Surveillance and covert manipulation in Australia: Time for external oversight and accountability

Duplicity is more commonplace than I ever imagined, growing up as a young idealist.

Sadly, it isn’t the sole domain of people seeking immediate, personal advantage. It has also been institutionalised and weaponised. Some of these charlatans have been provided with, I believe in Humble Rise, a distorted sense of moral superiority by their clandestine employers and are simply carrying out their masters’ orders. The remainder are just liars, manipulative people and/or psychopaths, best quarantined and treated for their psychological disorders.

I expect this problem is most pronounced for people like me who work in controversial areas: environment, politics, social justice… and even the arts (due to its potential to influence public discourse).

A world of possibilities opens up when the following simple questions are posed. Try asking yourself: might I be subjected to surveillance and/or covert manipulation? And if so, by whom and for what purpose(s)?

If you can imagine a “business case” for a watching/control brief on you, in this day and age, chances are, one exists. The more I have sought evidence to estimate the potential reach of this phenomenon, through reading publicly available literature and through personal experimentation and observation, the more shocked and sure of this I have become.

In my experience, bad actors (that’s what they are, regardless of who they are working for) will try and get as close to you as you will allow. They rely on your naivety to carry out their work. They can enter your workplace, social life and in some cases, even romantic partnerships (some high profile examples of these coming to light exist in the USA and UK).

Once you have identified one or more potential business cases for you to be targeted (ranging from your political opinions, political and not-for-profit associations, published works, interactions with government/industry, public profile and social contacts through to your personal net worth), it pays to be a little cautious of people who appear to help you, or want to help you. Be especially skeptical of those who claim to be there to help, but serially under-perform, or make small but significant mistakes at critical moments.

They may actually be there for other reasons- to report on your activities, to psychologically profile you and/or to quietly undermine your personal and professional efforts/work/best interests. In the first, an infiltrator seeks to establish, then maintain access, with options open thereafter. If trust is won, they hold the potential to redirect your energy, effort, influence your schedule and social movements and even sabotage your goals or prospects.

These physical and psychological violations, when combined with further physical surveillance by strangers (used while a person is in transit or in public space alone), is in my view, a form of torture. Outwardly, similarities exist to placing a tracking device on the body of an ex-convict out on parole or good behavior. In the case of a political target however, no crime needs be committed to attract such treatment. I consider this to be a heinous abuse and violation of human rights and strips the subject of their humanity and dignity. This is where critical reform is needed, because presently, Parliamentary or any other external oversight of intelligence agencies’ activities is non-existent in this country.

Surveillance, infiltration and manipulation are not new phenomena… they have existed for millennia. But the information age has made targeting, profiling and manipulating people on an individual basis more remotely manageable, technically feasible and commercially/politically attractive than ever… so a wider net is cast.

Do we have a firm moral, ethical and legal framework for the management of surveillance and covert manipulation in Australia? I would argue that we have none of these. Yet intelligence agencies and their private sector partners have incredibly intrusive tools are their fingertips, and appear to have unchecked reign over their application.

So how do we function in this age of surveillance, live profiling and personal and mass-scale political manipulation?

For the citizen, critical thinking, analysis and skepticism are, in my opinion, essential survival skills.

We need to continue to trust one another, but also we need to be prepared to withdraw that trust when evidence and intuition tell us that we’re being played.

Finally, we need strong, independent oversight of the Australian Intelligence Community and its international partners, to ensure that its resources are being used responsibly, and not to target non-criminal persons, directly or indirectly cause psychological harm or to discriminate in order to politically or commercially advantage some third party or minority interest. There is a legitimate case for some surveillance for genuine National Security reasons, but overreach happens.

We also need pathways for victims of oppressive surveillance and covert manipulation to seek justice and compensation for psychological harm caused by human rights violators (applicable to individuals, institutions and other entities).

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A glossary of neologisms related to politics, espionage and surveillance

Below is a list of neologisms I have penned over the past year, drawing from my observations, reading and direct experiences as a target of surveillance. Fauxcialist, Foecialist and Shamarchist have all been proven to exist during the Undercover Policing Inquiry in the UK. Field testing of others is ongoing. These were first penned and published during 2018-2019 and the list is a work in progress.

Badvice (n.)
Advice presented in bad faith with intent to misdirect the recipient’s attention or effort. Opportunistically dispensed by infiltrators who have gained the trust of their target individual or group.

Blockupation (n.)
A job belonging to a person intent on slowing or halting organisational function rather than supporting it. If directed by a third party, a person who blockupies may be considered a sloboteur. Also used to describe a position held long beyond the usefulness or relevance of the employee.

Fauxcialist (n.)
A person who appears to advocate or practise socialism, while acting as a covert agent for Capital. When a fauxcialist’s actions exceed those of observing and reporting, he or she may be considered a foecialist.

Flopportunity (n.)
A false opportunity secretly designed to fail or divert a target’s attention. A ruse in which a time or set of circumstances is created for the purpose of appearing attractive to a target individual or group of people. The objective of a flopportunity is to consume a target’s time and effort and ultimately deliver project failure or a poor return on time and effort invested.

Fluddite (n.)
A newcomer to a new communication platform (for example a Facebook group) who proceeds to overshare mediocre, banal or distracting content. Covert fluddites may be weaponised for the purpose of gaining military or political advantage by burying more meaningful or controversial content, or by boring or annoying group members such that they change their habits and either ignore or abandon that forum or platform.

Foecialist (n.)
A person who appears to advocate or practise socialism, while acting as a hostile covert agent for Capital. Deliberate actions undertaken by foecialists may include: disruption of group cohesion, sabotage of group events and undertakings, mismanagement of funds etc.

Respycle (v.)
To redeploy a spy to covertly watch a former target, sometimes within a matter of hours. Respycling is a low cost, but high-risk practise symptomatic of organisational over-confidence and limited available human resources.

Shamarchist (n.)
A person who appears to believe in or try to bring about anarchy, while acting as a covert agent for imperial or any other authoritarian 3rd party. The shamarchist’s actions can be similar to those of a fauxcialist or foecialist and may include: disruption of group cohesion, sabotage or slobotage of group events and undertakings, mismanagement of funds etc. Shamarchists may bear dated visual signatures and wardrobe items such as dreadlocks and jackets bearing embroidered patches.

Slobotage (v.)
To deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct something, especially for political or military advantage, whilst appearing to under-perform or otherwise act with negligence in the provision of a service or fulfilment of a role (see also: blockupation).

Sloboteur (n.)
A person who uses negligence as a subterfuge whilst engaging in an act of sabotage. A sloboteur may also hold a blockupation within a target group or organisation.

Snooper-hero (n.)
A spy with delusions of their own moral superiority, proficiency and invisibility. Sometimes seen wearing fan-boy shirts featuring Superman or Batman logos or James Bond film posters.

Spyority (n.)
A person, task or any other thing that is regarded as more important than others by a spy or associated entity. A spyority may be set or determined by an agent, private investigator, client or controlling organisation.

Spysolate (v. )
To cause (a person or place) to be or remain alone or apart from others while maintaining the subject’s illusion of connectedness.

Spysolation (n.)
A state achieved after covert agents successfully “crowd out” or “flood” a target’s social and professional networks for the purposes of monitoring and limiting the subject’s sphere of social, professional and political influence.

Strategic incompetence (n.)
The design and use of phony ineptitude in a clandestine campaign to gain overall or long-term military, political or commercial advantage. Used to hobble, subvert, manage or otherwise control or limit an organisation, group or its dependents (see also: slobotage).

Thespionage (n.)
The practice of using professionally trained actors as spies. Employed by governments or corporations for the purpose of obtaining political, commercial and/or military information.

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List of 3 player arcade games with joystick or trackball control

Back in 2014 I started working on my first video game project with programmer Adam Jenkins, and I’m pleased to say that it’s nearly fully-fledged and ready to launch. Our final Beta version is available now on itch.io and our next milestone with be our long-anticipated release on Steam.

My game is called Cuttle Scuttle, and it’s a three player cooperative cuttlefish survival simulator. The mazes are rocky reefs full of predators and prey, and the objective is to lay as many eggs as possible while using camouflage, ink-shots and cunning to stay alive.

Cuttle Scuttle captures the spirit of classic cooperative gaming and the hardships of cuttlefish life
Cuttle Scuttle captures the spirit of classic cooperative gaming and the hardships of cuttlefish life

The game’s visual and cooperative arcade style were inspired by some classic games of the 1980s and 1990s, including Ms Pac-Man, Frogger II and Bubble Bobble. We’ve long entertained the idea of eventually housing the game in a custom arcade cabinet, reflective of this great period in gaming history… and we’re beginning to make that dream a reality.

As an avid student of history,  I started down this path by compiling a list of  past arcade games that were made to accommodate a maximum of three players simultaneously. I ruled out the shooter and driving games to concentrate on joystick or trackball-controlled games exclusively. This left me with a list comprised mostly of fighting games, and a few oddities like The Three Stooges, Pig Out and SegaSonic the Hedgehog.

With the help of Wikipedia’s terrific alphabetised list of arcade video games, I was able to compile the following list of (non-shooter) 3-player arcade games released between 1984 and 1997. While the table below strives to being exhaustive and accurate, please let me know if you have any titles to add or corrections to make.

If all goes well, Force of Nature might be able to add Cuttle Scuttle (2018) to this list in the months ahead.

Game Alternative titles Year Publisher
The Three Stooges 1984 Mylstar
Rampage 1986 Bally Midway 
Dark Adventure 1987 Konami
Xenophobe 1987 Bally-Midway 
Gain Ground 1988 Sega
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker 1990 Sega
Pig Out: Dine Like a Swine 1990 Leland
Pit-Fighter 1990 Atari Games
Rampart 1990 Atari Games
The Combatribes 1990 Techn?s Japan
Knights of the Round 1991 Capcom
B. Rap Boys 1992 Kaneko
Cadillacs & Dinosaurs Cadillacs Kyouryuu Shinseiki JP 1992 Capcom
Guardians of the ‘Hood 1992 Atari Games
Warriors of Fate 1992 Capcom
SegaSonic the Hedgehog 1993 Sega
Violent Storm 1993 Konami
Alien vs. Predator 1994 Capcom
Armored Warriors Powered Gear – Strategic Variant Armor Equipment JP 1994 Capcom
Battletoads Super Battletoads 1994 Rare
Rampage World Tour 1997 Midway

 

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