and the Surveillance State?
page considers writing about the 'surveillance state',
commenting on the extensive literature about the 'invisible
government' and questioning some myths about historical
or contemporary 'police states'.
It covers -
history of particular surveillance agencies discussed
in a later page
of this profile.
The notion of the 'surveillance state' - claimed to be
uniquely modern, both quantitatively and qualitatively
different to past regimes - has been a major feature of
recent debate about privacy, security and the governance
of cyberspace. It has been reflected in claims that US
citizens want protection from government more than from
business and, more luridly, that 'secret governments'
(an intelligence-industrial complex) shape public consciousness
or render democratic governments irrelevant.
Typically the 'surveillance state' centres on -
citizens (and those of other jurisdictions) through systematic
use of digital technologies while -
access to information (official secrets),
an important mechanism against moves to increase the
accountability or efficiency of particular agencies,
public consciousness through disinformation and information
responds to threats -
groups (eg the International Workers of the World pre-1925,
international/domestic Communism 1917-80s, stooges in
the pay of the CIA, Islamic Jihad ...) or
(the H Bomb, bioterror)
either have a substantive basis or merely serve to legitimate
the activities of particular agencies and elites. The
'death of distance' means that it blurs traditional demarcations
between domestic/external agencies and about activities
that seep across national/provincial borders. Some analysts
have equated the surveillance state with imperialism or
merely with 'late capitalism'.
An alternative view - for us more convincing - instead
emphasises bureaucratic aggrandisement, the imperative
to use new technologies (evident in much e-business) and
the dilemmas of articulating and effectively responding
to national security challenges, a task akin to pinning
jelly to a moving wall.
Points of entry into the literature are William Staples'
The Culture of Surveillance: Discipline and Social
Control in the United States (New York: St Martin's
Press 1997), Policing Politics: Security Intelligence
& the Liberal Democratic State (London: Cass
1994) by Peter Gill, Surveillance, Power & Modernity
(Cambridge: Polity 1990) by Christopher Dandeker, The
Rise of Computer State (New York: Vintage 1983) by
David Burnham and The Electronic Eye: The Raising
of Surveillance Society (Cambridge: Polity 1996)
by David Lyon.
Noam Chomsky & Edward Herman's Manufacturing Consent:
The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York:
Pantheon 1988) offers a view from the left that to us
is disturbingly ahistorical and elides crucial differences
between totalitarian and more open states. It is complemented
by Terrorism & Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice
& Peace to Rid the World of Evil (New York: Palgrave
2003) or Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State
& the Demise of the Citizen (New York: Palgrave
2000), James Bovard's equalling romantic views from the
right, or by Robert Stove's quirky The Unsleeping
Eye: A Brief History of Secret Police & Their Victims
(Sydney: Duffy & Snellgrove 2002). The Intruders:
Unreasonable Searches & Seizures from King John to
John Ashcroft (New Brunswick: Rutgers Uni Press 2004)
by Samuel Dash offers a US view.
For a perspective on tensions between democracy and security
see Best Truth: Intelligence & Security in the
Information Age (New Haven: Yale Uni Press) by Bruce
Berkowitz & Allan Goodman and The Nation-State
and Violence (Cambridge: Polity 1987) by Anthony
the secret state
For the NSA and affiliated 'e-int' agencies see James
Bamford's Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret
National Security Agency From the Cold War Through the
Dawn of a New Century (New York: Doubleday 2002)
and The Puzzle Palace: A Report on NSA, America's
Most Secret Agency (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1982)
and The Shadow Factory: The Ultra- Secret NSA From
9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (New York: Doubleday
2008), Deep Black: Space Espionage and National Security
(New York: Random 1986) by William Burrows and the classic
The Codebreakers (New York: Macmillan 1972) by
There is a somewhat breathless acount in Total Surveillance:
Investigating the Big Brother World of E-Spies, Eavesdroppers
& CCTV (London: Piatkus 2000) by John Parker
and Bits, Bytes & Big Brother: Federal Information
Control in the Technological Age (New York: Praeger
1995) by Shannon Martin. Arthur Miller's The Assault
on Privacy Computers, Data Banks, Dossiers (Ann Arbor:
Uni of Michigan Press 1971) and Computers, Surveillance,
and Privacy (Minneapolis: Uni of Minnesota Press
1996) edited by David Lyon & Elia Zureik remain of
Questions about the scope of official secrecy are considered
here, with a complementary
discussion of Freedom of Information (FOI)
and Archives regimes.
the intelligence-industrial complex
Although it is clear that there's considerable sharing
of information between government agencies, businesses
and individuals (including aid workers, scholars and journalists)
the impact of that sharing is uncertain. Much of the speculation
about grand strategy appears to be misplaced.
Two points of entry into the literature are Economic
Intelligence & National Security (Ottawa: Carlton
Uni Press 1998) edited by Evan Potter and The US Intelligence
Community (Cambridge: Ballinger 1989) by Jeffrey
Less scholarly attention has been devoted to more mundane
questions about the shape and scale of the surveillance
industry, which encompasses a continuum from nightwatchmen
and private investigators to vendors of supercomputers
for parsing voice traffic and biometric solutions for
restrictiong access to particular facilities/data.
reds under the bed, spooks in the closet?
For a comparative analysis of undercover surveillance
see Undercover: Police Surveillance in Comparative
Perspective (The Hague: Kluwer 1995) edited by Cyrille
Fijnaut & Gary Marx. Marx' lucid Undercover: Police
Surveillance in America (Berkeley: Uni of California
Press 1988) and Paul Cowan's State Secrets: Police
Surveillance in America (New York: Holt Rinehart
Winston 1974) consider activity in the US.
As noted later
in this profile, even the most totalitarian states have
relied heavily on self-policing - in particularly denunciation
by colleagues, neighbours, customers and relatives. The
eagerness with which people have dobbed each other in,
out of idealism or from baser motives (jealousy, revenge,
interest in a financial reward, escape from a relationship),
has frequently been noted by scholars but is less recognised
in popular culture, which often portrays 'us' as victims
of 'them' (ie omnipresent officials).
An historical perspective is provided by Accusatory
Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789-1989
(Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1997) edited by Sheila
Fitzpatrick & Robert Gellately, complemented by works
such as Timothy Garton Ash's The File: A Personal
History (London: HarperCollins 1997) and Anna Funder's
Stasiland (London: Granta 2003).
For postal surveillance,
one of the dirtier little secrets of contemporary communication,
see Philip Stenning's Postal Security & Mail Opening:
A Review of the Law (Toronto: Centre of Criminology,
University of Toronto 1981) about practice in Canada.
US library monitoring is highlighted in Herbert Foerstel's
Surveillance in the Stacks; the FBI's Library Awareness
Program (Westport: Greenwood 1991).
Writing about the Australian official surveillance system
has followed two tangents: work (often of a high quality)
based on archival documentation about agencies up to the
1950s and studies by Desmond Ball and others of Australia's
involvement in international electronic data collection/sharing.
There is regrettably no major synthetic work that draws
together all the threads over the past century.
Irrespective of regional pretensions, Australia appears
destined to remain a junior partner of its intelligence
allies: of significance for its collection of information
on their behalf (geography still matters) but not having
access to much of the analysis.
For early agencies see in particular Frank Cain's The
Origins of Political Surveillance in Australia (Sydney:
Angus & Robertson 1983), extended by Breaking
the Codes: Australia's KGB Network, 1944-1950 by
Desmond Ball & David Horner and Cain's Terrorism
& Intelligence in Australia: A History of ASIO & National
Surveillance (North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly
For the contemporary epoch see David McKnight's Australia's
Spies and Their Secrets (St Leonards: Allen &
Unwin 1995), The Ties that Bind. Intelligence Cooperation
between the UKUSA Countries (North Sydney: Allen
& Unwin 1985) by Desmond Ball & Jeffrey Richelson
and Tudor Harvey Barnett's disingenous Tale of the
Scorpion (North Sydney: Allen & Unwin 1988).
We have discussed individual Australian agencies in more
detail later elsewhere on
Like Australia, New Zealand's international significance
over the past thirty years has been as real estate for
parking dishes that access global telecommunication traffic.
An account is provided in works by Ball & Richelson
and Nicky Hagar's more impassioned Secret Power: New
Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network (Nelson:
Craig Potton 1996).
The literature on the Canadian surveillance state - "so
far from God, so close to the USA" - is comparatively
Key works are Richard Cleroux's Official Secrets:
The Story behind the Canadian Intelligence Service
(Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson 1990), Stanley Cohen's Invasion
of Privacy: Police Electronic Surveillance in Canada
(Toronto: Carswell 1983). Most public attention has centred
on the exploits of - or abuses by - the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police. Two points of entry into the literature
are John Sawatsky's Men in the Shadows: The RCMP Security
Service (Toronto: Doubleday 1980) and For Services
Rendered: Leslie James Bennett and the RCMP Security Service
(Toronto: Doubleday 1982).
the UK and EU
The notion of the UK surveillance state has been popularised
by works such as Duncan Campbell's The Unsinkable
Aircraft Carrier: American military power in Britain
(London: Michael Joseph 1984) and On the Record: Surveillance,
Computers & Privacy (London: Michael Joseph 1986)
with Steve Conor or Simon Davies' overheated Big Brother
- Britain's Web of Surveillance and the New Technological
Order (London: Pan 1997).
A more nuanced approach is offered by historian Peter
Hennessy in Whitehall (London: Secker & Warburg
1989) and The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold
War (London: Allen Lane 2002), complemented by works
such as Beneath The City Streets (London: Allen
Lane 1983) by Peter Laurie and Know Your Enemy: How
the Joint Intelligence Committee Saw the World (London:
Murray 2002) by Percy Cradock.
There have been almost as many books on the CIA and other
US agencies there have been sightings of Elvis. Unfortunately
much of the writing is as fevered and circumstantial as
that about the King.
Points of entry are The American Police State: The
Government Against the People (New York: Random 1976)
by David Wise, Cloak & Dollar: A History of American
Secret Intelligence (New Haven: Yale Uni Press 2002)
by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Domestic Intelligence
(Austin: Uni of Texas Press 1980) by Richard Morgan, Legacy
of Ashes: The History of the C.I.A. (New York: Doubleday
2007) by Tim Weiner, Spying on Americans (Philadelphia:
Temple Uni Press 1978) by Athan Theoharis, Surveillance
& Espionage in a Free Society (London: Praeger
1972) by Richard Blum, Privacy and Freedom (New
York: Atheneum 1970) by Alan Westin, The Age of Surveillance:
the Aims & Methods of America's Intelligence System
(New York: Vintage 1981) by Frank Donner and Freedom
vs. National Security Secrecy & Surveillance
(New York: Chelsea House 1977) by Daniel Hoffman &
Morton Halperin. Works on the FBI include Public Enemies:
America's Greatest Crime Wave & the Birth of the FBI,
1933-34 (New York: The Penguin Press 2004) by Bryan
USSR and Russia
Most writing about USSR agencies has reflected the literature
about the US, ie spy-running and spy-catching rather than
day to day tracking of ordinary citizens. 'Smoke &
Mirrors' has meant that until the recent - and very partial
- opening of archives much of the work was problematical.
Accounts include Christopher Andrew & Oleg Gordievsky's
KGB: The Inside Story (London: Hodder & Stoughton
1990), The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive
and the Secret History of the KGB (London: Hodder
& Stoughton 1999) by Andrew & Vasili Mitrokhin,
George Leggett's The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police
(New York: Oxford University Press 1981) and Stalin
and His Hangmen: The Tyrant & Those Who Killed for
Him (New York: Random 2004) by Donald Rayfield. There
is a serviceable although dated bibliography in Raymond
Rocca & John Dziak's Bibliography on Soviet Intelligence
& Security Services (Boulder: Westview 1985).
For policing see L Shelley's Policing Soviet Society
(London: Routledge 1994).
Studies of predecessors include the popular The Russian
Secret Police: Muscovite, Imperial, and Soviet Political
Security Operations (New York: Simon & Schuster
1970) by Ronald Hingley, Richard Deacon's A History
of the Russian Secret Service (London: Frederick
Muller 1972) and Frederic Zuckerman's insightful The
Tsarist Secret Police in Russian Society, 1880-1917
(New York: New York Uni Press 1996). Dominic Lieven's
'The Security Police, Civil Rights, and the Fate of the
Russian Empire, 1855-1917' in Civil Rights in Imperial
Russia (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1989) edited by Olga
Crisp and Linda Edmondson is of particular value.
For the recent history of domestic security agencies see
Amy Knight's The KGB: Police and Politics in the Soviet
Union (Boston: Unwin Hyman 1990) and Yevgenia Albats'
slighter The State Within a State: The KGB and Its
Hold on Russia Past, Present and Future (New York:
Farrar Straus Giroux 1994).
Studies of satellite regimes include Edward N. Peterson's
The Limits of Secret Police Power: The Magdeburger Stasi,
1953-1989 (New York: Peter Lang 2004) and Stasi-Akten
zwischen Politik und Zeitgeschichte: Eine Zwischenbilanz
(Munich: Olzog 2003) edited by Siegfried Suckut &
Recent work on totalitarian regimes has centred on the
mechanics of social control and voluntary commitment by
- rather than co-option of - much of the population in
Nazi Germany or Italy to watching and informing on both
fellow citizens and those considered to be outside the
Three of the more significant works are Robert Gellately's
The Gestapo and German Society 1933-1945 (Oxford:
Clarendon Press 1991) and Backing Hitler: Consent
& Coercion in Nazi Germany (Oxford: Oxford Uni
Press 2001) and Eric Johnson's Nazi Terror: The Gestapo,
Jews & Ordinary Germans (New York: Basic Books
and the united states of paranoia?
Readers of Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style
in American Politics and David Brion Davis' The
Fear of Conspiracy: Images of Un-American Subversion from
the Revolution to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell Uni
Press 1971) will recognise that suspicion of the men in
black is as American as apple pie.
Timothy Melly's Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture
of Paranoia in Postwar America (Ithaca: Cornell Uni
Press 2000), highlighted later in this profile, comments
that a range of works have contributed - others would
say merely legitimised - anxiety about the way the way
technologies, government/business bureaucracies and communication
systems have "reduced human autonomy and uniqueness".
Those works include Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics
(1948), David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd (1950),
William Whyte's The Organization Man (1956),
Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders (1951),
Herbert Marcuse's One Dimensional Man (1964),
Charles Reich’s The Greening of America
(1970), and Michel Foucault's gnomic - and frequently
ahistorical - tracts such as Discipline & Punish
(1977) and Madness & Civilization (1988).
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