sosadmin - 02/22/2013
So-called "human terrain systems" have an interesting history. Reportedly developed by the FBI to study the Black Panthers during the notorious COINTELPRO era, the military institutionalized the practice of deploying ethnography in the service of projecting power in its overseas war operations. The strategy has come home to roost once more, in a sort of boomerang illustrative of the ebbs and flows of US history. These FBI tactics of social coercion and control in the radical 1960s were allegedly purged during the reformist 1970s. Then the 9/11 attacks "changed everything," and once again not only the US military but also domestic law enforcement were implementing cultural anthropology towards the end of deciphering and controlling Muslim (and other) populations from New York to Kabul. The military and CIA appear to be determined to perfect the art.
While it might seem like a stretch at first glance, programs that integrate the CIA and the military into the academy have quite a bit to do with domestic surveillance. After all, apart from the direct descendants of human terrain mapping in the domestic space (e.g. entities like the NYPD and FBI’s racial mapping projects), a decade of war has made clear that war powers, tools, strategies and tactics have a way of coming home to roost. We know, also, that the boundaries between foreign and domestic are blurring in a wide variety of other spheres, including in the realm of information gathering and sharing programs. As I've written about extensively on this website, information sharing programs are increasingly connecting DHS, the Department of State, the FBI and the Department of Defense — and probably also "other government agencies.