According to a purloined set of email, former US intelligence officials have created a vast surveillance system across the US that’s more accurate than even face recognition technology. Data received at surveillance points across the country are instantaneously transmitted to a centralized database on an ongoing, near-realtime basis. The surveillance point data is aggregated with other intelligence at the central datacenter.
The system is called TrapWire and is run by an outfit called Abraxas Corporation, which bills itself as providing “risk mitigation technology for the national security community.” Abraxas, based in and around northern Virginia, is itself owned by Cubic Corporation, a “diversified systems and services company in transportation, defense, and RFID markets worldwide,” based in San Diego.
Last Christmas Eve, the Anonymous hacktivist collective compromised the internal systems of Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor), a “subscription-based provider of geopolitical intelligence” based in Austin, Texas. Anonymous obtained more than five million pieces of Stratfor email and began publishing them as the Global Intelligence Files (GIF) through WikiLeaks in early 2012.
Recently, security researcher Justin Ferguson filtered part of the email dump and isolated a discussion of the implementation of TrapWire in public spaces across the US. The WikiLeaks website was subject to a serious distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attack, bringing it (and its mirrors) down. A hacking group calling itself AntiLeaks took credit for the DDos attack on WikiLeaks, claiming to be a group of “young adults, citizens of the United States of America, and are deeply concerned about the recent developments with Julian Assange [founding editor of WikiLeaks] and his attempt at asylum in Ecuador. Assange is the head of a new breed of terrorist.”
Trapwire claims to be “a unique, predictive software system designed to detect patterns of pre-attack surveillance and logistical planning and introduce the basis for a paradigm shift in the methodologies traditionally applied to securing critical infrastructure, key resources, and personnel.”
The website RT—a Russian state-owned media agency—has the best analysis of the situation to date and points to part of the Anonymous document dump, purported to be a partnership agreement between Stratfor and Abraxas (.pdf; 581KB) whereby Stratfor would provide analysis of the TrapWire surveillance data. RT cites a 2006 Crime and Justice International article (.pdf; 2.4MB; article starts on page 39), one of the very few published accounts of Abraxas and Trapwire:
“Suspicious activity reports from all facilities on the TrapWire network are aggregated in a central database and run through a rules engine that searches for patterns indicative of terrorist surveillance operations and other attack preparations. ... Any patterns detected—links among individuals, vehicles or activities—will be reported back to each affected facility. This information can also be shared with law enforcement organizations, enabling them to begin investigations into the suspected surveillance cell.”
Imagine that. A broad and widespread surveillance network grid across the US monitoring virtually everything and reporting back to a centralized datacenter. And you thought this only happened on television. Couple Trapwire with the Obama administration’s adamant fight for the ability to imprison US citizens indefinitely—without charge or trial—under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (neither of which have been reported in the corporate media) and we’re looking at a serious civil liberties problem, folks.
Last May, Federal District Judge Katherine B. Forrest issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the US government from using Section 1021 of the NDAA (the indefinite detainment provision), finding it to be unconstitutional. The Obama administration immediately appealed. As Tangerine Bolen, one of the plaintiffs in the case against the NDAA, notes in her Guardian dispatch, “... this week, in a final hearing in New York City, US government lawyers asserted even more extreme powers—the right to disregard entirely the judge and the law.” Bolen continues:
“This past week’s hearing was even more terrifying. Government attorneys again, in this hearing, presented no evidence to support their position and brought forth no witnesses. Most incredibly, Obama’s attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA’s section 1021—the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial—has not been applied by the US government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest’s injunction. In other words, they were telling a US federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama’s government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them.”
Thirteen years ago, when I published Information Eclipse: Privacy and Access in America, I was convinced the greatest threat to personal privacy in the US was from corporations. Wow, was I wrong. Just wow.