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The Terrorism Pretext: Mass Surveillance is About Money and Power

By Bill Blunden | CounterPunch | July 20, 2015

“We are under pressure from the Treasury to justify our budget, and commercial espionage is one way of making a direct contribution to the nation’s balance of payments” – Sir Colin McColl, former MI6 Chief

For years public figures have condemned cyber espionage committed against the United States by intruders launching their attacks out of China. These same officials then turn around and justify America’s far-reaching surveillance apparatus in terms of preventing terrorist attacks. Yet classified documents published by WikiLeaks reveal just how empty these talking points are. Specifically, top-secret intercepts prove that economic spying by the United States is pervasive, that not even allies are safe, and that it’s wielded to benefit powerful corporate interests.

At a recent campaign event in New Hampshire Hillary Clinton accused China of “trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move in America.” Clinton’s hyperbole is redolent of similar claims from the American Deep State. For example, who could forget the statement made by former NSA director Keith Alexander that Chinese cyber espionage represents the greatest transfer of wealth in history? Alexander has obviously never heard of quantitative easing (QE) or the self-perpetuating “global war on terror” which has likewise eaten through trillions of dollars. Losses due to cyber espionage are a rounding error compared to the tidal wave of money channeled through QE and the war on terror.

When discussing the NSA’s surveillance programs Keith Alexander boldly asserted that they played a vital role with regard to preventing dozens of terrorist attacks, an argument that fell apart rapidly under scrutiny. Likewise, in the days preceding the passage of the USA Freedom Act of 2015 President Obama advised that bulk phone metadata collection was essential “to keep the American people safe and secure.” Never mind that decision makers have failed to provide any evidence that bulk collection of telephone records has prevented terrorist attacks.

If American political leaders insist on naming and shaming other countries with regard to cyber espionage perhaps it would help if they didn’t sponsor so much of it themselves. And make no mistake, thanks to WikiLeaks the entire world knows that U.S. spies are up to their eyeballs in economic espionage. Against NATO partners like France and Germany, no less. And also against developing countries like Brazil and news outlets like Der Spiegel.

These disclosures confirm what Ed Snowden said in an open letter to Brazil: terrorism is primarily a mechanism to bolster public acquiescence for runaway data collection. The actual focus of intelligence programs center around “economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation.” Who benefits from this sort of activity? The same large multinational corporate interests that have spent billions of dollars to achieve state capture.

Why is the threat posed by China inflated so heavily? The following excerpt from an intelligence briefing might offer some insight. In a conversation with a colleague during the summer of 2011 the EU’s chief negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Hiddo Houben, described the treaty as an attempt by the United State to antagonize China:

“Houben insisted that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a U.S. initiative, appears to be designed to force future negotiations with China. Washington, he pointed out, is negotiating with every nation that borders China, asking for commitments that exceed those countries’ administrative capacities, so as to ‘confront’ Beijing. If, however, the TPP agreement takes 10 years to negotiate, the world–and China–will have changed so much that that country likely will have become disinterested in the process, according to Houben. When that happens, the U.S. will have no alternative but to return to the WTO.”

American business interests are eager to “open markets in Asia” and “provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment.” At least, that’s how Hillary Clinton phrased it back when she was the Secretary of State. China represents a potential competitor and so American political leaders need an enemy that they can demonize so that they can justify massive intelligence budgets and the myriad clandestine operations that they approve. The American Deep State wishes to maintain economic dominance and U.S. spies have been working diligently to this end.

Bill Blunden is a journalist whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including “The Rootkit Arsenal” andBehold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex.” Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Fast Track Bill Would Legitimize White House Secrecy and Clear the Way for Anti-User Trade Deals

By Jeremy Malcolm and Maira Sutton | EFF | April 16, 2015

Following months of protest, Congress has finally put forth bicameral Fast Track legislation today to rush trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) through Congress. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, and Rep. Paul Ryan, respectively, introduced the bill titled the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. With Fast Track, lawmakers will be shirking their constitutional authority over trade policy, letting the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative pass Internet rules in back room meetings with corporate industry groups. If this passes, lawmakers would only have a small window of time to conduct hearings over trade provisions and give a yea-or-nay vote on ratification of the agreement without any ability to amend it before they bind the United States to its terms.

The Fast Track bill contains some minor procedural improvements from the version of the bill introduced last year. However, these fixes will do little to nothing to address the threats of restrictive digital regulations on users rights in the TPP or TTIP. The biggest of these changes is language that would create a new position of Chief Transparency Officer that would supposedly have the authority to “consult with Congress on transparency policy, coordinate transparency in trade negotiations, engage and assist the public, and advise the United States Trade Representative on transparency policy.”

However, given the strict rules of confidentiality of existing, almost completed trade deals and those outlined in the Fast Track bill itself, we have no reason to believe that this officer would have much power to do anything meaningful to improve trade transparency, such as releasing the text of the agreement to the public prior to the completion of negotiations. As it stands, the text only has to be released to the public 60 days before it is signed, at which time the text is already locked down from any further amendments.

There is also a new “consultation and compliance” procedure, about which Public Citizen writes [pdf]:

The bill’s only new feature in this respect is a new “consultation and compliance” procedure that would only be usable after an agreement was already signed and entered into, at which point changes to the pact could be made only if all other negotiating parties agreed to reopen negotiations and then agreed to the changes (likely after extracting further concessions from the United States). That process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority “no” vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement.

Thus, essentially the Fast Track bill does the same as it ever did—tying the hands of Congress so that it is unable to give meaningful input into the agreement during its drafting, or to thoroughly review the agreement once it is completed.

A main feature of the bill is its negotiation objectives, which set the parameters within which the President is authorized to negotiate the agreement. If Congress considers that the text ultimately deviates from these objectives, it can vote the agreement down. Some of these negotiation objectives have been added or changed since the previous Fast Track bill, but none of these provide any comfort to us on the troubling issues from the Intellectual Property, E-Commerce, and Investment chapters of the TPP. Indeed, some of the new text raise concerns. For example:

  • Governments are to “refrain from implementing trade-related measures that impede digital trade in goods and services, restrict cross-border data flows, or require local storage or processing of data”. Data flows and the location of the processing of data aren’t solely or even primarily trade issues; they are human rights issues that can affect privacy, free expression and more. The discussion about whether laws that require local storage and processing of certain kinds of sensitive personal data are protective of user rights, for instance, cannot take place in the secret enclaves of a trade negotiation. The bill does allow for exceptions as required to further “legitimate policy objectives”, but only where these “are the least restrictive on trade” and “promote an open market environment”.
  • Trade secrets collected by governments are to be protected against disclosure except in “exceptional circumstances to protect the public, or where such information is effectively protected against unfair competition”. But there are other cases in which there may be an important public interest in the disclosure of such trade secrets, such as where they reveal past misdeeds, or throw transparency onto the activities of corporations executing public functions.

But more troubling than what has been included in the negotiating objectives, is what has been excluded. There is literally nothing to require balance in copyright, such as the fair use right. On the contrary; if a country’s adoption of a fair use style right causes loss to a foreign investor, it could even be challenged as a breach of the agreement, under the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. Further, the “Intellectual Property” section of today’s bill is virtually identical to the version introduced in 2002, and what minor changes there are do not change the previous text’s evident antipathy for fair use. So while the new bill has added, as an objective, “to ensure that trade agreements foster innovation and promote access to medicines,” an unchanged objective is “providing strong enforcement of intellectual property rights.” What happens if those two objectives are in conflict? For example, in many industries, thin copyright and patent restrictions have proven to be more conducive to innovation than the thick, “strong” measures the bill requires. Some of our most innovative industries have been built on fair use and other exceptions to copyright—and that’s even more obvious now than it was in 2002. The unchanged language suggests the underlying assumption of the drafters is that more IP restrictions mean more innovation and access, and that’s an assumption that’s plainly false.

All in all, we do not see anything in this bill that would truly remedy the secretive, undemocratic process of trade agreements. Therefore, EFF stands alongside the huge coalition public interest groups, professors, lawmakers, and individuals who are opposed to Fast Track legislation that would legitimize the White House’s corporate-captured, backroom trade negotiations. The Fast Track bill will likely come to a vote by next week—and stopping it is one sure-fire way to block the passage of these secret, anti-user deals.

Don't Fast Track Train Image

If you’re on Twitter, help us call on influential members of Congress to come out against this bill.

Additional Resources:

Read the text of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 here.

Read about all of our concerns with the TPP agreement:

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Economic isolation breach of international law: Putin

Top 5 takeaways from Putin ahead of G20

RT |  November 14, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Klementiev)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Klementiev)

Vladimir Putin says the G20 must address global imbalances together, and economic isolation, especially in the case of sanctions, which not only leads nowhere but is a crude violation of international economic law.

Here are the Russian president’s top takeaways ahead of the G20 summit being held in Brisbane, Australia from November 14-15.

G20 great for ground work, but decisions often just hot air

Putin believes the G20 is still a good and relevant platform for world leaders, however, decisions at the summit are often nothing but words. Decisions made there are only carried out when they are in line with the interests of certain global players, like the US.

Decisions are neglected if they don’t fit the agenda of an individual power, Putin told TASS ahead of the summit.

An example is when US Congress blocked the IMF quota, which was intended to enhance the role of developing economies and redistribute quotes. That move was counterproductive, Putin said.

“The very fact that US Congress has refused to pass this law indicates that it is the United States that drops out of the general context of resolving the problems facing the international community,” the president said.

“Everyone must understand that the global economy and finance these days are exceptionally dependent on each other,” Putin said.

US sanctions violate the very system they created

Sanctions levied against Russia are against the norms of international trade and the core principles of the G20, as they can only be introduced via the United Nations, Putin said.

Sanctions are “against WTO principles and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the GATT. The United States itself created that organization at a certain point. Now it is crudely violating its principles,” Putin explained

Interconnected economy: What hurts us hurts you

Sanctions against Russia have targeted the finance, energy and weaponry sectors of the economy. Russia’s retaliatory sanctions to ban agricultural imports are having a colossal ripple effect on jobs, social sectors, and growth.

This is especially pertinent to Europe, which is feeling the squeeze of the agricultural export ban to Russia, one its biggest markets.

“Everyone must understand that the global economy and finance these days are exceptionally dependent on each other,” Putin said.

Germany’s economic growth is an example of financial blowback from sanctions with Russia.

US-led trade pacts will create global imbalance

Putin believes that the creation of the 2 US-led trade pacts – one Transatlantic and the other Transpacific – will only create more global imbalance. The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) doesn’t include China or Russia.

“Of course, we want to get rid of such imbalances, we want to work together, but this can be achieved only through joint efforts,” Putin said.

New economic associations should complement existing institutions

All new emerging economic blocks like BRICS and the so-called ‘new G7’, which in addition to Brazil, Russia, India and China also includes Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico, should come as something complementary to the existing groups, Putin said.

According to purchasing power parity (PPP) BRICS nations have a combined GDP $37.4 trillion, more than the G7’s at $34.7 trillion, Putin said. However, its economic girth doesn’t give it the right to start running its own policy.

“And if we go and say, ‘No, thank you, we are going to do this and that here on our own, and you can do it the way you want it,’ this will only add to the imbalances,” Putin warned.

The Russian president also said that all regional integrations like the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan shouldn’t isolate, but complement, global institutions.

Full speech: Putin on G20: Russia sanctions contradict club principles

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What is wrong with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

By Carolina Rossini and Maira Sutton | EFF | August 21, 2012

EFF has been fighting against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) intellectual property chapter for several years. This agreement poses a great risk to users’ freedoms and access to information on a global scale.

We have created this infographic to capture the most problematic aspects of TPP, and to help users, advocates and innovators from around the world spread the word about how this agreement will impact them and their societies. Right-click and save the image for the PNG file, or you can download the PDF version below.

We thank Lumin Consulting for working with us on this project.

Take Action TPPAttached Documents

tpp.pdf

August 22, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , | 1 Comment