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Government Spying: Should We Be Shocked?

By Ron Paul | June 9, 2013

Last week we saw dramatic new evidence of illegal government surveillance of our telephone calls, and of the National Security Agency’s deep penetration into American companies such as Facebook and Microsoft to spy on us. The media seemed shocked.

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

It was all a build-up of the government’s capacity to monitor us.

The reaction of some in Congress and the Administration to last week’s leak was predictable. Knee-jerk defenders of the police state such as Senator Lindsey Graham declared that he was “glad” the government was collecting Verizon phone records—including his own—because the government needs to know what the enemy is up to. Those who take an oath to defend the Constitution from its enemies both foreign and domestic should worry about such statements.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers tells us of the tremendous benefits of this Big Brother-like program. He promises us that domestic terrorism plots were thwarted, but he cannot tell us about them because they are classified. I am a bit skeptical, however. In April, the New York Times reported that most of these domestic plots were actually elaborate sting operations developed and pushed by the FBI. According to the Times report, “of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.”

Even if Chairman Rogers is right, though, and the program caught someone up to no good, we have to ask ourselves whether even such a result justifies trashing the Constitution. Here is what I said on the floor of the House when the PATRIOT Act was up for renewal back in 2011:

“If you want to be perfectly safe from child abuse and wife beating, the government could put a camera in every one of our houses and our bedrooms, and maybe there would be somebody made safer this way, but what would you be giving up? Perfect safety is not the purpose of government. What we want from government is to enforce the law to protect our liberties.”

What most undermines the claims of the Administration and its defenders about this surveillance program is the process itself. First the government listens in on all of our telephone calls without a warrant and then if it finds something it goes to a FISA court and gets an illegal approval for what it has already done! This turns the rule of law and due process on its head.

The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing. We need to turn the cameras on the police and on the government, not the other way around. We should be thankful for writers like Glenn Greenwald, who broke last week’s story, for taking risks to let us know what the government is doing. There are calls for the persecution of Greenwald and the other whistle-blowers and reporters. They should be defended, as their work defends our freedom.

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syrian rebels open fire on convoy carrying Russian journalists

RT | June 9, 2013

A Russian TV crew came under fire in Syria when a mainly civilian convoy taking the journalists to the Golan Heights was shelled by Syrian rebels.

The convoy shelled on Saturday was led by a Syrian army military vehicle, and consisted of several cars occupied by civilians, including one with Russian TV journalists.

The shelling started when the cars were about 5 kilometers away from their destination – ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ – the only crossing between Syria and the Golan Heights, disputed territory claimed by both Syria and Israel.

“The Syrian troops started to fight the rebels back, but the insurgents targeted the civilian cars,” said Evgeny Poddubny, the head of the Russian TV crew and special correspondent for Rossiya TV channel.

Throughout the fighting, a Russian cameraman kept filming; gunshots can be heard on the video for 15 minutes. The footage also features a Syrian army officer reporting to command that armed militants attacked first, that shelling was coming from both sides of the road.

“The convoy could not make it to the checkpoint, the rebels set an ambush on the road, fighting broke out, the military responded with heavy fire to cover the retreat of our TV crew, and then they retreated themselves. The militants were further confronted by the field artillery, which is deployed in the area,” Poddubny said.

No one was injured in the attack. A similar incident occurred recently in the Golan Heights buffer zone when Checkpoint Charlie was attacked and seized by rebels on Thursday, and quickly recaptured by government troops.

“The militants use the status of the territory; they hide in the buffer zone and are carrying out attacks like the one you’ve just witnessed. Then they retreat. And we cannot carry out special operations here – as that would be a breach of international agreements. Besides, the rebels are getting help from Israel – it supplies them with ammunition and even provides medical aid to terrorists in mobile hospitals,” Syrian army General Nasr Haidar, whose regiment is deployed in the area, told Rossiya.

Provocations by the insurgents are seen as major reason why international peacekeepers have been withdrawing from the area. Austrian troops, which accounted for 40 percent of the UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, have announced their withdrawal.

This week, Russia proposed to replace Austrian UN peacekeepers on the Israel-Syria border. However, the mandate of the UN mission would not allow Russia’s participation.

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June 9, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

108,000 Private Contractors Are in Afghanistan and We Have No Idea What They’re Doing

By Aubrey Bloomfield | Policymic | June 5, 2013

Two recently released reports, one by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and one by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), show that not only is the number of private contractors in Afghanistan increasing, but the Pentagon is also unable to tell what they are even doing there. Citing the reports, David Francis of the Fiscal Times points out that there are now 108,000 private contractors in Afghanistan (over 30,000 of whom are Americans), far more than the 65,700 U.S. troops still there, and the number was counted at 110,404 last month. That amounts to 1.6 contractors for every American soldier, roughly 18,000 of which are private security contractors.

Although the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is ostensibly winding down towards an eventual handover to Afghan security forces, as Francis argues, “the increase in the contractors to troop ratio is yet another indication that although the vast majority of troops are leaving Afghanistan, a private army will remain in the country for years.”

According to the CRS, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan show the increasing reliance of the military on private contractors. But replacing the military with private contractors is not necessarily a good thing. Highlighting the abuses committed by private military contractors, Angela Snell of the University of Illinois College of Law has called this trend a “convenient way for the U.S. government to evade its legal obligations, including the responsibility to protect the human rights of civilians in war and peace, by allowing private individuals, rather than official state actors, to perform services on behalf of the U.S. military.”

Not only does the growing use of private contractors give lie to the idea of a withdrawal from the country, but they are also very costly. Although still dwarfed by the ever-mounting total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, CRS reports that “over the last six fiscal years, DOD [Department of Defense] obligations for contracts performed in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of operation were approximately $160 billion and exceeded total contract obligations of any other U.S. federal agency.”

Moreover, Francis points out that the CRS and GAO did not just measure the number of contractors and the cost, but the reports also assessed the Pentagon’s ability to monitor the work of contractors. And the results are damning. According to Francis, taken together the reports:

“Amount to yet another indictment of how the Pentagon deals with private workers. CRS found that the Pentagon lacked the ability to document the work each contractor is performing. It also found even when the government has information on contractors, it’s often inaccurate and doesn’t reflect the actual work being done. This leaves the Pentagon unable to determine if the hundreds of billions it’s spending are leading to effective results.”

So despite the increasing number of private contractors being used and the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on them, the Pentagon is not even able to determine what they are doing or whether it is effective. As CRS reports, the information the Pentagon has on private contractors is probably not reliable enough to be used to make decisions “at the strategic level,” thus hindering its ability to tell whether the work of contractors is contributing to “achieving the mission.”

The U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been massive, and destructive, wastes of lives and money. Although the U.S. and its allies say that they plan to remove combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014, this will in no way be the end of the West’s presence in the country. Francis reports that much of the work currently done by the military will be done by the private contractors after the military leaves. So while the attention paid to Afghanistan is likely to continue to dwindle even further, as has been the case in Iraq, as the military withdrawal picks up, the foreign occupation, by what one analyst has called “a de facto army,” looks set to continue on.

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

£3K to torture victims ‘isn’t much’: British MP

Press TV – June 9, 2013

British Respect party MP George Galloway has slammed the government’s small payment of £3,000 apiece to Kenyan victims of torture and mistreatment under British colonial rule during the 1950s.

On Press TV’s weekly program Comment, Galloway reviewed the torture Kenyans experienced during the Mau Mau uprising against British colonial rule, explaining that a recent compensation of around £20 million to 5,000 victims is not enough.

“Now that sounds like a lot of money [£20 million] but it actually works out at £3,000 compensation each”, Galloway said.

“We’re talking about men who were castrated by the British colonial administration in Kenya. I’m talking about women who were multiply raped and sexually abused, for that kind of torture. £3,000 ain’t much,” he added.

Galloway also said that British Foreign Secretary William Hague did not accept the legal liability for British colonizers’ brutal crimes in Kenya.

At least 10,000 people died during the 1952-1960 Mau Mau uprising against British colonial rule, with some sources giving far higher estimates.

Moreover, Galloway highlighted that the British government still has “hundreds of thousands” of uncompensated victims of British imperial crimes around the world.

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The NSA’s Favorite Weasel Word To Pretend It’s Claiming It Doesn’t Spy On Americans

By Mike Masnick | TechDirt | June 7th 2013

Well, well. In the aftermath of the revelations that the NSA is getting records of every phone call from Verizon, followed up by the news that most of the biggest tech companies are supposedly giving direct access to the NSA, the intelligence community is responding the same way it always does: with weasel words. First up, you can see Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s statement about the spying, which we’ll be discussing again in a bit.

But, a bunch of folks have been reasonably pointing out that Clapper appears to have lied to Congress. Of course, it’s not like this wasn’t easily called. Two years ago, we wrote about Clapper’s answers to Senators Wyden and Udall, which we pointed out was a ridiculous answer that was clearly sidestepping the real questions. However, looking over that letter again now, and having become a bit more familiar with the weasel words the NSA likes to use, it’s easy to look at Clapper’s statement and explain why he can “stand by it” while the clear implication of it was the opposite of what he meant.

You asked whether communications of Americans have been collected… Section 702 of the FAA [FISA Amendments Act] explicitly prohibits the intentional targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located in the United States or United States persons located abroad. The Intelligence Community has put in place a variety of procedures, which have been approved by the FISA Court as required by law, to ensure that only persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States are targeted and to prevent the intentional acquisition of any communications as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known to be located in the United States. Guidelines are also required by law to ensure compliance with other limitations on FAA collection, including the requirement that a U.S. person may not be intentionally targeted under section 702. If it is discovered that a target has entered the U.S. or is a U.S. person, he or she is promptly detargeted and reports are made as appropriate to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the FISA Court. Moreover, when communications from persons located in the United States are collected because they are communicating with a lawful target, the privacy and civil liberty rights of U.S. persons are protected through the careful implementation of the procedures required under the FAA to “minimize the acquisition and retention, and prohibit the dissemination ‘of information about U.S. persons.’”

Most people would read this to be him saying that they do not spy on Americans. And that’s obviously what he’s trying to imply. But that’s not what he’s actually saying. He’s using the NSA’s favorite weasel word: “target.” Now, most people assume that means one of the people on the call must be outside the US. But, you could — if you were devious intelligence official trying to mislead Congress and the American public (hypothetically) — interpret the word “target” to mean “if we, in general are ‘targeting’ foreign threats, no matter what they might be like, and this information we’re collecting might help in that process, then we can snarf up this data.”

In other words, most people think that “target” would mean one of the people on the phone. But, the NSA means “this overall investigation is about targeting foreign threats, so we can take whatever data we want because the goal is to stop foreign threats with it — and therefore our mandate not to spy on Americans doesn’t apply.”

So, it shouldn’t be particularly surprising to see that the administration’s “response” to this is to highlight, yet again, that this only “targets” non-US persons:

Information collected through a U.S. government surveillance program that taps into the servers of internet companies targets only non-U.S. persons living outside the United States, a senior administration official said on Thursday.

The U.S. law that allows the collection of data under this program does not allow the targeting of any U.S. citizen or of any person located in the United States, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Right, but whether or not they’re “targeting” a person, is separate from whether or not they’re spying on the data of Americans. As long as it’s all part of a process that “targets” non-US persons, they can claim that they’re playing by the rules.

Given that, however, I don’t see how Clapper can reasonably standby the following statements:

Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

Clapper: No sir.

Wyden: It does not?

Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.

Clapper is insisting that he didn’t lie in his comments, but he then pretends that he was only talking about email:

What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.

Except, that’s not what he was asked, nor was it what he said. He was specifically asked if the NSA collects any type of data at all, and he said no. Up above, he was using weasel words, but here it looks like he was flat out lying directly to Congress. Usually, Congress doesn’t like that.

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jewish settlers defile Aqsa Mosque courtyard this morning

Palestine Information Center – 09/06/2013

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Extremist Jewish settlers escorted by policemen desecrated the Aqsa Mosque courtyard on Sunday morning coming from Al-Maghariba Gate.

A female eyewitness told Safa news agency that three groups of settlers walked around the Aqsa Mosque courtyard and some of them performed Talmudic rituals.

She said that a large number of female and male religious students are also present in the courtyard protecting against any attempt by the settlers to enter the Mosque’s buildings.

She added that the Israeli police imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers to their Aqsa Mosque, checked their IDs and took photos of the Muslim religious sessions in the courtyard.

She noted that many Palestinian worshipers inside the Mosque are on alert as many extremist Jewish groups have declared their intentions to enter the Mosque, expecting that the next few hours could see the coming of more settlers and tourists.

Repeated storming of Aqsa mosque meant to impose new de facto situation

460_0___10000000_0_0_0_0_0_soldiers_aqsaIndependent MP Dr. Jamal Al-Khudari has warned of the seriousness of the Israeli systematic storming of the Aqsa mosque.

He said in a press statement on Sunday that Israel wants to ease the reactions to the “seemingly ordinary” repeated storming of the Aqsa and to impose a new de facto situation.

The MP underlined that such storming is a flagrant violation and constitutes big dangers to the Aqsa mosque and to holy shrines.

Khudari hailed the Aqsa guards and all those who frequent the holy site to defend it in face of repeated storming attempts despite the difficult circumstances.

He pointed out that the Israeli occupation authority was continuing its excavations in and around the Aqsa mosque and is wantonly razing Jerusalemite houses on daily basis and at various pretexts with the main target of forcing Jerusalemites to abandon their homes and native hometown.

Khudari regretted that such conditions were prevailing at a time the Palestinian people are still divided.

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK PM U-turns on transparency pledge

Press TV – June 9, 2013

British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing criticism for breaking his promise to lead a transparent government, after he refused to reveal what had been discussed at the secretive Bilderberg meeting.

Cameron’s presence at the shadowy meeting is provoking controversy as the Prime Minister’s spokesman claimed that he is still committed to lead a transparent government, even though he refused to discuss what was said in the secretive conference.

A member of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, Tamasin Cave, said that Cameron’s decision to attend the Bilderberg conference “drives a coach and horses” through his pledge of openness”.

This comes as on the Sky News channel, opposition Labour MP Michael Meacher demanded transparency over the Bilderberg meeting, which took place in a luxury hotel in Watford, Hertfordshire.

“If there is any conference which required transparency, it is the Bilderberg conference because this is really where the top brass of western finance capitalism meet”, Meacher said, adding that there will be no statement in the House of Commons about it.

“This is totally in contradiction to the government’s commitment to have greater transparency,” he added.

The Bilderberg Group, which is made up of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world, commonly attracts conspiracy theories as its annual gatherings always take place in secrecy.

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

The “Congress knew” defense

left i on the news | June 07, 2013

President Obama defends his super-snooping program, claiming that “they’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program.” First of all, I note he also says that “the relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs,” which suggests that “every member of Congress”, to whom the word “fully” isn’t applied, may or may not know very much at all. But even if every member of Congress were in fact fully briefed, there’s a little problem with that. Because they were briefed in secret and unable to convey that information to their constituents. So if they wanted to, say, campaign for reelection on the grounds of supporting (or opposing) that policy, they couldn’t do so. Furthermore, no challenger could campaign against them on a platform of ending these policies, because no challenger would have known about the policies.

On a related issue, talking to FOX’s Shep Smith earlier today (actually being grilled by Smith, who was having none of his double-talk and evasions), the former deputy director of the NSA claimed that the program was ipso facto Constitutional because “all three branches of government” were involved with it. But the “FISA Court” is a special, secret court. Not only have they never denied a single government request, but no citizen can challenge a decision they make, because their decisions are all secret. Therefore the Constitutionality of the court itself, or of any decision it has made, is not subject to review by the Supreme Court, the only institution which can actually rule on the Constitutionality of a law.

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Related video:
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June 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Video | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boundless Informant: NSA’s complex tool for classifying global intelligence

RT | June 9, 2013

A new batch of classified NSA docs leaked to the media reveals the details of a comprehensive piece of software used by NSA to analyze and evaluate intelligence gathered across the globe as well as data extraction methods.

The top-secret documents released by the Guardian shed light on the National Security Agency’s data-mining tool being used for counting and categorizing metadata gathered and stored in numerous databases around the world.

Known as Boundless Informant, the software provides its operator a graphical insight on how many records were collected for a specific “organizational unit” or country, what type of data was collected and what type of collection was used. The program also allows determining trends in data collection for both strategic and tactical decision making, according to the slides.

One of the slides contains a part of the Informant’s user interface showing a world map with countries color-coded ranging from green to red depending on the amount of records collected there. While Iran, Pakistan and some other states are predictably “hottest” according to the map, the agency collected almost 3 billion intelligence pieces in the US in March 2013 alone.

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The map showing how much data is being collected in different countries across the globe (image from the Guardian)

The insight on the software being used by the NSA comes amid the agency spokesperson Judith Emmel’s claims that the NSA cannot at the moment determine how many Americans may be accidentally included in its surveillance.

“Current technology simply does not permit us to positively identify all of the persons or locations associated with a given communication,” Emmel said Saturday adding that “it is harder to know the ultimate source or destination, or more particularly the identity of the person represented by the TO:, FROM: or CC: field of an e-mail address or the abstraction of an IP address.”

NSA data sources

Another slide from the internal NSA presentation redacted by the Guardian editors details the data gathering methods used in the NSA global surveillance program.

The first method suggests interception of data from “fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past” under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008, Section 702.

The second distinguished method is data collection “directly from the servers of the US service providers.”

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The slide detailing methods of data extraction under the FISA Amendment Act (image from the Guardian)

The presentation encourages analysts to use both methods for better results.

Google, Facebook negotiated ‘secure portals’ to share data with NSA?

Meanwhile, a report by the New York Times revealed that Internet giants, including Google and Facebook, have been in negotiations with the US security agency over ‘digital rooms’ for sharing the requested data. The companies still insist there is no “back door” for a direct access to user data on their servers.

The Internet companies seem more compliant with the spy agencies than they want to appear to their users, and are cooperating on “behind-the-scenes transactions” of the private information, according to a report that cites anonymous sources “briefed on the negotiations.”

According to the report, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Apple and Paltalk have “opened discussions with national security officials about developing technical methods to more efficiently and securely share the personal data of foreign users in response to lawful government requests,” sometimes “changing” their computer systems for this purpose.

These methods included a creation of “separate, secure portals” online, through which the government would conveniently request and acquire data from the companies.

Twitter was the only major Internet company mentioned in the report that allegedly declined to facilitate the data transfer to the NSA in a described way. As opposed to a legitimate FISA request, such a move was considered as not “a legal requirement” by Twitter.

The sources claim the negotiations have been actively going in the recent months, referring to a Silicon Valley visit of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey. Dempsey is said to have met the executives of Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Intel to secretly discuss their collaboration on the government’s “intelligence-gathering efforts.”

NSA pressured to declassify more PRISM details

In response to the fury over US government’s counterterrorism techniques, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for the second time in three days revealed some details of the PRISM data-scouring program.

Being one of the “most important tools for the protection of the nation’s security” the PRISM is an internal government computer system for collecting “foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision,” Clapper said.

He also said that PRISM seeks foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the US and cannot intentionally target any US citizen or any person known to be in the US. As for “incidentally intercepted” information about a US resident, the dissemination of such data is prohibited unless it is “evidence of a crime”, “indicates” a serious threat, or is needed to “understand foreign intelligence or assess its importance.”

Clapper also stressed that the agency operates with a court authority and that it does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of US telecoms and Internet giants without their knowledge and a FISA Court judge approval.

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment