Tag Archives: Government Surveillance

WikiLeaks email release reveals hacking by governments worldwide

By Mike Head
July 13, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

5aa4f-government-spyingWikiLeaks last week published more than one million emails from the Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, shedding further light on the extent of the spying being conducted by governments around the world against their populations.

Emails in the searchable database disclose the company’s negotiations with intelligence and police agencies to supply some of the advanced technology used to secretly hack into, take control over and monitor computers and smart phones.

In its emails, Hacking Team boasts that its programs can “attack, infect and monitor target PCs and smart phones, in a stealth way” and “bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain.”

At least 46 countries are identified as purchasing, or preparing to purchase, Hacking Team software. The list features Western powers, such as the United States, Britain and Australia, along with openly repressive regimes around the world, including military dictatorships such as Egypt and Thailand.

On July 5 the company’s Twitter account was reportedly compromised. Over 400GB of data, featuring internal emails, invoices and source codes were revealed via BitTorrent. Revelations so far include that Hacking Team works with the major imperialist spy agencies, together with police units such as Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion, a paramilitary agency notorious for torture and extrajudicial killings.

The US is a customer via the FBI, the military and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Police agencies in the United Kingdom have trialled Hacking Team’s technology, despite acknowledging that its use could be illegal. Australia’s purchasers include the main domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

According to a survey of the database published by the Intercept web site, Hacking Team’s biggest sales in recent years have come from these countries, in descending order of sales: Mexico, Italy, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Hungary, Malaysia, UAE, the US, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Panama, Ethiopia, Egypt, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, South Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, Spain, Ecuador, Oman, Switzerland, Thailand, Russia, Nigeria, Turkey, Cyprus, Honduras, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Poland, and Bahrain.

The company was pushing for contracts in Brazil, Belarus, Guatemala, Israel, Kuwait, Finland, Georgia, Greece, India, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere. Several intelligence and police agencies in India sought technology that was not just target-specific, but could create a sweeping net of surveillance.

One Hacking Team email sent to Maharashtra police provided an insight into the far-reaching capabilities of the company’s Remote Control System (RCS) to manipulate and monitor computer networks and smart phones.

“It allows you to covertly collect data from the most common desktop operating systems, such as: Windows, OS X, Linux,” the email claimed. “Furthermore, Remote Control System can monitor all the modern smart phones: Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows phone. Once a target is infected, you can access all the information, including: Skype calls, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Line, Viber and many more—device location, files, screenshots, microphone, virtual currencies and much more.”

A brochure for RCS stated: “Take control of your targets and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility … Remote Control System is invisible to the user, evades anti-virus and firewalls, and doesn’t affect the devices’ performance or battery life.”

Other promotional material emphasised that RCS could remotely activate microphones and cameras and send the data back for analysis, and monitor people logging in to Gmail and Facebook.

Emails relating to Australia showed company representatives identifying state and territory police forces, and a Victorian state anti-corruption body, as well as ASIO and the AFP, as being in confidential negotiations with Hacking Team. Victoria’s anti-corruption commission was considering signing a $500,000 contract for monitoring software as recently as two weeks ago.

Another email chain named a Canberra company, Criterion Solutions, signing a non-disclosure agreement for access to information about the RCS program last November. The Hacking Team’s Singaporean representatives later said Criterion Solutions was acting for ASIO.

For further exposing the surveillance being conducted against millions of people internationally, WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, will come under renewed assault by the governments and agencies involved. WikiLeaks is already being branded as “criminal,” while the anti-democratic operations of the so-called security agencies are regarded as legitimate.

Eric Rabe, the chief marketing and communications officer for Hacking Team, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the hacking of the company’s data was “reckless and dangerous.” It was “a criminal attack” conducted with “no regard for public safety.” Rabe insisted that Hacking Team’s services helped police and investigators “keep the rest of us safe.”

In reality, as documented by previous WikiLeaks releases, the US and its allies are engaged in criminal activities on a worldwide scale, including massacres, torture, regime-change operations and illegal bugging. In addition, their mass surveillance operations, spanning the globe, have been laid bare by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The UK-based Privacy International expressed shock at the scale of the Hacking Team’s operations disclosed by WikiLeaks. The organisation suggested that Western governments had not realised the “full picture” and needed to “ensure the integrity of their contractors.” It urged them to confine access to surveillance technology to “governments with strong human rights records,” rather than “governments with awful human rights records.”

The truth of the matter is that the US and other Western imperialist powers are leading the establishment of police-state conditions, ripping up basic legal and democratic rights in the process. Amid mounting political and social discontent, they are the most intent of all governments on utilising the technology now available to establish the scaffolding of a police state.

In Australia, the Abbott government, with the Labor Party’s bipartisan support, has pushed through parliament four major surveillance bills in the past six months, on the pretext of combating the threat of ISIS terrorism. The very first bill, brought forward last September, specifically allows ASIO to use listening, optical and tracking devices without warrants, and hack into and “disrupt” entire computer networks, while imposing lengthy jail terms for whistleblowers and journalists who alert the public to the undercover operations.

The fourth bill, passed this year despite widespread popular opposition, compels all Internet providers and social media platforms, including Google and Facebook, to retain vast amounts of data for two years so that the security services can trawl through it, permitting them to compile a full picture of everyone’s spending habits, political views, friends and associates and geographical locations.

Study Shows U.S. Police Far More Concerned About “Anti-Government” Domestic Extremists than Al-Qaeda

By Michael Krieger
July 3, 2015
Liberty Blitzkrieg

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 2.43.11 PMU.S. law enforcement agencies rank the threat of violence from anti-government  extremists higher than the threat from radicalized Muslims, according to a report released Thursday by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (TCTHS).

The report, “Law Enforcement Assessment of the Violent Extremism Threat,” was based on survey research by Charles Kurzman, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and David Schanzer, director of TCTHS and associate professor of the practice at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

The survey — conducted by the center with the Police Executive Research Forum — found that 74 percent of 382 law enforcement agencies rated anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction. By comparison, 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations as a Top 3 terrorist threat.

– From Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy

Since September 11, 2001, the frightened and emotionally pliable American public has gullibly relinquished its civil liberties and free heritage in order to allow the U.S. government to wage unaccountable and unconstitutional war again Al-Qaeda and radical Islamic terrorism across the world.

Many of us have warned for years, that preemptively giving up freedoms to protect freedom could only make sense to a propagandized, ignorant public completely clueless of human history. We warned that any totalitarian apparatus implemented to fight an outside enemy, would ultimately be turned around and used upon the public domestically. We already know this is happening with the NSA’s bulk spying and data collection, and we are starting to see a proliferation of the meme that “domestic extremists are more dangerous than Al-Qaeda,” spreading from the mouths of a corrupt and paranoid political class. I’ve covered this topic on several occasions, for example:

The “War on Terror” Turns Inward – DHS Report Warns of Right Wing Terror Threat

Eric Holder Announces Task Force to Focus on “Domestic Terrorists”

Rep. Steve Cohen Calls Tea Party Republicans “Domestic Enemies” on MSNBC

New Hampshire City Requests a Tank to Deal with “Domestic Terrorist” Groups Like Occupy Wall Street and Libertarians

It’s Official: The FBI Classifies Peaceful American Protestors as “Terrorists”

If all that’s not enough to convince you we’ve got a problem, I bring to you conclusions from the recently released study, “Law Enforcement Assessment of the Violent Extremism Threat.” This study was based on a survey conducted by Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer, who recently penned an op-ed in the New York Times. Here are some excerpts from their article:

In a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year of 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. And only 3 percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe, compared with 7 percent for anti-government and other forms of extremism.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State’s efforts to radicalize American Muslims, which began just after the survey ended, may have increased threat perceptions somewhat, but not by much, as we found in follow-up interviews over the past year with counterterrorism specialists at 19 law enforcement agencies. These officers, selected from urban and rural areas around the country, said that radicalization from the Middle East was a concern, but not as dangerous as radicalization among right-wing extremists.

Law enforcement agencies around the country are training their officers to recognize signs of anti-government extremism and to exercise caution during routine traffic stops, criminal investigations and other interactions with potential extremists. “The threat is real,” says the handout from one training program sponsored by the Department of Justice. Since 2000, the handout notes, 25 law enforcement officers have been killed by right-wing extremists, who share a “fear that government will confiscate firearms” and a “belief in the approaching collapse of government and the economy.”

Meanwhile, terrorism of all forms has accounted for a tiny proportion of violence in America. There have been more than 215,000 murders in the United States since 9/11. For every person killed by Muslim extremists, there have been 4,300 homicides from other threats.

Perhaps if the police didn’t harbor such negative thoughts about the general public, there wouldn’t be as many citizens killed by police. The recent tally is up to 463 killed so far in 2015, or an average of 2.5 Americans killed by police every day.

Finally, I came across the following excerpt from a recently published National Journal article:

Senate Democrats are calling for Congress to shift its focus from solely jihadist-fueled terrorism and hold hearings on the threats from domestic groups in upcoming weeks. And the Department of Justice has already opened up a domestic-terrorism investigation into the Charleston church shooting.

The real enemy of the corrupt corporate state is none other than, “we the people.”

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

Spy Agency’s Secret Plans to Foster Online “Conformity” and “Obedience” Exposed

Internal memo from secretive British spy unit exposes how GCHQ and NSA used human psychological research to create sophisticated online propaganda tools

By Jon Queally
June 23, 2015
Common Dreams

 

“Among other things,” The Intercept reports, “the document lays out the tactics the agency uses to manipulate public opinion, its scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced, and the broad range of targets that are traditionally the province of law enforcement rather than intelligence agencies.” (Photo: Getty Images)

With never-before-seen documents accompanied by new reporting on Monday, The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman are offering a more in-depth look than ever into how a secretive unit of the UK’s GCHQ surveillance agency used a host of psychological methods and online subterfuge in order to manipulate the behavior of individuals and groups through the internet and other digital forms of communication.

According to the reporting, the latest documents, which were leaked to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden,

demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers “extremist,” Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud, and financial scams.

Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile in the public understanding, after documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in “dirty tricks” like deploying sexual “honey traps” designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks, and generally warping discourse online.

Among the most troubling revelations is a 42-page internal JTRIG memo that describes in detail how the elite unit developed, maintained, and apparently sought to expand its “scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced” in order to increase its ability to “manipulate public opinion” via online tools like email, social media, video, discussion forums, and other platforms.

Greenwald and Fishman argue JTRIG’s self-documented exploits are most notable because of their “extensive use of propaganda methods and other online tactics of deceit and manipulation” that are not only reserved for “suspected foreign enemies” or criminals, as the agency continues to claim, but have also been used against other groups and individuals that the agency deems threatening or “politically radical.”

As Common Dreams reported in February of 2014—when the existence of JTRIG was first made public—the GCHQ has used the unit to develop and deploy a complex series of “dirty tricks,” “propoganda,” and “false flag” operations designed to spy on selected targets who included not only “suspected terrorists” and “criminals” but also diplomats, journalists, and activists.

Included in the new JTRIG memo is this detailed look at the manipulative online tactics developed by the group:

The reporting also highlights the internal memo’s focus on “manipulation” and how the GCHQ hoped to foster both “conformity” and “obedience” among those targeted:

Read The Intercept‘s full reporting here. And links to the new published documents follow:

UK government, Murdoch press smear of Edward Snowden unravels

By Chris Marsden
June 16, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

A press attack on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has backfired on the UK government.

This weekend’s Sunday Times ran an article under the headline, “British spies betrayed to Russians and Chinese,” citing numerous anonymous sources from within the government and security services.

The sources once again painted a picture of Edward Snowden having endangered the lives of spies and informants, jeopardising state operations. The Times article was replete with unfounded assertions, distortions and outright lies.

Both Russia and China were said to “have cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.”

Moscow was supposed to have “gained access to more than 1m classified files,” after Snowden “fled to seek protection from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.”

“Senior government sources” then “confirmed that China had also cracked the encrypted documents.”

A “senior Home Office source” accused Snowden of having “blood on his hands”, “although,” the Sunday Times immediately added, “Downing Street said there was ‘no evidence of anyone being harmed’.”

The only named source, Sir David Omand, the former director of GCHQ, called Russia and China’s supposed de-encryption of Snowden’s files a “huge strategic setback” that was “harming” to Britain, America and their NATO allies.

The Sunday Times claimed that a comment made by a “senior Downing Street source,” i.e., from the prime minister’s office, “that Russians and Chinese have information,” represented irrefutable proof of the veracity of the claims. It was, moreover, “the first evidence that Snowden’s disclosures have exacted a human toll”.

This was followed by another “senior Home Office source” declaring, “Why do you think Snowden ended up in Russia? Putin didn’t give him asylum for nothing. His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted.”

All of which goes to prove the old adage, “If you tell a lie, tell a big one and stick to it.”

Glenn Greenwald, who worked closely with Snowden, issued a devastating rebuttal of the Sunday Times, noting, “The whole article does literally nothing other than quote anonymous British officials,” while offering “zero evidence or confirmation for any of its claims.”

He noted several particularly glaring falsehoods: When Snowden left Hong Kong, he took no files with him, having given them to the journalists with whom he worked, and then destroying his copy so that it wouldn’t be vulnerable as he travelled. “How, then, could Russia have obtained Snowden’s files as the story claims—‘his documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure’—if he did not even have physical possession of them?”

The Sunday Times states that David Miranda, cynically referred to as “the boyfriend of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald”, was “seized at Heathrow in 2013 while in possession of 58,000 ‘highly classified’ intelligence documents after visiting Snowden in Moscow.” Greenwald counters that Miranda “had never been to Moscow and had never met Snowden. … The Sunday Times ‘journalists’ printed an outright fabrication in order to support their key point: that Snowden had files with him in Moscow. This is the only ‘fact’ included in their story that suggests Snowden had files with him when he left Hong Kong, and it’s completely, demonstrably false…”

The claim that the Russian and Chinese governments learned the names of covert agents by cracking the Snowden file, “forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries,” he adds, “appears quite clearly to be a fabrication by the Sunday Times … [because] not even the anonymous officials claim that Russia and China hacked the entire archive, instead offering only vague assertions that Russian and China ‘have information’.”

Greenwald ends by noting, “The Sunday Times has now quietly deleted one of the central, glaring lies in its story: that David Miranda had just met with Snowden in Moscow when he was detained at Heathrow carrying classified documents.” The claim “remains in the print edition and thus requires a retraction.”

Privacy International, Liberty, MPs Tom Watson and David Davies and many others have pointed to the timing of the Sunday Times smear, suggesting that it is a counter to last Thursday’s publication of the official report on UK surveillance laws by David Anderson QC. They have cited in particular its call for judicial rather than ministerial oversight of surveillance.

This lends unwarranted credibility to a report that in fact justifies existing mass collection of phone and Internet data and the extension of such powers providing only that a “detailed operational case” and a “rigorous assessment” of the intrusiveness, effectiveness, cost and legality of extended snooping powers is made by the security services. This is meaningless, no matter what civil liberties groups might believe or suggest.

Anderson also supports the compulsory retention of “third party data” and urges the government to secure the cooperation of Google, Facebook, etc., to this end. He comes out in support of companies handing over encryption keys.

What is of greater concern for both the government and the Murdoch press is the widespread public opposition to mass surveillance, particularly when the intention is to pass the “snoopers’ charter” into law in the autumn.

The Draft Communications Data Bill creates wide-ranging powers to compel any communications service provider to collect and retain information about any organisation that interacts with users and produces or transmits electronic communications, even if this information is irrelevant to their business needs. This information includes Deep Packet Inspection that bypasses encryption software and matching data from different sources to create a central database of communications, behaviours and patterns of activity.

Last week, the Intelligence and Security Committee confirmed that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is still collecting “bulk personal datasets” from millions of people’s phone and Internet records. Privacy International has launched a legal claim before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) calling for this practice to be ended—citing the passing of the USA Freedom Act ostensibly curtailing the bulk collection of phone record metadata. In the UK, this is still legal under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) passed in 2014.

In addition, last month GCHQ operatives and the police were made exempt from prosecution for hacking under the Computer Misuse Act (1990). The exemption move was first initiated last June, one week after a case taken out at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal by Privacy International and seven Internet and communications service providers, and was included in the Serious Crime Bill 2015. The IPT case focused on the alleged use of hacking tools to download malicious software allowing users’ cameras and microphones to be remotely hijacked.

The smearing of Snowden, like that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, is a vital element in a general effort to create a climate of fear to justify state surveillance and repression. This has long been conducted in the name of combating Islamic terrorism. Now, in line with the predatory aims of British and US imperialism, the threat is said to come from Russia and China.

In all cases, millions of working people in Britain and internationally are identified as “the enemy within”, whose democratic rights are trampled on by a ruling elite hell bent on destroying jobs, wages and vital social services.

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Mock America in 9/11 Trial

By Kevin Ryan
June 14, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

Last year, it was discovered that the FBI had attempted to infiltrate the legal defense team of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The defendant is charged, along with four others including Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. As a result, the military trial was moved out for approximately one year to allow for an investigation into the FBI’s offense. Recently, Al-Jazeera reported that the trial has been moved out yet again because the Department of Justice team leading the investigation (of its own bureau) needs more time to complete its secret report. These delays highlight the absurdity of the case against these men and the contemptible abuse of justice that the military trial represents.

Apparently, it has been difficult for the Justice Department to explain why the FBI approached a member of defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s legal team to “create a relationship with him that he was forbidden from disclosing.” That explanation became more difficult when it was learned that another member of Bin al-Shibh’s defense team had been cooperating with the FBI since late 2013.

fbicia_300The FBI infiltration of the Bin Al-Shibh defense team is just the tip of this anti-justice iceberg, however. In February, it was revealed that a translator assigned to help defend the accused was a CIA operative. That’s one way to ensure that the official account of 9/11, created entirely through torture testimony and secret evidence provided by the CIA ad FBI, would not be contradicted by defendant testimony. More was needed, however, as previous disclosures showed that the CIA was controlling audio feeds from the courtroom, bugging the rooms where the accused met with their lawyers, and censoring the lawyers. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of confidential defense team emails were provided to the prosecutors.

The military trial of these men was never expected to bring justice. But the absurd actions taken by the CIA and FBI have made the whole thing seem ludicrous, mocking the U.S. justice system. Why would these measures be needed and tolerated if the defendants were actually involved in 9/11? The reasons include that:

  • The charges against the defendants were largely established based on torture testimony, the records of which were destroyed by the CIA. That was after the agency misled the 9/11 Commission about the existence of the records.
  • Bin al-Shibh and KSM were both originally identified by the first torture victim, Abu Zubaydah. However, the government now says that Zubaydah was never associated with al Qaeda at all and therefore he could not have known what the government previously said he knew. In other words, the arrest and torture of Bin al-Shibh and KSM were initiated by way of a fictional account attributed to Zubaydah.
  • 9/11 Commission leader Lee Hamilton suddenly can’t recall anything about these torture victims or his use of their testimony (441 times) in the 9/11 Commission Report.
  • KSM’s behavior prior to 9/11 was reported to be very different from that of a Muslim. He enjoyed go-go dancers and drinking parties and was said to be dangerous to nothing but his own bank account. The playboy lifestyle of KSM was similar to that of alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta, who seemed to be protected by U.S. authorities and might have been an intelligence asset.
  • One of the defense team lawyers resigned from the Army in protest of what was happening. He accused the U.S. government of “stacking the deck against the defense” and conducting a “show trial.”

One reasonable explanation for why the CIA and FBI have gone to such great lengths to control this trial is that the agencies are trying to cover-up their own role in 9/11. Much has been learned that suggests the CIA and FBI were involved. For example:

Whatever the reason for the antics, the military trial of these men has become an absolute farce leading American society farther down a path of tyranny. It sets a precedent in which the CIA and FBI can be suspected of crimes against the nation and then charge others with those crimes using secret evidence. The accused can be held in seclusion for thirteen years until agents of the CIA and FBI insert themselves as defense team members, ensuring total control from start to end.

At the same time, the press never notices that such an obviously fake trial would not be needed if there were actually any legitimate evidence against the accused. All things considered, this trial is not only a travesty of justice, it makes a mockery of 9/11 and brings shame upon the American people.

Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.

Last year, it was discovered that the FBI had attempted to infiltrate the legal defense team of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The defendant is charged, along with four others including Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. As a result, the military trial was moved out for approximately one year to allow for an investigation into the FBI’s offense. Recently, Al-Jazeera reported that the trial has been moved out yet again because the Department of Justice team leading the investigation (of its own bureau) needs more time to complete its secret report. These delays highlight the absurdity of the case against these men and the contemptible abuse of justice that the military trial represents.

Apparently, it has been difficult for the Justice Department to explain why the FBI approached a member of defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s legal team to “create a relationship with him that he was forbidden from disclosing.” That explanation became more difficult when it was learned that another member of Bin al-Shibh’s defense team had been cooperating with the FBI since late 2013.

fbicia_300The FBI infiltration of the Bin Al-Shibh defense team is just the tip of this anti-justice iceberg, however. In February, it was revealed that a translator assigned to help defend the accused was a CIA operative. That’s one way to ensure that the official account of 9/11, created entirely through torture testimony and secret evidence provided by the CIA ad FBI, would not be contradicted by defendant testimony. More was needed, however, as previous disclosures showed that the CIA was controlling audio feeds from the courtroom, bugging the rooms where the accused met with their lawyers, and censoring the lawyers. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of confidential defense team emails were provided to the prosecutors.

The military trial of these men was never expected to bring justice. But the absurd actions taken by the CIA and FBI have made the whole thing seem ludicrous, mocking the U.S. justice system. Why would these measures be needed and tolerated if the defendants were actually involved in 9/11? The reasons include that:

  • The charges against the defendants were largely established based on torture testimony, the records of which were destroyed by the CIA. That was after the agency misled the 9/11 Commission about the existence of the records.
  • Bin al-Shibh and KSM were both originally identified by the first torture victim, Abu Zubaydah. However, the government now says that Zubaydah was never associated with al Qaeda at all and therefore he could not have known what the government previously said he knew. In other words, the arrest and torture of Bin al-Shibh and KSM were initiated by way of a fictional account attributed to Zubaydah.
  • 9/11 Commission leader Lee Hamilton suddenly can’t recall anything about these torture victims or his use of their testimony (441 times) in the 9/11 Commission Report.
  • KSM’s behavior prior to 9/11 was reported to be very different from that of a Muslim. He enjoyed go-go dancers and drinking parties and was said to be dangerous to nothing but his own bank account. The playboy lifestyle of KSM was similar to that of alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta, who seemed to be protected by U.S. authorities and might have been an intelligence asset.
  • One of the defense team lawyers resigned from the Army in protest of what was happening. He accused the U.S. government of “stacking the deck against the defense” and conducting a “show trial.”

One reasonable explanation for why the CIA and FBI have gone to such great lengths to control this trial is that the agencies are trying to cover-up their own role in 9/11. Much has been learned that suggests the CIA and FBI were involved. For example:

Whatever the reason for the antics, the military trial of these men has become an absolute farce leading American society farther down a path of tyranny. It sets a precedent in which the CIA and FBI can be suspected of crimes against the nation and then charge others with those crimes using secret evidence. The accused can be held in seclusion for thirteen years until agents of the CIA and FBI insert themselves as defense team members, ensuring total control from start to end.

At the same time, the press never notices that such an obviously fake trial would not be needed if there were actually any legitimate evidence against the accused. All things considered, this trial is not only a travesty of justice, it makes a mockery of 9/11 and brings shame upon the American people.

Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.

Last year, it was discovered that the FBI had attempted to infiltrate the legal defense team of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The defendant is charged, along with four others including Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. As a result, the military trial was moved out for approximately one year to allow for an investigation into the FBI’s offense. Recently, Al-Jazeera reported that the trial has been moved out yet again because the Department of Justice team leading the investigation (of its own bureau) needs more time to complete its secret report. These delays highlight the absurdity of the case against these men and the contemptible abuse of justice that the military trial represents.

Apparently, it has been difficult for the Justice Department to explain why the FBI approached a member of defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s legal team to “create a relationship with him that he was forbidden from disclosing.” That explanation became more difficult when it was learned that another member of Bin al-Shibh’s defense team had been cooperating with the FBI since late 2013.

fbicia_300The FBI infiltration of the Bin Al-Shibh defense team is just the tip of this anti-justice iceberg, however. In February, it was revealed that a translator assigned to help defend the accused was a CIA operative. That’s one way to ensure that the official account of 9/11, created entirely through torture testimony and secret evidence provided by the CIA ad FBI, would not be contradicted by defendant testimony. More was needed, however, as previous disclosures showed that the CIA was controlling audio feeds from the courtroom, bugging the rooms where the accused met with their lawyers, and censoring the lawyers. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of confidential defense team emails were provided to the prosecutors.

The military trial of these men was never expected to bring justice. But the absurd actions taken by the CIA and FBI have made the whole thing seem ludicrous, mocking the U.S. justice system. Why would these measures be needed and tolerated if the defendants were actually involved in 9/11? The reasons include that:

  • The charges against the defendants were largely established based on torture testimony, the records of which were destroyed by the CIA. That was after the agency misled the 9/11 Commission about the existence of the records.
  • Bin al-Shibh and KSM were both originally identified by the first torture victim, Abu Zubaydah. However, the government now says that Zubaydah was never associated with al Qaeda at all and therefore he could not have known what the government previously said he knew. In other words, the arrest and torture of Bin al-Shibh and KSM were initiated by way of a fictional account attributed to Zubaydah.
  • 9/11 Commission leader Lee Hamilton suddenly can’t recall anything about these torture victims or his use of their testimony (441 times) in the 9/11 Commission Report.
  • KSM’s behavior prior to 9/11 was reported to be very different from that of a Muslim. He enjoyed go-go dancers and drinking parties and was said to be dangerous to nothing but his own bank account. The playboy lifestyle of KSM was similar to that of alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta, who seemed to be protected by U.S. authorities and might have been an intelligence asset.
  • One of the defense team lawyers resigned from the Army in protest of what was happening. He accused the U.S. government of “stacking the deck against the defense” and conducting a “show trial.”

One reasonable explanation for why the CIA and FBI have gone to such great lengths to control this trial is that the agencies are trying to cover-up their own role in 9/11. Much has been learned that suggests the CIA and FBI were involved. For example:

Whatever the reason for the antics, the military trial of these men has become an absolute farce leading American society farther down a path of tyranny. It sets a precedent in which the CIA and FBI can be suspected of crimes against the nation and then charge others with those crimes using secret evidence. The accused can be held in seclusion for thirteen years until agents of the CIA and FBI insert themselves as defense team members, ensuring total control from start to end.

At the same time, the press never notices that such an obviously fake trial would not be needed if there were actually any legitimate evidence against the accused. All things considered, this trial is not only a travesty of justice, it makes a mockery of 9/11 and brings shame upon the American people.

Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.

Slave or Rebel? Ten Principles for Escaping the Matrix and Standing Up to Tyranny

By John W. Whitehead
June 10, 2015
The Rutherford Institute, June 8, 2015

 

“Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled, they cannot become conscious.”—George Orwell

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s a shell game intended to keep us focused on and distracted by all of the politically expedient things that are being said—about militarized police, surveillance, and government corruption—while the government continues to frogmarch us down the road toward outright tyranny.

Unarmed citizens are still getting shot by militarized police trained to view them as the enemy and treated as if we have no rights. Despite President Obama’s warning that the nation needs to do some “soul searching” about issues such as race, poverty and the strained relationship between law enforcement and the minority communities they serve, police killings and racial tensions are at an all-time high. Just recently, in Texas, a white police officer was suspended after video footage showed him “manhandling, arresting and drawing his gun on a group of black children outside a pool party.”

Americans’ private communications and data are still being sucked up by government spy agencies. The USA Freedom Act was just a placebo pill intended to make us feel better without bringing about any real change. As Bill Blunden, a cybersecurity researcher and surveillance critic, points out, “The theater we’ve just witnessed allows decision makers to boast to their constituents about reforming mass surveillance while spies understand that what’s actually transpired is hardly major change.”

Taxpayer dollars are still being squandered on roads to nowhere, endless wars that do not make us safer, and bloated government agencies that should have been shut down long ago. A good example is the Transportation Security Administration, which, despite its $7 billion annual budget, has shown itself to be bumbling and ineffective.

And military drills are still being carried out on American soil under the pretext of training soldiers for urban warfare overseas. Southeastern Michigan, the site of one of the many military training drills taking place across the country this summer, has had Black Hawk helicopters buzzing its skies and soldiers dressed for combat doing night combat drills in abandoned buildings around the state.

In other words, freedom, or what’s left of it, is being threatened from every direction. The threats are of many kinds: political, cultural, educational, media, and psychological. However, as history shows us, freedom is not, on the whole, wrested from a citizenry. It is all too often given over voluntarily and for such a cheap price: safety, security, bread, and circuses.

This is part and parcel of the propaganda churned out by the government machine. That said, what we face today—mind manipulation and systemic violence—is not new. What is different are the techniques used and the large-scale control of mass humanity, coercive police tactics and pervasive surveillance. As we have seen with the erection of the electronic concentration camp, there is virtually no escaping the invisible prison surrounding us. Once upon a time, one could run and hide or duck into a cave, but that is no longer feasible as caves are quite scarce, and those running the camp have their eyes watching everything.

Moreover, we are presented with the illusion that we act of our own volition when most of the time we are being watched, prodded, and controlled. “The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative,” Aldous Huxley stated. “The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him, the walls of his prison are invisible.”

In fact, with the merger of the Internet and the corporate state, unless you are alert and aware, it will be increasingly difficult to discern the difference between freedom and enslavement. With the methods of mind manipulation available to the corporate state, the very nature of democratic government has been changed. Again, as Aldous Huxley writes:

[T]he quaint old forms—elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of nonviolent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial . . . Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.

To many, the situation seems hopeless. But is it?

From the day you’re born until the day you die, the choices you exercise are very limited. You don’t choose to be born or choose what sex you are or who your parents are or where you live. When you are a child, you are told what to do, and when you enter school, you sit plastered to a desk and are taught what others demand you should know. Yes, the indoctrinating process begins on day one.

Then there are the rules, the endless rules. If you say the wrong word, write the wrong story or wear the wrong clothes, you can get thrown out of school or even arrested. You live where you are told and eat what others think you should eat. As you grow older, this list expands into employment, marriage and so on. In other words, your so-called reality is socially constructed. It is predetermined for you, and if you step out of line and disagree with what the current society deems proper, you will be ostracized. If you speak your mind to the governing authorities, you might find yourself behind bars.

The point is that in order to develop a compliant citizenry, people must be forced to live in a mental matrix of words, ideas, ideologies, and teachings that are designed to make us conform. “As the Matrix in the movie was used to facilitate the exploitation of humans,” writes author Henry H. Lindner, “so the current ideological Matrix was created for, and serves to exploit us, turning us into unthinking workers and consumers—slaves of the ruling elite who themselves are trapped in the Matrix.” In fact, “few of us are able to escape the Matrix. We do not even know it exists.”

For there to be any hope of real change, you’ll have to change how you think about yourself, your fellow human beings, freedom, society, and the government. This means freeing your mind, realizing the truth, and unlearning all the myths you have been indoctrinated with since the day you were able to comprehend language.

The following principles, taken from my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, may help any budding freedom fighters in the struggle to liberate themselves and our society.

First, we must come to grips with the reality that the present system does not foster freedom. It denies freedom and must be altered. “Our authoritarian system is based on cruelty and control—it increasingly drives natural love and feelings from our society and produces violence and greed,” Lindner recognizes. “Our society is deteriorating morally and intellectually. This system cannot be reformed.”

To start with, we must recognize that the government’s primary purpose is maintaining power and control. It’s an oligarchy composed of corporate giants wedded to government officials who benefit from the relationship. In other words, it is motivated by greed and exists to perpetuate itself. As George Orwell writes:

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish a dictatorship. . . .. The object of power is power.

Second, voting is practically worthless. “In principle, it is a great privilege,” Aldous Huxley recognized. “In practice, as recent history has repeatedly shown, the right to vote, by itself, is no guarantee of liberty.”

We live in a secretive surveillance state that has virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. As Jordan Michael Smith, writing for the Boston Globe, concludes about the American government:

There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

How many times have the various politicians, when running for office, lied about all they were going to do to bring hope and change to America? Once they get elected, what do they do? They do whatever the corporate powers want. Yes, the old boss is the same as the new boss. The maxim: power follows money.

Moreover, voting is a way to keep the citizenry pacified. However, many Americans intuitively recognize that something is wrong with the way the electoral process works and have withdrawn from the process. That’s why the government places so much emphasis on the reassurance ritual of voting. It provides the illusion of participation.

Third, question everything. Don’t assume anything government does is for the good of the citizenry. Again, that is not the purpose of modern government. It exists to perpetuate a regime. Remember the words of James Madison, considered the father of the U.S. Constitution: “All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” Power corrupts. And as the maxim goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Fourth, materialism is a death knell to freedom. While it may be true that Americans are better off than citizens of other nations—we have jobs, food, entertainment, shopping malls, etc.—these are the trappings meant to anesthetize and distract us.

Like the dodo, any “bird that has learned how to grub up a good living without being compelled to use its wings will soon renounce the privilege of flight and remain forever grounded,” Huxley warned. “Same thing is true of human beings. If bread is supplied regularly and capaciously three times a day, many of them will be perfectly content to live by bread alone—or at least by bread and circuses alone.” Free as a bird, some say, but only if you’re willing to free your mind and sacrifice all for a dangerous concept—freedom.

In other words, the hope is that the cry of “‘give me television and hamburgers, but don’t bother me with the responsibilities of liberty,’ may give place, under altered circumstances, to the cry of ‘give me liberty or give me death.’” This is indeed dangerous freedom.

Fifth, there is little hope for any true resistance if you are mindlessly connected to the electronic concentration camp. Remember, what you’re being electronically fed by those in power is meant to pacify, distract, and control you. You can avoid mind manipulations to a large degree by greatly limiting your reliance on electronic devices—cell phones, laptops, televisions, and so on.

Sixth, an armed revolt will not work. Although we may have returned to a 1776 situation where we need to take drastic actions to restore freedom, this is not colonial America with its muskets and people’s armies. Local police departments have enough militarized firepower to do away with even a large-scale armed revolt. Even attempting to repel a SWAT team raid on your home is futile. You’ll get blown away.

Seventh, be wise and realize that there is power in numbers. Networks, coalitions, and movements can accomplish much—especially if their objectives are focused and practical—and they are very much feared by government authorities. That’s why the government is armed to the teeth and prepared to put down even small nonviolent protests.

Eighth, act locally but think nationally. The greatest impact can be had at local governing bodies such as city councils. Join together with friends and neighbors and start a Civil Liberties Oversight Committee. Regularly attend council meetings and demand that government corruption be brought under control and that police activities be brought under the scrutiny of local governing bodies and, thus, the citizenry.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, police were involved in 39 shootings dating back to 2010. After a 2014 police shooting of an unarmed homeless man camped out in a public park, residents engaged in nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to disrupt the normal functioning of the city government and demand that the police department be brought under control. Community activists actually went so far as to storm a city council meeting and announce that they would be performing a citizens’ arrest of the police chief, charging him with “harboring fugitives from justice at the Albuquerque police department” and “crimes against humanity.”

In Davis County, California, in August 2014, after a public uproar over the growing militarization of local police, council members ordered the police to find a way of getting rid of the department’s newly acquired MRAP tank. One man at the council meeting was quoted as saying: “I would like to say I do not suggest you take this vehicle and send it out of Davis, I demand it.”

Ninth, local towns, cities and states can nullify or say “no” to federal laws that violate the rights and freedoms of the citizenry. In fact, several states have passed laws stating that they will not comply with the National Defense Authorization Act which allows for the military to indefinitely detain (imprison) American citizens. Again, when and if you see such federal laws passed, gather your coalition of citizens and demand that your local town council nullify such laws. If enough towns and cities across the country would speak truth to power in this way, we might see some positive movement from the federal governmental machine.

Tenth, understand what freedom is all about. “Who were the first persons to get the unusual idea that being free was not only a value to be cherished but the most important thing that someone can possess?” asks Professor Orlando Patterson. “The answer in a word: slaves.”

Freedom arose from the hearts and minds of those who realized that they were slaves. It became a primary passion of those who were victims of slavery.

Some Americans are beginning to realize that they are slaves and that if they don’t act soon, they will find themselves imprisoned in the electronic concentration camp indefinitely. Mind you, there may not be any chains hanging from the dungeon walls, but it is a prison nonetheless, and we are, without a doubt, inmates serving life sentences.

“USA Freedom Act”: A fig leaf for illegal spying

By Patrick Martin
June 4, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

In the wake of Senate passage of the USA Freedom Act, signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday evening, the corporate-controlled American media has gone into overdrive to portray the legislation as a major effort to curb mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, the largest single component of the vast US intelligence apparatus.

In fact, the bill—which has received the endorsement of the Obama administration and war criminals such as CIA Director John Brennan—is not an effort to curtail the vast and illegal activities of the US intelligence agency, but rather a means of ensuring that these activities can continue, now with a pseudo-legal foundation that has been explicitly endorsed by Congress.

Just as Obama barred prosecution of CIA officials for torturing prisoners, and prosecution of Bush administration leaders for waging war in Iraq based up lies, there will be no accountability for more than a decade of illegal spying on the American people. On the contrary, the program of mass surveillance of telecommunications and the Internet, directed against the democratic rights of the entire population of the globe, will intensify.

The bill makes only one significant, largely cosmetic, change in the hundreds of government spying programs directed against the American people, transferring responsibility for the retention of telephone metadata from the NSA back to the telecommunications companies. The telecoms are required to run NSA queries through their databases once the searches are approved by the FISA court, a longstanding rubber stamp for the US security services.

As the British-based Financial Times noted, the bill is “a much less significant change in the way the intelligence community actually operates” than the political furor surrounding it would suggest. “The surveillance legislation reform still leaves the US intelligence community with formidable legal powers and tools to collect data and other online information,” the newspaper continued, adding that intelligence officials regarded the legislation as damage control required after Edward Snowden’s revelations of massive and unconstitutional NSA spying.

The American media, however, treated the legislation as an historic watershed, a reversal of the build-up of state security powers that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Washington Post headlined its analysis, “Congressional action on NSA is a milestone in the post-9/11 world.” The Wall Street Journal ran the headline, “Congress Reins In NSA’s Spying Powers,” over a story reporting that “the Senate voted to curb the collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, the first significant retrenchment of government spying powers since the 9/11 attacks.”

The most overstated and effusive presentation of the bill came in the New York Times, the principal shaper of liberal public opinion and a slavish supporter of the Obama administration. Its account was headlined, “US Surveillance in Place Since 9/11 Is Sharply Limited.” That the bill affected only one of hundreds of intrusive surveillance programs went unmentioned.

The news analysis claimed, “The legislation signaled a cultural turning point for the nation, almost 14 years after the Sept. 11 attacks heralded the construction of a powerful national security apparatus. The shift against the security state began with the revelation by Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, about the bulk collection of phone records. The backlash was aided by the growth of interconnected communication networks run by companies that have felt manhandled by government prying.”

This paragraph includes a mass of falsifications and distortions. First, the “powerful national security apparatus” was in existence well before September 11, 2001—indeed, the role of the CIA, NSA and FBI in permitting and even directly facilitating the terror attacks, which allowed the US government to go forward with a long-planned program of militaristic aggression, including invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, raises many troubling questions.

The “shift against the security state” prompted by Snowden’s revelations was a shift in popular opinion, not a change in the policies of either Congress or the Obama administration, both of whom defended the intelligence apparatus and demanded Snowden’s arrest and prosecution for treason. And Snowden revealed far more than the bulk collection of phone records, releasing tens of thousands of documents on myriad illegal NSA spy programs directed at both the American population and the entire world.

Nor did American companies play any significant role in opposing government spying. On the contrary, Snowden’s revelations included the exposure of collaboration by Google, Microsoft and dozens of other Silicon Valley giants, and well as the entire telecommunications industry, with the build-up of an American police-state apparatus.

The Times article notes the admission by the NSA that the telephone metadata collection program had played no role in thwarting any terrorist attack. But it then fails to ask the most obvious question: If the telephone metadata program has never been effective against terrorism, why are the NSA, the CIA, the Obama administration and the leadership of Congress so adamant about defending it and preserving it, with whatever modifications are needed to give the illusion of “reform”? What is this data really being used for?

The only politically serious answer is that the US government is creating a vast database of the social and political views and associations of the American people, to be used to direct its repression when a mass movement erupts from below, against the capitalist system.

These efforts have not been halted for a single day, either by the supposed “shutdown” of the telephone metadata on May 31, or by the planned transfer of the program from the NSA to the telecoms in six months. The US military-intelligence apparatus, by far the largest and most powerful in the world, is the main threat to the democratic rights of the American people. No amount of media propaganda and peddling of illusions in “NSA reform” can disguise this reality indefinitely.

There are, unfortunately, indications that Edward Snowden himself may be among those taken in by the pretense of surveillance “reform.” Snowden addressed an Amnesty International conference in London Tuesday, before the final Senate vote, speaking by video link from Russia, where he remains in exile. Referring to the legislation, he told the group, “This is meaningful, it is important and actually historic that this has been refuted, not just by the courts, but by Congress as well and the president himself is saying this mass surveillance has to end.”

Snowden is dangerously naïve, and misled by his associates in such groups as Amnesty, the Guardian newspaper, and the ACLU, who share a liberal political outlook imbued with illusions in the democratic pretensions of American imperialism, and particularly in the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. Despite his courage in exposing the extent of NSA spying—and the considerable, continuing threat to his own physical security—Snowden is taking an entirely credulous approach to the maneuvers of official Washington.

He argues, “For the first time in recent history we found that despite the claims of government, the public made the final decision and that is a radical change that we should seize on, we should value and we should push further.” The actual course of events is far different. The “public” was entirely excluded from the decision-making process. The military-intelligence apparatus called the shots. The Obama administration and Congress took their marching orders. The USA Freedom Act, like the USA Patriot Act before it, serves the interests of the emerging American police state.

Snowden reacted with revulsion to the massive NSA spying campaign, out of sincere democratic convictions. But the growth of a surveillance state is not simply the product of post-9/11 paranoia, or even the drive for power on the part of individual politicians, generals and intelligence officials. The growth of a police-state apparatus proceeds, as it were, organically, out of the extreme levels of social inequality in American society, and endless wars. In other words, the military-intelligence apparatus is not the cause, but one malignant manifestation, of a deep-rooted and historic crisis of American capitalism.

Whatever the gestures to civil liberties made by Obama—while he continues drone-missile assassinations, Guantanamo, and the whole panoply of American militarism—the American ruling class he serves has no intention of diminishing the repressive powers of the state machine that exists to defend its property and wealth.

There is a profound political lesson here. Courageous individuals like Snowden and organizations like WikiLeaks can make important exposures. But only the working class, in the United States and internationally, can put an end to the ongoing attacks on democratic rights. This requires the building of a mass revolutionary movement, based on a socialist and internationalist program, and directed at the defense of all the social and democratic rights of working people.

 

 

US Senate approves extension of NSA spying

By Patrick Martin
June 3, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

The US Senate voted by a top-heavy bipartisan majority Tuesday to approve legislation that extends several key spying programs of the National Security Agency. President Obama declared his intention to sign the bill into law “as soon as I get it” in order to allow the NSA to resume the collection of telephone metadata and several other surveillance efforts that had nominally been suspended with the expiration of authorization under the Patriot Act Sunday night.

While the White House, congressional leaders of both parties and the American media are all portraying the so-called USA Freedom Act as a significant restriction on NSA spying, an effort to “strike a balance” between security and civil liberties, it is nothing of the kind.

In the first place, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, whose expiration May 31 made passage of the new authorization necessary, only covers a tiny fraction of the vast surveillance operations of the NSA. The collection of telephone metadata on every American was only one of the many of these illegal and unconstitutional programs first exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, now in exile in Russia.

In a bitter floor speech just before the final vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced the bill as “a victory for Edward Snowden,” but this is merely part of the congressional play-acting aimed at giving the American people the illusion that something is being done about illegal government spying, when it continues on a virtually unlimited and ever-expanding scale.

Only hours before McConnell’s diatribe, the Associated Press revealed yet another secret government spying program—hundreds of flights by a fleet of FBI planes that conduct low-flying video and cellphone surveillance over dozens of American cities .

McConnell denounced the bill for supposedly “taking away another tool from those who defend us every day” because it phases out the bulk collection of telephone metadata by the NSA, leaving collection of data to the telecommunications companies, which are in turn required to respond to NSA search requests once they are approved by the rubber-stamp FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court.

The bill contains a few other cosmetic efforts to conceal the build-up of police-state powers in America. The secret FISA court is required to hear from privacy advocates and document its decisions on surveillance policy, rather than, as in the past, hearing only from government prosecutors and making all its decisions in secret. This will have no material effect on the surveillance state.

The Senate passed the grossly misnamed USA Freedom Act by a vote of 67-32, with nearly all the opposition coming from right-wing Republicans, led by McConnell, who objected to even the minor limitations on the surveillance operations of the US government contained in the bill. The House passed the same bill last month by an overwhelming margin of 388 to 38, with the backing of Speaker John Boehner and the entire Republican leadership.

The 67-32 Senate vote actually expresses near-unanimous support for the US intelligence apparatus. Democrats backed the bill by 44-2. Republicans were split, 23 in favor and 30 against, but nearly all those opposed wanted no restrictions on NSA spying, even of a cosmetic character.

After McConnell’s vitriolic attack on the Obama White House for supposedly capitulating to Edward Snowden, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid retorted that it was McConnell who had undermined US spy operations by his mistaken handling of delaying tactics by Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, leading to the supposed shutdown of the telephone metadata program by the NSA Sunday night.

Final passage came after the Senate narrowly rejected all three amendments put forward by McConnell and the Republican leadership to further water down the bill’s anemic “reform” element. One amendment would have set the transition period from NSA databases to telecom databases at a year, rather than six months. Another would have required the telecoms to notify the NSA before any change in data retention policy, and mandated the NSA to certify that it was ready to make the transition without any loss of ability to conduct searches. The third amendment would have eliminated the requirement that the FISA court report to Congress on significant changes in the interpretation of surveillance laws.

The amendments were less important substantively than as an attempt to delay passage of the legislation indefinitely, since an amended bill would have to go back to the House for further deliberation. In that event, the Senate Republican leadership hoped to push through a simple extension of all Patriot Act surveillance authority, without any cosmetic changes.

A US Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that Section 215 of the Patriot Act did not provide adequate legal authority for the telephone metadata collection—in effect, finding the program had been operating illegally for 14 years. The White House and the congressional leadership of both parties moved quickly to reestablish the program using a different legal process—FISA warrants served on the telecoms—to accomplish the same end.

Appearing on the CBS program Face the Nation Sunday, CIA Director John Brennan denounced the protracted wrangling in the Senate and whipping up fears of new terrorist attacks—despite the well-documented fact that none of the Section 215 programs has played any role in disrupting terrorist activities. “Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously,” Brennan said. “I’d urge the Senate to pass the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, and do so expeditiously.”

Brennan declared, “I think terrorist elements have watched very carefully what has happened here in the United States, whether or not it’s disclosures of classified information or whether it’s changes in the law and policies. They are looking for the seams to operate within.”

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote, Obama made increasingly strident denunciations of the congressional delay in approving the extension of NSA spying authority. The White House issued a statement Sunday night, after the expiration of Section 215, declaring, “We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly. The American people deserve nothing less.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that the American people faced “unnecessary risk,” because of the loss of surveillance tools “our national security professionals can use to keep us safe.” In reality, there was no change in the operation of the vast US police-intelligence apparatus, as the New York Times admitted, reporting that “interviews with law enforcement and intelligence officials about what they will do in the interim suggest there are multiple workarounds to the gap.”

US Senate Lets Three Patriot Act Provisions Expire

By Stephen Lendman
June 2, 2015
Global Research

 

On Sunday, Senate debate failed to extend three controversial Patriot Act provisions:

  • Section 215 used as justification for bulk NSA phone, Internet and business records collection;
  • the lone wolf provision amending the definition of a foreign power to include anyone allegedly “engag(ing) in international terrorism or activities in preparation thereof;” and
  • the roving wiretap provision permitting “blank check” phone and Internet monitoring of individuals without identifying them by name or having justifiable probable cause.

Unless changed by subsequent congressional action, monitoring henceforth requires “specific and articulable facts” showing targeted subjects may be foreign agents as defined under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Section 215 defenders lie claiming sunsetting the provision eliminates vital surveillance powers needed to protect against terrorist threats.

Unjustifiable fear-mongering remains rife. Obama outrageously warned of dire consequences without unrestricted mass surveillance powers, saying:

“(H)eaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could’ve prevented a terrorist attack or could’ve apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so.”

Fact: Not a single new millennium terrorist act was committed on US soil nor were any planned ones thwarted by law enforcement actions.

Claims otherwise were false. Innocent individuals were targeted for political reasons – not for any terrorism they committed or planned. Victims languish unjustly in America’s homeland gulag – one of the world’s worst.

Key federal government police state surveillance methods remain legal despite letting the above three lapse – whether permanently remains to be seen. They include:

Pen Registers: letting authorities collect “dialing, routing, addressing or signaling information” – including phone numbers dialed and Internet metadata.

Business Records Provision: FISA permits obtaining business records from transportation carriers and storage facilities.

Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) D Orders: letting government get court order authorization requiring ISPs and other communications providers to make available information about their customers – based on “specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe…records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Grand jury subpeonas: for specific information wanted about targeted individuals or groups.

National Security Letters: permitting FBI authority to obtain personal customer records from ISPs, financial institutions, credit companies and other sources without prior court approval – by claiming what’s sought relates to alleged terrorism or espionage, no proof required.

Administrative subpoenas: issued by federal agencies for targeted records wanted.

FISA warrants: easily obtainable from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for national security investigations.

With or without Section 215, government police state powers remain formidable, intrusive, unconstitutional, and contrary to what’s justifiable in free and open societies.

Spying on its citizens reflects one of the most defining police state characterizations. Big Brother is real. It’s no longer fiction.

America crossed the line post-911. Unconstitutional mass surveillance became official US policy. It remains so.

Abusive NSA, FBI, CIA, DEA and Department of Homeland Security practices aren’t going away.

Claiming they’re to protect against possible terror or other national security threats are Big Lies. They’re to protect powerful monied interests from government of, by and for everyone equitably.

They’re to prevent beneficial social change. They’re to compromise fundamental freedoms en route toward eliminating them altogether.

They’re to assure capital’s divine right overrides popular interests. They’re to subvert fundamental Bill of Rights protections.

Orwell envisioned the future. “Big Brother is watching,” he said. “There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.”

“How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork.”

“It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”

The worst of what Orwell foresaw is real. It’s worse than he imagined given today’s state-of-the-art technology and willingness to use it ruthlessly.

Letting three controversial Patriot Act provisions expire (if only temporarily) leaves in place a repressive police state apparatus targeting anyone challenging a fundamentally anti-democratic system – besides waging global wars on humanity and threatening world peace.

Little changed Sunday night. America remains unfit to live in.

Current NSA Officials Admit Agency Is Drowning In TOO MUCH Info

By WahingtonsBlog
May 31, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

The Problem Isn’t Too Little Spying … It’s Too Much

Former top NSA officials have repeatedly said that the NSA is collecting TOO MUCH information on Americans to be able to stop terror attacks.

The Intercept reports that current mid-level NSA officials confirm that the NSA is gathering TOO MUCH information… and it’s making it impossible to focus:

“We in the agency are at risk of a similar, collective paralysis in the face of a dizzying array of choices every single day,” the analyst wrote in 2011. “’Analysis paralysis’ isn’t only a cute rhyme. It’s the term for what happens when you spend so much time analyzing a situation that you ultimately stymie any outcome …. It’s what happens in SIGINT [signals intelligence] when we have access to endless possibilities, but we struggle to prioritize, narrow, and exploit the best ones.”

The document is one of about a dozen in which NSA intelligence experts express concerns usually heard from the agency’s critics: that the U.S. government’s “collect it all” strategy can undermine the effort to fight terrorism. The documents, provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, appear to contradict years of statements from senior officials who have claimed that pervasive surveillance of global communications helps the government identify terrorists before they strike or quickly find them after an attack.

***

The documents suggest that analysts at the NSA have drowned in data since 9/11, making it more difficult for them to find the real threats. The titles of the documents capture their overall message: “Data Is Not Intelligence,” “The Fallacies Behind the Scenes,” “Cognitive Overflow?” “Summit Fever” and “In Praise of Not Knowing.” Other titles include “Dealing With a ‘Tsunami’ of Intercept” and “Overcome by Overload?”

***

[One NSA document], titled “Too Many Choices,” started off in a colorful way but ended with a fairly stark warning: “The SIGINT mission is far too vital to unnecessarily expand the haystacks while we search for the needles. Prioritization is key.”

***

An amusing parable circulated at the NSA a few years ago. Two people go to a farm and purchase a truckload of melons for a dollar each. They then sell the melons along a busy road for the same price, a dollar. As they drive back to the farm for another load, they realize they aren’t making a profit, so one of them suggests, “Do you think we need a bigger truck?”The parable was written by an intelligence analyst in a document dated Jan. 23, 2012 that was titled, “Do We Need a Bigger SIGINT Truck?” It expresses, in a lively fashion, a critique of the agency’s effort to collect what former NSA Director Keith Alexander referred to as “the whole haystack.” The critique goes to the heart of the agency’s drive to gather as much of the world’s communications as possible: because it may not find what it needs in a partial haystack of data, the haystack is expanded as much as possible, on the assumption that more data will eventually yield useful information.

***

The author of a 2011 document … stated, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”

***

Another document, written by an intelligence analyst in 2010, bluntly stated that “we are drowning in information. And yet we know nothing. For sure.”

Indeed, top security experts agree that mass surveillance is ineffective … and actually makes us MORE vulnerable to terrorism.