Hazel Press

In the UK, the Foreign Secretary is responsible for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence agency. As it happens, the Foreign Secretary has a Special Representative for Climate Change, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti:

Climate State. Part 3

[Climate change is] one of the greatest risks we face in the 21st century. The areas of greatest global stress and greatest impacts of climate change are broadly coincidental. Just because it is happening 2,000 miles away does not mean it is not going to affect the UK in a globalised world, whether it is because food prices go up, or because increased instability in an area - perhaps around the Middle East or elsewhere – causes instability in fuel prices.

Existential threat (singular)

On 7 November 2013,  a panel discussion examining the Five Eyes revelations took place at the Frontline Club. Former MI6 director of Operations and Intelligence, Nigel Inkster, described GCHQ's activities as “a global capability for state espionage”, that was also used to combat “terrorism and organised crime”. The Guardian’s diplomatic editor Julian Borger called them an “all encompassing surveillance architecture”. Inkster eventually justified Five Eyes capabilities in terms of the last global conflict, stating that: “We will never know how different the course of WWII [would have] been if Bletchley Park had not broken and read the material that was being transmitted over Enigma.”



The Tempora (UK) and the PRISM (U.S. ) mass surveillance programs were revealed to the public by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In December 2012 Snowden contacted the journalist Glenn Greenwald and a month later the documentary film-maker Laura Poitras. Snowden left Hawaii (20 May 2013) and flew to Hong Kong, where he met with Greenwald and Poitras armed with a Rubik’s Cube and 50,000 documents. The first NSA story was broken simultaneously by the Guardian and the Washington Post (6 June 2013).


The inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, has described the Five Eyes' Tempora and PRISM surveillance programs in these terms: "Spying is this insidious form, because of its chilling effect. If you feel someone's looking over your shoulder, there's all kinds of things you will not do.. [You're not going to be] able to use facilities because of nameless fear."

Former Technical Leader of the NSA's Signals Intelligence Division, William Binney, has described the programs as "turnkey totalitarianism". Meaning that the infrastructure necessary for a system of absolute totalitarianism has now been built. All that a government needs to do, should the need or desire arise, is turn the key. Julian Assange:

It’s just the matter of turning the key. And actually the key has already been turned a little bit, and it is now affecting people who are targeted for US drone strikes, organizations like WikiLeaks, national security reporters who are having their sources investigated. It is already partly turned, and the question is, will it go all the way?”

The world is told that these capabilities (which include the infamous cellphone and internet “kill switch”) are needed to combat terrorism and organised crime. In the UK government ministers, agency directors, security experts, anonymous 'officials' and media organisations have used a 'philosophy of fear' to counter public alarm (the U.S. responding in much the same way).

However, these arguments are false. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence members Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich have stated that: “We have yet to see any proof that it provides real, unique value in protecting national security.” NSA director Keith Alexander has stated that the figure of 54 terrorist plots cited (by himself) as examples of 'bulk collection program' successes is incorrect. In fact, only "13 of the 54 cases had any connection at all to the U.S." and "only one or perhaps two of even those 13 cases had been foiled with help from the NSA." A federal judge (Richard Leon), has ruled that the NSA's “almost Orwellian" surveillance programs are “likely unconstitutional”. He found an "utter lack of evidence that a terrorist attack has ever been prevented because searching the NSA database was faster than other investigative tactics”. The White House review panel on NSA surveillance has stated that these programs were “not essential in preventing attacks”. Panel member Geoffrey Stone stated that regarding the number of attacks averted, the review had “found none”.

The difference between Nigel Inkster's first and final justification is startling. The total number of people killed in WWII is approximately 72,500,000. Their bodies placed end to end would span the circumference of the Earth three times. In any 6 year period since 2001 there had been 10,380 terrorism fatalities (this figure includes 4,720 terrorist deaths), while conflicts have caused 357,640 fatalities.


The disproportionate security significance given to 1,730 terrorism deaths per year by policy makers and the media can be seen by comparing this figure to the 24,000 lightning strike deaths per year and the 1,240,000 traffic-related deaths per year.


With regards to the threat of organised crime, global GDP stands at $71.83 trillion a year and global organised crime is worth 0.87 trillion (equivalent to 1.2% of global GDP). Other forms of organised crime (which are not targeted but protected by the NSA) like Wall Street – annually 'siphon off' 0.635 trillion (0.88% global, 4.05% U.S.) from the real economy. The IMF has calculated the total cost of the 2008 financial crisis at 11.9 trillion (16.57% global).


In a similar confusion of purpose, perhaps as many as 90,000 people died in Mexico's drug war between 2006 and 2013. Despite the NSA targeting the Mexican government, drug cartels and police, no one has used this war as a justification for the spying programs. This is because the NSA is for the most part assisting U.S. foreign policy, whilst the DEA and the CIA opposing the cartels are employing human intelligence rather than mass surveillance.


The threat to society from organised crime and terrorism is genuine, but it is not comparable with the dangers posed by the financial industry and state political violence. Furthermore, all of these definitions of threat are troublesome due to a tendency to merge into one another. For example, the criminality within banks is organised. It is linked to the cartels. The cartels' violence is a form of terrorism. The cartels (inadvertently armed and trained by the U.S.) have split Mexico into a state existing within a patchwork of narco-states. Both sides are engaged in a commodities war that has been created by a failed U.S. prohibition policy. What is the enemy; the cause or the effect? The same inaccurate terminology and bewildering causal chains can be found in every surveillance justification.


These programs exist to counteract policies that are based on irrationality. Those responsible for climate change non-policy understand its near and long-term consequences. And as with the so-called 'War on Drugs' and the 'War on Terror', a politically agreeable status quo (mixed with U.S. interests) prevails over common sense and needed change. Conversely, the same mechanism compels politicians to act on the warning of the national security state.


The political infrastructure of global surveillance is based on the threat multiplier of climate change. In April 2007, the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) released a Military Advisory Board (MAB) report entitled 'National Security and the Threat of Climate Change':

"This is the year of climate change.  We have only 11 months to the summit in Copenhagen. Amid all our difficulties, let us remember: this is the one true existential threat to our planet."

Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world. Unlike most conventional security threats that involve a single entity acting in specic ways and points in time, climate change has the potential to result in multiple chronic conditions, occurring globally within the same time frame.


The U.S. may be drawn more frequently into these situations, either alone or with allies, to help provide stability before conditions worsen and are exploited by extremists.

Climate change is an existential threat to many species, including ourselves, and yet it has never been mentioned as a justification for surveillance. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum, January 2009:

Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum, January 2014:

"Recently I visited the Philippines. I saw yet again how climate change is - quite literally - an existential threat. I have seen the same threat in Sahel, Kiribati and many other places."

The CIA is aware of the security implications of climate change. In 2009 the agency created the Center on Climate Change and National Security, after a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIEs) "on the implications of global climate change for U.S. national security interests" found that "climate change could threaten domestic stability, potentially contributing to intra- or, less likely, interstate conflict". Later, the agency released climate change NIEs on China; India; Mexico, central America, and the Caribbean; North Africa; Russia and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Island States.


It seems the initial report has remained classified solely because it assessed the security threat of climate change to North America. A Defense Science Board report (PDF link) entitled 'Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security' (2011) urged the CIA to be less secretive. The report also confirmed Admiral Locklear's Arab Spring supposition:

If, and when, military responses are necessary to protect US national interests, responses will be too late to rectify underlying conflicting forces. Climate change will more likely first affect human security, resulting in population and political instability that threaten non-military US interests (access to natural resources, criminal activity and terrorism, economic damage, or political agreements), then escalate to kinetic military conflict.


Climate shifts that produce instability may not occur in the proximity of the disturbance. For instance, the unrest leading to the Egyptian government's downfall in winter 2011, exacerbated by escalating food prices brought on by the failure of the Russian wheat crop, could threaten the Egypt-Israeli peace agreement, a matter of US national security.

While the CIA has kept their initial NIEs report on climate change classified, they responded to criticism with a more general report commissioned from the National Research Council entitled 'Climate And Social Stress Implications For Security Analysis' (2013):

It is prudent to expect that over the course of a decade some climate events - including single events, conjunctions of events occurring simultaneously or in sequence in particular locations, and events affecting globally integrated systems that provide for human well-being will produce consequences that exceed the capacity of the affected societies or global systems to manage and that have global security implications serious enough to compel international response. It is also prudent to expect that such consequences will become more common further in the future.

The National Academy of Sciences has recently been commissioned by the CIA to produce a study to examine whether geoengineering can be used to mitigate climate change. At the same time, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security have released a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. But there has been nothing from the NSA. Apparently, as with some NIEs, the NSA's reports and studies are classified. However, the NSA's thinking can be seen through a direct correlation between the nature of surveillance architecture they have created and the Pentagon's climate change preparations.