Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1076 Surveillance Valley, Part 2: Mauthausen on Our Mind

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Mau­thausen

Intro­duc­tion: The pro­gram begins with recap of the adap­ta­tion of IBM’s Hol­lerith machines to Nazi data com­pi­la­tion. (We con­clud­ed FTR #1075 with dis­cus­sion of this.): ” . . . . Germany’s vast state bureau­cra­cy and its mil­i­tary and rear­ma­ment pro­grams, includ­ing the country’s grow­ing con­cen­tra­tion camp/slave labor sys­tem, also required data pro­cess­ing ser­vices. By the time the U.S. offi­cial­ly entered the war in 1941, IBM’s Ger­man sub­sidiary had grown to employ 10,000 peo­ple and served 300 dif­fer­ent Ger­man gov­ern­ment agen­cies. The Nazi Par­ty Trea­sury; the SS; the War Min­istry; the Reichs­bank; the Reich­spost; the Arma­ments Min­istry; the Navy, Army and Air Force; and the Reich Sta­tis­ti­cal Office — the list of IBM’s clients went on and on.

 ” ‘Indeed, the Third Reich would open star­tling sta­tis­ti­cal venues for Hol­lerith machines nev­er before insti­tut­ed — per­haps nev­er before even imag­ined,’ wrote Edwin Black in IBM and the Holo­caust, his pio­neer­ing 2001 exposé of the for­got­ten busi­ness ties between IBM and Nazi Ger­many. ‘In Hitler’s Ger­many, the sta­tis­ti­cal and cen­sus com­mu­ni­ty, over­run with doc­tri­naire Nazis, pub­licly boast­ed about the new demo­graph­ic break­throughs their equip­ment would achieve.’  . . . .

“Demand for Hol­lerith tab­u­la­tors was so robust that IBM was forced to open a new fac­to­ry in Berlin to crank out all the new machines. At the facility’s chris­ten­ing cer­e­mo­ny, which was attend­ed by a top U.S. IBM exec­u­tive and the elite of the Nazi Par­ty, the head of IBM’s Ger­man sub­sidiary gave a rous­ing speech about the impor­tant role that Hol­lerith tab­u­la­tors played in Hitler’s dri­ve to puri­fy Ger­many and cleanse it of infe­ri­or racial stock. . . .”

In that same arti­cle, Yasha Levine notes that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed changes in the 2020 cen­sus sound as though they may por­tend some­thing akin to the Nazi cen­sus of 1933: ” . . . . Based on a close read­ing of inter­nal Depart­ment of Com­merce doc­u­ments tied to the cen­sus cit­i­zen ques­tion pro­pos­al, it appears the Trump admin­is­tra­tion wants to use the cen­sus to con­struct a first-of-its-kind cit­i­zen­ship reg­istry for the entire U.S. pop­u­la­tion — a deci­sion that arguably exceeds the legal author­i­ty of the cen­sus. ‘It was deep in the doc­u­men­ta­tion that was released,’ Robert Groves, a for­mer Cen­sus Bureau direc­tor who head­ed the Nation­al Acad­e­mies com­mit­tee con­vened to inves­ti­gate the 2020 cen­sus, told me by tele­phone. ‘No one picked up on it much. But the term ‘reg­istry’ in our world means not a col­lec­tion of data for sta­tis­ti­cal pur­pos­es but rather to know the iden­ti­ty of par­tic­u­lar peo­ple in order to use that knowl­edge to affect their lives.’ Giv­en the administration’s pos­ture toward immi­gra­tion, the fact that it wants to build a com­pre­hen­sive cit­i­zen­ship data­base is high­ly con­cern­ing. To Groves, it clear­ly sig­nals ‘a bright line being crossed.’ . . .”

In the con­clu­sion to Sur­veil­lance Val­ley, Yasha Levine notes how IBM com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy facil­i­tat­ed the Nazi slave labor oper­a­tions through­out the Third Reich. The epi­cen­ter of this was Mau­thausen.

The sys­tem­at­ic use of slave labor was cen­tral to Nazi Ger­many’s indus­tri­al infra­struc­ture: ” . . . . But in the 1930s, Mau­thausen had been a vital eco­nom­ic engine of Hitler’s geno­ci­dal plan to remake Europe and the Sovi­et Union into his own back­yard utopia. It start­ed out as a gran­ite quar­ry but quick­ly grew into the largest slave labor com­plex in Nazi Ger­many, with fifty sub-camps that spanned most of mod­ern-day Aus­tria. Here, hun­dreds of thou­sands of prisoners–mostly Euro­pean Jews but also Roma, Spaniards, Rus­sians, Serbs, Slovenes, Ger­mans, Bul­gar­i­ans, even Cubans–were worked to death. They refined oil, built fight­er air­craft, assem­bled can­nons, devel­oped rock­et tech­nol­o­gy, and were leased out to pri­vate Ger­man busi­ness­es. Volk­swa­gen, Siemens, Daim­ler-Benz, BMW, Bosch–all ben­e­fit­ed from the camp’s slave labor pool. Mau­thausen, the admin­is­tra­tive nerve cen­ter, was cen­tral­ly direct­ed from Berlin using the lat­est in ear­ly com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy: IBM punch card tab­u­la­tors. . . .”

Mau­thausen’s IBM machines were, in turn, cen­tral to Ger­man indus­try’s use of slave labor: ” . . . . the camp had sev­er­al IBM machines work­ing over­time to han­dle the big churn of inmates and to make sure there were always enough bod­ies to per­form the nec­es­sary work. These machines didn’t oper­ate in iso­la­tion but were part of a larg­er slave labor con­trol-and-account­ing sys­tem that stretched across Nazi-occu­pied Europe con­nect­ing Berlin to every major con­cen­tra­tion and labor punch card, tele­graph, tele­phone, and human couri­er. This wasn’t the auto­mat­ed type of com­put­er net­work sys­tem that the Pen­ta­gon would begin to build in the Unit­ed States just a decade lat­er, but it was an infor­ma­tion net­work nonethe­less: an electro­mechan­i­cal web that fueled and sus­tained Nazi Germany’s war machine with blaz­ing effi­cien­cy. It extend­ed beyond the labor camps and reached into the cities and towns, crunch­ing moun­tains of genealog­i­cal data to track down peo­ple with even the barest whiff of Jew­ish blood or per­ceived racial impu­ri­ty in a mad rush to ful­fill Adolf Hitler’s dri­ve to puri­fy the Ger­man peo­ple, but they made the Nazi death machine run faster and more effi­cient­ly, scour­ing the pop­u­la­tion and track­ing down vic­tims in ways that would nev­er have been pos­si­ble with­out them. . . .”

In his book–one of the most impor­tant in recent memory–Yasha Levine sets forth vital, rev­e­la­to­ry infor­ma­tion about the devel­op­ment and func­tion­ing of the Inter­net.

Born of the same over­lap­ping DARPA projects that spawned Agent Orange, the Inter­net was nev­er intend­ed to be some­thing good. Its gen­er­a­tive func­tion and pur­pose is counter-insur­gency. ” . . . . In the 1960s, Amer­i­ca was a glob­al pow­er over­see­ing an increas­ing­ly volatile world: con­flicts and region­al insur­gen­cies against US-allied gov­ern­ments from South Amer­i­ca to South­east Asia and the Mid­dle East. These were not tra­di­tion­al wars that involved big armies but gueril­la cam­paigns and local rebel­lions, fre­quent­ly fought in regions where Amer­i­cans had lit­tle pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence. Who were these peo­ple? Why were they rebelling? What could be done to stop them? In mil­i­tary cir­cles, it was believed  that these ques­tions were of vital impor­tance to Amer­i­ca’s paci­fi­ca­tion efforts, and some argued that the only effec­tive way to answer them was to devel­op and lever­age com­put­er-aid­ed infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy. The Inter­net came out of this effort: an attempt to build com­put­er sys­tems that could col­lect and share intel­li­gence, watch the world in real time, and study and ana­lyze peo­ple and polit­i­cal move­ments with the ulti­mate goal of pre­dict­ing and pre­vent­ing social upheaval. . . .”

In this land­mark vol­ume, Levine makes numer­ous points, includ­ing:

  1. The har­vest­ing of data by intel­li­gence ser­vices is PRECISELY what the Inter­net was designed to do in the first place.
  2. The har­vest­ing of data engaged in by the major tech cor­po­ra­tions is an exten­sion of the data gathering/surveillance that was–and is–the rai­son d’e­tre for the Inter­net in the first place.
  3. The big tech com­pa­nies all col­lab­o­rate with the var­i­ous intel­li­gence agen­cies they pub­licly scorn and seek to osten­si­bly dis­tance them­selves from.
  4. Edward Snow­den, the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, Jacob Appel­baum, the milieu of the Tor Net­work and Wik­iLeaks are com­plic­it in the data har­vest­ing and sur­veil­lance.
  5. Snow­den and oth­er pri­va­cy activists are dou­ble agents, con­scious­ly chan­nel­ing peo­ple fear­ful of hav­ing their com­mu­ni­ca­tions mon­i­tored into tech­nolo­gies that will facil­i­tate that sur­veil­lance!

The pro­gram notes that counterinsurgency–the func­tion­al con­text of the ori­gin of the Internet–is at the foun­da­tion of the gen­e­sis of Nazism. At the con­clu­sion of World War I, Ger­many was beset by a series of socialist/Communist upris­ings in a num­ber of cities, includ­ing Munich. Respond­ing to that, under­ground Reich­swehr units com­mand­ed by Ernst Rohm (lat­er head of the SA) sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly assas­si­nat­ed the lead­ers of the rev­o­lu­tion, as well as promi­nent social democ­rats and Jews, such as Walther Rathenau. In Munich, an under­cov­er agent for the polit­i­cal depart­ment of the Reich­swehr under  Gen­er­al Von Los­sow infil­trat­ed the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, pre­tend­ing to be one of them.

Fol­low­ing the crush­ing of the rebel­lion and occu­pa­tion of the city by Reich­swehr units, that infil­tra­tor iden­ti­fied the lead­ers of the rev­o­lu­tion, who were then sum­mar­i­ly exe­cut­ed. The infil­tra­tor’s name was Adolf  Hitler.

After the sup­pres­sion of the rebel­lion, Hitler, Rohm and under­cov­er Reich­swehr agents infil­trat­ed a mori­bund polit­i­cal par­ty and turned it into an intel­li­gence front for the intro­duc­tion of the sup­pos­ed­ly de-mobi­lized Ger­man Army into Ger­man soci­ety for the pur­pose of gen­er­at­ing polit­i­cal reac­tion. That front was the Ger­man Nation­al Social Work­ers Par­ty.

The broad­cast re-capit­u­lates (from part of Mis­cel­la­neous Archive Show M11) Hitler’s speech to the Indus­try Club of Dus­sel­dorf. This speech, which won the Ger­man indus­tri­al and finan­cial elite over to the cause of the Nazi Par­ty, equat­ed democ­ra­cy with Com­mu­nism.

Man­i­fest­ing a Social Dar­win­ist per­spec­tive, Hitler opined that the [assem­bled] suc­cess­ful, accom­plished were, by def­i­n­i­tion supe­ri­or to oth­ers. If those, by def­i­n­i­tion, infe­ri­or peo­ple were allowed to con­trol the polit­i­cal process, they would struc­ture the social and eco­nom­ic land­scape to their own ben­e­fit.

This, accord­ing to Hitler, would be counter-evo­lu­tion­ary.

1a.  The pro­gram begins with recap of the adap­ta­tion of IBM’s Hol­lerith machines to Nazi data com­pi­la­tion. (We con­clud­ed FTR #1075 with dis­cus­sion of this.)

” . . . . Germany’s vast state bureau­cra­cy and its mil­i­tary and rear­ma­ment pro­grams, includ­ing the country’s grow­ing con­cen­tra­tion camp/slave labor sys­tem, also required data pro­cess­ing ser­vices. By the time the U.S. offi­cial­ly entered the war in 1941, IBM’s Ger­man sub­sidiary had grown to employ 10,000 peo­ple and served 300 dif­fer­ent Ger­man gov­ern­ment agen­cies. The Nazi Par­ty Trea­sury; the SS; the War Min­istry; the Reichs­bank; the Reich­spost; the Arma­ments Min­istry; the Navy, Army and Air Force; and the Reich Sta­tis­ti­cal Office — the list of IBM’s clients went on and on.

 ” ‘Indeed, the Third Reich would open star­tling sta­tis­ti­cal venues for Hol­lerith machines nev­er before insti­tut­ed — per­haps nev­er before even imag­ined,’ wrote Edwin Black in IBM and the Holo­caust, his pio­neer­ing 2001 exposé of the for­got­ten busi­ness ties between IBM and Nazi Ger­many. ‘In Hitler’s Ger­many, the sta­tis­ti­cal and cen­sus com­mu­ni­ty, over­run with doc­tri­naire Nazis, pub­licly boast­ed about the new demo­graph­ic break­throughs their equip­ment would achieve.’  . . . .

“Demand for Hol­lerith tab­u­la­tors was so robust that IBM was forced to open a new fac­to­ry in Berlin to crank out all the new machines. At the facility’s chris­ten­ing cer­e­mo­ny, which was attend­ed by a top U.S. IBM exec­u­tive and the elite of the Nazi Par­ty, the head of IBM’s Ger­man sub­sidiary gave a rous­ing speech about the impor­tant role that Hol­lerith tab­u­la­tors played in Hitler’s dri­ve to puri­fy Ger­many and cleanse it of infe­ri­or racial stock. . . .”

CORRECTION: The date of the Yasha Levine arti­cle is  ” . . . . 2019,” NOT 2018, as read in the pro­gram.

“The Racist Ori­gins of America’s Tech Indus­try” by Yasha Levine; Zero One; 4/28/2019.

. . . . . Nazis and num­bers

Hol­lerith tab­u­la­tors were a big hit all over the world. But one coun­try was par­tic­u­lar­ly enam­ored with them: Nazi Ger­many.

Adolf Hitler came to pow­er on the back of the eco­nom­ic dev­as­ta­tion that fol­lowed Germany’s defeat in World War I. To Hitler, how­ev­er, the prob­lem plagu­ing Ger­many was not eco­nom­ic or polit­i­cal. It was racial. As he put it in Mein Kampf: “The state is a racial organ­ism and not an eco­nom­ic orga­ni­za­tion.” The rea­son Ger­many had fall­en so far, he argued, was its fail­ure to tend to its racial puri­ty. There were only about a half-mil­lion Jews in Ger­many in 1933 — less than 1% of the pop­u­la­tion — but he sin­gled them out as the root cause of all of the nation’s prob­lems.

Hitler and the Nazis drew much of their inspi­ra­tion from the U.S. eugen­ics move­ment and the sys­tem of insti­tu­tion­al racism that had arisen in slavery’s wake. Their solu­tion was to iso­late the so-called mon­grels, then con­tin­u­ous­ly mon­i­tor the racial puri­ty of the Ger­man peo­ple to keep the volk free of fur­ther con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

The only prob­lem: How to tell who is real­ly pure and who is not?

Third Reich IBM Data Entry Work­ers

The U.S. had a ready solu­tion. IBM’s Ger­man sub­sidiary land­ed its first major con­tract the same year Hitler became chan­cel­lor. The 1933 Nazi cen­sus was pushed through by Hitler as an emer­gency genet­ic stock-tak­ing of the Ger­man peo­ple. Along with numer­ous oth­er data points, the cen­sus focused on col­lect­ing fer­til­i­ty data for Ger­man women — par­tic­u­lar­ly women of good Aryan stock. Also includ­ed in the cen­sus was a spe­cial count of reli­gious­ly obser­vant Jews, or Glauben­sju­den.

Nazi offi­cials want­ed the entire count, esti­mat­ed to be about 65 mil­lion peo­ple, to be done in just four months. It was a mon­u­men­tal task, and Ger­man IBM offi­cials worked around the clock to fin­ish it. So impor­tant was the suc­cess of the con­tract to IBM that CEO Thomas J. Wat­son per­son­al­ly toured the giant Berlin ware­house where hun­dreds of female clerks worked in rotat­ing sev­en-hour shifts 24 hours a day.

Wat­son came away great­ly impressed with the work of his Ger­man man­agers. They had pulled off a seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble assign­ment, one that was com­pli­cat­ed by a cus­tom-enlarged punch card for­mat nec­es­sary for “polit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions” — IBM’s cod­ed expla­na­tion for the extra data demands the Nazi regime required.

As Hitler’s Nazi Par­ty tight­ened its grip on Ger­many, it launched all sorts of addi­tion­al data-gath­er­ing pro­grams to puri­fy the Ger­man nation. And IBM helped them do it.

“[T]he pre­con­di­tion for every depor­ta­tion was accu­rate knowl­edge of how many Jews in a par­tic­u­lar dis­trict fit­ted the racial and demo­graph­ic descrip­tions in Berlin’s quo­tas,” write David Mar­tin Lue­bke and Sybil Mil­ton in “Locat­ing the Vic­tim,” a study into Nazi use of the tab­u­la­tor machines. “Armed with these data,” they said, “the Gestapo often proved able to antic­i­pate with remark­able accu­ra­cy the total num­ber of depor­tees for each racial, sta­tus, and age cat­e­go­ry.”

Germany’s vast state bureau­cra­cy and its mil­i­tary and rear­ma­ment pro­grams, includ­ing the country’s grow­ing con­cen­tra­tion camp/slave labor sys­tem, also required data pro­cess­ing ser­vices. By the time the U.S. offi­cial­ly entered the war in 1941, IBM’s Ger­man sub­sidiary had grown to employ 10,000 peo­ple and served 300 dif­fer­ent Ger­man gov­ern­ment agen­cies. The Nazi Par­ty Trea­sury; the SS; the War Min­istry; the Reichs­bank; the Reich­spost; the Arma­ments Min­istry; the Navy, Army and Air Force; and the Reich Sta­tis­ti­cal Office — the list of IBM’s clients went on and on.

This his­to­ry reveals an uncom­fort­able and fun­da­men­tal truth about com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy.

“Indeed, the Third Reich would open star­tling sta­tis­ti­cal venues for Hol­lerith machines nev­er before insti­tut­ed — per­haps nev­er before even imag­ined,” wrote Edwin Black in IBM and the Holo­caust, his pio­neer­ing 2001 exposé of the for­got­ten busi­ness ties between IBM and Nazi Ger­many. “In Hitler’s Ger­many, the sta­tis­ti­cal and cen­sus com­mu­ni­ty, over­run with doc­tri­naire Nazis, pub­licly boast­ed about the new demo­graph­ic break­throughs their equip­ment would achieve.” (IBM has crit­i­cized Black’s report­ing meth­ods, and has said that its Ger­man sub­sidiary large­ly came under Nazi con­trol before and dur­ing the war.)

Demand for Hol­lerith tab­u­la­tors was so robust that IBM was forced to open a new fac­to­ry in Berlin to crank out all the new machines. At the facility’s chris­ten­ing cer­e­mo­ny, which was attend­ed by a top U.S. IBM exec­u­tive and the elite of the Nazi Par­ty, the head of IBM’s Ger­man sub­sidiary gave a rous­ing speech about the impor­tant role that Hol­lerith tab­u­la­tors played in Hitler’s dri­ve to puri­fy Ger­many and cleanse it of infe­ri­or racial stock.

“We are very much like the physi­cian, in that we dis­sect, cell by cell, the Ger­man cul­tur­al body,” he said. “We report every indi­vid­ual characteristic…on a lit­tle card. These are not dead cards, quite to the con­trary, they prove lat­er on that they come to life when the cards are sort­ed at a rate of 25,000 per hour accord­ing to cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics. These char­ac­ter­is­tics are grouped like the organs of our cul­tur­al body, and they will be cal­cu­lat­ed and deter­mined with the help of our tab­u­lat­ing machine.”

On the sur­face, it may seem like the sto­ry of Her­man Hol­lerith and the U.S. cen­sus are his­tor­i­cal relics, an echo from a bygone era. But this his­to­ry reveals an uncom­fort­able and fun­da­men­tal truth about com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy. We can thank nativism and the cen­sus for help­ing to bring the com­put­er age into exis­tence. And as the bat­tle over the 2020 cen­sus makes clear, the dri­ve to tal­ly up our neigh­bors, to sort them into cat­e­gories and turn them into sta­tis­tics, still car­ries the seed of our own dehu­man­iza­tion.

1b. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s fram­ing of ques­tions for the 2020 cen­sus appear aimed at cre­at­ing a “nation­al registry”–a con­cept rem­i­nis­cent of the Third Reich’s use of IBM’s Hol­lerith-col­lect­ed data:

“The Racist Ori­gins of America’s Tech Indus­try” by Yasha Levine; Zero One; 4/28/2019.

” . . . . Based on a close read­ing of inter­nal Depart­ment of Com­merce doc­u­ments tied to the cen­sus cit­i­zen ques­tion pro­pos­al, it appears the Trump admin­is­tra­tion wants to use the cen­sus to con­struct a first-of-its-kind cit­i­zen­ship reg­istry for the entire U.S. pop­u­la­tion — a deci­sion that arguably exceeds the legal author­i­ty of the cen­sus. ‘It was deep in the doc­u­men­ta­tion that was released,’ Robert Groves, a for­mer Cen­sus Bureau direc­tor who head­ed the Nation­al Acad­e­mies com­mit­tee con­vened to inves­ti­gate the 2020 cen­sus, told me by tele­phone. ‘No one picked up on it much. But the term ‘reg­istry’ in our world means not a col­lec­tion of data for sta­tis­ti­cal pur­pos­es but rather to know the iden­ti­ty of par­tic­u­lar peo­ple in order to use that knowl­edge to affect their lives.’ Giv­en the administration’s pos­ture toward immi­gra­tion, the fact that it wants to build a com­pre­hen­sive cit­i­zen­ship data­base is high­ly con­cern­ing. To Groves, it clear­ly sig­nals ‘a bright line being crossed.’ . . .”

2. In the con­clu­sion to Sur­veil­lance Val­ley, Yasha Levine notes how IBM com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy facil­i­tat­ed the Nazi slave labor oper­a­tions through­out the Third Reich. The epi­cen­ter of this was Mau­thausen.

The sys­tem­at­ic use of slave labor was cen­tral to Nazi Ger­many’s indus­tri­al infra­struc­ture: ” . . . . But in the 1930s, Mau­thausen had been a vital eco­nom­ic engine of Hitler’s geno­ci­dal plan to remake Europe and the Sovi­et Union into his own back­yard utopia. It start­ed out as a gran­ite quar­ry but quick­ly grew into the largest slave labor com­plex in Nazi Ger­many, with fifty sub-camps that spanned most of mod­ern-day Aus­tria. Here, hun­dreds of thou­sands of prisoners–mostly Euro­pean Jews but also Roma, Spaniards, Rus­sians, Serbs, Slovenes, Ger­mans, Bul­gar­i­ans, even Cubans–were worked to death. They refined oil, built fight­er air­craft, assem­bled can­nons, devel­oped rock­et tech­nol­o­gy, and were leased out to pri­vate Ger­man busi­ness­es. Volk­swa­gen, Siemens, Daim­ler-Benz, BMW, Bosch–all ben­e­fit­ed from the camp’s slave labor pool. Mau­thausen, the admin­is­tra­tive nerve cen­ter, was cen­tral­ly direct­ed from Berlin using the lat­est in ear­ly com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy: IBM punch card tab­u­la­tors. . . .”

Mau­thausen’s IBM machines were, in turn, cen­tral to Ger­man indus­try’s use of slave labor: ” . . . . the camp had sev­er­al IBM machines work­ing over­time to han­dle the big churn of inmates and to make sure there were always enough bod­ies to per­form the nec­es­sary work. These machines didn’t oper­ate in iso­la­tion but were part of a larg­er slave labor con­trol-and-account­ing sys­tem that stretched across Nazi-occu­pied Europe con­nect­ing Berlin to every major con­cen­tra­tion and labor punch card, tele­graph, tele­phone, and human couri­er. This wasn’t the auto­mat­ed type of com­put­er net­work sys­tem that the Pen­ta­gon would begin to build in the Unit­ed States just a decade lat­er, but it was an infor­ma­tion net­work nonethe­less: an electro­mechan­i­cal web that fueled and sus­tained Nazi Germany’s war machine with blaz­ing effi­cien­cy. It extend­ed beyond the labor camps and reached into the cities and towns, crunch­ing moun­tains of genealog­i­cal data to track down peo­ple with even the barest whiff of Jew­ish blood or per­ceived racial impu­ri­ty in a mad rush to ful­fill Adolf Hitler’s dri­ve to puri­fy the Ger­man peo­ple, but they made the Nazi death machine run faster and more effi­cient­ly, scour­ing the pop­u­la­tion and track­ing down vic­tims in ways that would nev­er have been pos­si­ble with­out them. . . .”

Sur­veil­lance Val­ley by Yasha Levine; Pub­lic Affairs Books [HC]; Copy­right 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978–1‑61039–802‑2; pp. 271–274.

It is a crisp and sun­ny morn­ing in late Decem­ber 2015 when I take a right turn off a small coun­try high­way and dri­ve into Mau­thausen, a tiny medieval town in north­ern Aus­tria about thir­ty-five miles from the bor­der with the Czech Repub­lic. I pass through a clus­ter of low-slung apart­ment build­ings and con­tin­ue on, dri­ving through spot­less green pas­tures and pret­ty lit­tle farm­steads.

I park on a hill over­look­ing the town. Below is the wide Danube Riv­er. Clus­ters of rur­al homes poke out from the cusp of two soft green hills, smoke lazi­ly waft­ing out of their chim­neys. A small group of cows is out to pas­ture, and I can hear the peri­od­ic bray­ing of a flock of sheep. Out in the dis­tance, the hills recede in lay­ers of hazy green upon green, like the scales of a giant sleep­ing drag­on. The whole scene is framed by the jagged white peaks of the Aus­tri­an Alps.

Mau­thausen is an idyl­lic place. Calm, almost mag­i­cal. Yet I drove here not to enjoy the view but to get close to some­thing I came to ful­ly under­stand only while writ­ing this book.

Today, com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy fre­quent­ly oper­ates unseen, hid­den in gad­gets, wires, chips, wire­less sig­nals, oper­at­ing sys­tems, and soft­ware. We are sur­round­ed by com­put­ers and net­works, yet we bare­ly notice them. If we think about them at all, we tend to asso­ciate them with progress. We rarely stop to think about the dark side of infor­ma­tion technology–all the ways it can be used and abused to con­trol soci­eties, to inflict pain and suf­fer­ing. Here, in this qui­et coun­try set­ting, stands a for­got­ten mon­u­ment to that pow­er: the Mau­thausen Con­cen­tra­tion Camp.

Built on a mound above the town, it is amaz­ing­ly well pre­served: thick stone walls, squat guard tow­ers, a pair of omi­nous smoke stacks con­nect­ed to the camp’s gas cham­ber and cre­ma­to­ri­um. A few jagged met­al bars stick out of the wall above the camp’s enor­mous gates, rem­nants of a giant iron Nazi eagle that was torn down imme­di­ate­ly after lib­er­a­tion. It is qui­et now, just a few solemn vis­i­tors. But in the 1930s, Mau­thausen had been a vital eco­nom­ic engine of Hitler’s geno­ci­dal plan to remake Europe and the Sovi­et Union into his own back­yard utopia. It start­ed out as a gran­ite quar­ry but quick­ly grew into the largest slave labor com­plex in Nazi Ger­many, with fifty sub-camps that spanned most of mod­ern-day Aus­tria. Here, hun­dreds of thou­sands of prisoners–mostly Euro­pean Jews but also Roma, Spaniards, Rus­sians, Serbs, Slovenes, Ger­mans, Bul­gar­i­ans, even Cubans–were worked to death. They refined oil, built fight­er air­craft, assem­bled can­nons, devel­oped rock­et tech­nol­o­gy, and were leased out to pri­vate Ger­man busi­ness­es. Volk­swa­gen, Siemens, Daim­ler-Benz, BMW, Bosch–all ben­e­fit­ed from the camp’s slave labor pool. Mau­thausen, the admin­is­tra­tive nerve cen­ter, was cen­tral­ly direct­ed from Berlin using the lat­est in ear­ly com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy: IBM punch card tab­u­la­tors.

No IBM machines are dis­played at Mau­thausen today. And, sad­ly the memo­r­i­al makes no men­tion of them. But the camp had sev­er­al IBM machines work­ing over­time to han­dle the big churn of inmates and to make sure there were always enough bod­ies to per­form the nec­es­sary work. These machines didn’t oper­ate in iso­la­tion but were part of a larg­er slave labor con­trol-and-account­ing sys­tem that stretched across Nazi-occu­pied Europe con­nect­ing Berlin to every major con­cen­tra­tion and labor punch card, tele­graph, tele­phone, and human couri­er. This wasn’t the auto­mat­ed type of com­put­er net­work sys­tem that the Pen­ta­gon would begin to build in the Unit­ed States just a decade lat­er, but it was an infor­ma­tion net­work nonethe­less: an electro­mechan­i­cal web that fueled and sus­tained Nazi Germany’s war machine with blaz­ing effi­cien­cy. It extend­ed beyond the labor camps and reached into the cities and towns, crunch­ing moun­tains of genealog­i­cal data to track down peo­ple with even the barest whiff of Jew­ish blood or per­ceived racial impu­ri­ty in a mad rush to ful­fill Adolf Hitler’s dri­ve to puri­fy the Ger­man peo­ple, but they made the Nazi death machine run faster and more effi­cient­ly, scour­ing the pop­u­la­tion and track­ing down vic­tims in ways that would nev­er have been pos­si­ble with­out them. . . .

3. In his book–one of the most impor­tant in recent memory–Yasha Levine sets forth vital, rev­e­la­to­ry infor­ma­tion about the devel­op­ment and func­tion­ing of the Inter­net.

Born of the same over­lap­ping DARPA projects that spawned Agent Orange, the Inter­net was nev­er intend­ed to be some­thing good. Its gen­er­a­tive func­tion and pur­pose is counter-insur­gency. ” . . . . In the 1960s, Amer­i­ca was a glob­al pow­er over­see­ing an increas­ing­ly volatile world: con­flicts and region­al insur­gen­cies against US-allied gov­ern­ments from South Amer­i­ca to South­east Asia and the Mid­dle East. These were not tra­di­tion­al wars that involved big armies but gueril­la cam­paigns and local rebel­lions, fre­quent­ly fought in regions where Amer­i­cans had lit­tle pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence. Who were these peo­ple? Why were they rebelling? What could be done to stop them? In mil­i­tary cir­cles, it was believed  that these ques­tions were of vital impor­tance to Amer­i­ca’s paci­fi­ca­tion efforts, and some argued that the only effec­tive way to answer them was to devel­op and lever­age com­put­er-aid­ed infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy. The Inter­net came out of this effort: an attempt to build com­put­er sys­tems that could col­lect and share intel­li­gence, watch the world in real time, and study and ana­lyze peo­ple and polit­i­cal move­ments with the ulti­mate goal of pre­dict­ing and pre­vent­ing social upheaval. . . .”

In this land­mark vol­ume, Levine makes numer­ous points, includ­ing:

  1. The har­vest­ing of data by intel­li­gence ser­vices is PRECISELY what the Inter­net was designed to do in the first place.
  2. The har­vest­ing of data engaged in by the major tech cor­po­ra­tions is an exten­sion of the data gathering/surveillance that was–and is–the rai­son d’e­tre for the Inter­net in the first place.
  3. The big tech com­pa­nies all col­lab­o­rate with the var­i­ous intel­li­gence agen­cies they pub­licly scorn and seek to osten­si­bly dis­tance them­selves from.
  4. Edward Snow­den, the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, Jacob Appel­baum and Wik­iLeaks are com­plic­it in the data har­vest­ing and sur­veil­lance.
  5. Snow­den and oth­er pri­va­cy activists are dou­ble agents, con­scious­ly chan­nel­ing peo­ple fear­ful of hav­ing their com­mu­ni­ca­tions mon­i­tored into tech­nolo­gies that will facil­i­tate that sur­veil­lance!

Sur­veil­lance Val­ley by Yasha Levine; Pub­lic Affairs Books [HC]; Copy­right 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978–1‑61039–802‑2; p. 7.

 . . . . In the 1960s, Amer­i­ca was a glob­al pow­er over­see­ing an increas­ing­ly volatile world: con­flicts and region­al insur­gen­cies against US-allied gov­ern­ments from South Amer­i­ca to South­east Asia and the Mid­dle East. These were not tra­di­tion­al wars that involved big armies but gueril­la cam­paigns and local rebel­lions, fre­quent­ly fought in regions where Amer­i­cans had lit­tle pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence. Who were these peo­ple? Why were they rebelling? What could be done to stop them? In mil­i­tary cir­cles, it was believed  that these ques­tions were of vital impor­tance to Amer­i­ca’s paci­fi­ca­tion efforts, and some argued that the only effec­tive way to answer them was to devel­op and lever­age com­put­er-aid­ed infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy.

The Inter­net came out of this effort: an attempt to build com­put­er sys­tems that could col­lect and share intel­li­gence, watch the world in real time, and study and ana­lyze peo­ple and polit­i­cal move­ments with the ulti­mate goal of pre­dict­ing and pre­vent­ing social upheaval. . . .

4. Again, Project Agile and over­lap­ping projects spawned both Agent Orange and the Inter­net. ” . . . . Oper­a­tion Ranch Hand was mer­ci­less, and in clear vio­la­tion of the Gene­va Con­ven­tions. It remains one of the most shame­ful episodes of the Viet­nam War. Yet the defo­li­a­tion project is notable for more than just its unimag­in­able cru­el­ty. The gov­ern­ment body at its lead was a Depart­ment of Defense out­fit called the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Born in 1958 as a cash pro­gram to pro­tect the Unit­ed  States from a Sovi­et  nuclear threat from space, it launched sev­er­al ground­break­ing ini­tia­tives tasked with devel­op­ing advanced weapons and mil­i­tary tech­nolo­gies. Among them were project Agile and Com­mand and Con­trol Research, two over­lap­ping ARPA ini­tia­tives that cre­at­ed the Inter­net. . . .”

 Sur­veil­lance Val­ley by Yasha Levine; Pub­lic Affairs Books [HC]; Copy­right 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978–1‑61039–802‑2; p. 15.

 . . . . Ranch Hand got going in 1962 and last­ed until the war end­ed more than a decade lat­er. In that time, Amer­i­can C‑123 trans­port planes doused an area equal in size to half of South Viet­nam with twen­ty mil­lion gal­lons of tox­ic chem­i­cal defo­liants. Agent Orange was for­ti­fied with oth­er col­ors of the rain­bow: Agent White, Agent Pink, Agent Pur­ple, Agent Blue. The chem­i­cals, pro­duced by Amer­i­can com­pa­nies like Dow and Mon­san­to, turned whole swaths of lush jun­gle into bar­ren moon­scapes, caus­ing death and hor­ri­ble suf­fer­ing for hun­dreds of thou­sands.

Oper­a­tion Ranch Hand was mer­ci­less, and in clear vio­la­tion of the Gene­va Con­ven­tions. It remains one of the most shame­ful episodes of the Viet­nam War. Yet the defo­li­a­tion project is notable for more than just its unimag­in­able cru­el­ty. The gov­ern­ment body at its lead was a Depart­ment of Defense out­fit called the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Born in 1958 as a cash pro­gram to pro­tect the Unit­ed  States from a Sovi­et  nuclear threat from space, it launched sev­er­al ground­break­ing ini­tia­tives tasked with devel­op­ing advanced weapons and mil­i­tary tech­nolo­gies. Among them were project Agile and Com­mand and Con­trol Research, two over­lap­ping ARPA ini­tia­tives that cre­at­ed the Inter­net. . . .

5. The pro­gram notes that counterinsurgency–the func­tion­al con­text of the ori­gin of the Internet–is at the foun­da­tion of the gen­e­sis of Nazism. At the con­clu­sion of World War I, Ger­many was beset by a series of socialist/Communist upris­ings in a num­ber of cities, includ­ing Munich. Respond­ing to that, under­ground Reich­swehr units com­mand­ed by Ernst Rohm (lat­er head of the SA) sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly assas­si­nat­ed the lead­ers of the rev­o­lu­tion, as well as promi­nent social democ­rats and Jews, such as Walther Rathenau. In Munich, an under­cov­er agent for the polit­i­cal depart­ment of the Reich­swehr under  Gen­er­al Von Los­sow infil­trat­ed the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, pre­tend­ing to be one of them.

Fol­low­ing the crush­ing of the rebel­lion and occu­pa­tion of the city by Reich­swehr units, that infil­tra­tor iden­ti­fied the lead­ers of the rev­o­lu­tion, who were then sum­mar­i­ly exe­cut­ed. The infil­tra­tor’s name was Adolf  Hitler.

After the sup­pres­sion of the rebel­lion, Hitler, Rohm and under­cov­er Reich­swehr agents infil­trat­ed a mori­bund polit­i­cal par­ty and turned it into an intel­li­gence front for the intro­duc­tion of the sup­pos­ed­ly de-mobi­lized Ger­man Army into Ger­man soci­ety for the pur­pose of gen­er­at­ing polit­i­cal reac­tion. That front was the Ger­man Nation­al Social Work­ers Par­ty.

6. Next, the broad­cast re-capit­u­lates (from part of Mis­cel­la­neous Archive Show M11) Hitler’s speech to the Indus­try Club of Dus­sel­dorf. This speech, which won the Ger­man indus­tri­al and finan­cial elite over to the cause of the Nazi Par­ty, equat­ed democ­ra­cy with Com­mu­nism.

Man­i­fest­ing a Social Dar­win­ist per­spec­tive, Hitler opined that the [assem­bled] suc­cess­ful, accom­plished were, by def­i­n­i­tion supe­ri­or to oth­ers. If those, by def­i­n­i­tion, infe­ri­or peo­ple were allowed to con­trol the polit­i­cal process, they would struc­ture the social and eco­nom­ic land­scape to their own ben­e­fit.

This, accord­ing to Hitler, would be counter-evo­lu­tion­ary.

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