CC-BY Frédéric BISSON

TrapWire – Big Business Brother Is Watching You

On 10 August 2012 operators of the notorious whisteblower site Wikileaks reported that they had been hit by a cyber attack. 10GB of data were supposedly fired at their servers in a pretty severe DDoS-attack. One reason for the attack could have been the publishing of a large number of files related to a project called „TrapWire“. The German online news portal “Spiegel Online“ reported that New York is in talks to test a new surveillance system that is capable of tracking movement patterns as well as license plates. Internal documents of the global intelligence company Stratfor, however, reveal that it is not only New York that would be affected by such a new surveillance system. The leaked files, that have so far not been verified, are supposedly contents of internal Stratfor emails. Should the files be verified, an American INDECT is all but already up and running, without the population’s consent or even awareness.

TrapWire is a Sales Hit

CC BY-NC-SA Tim Bradshaw

So what exactly is Trapwire capable of? Its operational system is mainly made up of its infrastructure, which can be connected to video cameras that are already installed in many cities and public spaces. In essence, much like INDECT, it operates as an intelligent system that automatically identifies “suspicious behavior“ – whatever that might entail – and pushes the proverbial panic button. In addition, it utilizes radiation detectors, face recognition software, and license plate scans that can keep track of everyone and everything 24/7. Especially the face-recognition component is supposedly many times more accurate than its predecessors.
TrapWire Inc., a subsidiary of Abraxas, sells different versions of this infrastructure. Version “TrapWire Law Enforcement” provides, according to the company, the “ability to gather, analyze and disseminate information about surveillance and logistical activities occurring across an entire geographic region“. This version also has the possibility to be connected to other “packets“. The “proactive surveillance“ system, in which the camera-systems and platforms to over which people can call in suspicious behavior, can be synchronized, is another example.

Aside from New York, other private and public buyers for the all-encompassing surveillance systems have been found. The leaked documents reveal, for example, that the State of Texas has signed contracts with “TrapWire“. In an email dated April 2010, it says that “TrapWire“ will be installed the following Monday. Another document (Feb. 2011) states that TrapWire has already been installed in High Value Targets (HVTs), such as New York, Washington D.C., London, Ottawa and Los Angeles. The public was not informed about this.

Every step you make, every bond you break – I´ll be watching you

CC BY-NC-ND vividBreeze

In order to market TrapWire, Abraxas has created a subsidiary company TrapWire Inc. Abraxas, on the other hand, has close business ties to Stratfor. All these companies share an exceptionally high staff-rate of former intelligence service employees, police and military personnel. You are amongst friends, so to speak. Fear sells: the released documents reveal, that in order to market the product, references to terrorist attacks and social unrests were made. What is especially troublesome, is the aggressive marketing that is contained in the documents:
“Regarding SF landmarks of interest–they need something like Trapwire more for threats from activists than from terror threats. Both are useful, but the activists are ever present around here.”
The contract between Abraxas and Stratfor clearly states that Stratfor was supposed to receive 8% provision for the marketing of TrapWire. Another document states that sales pitches to the US Army, the Pentagon and the Marines were successful. In case of the US Army, this is was confirmed by a public announcement regarding surveillance systems. According to the documents, sales talks with the Navy were about to begin. This was in 2011.

Civil Rights Activists sound the Alarms

On Pastebin, Justin Ferguson collected information about TrapWire, which resulted in an increase of public awareness. On 10 August 2012 #TrapWire was a trending topic on Twitter. So far, we do not know if the Stratfor files are authentic. If they are, it is scandalous. For one, it is terrifying to imagine that such an all-encompassing surveillance system is managed by a private business. Secondly, the emails reveal how large the number of former CIA employees within Abraxas is, how often they meet for lunch and with whom, and how it is virtually impossible to separate corruption and “revolving-door“ issues here. Not to mention the fact that none of this has been made public.
Last week, I attended an interview and was asked if surveillance systems, such as the one in the movie “Minority Report“, were possible. While I had not seen the movie, I replied that by now face-recognition software is available that can distinguish between identical twins. I also replied that it would be unlikely that private businesses would employ such surveillance methods, due to financial constraints. If I was asked the same question again today, I would point to the TrapWire website.

This article can be found in its original German form on www.kattascha.de, where it was published on 11 August 2012 (CC BY-SA)
Written by: Katharina Nocun (CC BY-SA)
Featured Image: CC-BY Frédéric BISSON

Felicitas Steinhoff

About Felicitas Steinhoff

I recently moved back to Germany, after having lived in Santa Fe (BA St. John’s College), Morocco (MA in International Relations Al Akhawayn University) and Boston. In Boston, I worked with Grassroots Camapaigns to raise awareness and funds for organizations such as the ACLU, Oxfam and Planned Parenthood. While in Boston, Dewey Square was occupied and I attended a meeting of the Pirate Party MA, which very much shaped my current outlook on participatory democracy and transparent politics. Now, back in Germany in the picturesque town of Hildesheim, I’m the assistant secretary of the Pirate Party Fraction in our city council, do some translation work and tutoring in English, German and Latin.

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