collective awareness.

Far more alarming, though, are the social control aspects of screen culture, all the while masquerading as Internet freedom.

Previously I had no idea of the absolute gatekeeping function of giant monopolies like Google and Facebook in filtering information that reaches individual Internet users. Despite the apparent wealth of information that bombards us via the Internet, the average American is less knowledgeable about US foreign and domestic affairs than prior to the 1990s Internet explosion. This mainly relates to sophisticated algorithms used by Google, Facebook, Yahoo News and even the Huffington Post, Washington Post and New York Times to selectively show us information they think we want to see (based on our clicking behavior).

I suddenly understand why climate deniers are so unshakable in their beliefs. When they search for the term, “climate change,” they end up with a totally different set of articles than I do – thus strongly reinforcing their existing beliefs.

Other more sinister elements of this social control relate to sophisticated behavioral modification techniques that addict us to our screens and to get us to click on specific sites and remain there as long as possible. When we use the Internet, we get confused what the real product is. The real product isn’t the web content we are offered – the real product is us and the massive amount of data collected every time we go online. This, in turn, is sold on to corporate advertisers who use it to entice us to buy their products.

 

 

 

What Silicon Valley Has Planned for Public Education

What Silicon Valley Has Planned for Public Education

Alison McDowell (2017

This troubling presentation concerns a well-advanced plan by corporate America to gradually replace public schools with 100% digital education. The attack on American schools is multi-pronged – with anti-public school forces closing schools, laying off teachers and neglecting crumbling infrastructure while stealthily increasing the availability of digital notepads, Chrome books and other digital platforms in existing schools.

Education Reform 2.0 would build on high stakes testing and school closures to replace teachers with digital learning platforms designed to incorporate “cradle to grave” tracking of students’ skill sets and online activity. Increasingly employers would rely on this information to determine suitability for employment.

The institutional backers of this digital revolution include some of the most powerful corporations and foundations in the US. Prominent names include the Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Goldman Sachs, the Institute for the Future (offshoot of Rand Corporation), Amazon, Google, Dell (the company Snowden worked for), and Halliburton.

The US military is also involved and planning and development of 100% digital learning with Army Research and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) assuming responsibility for the “behavior modification” (ie mind control aspects) that reward students for appropriate engagement with the digital platform.

McDowell describes how many schools across the US are already replacing class time with Skype sessions with Halliburton “mentors” and on-line math lessons with carton “peers.”

Proponents of 100% digital learning are working closely with focus groups to “market” this new technology that tracks and mind controls children to skeptical Americans who value their privacy.

At 38 minutes, McDowell shows a promotional film for “tracked online learning.” It explains how high school and adult learners are earning “edu-blocks for a variety of learning experiences (including reading books, volunteer work, watching videos and “teaching” skills to other learners. Also how companies are already using your ledger blocks to evaluate potential employees’ suitability for specific projects or even investing in their university education by paying their tuition. One edu-block enthusiast describes how participating in the online program is enabling her to reduce her student loan debt.

The ledger is designed to keep track of all the YouTube videos you watch and even all the texts you send (and delete).

The End of Globalization

From Global to Local: The Making of Things and the End of Globalisation

by Finbarr Livesey

Profile Books Ltd (2016)

Book Review

In From Global to Local: The Making of Things and the End of Globalisation, Finbarr Livesey challenges the common neoliberal claim that globalization is the be-all and end-all of global prosperity.

Livesey’s premise, which he supports with an impressive array of data, is that globalization peaked shortly after 2008 and the world economy is in a period of deglobalization. World trade is slowly declining as a percentage of GDP, and many companies who moved factories to the third world are improving their bottom line by reshoring them to the US and Europe.

Livesey contends that, to a large extent, last year’s vote for Britain to leave the EU and for a US president who promised to withdraw from the TPP and bring back American jobs, merely reflect an economic trend that began nearly a decade ago.

The present deglobalization was triggered by the 2008 financial crash that sucked trillions of dollars out of the global economy. However, Livesey identifies a number of other factors that influence this trend – chief among them the volatility of oil prices and shipping costs (containers must be booked months in advance) and the growing cost of labor in China and neighboring countries. At the same time, technological advances, including 3D printing and “additive manufacturing,” have led to an upsurge in “on demand” industries and consumer frustration with being limited to millions of identical mass produced items.

At present many companies find it more profitable to shorten their supply chain by producing most or all component parts locally or regionally. Between 2010 and 2015, over 1300 companies brought production back to the US. Even Apple and Google have started to reshore significant manufacturing operations.

At present three-fourths of everything bought in the US is made in the US.

Originally published in Dissident Voice