Axios Dec 1
SaveSave story

The most impressive surveillance state in history

Police surveillance cameras set up to monitor a dirt road intersection in western China. Photo: Ng Han Guan / AP

China's embrace of big data and surveillance technologies has the country well on its way to creating the most impressive surveillance state in history.

Why it's happening: The Chinese Communist Party needs help from private sector firms, and those firms in turn need to stay in political good graces to be successful.

Behind the scenes: The Wall Street Journal just published a months-long report on the role internet giants Alibaba and Tencent play in helping build the PRC panopticon. Much of these efforts can be used to improve governance and efficiency, but the dual-use potential for a police state increasingly resembles the movie "Minority Report." Per the WSJ:

  • "The political and legal system of the future is inseparable from the internet, inseparable from big data," Alibaba CEO Jack Ma told a Communist Party commission overseeing law enforcement last year. He said technology will soon make it possible to predict security threats. "Bad guys won't even be able to walk into the square," he said.
  • Alibaba's "big data" systems are behind a "smart city" initiative that ties together data from multiple inputs, including ubiquitous surveillance cameras. 100 smart-city trials are planned by the end of 2018.
  • Tencent, operator of WeChat, is working with local police to build an "early-warning system" that can track and predict crowd-size and movement.

More: U.S.-listed Alibaba is an investor in Chinese facial-recognition startups Megvii Inc and SenseTime.

SaveSave story

What McCabe told Mueller

Photo: Pete Marovich / Getty Images

Andrew McCabe says President Trump asked him: “What was it like when your wife lost? ... So tell me, what was it like to lose?" McCabe — the former FBI deputy director who was fired Friday night, 26 hours short of being eligible for a full pension — says that in three or four interactions, President Trump was disparaging each time of his wife, Dr. Jill McCabe, a failed Virginia state Senate candidate in 2015. John Dowd, a Trump lawyer, told me: "I am told that the P never made that statement according to two others who were present."

The big picture: Axios has learned that McCabe has met with special counsel Robert Mueller, and has turned over Comey-style memos documenting his conversations with Trump. The memos include corroboration by McCabe of former FBI Director James Comey's account of his own firing by Trump.

Haley Britzky 10 hours ago
SaveSave story

Women and jihad: from bride to the front line

Suspected Al Qaeda-aligned Shabaab militants, a woman and her three children, sit next to weapons after their arrest on May 5, 2016 in Mogadishu
Suspected Al Qaeda-aligned Shabaab militants, a woman and her children, sit next to weapons after their arrest on May 5, 2016 in Mogadishu. Photo: Mohamed Abdiwahab / AFP / Getty Images

A women's magazine, unveiled in December, gives tips on how to be a "good bride" and make life easier for the man in your life. The twist: the magazine, "Beituki," is published by al-Qaeda as part of a propaganda campaign which "appears, in part, to be a reaction to Islamic State (IS), which has called women to the front lines," per the Economist.

The big picture: Extremist organizations are struggling to define what women's roles in their groups should be. While some force women to "remain indoors," as Beituki suggests, others have placed women on the front lines, or utilized them as recruiters.