Democratic cybersurveillance

(«Proletarian»; Nr. 10; Winter-Spring 2014)

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The Snowden affair, regarding the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) employee, who revealed the extent of computer espionage in which the United States is engaged, is very instructive, since it shows the true totalitarian face of bourgeois democracy in the twenty-first century.


The United States claims to be the champion of «human rights» and «freedom» both within its own borders and throughout the world have undoubtedly become quite dilapidated over the decades; however high-profile cases like that of Watergate where «brave» and «independent» media outlets rang out the truth about Government manipulation, causing the downfall of the president who ordered them (1),  would seem to demonstrate that, despite all its limitations, «democracy» is alive and well in the most powerful capitalist country in the world, even to the point of being an example for other countries worse off: there the freedom of information, freedom of the press, freedom of communication etc. is fiercely respected, including against the highest authorities, in contrast to what happens elsewhere, say in China, where censors monitor the Internet and where they undertake electronic espionage all over the world.

Unfortunately for the champions of the American and Western democracy, the documents carried off by the «whistleblower», as his partisans call Snowden, show that in matters of surveillance and wiretapping, the United States is, here too, a superpower without equal in the world. For example, for years the Western media have been filled with accusations of Chinese electronic espionage of the industries or government agencies of other countries.

An American professor wrote in 2012 that the Chinese authorities had established «probably the most sophisticated control of cyberspace», which posed a threat to U.S. firms and caused difficulties for search engines like Google or AltaVista. Explaining that «authoritarian regimes tend to have fewer checks and balances than democracies in order to prevent the abuse of power», he wrote that Chinese IT companies obey rules that are «radically different from those of professional associations in the electronic commerce sector of the West» where they provide «protection of consumer rights and civil liberties», while in China the interest of the State is prime (2). That’s a scream Professor! They must have had a good laugh at NSA Headquarters – unless that is where this article was decided upon...

In early June this year, the Chinese Government replied to these accusations, claiming to hold «mountains of data» on U.S. electronic spying in China, but nobody gave any credibility to these assertions. Yet the United States has established a massive system of espionage and surveillance of the Internet, which leaves other countries and China in particular far behind: the Snowden dossiers show that American electronic espionage in China has impacted even the most prestigious and most hermetic universities where future leaders of the country are educated. (3)

All major U.S. companies in the internet sector collaborate with monitoring services, trampling underfoot their advertising claims of preserving the privacy and confidentiality of the online traffic of their users: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Paltalk, Skype, YouTube, AOL, Apple, or Cisco (world leader in telephony over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, routers, etc.) are cited by name for their collaboration on the interception of communications, including beyond US borders. The NSA uses various electronic programs to obtain a massive collection of electronic communications, what it calls «metadata».

On average during the month of December last year, the American NSA , under its «Boundless Informant» program, intercepted about 15 million phone calls and 10 million Internet communications daily in Germany (on some peak days this could reach 60 million communications)!

During the same period, the overall number of communications intercepted daily by the NSA  involved around 4 million in Italy, 3 million in France, between 2 and 4 million in Poland, 2 million in Spain, etc... The particular importance of Germany is not only that it is the first ranking European power, but also that it is an important internet center from which it is possible to monitor communications in other countries, from Mali to Syria and throughout Eastern Europe.

In general this metadata does not contain content, but messages containing: IP addresses, phone numbers, links between correspondents, message language, use of any feature (e.g. Google maps), etc., which is considered sufficient by the NSA. But there is also the possibility of recording all the content of the messages for a few days, in order to then have the time to deal with them. Of course such a quantity of information cannot be fully analyzed; search engines are an automatic sorting according to criteria selected at will and from this sortation, it is possible to track individual persons worthy of interest to the police services.

European States, or some of them, are part of «targets to attack» according to NSA (a document of September 2010 listed 38 «targets» among foreign embassies in Washington and New York: not only traditional opponents of the United States, but also the embassies of France, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, etc.) and a particular system of espionage targets the European institutions in Brussels (coming from NATO facilities) and New York.

All countries are potential targets for the Americans, with the exception of a handful with whom there is a cooperation treaty called «Five Eyes»: Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain. Thus Snowden revealed that the British secret services have established direct links on  Britain United States transatlantic cables through which much of the email traffic between Europe and America passes, to proceed with desired interceptions without  difficulty, or that at the last «G8» held in Britain they mounted a fake cyber cafe to spy on the communications of members of foreign delegations, while they intercepted the «encrypted» communications from the mobile phones of their leaders; the data were then communicated to U.S. services...




Espionage, including between «allied» States is obviously not new, the novelty lies in the enormous possibilities that computers and electronic networks give major States, and especially the largest of them, not just for spying on other countries, but also to control the activity of their own populations.

In the epoch of liberal democracy, the inviolability of correspondence was one of those principles which were obviously regularly breached and battered by the police but of whose existence in Western countries the above cited professor still boasted; today the non-declared but very real principle is the interception of correspondence!

While continuing to maintain a liberal façade, modern democracy has pushed control and monitoring to levels unknown by fascist totalitarianism from which it inherited the tendency to centralization.

To reassure the American people when the Snowden scandal broke, President Obama said that the NSA acted only in foreign countries and within the framework of the «fight against terrorism».

But the documents show the opposite; just for the month of March, the NSA intercepted 3 billion «pieces of intelligence» on U.S. computers and computer networks, (against,  14 billion in Iran, 13.5 billion in Pakistan, 12.7 billion in Jordan, 7.6 billion in Egypt and six billion in India, for a total of 97 billion worldwide ) .

Monitoring of e-mails in the United States began after the attacks of September 11. But a new much more powerful and efficient system came into service in December of last year: it was able to filter and analyze over 75% of internet traffic in near real-time. Following a secret decision taken in the month of April, Verizon, the largest US mobile phone company with more than 100 million customers, provides all the telephone data it carries every day to the NSA!

But the old monitoring of traditional mail services is still in force, as was recently discovered by chance (4); the program, dating back over a century, of monitoring suspected persons by postal authorities (representing tens of thousands of letters per year), has been augmented for over a decade by a more modern automatic program: photographing the envelopes of all letters and packages distributed by mail, some 160 million letters and packages!

It’s natural  that after these revelations, Obama had a bit of trouble during his press conference in early August convincing anybody that the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies, investigates only «terrorists» and that  intelligence programs would become «more transparent»: Obama’s Democratic administration has actually increased and intensified the scale of these practices !

European Governments have publicly expressed their outrage at the American massive espionage - especially because it is primarily economic! The French Government has requested the postponement of current transatlantic trade negotiations (since EU negotiators have been spied upon) pending «clarification» from the US authorities; the German Government said that it was «practices worthy of the Cold War» which were intolerable between allies, etc.

But they all refused to grant political asylum to the man who had revealed that they were victims of this espionage; and after a few days the trade negotiations continued as before, without any American «clarification». And when the United States warned that Snowden might be in the Bolivian presidential plane, the French authorities (followed by Spain, Italy and Portugal ) , in contravention of international diplomatic conventions immediately banned overflight rights to the plane, compelling it to land in Austria (where the police tried to search it).

It would be a serious mistake to explain the behavior of European Governments by their «lack of courage» or their «servility» to the United States. A U.S. newspaper wrote that «U.S. authorities have privately warned French officials to be careful about speaking with too much outrage about U.S. espionage given that major European countries like France spy, too, and not just on their enemies» (5).

All major European countries engage in espionage, but also in the surveillance and control of their populations. The French daily Le Monde revealed the existence of a «clandestine system» similar to the U.S. in France, whereby the DGSE (the French secret services), «collect the phone records of millions of subscribers (... ) . Same for mail (with possibility of reading the subject of the mail), SMS, fax ... And all internet activity through Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo ...»(6). In Germany, the secret services work hand in hand with their American counterparts to monitor communications, according to the revelations of Snowden. In Britain, British Telecom, Vodafone, Verizon and other phone companies are secretly spying on their users on behalf of the police, etc. and other countries should not be left out. All the big States are doing what the U.S. State is doing (albeit with lesser means), and all are equally hostile to the revelations bringing this reality into harsh focus, because they undermine the great democratic lie. Russia finally agreed to grant «temporary» political asylum to Snowden, but only if he stops his revelations about the actions of the NSA. The Washington Post, the major newspaper that had led the fight to bring the truth about the Watergate scandal, refused to publish the information which had been naively offered by the «whistleblower»: to-day it is not a question of opposing a government responsible for a major political crisis (a never-ending war with serious consequences on public order in the USA), but to shed some light on the secret workings of democracy.

Democratic or authoritarian, and even if they are rivals and competitors, all the States and the bourgeois classes are complicit and in solidarity against the population, and ultimately, against the proletariat, which they strive to keep in ignorance, to dupe by propaganda and lead by the nose .

There is no point in moaning about violations of freedoms trampled on democracy, the State interference in the lives of «citizens» that State also called to the rescue to protect those citizens from the excesses of capitalism!

The power of the State and the social order of which it is the armed column is not eternal; the profusion of surveillance and control which it implements reflects the seriousness of the tensions that accumulate in society, making the social equilibrium increasingly precarious and causing periodic explosions. None of these means can in the long run prevent the return of the anti-capitalist class struggle.

But this class struggle will lead to the final battle only when, rejecting the reformist, legalistic and pacifist illusions of phony bourgeois democracy, the proletarians  led by their class party , oppose to  bourgeois centralization and totalitarianism, revolutionary centralization and  revolutionary totalitarianism: the revolutionary seizure of power and the establishment of the international proletarian dictatorship to liquidate capitalism.




(1) In view of the upcoming presidential elections which he addressed in a difficult position, then President Nixon had  microphones planted in the Watergate building which was to host the Democratic Convention . After the scandal broke, Nixon was eventually forced to resign under pressure from the Democrat opposition.

( 2) See

(3) All of the following information is from articles by the British Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel, searchable in English on their websites: www. and

(4 ) New York Times, 7/3/13

(5) International Herald Tribune, 7/5/13

(6) Le Monde wrote that «France has protested weakly [in relation to Snowden’s revelations] for two very good reasons. Paris already knew. And does the same thing.» This information generated little echo since the Socialist-Greens government hastened to cover it up. Once again the Left government has perfectly served bourgeois interests.



International Communist Party


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