Is the advent of widely available recording technology coupled with the mass distribution of content through social media platforms allowing for the democratisation of the state’s surveillance apparatus? Most of us fear the totalitarian dystopia imagined in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which citizens are controlled and stripped of private rights through the use of technologies enforcing total surveillance. It is easy to draw parallels with our world today, where the proliferation of CCTV devices and the use of surveillance drones by law enforcement eerily appear to emulate Big Brother’s tactics.
This Christmas the Colombian government is sending small shining spheres through the rivers of poor regions controlled by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Inside each shining orb there will be a message: "Do not let this Christmas go by. Demobilize". This is perhaps the first time Christmas decorations have been used for counterinsurgency purposes. After the death of the top leader of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, during an army operation last November, the government hopes to reach a record figure for demobilisations of guerrillas during the festivities and the two following months.
Cyber technologies have become deeply embedded into modern life within the last two decades. For the vast majority of uses these are benevolent but for states eager to censor content and restrict access, they face the challenge of staying one step ahead of their citizens. The British government recently hosted an international conference in London in which the future of the Internet was debated. British and American delegations used the conference to take a strong line supporting online freedom of speech and to criticise governments, such as China and Russia, who censor online content. David Cameron insisted that “governments must not use cyber security as an excuse for censorship”.
The UK government is due to release the latest version of its Cyber Strategy – what opportunities exist for defence contractors? The UK has a privileged view of the cyber threat thanks to its signals intelligence relationship with the US and other allies. Both the US and UK have recently formed dedicated cyber units in their defence ministries to address this threat. During the formulation of the National Security Strategy (NSS), the government became increasingly aware that underlying every major threat was a discrete cyber threat. Consequently cyber was mentioned as one of four Tier one risks to the UK in the NSS. In the subsequent SDSR the government announced an additional GBP£650 million over 4 years to resource work on this threat. The new money is to fund a "transformative national cyber security programme".
A Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank report published on 27 September 2011 stated that cuts in the UK’s defence spending mean that Britain’s military will “never again be among the global superpowers”. However, the report, “Looking into the Black Hole: Is Britain’s Defence Crisis Really Over?”, went on to state that current levels of spending “should be enough for it to maintain its position as one of the world’s five second-rank military powers (with only the US in the first rank)”.
At a recent seminar at King’s College London (KCL), author and Central Asia expert Ahmed Rashid painted a gloomy picture of the prospect for Western success in Afghanistan. In 2008 Rashid had already made these views on the subject clear in Descent into Chaos, a catalogue of criticisms against US policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001, and his growing disillusionment with his once-close friend, President Hamid Karzai.
The terrible events in Oslo, perpetrated by Anders Breivik, a lone and deranged right wing extremist, are sadly reminiscent of similar tragic events that occurred in the UK in 1999 at the hands of another deluded neo Nazi, David Copeland. This, however, has not been the only recent burst of extremist behaviour within the public domain; a UK-based Islamic extremist group has begun a campaign to create an Islamic Emirate within the UK. This article will highlight similarities between not only Breivik and Copeland, but also between their campaigns and that of the supporters of the Islamic Emirate.