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From Anthrax to Iraq

corbetreport | October 19, 2016

Robbie Martin of AVeryHeavyAgenda.com joins us to talk about his research into the anthrax attacks of 2001. We discuss how false information claiming an Iraqi link to the attacks was sowed via the mainstream media and how the story largely disappeared when the anthrax traced back to the US government’s own bioweapons labs. We also update the case and talk about some of the legitimate suspects in the attacks.

SHOW NOTES AND MP3

October 19, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | 1 Comment

Strengthening Biological Weapons Convention requires constructive approach

Dr Alexander Yakovenko | RT | April 30, 2016

Recently, the US Department of State has submitted to Congress its annual Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments.

Among other things, Washington has chosen Moscow as the target for unsubstantiated insinuations and lies on the issue of Russia’s compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC). It is becoming ever more obvious that regular verbal attacks against Russia are used to distract attention from the unseemly role that the US plays within the BWC context.

The reality is that it is the US who seriously damaged the BWC regime by single-handedly ruining the long-lasting multilateral talks on the supplementary BWC protocol that were about to come to an end. The microbiological activity of the member states under the developed protocol would have been subject to on-site inspections by an independent authority. Having derailed the protocol, the US now complains of having no possibility to verify compliance with the BWC.

However, it has nobody to blame but itself for this, including the fact that it has blocked any constructive attempts to step up specific work within the framework of the BWC since 2001.

Against this background, the international community witnesses the Pentagon’s dangerous microbiological activities.

The US Department of Defense has been mailing live anthrax spores all over the world for years. Far from being accidental, this occurred on 195 occasions and reached 12 different countries. As a result, not only US citizens but also populations in other countries were exposed to lethal danger. Until now, the scale of these violations has not been revealed or explained, including the real purpose of the Defense Department’s spore-producing “industrial facilities” and the reason for distributing them to US military bases overseas.

For a further example, the Defense Department has been continuously expanding worldwide its military biological infrastructure. These facilities have sprung up in many countries, and in recent years they are being created increasingly closer to Russian borders. For instance, a high-level bio-safety laboratory was built in Georgia, with Washington and Tbilisi making efforts to conceal the true content and focus of this military unit’s activities. The Pentagon is also trying to introduce similar undercover military medical-biological facilities to other CIS countries.

While accusing developing countries of a lack of progress in implementing the BWC at the national level, the US has consistently kept intact its own laws, which run counter to its international commitments. These include, in particular, reserving the right, in the 1925 Geneva Protocol, to retaliate with chemical or toxin weapons and presidential Executive Order 11850 enabling US armed forces to use “nonlethal” chemical or toxin weapons as warfare agents. Particularly flagrant is applying the 2001 Patriot Act to actually endorse the development of biological weapons with governmental assent.

In the meantime, Russia, along with a few other states, is busy trying to launch multilateral negotiations aimed at strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention as a tool of mutual security. Our US partners should constructively engage in these efforts, instead of judging others and making unsubstantiated allegations.

Dr Alexander Yakovenko is Russia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Already Happening: Authorities Are Using Paris Attacks To Rush New Mass Surveillance Laws

Vigilant Citizen | November 18, 2015

The CIA and government officials around the world are using the Paris attacks to push brand new surveillance laws. And it was all planned in advance.

While democratic systems usually take months (if not years) to pass new laws and legislation, it only took a few days after the Paris attacks to slap honest citizens with more surveillance laws. Several organizations are indeed capitalizing on the fear and panic caused by the attacks to bring forth a brand new agenda that takes a bold new step towards total government surveillance. What’s worse: Leaked information proves that authorities were waiting on a terror attack to go forward with their plan.

In a leaked e-mail written by Robert S. Litt, the intelligence community’s top lawyer during the month August, the plan is clearly outlined: There is a lack of support for the banning of encrypted communications but a terror attack could quickly turn the tide.

“Although the legislative environment is very hostile today, it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.

There is value keeping our options open for such a situation.” – Washington Post, Obama faces growing momentum to support widespread encryption

Only a few months after this e-mail, a terror attack occurs in Paris. Only a few hours after the attacks, news strangely blamed “encrypted communications.” Only days after the attacks, officials are calling for… the banning of encrypted communications.

The New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, called it a “game changer” and, insinuated new legislation that would outlaw encryption was necessary by adding: “[Encryption] is something that is going to need to be debated very quickly because we cannot continue operating where we are blind. – The Guardian, Intelligence agencies pounce on Paris attacks to pursue spy agenda

CIA Director John Brennan is also using the terror attacks to plead for unrestricted government surveillance of all communications, blaming “privacy groups” for hindering their job.

1-CIA-John-BrennanThen on Monday, in an epic episode of blame shifting, the CIA director, John Brennan, reportedly said privacy advocates have undermined the ability of spies to monitor terrorists. He explained:

“Because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively, internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging,” adding that there is a “misrepresentation of what the intelligence security services are doing.”

Read Brennan’s comments carefully because they are very revealing. When he says “legal actions,” he’s referring to the fact that multiple federal courts have ruled that the government’s secret mass surveillance on millions of Americans is illegal. So it sounds like the CIA director is saying it’s a shame that intelligence agencies can’t operate completely above the law any more, and is scapegoating any failings on his agency’s part on accountability that is the hallmark of any democracy. (Though he still can apparently operate above the law.)

More importantly, Brennan’s comments are incredibly dishonest. The post-Snowden USA Freedom Act passed by Congress reformed exactly one of the countless mass spying programs the US runs. It was the one that sucked up the phone calls of Americans only, and here’s the thing: it has been active this whole time and isn’t scheduled to shut down until the end of the month. – Ibid.

Government officials in the UK are also capitalizing on fear to rush sweeping new laws.

“On the other side of the Atlantic, politicians in the United Kingdom, which already has the most expansive surveillance laws in the western world, are using the tragedy to attempt to rush through their even more invasive, new mass-spying bill that aims at allowing police to see the websites every citizen visits and to force companies like Apple to backdoor their encrypted tools.”– Ibid.

Not Effective

None of these laws have proven effective in preventing terror attacks. In fact, the Paris attacks took place six months after the enactment of a massive (and controversial) surveillance law in France.

Passed by the French Parliament in May in response to the attacks on the Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdo, the law allows the government to monitor phone calls and emails of people suspected of connections to terrorism without the authorization of a judge.

But it goes further than that. The law requires Internet service providers to install “black boxes” that are designed to vacuum up and analyze metadata on the Web-browsing and general Internet use habits of millions of people using the Web and to make that data available to intelligence agencies.

In exceptional cases, the law allows the government to deploy what are called “ISMI catchers” to track all mobile phone communications in a given area. These catchers are basically designed to impersonate cell towers, but they intercept and record communications data from phones within its range, and can also track the movements of people carrying the phones.

Finally, the law allows government agents to break into the homes of suspected terrorists for the purpose of planting microphone bugs and surveillance cameras and installing keyloggers on their computers, devices that capture data on every keystroke and mouse click. – Recode, France Has a Powerful and Controversial New Surveillance Law

In short, after each traumatic event in the Western world (manufactured or not), attention is turned towards a very specific and targeted item that “needs to be addressed as soon as possible.” This item is, in fact, part of controversial law that is sitting on shelves until in can be passed insidiously, while the masses are struck with horror. It happened with the Patriot Act and, almost 15 years later, it is happening again. Their formula is “Order Out of Chaos” and it keeps working.

November 19, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Freedom Act a ‘surveillance act in disguise’ – ex-MI5 agent

RT | August 30, 2015

The US is playing games with public trust by passing different versions of the same intrusive surveillance system, a modern day Panopticon. Any alleged changes to the bulk collection program are purely cosmetic, according to ex-MI5 agent Annie Machon.

The recently passed USA Freedom Act was hailed as a stepping stone on the way to renewed public trust after the highly controversial Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which expired in May. Under the new law, the practice of bulk data collection on US citizens will be entrusted to telecom companies, and the NSA will be able to obtain the records through seeking a warrant from the FISA court.

So what does this recent decision mean with regards to the NSA’s bulk collection program, and can Americans feel more at ease about the security of their phone data with the introduction of the new Freedom Act? RT asked the former MI5 agent-turned-whistleblower for her take.

RT: Firstly, what’s your take on this? It’s an isolated court case, you could say, but does it have any big impact, do you think, on the NSA spying program.

Annie Machon: It’s business as usual for them. I’m sure they’re very happy to be told what they’re doing is legal, now. I mean, there have been a number of challenges, where different levels of courts in the US have said bulk metadata collection is legal; it’s illegal; it’s legal again. But, actually, what they’ve been doing is just business as usual under the 215 Section of the Patriot Act, which I think Congress was due to re-ratify at the beginning of June, but it became a bit gridlocked in the whole system. So, you know, they will be very happy with this result.

RT: Certainly, President Obama seems very happy. You know, the White House has hailed the ruling. But earlier in the year, we did hear Obama saying “We’re promising to reform things, too.” Do you think there’s been a significant change in attitude in the White House?

AM: I think they’ve passed the buck, basically, to the judiciary to take the hard decisions. So, now they’ve got this ruling, they don’t need to make the hard political decisions. They’ll just say, “Well, the judge just said its constitutional; that’s fine,” which is bad enough for the American citizens, within America, who will continue to be spied on extensively in the face of this nebulous and ever-changing terrorist threat. However, of course, none of this, whatsoever, had any relevance to the rest of us around the world, where the NSA could merrily go on spying on us all, to every degree they want to, because we’re not American citizens. So, it’s a bit of a back step for privacy advocates in America, but it’s no change for the rest of us.

RT: Yeah, you say no change, Annie, but you know, we’ve got the new Freedom Act to look forward to, too. You know, the one that will replace the Patriot Act. Surely, that’s a step forward, though, isn’t it?

AM: That’s one for Orwellian Newsspeak, I think. “You’re free.” No you’re not. It’s not a freedom act; it’s a surveillance act. They’re trying to recast it to make it sound good, but it’s not. And even if that’s the case in America, even if the NSA were reigned in, and they were not allowed to spy on American citizens, all they have to do is ask their buddies in the Five Eyes group, which would be Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or the UK, to do the spying for them, which would be perfectly legal under any of those countries’ oversight systems, and then just pass the information to the Americans. So, it is, as I said, very much business as usual. They will always find a way to subvert any notional political oversight within their own countries by sharing this information between themselves, and spying on everyone else’s systems. So, we are all still, very much, living under a global Panopticon.

And none of this has any real impact on protecting us from terrorism. We’ve seen this time, and time again. An NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake, senior staff, said that, actually, there was a lot of information the NSA had in the run up to 9/11, and yet it was not communicated or acted upon appropriately, so the attack occurred. And then we see current and very recent intelligence chiefs in America saying, for example, you know, “Well it stopped all these terrorism attacks.” And they’ve been caught lying under oath to Congress about this. This bulk metadata creates a huge haystack from which no needles have, effectively, been found.

READ MORE:

Virginia teen with pro-ISIS Twitter account sentenced to 11 years in prison 

Whistleblowers sue DOJ, FBI, and NSA for malicious prosecution, civil rights violations

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Senate’s Excuses for Reauthorizing Section 215–and Why They’re Wrong

By Mark Jaycox | EFF | May 19, 2015

Three provisions of the Patriot Act expire on June 1 and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to delay taking action on the issue by calling for a two month or 5-year reauthorization of Section 215—the provision of the Patriot Act the NSA relies on to collect millions of Americans call records.

Before June 1 we expect to see plenty of fear-mongering from intelligence officials and national security hawks. Last year, the Wall Street Journal began the foray with an op-ed by Former NSA Director General Mike Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey—key architects of many of the NSA’s unlawful activities. This time, the mongering started with op-eds by John Yoo, Senator Marco Rubio, and Senator Tom Cotton.

Here are the top excuses officials will use to continue spying on Americans calling records and why they’re wrong:

Congress Needs Time to Debate

“I don’t know how we have the kind of fulsome debate that is going to be required on NSA without passing a temporary extension,” —Sen. John Cornyn

Congress has had two full years to publicly debate the NSA’s use of Section 215. Indeed, the debate has been vigorous and thoughtful. While Congress didn’t create a separate investigative committee, it was still able to hold over a dozen hearings where Section 215 was discussed. The hearings, which called upon officials like the Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and Director of the NSA, included hours of testimony on the programs, what they collect, and their effectiveness.

Congress has also debated Section 215 via Senator Patrick Leahy and Jim Sensenbrenner’s reform bill called the USA Freedom Act. Last year, the House passed a gutted bill of the USA Freedom Act, but debated the legislation for days. This year, the House debated a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act and passed it 338 to 88.

The Senate has also debated the legislation. Last year, after two days of debate, the Senate failed to advance a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act by two votes. Congress has had more than enough time to discuss these authorities and must act.

The Section 215 Program is Effective

“This has been a very important part of our effort to defend the homeland since 9/11.” —Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

There’s one problem: there’s no evidence to support that. Two independent commissions concluded the calling records program was not effective and has not been used to stop a terrorist attack. The first, called the President’s Review Group on Signals Intelligence, concluded “Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks.”

Like the President’s Review Group, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board also concluded:

Based on the information provided to the Board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.

The quotes speak for themselves.

Fixing Section 215 Puts the Nation at Risk

“[The USA Freedom Act] would be rolling [the nation] back to exactly where we were pre-9/11. —Sen. Richard Burr

The Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and House Intelligence Chair and Ranking Members do not think reforming the Section 215 program will harm national security. Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote letters (.pdf) to Congress noting that Section 215 reform would preserve both “vital national security authorities” and “essential Intelligence Community capabilities.”

The Program is “Lawful”

“Contrary to irresponsible rumors, the [bulk surveillance] program is lawful, carefully monitored, and protects personal privacy. The program does not conduct mass surveillance of American citizens—or any surveillance at all.” —Sen. Cotton and Rep. Mike Pompeo

Apparently, one of the “irresponsible rumors” Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Mike Pompeo reference is a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. (The circuit courts are the federal courts directly below the Supreme Court). The Second Circuit held that the NSA’s telephone records program went far beyond what Congress authorized when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act in 2001. The court rejected the government’s secret reinterpretation of Section 215 that has served as the basis for the telephone records collection program. The Second Circuit’s opinion stands as a clear sign that the courts are ready to step in and rule that mass surveillance is illegal.

In addition, the program is “surveillance.” As we’ve repeatedly said: the collection of metadata matters. It reveals a host of information and context about a person’s habits, traits, and beliefs. The Circuit Court opinion explained that metadata is often a proxy for the content of the communication, and that phone records can “reveal a startling amount of detailed information” about callers. The court also recognized that aggregation of calling records matters because collection of large amounts of metadata plus the application of sophisticated data processing technologies gives the government access to even more revealing portraits of individuals and groups.

Congress Must Say No to a Short-Term Reauthorization

In the next few days, Congress will begin to debate whether or not they should vote for a short-term reauthorization of Section 215. The answer is clearly no. Join us now in telling your lawmaker to vote against any short-term reauthorization.

May 21, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ignore the Drumbeat of Doom, the NSA’s Call Records Program Didn’t Stop a Single Terrorist Attack

By Rachel Nusbaum | ACLU | March 4, 2015

Do you hear that? It’s starting.

The predictable drumbeat of dire warnings about what will happen if portions of the Patriot Act – the post-9/11 law being used to conduct controversial NSA dragnet surveillance – are allowed to expire on June 1 has already begun.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, issued what is likely to be the first of many vague warnings from the intelligence community on Monday. Faced with the expiration of the part of the Patriot Act that allows the bulk collection of information about Americans’ phone calls, Clapper brought out the favored hypothetical of the surveillance hawk: An unspecified attack will occur, which would have been prevented if Congress had reauthorized the dragnet collection of Americans’ phone calls.

“If that tool is taken away from us… and some untoward incident happens that could have been thwarted if we had had it,” Clapper said, “I hope that everyone involved in that decision assumes the responsibility.”

There’s just one problem with this particular bit of emotional blackmail, however. The pesky, rather inconvenient fact is that the government’s mass surveillance programs operating under Section 215 of the Patriot Act have never stopped an act of terrorism. That is not the opinion of the NSA’s most ardent critics, but rather the findings of the president’s own review board and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. This program has had over a decade to prove its value, and yet there is no evidence that it has helped identify a terrorism suspect or “made a concrete different in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”

In less than three months, Section 215 will expire unless Congress takes action to extend that authority. As that deadline approaches, we will be hearing more from folks in the intelligence community who would like to see the program continued indefinitely.

Congress would do well to remember that this is a program that is sweeping up vast amounts of data on innocent Americans in violation of their constitutional rights. It’s also one that, despite the rhetoric, has not succeeded in making us any safer. In fact, even Director Clapper has expressed support for some reform of Section 215.

The drumbeat of doom is only going to get louder between now and June. But it can’t drown out the truth. Surveillance reform is urgently needed to rein in out of control government spying and to restore our rights.

March 5, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , | 3 Comments

Defeat of USA FREEDOM Act is a Victory for Freedom

By Ron Paul | November 23, 2014

It will not shock readers to hear that quite often legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, they tend give it a fine-sounding name. The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before 9/11 but was going nowhere. Then the 9/11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.

At the time, 62 Democrats voted against the Act. On the Republican side there were only three no votes: former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), former Rep. Butch Otter (R-ID), and myself.

The abuses of the Constitution in the PATRIOT Act do not need to be fully recounted here, but Presidents Bush and Obama both claimed authority based on it to gut the Fourth Amendment. The PATRIOT Act ushered in the era of warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of our Internet behavior, watering down of probable cause, and much more. After the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know how the NSA viewed constitutional restraints on surveillance of American people during the PATRIOT Act period.

After several re-authorizations of the PATRIOT Act, including some cosmetic reforms, Congress last October unveiled the USA FREEDOM Act. This was advertised as the first wholesale PATRIOT Act Reform bill. In fact, the House version was watered down to the point of meaninglessness and the Senate version was not much better. The final straw was the bill’s extension of key elements of the PATRIOT Act until 2017.

Fortunately, last week the USA FREEDOM Act was blocked from further consideration in the US Senate. The procedural vote was significant and important, but it caused some confusion as well. While some well-meaning pro-privacy groups endorsed the FREEDOM Act as a first step to reform, some anti-liberty neoconservatives opposed the legislation because even its anemic reforms were unacceptable. The truth is, Americans should not accept one more extension of the PATRIOT Act and should not endorse its continued dismemberment of our constitutional liberties. If that means some Senators vote with anti-liberty colleagues to kill the extension, we should still consider it a victory.

As the PATRIOT Act first faced a sunset in 2005, I had this to say in the debate over whether it should be re-authorized:

“When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the emotional aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a sunset provision was inserted in the bill that causes certain sections to expire at the end of 2005. But this begs the question: If these provisions are critical tools in the fight against terrorism, why revoke them after five years? Conversely, if these provisions violate civil liberties, why is it acceptable to suspend the Constitution for any amount of time?”

Reform is often meant to preserve, not repeal bad legislation. When the public is strongly opposed to a particular policy you will almost never hear politicians say “let’s repeal the law.” It is always a pledge to reform the policy or law. The USA FREEDOM Act was no different.

With the failure of the FREEDOM Act to move ahead in the Senate last week, several of the most egregious sections of the PATRIOT Act are set to sunset next June absent a new authorization. Congress will no doubt be under great pressure to extend these measures. We must do our very best to make sure they are unsuccessful!

November 23, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | 1 Comment

Mike Rogers’ Plan To ‘Stop’ Bulk Collection Of Phone Records Riddled With Dangerous Loopholes That Will Expand Surveillance

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | April 1, 2014

Now that people have had a chance to go through the proposal by Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger to “stop” the bulk phone record collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, they’re finding more and more things to be concerned about. We had noted some potential easter eggs in there for law enforcement, but the deeper people look, the worse it gets. Trevor Timm notes that the bill is really a trojan horse to expand surveillance capabilities, while pretending to end them.

Curiously, a large majority of the House bill focuses on new ways for the government to collect data from “electronic communications service providers” – also known as the internet companies. Why is a bill that’s supposedly about ending bulk collection of phone-call data focused on more collection of data from internet companies?

From there, we turn to Julian Sanchez, who has given one of the most thorough explanations of what’s actually in the bill, noting that it fails to really end the bulk collection of phone records while also potentially massively expanding other surveillance capabilities.

First, the HPSCI bill’s seemingly broad prohibition on bulk collection turns out to be riddled with ambiguities and potential loopholes. The fuzzy definition of “specific identifiers” leaves the door open to collection that’s extremely broad even if not completely indiscriminate. Because the provision dealing with “call detail records” applies only to &sect:215 and the provision dealing with “electronic communications records” excludes telephony records, the law does not bar the bulk collection of telephony records under FISA provisions other than §215. The prohibition on non-specific acquisition of other communications “records” probably does not preclude bulk collection under the FISA pen register provision that was previously used for the NSA Internet metadata dragnet. And, of course, none of these prohibitions apply to National Security Letters. If the government wanted to keep collecting metadata in bulk, it would have plenty of ways to do so within the parameters of this statute given a modicum of creative lawyering—at least if the FISC were to continue being as accommodating as it has been in the past.

Second, something like the novel authority created here may well be necessary to enable fast and flexible acquisition of targeted records without dragnet collection. However, once we get down to details—and even leaving aside the question of ex-post versus ex-ante judicial approval—this authority is in some respects broader than either the current §215 telephony program, the president’s proposal, or the pre-Snowden understanding of the FISA business records authority. Critically, it eliminates the required link to a predicated investigation—which, in the case of U.S. persons, must be for counterterror or counterespionage purposes.

In other words, this appears to be a superficial attempt to end bulk collection “under this program,” while at the same time knocking down a bunch of barriers to much broader bulk collection under other authorities, with less oversight and fewer ways to push back against abuse. Did anyone really expect anything different from the NSA’s two biggest defenders in the House?

April 1, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Independent review board: NSA phone data collection ‘illegal’

Press TV – January 23, 2014

An independent review board working to protect Americans’ civil liberties and privacy has concluded that the US National Security Agency’s phone data collection program is illegal and should be stopped.

In a 238-page report to be issued on Thursday, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) has said that a law known as Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act “does not provide an adequate basis to support” the NSA’s program for collecting billions of Americans’ phone records on a daily basis.

The report, which was obtained by The Washington Post and The New York Times, also says that there has been no single instance in which the US government’s spying program contributed to the discovery of a terrorist threat to the United States.

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” the report said.

“Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack,” it added.

While the board had shared its conclusions with US President Barack Obama prior to his speech on Friday, the report is in contrast to Obama’s speech which portrayed the program as useful and lawful.

During his speech on Friday in which Obama promised some modest changes to the NSA’s spying programs, the US President did not indicate that the phone data collection program should be stopped. He said the NSA’s database of phone records should be moved out of government hands and be kept by private phone companies.

However, the PCLOB says the program should be shut down.

“Cessation of the program would eliminate the privacy and civil liberties concerns associated with bulk collection,” said the board in its report.

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feds: Even Though We’ve Been Ordered To Reveal Secret Interpretation Of The PATRIOT Act, We’re Not Going To Do That

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | November 19, 2013

You may recall that, back in early September, the FISA Court (FISC) agreed that its various rulings that secretly interpreted Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to mean something entirely different than any plain language reading of the law implies should be declassified. Here’s what the court said at the time:

The unauthorized disclosure in June 2013 of a Section 215 order, and government statements in response to that disclosure, have engendered considerable public interest and debate about Section 215. Publication of FISC opinions relating to this provision would contribute to an informed debate. Congressional amici emphasize the value of public information and debate in representing their constituents and discharging their legislative responsibilities. Publication would also assure citizens of the integrity of this Court’s proceedings.

In addition, publication with only limited redactions may now be feasible, given the extent of the government’s recent public disclosures about how Section 215 is implemented. Indeed, the government advises that a declassification review process is already underway.

In view of these circumstances, and as an exercise of discretion, the Court has determined that it is appropriate to take steps toward publication of any Section 215 Opinions that are not subject to the ongoing FOIA litigation, without reaching the merits of the asserted right of public access under the First Amendment.

It then instructed the DOJ to figure out what to redact, so it could be declassified and released. Except… the DOJ instead fought that order, and while it did find some documents that meet the criteria — namely a ruling from February of this year — the DOJ is now telling the FISA Court that despite the order, it would really prefer to keep that interpretation of the law a complete secret. Actually, it goes further than that. It doesn’t ask for permission to keep it secret, it just says that it cannot reveal the interpretation.

After careful review of the Opinion by senior intelligence officials and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Executive Branch has determined that the Opinion should be withheld in full and a public version of the Opinion cannot be provided.

Got that? This secret court interpretation of a law that we all live under, which the court itself has ordered to be revealed, is unlikely to be revealed because the intelligence community really, really doesn’t want it revealed. Again, this is not about so-called “sources and methods.” This is entirely about understanding how a US court interprets a US law. But that interpretation is secret, meaning that the law itself is secret, and apparently the executive branch of the federal government is going to fight to keep it that way.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Drone Politics Is Local

By David Swanson | November 14, 2013

What Localities and States Can Do About Drones

Charlottesville, Va., passed a resolution that urged the state of Virginia to adopt a two-year moratorium on drones (which it did), urged both Virginia and the U.S. Congress to prohibit information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into court, and to preclude the domestic use of drones equipped with “anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being,” and pledged that Charlottesville would “abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.”

St. Bonifacius, Minn., passed a resolution with the same language as Charlottesville plus a ban on anyone operating a drone “within the airspace of the city,” making a first offense a misdemeanor and a repeat offense a felony.

Evanston, Ill., passed a resolution establishing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in the city with exceptions for hobby and model aircraft and for non-military research, and making the same recommendations to the state and Congress as Charlottesville and St. Bonifacius.

Northampton, Mass., passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing with drones, affirming that within the city limits “the navigable airspace for drone aircraft shall not be expanded below the long-established airspace for manned aircraft” and that “landowners subject to state laws and local ordinances have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and that no drone aircraft shall have the ‘public right of transit’ through this private  property,” and urging the state and Congress and the FAA “to  respect legal precedent and constitutional guarantees of privacy, property rights, and local sovereignty in all matters pertaining to drone aircraft and navigable airspace.”

See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions

Other cities, towns, and counties should be able to pass similar resolutions. Of course, stronger and more comprehensive resolutions are best. But most people who learned about the four resolutions above just leaned that these four cities had “banned drones” or “passed an anti-drone resolution.” The details are less important in terms of building national momentum against objectionable uses of drones.  By including both surveillance and weaponized drones, as all four cities have done, a resolution campaign can find broader support.  By including just one issue, a resolution might meet fewer objections.  Asking a city just to make recommendations to a state and the nation might also meet less resistance than asking the city to take actions itself.  Less can be more.

Localities have a role in national policy. City councilors and members of boards of supervisors take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rulebook for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate. In 1967, a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey, 67 Cal.2d 325) that “one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known.” Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. No locality is an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they’ll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for any city or state to keep them out.

How to pass a local resolution: Every city or county is different, but some rules of thumb are applicable. To the extent possible, build understanding of the issues.  Invite speakers, screen films, hold conferences.  To the extent possible, educate and win over elected officials.  Make the case that localities have a responsibility to speak on national issues to represent the interests of local people.  Make the case that the time to act is before the problem expands out of control. Most states are considering drone legislation, so refer to that activity in your state. Make clear that you are aware of countless benevolent and harmless uses of drones but that you are prioritizing Constitutional rights and want exceptions made for uses that do not endanger self-governance rather than drones being made the norm and restrictions the exception. The Congressional Research Service says drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. The U.N. Special Rapporteur says drones are making war the norm.  If possible, propose the weakest resolution you can, and ask the local government to put it on the agenda for consideration; then propose the strongest possible resolution you dare.  You may end up with a compromise, as happened in Charlottesville. Work the local media and public. Pack the meeting(s). Take advantage of every opportunity for the public to speak. Unlike at the state or national levels, you are unlikely to face any organized opposition. Make your most persuasive case, and make a great show of public support. Equate a “No” vote with support for cameras in everyone’s windows and armed drones over picnics. Equate a “Yes” vote with prevention of racial profiling, activist profiling, and the targeting of all sorts of groups that can be recruited into your campaign.

STATES: See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions

Oregon has passed a law banning weaponized drones in all cases and banning drone use by law enforcement unless they have a warrant, they have probable cause without a warrant, or for search and rescue, or for an emergency, or for studying a crime scene, or for training (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Virginia has passed a law banning local and state (but not federal or National Guard) government drone use for two years unless various color-coded alerts are activated or there is a search or rescue operation or for training exercises or for drone-training schools, and strictly banning (for two years) any state or local weaponized drones.

Florida has passed a law banning law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather information unless they think they have some sort of reason to do so (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Idaho has passed a law banning drone surveillance “absent reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct” except in pursuit of marijuana in which case no such suspicion is needed (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Illinois has passed a law banning drones except for law enforcement agencies that have a warrant or when the Secretary of Homeland Security shouts “terrorism!” or they are reasonably suspicious it’s needed or are searching for a missing person or are photographing a crime scene or traffic crash scene (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Tennessee has passed a law banning law enforcement drones unless the Sec. of Homeland Security shouts “terrorism!” or there’s a warrant or there’s suspicion without a warrant (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Texas has passed a law banning the capturing of images with drones except for … too many exceptions to list.

Congressman Grayson passed an amendment to a DHS funding bill banning DHS from using weaponized drones, a step that must be repeated each year for this and other agencies unless a full national or international ban is put in place.

This article as a double-sided, single-page handout: PDF.

November 17, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Snowden Rebuts Sen. Feinstein’s Claims That The NSA’s Metadata Collection Is ‘Not Surveillance’

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | October 25, 2013

Ed Snowden has briefly stepped up to the mic to rebut Dianne Feinstein’s claims that the NSA’s bulk phone records collections are “not surveillance.” While he didn’t specifically name Feinstein, it’s pretty clear who his comments are directed towards, what with the senator putting in overtime over the past few weeks defending the agency’s cherished but useless Section 215 collections haystacks that are definitely not collections (according to the Intelligence Dictionary.)

“Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no Internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands,” Snowden said in a statement Thursday.

“Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong.”

f02ea3b63917470084142dbb21404def-e1320171727121-300x336Her op-ed for the USA Today stated the following:

The call-records program is not surveillance.

Why is it not surveillance? Feinstein claimed, in direct contradiction to someone who’s seen most of the inner workings of the agency’s programs, that because it doesn’t sweep up communications or names, it isn’t surveillance. Also, she pointed out that surveillance or not, it’s legal. So there.

Maybe Feinstein considers the term “surveillance” to mean something closer to the old school interpretation — shadowy figures in unmarked vans wearing headphones and peering through binoculars.

Of course, this kind of surveillance contained many elements completely eliminated by the combination of the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and a very charitable reading of the Third Party Doctrine. You know, the sort of stuff those shadowy men used to utilize: warrants, targeted investigations, reasonable suspicion, a grudging working relationship with the Fourth Amendment…

That’s all gone now. The courts have declared that sweeping up business records on millions of Americans is no more a violation of the Fourth Amendment than gathering metadata on a single person. The NSA has warped the definition of “surveillance” just as surely as they’ve warped the definition of “relevant.” The wholesale, untargeted gathering of millions of “transactions” from internet and phone activity doesn’t seem to resemble what anyone might historically think of as “surveillance,” but it’s surveillance nonetheless.

Sure, the NSA may not look at everything it gathers, but it has the capability to do so and it shows no interest in letting any of its dragnets be taken out of commission. The NSA’s defenders downplay the agency’s many intrusions by first playing the “legal” and “oversight” cards and, when those fail to impress, belittle their critics by trotting out condescending statements like, “The NSA isn’t interested in Grandma’s birthday phone call or the cat videos you email to your friends.”

Well, no shit. We’re hardly interested in that, either. We’re not worried about the NSA looking through tons of inane interactions. We know it doesn’t have the time or inclination to do so. We’re more concerned it’s looking at the stuff it finds interesting and amassing databases full of “suspicious” persons by relying on algorithms and keywords — a fallible process that robs everything of context and turns slightly pointed hay into the needles it so desperately needs to justify its existence.

What makes this even more frightening is that the agency then hands this unfiltered, untargeted, massive collection of data off to other agencies, not only in the US but in other countries, subjecting innocent Americans’ data to new algorithms, keywords and mentalities, increasing the possibility of false positives.

But what we’re mainly concerned about is the fact that an agency that claims its doing this to combat terrorism can’t seem to come up with much evidence that its programs are working. The NSA has deprived us of civil liberties while delivering next to nothing in terms of security. Americans have been sold out to a data-hungry beast, and even if it’s not officially “surveillance,” it’s still completely unacceptable.

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment