Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Fri Jun 14 16:27:08 BST 2013

Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks

Nafeez Ahmed, Guardian On-line, Friday 14th June 2013

Top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) documents disclosed by the
Guardian have shocked the world with revelations of a comprehensive
US-based surveillance system with direct access to Facebook, Apple,
Google, Microsoft and other tech giants. New Zealand court records
suggest that data harvested by the NSA's Prism system has been fed into
the Five Eyes intelligence alliance whose members also include the UK,
Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But why have Western security agencies developed such an unprecedented
capacity to spy on their own domestic populations? Since the 2008
economic crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political
activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate
interests. This activity is linked to the last decade of US defence
planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil
unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate
change, energy shocks or economic crisis - or all three.

Just last month, unilateral changes to US military laws formally granted
the Pentagon extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic "emergency"
or "civil disturbance":

    "Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary
emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is
impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control
the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to
quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances."

Other documents show that the "extraordinary emergencies" the Pentagon
is worried about include a range of environmental and related disasters.

In 2006, the US National Security Strategy warned that:

    "Environmental destruction, whether caused by human behavior or
cataclysmic mega-disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or
tsunamis. Problems of this scope may overwhelm the capacity of local
authorities to respond, and may even overtax national militaries,
requiring a larger international response."

Two years later, the Department of Defense's (DoD) Army Modernisation
Strategy described the arrival of a new "era of persistent conflict" due
to competition for "depleting natural resources and overseas markets"
fuelling "future resource wars over water, food and energy." The report
predicted a resurgence of:

    "... anti-government and radical ideologies that potentially
threaten government stability."

In the same year, a report by the US Army's Strategic Studies Institute
warned that a series of domestic crises could provoke large-scale civil
unrest. The path to "disruptive domestic shock" could include
traditional threats such as deployment of WMDs, alongside "catastrophic
natural and human disasters" or "pervasive public health emergencies"
coinciding with "unforeseen economic collapse." Such crises could lead
to "loss of functioning political and legal order" leading to
"purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency...

    "DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at
the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats
to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this
might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the
United States. Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential
enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state
or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance."

That year, the Pentagon had begun developing a 20,000 strong troop force
who would be on-hand to respond to "domestic catastrophes" and civil
unrest - the programme was reportedly based on a 2005 homeland security
strategy which emphasised "preparing for multiple, simultaneous mass
casualty incidents."

The following year, a US Army-funded RAND Corp study called for a US
force presence specifically to deal with civil unrest.

Such fears were further solidified in a detailed 2010 study by the US
Joint Forces Command - designed to inform "joint concept development and
experimentation throughout the Department of Defense" - setting out the
US military's definitive vision for future trends and potential global
threats. Climate change, the study said, would lead to increased risk

    "... tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and
other natural catastrophes... Furthermore, if such a catastrophe occurs
within the United States itself - particularly when the nation's economy
is in a fragile state or where US military bases or key civilian
infrastructure are broadly affected - the damage to US security could be

The study also warned of a possible shortfall in global oil output by

    "A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of
production and refining capacity. While it is difficult to predict
precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a
shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth
in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown
would exacerbate other unresolved tensions."

That year the DoD's Quadrennial Defense Review seconded such concerns,
while recognising that "climate change, energy security, and economic
stability are inextricably linked."

Also in 2010, the Pentagon ran war games to explore the implications of
"large scale economic breakdown" in the US impacting on food supplies
and other essential services, as well as how to maintain "domestic order
amid civil unrest."

Speaking about the group's conclusions at giant US defence contractor
Booz Allen Hamilton's conference facility in Virginia, Lt Col. Mark
Elfendahl - then chief of the Joint and Army Concepts Division -
highlighted homeland operations as a way to legitimise the US military

    "An increased focus on domestic activities might be a way of
justifying whatever Army force structure the country can still afford."

Two months earlier, Elfendahl explained in a DoD roundtable that future
planning was needed:

    "Because technology is changing so rapidly, because there's so much
uncertainty in the world, both economically and politically, and because
the threats are so adaptive and networked, because they live within the
populations in many cases."

The 2010 exercises were part of the US Army's annual Unified Quest
programme which more recently, based on expert input from across the
Pentagon, has explored the prospect that "ecological disasters and a
weak economy" (as the "recovery won't take root until 2020") will fuel
migration to urban areas, ramping up social tensions in the US homeland
as well as within and between "resource-starved nations."

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was a computer systems administrator
for Booz Allen Hamilton, where he directly handled the NSA's IT systems,
including the Prism surveillance system. According to Booz Allen's 2011
Annual Report, the corporation has overseen Unified Quest "for more than
a decade" to help "military and civilian leaders envision the future."

The latest war games, the report reveals, focused on "detailed,
realistic scenarios with hypothetical 'roads to crisis'", including
"homeland operations" resulting from "a high-magnitude natural disaster"
among other scenarios, in the context of:

    "... converging global trends [which] may change the current
security landscape and future operating environment... At the end of the
two-day event, senior leaders were better prepared to understand new
required capabilities and force design requirements to make homeland
operations more effective."

It is therefore not surprising that the increasing privatisation of
intelligence has coincided with the proliferation of domestic
surveillance operations against political activists, particularly those
linked to environmental and social justice protest groups.

Department of Homeland Security documents released in April prove a
"systematic effort" by the agency "to surveil and disrupt peaceful
demonstrations" linked to Occupy Wall Street, according to the
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).

Similarly, FBI documents confirmed "a strategic partnership between the
FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector"
designed to produce intelligence on behalf of "the corporate security
community." A PCJF spokesperson remarked that the documents show
"federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall
Street and Corporate America."

In particular, domestic surveillance has systematically targeted
peaceful environment activists including anti-fracking activists across
the US, such as the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Rising Tide North
America, the People's Oil & Gas Collaborative, and Greenpeace. Similar
trends are at play in the UK, where the case of undercover policeman
Mark Kennedy revealed the extent of the state's involvement in
monitoring the environmental direct action movement.

A University of Bath study citing the Kennedy case, and based on
confidential sources, found that a whole range of corporations - such as
McDonald's, Nestle and the oil major Shell, "use covert methods to
gather intelligence on activist groups, counter criticism of their
strategies and practices, and evade accountability."

Indeed, Kennedy's case was just the tip of the iceberg - internal police
documents obtained by the Guardian in 2009 revealed that environment
activists had been routinely categorised as "domestic extremists"
targeting "national infrastructure" as part of a wider strategy tracking
protest groups and protestors.

Superintendent Steve Pearl, then head of the National Extremism Tactical
Coordination Unit (Nectu), confirmed at that time how his unit worked
with thousands of companies in the private sector. Nectu, according to
Pearl, was set up by the Home Office because it was "getting really
pressured by big business - pharmaceuticals in particular, and the
banks." He added that environmental protestors were being brought "more
on the radar." The programme continues today, despite police
acknowledgements that environmentalists have not been involved in
"violent acts."

The Pentagon knows that environmental, economic and other crises could
provoke widespread public anger toward government and corporations in
coming years. The revelations on the NSA's global surveillance
programmes are just the latest indication that as business as usual
creates instability at home and abroad, and as disillusionment with the
status quo escalates, Western publics are being increasingly viewed as
potential enemies that must be policed by the state.


"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at
website -
public key -

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