Agencies & Systems

U.S. government agencies and systems

The Data Hackers: Mining Your Information for Big Brother

The Data Hackers: Mining Your Information for Big Brother

We willingly hand over information to the big data companies and in return they facilitate our communications and provide us with diversions. Take Google, which offers free email, data storage, and phone calls to many of us, or Verizon, which charges for smartphones and home phones. We can withdraw from them anytime, just as we believe that we can delete our day-to-day social activities from Facebook or Twitter.

But there is a second kind of data company of which most people are unaware: high-tech outfits that simply help themselves to our information in order to allow U.S. government agencies to dig into our past and present. Some of this is legal, since most of us have signed away the rights to our own information on digital forms that few ever bother to read, but much of it is, to put the matter politely, questionable.

This second category is made up of professional surveillance companies. They generally work for or sell their products to the government — in other words, they are paid with our tax dollars — but we have no control over them.

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12 Ways the FBI Has Radically Expanded and Abused Its Powers Since 9/11

Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Agencies & Systems, Government with 1 Comment
12 Ways the FBI Has Radically Expanded and Abused Its Powers Since 9/11

Since 9/11, the FBI has radically expanded and abused its authority in the name of fighting terrorism. Much of this came with the blessing of the U.S. Congress and attorney general, but even with loosened legal restraints, the FBI has repeatedly reached for more power to surveil, harass, and infiltrate communities based on their political beliefs and their race and religion.

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The Sparks of Rebellion

The Sparks of Rebellion

It is not the poor who make revolutions. It is those who conclude that they will not be able, as they once expected, to rise economically and socially. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast food workers. It is grasped by the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt. These two groups, once united, will be our primary engines of revolt. Much of the urban poor has been crippled and in many cases broken by a rewriting of laws, especially drug laws, that has permitted courts, probation officers, parole boards and police to randomly seize poor people of color, especially African-American men, without just cause and lock them in cages for years. In many of our most impoverished urban centers—our internal colonies, as Malcolm X called them—mobilization, at least at first, will be difficult. The urban poor are already in chains. These chains are being readied for the rest of us. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread,” Anatole France commented acidly.

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Noam Chomsky On the Era Of the Drone

Noam Chomsky On the Era Of the Drone

Noam Chomsky is the Institute Professor and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. The most cited living source in the world, his theories have been extremely influential in the fields of analytic philosophy, psychology, modern language, and computer science. He has written over 100 books examining the media, US foreign policy, social issues, Latin American and European history, and more.

We met with Professor Chomsky in Cambridge in May to discuss the development of the drone era under president Obama.

Noam Chomsky: Just driving in this morning I was listening to NPR news. The program opened by announcing, very excitedly, that the drone industry is exploding so fast that colleges are trying to catch up and opening new programs in the engineering schools and so on, and teaching drone technology because that’s what students are dying to study because of the fantastic number of jobs going on.

And it’s true. If you look at the public reports, you can imagine what the secret reports are. It’s been known for a couple of years, but we learn more and more that drones, for one thing, are already being given to police departments for surveillance. And they are being designed for every possible purpose. I mean, theoretically, maybe practically, you could have a drone the size of a fly which could be buzzing around over there [points to window] listening to what we’re talking about. And I’d suspect that it won’t be too long before that becomes realistic.

And of course they are being used to assassinate. There’s a global assassination campaign going on which is pretty interesting when you look into how it’s done. I presume everyone’s read the front page of the New York Times story, which is more or less a leak from the White House, because they are apparently proud of how the global assassination campaign works. Basically President Obama and his national security advisor, John Brennan, now head of the CIA, get together in the morning. And Brennan’s apparently a former priest. They talk about St. Augustine and his theory of just war, and then they decide who is going to be killed today.

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UK detention of Reprieve activist consistent with NSA’s view of drone opponents as ‘threats’ and ‘adversaries’

UK detention of Reprieve activist consistent with NSA’s view of drone opponents as ‘threats’ and ‘adversaries’

A well-known and highly respected Yemeni anti-drone activist was detained yesterday by UK officials under that country’s “anti-terrorism” law at Gatwick Airport, where he had traveled to speak at an event. Baraa Shiban, the project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve, was held for an hour and a half and repeatedly questioned about his anti-drone work and political views regarding human rights abuses in Yemen.

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Was This Whistle-Blower Muzzled?

Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Agencies & Systems, Censorship, Government, Politics, Whistleblower with 0 Comments
Was This Whistle-Blower Muzzled?

THE fifth anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy has occasioned one legacy-spinning defense after another. We’ve heard from Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve; Henry M. Paulson Jr., the Treasury secretary at the time; and Timothy F. Geithner, then the New York Fed president and later Mr. Paulson’s successor at Treasury, about their historic decisions to use trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to bail out the banking system.

But will we ever know what really happened behind all those closed doors? The seemingly appalling treatment afforded Richard M. Bowen III, a former Citigroup executive who blew the whistle on years of malfeasance there, shows that we may not. Thanks to political pressure and the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, the events leading up to the financial crisis remain obscured and may never be fully revealed.

“It was devastating,” [Bowen] said. “It truly was. From my standpoint, the corruption extends to the highest levels of government. I feel absolutely, completely violated. Every principle that I grew up with, and even when I did a brief stint in the R.O.T.C. and the Air Force, it’s just completely violated.”

He plans to keep talking about what happened to him. “By God, I’ve got to leave this country better off than the way I found it.”

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6 Shocking Revelations About How Private Prisons Make Their Money

Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Agencies & Systems, Government, Politics with 0 Comments
6 Shocking Revelations About How Private Prisons Make Their Money

A new report from In the Public Interest (ITPI) revealed last week that private prison companies are striking deals with states that contain clauses guaranteeing high prison occupancy rates. The report, “Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations,” documents the contracts exchanged between private prison companies and state and local governments that either guarantee prison occupancy rates (essentially creating inmate lockup quotas) or force taxpayers to pay for empty beds if the prison population decreases due to lower crime rates or other factors (essentially creating low-crime taxes).

The report notes that contract clauses like this incentivize criminilization, and do nothing to promote rehabilitation, crime reduction or community building.

“[These contracts run] counter to many states’ public policy goals of reducing the prison population and increasing efforts for inmate rehabilitation,” the report states. “When policymakers received the 2012 CCA letter, some worried the terms of CCA’s offer would encourage criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the occupancy rates required by a contract. Policy decisions should be based on creating and maintaining a just criminal justice system that protects the public interest, not ensuring corporate profits.”

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Elites’ Strange Plot To Take Over the World

Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Agencies & Systems, Bankers & Wall St., Corruption with 1 Comment
Elites’ Strange Plot To Take Over the World

The institutional framework of a world government composed of Western European and American states remains far more potent than we like to imagine, even beyond the security apparatus revealed by Snowden’s documents. For example, in every major free trade agreement since NAFTA, U.S. courts have been subordinated to international tribunals, which operate according to rules laid out either by the World Trade Organization, a division of the World Bank, or by a division of the United Nations known as UNCITRAL (the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law). These tribunals rule on consumer, labor, and environmental questions – not just trade. And they are trans-national, much as the supply chains of Apple, Ford, Toyota, or any other multi-national corporation are, or the technology that Google, Microsoft, or IBM promote all over the world.

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FBI Calls Half of Populace with 9/11 Doubts Potential Terrorists

Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Agencies & Systems, Government with 2 Comments
FBI Calls Half of Populace with 9/11 Doubts Potential Terrorists

The FBI is instructing local police departments and “communities against terrorism” to consider anyone who harbors “conspiracy theories” about 9/11 to be a potential terrorist, in a circular released to local police departments.

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25 Fast Facts About The Federal Reserve

Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Agencies & Systems with 0 Comments
25 Fast Facts About The Federal Reserve

As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the creation of the Federal Reserve, it is absolutely imperative that we get the American people to understand that the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems

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The Origins of Our Police State

The Origins of Our Police State

Under a series of Supreme Court rulings we have lost the rights to protect ourselves from random searches, home invasions, warrantless wiretapping and eavesdropping and physical abuse. Police units in poor neighborhoods function as armed gangs. The pressure to meet departmental arrest quotas—the prerequisite for lavish federal aid in the “war on drugs”—results in police routinely seizing people at will and charging them with a laundry list of crimes, often without just cause. Because many of these crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into “pleading out” on lesser offenses. The police and the defendants know that the collapsed court system, in which the poor get only a few minutes with a public attorney, means there is little chance the abused can challenge the system. And there is also a large pool of willing informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police.

The tyranny of law enforcement in poor communities is a window into our emerging police state. These thuggish tactics are now being used against activists and dissidents. And as the nation unravels, as social unrest spreads, the naked face of police repression will become commonplace. Totalitarian systems always seek license to engage in this kind of behavior by first targeting a demonized minority. Such systems demand that the police, to combat the “lawlessness” of the demonized minority, be, in essence, emancipated from the constraints of the law. The unrestricted and arbitrary subjugation of one despised group, stripped of equality before the law, conditions the police to employ these tactics against the wider society. “Laws that are not equal for all revert to rights and privileges, something contradictory to the very nature of nation-states,” Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” “The clearer the proof of their inability to treat stateless people as legal persons and the greater the extension of arbitrary rule by police decree, the more difficult it is for states to resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police.”

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The SEC Flacks Paint Lehman’s Looters as the Victims of a “Political” SEC

Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Agencies & Systems, Government, Politics with 0 Comments
The SEC Flacks Paint Lehman’s Looters as the Victims of a “Political” SEC

Not a single elite banker who led a control fraud has had his fraud proceeds removed by the SEC. Not a single elite banker who became immensely wealthy by leading a control fraud has even had to personally pay a non-trivial portion of his fraud proceeds to the SEC. In this long list of failures Lehman stands out as a glaring failure. Lehman was destroyed by widespread looting that made it senior officers exceptionally wealthy. Lehman’s failure triggered the global financial crisis. The SEC allowed Lehman’s securities frauds to continue for many years when it was not only reviewing Lehman’s securities filings but also serving as Lehman’s “consolidated supervision” authority. The SEC compounded its total failure as Lehman’s supervisor through a total failure as an enforcer of the securities laws and its supervisory rules even after Lehman’s control fraud caused its failure. The mortgage fraud crisis represents the worst enforcement failure by the SEC in its history.

It is an odd form of “justice” in which the most elite frauds became wealthy by scams that caused a $11 trillion loss to American households and cost over 10 million Americans their jobs and avoid all accountability for their frauds…

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Not with a Bang but a Whimper – the SEC Enforcement Team’s Propaganda Campaign

Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Agencies & Systems, Government, Politics with 0 Comments
Not with a Bang but a Whimper – the SEC Enforcement Team’s Propaganda Campaign

By William K. Black

“Justice” became an oxymoron in the Bush and Obama administration. It now means that the elite frauds that became wealthy through their crimes that drove our financial crisis should enjoy de facto immunity from prosecution. The NYT, however, pictures the SEC as an ultra-aggressive enforcer that virtually never fails to take on the elite CEOs leading the control frauds.

[…]

The SEC data demonstrate its epic failure in preventing the current crisis (the SEC was useless) and deterring future crises (the SEC leaves the fraudulent wealthy officers immensely wealthy). The SEC has tried to bring enforcement actions against the senior officers of only three of the elite financial institutions (banks). It has sued twelve senior officers of those three banks (or four if we depart from the SEC’s practice and call Fannie and Freddie different cases). Its biggest “success” left the former CEO of Countrywide with virtually all of the vast wealth that the SEC claims to be the product of fraud. It obtained $80,000 (also almost certainly paid by an insurer) from the CEO of IndyMac, the largest fraudulent seller of fraudulent mortgage loans. That is it for the senior officers of the elite banks whose frauds the SEC says drove the financial crisis.

The SEC, as always, focuses its enforcement on non-elite corporations where it is far easier for its enforcers to rack up higher numbers of “successes.” The “66 senior” individual defendants were overwhelmingly employed by non-elite banks. The SEC’s own data demonstrate that it is a paper tiger when it comes to the elite banksters who grew wealthy by leading the frauds that caused the mortgage fraud crisis.

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Obama Warned on Syrian Intel

Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Agencies & Systems, Government, Military, Politics with 0 Comments
Obama Warned on Syrian Intel

We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this. In writing this brief report, we choose to assume that you have not been fully informed because your advisers decided to afford you the opportunity for what is commonly known as “plausible denial.”

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