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The Beginning of the End for Australian Freedom of Speech

Isaac Blencowe, Contributor

CLN Editor’s Note: Thanks to Isaac for summarising the chilling new anti-terrorism/freedom of speech laws introduced by the Abbott Government in Australia this week. George Orwell must be rolling in his grave… again.

“He who sacrifices freedom, for security, deserves neither” – Benjamin Franklin.

Under the new National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014,  anyone including, “journalists, whistle-blowers and bloggers” – who “recklessly” disclose  “information” … [that] relates to a special intelligence operation,” will now face up to 10 years in jail for doing so.

With any operation being able to be classified as special, by an Authorized ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) officer. On top of this ASIO also gets complete immunity from criminal and civil liability in certain circumstances, basically meaning that they will be above the law.

If that is not enough the bill allows ASIO to need just one warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network, when monitoring a suspected target. This will effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, due to the fact that the bill does not define what a computer network is.

ASIO will also have the complete power to copy, delete or edit the data held on any of the computers allowed under the single warrant. With the ability to disrupt any target computers and even access innocent non target 3rd party computers in order to do so.

Senator Brandis who has praised the new bill said that it “targeted those who leaked classified information, such as the former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.” (Or Julian Assange).

Both of which exposed important information and damaging material on how the US government had been illegally monitoring its citizens, among other damaging information.

In addition to this new bill any citizen who identifies an ASIO agent could also face 10 years in Jail, which is a 10 fold increase of the previous ‘maximum’ penalty.

And as if this bill hasn’t already gone far enough, another two bills are also looking to be enacted over the next few months. The second being a bill that will make it a criminal offence to travel to a terrorist hot-spot, without a reasonable excuse. And the third bill enabling law- enforcement and spy agencies, to collect internet and phone metadata for a period of up to two years, without the need for a warrant, to be introduced later this year.

Now there is no denying that terrorist organisations like ISIS do exist and that they may pose a risk to the Australian public and that some measures are understandable in light of this. But there is no denying that the latest passed bill as well as the two still to be passed are a blatantly outrageous and unnecessary use of power.

And it becomes even scarier when you hear such outlandish statements such as Palmer United Party Senator, Glen Lazarus who said, “The internet poses one of the greatest threats to our existence.”

It makes absolutely no sense to enact such strict and unscrupulous  laws of which disallow such an innate right as freedom of speech. By implementing such strong laws we are not making ourselves any safer, but only reducing our freedoms, of which we are all entitled to, and have fought so hard for in the past to keep.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”

If we are to call ourselves a fair and just society then surely we must include the right to our own privacy, freedom of speech and the exposition of unlawful and unjust acts, no matter who is responsible for them, even if this means exposing acts committed by our own government.

This new law will affect all Australians, and I know many are probably sitting there thinking, “Well I have nothing to hide, so it doesn’t affect me”.  But this could not be further from the truth, because although you may feel as though these laws do not directly threaten you, indirectly they threaten your scope and access to information. For under these new laws whistle-blowers, journalists and even every-day joe bloggers who provide a broader and more sound reflection of certain issues, will now prosecuted for doing so.

It is incumbent upon all of us, not only citizens of Australia but of the whole world, to stand up for our rights as individuals. Especially when such laws as this have the power to be abused and used in such an extreme, that the simple sharing of information even via Facebook could even become an offence.

This is heinous abuse of power and does make us any safer from a terror threat, but only reduces our position as a free society. I urge you to inform yourself and others in anyway possible before laws like this can be taken any further than they already have been.

Isaac Blencowe

About the Author

Isaac Blencowe is the Creator of the Tragedy & Hope YouTube channel. He enjoys listening to music, reading, playing guitar, healthy eating and keeping physically active. For more of Isaac’s inspiring work, please visit: www.tragedyandhopechannel.com



Nowhere To Hide As Minority Report-Style Facial Recognition Technology Spreads Across America

Michael Snyder | Activist Post

Dees Illustration

Dees Illustration

What is our society going to look like when our faces are being tracked literally everywhere that we go?  As part of the FBI’s new Next Generation Identification System, a facial recognition database known as the Interstate Photo System will have collected 52 million of our faces by the end of 2015.  But that is only a small part of the story.  According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has been using advanced facial recognition technology for years.

In addition, as you will see below, advertising companies are starting to use Minority Report-style face scanners in their billboards and many large corporations see facial recognition technology as a tool that they can use to serve their customers better.  Someday soon it may become virtually impossible to go out in public in a major U.S. city without having your face recorded.  Is that the kind of society that we want?

To the FBI, this technology does not represent an invasion of privacy.  Rather, they are very proud of the fact that they are not going to be so dependent on fingerprinting any longer.  The FBI has been developing the Next Generation Identification System for years, and this month it was announced that it is finally fully operational

The federal government’s Next Generation Identification System — a biometric database that relies largely on facial-recognition technology — is now fully operational, the FBI announced Monday.

“This effort is a significant step forward for the criminal justice community in utilizing biometrics as an investigative enabler,” the FBI said in a statement

The latest advance in the technology gives users the ability to receive “ongoing status notifications” about individuals’ criminal histories, the FBI said. That means if, for instance, a teacher commits an offense, law enforcement can be immediately informed — and then pass that information on to administrators.

It’s to monitor criminal histories of those “in positions of trust,” the FBI said.

As part of this new system, every American will eventually be assigned a “Universal Control Number”.

Does that sound creepy to you?

Even mainstream news reports are admitting that it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie

It aims to eventually replace fingerprinting with a complex array of biometrics, assigning everyone with a “Universal Control Number”, in what sounds like a plotline from a sci-fi movie.

And it won’t just be the FBI using this database.

According to Fox News, more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies will have access to this information…

More than 18,000 law enforcement agencies and other authorized criminal justice partners across the country will have access to the system 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

So if your face is scanned somewhere or you do something noteworthy that is registered by the system, virtually every law enforcement agency in the country will instantly know about it.

Pretty scary stuff, eh?

But the FBI is actually lagging far behind the NSA.

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has been using “sophisticated facial recognition programs”for many years

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show.

Do you remember that stuff you saw in the Jason Bourne movies about how the NSA can track people?

Well, most of that stuff is real.

If you don’t like it, that is just too bad.  At this point not even Congress has much control over what the NSA does.

And there are police departments around the nation that are also way ahead of the FBI.

For example, just check out what has been going on in southern California

In a single second, law enforcement agents can match a suspect against millions upon millions of profiles in vast detailed databases stored on the cloud. It’s all done using facial recognition, and in Southern California it’s already occurring.

Imagine the police taking a picture: any picture of a person, anywhere, and matching it on the spot in less than a second to a personalized profile, scanning millions upon millions of entries from within vast, intricate databases stored on the cloud.

It’s done with state of the art facial recognition technology, and in Southern California it’s already happening.

At least one law enforcement agency in San Diego is currently using software developed by FaceFirst, a division of nearby Camarillo, California’s Airborne Biometrics Group. It can positively identify anyone, as long as physical data about a person’s facial features is stored somewhere the police can access. Though that pool of potential matches could include millions, the company says that by using the “best available facial recognition algorithms” they can scour that data set in a fraction of a second in order to send authorities all known intelligence about anyone who enters a camera’s field of vision.

Widespread use of facial recognition technology by our law enforcement authorities is becoming a way of life.

If the American people don’t like this, they need to stand up and say something.

But instead, in an era of widespread Internet hacking and identity theft, many Americans are actually clamoring for the implementation of more biometric identification.

For instance, the following is a brief excerpt from a Fox News article entitled “Biometric security can’t come soon enough for some people“…

In a world where nearly every ATM now uses an operating system without any technical support, where a bug can force every user of the Internet to change the password to every account they’ve ever owned overnight, where cyber-attacks and identity theft grow more menacing every day, the ability to use your voice, your finger, your face or some combination of the three to log into your e-mail, your social media feed or your checking account allows you to ensure it’s very difficult for someone else to pretend they’re you.

As financial institutions adopt this kind of technology, a day may come when virtually all of us are required to have our faces scanned at the checkout counter.

That may sound crazy to you, but according to the Daily Mail a company in Finland has already launched this technology…

Bank cards are already being replaced by phones and wristbands that have payment technology built-in but the latest threat to the lowly plastic in your pocket could be your face.

A Finnish startup called Uniqul has launched what it calls the first ever payment platform based on facial recognition.

The system doesn’t require a wallet, bank card or phone – instead a camera is positioned at the checkout and takes a photo of a shopper’s face when they are ready to pay.

It then scans a database for the face and matches it to stored payment details in order to complete the transaction.

And advertisers are even more eager to adopt facial recognition technology.  In fact, the kind of face scanning billboards that we saw in “Minority Report” are already a reality.  For example, a company called Amscreen says that it already has more than 6,000 face scanning digital screens that are being viewed by approximately 50 million people each week…

Advertising network Amscreen recently launched a unique face-detection technology, originally developed by automated audience measurement firm Quividi.

Cameras have been installed in Amscreen’s digital advertising displays that can scan a person’s face and determine their gender, age, date, time and volume of the viewers.
This is so adverts are served to the most appropriate audience.

Amscreen already has over 6,000 digital screens seen by a weekly audience of over 50 million people.

Even dating websites are starting to use facial recognition technology at this point.

Just check out what Match.com has been doing…

Popular dating site Match.com will use photos of users’ exes to determine which type of look they’re attracted to in order to find them a dating match.

The dating site has partnered with Three Day Rule, a Los Angeles-based matchmaking service, which has dating experts that act as personal dating concierges who hand-select and personally meet every potential match before making a formal introduction to clients, Mashable reports.

Members of Match.com will be able to upgrade to Three Day Rule’s premium service which will ask users to send pictures of exes to determine the type of look they’re attracted to. Three Day Rule will then use facial-recognition technology in an effort to help users find dates.

Our world is changing at a faster pace than ever before.

Powerful new technologies are literally being introduced every single day now, and the future is probably going to look far different than any of us are imagining.

But with all of this new technology, will we end up losing what little personal privacy that we have left?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

This article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse Blog.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

More from Activistpost




Secret Surveillance Battle Between Yahoo and US Government Revealed

 | The Intercept | Sept 11 2014

Update: The office of the Director of National Intelligence has released the declassified documents from the Yahoo litigation

More than 1,000 pages documenting a secret court battle between Yahoo and the government over warrantless surveillance will soon be released, the company said Thursday afternoon.

In 2007, Yahoo fought back against the government’s demand for information on certain overseas customers, saying that the request was over-broad and violated the constitution.

Yahoo’s challenge ultimately failed, knocked down by both the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, which oversees secret government spying) and its review court. The company then became one of the first to hand over information to the NSA’s PRISM program, which allowed the government access to records of internet users’ chats, emails, and search histories, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The targeted user was supposed to be foreign, but U.S. communications could still be swept up in the effort. Google, YouTube, AOL, and Skype were also among the companies that provided communications data to PRISM. According to the Washington Post, the government used the FISC court’s decision in the Yahoo case to pressure those others to comply.

In a statement on the company tumblr, Yahoo’s general counsel wrote that the government at one point threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 per day if it did not release the data.

Keep reading




HOW THE NSA HELPED TURKEY KILL KURDISH REBELS

Firstlook

NSA HELP TURKEYOn a December night in 2011, a terrible thing happened on Mount Cudi, near the Turkish-Iraqi border. One side described it as a massacre; the other called it an accident.

Several Turkish F-16 fighter jets bombed a caravan of villagers that night, apparently under the belief that they were guerilla fighters with the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The group was returning from northern Iraq and their mules were loaded down with fuel canisters and other cargo. They turned out to be smugglers, not PKK fighters. Some 34 people died in the attack.

An American Predator drone flying overhead had detected the group, prompting U.S. analysts to alert their Turkish partners.

The reconnaissance flight—which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2012—and its tragic consequences provided an important insight into the very tight working relationship between American and Turkish intelligence services in the fight against Kurdish separatists. Although the PKK is still considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, its image has been improved radically by its recent success in fighting ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria. PKK fighters—backed by U.S. airstrikes—are on the front lines against the jihadist movement there, and some in the West are now advocating arming the group and lifting its terrorist label.

Documents from the archive of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden thatDer Spiegel and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The U.S. government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows, and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, D.C., has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the future NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s.

During the Cold War, the U.S. used bases in Turkey primarily to conduct surveillance against the “underbelly of the Soviet beast,” as one NSA document puts it. Today, it targets Russia and Georgia from Turkish soil, collecting information in “near real time.” Since the outbreak of its civil war, Turkey’s neighbor Syria has become a central focus of NSA surveillance.

U.S. secret agents have also provided support to the Turkish government in its battle against the Kurdish separatists with the PKK for years. One top-secret NSA document from January 2007, for example, states that the agency provided Turkey with geographic data and recordings of telephone conversations of PKK members that appear to have helped Turkish agents capture or kill the targets. “Geolocations data and voice cuts from Kurdistan Worker Party communications which were passed to Turkey by NSA yielded actionable intelligence that led to the demise or capture of dozens of PKK members in the past year,” the document says.

The NSA has also infiltrated the Internet communications of PKK leaders living in Europe. Turkish intelligence helped pave the way to the success by providing the email addresses used by the targets.

The exchange of data went so far that the NSA even gave Turkey the location of the mobile phones of certain PKK leaders inside Turkey, providing updated information every six hours. During one military operation in Turkey in October 2005, the NSA delivered the location data every hour.

In May 2007, then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell signed a “memorandum” pledging deeper intelligence support for Turkey. A report prepared on the occasion of an April 2013 visit by a Turkish delegation to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade indicates that cooperation in targeting the PKK had “increased across the board” since then. That partnership has focused overwhelmingly on the PKK—NSA assets in Turkey collected more data on PKK last year than any other target except for Russia.

It resulted in the creation of a joint working group called the Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell, a team of American and Turkish specialists working together on projects that included finding targets for possible Turkish airstrikes against suspected PKK members. All the data for one entire wave of attacks carried out in December 2007 originated from this intelligence cell, according to a diplomatic cable from the WikiLeaks archive.

The deep working relationship has continued under Barack Obama’s presidency. In January 2012, U.S. officials proposed supporting Turkey in their fight against the PKK with diverse measures, including access to a state-of-the-art speech recognition system that enabled real-time analysis of intercepted conversations. The system can even search for keywords and identify the person speaking if a voice sample of that individual has been stored.

The NSA offered to install two such systems for Turkey’s intelligence service. In exchange, the Turks would provide voice samples for a number of Kurdish activists. Given its close and enduring relationship with the NSA, agency authorities wrote, they saw little risk in providing the technology. The only thing NSA experts didn’t feel comfortable entrusting to Turkey was the automatic keyword search function.

The partnership is managed through the NSA’s Special Liaison Activity Turkey (SUSLAT) office, which is based in Ankara. In addition to data, the Americans provide their Turkish partners with complete interception systems, decryption assistance, and training.

Using its internal “follow the money” reconnaissance unit, the NSA also tracks PKK’s cash flows in Europe. The Turks reciprocate by providing the U.S. agents with written transcripts of telephone calls made by PKK leaders, as well as intelligence insights about Russia and Ukraine.

turkey-leader

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, with two of his ministers

Burhan Ozbilici/AP

But in true “Spy v. Spy” fashion, Turkey is itself is the target of intense surveillance even as it cooperates closely with the U.S.— one NSA document describes the country bluntly as both a “partner and target.” The very politicians, military officials, and intelligence agency officials with whom U.S. officials work closely when conducting actions against the PKK are also considered legitimate spying targets by the NSA. To that end, in addition to the official SUSLAT liaison office and the intelligence workers it has cleared with the Turkish authorities, the U.S. has two secret branch offices, operating Special Collection Service listening stations in both Istanbul and the capital city of Ankara.

The degree to which the NSA surveils its partner is made clear in the National Intelligence Priorities Framework (NIPF), a document establishing U.S. intelligence priorities. Updated and presented to the president every six months, the NIPF shows a country’s “standing” from the perspective of the U.S. In the April 2013 edition, Turkey is listed as one of the countries most frequently targeted by Washington for surveillance, with U.S. intelligence services tasked with collecting data in 19 different areas of interest.

The document places Turkey at the level of Venezuela—and even ahead of Cuba—in terms of U.S. interest in intelligence collection. Information about the “leadership intention” of the Turkish government is given the second-highest priority rating, and information about the military and its infrastructure, foreign policy goals, and energy security are given the third-highest priority rating. The same framework also lists the PKK as an intelligence target, but it is given a much lower priority ranking.

Beginning in 2006, the NSA began a broad surveillance operation–a joint effort by several NSA units—aimed at infiltrating the computers of Turkey’s top political leaders. Internally, officials called the effort the “Turkish Surge Project Plan.” It took six months for the team to achieve its goal. One document celebrates the discovery of the “winning combination” and reports that collection had begun: “They achieved their first-ever computer network exploitation success against Turkish leadership!”

It goes without saying that the U.S. intelligence services also had Turkish diplomats in their sights, particularly those stationed in the United States. A classified document from 2010 states that the NSA surveilled the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., under a program codenamed “Powder.” A similar project for monitoring Turkey’s representation to the United Nations operated under the codename “Blackhawk.”

[read full post here]




Today’s Surveillance Society is Beyond Orwellian

Source:Big Think

Brad Templeton argues that we’re all a part of a surveillance apparatus that would be beyond the imagination George Orwell. The problem, he says, is the belief that privacy and security are mutually exclusive. Templeton is a Board Member and Former Chair of Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Track Chair for Computing at Singularity University.




Take Back Your Digital Privacy – For Free

Simon Black  |  Sovereign Man  |  Aug 15 2014

Spoleto, Italy

Back in March serious allegations came out of the Senate that the CIA was monitoring and even hacking Senate computers. They were denied vehemently at the time by CIA director John Brennan, who went so far as to say “that’s just beyond the scope of reason.”

Unsurprisingly, of course, the CIA has now come out saying that, yes, they did in fact spy on Senate aides’ computers. Oh, and that they’re sorry. Very sorry.

This is stuff that would have been a major scandal not too long ago, causing a public outcry for the heads of those responsible.

Today, it seems par for the course. It’s taken for granted that governments around the world, spearheaded by Uncle Sam, monitor communication via email, phone, social networks, webcam etc. en masse.

And nothing happens.

Despite Edward Snowden’s decision last year to basically condemn his life to that of a fugitive and branded “traitor” by shedding a major spotlight on just exactly how brazenly and extensively the US government invades the privacy of people all around the world, the reaction, at least in the US, was muted.

As the saying goes, ‘The dogs bark, but the caravan goes on.’

Even though government surveillance is becoming more and more invasive, there are ways to shield yourself from prying eyes.

If you agree with the premise that every person has the right to protect their personal matters and privacy from the Big Brother, there are free options to use out there that can ensure your communications, your digital presence and activity, and your data remain secure and private.

For calls, for example, the company Open Whisper Systems has developed apps that protect the privacy of your voice conversations.

If you’re an Android user, Red Phone is an open source app that secures your calls with end-to-end encryption. It uses your normal phone number and default dialer so you make calls just as you normally would, with no additional layers or steps necessary to protect your privacy.

To secure your text messages, the same company also has an app TextSecure that does just that.

If you’re an iPhone user, the developers of Red Phone and TextSecure took care of you too.

You can achieve the same result by using a free app called Signal – Private Messenger. Just as Red Phone, Signal makes end-to-end encrypted calls through Wi-Fi or mobile data, instead of your phone network.

Protecting your calls and texts from prying eyes and ears is just one piece of the puzzle if you want to take back your privacy.

There are so many different layers that you can protect—from your internet browsing to online searches, email, your data storage, payments etc.

We cover all these different aspects and options in our free Digital Privacy Black Paper.

I encourage you not only to implement the stuff we talk about in the Black Paper in order to take back your privacy, but to also share it with your friends and loved ones.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.




Snowden Reveals NSA Program Described as ‘Last Straw’ Before Leak

Lauren McCauley | Commondreams

(Photo: -lucky cat-/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0/flickr)

(Photo: -lucky cat-/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0/flickr)

Snowden tells investigative journalist James Bamford that NSA was behind 2012 internet blackout in Syria

In an in-depth interview published by Wired Magazine on Wednesday, Edward Snowden discloses what government activities proved to be the “last straw,” prompting the whistleblower to expose the depths of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance operation.

Speaking with investigative journalist James Bamford—who blew the whistle on a government eavesdropping program when stationed in Hawaii during the Vietnam War and later wrote a number of best-selling books about government secrecy and the NSA—Snowden reveals how a botched U.S. government hacking operation caused Syria’s 2012 internet blackout.

Bamford writes:

One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn’t know that the US government was responsible.

Snowden also revealed that, after the operatives realized what they had done, one jokingly said: “If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel.”

During his clandestine meeting with Bamford, Snowden disclosed for the first time the existence of another “Strangelovian cyberwarfare program,” codenamed MonsterMind, which he described as the ultimate threat to privacy.

Like other programs before it, MonsterMind automated the process of searching for the beginnings of a foreign cyberattack. Unique to the program, however, was that once a suspected attack was detected, MonsterMind would fire back with no human involvement. Snowden explained to Bamford that this is problematic because attacks are often routed through a third-party country. “You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?”

Further, for the system to work, the NSA must access virtually all “traffic flows,” or communications, coming in from overseas to people in the United States.

“And if we’re analyzing all traffic flows, that means we have to be intercepting all traffic flows,” said Snowden. “That means violating the Fourth Amendment, seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing. For everyone, all the time.”

Snowden spoke at length with Bamford about his motivations for blowing the whistle on the NSA, but said it was learning about these two particular government operations—along with the existence of the NSA’s massive data repository center located in Utah—that finally pushed him over the edge.

“Given the NSA’s new data storage mausoleum in Bluffdale, its potential to start an accidental war, and the charge to conduct surveillance on all incoming communications, Snowden believed he had no choice but to take his thumb drives and tell the world what he knew,” Bamford writes, adding that more NSA revelations will be forthcoming.

More from Commondreams




1984 and Our Modern Surveillance Society

Antony Funnell | ABC

Mass surveillance is now a part of our social, economic and political lives—governments and companies snoop on us like never before. But are we really heading toward an Orwellian future?

When George Orwell finished work on 1984 he was already a man without a future. Fading rapidly from tuberculosis, his most celebrated novel was to be his last.

He died shortly after its publication.

Yet more than half a century later, his dystopian vision of the future is alive and in rude good health.

The Shake & Stir theatre company is just completing a national tour of Australia with an adaptation overseen by noted director and dramaturge Michael Futcher.

The play wasn’t originally meant to tour, but for Futcher, its popularity with a contemporary audience is entirely understandable.

‘The world of 1984 is a perfect metaphor for today,’ he says. ‘People want to understand the nature of the type of power which is wielded in this story and how it relates to our own society. I think the audience just get it, they get the parallels very clearly, because they are so obvious these days.’

‘When we did the show here originally in 2012 we had packed houses pretty much every night and it was sold out almost before opening night. The whole season was sold out.’

As Futcher points out, sales of the novel on Amazon.com increased last year by nearly 9,000 per cent following the revelation by US whistleblower Edward Snowden that US security organisations—in particular the NSA—were engaged in global mass surveillance on an unprecedented scale.

‘All of this space that we thought was open to us and was free for us to express ourselves in, suddenly seems very closed,’ says futurist and digital culture analyst Mark Pesce, who believes the Snowden expose has not only made 1984more relevant, but also caused many people to reassess the nature and direction of our digital world.

‘For 29 years after 1984 we really thought we’d dodged a bullet, that western democracies were safe, powerful and we were all living in freedom. Then last year when the Snowden revelations came out it started to become clearer and clearer that in fact 1984 wasn’t far off the mark; that the NSA and its associated organisations were all colluding in massive wide-scale surveillance of populations and specific targeted surveillance of world leaders.’

More troubling still, according to Pesce, is the fact that the governments cooperating with the United States in wholesale global surveillance include Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia—all nations with strong democratic and anti-totalitarian traditions.

‘Everything that we projected onto the Stasi in East Germany as being this ultimate totalitarian state with its monitoring of the population has in fact become reflected back to us in the scale of what the NSA is doing.’

Complicating matters further, Pesce says, is the fact that the economic and social basis for much of our modern digital existence is now centred firmly around some form of surveillance; a social media platform like Facebook, for instance, only works the way it does because its users allow the company to trawl their personal data in return for recommendation-based services.

We may not always recognise this more benign form of surveillance for what it is, but Pesce believes its prevalence complicates our understanding of the difference between healthy data-tracking and unhealthy surveillance.

‘Younger people share and share freely because this is the culture they’ve grown up in. Folks who are a little bit older, they’re new to it and they do it, but it’s something that they learned when they were a little older and they maybe have a bit more critical distance around it.’

‘That critical distance can range from wide open “yes, I’m going to share everything” all the way to tinfoil: “I don’t even own a mobile phone”. You meet people like this, who are really that scared of the surveillance aspects that they don’t own a mobile. You can’t say that there’s any one right reaction to this. This is all still very new. In some ways we are all learning together.’

‘What we haven’t really had is that moment of critical distancing. We look the other way when Google is watching us, but when the government is watching us it makes our blood run cold, and in this last year, more and more people have had that moment of blood running cold.’

However, Pesce sees a growing tension developing between those involved in surveillance for commercial reasons and those conducting surveillance on people’s digital lives on the grounds of state security.

‘This is a big dilemma, because surveillance for Google has a strong commercial component and that places them at loggerheads with the government where there’s a security component … So there’s a fundamental tension there between the needs of commerce and the needs of state security.’

‘You could imagine in some weird science fiction future that the NSA will be getting its data feed from Google. Oh actually, it turns out that the NSA was tapping Google’s data feed, that’s right! Or you could imagine a different science-fiction future where Google would be getting the NSA data feed in order to provide you with better products and services. Already half of that very weird science-fiction future has been proven to be the case. So you do have this situation where, although their aims are very different, it’s possible for the state to subvert the aims of commerce for its own ends.’

There are clear signs of pushback from social networks and communications providers against being co-opted into an Orwellian security apparatus, however.

In June this year global communications company Vodafone went public with its disquiet over the encroaching nature of state surveillance. The organisation released what it called a Law Enforcement Disclosure Report accusing governments of all persuasions of pressuring online service providers into surveillance cooperation.

Speaking in London, Vodafone’s Group Privacy Officer, Stephen Deadman, called on governments to be more open and transparent in their dealings with telecommunications operators; he also confirmed long-held suspicions that some governments operated on a ‘direct access’ basis when dealing with telcos. That is, they’ve set-up covert systems which allow them to access the communications data of citizens without first seeking a court order or warrant, and without even notifying the telco in question when the harvesting of personal communications data is taking place.

For legal reasons, Vodafone refused to name those governments involved in such a practice, but said at least six were employing the direct access approach.

‘Technology companies don’t want to be the proxy for government and then to take the blame for whatever surveillance is occurring, no matter how legitimate it is,’ says data specialist Rob Hillard, a managing partner with Deloitte Consulting Australia.

Hillard speaks of increasing levels of frustration among social networks over the restrictions they face which prevent them from informing their users/customers about the nature of government surveillance activity.

He argues that in order to fully understand the true drivers of the 21st century surveillance society, you have to focus not just on the tracking, but on what’s being tracked.

‘Data is all around us and we are constantly looking for ways to join it together. While we aren’t being monitored visually, we are increasingly giving away large amounts of personal information in terms of our location,’ he says ‘This isn’t a new phenomenon. The thing that’s changed is that the volume of information that we are putting out about ourselves has created new opportunities. Then the question is “where is the balance?”’

While describing himself as a digital optimist, Hillard admits feeling troubled by last year’s Snowden/NSA revelations and the implications they present for the future of personal privacy and freedom.

To better understand just how intermeshed our modern lives are with tracking and big data, Hillard recently set himself a unique task: to try and live for an entire day without leaving a data footprint. It was an exercise he dubbed his1984 challenge.

‘My life is so integrated with the digital world, and I really wanted to see whether it was possible for me to completely disconnect and still live a productive life,’ he says.

‘I very much benefit from the digital world in which I live, it makes me more productive. I believe that my data is used overwhelmingly for the purposes for which I want it to be used—to my benefit and to society’s benefit. But I also want to know that it’s in my control. So I set out to live for a day creating the smallest possible footprint that I could.’

Problems began to arise almost immediately: ‘One of the things I got caught out on was when I logged in to work. I initially avoided using services that touched the internet,’ he says. ‘But, of course, like most people, my PC is connected to a whole lot of cloud services and automatically just the act of logging on left a digital crumb of when I logged on and what I did.’

For Hillard, the clear message is that it isn’t all about government, that citizens need to develop a better understanding of their own digital behaviour and the importance of the data they generate.

‘Many of George Orwell’s fears are coming true,’ he argued in a recent blog post, before adding: ‘The cause is not an oppressive government but rather an eagerness by the population as a whole to move services onto new platforms without demanding the same level of protection that their previous custodians have provided for a couple of centuries or more.’

Read the full post here.




Classified Documents Show US Government’s Flawed “Secret Terrorist-Tracking System”

Nadia Prupis | Commondreams

(Image: The Intercept)

(Image: The Intercept)

Nearly half of the U.S. government’s terrorist suspects have no connection to any known terrorist groups, The Intercept reported on Tuesday.

Publishing two classified, unredacted documents related to the White House’s “secret terrorist-tracking system,” The Intercept journalists, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, report that of the 680,000 people listed on the government’s widely-shared watchlist, more than 40 percent are defined as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” The cumulative amount of people who are in the database for no reason adds up to 280,000 — more than the total number of al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah suspects combined.

The U.S. government adds new names or additional information on existing names to the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) at a rate of 900 records each day, using biometric data like fingerprints, iris scans, and facial recognition in addition to requests for data from various agencies, while the CIA uses its secretive Hydra program to collect additional information on foreign suspects living overseas.

The TSDB is shared among the intelligence community, governments, and law enforcement agencies at the local and international level, as well as with private contractors. The documents are released as the no-fly list hits an all-time high of 47,000, with President Barack Obama adding more names than George W. Bush, including Bolivian President Evo Morales and the head of Lebanon’s parliament.

In 2013, the Obama administration “quietly approved a substantial expansion” of the watchlist system, according to documents leaked to The Intercept earlier this year by a “source within the intelligence community.” The guideline for adding names to the list “requires neither ‘concrete facts’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence’ to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist,” the documents stated. It was developed in secret meetings by representatives of the U.S. intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI.

Many of the people on the list are individuals who live or have recently applied for citizenship in the U.S., while the baseless adding of names has been known by government watchdogs for years. On Monday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and other national offices for illegally denying citizenship to Muslim immigrants, using a secret “national security concern” classification to deny or delay their applications for lawful residency and adding them to the watchlist without their knowledge instead.

“In 2013 alone, the watchlisting community nominated 468,749 individuals to the TSDB,” the ACLU complaint states. “In 2009, the Government Accountability Office found that 35 percent of the nominations to the TSDB were outdated, and that tens of thousands of names had been placed on the list without an adequate factual basis.”

In a statement released by the National Counterrorism Center, which prepared the TSDB documents, the center called the watchlisting system a “critical layer in our counterrorism defenses” and claimed it was superior to the pre-9/11 tracking process, The Interceptreported.

Despite the troubling revelations of these methods, the TSDB is only one component of a larger database called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), which targets even more people based on even less information than the TSDB, The Intercept said. TIDE shares information with the U.S. intelligence community, units from the Special Operations Command, and domestic law enforcement agencies such as the New York City Police Department and other local departments.

As of 2013, there are more than one million names in the TIDE database. More than 240 “nominations” are processed daily.

In the documents, the government justifies the TIDE and TSDB programs as “necessary for our nation’s counterterrorism mission.”

Additional details revealed by The Intercept include:

  • 16,000 people, including 1,200 Americans, have been classified as “selectees” who are targeted for enhanced screenings at airports and border crossings.
  • There are 611,000 men on the main terrorist watchlist and 39,000 women.
  • The top five U.S. cities represented on the main watchlist for “known or suspected terrorists” are New York; Dearborn, Mich.; Houston; San Diego; and Chicago. At 96,000 residents, Dearborn is much smaller than the other cities in the top five, suggesting that its significant Muslim population—40 percent of its population is of Arab descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—has been disproportionately targeted for watchlisting.
  • The top “nominating agencies” responsible for placing people on the government’s watchlists are: the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, told The Intercept “[the] fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad.”

The CIA and the White House declined to comment on the article. However, Scahill noted this via Twitter just after The Intercept story went live:

US government, pissed we were publishing our story, tried to undermine us by leaking it to other news organization right before we published

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Australia, ‘Better Slave than Dead’

Jon Rappoport | Activist Post

Pine Gap, Australia

Pine Gap, Australia

Remember the name “Pine Gap.” It lies at the heart of this story.
I’ve always thought Australians were more blunt and forthright than Americans. I don’t know if that’s true, but the current debate about total surveillance in the Land Down Under is cutting to the bone.

The government wants to tax the Australian people so it can use giant telecoms to collect wall to wall “metadata” on them. (Pay us so we can spy on you.)

The Age newspaper reports on an Australian senate inquiry into the plan:

“ASIO [the national security service of Australia] chief David Irvine told the inquiry last week that increased data retention powers were needed to tackle terrorism and that ‘the public should not be concerned that there’s going to be gross misuse’ of them.

“‘For the life of me I cannot understand why it is correct for all your privacy to be invaded for a commercial purpose, and not for me to do so to save your life,” he [Irvine] said.

Blunt. That’s what I’m talking about. Notice Irvine’s use of “me”. He’s personally going to save Australia.

And Irvine assumes no one in Australia cares about corporations profiling them seven ways from Sunday, in order to sell them products, and therefore, why not let the government invade their lives?

American politicians rarely let the cat out of the bag in that way. Primped by PR minions, they circle vaguely around a point, and spout empty generalities until everyone falls asleep.

Not this man Irvine. He lets loose. He may as well have been saying, “You morons have already surrendered yourselves to corporations, so let me come in and finish the job.”

Infowars.com reports on another gem dropped at the senate inquiry: “One so called Liberal senator, Ian MacDonald, agreed, saying that he would ‘rather be alive and lack privacy than dead with my privacy intact’.”

Terrific. Come right out with it. Better a slave than dead. ‘Yes, we’re going take away your privacy and freedom, but you’ll still be breathing.’

In an US senate committee room, you’d hear something like this instead: “We’ve introduced very specific algorithms that ensure privacy protections are handled with sensitive concerns for all citizens, in accordance with our long-standing American traditions…”

Former NSA attorney Stewart Baker, a visiting meddler from the US, testified to the Australian Senate in language he would never use in America. He said the war against terror was being obstructed by ”an unholy alliance of business and privacy activists.”

Obviously, Baker was there to help expand American-Australian sharing of spy-data. NSA sniffs a new data-mining program anywhere in the world, and they want in on it.

But there is more. Much more.

Richard Tanter provides context in his article, “The US Military Presence in Australia.” (The Asia-Pacific Journal, Nov. 11, 2013)

“Australia is now more deeply embedded strategically and militarily in US global military planning, especially in Asia, than ever before…[there is an] integration of Australian military forces organizationally and technologically with US forces, and a rapid and extensive expansion of an American military presence in Australia itself.”

“[An] Australian government mantra, usually from the Defence Minister, has been that ‘There are no US bases in this country.’… This is…in fact a complete misrepresentation of strategic reality, which is in fact one of fundamental and inherent asymmetrical cooperation between the United States and Australia.”

Tanter goes on to describe, in detail, a number of military bases in Australia which are “joint access” for the US and Australia.

The glittering crown jewel is Pine Gap.

“The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap outside Alice Springs remains the most important US intelligence base outside the US itself.”

Underline that statement.

In addition to monitoring movements of missiles in Russia and China, and detecting missile launches, “Pine Gap, and the wider US global signals intelligence system of which it is a part, now integrates surveillance and monitoring of global internet and email traffic and mobile telephone use.”

Corollary: without Pine Gap, the NSA has no existing way to spy on the world.

“Pine Gap undoubtedly has a major role in providing signals intelligence in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“This has now extended to US counter-terrorism operations, including the provision of data facilitating drone strike targeting in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen in close to real time.”

Thus, Australia, whether it likes it or not, is playing a major role in US drone attacks.

“Since May 2013, the role of Pine Gap’s principal, signals intelligence gathering and processing role has returned to the world’s front pages courtesy of the extraordinarily courageous whistle blowing by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.”

Snowden revealed that Pine Gap is one primary base from which the now-infamous NSA PRISM spying program operates.

Pine Gap is absolutely crucial to US military and intelligence agendas around the world.

It a vital link in NSA’s world spying operation.

Tanter remarks that, since Pine Gap is used to collate data directing US drone killing-strikes, the Australian government is legally culpable in those killings.

Suppose, in Australia, a significant political movement arose, with the objective of shutting down Pine Gap or severely limiting its functions. I don’t mean some protestors on the streets now and then. I mean a large, visible, continuing social and political force.

Now we have the bottom-line reason the Australian government, with heavy-handed encouragement from the US, wants to increase, vastly, spying on all its citizens: no such political movement must be allowed to grow.

The embrace between the Pentagon, the NSA, and the Australian government is one of the greatest priorities of US leadership.

Therefore, Australia must go along.

Jon Rappoport is the author of two explosive collections, The Matrix Revealed and Exit From the Matrix, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at www.nomorefakenews.com

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Top Journalists and Lawyers: NSA Surveillance Threatens Press Freedom and Right to Counsel

| Firstlook

Photo Credit: Human Rights Watch

Photo Credit: Human Rights Watch

To do their jobs properly, journalists and lawyers sometimes need to be able to keep information private from the government.

And because what journalists and lawyers do is so integral to safeguarding democracy and basic rights, the United States has traditionally recognized their need for privileged communications.

But the virtually inescapable government surveillance exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has impaired if not eliminated the ability of news-gatherers and attorneys to communicate confidentially with their sources and their clients, according to a new report by two rights advocacy groups.

The report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union is based on an exhaustive new survey of journalists and lawyers working in the areas of national security and intelligence. Both groups of professionals describe a substantial erosion in their ability to do their constitutionally-protected jobs.

Not even the strongest versions of NSA reform being considered in Congress come anywhere close to addressing the chilling effects on basic freedoms that the new survey describes.

“If the US fails to address these concerns promptly and effectively,” report author  G. Alex Sinha writes, “it could do serious, long-term damage to the fabric of democracy in the country.”

Even before the Snowden revelations, reporters trying to cover important defense, intelligence and counter-terrorism issues were reeling from the effects of unprecedented secrecy and attacks on whistleblowers.

But newfound awareness of the numerous ways the government can follow electronic trails –  previously considered the stuff of paranoid fantasy — has led sources to grow considerably more fearful.

“It used to be that leak investigations didn’t get far because it was too hard to uncover the source, but with digital tools it’s just much easier, and sources know that,” said Washington Postcontributor Barton Gellman, one of the 46 journalists interviewed for the survey.

Sources are “afraid of the entire weight of the federal government coming down on them,” New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer is quoted as saying. “The added layer of fear makes it so much harder. I can’t count the number of people afraid of the legal implications [of speaking to me].”

Jonathan Landay, a McClatchy Newspapers reporter covering national security and intelligence, told Human Rights Watch that some sources have grown reluctant to talk to him about anything, “even something like, ‘Please explain the rationale for this foreign policy.’ That’s not even dealing with classified material; that’s just educating readers.”

Methods reporters use to avoid surveillance are time-consuming, difficult, off-putting  to sources — and ultimately futile, the surveyed journalists reported. “If the government wants to get you, they will,” Washington Post reporter Adam Goldman said.

But when journalists can’t do their jobs, the effect is felt well beyond the profession alone. Insufficiently informed journalism can “undermine effective democratic participation and governance,” the report states.

“What makes government better is our work exposing information,” Washington Post reporter Dana Priest is quoted as saying.  ”It’s not just that it’s harder for me to do my job, though it is. It also makes the country less safe. Institutions work less well, and it increases the risk of corruption. Secrecy works against all of us.”

The report’s author also interviewed five current or former U.S. officials with knowledge of the surveillance programs. “They generally defended the programs as legal and important for national security. They also showed varying degrees of concern for or interest in the impact that the programs might have on the work of journalists and attorneys,” Sinha wrote. “Most were skeptical that the programs have affected journalists and did not appear to have considered seriously the possible effect on attorneys.”

In fact, Bob Deitz, who served as the National Security Agency’s general counsel from 1998 to 2006, was apparently pleased to hear surveillance was making certain kinds of reporting more difficult. “Leaking is against the law. Good. I want criminals to be deterred,” he told the report’s author. “Does a cop chill a burglar’s inclination to burgle? Yes.”

But New York Times reporter Scott Shane disputed that analogy in his interview: “Burglary is not part of a larger set of activities protected by the Constitution, and at the heart of our democracy,” he said. “Unfortunately, that mindset is sort of the problem.”

Lawyers, meanwhile, expressed concerns that U.S. surveillance comprised a violation of the attorney-client confidentiality and could stifle their clients. The Sixth-Amendment-protected right to counsel in criminal prosecutions is traditionally considered to include the ability to communicate freely.

Many of the 42 attorneys interviewed for the survey reported finding it harder to build trust with clients — particularly those who are abroad, and aware of the extent of NSA surveillance.

One lawyer described feeling duty-bound to warn her clients. “Given the now publicly admitted revelations that there is no privacy in communications, including those between attorneys and their clients, I feel ethically obligated to tell all clients that I can’t guarantee anything [they] say is privileged … or will remain confidential,” said Linda Moreno, a defense attorney specializing in national security and terrorism cases.

[read full post here]




Does Uncle Sam Have a God Complex?

Norman Solomon| Commondreams

NSA surveillance proliferates in a context that goes well beyond spying.' (Image: Public domain)

NSA surveillance proliferates in a context that goes well beyond spying.’ (Image: Public domain)

As a matter of faith, some people believe that God can see and hear everything. But as a matter of fact, the U.S. government now has the kind of surveillance powers formerly attributed only to a supreme being.

Top “national security” officials in Washington now have the determination and tech prowess to keep tabs on billions of people. No one elected Uncle Sam to play God. But a dire shortage of democratic constraints has enabled the U.S. surveillance state to keep expanding with steely resolve.

By the time Edward Snowden used NSA documents to expose—beyond any doubt—a global surveillance dragnet, the situation had deteriorated so badly because the Bush and Obama administrations were able to dismiss earlier warnings to the public as little more than heresy.

Eight years ago, in the book “State of War,” New York Times reporter James Risen devoted a chapter to the huge expansion of surveillance. A secret decision by President Bush “has opened up America’s domestic telecommunications network to the NSA in unprecedented and deeply troubling new ways, and represents a radical shift in the accepted policies and practices of the modern U.S. intelligence community,” Risen wrote.

Risen added: “The NSA is now tapping into the heart of the nation’s telephone network through direct access to key telecommunications switches that carry many of America’s daily phone calls and e-mail messages.”

More details on the surveillance state came in 2008 with James Bamford’s book “The Shadow Factory,” which illuminated the National Security Agency’s program for “eavesdropping on America.” And in August of 2012—nearly 10 months before Snowden’s revelations began —filmmaker Laura Poitras released a mini-documentary on the New York Times website about the NSA’s mass surveillance program.

All three journalists relied on whistleblowers who balked at the NSA’s virtual mission to see and hear everything. Both books (especially “State of War”) depended on information from unnamed sources. The short documentary focused on a public whistleblower — former NSA executive William Binney, who continues to speak out.

Testifying to a committee of the German parliament in Berlin two weeks ago, Binney—whose 30 years at the NSA included work as a high-level intelligence official—said that the NSA has a “totalitarian mentality.”

Days later, speaking at a conference in London, Binney explained: “At least 80 percent of fiber-optic cables globally go via the U.S. This is no accident and allows the U.S. to view all communication coming in. At least 80 percent of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the U.S. The NSA lies about what it stores.”

Since last summer, a backup source of strength for the voices of Binney, Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe and other NSA whistleblowers—the fact that Snowden has provided the public with NSA documents—is exactly what has enraged U.S. officials who want to maintain and escalate their surveillance power. Because of those unveiled documents, clarity about what the NSA is really doing has fueled opposition.

NSA surveillance proliferates in a context that goes well beyond spying. The same mentality that claims the right to cross all borders for surveillance—using the latest technologies to snoop on the most intimate communications and private actions of people across the globe — is also insisting on the prerogative to cross borders with the latest technologies to kill.

When a drone or cruise missile implements an assumed right to snuff out a life, without a semblance of due process, the presidential emulation of divine intervention is implicit.

But, in military terms, dominating the world is a prohibitively expensive goal. In the digital age, surveillance has emerged as a cost-effective way to extend the U.S. government’s global reach and put its intelligence capacities on steroids—while tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in annual revenues go to corporate contractors servicing the NSA, CIA and other agencies of the military-industrial-surveillance complex.

So the trend line continues to move in the wrong direction. Speaking last month at a news conference that launched ExposeFacts.org (part of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where I work), Binney said that in recent years the NSA’s surveillance activity has “only gotten worse.” He added: “I mean it’s almost in everything that you do. If you do anything electronically, they’re in it and they’re watching you.”

The information being collected is so vast that NSA operatives face a huge challenge of figuring out how to sift through it on such a large scale — “because they have to manually look at this data,” Binney said. “But the point is, they’re setting the stage for this to continue to the point where everybody could be monitored almost constantly throughout the day. That is an oppressive, suppressive state.”

Since last summer, revelations about NSA programs have been so profuse and complex that it’s difficult to gain an overview, to see the surveillance state’s toxic forest for the digital trees. But the macro picture has to do with a mind-blowing agenda for monitoring the people of the world.

“For me, the most significant revelation is the ambition of the United States government and its four English-speaking allies to literally eliminate privacy worldwide, which is not hyperbole,” journalist Glenn Greenwald said at a news conference three months ago. “The goal of the United States government is to collect and store every single form of electronic communication that human beings have with one another and give themselves the capacity to monitor and analyze those communications.”

Such a goal, formerly reserved for the more fundamentalist versions of God, is now firmly entrenched at the top of the U.S. government — and at the top of corporate America. As Greenwald pointed out, “There almost is no division between the private sector and the NSA, or the private sector and the Pentagon, when it comes to the American ‘national security’ state. They really are essentially one.”

Now that’s the kind of monotheism the world can do without.

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Newly Revealed Snowden Docs Expose Near Global Reach of NSA

Andrea Germanos | Commondreams

(Photo cropped from EFF Photos via flickr)

(Photo cropped from EFF Photos via flickr)

The U.S. National Security Agency was given legal authority to gather communications covering nearly the entire globe, the Washington Post has revealed.

A 2010 classified document leaked by Edward Snowden and obtained by the Post shows that the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, gave the NSA allowance under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to intercept information that “concerns foreign powers” in all countries except the four that, with the United States, make up the “Five Eyes” alliance—the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The list of the 193 countries includes Afghanistan, Bolivia, France, Israel, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Palestinian Authority.

In addition to the list of nearly every country, the FISA court certificate granted NSA power to gather foreign intelligence on entities including the United Nations, the the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and PetroCaribe.

The Post notes that the agency “is not necessarily targeting all the countries or organizations” but “has only been given authority to do so.”

The Post also points to another document it obtained—an affidavit by then-NSA head Keith Alexander in support of the FISA certificate—which states that

the NSA believes that foreigners who will be targeted for collection “possess, are expected to receive and/or are likely to communicate foreign intelligence information concerning these foreign powers.”

“That language could allow for surveillance of academics, journalists and human rights researchers,” the Post reports.

“These documents show both the potential scope of the government’s surveillance activities and the exceedingly modest role the court plays in overseeing them,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Post.

Privacy advocates have long highlighted this lack of real oversight by the FISA court, whichoperates in secret and, as Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst with the ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project noted in a blog post last year, whose “proceedings are ex parte (that is, there is no adversarial proceeding, the court only hears from one side).” He adds:

When a court issues an order in a normal adversarial court proceeding, one side in that case always has an incentive to watch the other like a hawk, and if the court’s orders are not carried out the judge is sure to hear about it from the aggrieved party. That is even true of criminal warrants that are issued ex parte; if the police exceed the scope of a warrant, a defendant can have any resulting evidence thrown out in court. But in the netherworld of the NSA, the FISA Court appears to be sending its orders into a black hole, with no way of finding out whether they are being complied with. Except through self-reporting.

In addition, Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler writes, the Post reporting belies suggestions made by the U.S. government “since day one, that Section 702 was narrowly deployed, not available to use against all but our 4 closest spying allies.”

_______________________

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From Ancient Egypt to Modern America, Spying Has Always Been Used to Crush Dissent

Source: Washington’s Blog

What Americans Need to Know About the History of Spying

Americans are told that we live in a “post-9/11 reality” that requires mass surveillance.

But the NSA was already conducting mass surveillance prior to 9/11 … including surveillance on the 9/11 hijackers.

And top security experts – including the highest-level government officials and the top university experts – say that mass surveillance actually increases terrorism and hurts security.

So why is the government conducting mass surveillance on the American people?

5,000 Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always Aimed at Crushing Dissent

For thousands of years, tyrants have spied on their own people in order to crush dissent.

Keith Laidler – a PhD anthropologist, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a past member of the Scientific Exploration Society – explains:

The rise of city states and empires … meant that each needed to know not only the disposition and morale of their enemy, but also the loyalty and general sentiment of their own population.

The Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence and Security notes:

Espionage is one of the oldest, and most well documented, political and military arts. The rise of the great ancient civilizations, beginning 6,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, begat institutions and persons devoted to the security and preservation of their ruling regimes.

***

Early Egyptian pharaohs [some 5,000 years ago] employed agents of espionage to ferret-out disloyal subject and to locate tribes that could be conquered and enslaved.

***

The Roman Empire possessed a fondness for the practice of political espionage. Spies engaged in both foreign and domestic political operations, gauging the political climate of the Empire and surrounding lands by eavesdropping in the Forum or in public market spaces. Several ancient accounts, especially those of the A.D. first century, mention the presence of a secret police force, the frumentarii . By the third century, Roman authors noted the pervasiveness and excessive censorship of the secret police forces, likening them to an authoritative force or an occupational army.

The BBC notes:

In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church was more powerful than most governments – and it had a powerful surveillance network to match.

French Bishop Bernard Gui was a noted author and one of the leading architects of the Inquisition in the late 13th and early 14th Centuries. For 15 years, he served as head inquisitor of Toulouse, where he convicted more than 900 individuals of heresy.

A noted author and historian, Gui was best known for the Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Depravity, written in 1323-24, in which he outlined the means for identifying, interrogating and punishing heretics.

The U.S. Supreme Court noted in Stanford v. Texas (1965):

While the Fourth Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] was most immediately the product of contemporary revulsion against a regime of writs of assistance, its roots go far deeper. Its adoption in the Constitution of this new Nation reflected the culmination in England a few years earlier of a struggle against oppression which had endured for centuries. The story of that struggle has been fully chronicled in the pages of this Court’s reports, and it would be a needless exercise in pedantry to review again the detailed history of the use of general warrants as instruments of oppression from the time of the Tudors, through the Star Chamber, the Long Parliament, the Restoration, and beyond.

What is significant to note is that this history is largely a history of conflict between the Crown and the press. It was in enforcing the laws licensing the publication of literature and, later, in prosecutions for seditious libel, that general warrants were systematically used in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. In Tudor England, officers of the Crown were given roving commissions to search where they pleased in order to suppress and destroy the literature of dissent, both Catholic and Puritan. In later years, warrants were sometimes more specific in content, but they typically authorized of all persons connected of the premises of all persons connected with the publication of a particular libel, or the arrest and seizure of all the papers of a named person thought to be connected with a libel.

By “libel”, the court is referring to a critique of the British government which the King or his ministers didn’t like … they would label such criticism “libel” and then seize all of the author’s papers.

The Supreme Court provided interesting historical details in the case of Marcus v. Search Warrant (1961):

The use by government of the power of search and seizure as an adjunct to a system for the suppression of objectionable publications … was a principal instrument for the enforcement of the Tudor licensing system. The Stationers’ Company was incorporated in 1557 to help implement that system, and was empowered

“to make search whenever it shall please them in any place, shop, house, chamber, or building or any printer, binder or bookseller whatever within our kingdom of England or the dominions of the same of or for any books or things printed, or to be printed, and to seize, take hold, burn, or turn to the proper use of the aforesaid community, all and several those books and things which are or shall be printed contrary to the form of any statute, act, or proclamation, made or to be made. . . .

An order of counsel confirmed and expanded the Company’s power in 1566, and the Star Chamber reaffirmed it in 1586 by a decree

“That it shall be lawful for the wardens of the said Company for the time being or any two of the said Company thereto deputed by the said wardens, to make search in all workhouses, shops, warehouses of printers, booksellers, bookbinders, or where they shall have reasonable cause of suspicion, and all books [etc.] . . . contrary to . . . these present ordinances to stay and take to her Majesty’s use. . . . ”

Books thus seized were taken to Stationers’ Hall where they were inspected by ecclesiastical officers, who decided whether they should be burnt. These powers were exercised under the Tudor censorship to suppress both Catholic and Puritan dissenting literature.

Each succeeding regime during turbulent Seventeenth Century England used the search and seizure power to suppress publications. James I commissioned the ecclesiastical judges comprising the Court of High Commission

“to enquire and search for . . . all heretical, schismatical and seditious books, libels, and writings, and all other books, pamphlets and portraitures offensive to the state or set forth without sufficient and lawful authority in that behalf, . . . and the same books [etc.] and their printing presses themselves likewise to seize and so to order and dispose of them . . . as they may not after serve or be employed for any such unlawful use. . . .”

The Star Chamber decree of 1637, reenacting the requirement that all books be licensed, continued the broad powers of the Stationers’ Company to enforce the licensing laws. During the political overturn of the 1640′s, Parliament on several occasions asserted the necessity of a broad search and seizure power to control printing. Thus, an order of 1648 gave power to the searchers

“to search in any house or place where there is just cause of suspicion that Presses are kept and employed in the printing of Scandalous and lying Pamphlets, . . . [and] to seize such scandalous and lying pamphlets as they find upon search. . . .”

The Restoration brought a new licensing act in 1662. Under its authority, “messengers of the press” operated under the secretaries of state, who issued executive warrants for the seizure of persons and papers. These warrants, while sometimes specific in content, often gave the most general discretionary authority. For example, a warrant to Roger L’Estrange, the Surveyor of the Press, empowered him to “seize all seditious books and libels and to apprehend the authors, contrivers, printers, publishers, and dispersers of them,” and to

search any house, shop, printing room, chamber, warehouse, etc. for seditious, scandalous or unlicensed pictures, books, or papers, to bring away or deface the same, and the letter press, taking away all the copies. . . .]”

***

Although increasingly attacked, the licensing system was continued in effect for a time even after the Revolution of 1688, and executive warrants continued to issue for the search for and seizure of offending books. The Stationers’ Company was also ordered

“to make often and diligent searches in all such places you or any of you shall know or have any probable reason to suspect, and to seize all unlicensed, scandalous books and pamphlets. . . .”

And even when the device of prosecution for seditious libel replaced licensing as the principal governmental control of the press, it too was enforced with the aid of general warrants — authorizing either the arrest of all persons connected with the publication of a particular libel and the search of their premises or the seizure of all the papers of a named person alleged to be connected with the publication of a libel.

And see this.

General warrants were largely declared illegal in Britain in 1765. But the British continued to use general warrants in the American colonies. In fact, the Revolutionary War was largely launched to stop the use of general warrants in the colonies. King George gave various excuses of why general warrants were needed for the public good, of course … but such excuses were all hollow.

The New York Review of Books notes that the American government did not start to conduct mass surveillance against the American people until long after the Revolutionary War ended … but once started, the purpose was to crush dissent:

In the United States, political spying by the federal government began in the early part of the twentieth century, with the creation of the Bureau of Investigation in the Department of Justice on July 1, 1908. In more than one sense, the new agency was a descendant of the surveillance practices developed in France a century earlier, since it was initiated by US Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte, a great nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, who created it during a Congressional recess. Its establishment was denounced by Congressman Walter Smith of Iowa, who argued that “No general system of spying upon and espionage of the people, such as has prevailed in Russia, in France under the Empire, and at one time in Ireland, should be allowed to grow up.”

Nonetheless, the new Bureau became deeply engaged in political surveillance during World War I when federal authorities sought to gather information on those opposing American entry into the war and those opposing the draft. As a result of this surveillance, many hundreds of people were prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act and the 1918 Sedition Act for the peaceful expression of opinion about the war and the draft.

But it was during the Vietnam War that political surveillance in the United States reached its peak. Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and, to an even greater extent, Richard Nixon, there was a systematic effort by various agencies, including the United States Army, to gather information on those involved in anti-war protests. Millions of Americans took part in such protests and the federal government—as well as many state and local agencies—gathered enormous amounts of information on them. Here are just three of the numerous examples of political surveillance in that era:

  • In the 1960s in Rochester, New York, the local police department launched Operation SAFE (Scout Awareness for Emergency). It involved twenty thousand boy scouts living in the vicinity of Rochester. They got identification cards marked with their thumb prints. On the cards were the telephone numbers of the local police and the FBI. The scouts participating in the program were given a list of suspicious activities that they were to report.
  • In 1969, the FBI learned that one of the sponsors of an anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC, was a New York City-based organization, the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee, that chartered buses to take protesters to the event. The FBI visited the bank where the organization maintained its account to get photocopies of the checks written to reserve places on the buses and, thereby, to identify participants in the demonstration. One of the other federal agencies given the information by the FBI was the Internal Revenue Service.

***

The National Security Agency was involved in the domestic political surveillance of that era as well. Decades before the Internet, under the direction of President Nixon, the NSA made arrangements with the major communications firms of the time such as RCA Global and Western Union to obtain copies of telegrams. When the matter came before the courts, the Nixon Administration argued that the president had inherent authority to protect the country against subversion. In a unanimous decision in 1972, however, the US Supreme Court rejected the claim that the president had the authority to disregard the requirement of the Fourth Amendment for a judicial warrant.

***

Much of the political surveillance of the 1960s and the 1970s and of the period going back to World War I consisted in efforts to identify organizations that were critical of government policies, or that were proponents of various causes the government didn’t like, and to gather information on their adherents. It was not always clear how this information was used. As best it is possible to establish, the main use was to block some of those who were identified with certain causes from obtaining public employment or some kinds of private employment. Those who were victimized in this way rarely discovered the reason they had been excluded.

Efforts to protect civil liberties during that era eventually led to the destruction of many of these records, sometimes after those whose activities were monitored were given an opportunity to examine them. In many cases, this prevented surveillance records from being used to harm those who were spied on. Yet great vigilance by organizations such as the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought a large number of court cases challenging political surveillance, was required to safeguard rights. The collection of data concerning the activities of US citizens did not take place for benign purposes.

***

Between 1956 and 1971, the FBI operated a program known as COINTELPRO, for Counter Intelligence Program. Its purpose was to interfere with the activities of the organizations and individuals who were its targets or, in the words of long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” them. The first target was the Communist Party of the United States, but subsequent targets ranged from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference to organizations espousing women’s rights to right wing organizations such as the National States Rights Party.

A well-known example of COINTELPRO was the FBI’s planting in 1964 of false documents about William Albertson, a long-time Communist Party official, that persuaded the Communist Party that Albertson was an FBI informant. Amid major publicity, Albertson was expelled from the party, lost all his friends, and was fired from his job. Until his death in an automobile accident in 1972, he tried to prove that he was not a snitch, but the case was not resolved until 1989, when the FBI agreed to pay Albertson’s widow $170,000 to settle her lawsuit against the government.

COINTELPRO was eventually halted by J. Edgar Hoover after activists broke into a small FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in 1971, and released stolen documents about the program to the press. The lesson of COINTELPRO is that any government agency that is able to gather information through political surveillance will be tempted to use that information. After a time, the passive accumulation of data may seem insufficient and it may be used aggressively. This may take place long after the information is initially collected and may involve officials who had nothing to do with the original decision to engage in surveillance.

The East German Stasi obviously used mass surveillance to crush dissent and keep it’s officials in check (and falsely claimed that spying was necessary to protect people against vague threats.)

In 1972, the CIA director relabeled “dissidents” as “terrorists” so he could continue spying on them.

During the Vietnam war, the NSA spied on Senator Frank Church because of his criticism of the Vietnam War. The NSA also spied on Senator Howard Baker.

Senator Church – the head of a congressional committee investigating Cointelpro – warned in 1975:

[NSA’s] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.

This is, in fact, what’s happened …

Initially, American constitutional law experts say that the NSA is doing exactly the same thing to the American people today which King George did to the Colonists … using “general warrant” type spying.

And it is clear that the government is using its massive spy programs in order to track those who question government policies. See this, this, this and this.

Todd Gitlin – chair of the PhD program in communications at Columbia University, and a professor of journalism and sociology – notes:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) has unearthed documents showing that, in 2011 and 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies were busy surveilling and worrying about a good number of Occupy groups — during the very time that they were missing actual warnings about actual terrorist actions.

From its beginnings, the Occupy movement was of considerable interest to the DHS, the FBI, and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, while true terrorists were slipping past the nets they cast in the wrong places. In the fall of 2011, the DHS specifically asked its regional affiliates to report on “Peaceful Activist Demonstrations, in addition to reporting on domestic terrorist acts and ‘significant criminal activity.’”

Aware that Occupy was overwhelmingly peaceful, the federally funded Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), one of 77 coordination centers known generically as “fusion centers,” was busy monitoring Occupy Boston daily. As the investigative journalist Michael Isikoff recently reported, they were not only tracking Occupy-related Facebook pages and websites but “writing reports on the movement’s potential impact on ‘commercial and financial sector assets.’”

It was in this period that the FBI received the second of two Russian police warnings about the extremist Islamist activities of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the future Boston Marathon bomber. That city’s police commissioner later testified that the federal authorities did not pass any information at all about the Tsarnaev brothers on to him, though there’s no point in letting the Boston police off the hook either. The ACLU has uncovered documents showing that, during the same period, they were paying close attention to the internal workings of…Code Pink and Veterans for Peace.

***

In Alaska, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, intelligence was not only pooled among public law enforcement agencies, but shared with private corporations — and vice versa.

Nationally, in 2011, the FBI and DHS were, in the words of Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, “treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.” Last December using FOIA, PCJF obtained 112 pages of documents (heavily redacted) revealing a good deal of evidence for what might otherwise seem like an outlandish charge: that federal authorities were, in Verheyden-Hilliard’s words, “functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.” Consider these examples from PCJF’s summary of federal agencies working directly not only with local authorities but on behalf of the private sector:

• “As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.”

• “The FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to… [22] campus police officials… A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors.”

• An entity called the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector,” sent around information regarding Occupy protests at West Coast ports [on Nov. 2, 2011] to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report contained “a ‘handling notice’ that the information is ‘meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…’ Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) reported to DSAC on the relationship between OWS and organized labor.”

• DSAC gave tips to its corporate clients on “civil unrest,” which it defined as running the gamut from “small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting.” ***

• The FBI in Anchorage, Jacksonville, Tampa, Richmond, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Birmingham also gathered information and briefed local officials on wholly peaceful Occupy activities.

• In Jackson, Mississippi, FBI agents “attended a meeting with the Bank Security Group in Biloxi, MS with multiple private banks and the Biloxi Police Department, in which they discussed an announced protest for ‘National Bad Bank Sit-In-Day’ on December 7, 2011.” Also in Jackson, “the Joint Terrorism Task Force issued a ‘Counterterrorism Preparedness’ alert” that, despite heavy redactions, notes the need to ‘document…the Occupy Wall Street Movement.’”

***

In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee learned … that the Tennessee Fusion Center was “highlighting on its website map of ‘Terrorism Events and Other Suspicious Activity’ a recent ACLU-TN letter to school superintendents. The letter encourages schools to be supportive of all religious beliefs during the holiday season.”

***

Consider an “intelligence report” from the North Central Texas fusion center, which in a 2009 “Prevention Awareness Bulletin” described, in the ACLU’s words, “a purported conspiracy between Muslim civil rights organizations, lobbying groups, the anti-war movement, a former U.S. Congresswoman, the U.S. Treasury Department, and hip hop bands to spread tolerance in the United States, which would ‘provide an environment for terrorist organizations to flourish.’”

***

And those Virginia and Texas fusion centers were hardly alone in expanding the definition of “terrorist” to fit just about anyone who might oppose government policies. According to a 2010 report in the Los Angeles Times, the Justice Department Inspector General found that “FBI agents improperly opened investigations into Greenpeace and several other domestic advocacy groups after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and put the names of some of their members on terrorist watch lists based on evidence that turned out to be ‘factually weak.’” The Inspector General called “troubling” what the Los Angeles Times described as “singling out some of the domestic groups for investigations that lasted up to five years, and were extended ‘without adequate basis.’

Subsequently, the FBI continued to maintain investigative files on groups like Greenpeace, the Catholic Worker, and the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, cases where (in the politely put words of the Inspector General’s report) “there was little indication of any possible federal crimes… In some cases, the FBI classified some investigations relating to nonviolent civil disobedience under its ‘acts of terrorism’ classification.”

***

In Pittsburgh, on the day after Thanksgiving 2002 (“a slow work day” in the Justice Department Inspector General’s estimation), a rookie FBI agent was outfitted with a camera, sent to an antiwar rally, and told to look for terrorism suspects. The “possibility that any useful information would result from this make-work assignment was remote,” the report added drily.

“The agent was unable to identify any terrorism subjects at the event, but he photographed a woman in order to have something to show his supervisor. He told us he had spoken to a woman leafletter at the rally who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, and that she was probably the person he photographed.”

The sequel was not quite so droll. The Inspector General found that FBI officials, including their chief lawyer in Pittsburgh, manufactured postdated “routing slips” and the rest of a phony paper trail to justify this surveillance retroactively.

Moreover, at least one fusion center has involved military intelligence in civilian law enforcement. In 2009, a military operative from Fort Lewis, Washington, worked undercover collecting information on peace groups in the Northwest. In fact, he helped run the Port Militarization Resistance group’s Listserv. Once uncovered, he told activists there were others doing similar work in the Army. How much the military spies on American citizens is unknown and, at the moment at least, unknowable.

Do we hear an echo from the abyss of the counterintelligence programs of the 1960s and 1970s, when FBI memos — I have some in my own heavily redacted files obtained through an FOIA request — were routinely copied to military intelligence units? Then, too, military intelligence operatives spied on activists who violated no laws, were not suspected of violating laws, and had they violated laws, would not have been under military jurisdiction in any case. During those years, more than 1,500 Army intelligence agents in plain clothes were spying, undercover, on domestic political groups (according to Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, 1967-70, an unpublished dissertation by former Army intelligence captain Christopher H. Pyle). They posed as students, sometimes growing long hair and beards for the purpose, or as reporters and camera crews. They recorded speeches and conversations on concealed tape recorders. The Army lied about their purposes, claiming they were interested solely in “civil disturbance planning.”

Mass surveillance is also being conducted to stop peaceful boycotts.

Glenn Greenwald notes that the list of people targeted for mass surveillance by the American government have included:

  • “Anyone who uses online tools to promote political ideals”
  • Those who express “radical” ideas
  • “Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups“
  • “Non-violent protesters”
  • “Political opponents”
  • “Environmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights
  • “Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, … environmentalists”
  • “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, … and various rightwing groups”

And the head of the NSA’s digital communications surveillance program, a high-level NSA executive, the NSA whistleblower who was the source of the New York Times’ groundbreaking expose on spying and Edward Snowden have all said that NSA spying is about crushing dissent … not protecting us from terrorists.

A Key Characteristic of Fascism

Naomi Wolf notes that mass surveillance is one of the 10 key characteristics of fascism:

In Mussolini’s Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China – in every closed society – secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours.

***

In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about “national security”; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

The Constitution Society points out:

The methods used to overthrow a constitutional order and establish a tyranny are well-known.

***

Internal spying and surveillance is the beginning. A sign is false prosecutions of their leaders

Glenn Greenwald writes:

“Doing something wrong” in the eyes of [authoritarian] institutions encompasses far more than illegal acts, violent behavior and terrorist plots. It typically extends to meaningful dissent and any genuine challenge. It is the nature of authority to equate dissent with wrongdoing, or at least with a threat.

Even the quintessential defender of the status quo for the powers-that-be – Cass Sunstein – notes that benevolent rulers don’t need to spy on their own people like tyrants do:

As a general rule, tyrants, far more than democratic rulers, need guns, ammunition, spies, and police officers. Their decrees will rarely be self-implementing. Terror is required.

 

Note: For ease of reading, we deleted the footnotes from the two Supreme Court opinions.

Article Source: Washington’s Blog

Featured Image: J. Edgar Hoover – the long-time director of the FBI (1924-1972)




WikiLeaks to Carry On Despite Government Persecution

 

Published on Jun 19, 2014. WikiLeaks has grown stronger over the last two years despite attempts by the US government to build a legal case against the organization and founder Julian Assange, according to WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson. By building its database of leaked documents and entering into agreements with 130 media outlets, the organization says it continues growing while also promoting its agenda of open access to information. RT’s Manila Chan spoke with Hrafnsson about the growth of WikiLeaks, Assange’s continued persecution and the effects of Edward Snowden.