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The 9/11 Effect and the Global Security Transformation


The new world of surveillance

The attacks of September 11, 2001 fundamentally changed the US intelligence services and that of many of their close allies. In the words of a former CIA station chief, the CIA has changed massively – from collecting to hunting. This new mission supported an emphasis on kinetic counterterrorism enshrined in the US National Security Strategy of 2002 with its determination to “disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations of global reach”.

The global war on terror has required a shift in surveillance objectives from traditional state threats and their military to much more amorphous terrorist networks. The threat posed by non-state actors required new tools and methods of surveillance. Led by the United States, the post-9/11 surveillance world increasingly relies on a new tool of image intelligence – the drone – which is rapidly becoming a dual-use weapon for both gathering and, in its armed form, hunting became.

The use of drones escalated during the Afghanistan conflict, as did the associated controversy over rules of engagement and civilian casualties. It spread across the borders, particularly to Pakistan, which hosted terrorist groups fighting in Afghanistan, and eventually to other theaters such as Iraq, Somalia and Syria. Although the United States was a leader in drone innovation, it quickly made its way into the intelligence and military arsenals of many other states. As commercial and technical accessibility grew and costs fell, it even ended up in the hands of terrorist groups like the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

A second critical development was the rise of national and global internet surveillance and with it the advent of mass data collection and analysis. Ingesting large amounts of technically unselected information required new data storage, management and analysis tools, including unparalleled computing power and the use of artificial intelligence to filter information. This new form of surveillance, which marked a historic departure from targeted information gathering, also needed a justification, often portrayed as finding needles in a haystack, but with a twist. Intelligence communities now argued that research into the haystack was necessary in order to properly focus the information on its needle-like targets.

The bulk of data surveillance sparked new global political tensions that came to the fore with the revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed elements of the scale of the U.S. program, which was carried out in collaboration with Five Eyes’ intelligence partners (Australia ), Canada, New Zealand and United Kingdom). The Snowden revelations also sparked deep and lingering controversy over the legality of bulk data surveillance and concerns about privacy and rights protection in democratic countries.

When state intelligence agencies were spearheaded by preoccupation with the fight against terrorism, the private sector followed suit. The corporate world may at some point use drones to get packages to our doorsteps, but what it really captured was the potential of mass data monitoring and analysis to find, target, exploit and retain consumer audiences, aided by the rise of social -Media platforms for expansion. Advertising.

The increase in surveillance for intelligence agencies and warfare is an important legacy of the 9/11 attacks. He has now found a completely unexpected parallel existence in the surveillance of trade – the aptly named surveillance capitalism.

Meanwhile, threats lost sight of years of preoccupation with terrorism have re-emerged, evoking new forms of government surveillance. The COVID-19 experience has shown the world the need for systemic health surveillance inside and outside national borders.

If there is an advantage, changes in the world of government and private sector surveillance have also reinvigorated debates on global governance, democratic rights, accountability and privacy.


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