by Mike Booth
This is Part 4 of a six-part series, It’s Getting Late, America
Pulling the Threads Together
I am just finishing reading an unsettling book called Mindf*cked by Christopher Wylie, a young Canadian who, more or less unwittingly, was instrumental in the gestation of the project that came to be known as Cambridge Analytics (CA). Brainchild of an alt-right partnership between demonic American political operative, Steve Bannon, and billionaire, Robert Mercer, its objective was to produce a foolproof machine for tampering with–and winning–elections. Wylie, employee-turned-whistleblower, writing in 2018-19 after leaving the company, maintains that this data mining/social networking octopus surpassed its creators’ highest expectations and was capable then of taking over the world. It debuted with decisive interventions in both the British Brexit referendum and the election of President Donald Trump. Along the way it flirted with the Russians, harbored Paul Manafort and was eventually shut down after being discredited by the British justice system, whose star witness was a young Canadian called Wylie.
Near the end of his book Wylie sums up the scene at Cambridge Analytica during his time there:
Inside CA I saw the true face of greed, power, racism and colonialism. I saw how multimillionaires behaved when they wanted to shape the world in their own image. I saw the most extravagant and dark corners of our society. As an accuser I saw what they were capable of in order to protect their profits.Christopher Wylie, Mindf*cked
We can only guess what the offspring of that sinister cephalopod might have spawned since 2018 and what terrifying political future we can look forward to. And it’s not only applicable to politics. The combined use of massive data bases and internet communications in commerce, in war and about anything else, can be applied by the cyber-entrepreneurs in any field they want to turn their hands to. Some of these hands are grimy, as Wylie points out repeatedly in his riveting book.
The underhanded manipulation of an American presidential election and a historic British referendum to sever it’s close ties with Europe is bad enough, but the now-defunct CA opened the floodgates to a galaxy of spinoff companies willing to put the technology to work on less-than-honorable projects, just for the money. Wylie’s book was written in 2018. Since then the CA algorithms have been refined, giving those who control them the power to make free and fair elections impossible wherever and whenever they choose. Beyond that, they are capable of engendering an online alt-right hate group and, when it’s ripe, convoking real-life violence. Wylie, who was brought on board early on as a decent Canadian data-and-network-hip computer kid, was ostensibly hired to write software for legitimate commercial and humanitarian use. Then he discovered he was laying the groundwork for for illicit use of the technology by an unscrupulous far-right sect. So he exited Cambridge Analytica and, with his book, became a whistleblower.
According to Wylie, Cambridge Analytica was an almost-instant success:
The list of CA clients started to grow and soon became a Who’s Who of the American right. The Trump and Cruz campaigns earned us $5 million each. The Senate campaigns of Roy Blunt of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas were also lucrative. And, of course, there was the campaign for the Oregon Republican, Art Robinson, who collected urine samples and church organs, ran for Congress, and lost.Op. cit.
Newsweek Reports US Secret Army Operates Without the Knowledge or Consent of Congress
Before I can finish Wylie’s book I’m bowled over by Newsweek‘s latest scoop–two years in the making by William M. Arkin, one of the country’s most knowledgeable and respected military observers. It’s about a giant new secret American fighting force, the biggest and most technologically advanced the world has ever seen.
In keeping with its clandestine nature, the core mission of this new army of spooks seems to be staying secret. This fetish is embodied in what they call “signature reduction,” which boils down to an elaborate set of measures to create and maintain false identities for its operatives, both online and off. This is more complicated than it seems at first glance, due to the easily accessible omniscience of the internet, principally Facebook, the mother of all databases and, of course, Google, along with every other data collection available for sale. Without these coverup measures every character in the Signature Reduction organization could be positively identified via their bank accounts, medical records, family (a most sensitive concern here…), employment history, friends, etc. Everything is cloaked and clandestine: people, vehicles, aircraft, internet use… There are even tricked-up systems to fool fingerprinting and facial recognition.
Arkin lays out the playing field in his introduction:
The force, more than ten times the size of the clandestine elements of the CIA, carries out domestic and foreign assignments, both in military uniforms and under civilian cover, in real life and online, sometimes hiding in private businesses and consultancies, some of them household name companies. The explosion of Pentagon cyber warfare, moreover, has led to thousands of spies who carry out their day-to-day work in various made-up personas, the very type of nefarious operations the United States decries when Russian and Chinese spies do the same.William Arkin in Newsweek, Mon, May 17, 2021)
There Might Be Some Reservations
This new, surreptitious army includes some of the US military’s most lethal special-ops troops and their most cutting edge cyber-warfare units. It’s not clear yet whether these troops work alongside existing special combat and intelligence-gathering units or at their margin. It’s active on the home front and maintains its operations in strict secrecy. That’s interesting, as it sounds like the Schutzstaffel, a project launched by the German chancellor in 1933. That was Hitler’s SS and he found it very useful, as its loyalty was not to government nor military institutions, but to Hitler personally. The rise of something similar directed against American citizens in their home country today might raise some questions. Let’s look at a few of them:
- Secret from whom? The President? The Congress, or part of it? The intelligence services? The rest of the military command? The Russians? Facebook? Amazon? Microsoft? Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, et al? Big oil, big pharma, big tobacco, big everything? The citizens, always the last to discover the truth?
- When and how did it originate and with what pretensions? Who’s the father, the mother, the children and the cousins?
- How is the organization financed? It’s always fascinating to follow the money.
- Does it operate primarily at home or abroad?
- Who’s in charge? Who’s to be held accountable? Or is responsability/ accountability irrelevant in this brave new world? Who does the one in charge report to?
- Has it had any successes? Any failures?
- Does it identify with either of the existing American political parties? Or is the Pentagon creating a new Schutzstaffel party?
- How did it manage to stay secret until now? How did it come to light?
- If it comes to High Noon between the Signature Reduction honcho and President Joe Biden, who wins?
- Is it safe to assume that China is lagging behind the US in these matters?
More of the Same?
According to Arkin’s article, special operations forces make up more than half of the Signature Reduction force. That’s 30,000 mercenaries loosed on an unsuspecting country–and world. Military intelligence types are the second-most populous element in the SR mix, which includes 130 private companies, dozens of government agencies and a budget of some $900 million. Spycraft isn’t cheap.
P.S. Would anyone venture to guess how many of those “130 private companies” are the offspring of Cambridge Analytica?