1

Government Spying is “Chilling” Writers’ Freedom of Expression (Project Censored #7)

By Shelby Meyers & Mickey Huff | * Project Censored

Charges Dropped in Student Laptop Spying CaseMass surveillance has “badly shaken writers’ faith that democratic governments will respect their rights to privacy and freedom of expression,” according to a January 2015 PEN America report based on the responses of 772 writers from fifty countries. Reporting for Common Dreams, Lauren McCauley covered not only the PEN America report, but also a July 2014 report by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch indicating that US journalists and lawyers increasingly avoid work on potentially controversial topics due to fear of government spying.

McCauley’s January 2015 Common Dreams story quoted one of the conclusions from the PEN America report: “If writers avoid exploring topics for fear of possible retribution, the material available to readers—particularly those seeking to understand the most controversial and challenging issues facing the world today—may be greatly impoverished.”

[Read more here]

*Originally entitled: #7 Fear of Government Spying is “Chilling” Writers’ Freedom of Expression

Sources:

Lauren McCauley, “Fear of Government Spying ‘Chilling’ Writers’ Speech Worldwide,” Common Dreams, January 5, 2015, https://commondreams.org/news/2015/01/05/fear-government-spying-chilling-writers-speech-worldwide.

Lauren McCauley, “Government Surveillance Threatens Journalism, Law and Thus Democracy: Report,” Common Dreams, July 28, 2014, https://commondreams.org/news/2014/07/28/government-surveillance-threatens-journalism-law-and-thus-democracy-report.

Robert O'Leary 150x150

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England & “virtually” the world, with his website, www.romayasoundhealthandbeauty.com. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty.

 




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.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

More from Commondreams




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.”

_______________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

More from commondreams




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)