Enforcing Empire Through a Global Surveillance State

(Photo: Ep_jhu)(Photo: Ep_jhu)

Historian Alfred W. McCoy’s new book peels back layers of secrecy to tell how the United States used covert intervention, surveillance, torture, trade pacts and military alliances to become a world power. Filmmaker Oliver Stone calls In the Shadows of the American Century “a hard look at the truth of our empire, both its covert activities and the reasons for its impending decline.” Order this informative book today by making a donation to Truthout!

In this excerpt from In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power, McCoy examines the role that surveillance has historically played in securing US hegemony — a role that has only increased in recent years.

Although Washington began withdrawing many of its troops from the Greater Middle East in 2011, its sophisticated intelligence apparatus, built for the pacification of Afghanistan and Iraq, had already preceded them home, creating a US surveillance state of unprecedented power. Two years later, Edward Snowden’s cache of leaked documents would reveal that the National Security Agency (NSA) was already using this technology to monitor the private communications of almost every American in the name of fighting foreign terrorists. But the roots of this domestic surveillance were, in fact, much deeper than anyone realized at the time. This kind of imperial blowback had been building a massive US internal security apparatus, step by step, war by war, for well over a century.

Just a decade after Washington finally pacified the Philippines in 1907 by forging the world’s most advanced surveillance state, the illiberal lessons of that moment, too, migrated homeward during World War I to form America’s first internal security apparatus. A half century later, as protests mounted against the war in Vietnam, the CIA and FBI built upon this system to conduct illegal counterintelligence operations to suppress or harass antiwar activists and American radicals.

In the aftermath of each of these…

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