At the Guardian, Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, has an idea about what might be driving the massive expansion of the NSA's domestic surveillance program that we’ve learned so much about lately. It’s not concerns about religious fundamentalists who hate America. Instead, he suggests, the government is worried about environmental activism:
But why have Western security agencies developed such an unprecedented capacity to spy on their own domestic populations? Since the 2008 economic crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests. This activity is linked to the last decade of US defence planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis -- or all three.
Who would have thunk? It turns out the U.S. government is worried about climate change, after all. At least if being worried about climate change lets them use all their cool spy gear.
Across the government, security professionals are fretting about natural disasters and global oil shortfalls, Ahmed explains. The Department of Defense has written that "climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked." They're nervous about what this means: What are people going to do when they realized they're, to use the technical term, totally screwed? The Army's Strategic Studies Institute has suggested that, in the case of a total freak-out, it might be necessary to "use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States."
Who are those hostiles? Why, they might just be environmentalists.