Police and the Post-9/11 Surveillance Surge: “Technological Dramas” in “the Bureaucratic Field”

Main Article Content

Brendan Innis McQuade

Abstract

In the last decade, the United States has invested considerable resources into an expanded intelligence apparatus that extends from the hyper-secretive federal intelligence community down to the more mundane world of municipal police. This paper investigates the effects of the post-9/11 surveillance surge on state and local policing. It presents original research on interagency intelligence centers New York and New Jersey and deploys Pfaffenberger’s “technological drama” as a process animating the neoliberal constitution of what Bourdieu calls the “bureaucratic field.” Despite seemingly dramatic changes, there exists powerful continuity in the profession of policing. Before or after Snowden, the day-to-day reality of criminal intelligence remains shaped by the immediate demands of investigations and the small politics of interagency rivalries, insulating policing from dramatic reforms and swift change. What reformers see as dysfunction is better understood as a technological drama in the bureaucratic field that paradoxically provides a degree of autonomy and slows the pace of change.  This paper builds on and contributes to the tendency within surveillance studies that emphasizes the ways in which human agents and organizational cultures mediate surveillance.

Article Details

Section
Articles
Author Biography

Brendan Innis McQuade, Visiting Assistant Professor International Studies DePaul University

In the last decade, the United States has invested considerable resources into an expanded intelligence apparatus that extends from the hyper-secretive federal intelligence community down to the more mundane world of municipal police. This paper investigates the effects of the post-9/11 surveillance surge on state and local policing. It presents original research on interagency intelligence centers in New York and New Jersey and deploys Pfaffenberger’s “technological drama” as a process animating the neoliberal constitution of what Bourdieu calls the “bureaucratic field.” Despite seemingly dramatic changes, there exists powerful continuity in the profession of policing. Before or after the Snowden revelations, the day-to-day reality of criminal intelligence remains shaped by the immediate demands of investigations and the small politics of interagency rivalries, insulating policing from dramatic reforms and swift change. What reformers see as dysfunction is better understood as a technological drama in the bureaucratic field that paradoxically provides a degree of autonomy and slows the pace of change.  This paper builds on and contributes to the tendency within surveillance studies that emphasizes the ways in which human agents and organizational cultures mediate surveillance, highlighting utility of field theory and encouraging scholars of surveillance to participate in a larger theoretical conversations between theories of fields and assemblages.