When the Guardian offered John Lanchester access to the GCHQ files, the journalist and novelist was initially unconvinced. But what the papers told him was alarming: that Britain is sliding towards an entirely new kind of surveillance society
In August, the editor of the Guardian rang me up and asked if I would spend a week in New York, reading the GCHQ files whose UK copy the Guardian was forced to destroy. His suggestion was that it might be worthwhile to look at the material not from a perspective of making news but from that of a novelist with an interest in the way we live now.
I took Alan Rusbridger up on his invitation, after an initial reluctance that was based on two main reasons. The first of them was that I don’t share the instinctive sense felt by many on the left that it is always wrong for states to have secrets. I’d put it more strongly than that: democratic states need spies.
The philosopher Karl Popper, observing the second world war from his academic post in New Zealand, came up with a great title for his major work of political thought: The Open Society and Its Enemies. It is, in its way, a shocking phrase – why would the open society have enemies? (But then, the title of Charles Repington’s The First World War, published in 1920, was shocking too, because it implied that there would be another one.)
We do have enemies, though, enemies who are in deadly earnest; enemies who wish you reading this dead, whoever you are, for no other reason than that you belong to a society like this one. We have enemies who are seeking to break into our governments’ computers, with the potential to destroy our infrastructure and, literally, make the lights go out; we have enemies who want to kill as many of us, the more innocent the better, as possible, by any means possible, as a deliberate strategy; we have enemies who want to develop nuclear weapons, and thereby vastly raise the stakes for international diplomacy and the threat of terrorism; and we have common-or-garden serious criminals, who also need watching and catching.
I get all that. It doesn’t thrill me to bits that the state has to use the tools of electronic surveillance to keep us safe, but it seems clear to me that it does, and that our right to privacy needs to be qualified, just as our other rights are qualified, in the interest of general security and the common good.
My week spent reading things that were never meant to be read by outsiders was, from this point of view, largely reassuring. Most of whatGCHQ does is exactly the kind of thing we all want it to do. It takes an interest in places such as the Horn of Africa, Iran, and North Korea; it takes an interest in energy security, nuclear proliferation, and in state-sponsored computer hacking.
There doesn’t seem to be much in the documents about serious crime, for which GCHQ has a surveillance mandate, but it seems that much of this activity is covered by warrants that belong to other branches of the security apparatus. Most of this surveillance is individually targeted: it concerns specific individuals and specific acts (or intentions to act), and as such, it is not the threat.
Even Julian Assange thinks that, and said as much in his alarming and perceptive book Cypherpunks: “Individual targeting is not the threat.” When the state has specific enemies and knows who they are and the kind of harm they intend, it is welcome to target them to make the rest of our polity safe. I say again, on the evidence I’ve seen, this is mainly whatGCHQ does. I would add that the Guardian and its partners have gone to a lot of trouble to prevent any unnecessarily damaging detail about this work being published.
Problems and risks
The problems with GCHQ are to be found in the margins of the material – though they are at the centre of the revelations that have been extracted from the Snowden disclosures, and with good reason. The problem and the risk comes in the area of mass capture of data, or strategic surveillance. This is the kind of intelligence gathering that sucks in data from everyone, everywhere: from phones, internet use from email to website visits, social networking, instant messaging and video calls, and even areas such as video gaming; in short, everything digital.
In the US, the Prism programme may have given the NSA access to the servers of companies such as Google and Facebook; in the UK,GCHQ has gained a similar degree of access via its Temporaprogramme, and the two of them together have a cable- and network-tapping capabilities collectively called Upstream, which have the ability to intercept anything that travels over the internet. This data is fed into a database called XKeyscore, which allows analysts to extract information “in real time”, ie immediately, from a gigantic amount of hoovered-up data.
In addition, the NSA has encouraged technology companies to install secret weaknesses or “backdoors” into their commercially available, supposedly secure products. They have spent a very great deal of money ($250m a year alone on weakening encryption), on breaking commercially available security products. Other revelations have been published in Der Spiegel, and concern the NSA exploitation of technology such as the iPhone.
Access all areas
What this adds up to is a new thing in human history: with a couple of clicks of a mouse, an agent of the state can target your home phone, or your mobile, or your email, or your passport number, or any of your credit card numbers, or your address, or any of your log-ins to a web service.
Using that “selector”, the state can get access to all the content of your communications, via any of those channels; can gather information about anyone you communicate with, can get a full picture of all your internet use, can track your location online and offline. It can, in essence, know everything about you, including – thanks to the ability to look at your internet searches – what’s on your mind.
To get a rough version of this knowledge, a state once had to bug phones manually, break into houses and intercept letters, and deploy teams of trained watchers to follow your whereabouts. Even then it was a rough and approximate process, vulnerable to all sorts of human error and countermeasures. It can now have something much better than that, a historically unprecedented panoply of surveillance, which it can deploy in a matter of seconds.
This process is not without supervision, of course. In order to target you via one of these “selectors” – that’s the technical term – the agent of the state will have to type into a box on his or her computer screen a Miranda number, to show that the process is taking place in response to a specific request for information, and will also need to select a justification under the Human Rights Act. That last isn’t too arduous, because the agent can choose the justification from a drop-down menu. This is the way we live now.
And yet nobody, at least in Britain, seems to care. In the UK there has been an extraordinary disconnect between the scale and seriousness of what Snowden has revealed, and the scale and seriousness of the response. One of the main reasons for that, I think, is that while some countries are interested in rights, in Britain we are more focused on wrongs.
In Europe and the US, the lines between the citizen and the state are based on an abstract conception of the individual’s rights, which is then framed in terms of what the state needs to do.
That’s not the case in Britain: although we do have rights, they were arrived at by specific malfeasances and disasters on the part of the state.
Every right that limits the behaviour of the police, from the need for search warrants to the (now heavily qualified) right to silence to habeas corpus itself, comes from the fact that the authorities abused their powers.
This helps to explain why Snowden’s revelations, perceived as explosive in American and Europe by both the political right and left, have been greeted here with a weirdly echoing non-response. In the rights-based tradition, the flagrant abuse of individual privacy is self-evidently a bad thing, a (literally) warrantless extension of the power of the state.
Here in the UK, because we’ve been given no specific instances of specific wrongs having been committed, the story has found it hard to gain traction. Even if there were such instances – just as there were 2,776 rule violations by the NSA last year alone – we wouldn’t know anything about them, because the system of judicial inspections atGCHQ is secret.
So it is a perfectly sealed mechanism: we aren’t interested in rights in the abstract, and we are prevented by law from hearing about any of the specific abuses which might start to focus our attention.
The documents make clear that GCHQ’s eavesdropping abilities are on a scale unmatched anywhere in the free world, and they privately boast about the “more permissive legal environment” in the UK – and yet, nobody seems to care. It’s tragicomic that the surveillance story which most gripped the public imagination concerned Poole borough council’s use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa) to spy on a family suspected of cheating in regard to school catchment areas.
Helping the bad guys
It’s worth taking a moment to ask how helpful the publication of information about this is to the bad guys. (Girls too. But mainly guys.)
The answer is evident, I think, in the under-remarked fact that Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad didn’t even have a telephone line running into it. In other words he not only didn’t use the net, computers or phones in any way at all, ever, he was suspicious of the actual physical apparatus itself.
This means that the bad guys know very well that they have to be careful. (It should also be noted that the absence of any electronic footprint at the Abbottabad compound was – as depicted in the movie Zero Dark Thirty – a sign to the spies that something fishy was afoot. Nobody innocent has no electronic footprint.)
Some of the jihadi materials I read in the GCHQ documents make it clear that the terrorists are very well aware of these issues. There is a stinging jeer in one jihadi text, apropos a Swedish documentary that made clear certain bugging capabilities in Ericsson’s mobile phones: “It is customary in the Scandinavian countries to publish such helpful materials.”
While the broad details of general strategic surveillance are shocking and need to be known, the thing that would be helpful to the bad guys is the publication of the specific technical details. These the Guardian and its partners have gone to great lengths to keep secret.
The unkeepable secret
Bear in mind also that these documents were widely circulated: out of the 4.9 million Americans with access to classified information, 480,000 private contractors in the US had the “top-secret” security clearance issued to Snowden.
If hundreds of thousands of people had access to these secrets, how secure were they? The NSA andGCHQ had no idea that Snowden had this material, and apparently still don’t know exactly what is in it – which is one reason they’ve been panicking and freaking out.
But if they didn’t know that Snowden had copied it, how could they possibly be sure that someone else hasn’t also taken a copy and slipped it to the Chinese or Russians or Iranians or al-Qaida? It was cheeky of Oliver Robbins, deputy national security adviser in the Cabinet Office, to harrumph about “very poor information security practices” on the part of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who was detained at Heathrow under anti-terror laws.
Our spooks lost at least 58,000 pages of classified documents to a US civilian sitting at a workstation in Hawaii, and did so without realising it had happened. In effect they’re saying, “your secrets are safe with us, except when we lose them”.
There’s one further conclusion to draw from the fact that so many people had access to this material. It means that this story would at some point have come out. A programme of this scale in a modern democracy, involving hundreds of thousands of people with access to the fact of total internet surveillance, was an unkeepable secret. It may be no comfort to Snowden as he faces his future, but someone somewhere would eventually have done what he did. Some dams are fated to burst.
This brings me to my second reservation about looking at the material: the question of whether it contained anything that we didn’t already know. In the Tony Scott movie Enemy of the State, the paranoid formerNSA spook played by Gene Hackman lays it out with complete clarity: “The government’s been in bed with the entire communications business since the 40s,” he says. “They have infected everything. They can get into your bank statement, computer files, email, listen to your phone calls.”
That movie came out in 1998, and was a hit, seen by many millions, so even then, in some sense, everybody knew about the work of theNSA/GCHQ. People who kept informed on these subjects have for decades been careful about using specific words over the phone, especially over transatlantic phonelines.
I remember Christopher Hitchens, at the time that concern about Salman Rushdie’s welfare was at its peak, wouldn’t use his name over the phone but would instead refer to “our mutual friend”.
So in some sense, perhaps it’s true that everybody knew. This would be analogous to the manner in which we all know surveillance is pervasive in police work, and yet police methods are by law forbidden from being used in evidence, or indeed even mentioned in court. The ban on mentioning police surveillance is there because they don’t want us to realise how much of it there is. We all know that, and yet it doesn’t seem to matter much. Perhaps the GCHQ stuff was the same?
I’ve said that the concerns over GCHQ are at the margins of what it does: but those margins are very broad. They especially concern things that are referred to in the documents as “SD”, which means “sigint development”. “Sigint” is signal intelligence, which is what GCHQ does. “Development” means – well, that’s the crux of it. It means finding out new things, exploring new technologies, and developing new ways of finding “targets”.
When you look at the documents, it appears to be the case that SD provides the legal basis for mass surveillance of the kind revealed in theTempora and Prism programmes. The mandate of GCHQ – which by the way didn’t have a legal basis of any kind until 1994 – is surveillance for reasons of “national security, economic well being, and serious crime”.
The main law concerning its activities is Ripa. If you read this 2000 act (which, by the way, I don’t recommend, since it’s tortured and laborious even by the standards of statute-speak), it’s clear that the main focus of its provisions is targeted surveillance. It’s about what the spies and cops are allowed to do to catch specific bad guys.
Ripa is pretty broad in its drafting, and it seems apparent that the intention was to let the authorities do anything they wanted with phones and email. And yet, it nowhere explicitly allows the mass interception of communications by people about whom the state has no reason for suspecting anything – which is what programmes such as Tempora andPrism permit.
Behind the times
The law always lags behind technology, that’s inevitable. If you look at the first version of the modern Official Secrets Act, which was made law in 1911 and is still the main broad statement of government secrecy in effect today, its first provisions concern the making of “maps and charts”.
It is evident that the kind of spying on the lawmakers’ minds concerns a chap in plus-fours claiming that he’s making drawings of seabirds, only why has he accidentally made accurate sketches of that nearby naval base, and why does he have a heavy German accent … ?
The current spying laws continue to lag behind reality, not only because the spies are less concerned with mysterious birdwatchers, but because life itself has changed.
Formerly, the activities for which the spies were on guard were visible acts of wrongdoing and intelligence-gathering: enemies making maps of naval bases, or breaking into offices, or bribing civil servants, or seducing and blackmailing other spies, or any of the other ways in which they could try to steal secrets.
In the case of modern signals intelligence, this is no longer true. Life has changed. It has changed because of the centrality of computers and digital activity to every aspect of modern living. Digital life is central to work: many of us, perhaps most of us, spend most of our working day using a computer. Digital life is central to our leisure: a huge portion of our discretionary activity has a digital component, even things which look like they are irreducibly un-digital, from cycling to cooking.
(I once happened to visit Google’s offices in Victoria, where there’s a live stream of people’s queries on a huge flat screen. Most of them were in Japanese. My host, who speaks Japanese, glanced at them and looked at her watch. “Recipes,” she said. “It’s 7pm in Japan, people have just got in from work and are thinking about what to cook.”)
As for our relationships and family lives, that has, especially for younger people, become a digital-first activity. Take away Facebook and Twitter, instant messaging and Skype and YouTube, and then – it’s hard to imagine, but try – take away the mobile phone, and see the yawning gap where all human interaction used to take place. About the only time we don’t use computers is when we’re asleep – that’s unless we have a gadget that tracks our sleep, or monitors our house temperature, or our burglar alarm, or whatever.
This is the central point about what our spies and security services can now do. They can, for the first time, monitor everything about us, and they can do so with a few clicks of a mouse and – to placate the lawyers – a drop-down menu of justifications.
Looking at the GCHQ papers, it is clear that there is an ambition to get access to everything digital. That’s what engineers do: they seek new capabilities. When it applies to the people who wish us harm, that’s fair enough. Take a hypothetical, but maybe not unthinkable, ability to eavesdrop on any room via an electrical socket. From the GCHQ engineers’ point of view, they would do that if they could. And there are a few people out there on whom it would be useful to be able to eavesdrop via an electrical socket. But the price of doing so would be a society that really did have total surveillance. Would it be worth it? Is the risk worth the intrusion?
That example might sound far-fetched, but trust me, it isn’t quite as far fetched as all that, and the basic intention on the part of the GCHQengineers – to get everything – is there.
Consider the direction in which we’re moving. Britain has more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the world, by a huge margin. Nobody knows how many CCTV cameras there are in the country, but the most respectable estimate seems to be the one made by Cheshire police in 2011, which came up with a number of 1.85m. Add to this the capacity for facial recognition software, which already exists and is improving sharply.
Further add the capacity for surveillance brought by the “internet of things”, involving the inclusion of internet-enabled computer chips in everything from cars (where they already are, in high-end models) to fridges to plants (which will tweet their minders when they need to be watered). This might sound like science fiction, but the current estimate is that there will be 20bn such devices in use worldwide by 2020.
Add to this the fact that a lot of this electronic potential gives access not just to external real-world data – our locations, our conversations, our contacts books – but to the inside of our heads. I call this the “knowing you’re gay” test. Most of us know someone who has plucked up the courage to reveal their homosexuality, only to be cheerfully told by friends and family, “oh, we’ve known that for years”.
Now, though, search engines know facts about people’s thoughts and fantasies long before anyone else does. To put it crudely, Google doesn’t just know you’re gay before you tell your mum; it knows you’re gay before you do. And now GCHQ does too.
What this means is that we’re moving towards a new kind of society. Britain is already the most spied on, monitored and surveilled democratic society there has ever been. This doesn’t seem to have been discussed or debated, and I don’t remember ever being asked to vote for it. As for how this trend appears in the GCHQ documents, there is something of a gap between how the spies talk in public and how they can occasionally be found to talk in private.
It is startling to see, for instance, that the justification for the large-scale interception of everybody’s internet use seems to be a clause in Ripa allowing interception of “at least one end foreign” communications. Whack on to this a general purpose certificate from the secretary of state, and a general warrant, and bingo, this allows full access to traffic via companies such as Google and Facebook – because their servers are located overseas. I can’t believe that that was the intention of the people who drafted Ripa, who were surely thinking more of people taking phone calls from moody bits of Waziristan, rather than your nan searching for cheaper tights.
There is a revealing moment in the most recent piece written for the Guardian by Sir David Omand, former head of GCHQ. He said that “the real debate we should be having … is about what privacy in a cyber-connected world can realistically mean given the volumes of data we hand over to the private sector in return for our everyday convenience, and the continued need for warranted access for security and law enforcement”.
That’s a total non-sequitur: Omand seems to think that just because we hand data over to Google and Facebook the government automatically has the right to access it. It’s as if, thanks to a global shortage of sticky gum, envelopes can no longer be sealed, so as a result the government awards itself a new right to mass-intercept and read everybody’s letters.
Staying within the law
All through the GCHQ material there is a tremendous emphasis on the legal basis of its operations, particularly in respect of article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which grants: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”
It is repeatedly stated that “GCHQ operates within the law” and that “GCHQ does it legally” and that surveillance always has to be “justified, necessary and proportionate”. Good – it would be terrifying if that weren’t the case. But if GCHQ seldom breaks the law, it’s because the law is so broadly drafted and interpreted it’s almost impossible to break.
Also, in the GCHQ papers there are occasional glimpses of a different attitude, usually to be found in slides which are marked as “hidden” in PowerPoint presentations, or in the presenters’ notes to other slides. (Many of the clearest documents are internal GCHQ briefings laid out in the form of PowerPoint talks. I was reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s great joke, in response to whether he needed audio-visual aids for a lecture: “All power corrupts, but PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.”)
For instance, a legal briefing on the Human Rights Act lists the instances in which it is legal for the state to breach article 8: “In the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
The notes make the point that national security, public safety and serious crime are the three current reasons for which GCHQ is allowed to eavesdrop, but there is a chilling addition: “‘Just’ 3 at the moment. No reason why GCHQ’s remit would not be changed in the future but this is what we are allowed to do at the moment.”
It’s usually only in books that people’s blood runs cold, but mine did when I read that. “Just” three at the moment: in other words, there are “just” three reasons why GCHQ can violate article 8, the right to privacy. But that could change. It would be legal in human rights terms for GCHQ’s mandate to cover “the prevention of disorder”, not to mention “the protection of health or morals”.
Extending state power
The totalitarian state in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four would need no broader legal justification than that: it really does allow a government to do anything it likes. It was at this point that I became convinced that Snowden’s revelations are not just interesting or important but vital, because the state is about to get powers that no state has ever had, and we need to have a public debate about those powers and what their limits are to be.
At a moment of austerity and with a general sense that our state’s ability to guarantee prosperity for its citizens is in retreat, that same state is about to make the biggest advance ever in its security powers. In public, the state is shrinking; in private, it is shrinking until it gets just small enough to fit into our phones, our computers, our cars, our fridges, our bedrooms, our thoughts and intentions.
Another secret slide is headed SRA – a mysterious acronym that is not explained. The slide concerns 2P intelligence, 2P meaning second party, ie other countries in the “five eyes” alliance of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It says that an SRA, whatever it is, “authorises receipt of 2P intelligence on UK based targets where GCHQhas no authorisation”.
Since GCHQ can spy on any foreign national it wants, this can only mean the surveillance of people on whom it isn’t legal for GCHQ to spy. That looks to me an awful lot like a means of obtaining permission to spy on people – British citizens? – outside the law.
We’ve heard a lot of talk about the distinction between content andmetadata – content being the stuff inside communications, metadata the who and when and where and how of the communication, but not the content. The idea is that the spooks focus on the metadata and ignore the content – so they notice your nan logging on to the net, where and when and for how long, but don’t read the actual content of the search.
This distinction is written into the law in both the US and the UK. This would be reassuring, if the notes didn’t say this: “GCHQ policy is to treat it pretty much all the same whether it’s content or metadata.” Put all these together and it is no wonder the documents contain a boast about the UK’s “more permissive legal environment”.
A new panopticon
The prospect this presents is something like the “panopticon” which Enlightenment philosophers advocated as a design for the ideal prison in the 18th century, and about which the French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote in his book Discipline and Punish. “He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relations in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.”
When I first read Foucault’s account of the panopticon, where the individual at the centre can simultaneously see and judge a whole multitude of other individuals, I thought it was brilliant but overheated. Now, it actually seems like somebody’s plan. That’s what we risk becoming: a society which is in crucial respects a giant panopticon, where the people with access to our secrets can see, hear, intercept and monitor everything.
Members of the security establishment always want more abilities, more tools, more powers for themselves and fewer rights for us. They never say “thanks a lot, we’re good from here, we have everything we need”.
From their point of view – the point of view of wanting ever more invasive secret powers – al-Qaida and its affiliates are the perfect enemy. Because al-Qaida combines the characteristics of an ideology and a network, it is everywhere, it is invisible, it is never more dangerous than when you can’t see it.
The new emphasis on anticipating the actions of “lone wolf” terrorists raises this danger even higher: the risk of terrorism from people who have never been caught committing a crime, who have no known terrorist affiliations, who are invisible, who could be anywhere … It is the ultimate version of the scare story that used to be called “reds under the bed”. How can the state every hope to protect us against people like that, if not by permanent, omnipresent, ever-increasing surveillance?
If we are going to remake society in the image of the fight against terrorism, and put that secret fight at the heart of our democratic order – which is the way we’re heading – we need to discuss it, and in public.
When we do so, it might be helpful to consider something called the banana equivalent dose (BED). This is a term used in physics to measure the amount of radiation emitted by a banana. It is a number popular with people who think the dangers of radiation are exaggerated, and who use it to make the point that almost everything is radioactive. A dental x-ray has a BED of 50; serious radiation poisoning takes a BED of 20m; sleeping next to someone for one night has a BED of 0.5 and living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant for a year has a BED of 0.9.
Since 9/11, 53 people have been killed by terrorists in the UK. Every one of those deaths is tragic. So is every one of the 26,805 deaths to have occurred on Britain’s roads between 2002 and 2012 inclusive, an average of 6.67 deaths a day. Let’s call that the SDRD, standard daily road deaths. The terrorist toll for 12 years comes to 0.0121 SDRD. This means that 12 years of terrorism has killed as many people in the UK as eight days on our roads.
The security establishment will immediately reply that this figure leaves out deaths of terrorism victims abroad and the lives saved by its secret actions, none of which can be made known without jeopardising current and future operations.
Is that enough of a justification for the scale and extent of what is happening to our privacy? Is the current supervisory regime – which involves senior judges inspectingGCHQ’s actions, “within the circle of secrecy”, and issuing a secret report – adequate to the scale of the state’s powers?
I’d repeat the point that as digital technology, and the ability to enact surveillance through technology, expands its remit, those powers are increasing almost by the day.
In the UK we have a strange sleepy indifference to questions of surveillance and privacy. “The innocent have nothing to fear,” says William Hague. But who gets to define who is innocent? Who gets to say what is contradictory to the “economic wellbeing” of the UK? If the innocent have nothing to fear, why is the state reading so many of our emails, and sucking up so much metadata from our phones and computers, under the umbrella of “sigint development”?
People misunderstand what a police state is. It isn’t a country where the police strut around in jackboots; it’s a country where the police can do anything they like. Similarly, a security state is one in which the security establishment can do anything it likes.
We are right on the verge of being an entirely new kind of human society, one involving an unprecedented penetration by the state into areas which have always been regarded as private. Do we agree to that? If we don’t, this is the last chance to stop it happening. Our rulers will say what all rulers everywhere have always said: that their intentions are good, and we can trust them. They want that to be a sufficient guarantee.
There’s no need for us to advance any further down this dark road. Here are two specific proposals. The first is that the commissioners who supervise GCHQ include, alongside the senior judges who currently do the work, at least one or two public figures who are publicly known for their advocacy of human rights and government openness. The “circle of secrecy” needs to include some people who are known for not being all that keen on the idea of secrecy.
My second proposal is for a digital bill of rights. The most important proviso on the bill would be that digital surveillance must meet the same degree of explicit targeting as that used in interception of mail and landlines. No more “one end overseas” and “sigint development” loopholes to allow the mass interception of communications. There can be no default assumption that the state is allowed access to our digital life.
As the second most senior judge in the country, Lord Hoffmann, said in 2004 about a previous version of our anti-terrorism laws: “The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws like these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve.”
In the ‘deep web’, Freenet software allows users complete anonymity as they share viruses, criminal contacts and child pornography
Fourteen years ago, a pasty Irish teenager with a flair for inventions arrived at Edinburgh University to study artificial intelligence and computer science. For his thesis project, Ian Clarke created “a Distributed, Decentralised Information Storage and Retrieval System”, or, as a less precise person might put it, a revolutionary new way for people to use the internet without detection. By downloading Clarke’s software, which he intended to distribute for free, anyone could chat online, or read or set up a website, or share files, with almost complete anonymity.
“It seemed so obvious that that was what the net was supposed to be about – freedom to communicate,” Clarke says now. “But [back then] in the late 90s that simply wasn’t the case. The internet could be monitored more quickly, more comprehensively, more cheaply than more old-fashioned communications systems like the mail.” His pioneering software was intended to change that.
His tutors were not bowled over. “I would say the response was a bit lukewarm. They gave me a B. They thought the project was a bit wacky … they said, ‘You didn’t cite enough prior work.'”
Undaunted, in 2000 Clarke publicly released his software, now more appealingly called Freenet. Nine years on, he has lost count of how many people are using it: “At least 2m copies have been downloaded from the website, primarily in Europe and the US. The website is blocked in [authoritarian] countries like China so there, people tend to get Freenet from friends.” Last year Clarke produced an improved version: it hides not only the identities of Freenet users but also, in any online environment, the fact that someone is using Freenet at all.
Installing the software takes barely a couple of minutes and requires minimal computer skills. You find the Freenet website, read a few terse instructions, and answer a few questions (“How much security do you need?” … “NORMAL: I live in a relatively free country” or “MAXIMUM: I intend to access information that could get me arrested, imprisoned, or worse”). Then you enter a previously hidden online world. In utilitarian type and bald capsule descriptions, an official Freenet index lists the hundreds of “freesites” available: “Iran News”, “Horny Kate”, “The Terrorist’s Handbook: A practical guide to explosives and other things of interests to terrorists”, “How To Spot A Pedophile [sic]”, “Freenet Warez Portal: The source for pirate copies of books, games, movies, music, software, TV series and more”, “Arson Around With Auntie: A how-to guide on arson attacks for animal rights activists”. There is material written in Russian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Italian. There is English-language material from America and Thailand, from Argentina and Japan. There are disconcerting blogs (“Welcome to my first Freenet site. I’m not here because of kiddie porn … [but] I might post some images of naked women”) and legally dubious political revelations. There is all the teeming life of the everyday internet, but rendered a little stranger and more intense. One of the Freenet bloggers sums up the difference: “If you’re reading this now, then you’re on the darkweb.”
The modern internet is often thought of as a miracle of openness – its global reach, its outflanking of censors, its seemingly all-seeing search engines. “Many many users think that when they search on Google they’re getting all the web pages,” says Anand Rajaraman, co-founder of Kosmix, one of a new generation of post-Google search engine companies. But Rajaraman knows different. “I think it’s a very small fraction of the deep web which search engines are bringing to the surface. I don’t know, to be honest, what fraction. No one has a really good estimate of how big the deep web is. Five hundred times as big as the surface web is the only estimate I know.”
Unfathomable and mysterious
“The darkweb”; “the deep web”; beneath “the surface web” – the metaphors alone make the internet feel suddenly more unfathomable and mysterious. Other terms circulate among those in the know: “darknet”, “invisible web”, “dark address space”, “murky address space”, “dirty address space”. Not all these phrases mean the same thing. While a “darknet” is an online network such as Freenet that is concealed from non-users, with all the potential for transgressive behaviour that implies, much of “the deep web”, spooky as it sounds, consists of unremarkable consumer and research data that is beyond the reach of search engines. “Dark address space” often refers to internet addresses that, for purely technical reasons, have simply stopped working.
And yet, in a sense, they are all part of the same picture: beyond the confines of most people’s online lives, there is a vast other internet out there, used by millions but largely ignored by the media and properly understood by only a few computer scientists. How was it created? What exactly happens in it? And does it represent the future of life online or the past?
Michael K Bergman, an American academic and entrepreneur, is one of the foremost authorities on this other internet. In the late 90s he undertook research to try to gauge its scale. “I remember saying to my staff, ‘It’s probably two or three times bigger than the regular web,”‘ he remembers. “But the vastness of the deep web . . . completely took my breath away. We kept turning over rocks and discovering things.”
In 2001 he published a paper on the deep web that is still regularly cited today. “The deep web is currently 400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined world wide web,” he wrote. “The deep web is the fastest growing category of new information on the internet … The value of deep web content is immeasurable … internet searches are searching only 0.03% … of the [total web] pages available.”
In the eight years since, use of the internet has been utterly transformed in many ways, but improvements in search technology by Google, Kosmix and others have only begun to plumb the deep web. “A hidden web [search] engine that’s going to have everything – that’s not quite practical,” says Professor Juliana Freire of the University of Utah, who is leading a deep web search project called Deep Peep. “It’s not actually feasible to index the whole deep web. There’s just too much data.”
But sheer scale is not the only problem. “When we’ve crawled [searched] several sites, we’ve gotten blocked,” says Freire. “You can actually come up with ways that make it impossible for anyone [searching] to grab all your data.” Sometimes the motivation is commercial – “people have spent a lot of time and money building, say, a database of used cars for sale, and don’t want you to be able to copy their site”; and sometimesprivacy is sought for other reasons. “There’s a well-known crime syndicate called the Russian Business Network (RBN),” says Craig Labovitz, chief scientist at Arbor Networks, a leading online security firm, “and they’re always jumping around the internet, grabbing bits of [disused] address space, sending out millions of spam emails from there, and then quickly disconnecting.”
The RBN also rents temporary websites to other criminals for online identity theft, child pornography and releasing computer viruses. The internet has been infamous for such activities for decades; what has been less understood until recently was how the increasingly complex geography of the internet has aided them. “In 2000 dark and murky address space was a bit of a novelty,” says Labovitz. “This is now an entrenched part of the daily life of the internet.” Defunct online companies; technical errors and failures; disputes between internet service providers; abandoned addresses once used by the US military in the earliest days of the internet – all these have left the online landscape scattered with derelict or forgotten properties, perfect for illicit exploitation, sometimes for only a few seconds before they are returned to disuse. How easy is it to take over a dark address? “I don’t think my mother could do it,” says Labovitz. “But it just takes a PC and a connection. The internet has been largely built on trust.”
Open or closed?
In fact, the internet has always been driven as much by a desire for secrecy as a desire for transparency. The network was the joint creation of the US defence department and the American counterculture – the WELL, one of the first and most influential online communities, was a spinoff from hippy bible the Whole Earth Catalog – and both groups had reasons to build hidden or semi-hidden online environments as well as open ones. “Strong encryption [code-writing] developed in parallel with the internet,” says Danny O’Brien, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a long-established pressure group for online privacy.
There are still secretive parts of the internet where this unlikely alliance between hairy libertarians and the cloak-and-dagger military endures. The Onion Router, or Tor, is an American volunteer-run project that offers free software to those seeking anonymous online communication, like a more respectable version of Freenet. Tor’s users, according to its website, include US secret service “field agents” and “law enforcement officers . . . Tor allows officials to surf questionable websites and services without leaving tell-tale tracks,” but also “activists and whistleblowers”, for example “environmental groups [who] are increasingly falling under surveillance in the US under laws meant to protect against terrorism”. Tor, in short, is used both by the American state and by some of its fiercest opponents. On the hidden internet, political life can be as labyrinthine as in a novel by Thomas Pynchon.
The hollow legs of Sealand
The often furtive, anarchic quality of life online struck some observers decades ago. In 1975, only half a dozen years after the internet was created, the science-fiction author John Brunner wrote of “so many worms and counter-worms loose in the data-net” in his influential novel The Shockwave Rider. By the 80s “data havens”, at first physical then online locations where sensitive computerised information could be concealed, were established in discreet jurisdictions such as Caribbean tax havens. In 2000 an American internet startup called HavenCo set up a much more provocative data haven, in a former second world war sea fort just outside British territorial waters off the Suffolk coast, which since the 60s had housed an eccentric independent “principality” calledSealand. HavenCo announced that it would store any data unless it concerned terrorism or child pornography, on servers built into the hollow legs of Sealand as they extended beneath the waves. A better metaphor for the hidden depths of the internet was hard to imagine.
In 2007 the highly successful Swedish filesharing website The Pirate Bay – the downloading of music and films for free being another booming darknet enterprise – announced its intention to buy Sealand. The plan has come to nothing so far, and last year it was reported that HavenCo had ceased operation, but in truth the need for physical data havens is probably diminishing. Services such as Tor and Freenet perform the same function electronically; and in a sense, even the “open” internet, as online privacy-seekers sometimes slightly contemptuously refer to it, has increasingly become a place for concealment: people posting and blogging under pseudonyms, people walling off their online lives from prying eyes on social networking websites.
“The more people do everything online, the more there’s going to be bits of your life that you don’t want to be part of your public online persona,” says O’Brien. A spokesman for the Police Central e-crime Unit [PCeU] at the Metropolitan Police points out that many internet secrets hide in plain sight: “A lot of internet criminal activity is on online forums that are not hidden, you just have to know where to find them. Like paedophile websites: people who use them might go to an innocent-looking website with a picture of flowers, click on the 18th flower, arrive on another innocent-looking website, click something there, and so on.” The paedophile ring convicted this autumn and currently awaiting sentence for offences involving Little Ted’s nursery in Plymouth met on Facebook. Such secret criminal networks are not purely a product of the digital age: codes and slang and pathways known only to initiates were granting access to illicit worlds long before the internet.
To libertarians such as O’Brien and Clarke the hidden internet, however you define it, is constantly under threat from restrictive governments and corporations. Its freedoms, they say, must be defended absolutely. “Child pornography does exist on Freenet,” says Clarke. “But it exists all over the web, in the post . . . At Freenet we could establish a virus to destroy any child pornography on Freenet – we could implement that technically. But then whoever has the key [to that filtering software] becomes a target. Suddenly we’d start getting served copyright notices; anything suspect on Freenet, we’d get pressure to shut it down. To modify Freenet would be the end of Freenet.”
According to the police, for criminal users of services such as Freenet, the end is coming anyway. The PCeU spokesman says, “The anonymity things, there are ways to get round them, and we do get round them. When you use the internet, something’s always recorded somewhere. It’s a question of identifying who is holding that information.” Don’t the police find their investigations obstructed by the libertarian culture of so much life online? “No, people tend to be co-operative.”
The internet, for all its anarchy, is becoming steadily more commercialised; as internet service providers, for example, become larger and more profit-driven, the spokesman suggests, it is increasingly in their interests to accept a degree of policing. “There has been an increasing centralisation,” Ian Clarke acknowledges regretfully.
Meanwhile the search engine companies are restlessly looking for paths into the deep web and the other sections of the internet currently denied to them. “There’s a deep implication for privacy,” says Anand Rajaraman of Kosmix. “Tonnes and tonnes of stuff out there on the deep web has what I call security through obscurity. But security through obscurity is actually a false security. You [the average internet user] can’t find something, but the bad guys can find it if they try hard enough.”
As Kosmix and other search engines improve, he says, they will make the internet truly transparent: “You will be on the same level playing field as the bad guys.” The internet as a sort of electronic panopticon, everything on it unforgivingly visible and retrievable – suddenly its current murky depths seem in some ways preferable.
Ten years ago Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the web, wrote: “I have a dream for the web in which computers become capable of analysing all the data on the web – the content, links, and transactions between people … A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines.” Yet this “semantic web” remains the stuff of knotty computer science papers rather than a reality.
“It’s really been the holy grail for 30 years,” says Bergman. One obstacle, he continues, is that the internet continues to expand in unpredictable and messy surges. “The boundaries of what the web is have become much more blurred. Is Twitter part of the web or part of something else? Now the web, in a sense, is just everything. In 1998, the NEC laboratory at Princeton published a paper on the size of the internet. Who could get something like that published now? You can’t talk about how big the internet is. Because what is the metric?”
It seems likely that the internet will remain in its Gold Rush phase for some time yet. And in the crevices and corners of its slightly thrown-together structures, darknets and other private online environments will continue to flourish. They can be inspiring places to spend time in, full of dissidents and eccentrics and the internet’s original freewheeling spirit. But a darknet is not always somewhere for the squeamish.
On Freenet, there is a currently a “freesite” which makes allegations against supposed paedophiles, complete with names, photographs, extensive details of their lives online, and partial home addresses. In much smaller type underneath runs the disclaimer: “The material contained in this freesite is hearsay . . . It is not admissable in court proceedings and would certainly not reach the burden of proof requirement of a criminal trial.”
Important note for first time users
For best performance, Freenet will run continually. It should not interfere with your computer usage, as it requires around 200MB of RAM and 10% of one CPU core, plus some disk access. We strongly recommend you shut down Freenet while playing computer games etc. On Windows you can do this from the system tray icon, on other systems use the links on the system menu or the desktop.
Normally Freenet will connect automatically and should “just work”, automatically connecting to other nodes (Strangers). However, if you know several people who are already using Freenet, you can enable high security mode and add them as Friends, so Freenet will only connect to them, making your usage of Freenet almost undetectable, while still being able to access the rest of the network through their friends’ friends etc. This will be slower unless you add 10+ friends who are usually online when you are.
By Tyler Durden
August 03, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Earlier, we reported the personal narrative of Michele Catalano who recounted how one day she found herself face to face with six agents from the joint terrorism task force. The reason? “Our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching.Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.”
The answer of “who” was watching should be far clearer in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations from the past two months. But instead of rehashing the old story of the NSA intercepting and recording virtually every form of electronic communication that exists, or ruminating on what filters Ms. Catalano triggered to lead to this truly disturbing outcome, perhaps a better question is just what is it that Google knows about each and everyone who uses its interface daily, which in this day and age means everyone with a computer. As it turns out, pretty much everything.
Here is the thought, and not so “thought” experiment that the WSJ’s Tom Gara ran yesterday, before Ms. Catalano’s story had hit, to uncover just how rich his informational tapestry is in the repositories of the firm that once upon a time urged itself, rhetorically, to “not be evil.”
Let’s run through a little thought experiment.
Imagine there’s a list somewhere that contains every single webpage you have visited in the last five years. It also has everything you have ever searched for, every address you looked up on Google GOOG +1.86% Maps, every email you sent, every chat message, every YouTube video you watched. Each entry is time-stamped, so it’s clear exactly, down to the minute, when all of this was done.
Now imagine that list is all searchable. And imagine it’s on a clean, easy-to-use website. With all that imagined, can you think of a way a hacker, with access to this, could use it against you?
And once you’ve imagined all that, go over to google.com/dashboard, and see it all become reality.
For a piece complementing today’s story on Google and privacy by the WSJ’s Amir Efrati, I took a deep dive into Google Dashboard, a kind of Grand Central Terminus for all the information the company has stored on you. It’s a truly amazing amount, especially if, like me, you have been a heavy Gmail user since its launch in 2004. As long as you are logged into Gmail, or any other Google account, the company isn’t just keeping track of how you use its own service — it’s noting every site you visit on the web.
Here’s a snapshot of the kind of data we found on my Google Dashboard, put together as a graphic for today’s newspaper. It includes my 64,019 Google searches, and 134,966 Gmail conversations:
The snapshot in question:
Gara’s purely theoretical ruminations continue:
The idea that all of this data exists as a mass of ones and zeros deep in a server farm in California, being studied by disinterested robots to serve up better search results and more relevant ads, is something most of us can process in the abstract.
But the fact that it is all viewable right now, on a user-friendly Web page complete with its own search service (yes, you can run Google searches on your own web history), is something else entirely. For example, I searched for every website I’ve ever visited containing the word “octopus.” And yes, the results were wonderful.
Of course, if somebody else managed to access my Google Dashboard — and the chances of this happening are well above zero — they could search for things far less innocent than an eight-tentacled sea creature. The bad possibilities seem endless, from digital blackmail to much deeper forms of identity theft.
Or six joint terrorism task force agents showing up on your front step just because you googled “pressure cookers.”
But wait, there’s more.
Because it is not just the NSA, and its downstream enforcement tentacles, that has open access to the informational nexus that is Google and its “Don’t be evil” creed. So does the FBI.
Law-enforcement officials in the U.S. are expanding the use of tools routinely used by computer hackers to gather information on suspects, bringing the criminal wiretap into the cyber age.
Federal agencies have largely kept quiet about these capabilities, but court documents and interviews with people involved in the programs provide new details about the hacking tools, including spyware delivered to computers and phones through email or Web links—techniques more commonly associated with attacks by criminals.
People familiar with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s programs say that the use of hacking tools under court orders has grown as agents seek to keep up with suspects who use new communications technology, including some types of online chat and encryption tools. The use of such communications, which can’t be wiretapped like a phone, is called “going dark” among law enforcement.
A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment.
The FBI develops some hacking tools internally and purchases others from the private sector. With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.’s Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said.Google declined to comment.
There is more but the gist is clear: all those seemingly ridiculous surveillance methods used by Jack Bauer and countless other fictional characters… they were all too real.
Just as real, in fact, as the Big Brother predicted by George Orwell so many years ago. And just as real, although we will need another Edward Snowden to reveal it, as the modern-day equivalent of Room 101.
Copyright ©2009-2013 ZeroHedge.com/ABC Media, LTD – http://www.zerohedge.com/
26 April 2012
You are all potential terrorists. It matters not that you live in Britain, the United States, Australia or the Middle East. Citizenship is effectively abolished. Turn on your computer and the US Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center may monitor whether you are typing not merely “al-Qaeda”, but “exercise”, “drill”, “wave”, “initiative” and “organisation”: all proscribed words. The British government’s announcement that it intends to spy on every email and phone call is old hat. The satellite vacuum cleaner known as Echelon has been doing this for years. What has changed is that a state of permanent war has been launched by the United States and a police state is consuming western democracy. What are you going to do about it? In Britain, on instructions from the CIA, secret courts are to deal with “terror suspects”. Habeas Corpus is dying. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that five men, including three British citizens, can be extradited to the US even though none except one has been charged with a crime. All have been imprisoned for years under the 2003 US/UK Extradition Treaty which was signed one month after the criminal invasion of Iraq. The European Court had condemned the treaty as likely to lead to “cruel and unusual punishment”. One of the men, Babar Ahmad, was awarded 63,000 pounds compensation for 73 recorded injuries he sustained in the custody of the Metropolitan Police. Sexual abuse, the signature of fascism, was high on the list. Another man is a schizophrenic who has suffered a complete mental collapse and is in Broadmoor secure hospital; another is a suicide risk. To the Land of the Free, they go – along with young Richard O’Dwyer, who faces 10 years in shackles and an orange jump suit because he allegedly infringed US copyright on the internet. As the law is politicised and Americanised, these travesties are not untypical. In upholding the conviction of a London university student, Mohammed Gul, for disseminating “terrorism” on the internet, Appeal Court judges in London ruled that “acts… against the armed forces of a state anywhere in the world which sought to influence a government and were made for political purposes” were now crimes. Call to the dock Thomas Paine, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela. What are you going to do about it? The prognosis is clear now: the malignancy that Norman Mailer called “pre fascist” has metastasized. The US attorney-general, Eric Holder, defends the “right” of his government to assassinate American citizens. Israel, the protege, is allowed to aim its nukes at nukeless Iran. In this looking glass world, the lying is panoramic. The massacre of 17 Afghan civilians on 11 March, including at least nine children and four women, is attributed to a “rogue” American soldier. The “authenticity” of this is vouched by President Obama himself, who had “seen a video” and regards it as “conclusive proof”. An independent Afghan parliamentary investigation produces eyewitnesses who give detailed evidence of as many as 20 soldiers, aided by a helicopter, ravaging their villages, killing and raping: a standard, if marginally more murderous US special forces “night raid”. Take away the videogame technology of killing – America’s contribution to modernity – and the behaviour is traditional. Immersed in comic-book righteousness, poorly or brutally trained, frequently racist, obese and led by a corrupt officer class, American forces transfer the homicide of home to faraway places whose impoverished struggles they cannot comprehend. A nation founded on the genocide of the native population never quite kicks the habit. Vietnam was “Indian country” and its “slits” and “gooks” were to be “blown away”. The blowing away of hundreds of mostly women and children in the Vietnamese village of My Lai in 1968 was also a “rogue” incident and, profanely, an “American tragedy” (the cover headline of Newsweek). Only one of 26 men prosecuted was convicted and he was let go by President Richard Nixon. My Lai is in Quang Ngai province where, as I learned as a reporter, an estimated 50,000 people were killed by American troops, mostly in what they called “free fire zones”. This was the model of modern warfare: industrial murder. Like Iraq and Libya, Afghanistan is a theme park for the beneficiaries of America’s new permanent war: Nato, the armaments and hi-tech companies, the media and a “security” industry whose lucrative contamination is a contagion on everyday life. The conquest or “pacification” of territory is unimportant. What matters is the pacification of you, the cultivation of your indifference. What are you going to do about it? The descent into totalitarianism has landmarks. Any day now, the Supreme Court in London will decide whether the WikiLeaks editor, Julian Assange, is to be extradited to Sweden. Should this final appeal fail, the facilitator of truth-telling on an epic scale, who is charged with no crime, faces solitary confinement and interrogation on ludicrous sex allegations. Thanks to a secret deal between the US and Sweden, he can be “rendered” to the American gulag at any time. In his own country, Australia, prime minister Julia Gillard has conspired with those in Washington she calls her “true mates” to ensure her innocent fellow citizen is fitted for his orange jump suit just in case he should make it home. In February, her government wrote a “WikiLeaks Amendment” to the extradition treaty between Australia and the US that makes it easier for her “mates” to get their hands on him. She has even given them the power of approval over Freedom of Information searches – so that the world outside can be lied to, as is customary. What are you going to do about it?
By Gehan Gunasekara
For the Government it is the perfect privacy storm: the Snowden disclosures about massive NSA internet and phone surveillance continue to pour in, a journalist’s phone records and swipe card logs have been inappropriately accessed, and earlier revelations through the Dotcom affair showed illegal spying by the GCSB of New Zealand residents – at the very time the Government is attempting to legitimise the illegal spying by pushing through new surveillance legislation against the wishes of the vast majority of citizens.
The issue has brought together citizens all around the world including those in the United States who have, it appears, finally turned against the surveillance state set up since September 11, 2001. Legislation outlawing the NSA spying was only narrowly defeated in Congress by the Obama Administration which has been under some pressure due to the Snowden revelations.
Companies such as Facebook and Google are losing market share as consumers flock to alternative websites promising greater security against state intrusion (whether or not that is credible) and greater respect for privacy.
Corporate concern is on this occasion lined up with consumers and against government, a powerful combination. Governments worldwide are on the back foot.
The tens of thousands here and overseas marching against assaults on privacy give the lie to the sentiment that “privacy is dead”. Obviously, most people do care deeply about who has access to their personal information.
Information they choose to put on social networks such as photos and “likes” are one thing but “metadata” such as phone and internet records of every call made or website visited are another entirely – especially when subjected to mining and analysis by unknown and unverified algorithms that could come back to affect them, and their contacts, much later. Despite this, our Government seems hell-bent on carrying through the unpopular legislation.
People often ask me what they should do, given these developments. Should they retreat to the pre-internet age, go off-line and resort to snail mail (NZ Post would be delighted) or carrier pigeon? This might be counter-productive, although it would put further pressure on those internet companies prompting them to lobby governments. There is, however, another strategy, one that uses the very technology itself to send a message. This is civil disobedience, and it is quite legal.
Let me explain what I have in mind. Start sending random emails to people and encourage them to do the same to everyone they know. Don’t use obvious words like “explosive” or “jihad” or names such as “Akhmed”. Be more clever than that. Refer to vague and indeterminate “projects”, courses and trips overseas and meetings with John and Sally or whoever.
Make up hypothetical “friends” and refer to totally fictitious trips you have made or are planning. Ask random strangers you meet if they will join your protest and allow you to send them emails. Visit radical websites, even Islamist or anarchist ones – nothing illegal in this. From time to time talk about “doing something” to stop Western policies. Set up multiple online identities.
Pretty soon everyone in New Zealand will have to be under surveillance. This is the nature of civil disobedience. For example, Gandhi’s famous “salt march” encouraged everyone to make salt and highlighted the state’s ultimate failure to stop it by arresting the entire population. The Prime Minister’s scare tactics of pointing to al-Qaeda operatives in our midst is just that. Such people are few and easily identifiable in a small population such as ours. Target them but do not put all of us under surveillance because of them.
It is time to resist the assault on our privacy by fighting fire with fire.
Gehan Gunasekara is an associate professor in commercial law at the University of Auckland specialising in information privacy law.
Was Boston Bomber a ‘White Supremacist?’ Investigation finds Tamerlan Tsarnaev was in possession of right-wing extremist literature
By wmw_admin on August 5, 2013
Introduction — August 5, 2013
There are many questions still unanswered about what really happened at the Boston marathon. Fromphotographic evidence of teams of private military contractors acting suspiciously at the scene of the marathon just before the bombs detonated — photos that have been completely ignored by the corporate media — to indications that the evidence implicating Dzokhat Tsarnaev had been tamperedwith, there many reasons to question the official version of events.
All the more so as the corporate media itself has studiously overlooked firm photographic evidence that points to others being involved in the bombings.
The fact that the media has pointedly ignored this evidence should tell us that they are complicit in helping to build a case against the Tsarnaev brothers, at the very least.
However, this has ramifications that go well beyond the Boston bombings with implications that are potentially far more significant and sinister.
The fact that a BBC investigation discovered Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s “right-wing, white supremacy literature” should make us suspicious from the outset. Beyond the possibility that the material could have easily been planted in the aftermath of the bombings, the BBC itself has a highly questionable reputation for reporting objective news.
In reporting EVERY major false flag in the last 15 years the BBC has dutifully and unquestionable stuck to the official version of events. Even reporting the collapse of WTC 7 BEFORE it actually fell; with the BBC journalist reporting the buildings collapse in front of a New York skyline with WTC 7 still clearly visible in thebackground. Almost as if she were following a badly timed script.
Nonetheless, the implications behind this latest journalistic revelation are far more sinister.
Why? Because now the U.S. government in tandem with the quisling corporate media are trying to link honest investigative journalism with terrorism. The following report not only links the Tsarnaev brothers with “White Supremacist” literature it also claims:
The 26-year-old also had material that claimed the 9/11 attacks and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing were government conspiracies.
In other words it is equating “conspiracy theories” with “terrorism”.
Let me repeat that for added emphasis: the authorities and their quisling media are attempting to link conspiracy research with terrorism. Making investigators into 9/11 or 7/7 little more than terrorists.
Was Boston Bomber a ‘White Supremacist?’ Investigation finds Tamerlan Tsarnaev was in possession of right-wing extremist literature in run-up to terror attack
Anna Edwards — Daily Mail August 5, 2013
One of the Boston Bomber suspects subscribed to right-wing white supremacy literature and government conspiracy theories before the horrific attack which killed three people. Tamerlan Tsarnaev read extreme right-wing literature that claimed ‘Hitler had a point’ and articles about the ‘rape of our gun rights’, an investigation has found. The 26-year-old also had material that claimed the 9/11 attacks and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing were government conspiracies. He and his brother Dzhokhar, originally from Chechnya, allegedly carried out the bombing at the Boston marathon’s finish line on April 15 which killed three people and injured more than 260. Until now the pair are believed to have carried out the attacks due to their radical jihadist beliefs. But an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme has learnt that Tamerlan possessed white supremacist literature, and material on mass killings and how victims were murdered. After the shoot-out, it emerged that Tamerlan had become interested in Islam – but to what extent is unclear. A spokesman for Tamerlan’s mosque in Cambridge, Massachuessets, said Tamerlan only prayed there occasionally, and described him as an angry man who latched onto Islam, Panorama reported. The older of the two Chechen brothers once dreamed of representing the U.S. as a boxer, it was reported, but before the bombings had turned to Islam. Continues …
By Brian Rudman
With one of his million-dollar Colgate smiles, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters looked skyward, inviting the journalist to watch the pigs flying past. It was his succinct reaction to claims that the prime ministerial team probing into a leaked report had returned, without reading, copies of the emails to and from the press gallery journalist who got the scoop. Emails which had been extracted and dispatched to the investigators by another branch of the parliamentary bureaucracy. From the documents now coming to light, it appears if the emails were not read, it was because they didn’t have the right computer programme at hand. Agents of the state have always had an insatiable appetite for snooping. Whether it be by steaming open envelopes, stretching suspects on the rack, or shoving slivers of bamboo under fingernails, our governors have always felt the need and assumed the right to spy on those they rule over. The Big Brother crisis rapidly enveloping John Key’s Government is deliciously highlighting that our present masters are carrying on an old tradition. If not very adroitly. Every day brings another bumble. Yesterday, the Herald on Sunday exposed how the police obtained, with a search warrant, a dossier of 323 text messages sent and received by Bradley Ambrose, the cameraman at the centre of the ridiculous “Teagate” incident during the 2011 election campaign. The Prime Minister and Act leader John Banks had staged a hugely public photo opportunity in Mr Banks’ Epsom electorate to signal to local National voters that Mr Key wanted them to vote for Mr Banks, to ensure National gained a support party in the new Parliament. During the arrival melee, Mr Ambrose left his camera microphone on the meeting table. Full of faux-outrage when he discovered there was a third party at his “secret” tete-a-tete, Mr Key called in the constabulary. As it turns out, the emails are said to prove Mr Ambrose innocent of any deliberate intent to record the meeting. But included in the emails was correspondence with his lawyer, which should have been protected. The incident shows how easy it is for the police to get a search warrant on a minor charge. Law professor Bill Hodge calls it “mind-boggling”, which is a good summary of not just this incident but the procession of invasions of privacy that has been unfolding under the present Government. That the oppressive power of the state has been unleashed to intimidate the media in two trivial incidents should alarm all democrats, especially as Mr Key seems naively oblivious to the potential repercussions. In the Epsom “Teagate” episode, he somehow considered that an alleged invasion of his privacy in the middle of his carefully managed media circus was crime enough to unleash all the invasive powers in his hands. The second episode involved the leaking of the official inquiry into the extent of illegal spying by Government agencies, which was due for release at a stage-managed event a few days later anyway. Mr Key reacted by demanding access to all ministers’ emails, and when United Future leader Peter Dunne refused to reveal all of his, he was sacked from the Cabinet. As well as tracking her swipe card movements within Parliament, it’s now been revealed that all journalist Andrea Vance’s emails around that time were illegally passed on to Mr Key’s investigators as well. If ever there was a time for an inquiry into privacy and the role of our spy agencies, it is now. With a growing number of journalists and politicians addicted to revealing every skerrick of gossip and insight they come upon, on Twitter and Facebook anyway, there must be many outsiders wondering what all the fuss is about. Or, as Mr Key has said a hundred times, if you’ve got nothing to hide, what have you got to worry about? He only has to think back to his angry reaction to finding the microphone on his table at the Epsom tea party to know the answer to that facile quip. Everyone has secrets they prefer not to share – particularly not with the all-powerful Big Brother John Key and the state apparatus.
Fears of customer backlash over breach of privacy as firms give GCHQ unlimited access to their undersea cables
Snowden is charged with violating the Espionage Act, the draconian l917 law devised to indict foreign spies but repeatedly used by the Obama Administration to target whistleblowers. Yesterday he was granted temporary asylum for a year and his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said he had left Moscow Airport for an undisclosed “safe place”. The White House said President Obama was “extremely disappointed” and was reconsidering a visit to Moscow next month, evidence of the wider political ripples caused by the NSA scandal. Even as Snowden accepted sanctuary in Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian Russia, which is no friend to dissidents, back in the US a military court had reached a verdict in the court martial of US Army Private Bradley Manning.
Manning faces a maximum 136 years in prison. The trial’s sentencing phase is expected to stretch through August. His conviction heightens speculation the US will try to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a co-conspirator in its crusade against whistleblowers. Meanwhile, Snowden’s NSA revelations trickle out. Last Sunday, the Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald told ABC News that “low level” NSA staff could access trillions of stored emails and telephone calls, reading or listening to the contents, as well as look at anyone’s online search and browsing activity, with no court oversight, through software called Xkeyscore. Evoking Casablanca’s Captain Renault on hearing gambling occurred in a club, Senate Intelligence Committee Republican and NSA defender Saxby Chambliss told ABC he was “shocked” by Greenwald’s allegation. He said the NSA “assured” him it would not read emails or listen to calls without a court order. Obama defended mass surveillance in meetings this week with US lawmakers from intelligence committees, scrambling to counter the news about Xkeyscore as critics in Congress seek to rein in the NSA. Given the prospect of ongoing revelations as journalists mine NSA material, or WikiLeaks spills more secrets, the stakes are huge for the US and its allies in the Five Fingers spy network: Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau. The Manning verdict may intimidate potential whistleblowers but such heavy-handedness could backfire. Public outrage at the NSA’s mass surveillance has sparked fears the balance between personal freedom and state power is dangerously out of whack, posing the question: who holds ultimate power in a democracy, citizens or elected representatives? There are growing demands that “national security” – a vague term critics fear can hide official malfeasance – be specifically defined so government actions can be made more accountable and transparent. A July Pew Research Centre poll found that, for the first time since 9/11, more Americans are concerned about threats to their civil liberties than they are about terror attacks. Pew found 56 per cent of respondents believe federal courts have failed “to provide adequate limits on telephone and internet data [which] the Government is collecting as part of its anti-terrorism efforts”. A further 70 per cent believe the US uses the data for “purposes other than investigating terrorism”. And 63 per cent believe “the Government is also gathering information about the content of communications”. This was in stark contrast to a 2010 Pew poll that found 58 per cent felt the US needed to step up efforts to protect itself. After Snowden, citizens are asking if they need protection from their own governments. “The larger question – whether people in the US are willing to sacrifice their right to privacy, their freedom of expression and their right to information in the name of national security, particularly when there’s so much evidence of the US security apparatus having gone rather mad – is becoming a much more critical conversation,” says Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy. The revelation in July that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress about mass surveillance stoked concern the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rubber-stamps NSA excesses, the vast trove of classified material masks corruption, and the NSA’s partnership with private contractors risks conflicts of interest. “People who are subject to surveillance and told it’s for their own protection are beginning to understand the price is too high,” says Brown. “The other thing that’s critical about why privacy matters is can you complain about your government? Can you dissent? And if everything you say is collected how much will be used against you?” It is a sinister prospect with far-reaching legal issues. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders and about 100 other groups have signed the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance, which echoes an April United Nations report about the dire impact of state surveillance on human rights. Then there is the wider technological fallout. How private are communications made online or by phone now we know telcos and tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft grant access to the NSA? The NSA fallout will hasten the “Balkanisation” of the internet, writes theGuardian‘s John Naughton, the end of the utopian dream of one vast network for all. “Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their ‘cloud’ services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA.” The commercial implications for Google and others – caught in a Catch-22 situation because the FISC stops them revealing they were subject to a secret NSA surveillance order – as private companies fret about the security of confidential and privileged information are enormous. And news that the NSA spied on European Union members has generated political ripples, complicating efforts to form a US-EU free trade zone. There is also suspicion the NSA – and its Five Eyes partners – may be outsourcing domestic snooping to circumvent national prohibitions. Agencies enjoy close links. Snowden’s leaks show the NSA paid the British Government communications headquarters over 100 million ($191.4 million) from 2009 to 2012 for access to, and influence over, intelligence. “What we’ve seen with the creation of a boundless digital sphere,” says Brown, “is that states are reaching far beyond their borders in a lot of their unlawful surveillance, and at the same time looking at outs where they basically have a quid pro quo going on. They did that in the non-digital world, outsourcing torture. That’s what renditions were about.” The Snowden affair also highlights double standards when it comes to extradition (Russia and the US do not have an extradition treaty). On July 18, Panama detained ex-CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady on an Interpol warrant. Lady and a CIA snatch team were convicted by Italy in absentia for the 2003 rendition of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, seized in Milan and taken to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. Within 24 hours Lady had left Panama for the US. Curiously, the US media was silent on this development – Washington said Panama had “expelled” Lady – even as Snowden’s fate was endlessly debated. Which shines a harsh light on how the US projects power. Brown says that since 9/11 “the US has completely subverted the paradigm a government should act transparently and the people they govern should have some assurance of privacy”. Instead, citizens are subject to mass surveillance waved through by an unaccountable secret court. Which could be viewed as a huge win for terrorism. Like the judge who will pass sentence on Manning, the public court is still out on that one. The leakers
Edward Snowden: • June 5: Guardian publishes first leak that says the NSA is collecting the telephone records of millions of Americans. • June 6: Guardian and Washington Post publish details of the Prism programme. • June 9: Guardian identifies Edward Snowden, at his own request, as source of the leaks. • June 14: US files criminal charges against Snowden. • June 23: Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Moscow, applies for asylum in Ecuador. • July 6: Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua say they would offer Snowden asylum. • July 12: Snowden says at news conference that he is seeking asylum in Russia. • Yesterday: Russia awards Snowden asylum and he leaves airport.
Bradley Manning: • October 2009: Private Bradley Manning sent to Iraq, where he has access to top secret information. • November 2009: Makes contact with WikiLeaks for the first time after it leaked pager messages from 9/11. • January 2010: Downloads the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. • April 2010: WikiLeaks posts a video of a 2007 incident in which Iraqi civilians and journalists are killed by a US helicopter gunship. • May 29, 2010: Manning arrested in Kuwait. • June 5, 2010: Manning charged with leaking classified information. • March 11, 2011: Manning’s charges updated to 22 violations, including “aiding the enemy”. • February 28, 2013: Pleads guilty to leaking military information. • June 3: Court martial begins. • Wednesday: Cleared of “aiding the enemy” but guilty of five espionage charges
Training materials for the XKeyscore program detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases and develop intelligence from the web
(NaturalNews) If the recent revelations about theNational Security Agency‘s (NSA) massive data collection and spying schemes on Americans have made you reconsider the state of your privacy, you may be shocked to learn that some online merchants are also now using your personal data to rip you off when you shop online. According to new reports, some internet businesses are actually tracking users’ browsing histories and charging them more for goods and services if they visit “high-end” websites that sell expensive products. As reported by the U.K.’s Guardian, some online travel merchants, for instance, are charging users more for plane fares and hotel stays if their browsing histories reveal a liking for expensive products and services. Users who visit websites that sell fancy jewelry, for example, or that promote lavish vacations could end up paying more for the travel services to get there, as opposed to other users whose browsing histories reveal a more frugal approach to life. “Having your data passed around can … lead you to be charged more for an item,” writes Charles Arthur for Guardian.co.uk. “[I]f your browsing history shows you visit high-end sites, some sites will increase prices. (That’s why plane fares can drop if you delete the ‘cookie’ files in your browser.)” To put it another way, some of the very same private data being collected by the occupying federal powers is also being collected, at least to some degree, by online businesses for the purpose of “customizing” the prices of products for individual users. This means that so-called “rich” folks, or even just people who visit websites that look “rich,” could be paying more than everybody else for the same products.
Orbitz exposed for charging Mac users more for travel accommodations
The Guardian piece does not divulge the names of online merchants that engage in such practices, but an earlier report in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) identifies the popular travel website Orbitz as one known culprit. According to this report, Orbitz actually charges users browsing its site on Apple computers up to 30 percent more for hotel stays than users browsing on PCs. “The sort of targeting undertaken by Orbitz is likely to become more commonplace as online retailers scramble to identify new ways in which people’s browsing data can be used to boost online sales,” writes Dana Mattioli for the WSJ. “The effort underscores how retailers are becoming bigger users of so-called predictive analytics, crunching reams of data to guess the future shopping habits of customers.”
Regularly clearing your cache, browsing in privacy mode can help you save money online
So how can you avoid being taken advantage of while shopping online? The simplest and most obvious way is to activate the “privacy mode” function on your web browser, which will prevent websites from accessing and tracking your personal data. You can also disable cookies from being stored and tracked by the websites you visit, or at least regularly delete them from your system by going into your browser’s settings and clearing them out. For additional privacy, you can also use search engines like Ixquick, Startpage, and DuckDuckGo, none of which collect and store your personal data. This is important, as many popular search engines such as Google and Bing actively track your activity and exploit it — or worse, furnish it to the rogue American police state to be potentially used against you in the future. Other helpful privacy tools include Disconnect, Adblock Edge, Ghostery, and HTTPS Everywhere, which you can find online. Sources for this article include: http://www.guardian.co.uk http://online.wsj.com http://www.ghostery.com
Revelations from European leaders on Monday that the National Security Agency bugged European Union offices in Washington and hacked into its computer network bring to light hypocrisy on the part of the U.S. government. In 2011, the Pentagon released its first formal cyber strategy, which called computer hacking from other nations an “act of war,” according to the Wall Street Journal. In late June of this year, WSJ reported that Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, released information alleging the U.S. government was hacking Chinese targets “that include the nation’s mobile-phone companies and one of the country’s most prestigious universities.” Now that EU offices have been hacked by the U.S. government as well, one must wonder if that was an “act of war” on the part of the United States. Pentagon officials emphasized in 2011, however, that not every cyberattack would be considered an act of war unless it threatened American lives, commerce or infrastructure. There would also have to be indisputable evidence that the suspected nation state was involved. U.S. hacking of China and the EU may not have caused such harm to those countries, but that hasn’t stopped EU officials from expressing outrage. “I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of U.S. authorities spying on EU offices,” Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament said. “If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-U.S. relations.” Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, also chimed in, calling the practice “abominable.” A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “bugging friends is unacceptable.” French President Francois Hollande condemned the practice as well, saying, “We cannot accept this type of behavior between partners and allies.” Hollande later said that the hacking was not necessary for anti-terrorism efforts. “We know that there are systems which have to control notably for the threat against terrorism, but I do not think that this is in our embassies or in the EU that this risks exist,” he said. President Obama, however, doesn’t seem to think he’s done anything wrong. Apparently, you might be a terrorist if you work for the EU.
Dr. Rodney Harrison QC, a senior barrister, told the committee that further details on the extent of the proposed legislation were needed before it was made law. “The first and most critical question is, precisely what activities are to be engaged in by the GCSB. We don’t even know the answer to this question,” he said. The government needs 61 votes in order to pass the bill but is currently one vote short. Mr Key needs Peter Dunne, an independent MP, to vote for it if it is to pass, as the Maori Party, the governments other support partner is unlikely to give its backing. Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (L) speaks as he comes face to face for the first time with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (R) as lawmakers examine a controversial proposal allowing intelligence agencies to spy on local residents at Bowen House in Wellington on July 3, 2013. If Dunne’s vote is not forth coming, Key will have to go to the New Zealand Frist party for support; a small, populist, cross-bench party. New Zealand’s GCSB is a partner in the so-called “five-eyes” group, a technical and information sharing partnership, which is officially called The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) and includes the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand and which is led by America’s National Security Agency.
Dotcom’s spying claims
Dotcom is being sought by the US on charges of copyright infringement and money laundering, in connection with his file sharing site Megaupload. Dotcom is claiming he has evidence that Key, contrary to repeated public assurances, had been aware of his activities before a dramatic raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion north of Auckland last year. Kim Dotcom’s status as a permanent resident of New Zealand meant the GCSB was not allowed to spy on him. The Prime Minster later issued a public apology over the incident. “Abuse of spying powers is not limited to national security matters. The GCSB was involved in the raid on my home to support an alleged breach of copyright, it has nothing to do with terrorism or national security,” he said. “Oh he knew about me before the raid, I know about that. You know I know,” said dotcom staring straight at Key. “I know you don’t know. I know you don’t know,” the Prime Minster replied. “Why are you turning red, Prime Minister?” Kim quipped back. “I’m not. Why are you sweating?” said Key. “It’s hot. I have a scarf,” said Kim. After the hearing Kim told the New Zealand TV3 Campbell live program, while grinning at the camera, “I do not know Edward Snowdon personally, that’s all I want to say about this.” Key later told reporters that Kim was “a well-known conspiracy theorist. He’s utterly wrong.”
by craig on July 3, 2013
The strange script which appears there happens when I try to copy and paste from this site which preserved the article before the Guardian censored all the material about the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement from it. As you can see from the newssniffer site linked above, for many hours there was just a notice stating that the article was “taken down pending investigation”, and then it was replaced on the same URL by the Guardian with a different story which does not mention the whistleblower Wayne Madsen or the intelligence sharing agreements!! I can give, and I would give on oath, an eye witness guarantee that from my direct personal experience of twenty years as a British diplomat the deleted information from Wayne Madsen was true.
Obama administration’s objective with Snowden is “to intimidate future whistleblowers from coming forward”
I will say that there are vast programs of both domestic and international spying that the world will be shocked to learn about that the NSA is engaged in with no democratic accountability, and that’s what’s driving our reporting.
Greenwald also gave a preview of this next exposé over the weekend during a speech given to the Socialism 2013 conference, saying it would report on “a brand new technology [that] enables the National Security Agency to redirect into its own repositories one billion cell phones calls every single day.” The example the Obama administration is setting with Snowden, Greenwald explained to Bolling, is to give a warning to future whistleblowers that the repercussions will be swift and harsh.
I think what the Obama administration wants and has been trying to establish for the last almost five years now with the unprecedented war on whistleblowers that it is waging is to make it so that everybody is petrified of coming forward with information about what our political officials are doing in the dark that is deceitful, illegal or corrupt. They don’t care about Edward Snowden at this point; he can no longer do anything that he hasn’t already done. What they care about is making an extremely negative example out of him to intimidate future whistleblowers from coming forward because they’ll think that they’re going to end up like him. That’s their objective.
On what he sees as “Snowden’s endgame,” Greenwald, who said he has not seen the whistleblower since he left Hong Kong, replied:
Well, from the very first time that I spoke with him he said that he completely understood that once he came forward against the U.S. government and the Obama administration that he would become the most wanted man on earth, and would be hunted down by the world’s most powerful state, and that he felt that it was worthwhile to do that because he could not in good conscience allow this massive spying program aimed at the American people to be constructed in the dark. And he said obviously he wants to stay out of the clutches of the U.S. government given the way they’ve persecuted whistleblowers. He’s obviously trying to find a place where he can do that but his real goal is to continue to be part of the conversation about why he did what he did, what it is that he saw in the NSA, how these spying powers were being abused, and to continue to make people around the world and his fellow citizens in the United States aware of what their government is doing.
Later on the program, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said that Greenwald has been “involved with the WikiLeaks” and “has it a little bit mixed up.” Johnson called Greenwald “almost a flack, the alter-ego for the media” for Snowden. In the interview with Bolling, Greenwald explained:
This is what journalism is about—shining a light on what the most powerful people in the country are doing to them in the dark.
Johnson said that “transparency is the issue”—not the transparency of the U.S. government, officials or the NSA’s vast surveillance program—but about Mr. Greenwald, whom he said may be an “advocacy journalist,” not “merely a reporter.”
WONDERING WHAT HARMLESS ‘METADATA’ LIKE THE NSA COMPILES CAN ACTUALLY REVEAL? GERMAN POLITICIAN SHOWS YOU
“In Germany, whenever the government begins to infringe on individual freedom, society stands up. Given our history, we Germans are not willing to trade in our liberty for potentially better security. Germans have experienced firsthand what happens when the government knows too much about someone,” Spitz wrote. “Three weeks ago, when the news broke about the National Security Agency’s collection of metadata in the United States, I knew exactly what it meant. My records revealed the movements of a single individual; now imagine if you had access to millions of similar data sets. You could easily draw maps, tracing communication and movement. You could see which individuals, families or groups were communicating with one another. You could identify any social group and determine its major actors,” he continued later in his op-ed. [Emphasis added] With this latest news of the NSA’s data collection, Spitz wrote that U.S. President Barack Obama speaking outside the Brandenburg Gate on June 19 — just five days after The Guardian had broken its first NSA story based on information leaked to it from Edward Snowden — “looked a lot different from the one who spoke in front of the Siegessäule in July 2008.” “During Mr. Obama’s presidency, no American political debate has received as much attention in Germany as the N.S.A. Prism program. People are beginning to second-guess the belief that digital communication stays private. It changes both our perception of communication and our trust in Mr. Obama,” Spitz wrote. Spitz went on to describe the shift Germans have had from solidarity with the U.S. after 9/11 to one that through the Bush administration and into the Obama administration has led to questioning “whether Americans actually share our understanding of the right balance between liberty and security.” “When courts and judges negotiate secretly, when direct data transfers occur without limits, when huge data storage rather than targeted pursuit of individuals becomes the norm, all sense of proportionality and accountability is lost,” he said. As of right now, Spitz said the “trust and credibility” Obama once had in Germany has now been undermined. Spitz ends his op-ed suggesting Obama should have included in his speech not James Madison’s quote that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare,” but Benjamin Franklin saying “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
- Microsoft (owner of Skype) keeps records of who talked to whom and for how long. We also have very good reason to believe that there are tools out there (built by private companies and sold to governments) that can eavesdrop on Skype voice calls. Skype executives have been unable to deny that they comply with local law enforcement requests to eavesdrop on Skype calls.
- Google definitely record all of your text chats. They don’t deny they do that, even when you use the “Go off the record” option in Google Talk. We’re not sure what recording they do with voice calls but can be certain that they comply with the law – therefore building “legal intercept” capabilities into their products.
- Facebook record and analyze all of your text chats and will report you to the police if they see anything “suspicious” (source: Reuters). We don’t know what they do with voice/video calls, but again can be certain that they comply with the law – therefore building “legal intercept” capabilities into their products.
So if you happen to live in a surveillance state (think countries of the Arab Spring, think UK with their repeated attempts to introduce surveillance of their citizens, think USA with their record-breaking demands for your personal data from all of the above service providers (Microsoft, Google and Facebook)) then you can expect that all your online communications with your loved ones (voice calls, video calls, text chats) are recorded and stored, or at least eavesdropped upon. They’re all great free services that allow you to keep in touch with people, with one caveat: the government is listening in. If you have no problem with that, perhaps because you subscribe to the flawed “I have nothing to hide” school of thought, read no further. If you feel that being spied upon constantly, and having no reasonable expectation of privacy for your online life is not cool, read on. The work of thousands of visionaries (starting with people like Richard Stallman in the 70′s) has today given us the free tools to protect our online communications to a reasonable degree. These are not tools to stop a police investigation against you from succeeding – these are tools that empower you to opt-out from the surveillance-by-default communications channels most of us use, and instead keep your private thoughts and words only between yourself and your loved ones. The easiest one to get us started is Jitsi. Jitsi gives you voice calls, video calls, instant text messages and group chats. It therefore covers 100% of the communication capabilities of Microsoft’s Skype, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, IRC channels and the like. Use Jitsi, and you don’t need to use any of these again. Why switch to Jitsi? Because it protects your privacy as much as possible. If you and your loved ones use Jitsi, you can:
- Have end-to-end encryption of your voice and video calls – guaranteeing that nobody is listening in or recording.
- Have end-to-end encryption of your text (instant messaging) chats with Off The Record (OTR) technology – the world’s finest in preserving your privacy with unique features like Perfect Forward Secrecy and Deniability.
As an additional benefit, it’s great to have all of your instant messaging contacts in one window, and Jitsi gives you that. It also runs on Windows, MacOSX and GNU/Linux. Start using Jitsi instead of Skype, Google Talk and Facebook Chat andstop corporations and governments collecting, storing and analyzing the thoughts you share with your loved ones. PS: You can only have private communications if both ends of the chat/voice/video call support this. If both you and your loved ones use Jitsi, voice & video calls are private by default. For text chats, you will have to click the lock icon in your chat window (as shown below) until it displays a closed “lock” state. PPS: No “lock” icon? That probably means that the person you are chatting with is not using Jitsi or a similar program that can protect your chats with OTR. You can only have a private conversation if both ends support OTR. PPPS: Looking for something like Jitsi for your smartphone? For private text messaging (using the Off The Record protocol) look at ChatSecure for iPhones or GibberBot for Android phones. For private voice calls on the Android, look into csipsimple and Moxie Marlinspike’s RedPhone. Remember, both ends of the conversation need the same technology to create a private channel.
The revelation that the NSA has been recording all phone traffic in the United States is (and should be) shocking to all Americans. But in fact this activity has been going on for quite a while, at least for international calls, via a system called ECHELON. ECHELON station, Menwith Hill, England ECHELON station, Oahu, Hawaii ECHELON is a system of intercept stations listening to all communications satellites. It is operated by a consortium of five nations, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. ECHELON is operated in the United States by the National Security Agency. Other nations operate their parts of the system under other names, including AUSCANNZUKUS and “Five Eyes.” Designed and built to spy on private communications, ECHELON evaded legal restrictions regarding warrantless spying on citizens (in the United States, that is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution) by spying on the citizens of the other countries and “swapping” the data. In other words, the ECHELON station in England would spy on Americans and hand the “take” to the NSA/CIA/FBI, while the ECHELON station here in Hawaii would spy on British subjects and hand the “take” to Scotland Yard, MI5, and MI6, making the spying “technically” legal.
The advent of wide spread data communications at the consumer level was not supposed to happen. The basic system for the net began as a Defense Department Advanced Research Project Agency project to develop a reliable system of data communications among the military and contractors that would not be interrupted in case of war. This required a distributed system that did not require a central switching/routing center, and one which could re-configure itself to get around damage. This made ARPAnet or DARPAnet, as it was called back then, impossible to censor or control, but as long as it was a private “government only” toy, nobody was a concerned. ARPAnet went online in 1969, and was confined to the Department of Defense, government labs, and military contractors. By 1990, the government became alarmed at the large number of former defense workers who had left for the private sector, setting up links to ARPAnet to stay in touch with colleagues. The ARPAnet was breaking free “into the wild.” So with the next year;s funding for the backbone servers came a new set of rules as to just who was allowed access to this mass communications system that was designed without a central control point. The companies running the backbone serves refused the rules, refused the ARPA checks, and took the backbone private. The US Government officially ended their involvement with the net in 1990. Called the Great Revolt in hacker lore, this is the day when the ARPAnet became the internet. Suddenly the American people, through early posting systems such as USENET, gained a mass broadcasting system not under government control and censorship, and almost immediately the government tried to reverse the trend. The FBI launched a project called “Magic Lantern” in 2001 as part of Operation CARNIVORE. Magic Lantern was a virus, installed on targeted computers to record all keystrokes, especially PGP keys, and send them back to the FBI, where they were stored in a database containing emails, chats, blogs, and anything else the FBI was stealing from the target individual’s computer. Like COINTELPRO, Carnivore and Magic Lantern were deployed not against criminals, but against political dissidents. Network Associates, makers of the McAfee anti-virus software, worked with the FBI to make sure Magic Lantern would pass through the McAfee security. When this became known, McAfee issued a public denial. But cyber-criminals started disguising their malware to match the signature of Magic Lantern and were this able to bypass computer security products, leaving citizens’ computers wide open to hacking and identity theft. The power of personal computers made strong encryption possible for ordinary Americans. Strong Encryption posed a problem for government agencies wanting to keep an eye on Americans who disapproved of the government, or worse, had evidence of government wrong doing they wished to make public. Research into cryptography came under tight government control, and as of the mid-1980s, is one of the many areas subject to government approval prior to publication. Now, to decode a message is a two step process. First, the method of the encryption must be determined. Then the specific key for the message must be found. Of the two, the first step is by far the hardest. The ENIGMA cipher machine
The allies did not break the German Enigma code until they succeeded in capturing an actual machine from the German submarine U-559. After the method was known, the British cryptographers at Bletchley Park were able to “brute force” the keys to various German messages using an early mechanical computer nicknamed the “bombe” for its constant ticking sound while working.
The Bombe Use of this machine, based in part on theoretical work by Alan Turing, allowed the Enigma messages to be read. And here is where the story gets interesting! Following the end of the war, the United States and Britain made presents of captured German Enigma machines to friendly governments … but never mentioned that the messages encoded on those machines were readable by the US and Britain! In the 1990s, a scandal erupted with a company in Europe called Crypto AG. Numerous information breaches had raised the suspicion that the machines were compromised by intelligence agencies, including the NSA. although Crypto AG’s management strongly denied the allegations, James Bamford in his book “The Puzzle Palace” confirmed the story that the NSA had paid the head of Crypto AG a sizable sum of money to add a back door to their systems. So the NSA/CIA/FBI faced a problem. Strong encryption was proving difficult to get around at the level of the law abiding citizens. Because finding the keys to messages was comparatively easy once the method was known, the NSA pressured the US Government to mandate that all citizens use a standard encryption system, one where the method was already known to the NSA, to make it easier to read messages from private US citizens. The first such effort was the DES, the Data Encryption Standard. Mandated into use as a standard in 1976. Critics pointed out several aspects of the standard that seemed intended to weaken the code to make it easier for the NSA to read, in particular the manner in which the NSA pressured IBM, the developer of DES, into limiting the maximum size of encryption keys. Suspicions of a “back door” were heightened with the discovery of a block of code in the header labeled the “work reduction packet” which contained the encryption key, re-encrypted using a key presumably only the NSA had. As personal computers gained in computation power, DES was eventually seen as insecure due to the limited key length and those users not mandated by the government to use it, started to search for other means of securing their messages from prying eyes. So, in 1993, the NSA announced a new encryption system for the masses, the Clipper Chip. The intention was for all US citizens to be forced to use this form of encryption, which allowed the government to have the encryption keys in an “escrow” system. The public were told that the keys would be split into two halves, and two different agencies would hold the halves, requiring a long process to retrieve the key halves in the event of a legitimate investigation. What the public was not told was that the NSA only needed one half of the key, and could derive the other half using their already vast array of computers. Then, in 1994, Matt Blaze published a paper exposing the fact that the clipper chip included in all messages a packet identified as LEAF, which stood for “Law Enforcement Access Field.” Like the DES “work reduction packet”, LEAF contained the encryption key used to encode the message, to make the message readable by the government. As a result of these exposures, the public rejected Clipper, and by 1996 the government stopped trying to force it on the public. Then in 1999, Microsoft issued Service Pack 5 for Windows NT 4.0, which had a standard encryption system built in, but neglected to strip out the symbol table information for their standard cryptographic module, ADVAPI.DLL. When software experts examined the symbol table, they discovered than in addition to the Microsoft encryption key, a second key existed that was labeled _NSAKEY. This second key would allow anyone using it full access to the Microsoft encryption system, able to read messages encrypted with the Microsoft encryption system at will, and worse, bypass Windows security to access the machine remotely. Dr. Nicko van Someren later found a similar extra key in Windows 2000. Microsoft denies these keys are for the use of the NSA, but given the NSA/CIA’s long history of solving cryptographic challenges by compromising the encryption itself, there is room to doubt. None of these government systems to read your private messages have anything to do with crime. Real criminals, whether drug lords or spies, know better than to use any encryption system where the method is known to the enemy, even if there are no back doors, “work reduction packets”, or LEAF. The goal of DES, Clipper, NSAKEY is to reserve to the government the ability to read the messages of ordinary Americans any time they wish to.
HOOVER AND APEC
The government wants you to trust them that they will never misuse the windows they have built into your private life. But history shows otherwise. J. Edgar Hoover was legendary for his “private files” that he used to blackmail politicians, including President Kennedy. This is why no President dared replace him as head of the FBI. And that was done with just paper files, not with instant access into every Americans’ computers! There is a conference held on a regular basis called the Asia Pacific Economic Conference, or APEC. It is a gathering for businessmen to develop clients and partnerships around the Pacific basin, and it is held in various places, including recently here in Hawaii. In the fall of 1993, APEC was held in Seattle, Washington State. The FBI and NSA were caught budding the conference attendees, not to fight crime and terror but to steal business secrets which were then given to political cronies of newly-elected President Bill Clinton. FBI agents and others engaged in surveillance of law abiding Americans have been caught committing insider trading based on information gained through such surveillance. The point is that the government cannot be trusted to respect your privacy. Once they have the keys to your communications, they will steal your ideas, your business secrets, and use them, just as readily as TSA loots items from travelers’ luggage.
DOJ-GATE, NSA-GATE, AND PRISM.
While few Americans were aware of the past scandals of unwarranted spying by the US Government on law-abiding citizens, today almost every American now knows their private lives are on permanent display to the government through three emerging scandals. The first is being called DOJ-gate. This is a scandal in which the Department of Justice was monitoring phone calls of journalists. Not just a few suspected of a crime, but every single journalist at AP (and subsequently other media institutions, including the independent media. This is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which limits the government to investigating someone only if there is probable cause to believe a crime has occurred. In this case, the DOJ was spying on everyone to deter whistle blowers on government wrong doing, even though technically no crime had actually occurred. The DOJ was even monitoring phones inside the Congress! The second scandal is being called NSA-gate, and was revealed to the world when the UK Guardian newspaper obtained a copy of a court order requiring Verizon to turn over data on every phone call made by every subscriber. Again, this was not an investigation with warrants into a few suspects. This was mass unwarranted surveillance on all phone users on Verizon. The government insists there is a law that allows this, but refuses to say what that law is, citing “National Security”, a catch-all phrase the government uses when they have no valid answer to an important question. Since the Guardian story broke, it has been revealed that the request for phone users data for three months is part of a constant ongoing feed of data that has gone back for several years! Other phone companies are thought to have received identical requests. At the heart of this scandal are these massive data storage facilities built by the NSA. One in Utah is already in operation, and a second is being built in Maryland. The government claims this mass unwarranted surveillance is not a violation of the Constitution because only the “meta data, the identity of the caller and recipient, time of call, duration, and location cia the address associated with a land line or cell phone GPS is stored. The government insists no actual recording of calls is carried out. But this claim does not make sense. absent the content of the call, the government cannot know if they are looking at a real criminal contact, or a wrong number. In any event, the stated capacity of the data center in Utah is a billion times larger than it would need to be if they were only storing the meta data. After lying about the existence of the phone system for years, why would anyone think the government is suddenly willing to tell the truth regarding just what it does and does not save! So the upshot of NSA-gate is that since 2006, the NSA has recorded and saved every single phone call of every single American. Even the United Nations has declared this a massive human rights violation by the US Government against the American people. And, of course, it is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Fourth Amendment to the Constitution
In short, the government is forbidden to look into your private affairs just to see what is there. The government is required, under the rules by which We The People allow the government to manage this nation for We The People, to have and document a damned good reason before they knock on our door, peek at our mail, listen to our phone calls, or monitor our computer data in ay way, shape, or form. Absent probable cause and a warrant, the government is not allowed to spy on our lives, giggle at the sexy messages we trade with our significant others, or steal our business secrets for their own profit.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment to the Constitution
This mass spying on all law-abiding Americans (and apparently a good deal of the rest of the world) violates quite a few Constitutional rights. We know that Tea Party and Occupy protesters were intentionally targeted for tracking via their cell phone GPS, which is an attack on the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech and the right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Fifth Amendment to the Constitution
Just stop and think about it for a moment. That back door inside your computer is using yourcomputer that you bought and paid for. That computer, it’s memory, hard drive, CPU, and your internet connection, is your personal property! The government is stealing those resources, your property, to use for their nefarious purposes, without just compensation. They are therefore operating at the same level as cyber-criminals who steal your computer to send out porn and viagra ads and other spam emails.
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Ninth Amendment to the Constitution
The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to intentionally bias the system towards the people and away from government authority. The defenders of the government’s attempts to spy on Americans’ computers are excused with the claim that since computers did not exist when the Constitution was written, Constitutional protections do not apply.But as the Eighth Amendment states quite clearly, the absence of a specific mention of newer technologies does not mean the rights to privacy do not apply, and indeed when the telegraph and telephone were invented, Constitutional protections were seen as applying equally to them, although they are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Tenth Amendment to the Constitution
In contrast to the open-ended presumption of expanding rights for the people, the Tenth Amendment locks the government in only to those authorities specifically enumerated in the Constitution. The government may not presume to increase its authority over any aspect of our lives absent the proper constitutional authority. This amendment was intended to keep the American people free by keeping the government a servant to the rules laid out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; the rules under which We The People allow the government to act as caretaker of our nation, for the benefit of the nation and its people. Although the fact of government spying has been known for a long time, most Americans lived in a fantasy world that if they were not breaking the law, the government would not waste any time spying on them. NSA-gate and PRISM-gate were the wake-up calls, and now all Americans know that the government is spying on everything; every phone call, every test message, every email, every download, every online purchase, every minute of every day, for years on end. This is NOT America. Certainly it is not the America we were all told we lived in while in those state-controlled public schools. Today we understand we live under a government that greats Americans exactly how the Gestapo treated Germans, the KGB/GRU treated the Russians, the SAVAK treated the Iranians, and the STASI treated the East Germans. It is time to look hard at what America has become and to decide if this is the kind of nation you want your children to have to grow up in.
It’s almost like Assange and Snowden are starring in their own reality-TV shows. Consider two other NSA whistleblowers: Russ Tice and James Bamford. Russ Tice is a former NSA intelligence analyst who has also worked for the US Air Force, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was a real US intelligence insider, many pay grades above rookie contractor Edward Snowden. In 2005, Tice blew the whistle on the NSA’s illegal spying on Americans. Tice and other NSA sources revealed that the NSA’s computerized spy program ECHELON was reading and filtering over 100,000 emails and phone calls per second. That is an even worse abuse of Americans’ Constitutional rights than the programs that Snowden has revealed, which store copies of emails and phone calls but (allegedly) do not read them except when legally authorized to do so. Worse yet, Tice’s revelations raise even more troubling issues. Tice and his NSA whistleblower colleagues revealed that the NSA’s massive, illegal spy-on-Americans program began in February, 2001 – seven months BEFORE the 9/11 attacks! As Andrew Harris reported for Bloomberg in July, 2006:
“The US National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court… ‘The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11,’ plaintiff’s lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. ‘This undermines that assertion.”’
The illegal NSA spy-on-Americans program apparently “became necessary” several months before 9/11, not after 9/11. Why? In an interview entitled “NSA Whistleblower Russ Tice Alleges NSA Wiretapped Barack Obama as Senate Candidate” Russ Tice recently explained to FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds the real purpose of the NSA’s illegal spying on Americans: To collect blackmail material and other information that can be used to control influential citizens. In short: The whole purpose of the NSA spy program was to enable 9/11, protect the perpetrators, and maintain the 9/11-triggered covert dictatorship. Before 9/11, the neoconservatives of the Bush-Cheney Administration needed to ensure that no influential Americans would dare to stand up against the coming coup d’état. So they directed the NSA to begin wiretapping the American people. From the billions of intercepted communications, the 9/11 plotters focused on those of extremely influential Americans: Politicians, wealthy people, military and intelligence officers, media figures, and other well-connected individuals. All of these people were profiled: Were they likely to resist the coming 9/11 operation? If so, how could they be stopped? In some cases, blackmail material was collected. In others, more intensive surveillance was instituted. Two “actionable threats” to the 9/11 coup were Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. After 9/11, they received US government anthrax in the mail. Frightened, Daschle and Leahy quickly stopped questioning 9/11 and opposing the Constitution-shredding USA Patriot Act. If any influential Americans wanted to expose 9/11, and could not be blackmailed or controlled, they would have to be assassinated. The most illustrious victim was Senator Paul Wellstone, who was murdered, along with his family members and campaign staff, on October 25th, 2002, shortly after being threatened by then-Vice President Dick Cheney. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) spoke out against the murder of Senator Wellstone, calling it “a message to us all.” She added that if quoted, she would deny her statement. Apparently she was not anxious to get anthrax in the mail, or to have herself and her family members murdered. Another Senator from Minnesota, Mark Dayton, was also threatened by the 9/11 perpetrators. Senator Dayton fled Washington, DC and evacuated his entire staff to Minnesota in August 2004 – then announced his retirement from national politics – after receiving death threats due to his speech on the Senate floor attacking the 9/11 Commission Report as a pack of lies. So as far back as 2005, Russ Tice and his colleagues revealed that the NSA spy program was used to murder almost 3,000 Americans in an act of bloody treason, and to kill or terrorize anyone who stood in the way. Compared to that, Edward Snowden’s revelations are relatively tame. Another NSA whistleblower is James Bamford, the Agency’s quasi-official biographer. Bamford alerted Americans back in 2001 to a plot called Operation Northwoods. Like 9/11, Operation Northwoods was a fake “attack on America” designed to brainwash Americans into marching off to war. And like 9/11, it involved the murder of large numbers of Americans. Operation Northwoods was designed to trigger war against Cuba and Russia in 1962. It called for US forces to bomb American cities and sink American ships. The CIA-controlled “Operation Mockingbird” mainstream media would blame Cuba for these murders. Operation Northwoods was planned by Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Every member of the Joint Chiefs signed off on the proposal. It was one month away from happening, when President John F. Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara vetoed it. In his book Mary’s Mosaic, author Peter Janney discusses evidence that the Operation Northwoods plan was not just aimed at Cuba. Its deeper purpose was to trigger a pre-emptive US nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Such a strike would have led to tens of millions of Russian and American deaths. Every member of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 wanted to murder thousands of Americans in a false-flag operation designed to trigger a war that would have killed millions. In 2001, it finally happened. So the truth is much worse than Edward Snowden is telling us. Our rulers are not just criminals – they are madmen, psychopathic liars and mass murderers of the worst imaginable sort. If the mainstream media publicized the most dangerous whistleblowers, the American National Security State would come crashing down. Let us hope and pray that Edward Snowden’s example will inspire other whistleblowers to come forward…and that the most powerful and dangerous truths will finally be revealed.
Do NOT USE:
1. Google Search 2. Facebook 3. Twitter 4. ANY of the 60 Google products 5. Bing Search or Yahoo Search 6. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail. 7. Cloud services based in the US
The NSA’s new $1.7bn facility in the heart of Mormon country has the potential to snoop on US citizens for decades to come
Comment by Jim Campbell, Citizen Journalist, Oath Keeper and Patriot. Who will stand up against the planned Marxist take over of America. It’s a certainty our elected officials won’t do anything, as they have been enmeshed in the multiple coverups and crimes. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, I’m J.C. and I approve this message. The Canada Free Press…
Peeping Toms – Seventy years of government led domestic surveillance and repression through Spy Agencies
Seventy years of domestic surveillance
and Government led repression through Spy Agencies
“Peeping Tom: a nick name for a curious prying fellow.”
The “Lady Godiva” legend led to the term a “Peeping Tom” becoming associated with a person who spies on people disrobing, naked or having sex. In this context, a “Peeping Tom” is a voyeur. Traditionally, this involved physically sneaking around to peer in people’s windows. But “Peeping Tom” activities are not limited to voyeurism. This post will focus on spying as a form of “peeping”. It will show how terrorism has been used as an excuse by power-hungry political elites to spy domestically – whereas the actual purpose of domestic spying (and the use of information obtained on nationals through foreign spy agencies) has consistently been significantly geared towards repressing criticism and dissent, and reducing competition. It will show how domestic surveillance is being used as a tool to undermine democratic rights and freedoms, in addition to destroying the right to personal privacy. It will discuss the role of fear and paranoia and a “witch-hunt” mind-set in the cause and consequences of the activities of many of the agencies that spy. It will show how the political elite has consistently used information obtained through spying and other activities of spy agencies to: misinform the public; induce fear; and manipulate the public (as well as less powerful legislators who have been kept in the dark) into allowing it to – act in secret, increase it’s capacity to spy, change laws to legalize it’s undemocratic actions, disempower the public and consolidate power. This post will centre on the US because the US been hailed as the leading example of democracy in the world. You will see, through a trip over 70 years, how the democratic process in the US has been subject to a persistent insidious attack by a powerful few. What is happening in the US is likely to happen in other so-called democratic countries unless citizens do something about it. The democratic governance in the US (and in other democratic countries) is changing to repressive, authoritarian rulership at a rapid rate. Laws have been changed to consolidate power in the hands of a few – who are supported by the police and military establishments and spy agencies. Authoritarian governments thrive on fear; and use secrecy, misinformation and fear to wield power and manipulate the public. In countries where there are authoritarian governments there are the powerful few at the top and a worshipful group of core followers and police as well as the military – who wield power. Everyone else is expected to be submissive. Oppression of people, even if they do nothing wrong, is the norm. The economic gap between those with power and those without is great. Corruption and corrupt practices are common. Let’s look at how fear, propaganda and pervasive surveillance have become tools to consolidate power and repress criticism and dissent …
“Peeping Tom” – modern definition:
Sex aside – the fundamental activity implied by the term “Peeping Tom” is someone who tries to look at other people’s activities without being seen. Let’s update the traditional definition of the idiom “Peeping Tom” in Grose’s Classical Dictionary so it fits modern circumstances.
(1) Peeping Tom (Voyeur) – One who directly, or through the use of tools (physical or digital) uses stealth to observe an individual disrobing, naked or having sex; or
(2) Peeping Tom (Spy) – One who spies upon the private activities (not necessarily of a sexual nature) of individuals either directly or through the use of tools (physical or digital) to obtain private information about that individual and their activities.
Curiosity versus “Peeping” behavior.
The desire to obtain information about others is an inherent human trait. It is part of the normal development of social relationships. Particularly curious “nosy” relatives or neighbors or strangers, who have no particular need to know, may ask direct personal questions that are none of their business. That type of overt inquisitive behavior is more of a grey area in terms of what is considered acceptable or courteous interpersonal relationships; and is not usually harmful.
The relatively recent phenomenon of “real life” TV, features cameras recording the lives of other people in intimate detail. This is not the same as “peeping” because in those instances the people know they are being recorded and are willing for others to see their actions. The fact that a certain number of people are willing to be so public about their private lives (and others are willing to watch) cannot and should not be generalized to imply that other people would find it acceptable to expose private matters of their own lives to public scrutiny.
Spying on individuals has consequences
- Personal information can be used for blackmail. Besides being used to make outright
demands for money to keep private information secret; certain types of information can be used to exert pressure on the person spied upon to do something or not do something (with the threat that a secret will be disclosed if the spied upon person does not cooperate). This is a method commonly used by criminals and intelligence agencies to manipulate people to do what they want. Manipulative use of secret information obtained illicitly also occurs in the context of corporate, industrial and financial espionage.
- Data obtained by spying can be used to influence impressions and decisions by others that are to the detriment of the person spied upon and/or to the benefit of the spyer (eg in relation to contracts, jobs or relationships).
- Financial information obtained by stealth can also be used dishonestly. This can include the direct or indirect theft or manipulation of: money, property, investment information, contract information or trade information etc.
- In addition, other people’s identities can be used by a “peeper” for illegal purposes.
- In some instances, the “peeper” can actually change or delete personal data – a situation that can have predictable or unpredictable serious consequences.
Peeping as a compulsive or perverse activity
Some individuals spy on others for no particular reason other than to obtain information about their targets because they have a psychological compulsive need to do so. The fact that an individual spies on another without intending or causing harm (whether they have a psychological disorder or not) does not excuse such behavior or make it acceptable. This is because individuals have an inherent right to privacy.
“Peeping” is to a variable degree, a compulsive activity. In addition, an element of power and control over others who are unaware of the fact that they are beng spied upon is also inherent in “peeping.” When peeping / spying occurs with the sanction of powerful people in government who seek to increase their power base and diminish or eliminate criticism, competition or dissent – then the likelihood for abuse of democratic rights and freedoms, injustice, fraud or corruption is substantial.
The use of 9/11 terrorism as an excuse for intrusive surveillance
A 70 year history of Spying by government as a means of political repression
You can read more on Echelon here: http://www.truthliesdeceptioncoverups.info/2013/06/eye-spy-echelon-big-brother-and-new.html (Eye Spy – The Echelon Spy Network and other Global Spying Networks)
This post will center largely on domestic spying operations of other agencies that spy such as the FBI, CIA, FEMA etc. The fact that there is not a major focus on the NSA or US Cyber Command etc should not be construed that these agencies are unimportant in domestic spying. This is far from the case. Information obtained by the feeder surveillance systems of the NSA, Echelon etc are transferred to other agencies that spy domestically – both nationally (within the US) and internationally. (See the links related to Echelon and the NSA above).
The Church Committee Investigation 1975-1976
The fact that the Church Committee review of US Intelligence Agencies was conducted
between 1975 – 1976 is a positive testament to the underlying will of the American people to address issues in it’s governance and bureaucracy that are a hazard to democratic rights
and freedoms and personal privacy. Although the Church Committee investigation occurred when the Internet and widespread access to digital communication was in it’s infancy – the findings and observations in these reports are well worth reading even today. The reports of the Church Committee investigation were very helpful in creating this post. http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports.htm It’s not feasible to adequately summarize 14 detailed reports (You can access the actual content in the above links) – but here are a few interesting points from the Church Committee Reports that we feel are worth including here:
“One of the main reasons advanced for expanded collection of intelligence about urban unrest and anti-war protest was to help responsible officials cope with possible violence. However, a former White House official with major duties in this area under the Johnson administration has concluded, in retrospect, that “in none of these situations . . . would advance intelligence about dissident groups [have] been of much help,” that what was needed was “physical intelligence” about the geography of major cities, and that the attempt to “predict violence” was not a “successful undertaking”
Domestic intelligence reports have sometimes even been counterproductive. A local police chief, for example, described FBI reports which led to the positioning of federal troops near his city as:
“almost completely composed of unsorted and unevaluated stories, threats, and rumors that had crossed my desk in New Haven. Many of these had long before been discounted by our Intelligence Division. But they had made their way from New Haven to Washington, had gained completely unwarranted credibility, and had been submitted by the Director of the FBI to the President of the United States. They seemed to present a convincing picture of impending holocaust.”
In considering its recommendations, the Committee undertook an evaluation of the FBI’s claims that domestic intelligence was necessary to combat terrorism, civil disorders, “subversion,” and hostile foreign intelligence activity. The Committee reviewed voluminous materials bearing on this issue and questioned Bureau officials, local police officials, and present and former federal executive officials.
We have found that we are in fundamental agreement with the wisdom of Attorney General Stone’s initial warning that intelligence agencies must not be “concerned with political or other opinions of individuals” and must be limited to investigating essentially only “such conduct as is forbidden by the laws of the United States.”
“The Committee’s record demonstrates that domestic intelligence which departs from this standard raises grave risks of undermining the democratic process and harming the interests of individual citizens. This danger weighs heavily against the speculative or negligible benefits of the ill-defined and overbroad investigations authorized in the past.”
The Church Committee Investigations showed a propensity of agencies which spy to operate outside of what is lawful and in a manner that jeopardizes democratic rights and freedoms and personal privacy. It showed that politicians also abused access to spy agencies in some instances. The Church Committee Investigation occurred well before the Patriot Act of 2001 which has since served to give subsequent American Presidents (Bush and Obama) what is effectively absolute power as long as terrorism can be implicated in any way. The fact that this post centers on US spy activities should not be construed that these types of activities have been or are limited to the US. Government-led spying is a global phenomenon.
Fear and some early “Investigative” Committees
Fear is a powerful emotion that can be based upon well-founded real, or imaginary threats. The body’s response to fear is the same whether the perceived threat is real or imagined. Hormones are released and the caveman part of our psyche that serves to protect us can take control over the rational parts of our minds. Chronic fear, when it becomes paranoia, can lead to “witch-hunt” type behavior and cause human beings to do dreadful things to others.
Paranoia /ˌpærəˈnɔɪə/ (adjective: paranoid /ˈpærənɔɪd/) is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. Wikipedia Paranoia is most often referred to in a medical context as a disordered way of thinking that affects people suffering from certain mental disorders. People suffering from paranoia are fearful that ordinary people, things or events are signs that one or more of these factors intend to harm them – but the things they are afraid of are not real threats. When severe, paranoia can lead to the paranoid person hiding from or acting out against the things they are afraid of. Paranoid people may become so fearful that they destroy property and/or cause physical harm to the things and people that they irrationally fear.
Paranoia can also be generated in normal, healthy people through the use of propaganda and devious dirty tricks of government agencies. Such propaganda is designed to stir up fear of a particular person, group, thing or event in order to condition the public to act in a certain way, as a consequence of the fear they have generated. Fear leads to anger. Anger can lead to hate. Fear, anger and hate can lead to dreadful acts. The participation of many of the German public in the persecution of the Jews was a consequence of government generated propaganda that led to paranoia about Jewish people. But the government of Nazi Germany is not the only government that has used propaganda to foment fear of certain groups – thereby conditioning the public to act against the targeted person, group or organization out of fear. Likewise fear and propaganda can be used by powerful countries driven by agendas that are not necessarily transparent – to influence the actions of other weaker countries to act against or in favor of a person, group, thing, action or program.
To provide some background into the political mind-set from the 30s to 70s, which likely influenced the actions of US spy agencies – here is some information on a number of US committees whose “witch-hunt” type activities likely provoked surveillance of, and action against US citizens during that period – and later. (Similar propaganda programs have occurred in other nominally democratic countries.) Overman Committee – 1918 – 1919
- This committee initially investigated pro-German sentiments in the American liquor industry. After the end of World War I – the committee began to investigate communist Bolshevism and Bolshevik propaganda.
Fish Committee (1930) –
- This committee undertook extensive investigations of people and organizations suspected of being involved with or supporting communist activities in the US. The committee recommended granting the Dept of Justice more authority to investigate communists and strengthen immigration and deportation laws to keep communists out of the US.
McCormack-Dickstein Committee (1934-1937)
- The mandate of this committee was to get “information on how foreign subversive propaganda entered the U.S. and the organizations that were spreading it.” It held public and private hearings and collected testimony filling 4,300 pages.
- The committee investigated allegations of a fascist plot to seize the White House, known as the Business Plot. The plot was subsequently reported as a hoax.
- It was replaced with a similar committee that focused on pursuing communists.
House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) – 1938-1969
- This was an investigative committee of the US House of Representatives which was created in 1938 to investigate suspected threats of subversion or propaganda that were perceived to attack the government.
- Richard Nixon was a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 1940s.
- Through its power to subpoena witnesses, and hold people in contempt of Congress; HUAC often pressured witnesses to surrender names and other information that could lead to the apprehension of communists and communist sympathizers. The committee members often branded witnesses as “red” just because they refused to comply or hesitated in answering committee questions. Consequently, as with many oppressive systems – some witnesses, through fear and in the interest of remaining employable themselves, truthfully (and in a number of cases untruthfully) named others they suspected were communists. This had disastrous consequences on those who became labelled as “red” – whether the label was based on facts, speculation, illogical thinking or malicious grounds.
- In 1947, the committee held nine days of such hearings into alleged communist propaganda and influence in the Hollywood motion picture industry. This led to theHollywood Blacklist. The Hollywood Ten, most of whom were were writers (and six of whom were Jewish) were jailed.
- Fear by executives in the film industry that if they did not come out in support of HUAC; that they themselves would be condemned as communists, resulting in the collapse of their businesses – provoked a press release 3 Dec 1947, called: the Waldorf Statement condemning communists, and promising that they would not hire communists. Of the12 principle participants in the Waldorf Statement: Louis B Meyer (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Harry Cohn (Columbia Pictures), Nicholas Schenck (Loews Theatres), Barnaby Balaban(Paramount Pictures), Samuel Goldwyn (Samuel Goldwyn Company), Albert Warner (Warner Brothers)and William Goetz (Universal-International) were Jewish. Although WWII had ended, it would appear that the fear of becoming outcasts in America was a powerful motivator. In the course of Hollywood blacklisting, over 300 people in the motion picture and related industries were labelled as communists or communist sympathizers – and blacklisted.
- Screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians and other U.S. entertainment professionals were consequently denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or just suspected.
- Artists were barred from work on the basis of their alleged membership in or sympathy toward the American Communist Party, involvement in liberal or humanitarian political causes that enforcers of the blacklist associated with communism, and/or refusal to assist investigations into Communist Party activities.
- Even during the period of its strictest enforcement, the late 1940s through the late 1950s, the blacklist was rarely made explicit and verifiable, but it caused direct damage to the careers of scores of American artists, precipitated betrayal of friendships and promoted ideological censorship across the entire industry.
- Multiple non-governmental organizations participated in enforcing and expanding the black list – some of which appear to have been given information about people (whether genuine or not) by the FBI.
- Although a number of the executives who signed the Waldorf statement were Jewish executives of major film companies – the blacklist ended largely as a consequence of 4 men – 2 of whom were Jewish. Hollywood Blacklisting had been in effect about 12 years. Then, in 1960 Hollywood Ten member, Dalton Trumbo, who had been writing under a pseudonym and whose writing had won 2 Academy Awards while he was blacklisted – was persuaded to allow his real name to be released. Actor Kirk Douglas (born in New York, of Russian Jewish parents) publicly announced that Trumbo was the screenwriter of Spartacus. And, Director Otto Preminger (of Ukrainian Jewish extraction), also made public that Trumbo wrote the screenplay for Exodus. President John F Kennedy crossed the picket line to see Spartacus. These events effectively brought an end to Hollywood blacklisting.
- The questioning style and examination techniques employed by HUAC served as the model upon which Senator Joseph McCarthy would conduct his investigative hearings
in the early 1950s. Following Senator McCarthy’s censure, however, and his subsequent departure from the Senate, the American public grew increasingly wary of the “redbaiting” techniques employed by HUAC and others.
- In the wake of the downfall of Senator McCarthy (who never served on the committee), in 1959 the House Committee on Un-American Activities was denounced by former President Harry S Truman as the “most un-American thing in the country today”.
- Hearings held by HUAC in San Francisco City Hall in 1960 led to a riot with a number of protesting students being seriously injured by police and subsequent reactions.
- The committee continued to lose prestige in the 1960s, increasingly becoming the target of political satirists and a new generation of political activists.
- In 1969, the committee’s name was changed to “House Committee on Internal Security”. When the House abolished the committee in 1975, its functions were transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.
- Just what it is called now is unknown – but the existence of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) makes it highly probable that a committee with a similar function still exists.
Dies Committee (1938-1944)
- This was an investigating sub-committee of the House Un-American Activities Committee tasked to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having communist or fascist ties.
- This committee is also noteworthy for having put together an argument for war time internment of Japanese Americans known as the “Yellow” Report. The investigation was presented to the 77th Congress and alleged that certain cultural traits (Japanese loyalty to the Emperor, the number of Japanese fishermen in the US, and the Buddhist faith ) were evidence for Japanese espionage!
The relationship of Operation Shamrock with the NSA
At it’s outset, Shamrock arose as part of a World War II military intelligence program. The Army Signal Intelligence Service asked the three largest wire service companies, ITT World Communications, Western Union International, and RCA Global, for permission to tap their international cables to eavesdrop on foreign coded transmissions. The companies agreed, and Army Intelligence intercepted coded messages. Later, intelligence agents began to intercept all civilian and military wire traffic, both ciphered and plain-text. Telegraph messages between the frontline and the home front were monitored and censored for sensitive content, such as troop locations and strategic battle plans.
Agency. In 1945 it was reorganized and renamed the Army Security Agency. The control of surveillance was transferred to the National Security Agency (NSA)when it was created by Harry Truman in 1952. The surveillance program then acquired the code name Operation Shamrock.
Whether Project Shamrock was (as claimed) voluntarily terminated by NSA director Lew Allen in 1975 coincident with the Church Committee inquiry – or whether the program was merely suspended until the tide of criticism passed, is debatable. Current media certainly suggests that the 4 off-shoots of the Stellar Wind project (Mainway, Marina, Nucleon and Prism) being used by the NSA today are modern versions of long-standing surveillance activities of this type.
The Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Senator Frank Church concluded as a consequence of the investigations in 1975 – 1976 that: Project Shamrock was “probably the largest government interception project ever undertaken.” (That was said at a time when the internet and digital surveillance was in it’s infancy.)
Mail Cover Surveillance
HTLINGUAL (CIA) – 1952 to 1973; and,
The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking System (US Postal Service + ?) – ?2001
HTLINGUAL (also HGLINGUAL) was a secret Central Intelligence Agency project to
intercept mail destined for the Soviet Union and China that operated from 1952 until 1973.
Originally known under the codename SRPOINTER (also SGPOINTER), the project authority was changed in 1955 and renamed. Initially the mail covers of envelopes of about 1800 mail items were photographed per day. Of these ~60 per day were transferred to the CIA Field Offices in New York and Los Angeles to be read and copied.
In some instances, this method has been used to obtain evidence to convict alleged criminals – but the actual numbers are unknown. It goes without saying that taking the numbers provided by spying agencies or government officials who are implicated in this process – on face value – would be unwise. The details of genuine cases caught this way should have been made publicly available, even if not actually published in the news media covering the court cases.
Questions that need answering about mail cover and mail tracking systems:
- How much does such a huge surveillance system cost the public each year?
- What is the objectively verifiable evidence that it is effective? ( eg How many cases of successfully convicted criminals have actually been found by this intrusive system each year?)
- How often has abuse of this access and tracking been recorded – and what were the details?
- What is the real evidence that the benefits of this system outweigh the cost?
Family Jewels & more (CIA) – 1950s to mid 1970s
This was a 693 page report commissioned in 1973 by the CIA Director – James Schlesinger – in response to the Watergate Scandal. In June 2007, CIA Director Michael Hayden announced that the documents (which had been kept secret) would be released to the public. Besides surveillance, the issues included in the report described a wide range of other questionable activities that are too numerous to go into here; but I will provide a link to the wiki on the CIA “Family Jewels”. (Note: Family Jewel #1 was never released.)
I will also include a link to the 1975 Rockefeller report that relates to the CIA. Note: If you check the chapter with their biographies, you will see that the majority of the members of the Rockefeller Committee appear to have had a military or industry related background or other backgrounds that would have likely influenced their mindset to be in favor of the actions of the CIA. This may partly explain why the Rockefeller Report is considered by some to have been a carefully constructed white wash to rationalize and legitimize CIA activities. It is worth comparing the natural somewhat staccato, detailed, evidence-based approach of the Church Committee Report interviews with the polished public relations production of the Rockefeller Report. Consistent with “Spin” documents, the Rockefeller Report served more to conceal and rationalize, rather than reveal. Interestingly, there was a third committee that investigated the CIA ~1975-77 called the Pike Committee investigation. Owing to stonewalling by the CIA and Ford administration and associated blocking of access to essential data – and objections by the CIA that the report contained info related to National Security – that report was never released in full (though parts of it were leaked to the Village Voice 29 Jan 1976). One of the objectives of the Pike Committee was to investigate the costs of of the CIA to tax-payers versus it’s effectiveness. Given the data that was exposed in the Church Committee Report – the stonewalling on cost versus effectiveness is interesting. This once again raises the issue of how much these programs cost versus their benefit? And, once again – what corporations etc benefit financially from the existence of these agencies?
The Church Committee report did provide some interesting statistics. According to the report: the most sweeping domestic intelligence surveillance programs have produced surprisingly few useful returns in view of their extent. For example:
“– Between 1960 and 1974, the FBI conducted over 500,000 separate investigations of persons and groups under the “subversive” category, predicated on the possibility that they might be likely to overthrow the government of the United States. Yet not a single individual or group has been prosecuted since 1957 under the laws which prohibit planning or advocating action to overthrow the government and which are the main alleged statutory basis for such FBI investigations.— A recent study by the General Accounting Office has estimated that of some 17,528 FBI domestic intelligence investigations of individuals in 1974, only 1.3 percent resulted in prosecution and conviction, and in only “about 2 percent” of the cases was advance knowledge of any activity — legal or illegal — obtained.”
COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) (FBI) 1956-1971
During an ~ 15 year period, approximately 20,000 people were investigated by the FBI – based only on their political views and beliefs. Most were never suspected of having committed any crime. The program involved surveillance of not only communist organizations and socialist organizations (and any other organization even vaguely left of centre); but, also: civil rights movements, peace movements, organizations for racial equality, the American Indian Movement, students for a democratic society, the weathermen, almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, the national lawyer’s guild, women’s rights movements, Cuban exile organizations, groups seeking independence for Puerto Rico and Ireland, white hate groups (including the Ku Klux Klan and National Rights Party). Martin Luther King and even Albert Einstein were amongst many famous individual targets.
- 1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as if they were enemy agents.
- 2. Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and police used myriad other “dirty tricks” to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.
- 3. Harassment Through the Legal System: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, “investigative” interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.
- 4. Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans), these attacks which apparently also included political assassinations – were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of officially sanctioned “terrorism.”
- creating a negative public image for target groups (by spying on activists, and then releasing negative personal information to the public)
- breaking down internal organization
- creating dissension between groups
- restricting access to public resources
- restricting the ability to organize protests
- restricting the ability of individuals to participate in group activities
According to the Church Commission Report, COINTELPRO was a program of subversion carried out by the FBI, underfour administrations. While the declared purposes of these programs were to protect the “national security” or prevent violence, Bureau witnesses admitted that many of the targets were nonviolent and most had no connections whatever with a foreign power. Nonviolent organizations and individuals were targeted because the Bureau “believed” they represented a “potential” for violence. Nonviolent citizens who were against the war in Vietnam were targeted because they were perceived by the FBI to give “aid and comfort” to violent demonstrators by lending respectability to their cause.
Propaganda as a government tool for domestic misinformation and repression
“It removes the protection for Americans,” a Pentagon official told Michael Hastings of Buzzfeed. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”
“Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. . . . In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.“ Edward Bernays, The Engineering of Consent http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/1999Q2/bernays.html
Project Minaret (NSA) – 1967 to 1973
US Government’s Consolidated Terrorist Watch List (FBI) – 2003
The names on the “watch lists” included American citizens, as well as foreigners. The “watch” lists were generated by Executive Branch law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Huston Plan (multi-agency) – 1970 – 1970
Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS) – 2003
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
It is speculated that the ideas put forward in the Huston Plan were never really scrapped – and that some of these perverse concepts have been implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and/or other agencies. This brings us to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which was created in March 2003 and is part of the original 22 agencies included in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (which have since been consolidated) – five of which are now managed under FEMA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Homeland_Security
With a name that incorporates “Emergency Management” one might optimistically think that the focus of this agency is to provide support in the event of civil emergencies, mass
casualties or epidemics. In fact a major focus of FEMA is for exactly that purpose. Given the extreme weather changes and climatic disasters of recent years, we think it’s an excellent idea for all countries to improve their emergency measures systems. “FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.” FEMA Of note: the National Domestic Preparedness Office which is an agency that used to be managed by the FBI is now managed by FEMA. The Office for Domestic Preparedness which was an agency of Justice (Justice holds the Agencies for Immigration and Naturalization services) is now under FEMA. FEMA provides chemical, ordnance, biological and radiological training (reportedly using actual nerve agents and biological materials). Biological weapons are generally related to offensive operations. It is not necessary to use these weapons to learn how to diagnose and treat their consequences any more than it is necessary to have a heart attack in order to learn to treat one. On the other hand, the Strategic National Stockpile National Disaster Medical System (something that you might expect would be relevant to emergency disaster preparedness) is an agency managed by Health and Human Services, not FEMA In addition some odd FEMA / DHS activities have caused some to suspect a significant other clandestine agenda that relates more to the formerly aborted Huston Plan rather than support of civil emergencies may be in the works. The autocratic activities of the administration of recent governments and changes in laws that subvert democratic freedoms and rights and the right to personal privacy have fueled this fear. There is evidence to suggest that there may be reasonable grounds for these concerns. FEMA is said to have 800 very large facilities divided into 10 areas which would be under management by FEMA with support from USNorthCom (US Northern Command). United States Northern Command (USNorthCom) is a military organization – and one of 9 of the US Unified Combatant Commands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Northern_Command Unified Combatant Commands are composed of forces from at least two military departments and have a broad and continuing mission to provide effective command and control of US military forces, regardless of the branch of service in peace or war. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Combatant_Command. USNorthCom is tasked with providing military support for civil authorities within the US, including:“consequence management operations.”
In 2008/2009 the media reported that USNorthCom was preparing a dedicated force for domestic operations (civil disturbances) within the US and were trialling crowd and traffic control equipment, and non-lethal weapons for such purposes. (Does this bring to mind previous episodes of the crushing use of military force – by authoritarian governments and dictatorships in response to protests by civilians against government actions?) Security is an issue during disasters. But, there have been a lot of disasters world-wide and the main security problem relates to looting. Looting is generally managed by police and does not warrant the type of heavy duty equipment used by military combatant units. http://publicintelligence.net/the-militarys-plans-for-social-unrest/ http://publicintelligence.net/u-s-army-fm-3-19-15-civil-disturbance-operations/ (This manual addresses the use of nonlethal (NL) and lethal forces by the US Army when quelling a domestic riot.) http://progressive.org/rothschild0209.html http://www.infowars.com/concentration-camps-revisited-national-emergency-centers-establishment-act-2013/
- Details of alleged FEMA sites are located here. (Note – There is much speculation as to the purpose of these facilities; and so far it has not been confirmed what these sites really are intended to be used for.) http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_FEMA16.htm
- If the 800 fixed site are facilities intended for disaster housing – this seems odd. The location of disasters varies, materials deterioriate, and fixed facilities and supplies (many of which would be perishable) must be kept secure. In addition, so far there is no publicly available information that would suggest that a disaster on such a scale is imminent.
- 800 is well in excess of the detention facilities under control of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE): http://www.ice.gov/detention-facilities/
- There have been concerns expressed that these facilities are to hold people for deportation. Operation Endgame was a 2003-2012 plan under implementation by theOffice of Detention and Removal Operations (part of the US Department of Homeland Security Bureau – Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to detain and deport all removable aliens and suspected terrorists who were living in the US by 2012. Just how successful this was is unknown, but it did not require the use of 800 detention facilities, or the public would have heard about it. It would seem highly unlikely that FEMA would require 800 facilities just to hold illegal immigrants and suspected terrorists – due to the potential security risks and public relations risks of detaining large numbers of such groups, the costs of running such facilities at capacity, and the logistics required to transport unwanted or illegal immigrants to other countries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Endgame
- It would be very disturbing if these facilities are intended for detention facilities in expectation of widespread civil disturbances arising from protests against government actions. This would be disturbing, not just in the context that the US government would consider detaining political protestors “en masse” – but that they might have grounds to believe that the public would be motivated to make such mass protests against the government that 800 facilities might be required. Unfortunately, when you read about the Main Core surveillance database (which follows), operated under FEMA coupled with the NorthCom exercises to respond to civil disturbances – then the possibility of these facilities being used as a method to isolate and repress large numbers of domestic political dissenters becomes of significant concern.
Given the large number of “suspects” in the Main Core database managed by FEMA (which is part of Homeland Security); and the existence of the large number of these FEMA sites (and secrecy surrounding them); coupled with the likely involvement of the Army in quelling protests with the use of force – the ugly possibility of the entire set-up being part of a preparation for a resettlement pogrom against government critics, dissenters or competitors cannot be said to be a case of unfounded paranoia. Whether this set-up is part of an actual plan by senior government administration and the military; or, only appears to be so is almost immaterial. If the public in any democratic country has reason to distrust and be afraid of the government; then in a democratic country, those wielding power should be afraid of the power of the people to vote them out. This presumes of course that democracy exists. If the administration chooses to implement the absolute power that it has legislated to itself and the military under the FEMA Executive orders (as follows) – there effectively is no democratic process. You will find some Executive Orders related to FEMA below.
If you are American you should really read about what the US government and military can do to you as a consequence of these orders.
Readers from other countries also should take note. The potential for abuse of this type and degree of power is enormous.
Here is the link to declassified documents called Operation Garden Plot – which is an earlier 1991 edition of the plans of the US Army to respond to civil disturbances. http://www.infowars.com/media/USArmyCivilDisturbPlanGardenPlot_1991.pdf http://www.infowars.com/operation-garden-plot-documents-published/ You will find more on this in the article by Frank Morales – (US Military Civil Disturbance Planning: The War at Home) here: http://cryptome.info/0001/garden-plot.htm The declassified FM 3-19.15 – 2005 Army Manual on Civil Disturbance Operations from the FAS (Federation of American Scientists) website is here. This is an important document because it includes the (limited) details released to the public as to the role of the army in civil disturbances. : http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-19-15.pdf Here are additional links to Army support for Civil Disturbances as well as Civil Support Operations. Civil Disturbance Operations are different from Civil Support Operations. Civil Support Operations are intended to provide assistance in a disaster. We think that Civil Support Operations with regard to support for disaster response is a very important and beneficial function of the military. On the other hand, military support for Civil Disturbances is used to squash protests by the public. Violence against peaceful protestors is commonplace in authoritarian regimes. When stockpiles of weapons and armor are accumulated for the purposes of dealing with civil disturbances – then there is good reason to be concerned about an evolving police state mentality. http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-28.pdf http://www.globalresearch.ca/military-says-no-presidential-authorization-needed-to-quell-civil-disturbances/5335474 http://www.globalresearch.ca/militarization-of-the-american-homeland-suppression-of-civil-disturbances/10683 Other refs on this topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rex_84 http://www.infowars.com/operation-garden-plot-documents-published/ http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/suppression.html http://www.infowars.com/army-national-guard-advertises-for-internment-specialists/ http://www.fema.gov/about-agency
Main Core (FEMA) – 1982 to ?
The Main Core database is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It originated in 1982 (? under what agency). Main Core contains personal and financial data of millions of U.S. citizens believed to be threats to national security. Main Core is likely one of the follow-on projects of Project Minaret.
Main Core appears to be a “McCarthyism” type tool on steroids.
Investigative Data Warehouse (FBI) (2004) to ?
The Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW), is a searchable database operated by the FBI. It was created in 2004. Much of the nature and scope of the database is classified. The database is a centralization of multiple federal and state databases, including criminal records from various law enforcement agencies, the U. S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and public records databases. According to the FBI’s website, as of August 22, 2007, the database contained 700 million records from 53 databases and was accessible by 13,000 individuals around the world. Data on individuals accessible by 13,000 people? Sure the sheer numbers add an element of anonymity – but that only applies if the people who have access can’t search the database. Being unable to search defeats the purpose of collecting so much information. So it’s pretty well guaranteed that those with access to the system can search it. Relative anonymity rendered by personal data being included amongst vast amounts of other data disappears once it becomes searchable. Data mining is capable of sorting data based on specified criteria. But those criteria are are likely to be frequently common to multiple people. In addition, what’s to stop one or more of these 13,000 people from choosing to access specific personal (or organizational or business) data for financial reasons; or to politically persecute activists, dissenters or competitors; or to act in a malicious way towards someone for any reason; or set-up an individual so that they have a “patsy” to accuse of a crime? Where are the safeguards for personal “Privacy” when so many people have access to so much data and the capacity to “mine” it?
The Data Warehouse System – Electronic Surveillance Data Management System FBI – 2001
and Applications Section (STAS) of the FBI. The Data Warehouse System is known to provide a searchable archive of intercepted electronic communications, including email sent over the Internet. Online chat transcripts, email attachments, and audio of unspecified origin are stored. Users can add notes, translations, and tags to intercepts. It is one of the FBI’s primary investigative tools.
In June 2007 a total of 70 million intercepts from 16,500 online accounts were present on the system. This was expected to increase to 350 million intercepts from over 50,000 accounts by June 2009. The wiki site indicates that the hardware and software were not up to handling this amount of data implying that the system was shortly to become defunct. (However, it is far more likely that the need for more power was used as an excuse for more funding to upgrade the system or purchase alternative technology, rather than ditching one of the FBI’s primary surveillance tools).
The details of the origin of the data it holds and the criteria for the collection is unknown. It is also unknown what the system costs – and just what types of crime have been found (or the names of criminals who were convicted who were found predominantly as a consequence of use of surveillance data vacuumed up by this system) over the years as a consequence of this extensive surveillance. Once again, this is a searchable database. Being able to search for data is clearly a useful tool. Unfortunately, the FBI, like the CIA has a long-standing history of not just intrusive surveillance, but the use of dirty tricks and subversive tactics – ostensibly for the reason of counterintelligence – against innocent people, groups and organizations. The majority of people who use these databases are likely honest and have integrity. But there is no guarantee that organizations that work in secret and likely attract individuals of a certain mind-set will necessarily always act properly. Of the vast numbers of people with access to these databases – there will likely be some (or their masters) who may be quite Machiavellian in their attitude regarding what is right or wrong. When the mindset that the end justifies any means prevails and there are resources like this – there is huge capacity for wrong-doing.
Think about the COINTELPRO Project and the conniving and manipulative tactics used by other agencies – and what can be done with access to large databases. Think about the tendency for politicians and senior officials to demand fast results with little regard for how these results are obtained – and the pressure that puts on those lower in the power totem pole to come up with a “villain” – somehow. Setting up evidence to pin-point an innocent person as guilty of a crime has certainly occurred in some situations involving police (the evidence of data manipulation coming to light in court.) What happens when people with the access and skills to manipulate data can act in secret? What happens if someone is accused and the accusing agency denies providing the evidence because it is “secret”? What happens under these circumstances when a person is also tried in secret? The potential injustices that can result from such a system shows another hazard of widespread surveillance and related access to personal data of people. It is the type of behavior that tends to occur in dictatorships, military juntas and countries under other forms of authoritarian rule. It results in rule by fear.
Stellar Wind (NSA) – 2001 to ?2007
Under the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, all wiretapping of American citizens by the NSA required a warrant from a three-judge court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA makes it illegal to intentionally engage in electronic surveillance under appearance of an official act or to disclose or use information obtained by electronic surveillance under appearance of an official act knowing that it was not authorized by statute. In addition, theWiretap Act prohibits any person from illegally intercepting, disclosing, using or divulging phone calls or electronic communications. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Intelligence_Surveillance_Act https://ilt.eff.org/index.php/Privacy:_Wiretap_Act https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/98-326.pdf
Stellar Wind was the code name for four NSA surveillance programs. The program’s activities involved data mining of a large database of the communications of American citizens, including e-mail communications, phone conversations, financial transactions, and Internet activity. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2013/jun/27/nsa-inspector-general-report-document-data-collection George W Bush briefly “discontinued” bulk internet data collection, involving Americans, after a dramatic rebellion in March 2004 by senior figures at the Justice Department and FBI. But this resumed after changes in laws were introduced to make the surveillance legal. This practice has continued under the Obama regime. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/27/nsa-data-mining-authorised-obama
Although the government denies this, recent whistle-blower leaks published in the media indicate that the NSA apparently was/is provided access to communications going between some of the nation’s largest telecommunication companies’ major interconnected locations, including phone conversations, email, web browsing, social media sites and corporate private network traffic. (This is like Project Shamrock expanded to the nth degree.) The Bush administration maintained that the intercepts were not domestic but rather foreign intelligence integral to the conduct of war and that the warrant requirements of FISA were implicitly superseded by the subsequent passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_Wind_(code_name)
One of the known uses of these data were the creation of Suspicious Activity Reports
(SARS), about people suspected of terrorist activities. As an example of how inappropriately intrusive and disrespectful of personal privacy this type of surveillance is – apparently one of these reports resulted in the revelations of personal information related to former New York governor Eliot Spitzer (the resulting scandal putting an end to his political career) – even though he was not suspected of, or shown to be involved in terrorist activities.
Based upon information currently in the public domain – Gonzales’ description may certainly be true – but it is likely that this is truth in a narrow context. In the context of “Spin”, and the “cherry picking” and “card stacking” of information – a misleading impression may be created when providing facts by stating one or more items that are true (and acceptable to the audience); but not mentioning other fact that are also true, but would likely be unacceptable to the audience, in order to deflect attention and criticism from the more contentious facts. This is a common public relations ploy used by politicians and spin-doctors. The evidence in the public domain indicates it is more likely than not that Stellar Wind had broad criteria for surveillance. The fact that communications relevant to al Qaeda were included in the broad criteria does not mean that other communications were excluded. It is probable that data mining of content in a part or parts of the Stellar Wind Project specified the factors mentioned by Gonzales – but that does not mean that widespread screening did not occur. Nor does it mean that data mining of content was restricted to al Qaeda. It is probable that selection for data mining searches was also done using other factors to direct the search. You might be interested in this post on “Spotting Spin”. In an era when government lying / propaganda has effectively been legalized – it’s important to be skeptical when assessing communications provided by politicians, government officials and others in position of power.
Boundless Informant (multiple agencies) ? dates
Boundless Informant is a big data analysis and data visualization system used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) to give NSA managers summaries of NSA’s world wide data collection activities.
Boundless Informant was first publicly revealed on June 8, 2013, after classified documents about the program were leaked to The Guardian. The newspaper identified its informant, at his request, as Edward Snowden, who worked at the NSA for the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57592691-38/snowden-i-wanted-to-correct-the-excesses-of-government/ According to a Top Secret heat map display also published by The Guardian and allegedly produced by the Boundless Informant program, almost 3 billion metadata elements from inside the United States were captured by NSA over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. Data analyzed by Boundless Informant includes electronic surveillance program records (DNI) and telephone call metadata records (DNR) stored in an NSA data archive called GM-PLACE. It appears to be related to global access operations and the US Joint Task Force – Global Network Operations (about which little is known). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2013/jun/08/nsa-boundless-informant-data-mining-slides http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Task_Force-Global_Network_Operations The NSA claims Boundless Informant is about counting communications – not content. It’s very hard to swallow that a program which likely costs a fortune is only designed to create maps of communication that are effectively anonymous if there is no IP information.
The heat map that was leaked indicated that the program targeted almost 3 billion metadata elements inside the US over 30 days. NSA claims that they don’t collect data on IP addresses from Boundless Informant. So how do they know where the information is coming from or going to? Given collection of 3 billion metadata elements from within the US – how can they possibly say with a straight face that they do not target their own nationals? It’s hard to believe that Boundless Informant and the 4 other programs that Edward Snowden leaked details on – are so innocuous. He effectively sacrificed his freedom to release this information to the public – so something would be done about it. The US government is pursuing and persecuting him (like Julian Assange) and has obviously enlisted other countries to do this too. The level of determination to capture and punish is well out of line if the information released was benign. Given the tendency of the government to have a problem telling the truth (and to have legalized the use of propaganda on the American public) – one can’t help but suspect that it is the whistle-blower who is more likely the truth teller. The media reports that certain NSA programs, similar to Boundless Informant mine metadata
like a giant vacuum. Other programs analyze the content and can pin-point individuals. This is not surprising. What’s the point of collecting data just to count it? Why build a multi-billion dollar cyber facility in Utah just to look at pictures of maps with colors representing numbers? Why collect meta-data if it doesn’t mean anything? The program Prism for example – apparently allows the NSA and the FBI to tap directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.
The NSA denies this of course – but based on what has been going on – denial is pretty much what you would expect. The reality is, these programs are a more high tech version of the old Shamrock Project. The original Shamrock Project involved spying on sources from only 3 communications companies – like the 3 leaves of the Shamrock. One hopes the “boundless” does not reflect a “boundless” amount of capture from communications networks around the globe – but maybe it does. It is highly improbable that the NSA and the (many) other US spy agencies cannot see and do not analyze content – particularly email and internet data which has so much content.
- Perhaps if NSA (and other surveillance) staff shut their eyes, they won’t see content – and won’t read or analyze it.
- Although they are just other definable fields that can be programmed to search – perhaps none of the geniuses who are likely employed by the NSA and other agencies have been able to program the multi-billion dollar computer systems to recognize the content of emails, letters, databases etc – and save the content, so it can be accessed by it’s search engines. (That’s a trifle hard to believe; given any Tom, Dick or Jane can do a simple search on their home computer for the content of their emails or documents etc).
- Perhaps just apparently uninformative metadata is collected at great expense because senior “Peepers” have the compulsion to collect it – and don’t or won’t have it analyzed.
Anyone that believes that the content of emails, texts and documents that are collected by widespread surveillance programs are not analyzed; and cannot, or will not be searched and read (as claimed by government officials) must believe in the Easter Bunny. Tricks with wording (weasel words spin) are being used to get around the truth. In any event data that is not collected domestically is received second hand from spy agencies from other countries (check out Echelon) – and this serves to get around any residual laws that are intended to protect personal privacy. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/prism-collection-documents/ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/us/revelations-give-look-at-spy-agencys-wider-reach.html?hp&_r=1& http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/08/nsa-boundless-informant-global-datamining
The Private Sector and surveillance
In addition to FISA, in the US, there is the Stored Communications Act, which explicitly makes it a crime to “knowingly divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service… to any governmental entity.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stored_Communications_Act In an August 14, 2007, question-and-answer session with the El Paso Times newspaper which was published on August 22, Director of National Intelligence – Mike McConnell confirmed for the first time that the private sector helped the warrantless surveillance program. McConnell argued that the companies deserved immunity for their help. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA_warrantless_surveillance_controversy
On October 13, 2007, The Washington Post reported that Joseph P Nacchio, the former CEO
of Qwest Communications appealed an April 2007 conviction on 19 counts of insider trading by alleging that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal. According to court documents unsealed in Denver as part of Nacchio’s appeal, the NSA approached Qwest about participating in a warrantless surveillance program more than six months before the 9/11/2001 attacks – though those attacks have been cited by the government as the main rationale for such surveillance. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR2007101202485.html
Classified Information as a reflection of spy activity
Classified documents reflect classified activities – which would include (but is not limited to spying (cyber and other).
Response to challenges regarding surveillance
The response by the US government (and governments elsewhere) to challenges by the public and activist groups that government surveillance policies and procedures have been acting against democratic rights and freedoms – has not been to reduce these measures. Instead new laws have been passed to legally broaden the scope for warrantless surveillance.
In addition the administration of the Bush and Obama governments have wanted immunity granted for warrantless surveillance.
Spying as a global phenomenon cloaked in secrecy
It is noted that the US (and likely other countries) have multiple agencies that each spy. Agencies that conduct spying activities within a country usually exchange information with each other; and also trade information with other countries. Intrusive, widespread surveillance (and swapping of information) related to innocent people occurs in the context of agencies that are obsessively secretive about their own activities.
Democratic government is generally expected to have open and transparent governance (this includes transparency regarding the activities of its departments, agencies and contractors etc). Relevant information that is not associated with current issues genuinely related to national security should be readily accessible by the public. However, as you read more about freedom of information and government activities – you will find the propensity of certain bureaucrats, government departments and the executive arm of governments to be unreasonably secretive about normal policies, procedures and activities that should rightfully be in the public domain. This is more likely than not because the hidden information does not speak well of what they have been up to – and may have negative repercussions on the individuals who have actively been responsible for inappropriate or corrupt behavior or wrong-doing or corruption. It consequently comes as no surprise that spy agencies resist making information available. The excuse that exposure of wrong-doing might cause the government, politicians or individuals working for the government (including spy agencies) embarrassment is no excuse for wrong-doing to continue under the cloak of secrecy. Otherwise such behaviors will persist and worsen rather than stop, with increased frequency and severity of negative consequences on the public. However individuals involved in wrong-doing tend to prefer an autocratic secretive approach to information access. This serves to protect their personal reputations and interests and/or protect the identities and interests of powerful cronies. Spying, even just in the context of cyber-spying, is likely a costly business. While the cost of these activities is outside the scope of this review, such information is likely to provide interesting evidence of the evolution of the cost to the public (in any country) of these types of activities over time. Who has benefited financially from this is also worth investigation, though is beyond the scope of this review. The Church Committee Report of 1976 found that the benefits of widespread government led surveillance and repressive actions by agencies that spy did not outweigh the risks to democratic rights and freedoms and privacy. It is likely that this is still the case. The cost of such systems must be astronomical. Depending upon whatever country you are from, it would be worth looking into what has happened or is happening in your country with regard to spying.
Widespread surveillance as a tool for repression
The foregoing has shown how widespread surveillance has resulted in invasion of personal privacy of everyone; and has also encroached on the democratic rights and freedoms (in particular freedom of speech and association) of innocent people and groups that the government chooses to repress. The growing evidence of increased military preparedness for civil disturbances coupled with the existence of hundreds of huge facilities with no clear purpose suggests that Big Brother is preparing to act against those citizens who protest wrong-doing by government – with the use of force against it’s own people. Even innocent people have no opportunity to hide in a “Big Brother” surveillance state. If governments can get away with using data access to hunt down and persecute people who have spoken out against wrong-doing, and informed the public what the government has been up to – then others can expect to be eventually treated in an unjust and oppressive fashion too.
Is this evidence of democracy (with representative governance of the people) – or rulership? People talk about the hazards of global warming, pollution and debt on future generations. These are nothing when compared with the likely consequences on future generations if we fail to fight for the right to democratic freedoms and rights, justice, and the right to personal privacy.
Widespread surveillance does not just threaten personal privacy. It can, and it is being abused to attack democratic rights and freedoms. It is a clear and present danger, not just to us but to future generations. In closing:
This article discusses some of the history of US spy agencies and law changes by governments that have supported the burgeoning power of the administrative elite, as well as intrusive surveillance over the past 70 years. But, intrusive surveillance as a means to power and control is by no means confined to the US. For more on surveillance networks involving other countries – see here:
Objectively verifiable evidence that this widespread (and no doubt extremely expensive) surveillance actually really has been the predominant reason (versus other investigative techniques) that terrorists or serious criminals have been found before or after committing crimes is very sparce. If there was such evidence, it should have been presented in the trials leading to their conviction(s). Even if terrorists or serious criminals were found – the question remains one of whether the benefit demonstrated has been worth the loss of personal privacy and the encroachment on democratic rights and freedoms caused by such unfocused intrusive activities. Surely there are other methods to do this that are more pointed and do not involve blanket surveillance.
Widespread surveillance – yet the failure to identify and wealthy tax dodgers and the Libor rate fixing scam
Then there is the question of why such an intrusive global surveillance system failed to identify the fact that many wealthy people, businesses, corporations, criminals (and, who knows, possibly some government agencies) have been dodging taxes or laundering funds in tax havens. Trillions of dollars were stashed in off-shore accounts. Why didn’t any of these huge surveillance systems that are supposed to be on the look-out for criminal activity detect this? Why didn’t they detect any aberrations which might have been clues to the Libor rate fixing scandal? We’re not advocating intrusive surveillance of people’s finances. But the two excuses for this type of surveillance have been to catch terrorists and criminals – either of which would seem likely to be inclined to either hide their ill gotten gains, or launder their money through off shore accounts (and related shell companies). If such surveillance systems were effective and even-handed – one would have expected this information to have been found and acted upon. But it took whistle-blowers to bring these matters to light. Was failure to find that trillions of dollars of funds were being stored in off shore accounts; and trillions of dollars were affected by rate-fixing because widespread intrusive surveillance is not capable of finding such information? Or was it because there was no political will that such matters be spied upon owing to the possible repercussions on people of wealth and power? Or, was the information found – but too many important people in government or positions of power or influence involved, and it had been buried? Or … what was the reason??
A need for objectively verifiable evidence
There is a need for objectively verifiable evidence of the effectiveness (or lack of effectiveness) of widespread surveillance, and the abuses that have been caused by the processes involved in these activities. Uncorroborated claims by spy agencies or members of government who are pushing these programs is not good enough. A history of lies, deception, secrets and cover-ups raises major issues regarding trustworthiness. It is a serious matter when those who govern or hold positions of power cannot be trusted in any country – but particularly in a democratic country. If spies or serious criminals were really found by these intrusive surveillance systems – then one would expect the cases to have gone to court and the criminals to have been convicted. One would expect that this process would be of sufficient interest to the public that it would be reported in the media. In the interest of natural justice – court evidence related to the relationship of the surveillance system(s) involved in their identification would be expected to be shown. Casually quoted numbers without objectively verifiable evidence is just another form of “spin” – lying to misinform through the misleading use of numbers to trick the public into believing that widespread surveillance has been successful in terms of protecting the public from terrorism or serious crime. Mere arrest of individuals is not proof of guilt. Trials conducted in secret are highly suspect. The death of those accused before their trial, or their mysterious disappearance without going to trial is not evidence of their guilt (or following on that the success of the system) either. What is clear from the numbers involved is that these systems are being used in a more intrusive and advanced way than the earlier methods pre-2001 against people who are not linked to terrorism or crime.
Spying is a bureaucratic / government capability shared by many countries. The technologies that facilitate spying have expanded and become more powerful as a consequence of evolving developments in computer systems (both hardware and software) over the past 7 decades.
What we think
- All told we think that the evidence indicates that the escalating use of intrusive widespread surveillance, coupled with secrecy of operations represents a form of perverse “peeping” which is more likely to be to the detriment of individuals, organizations and businesses than a benefit.
- Surveillance and related activities of government spy agencies are more likely being used to protect those in power and authority; and as a means to repress competition, criticism and dissenters and there have been complaints that it has been used to obtain financial information by stealth. These activities are a definite threat to to the democratic rights and freedoms of individuals; and also encroach on personal privacy and the security of personal information.
- There is also a disturbing pattern of law changes occurring not just in the US, but also in other so-called democratic countries that is concentrating power in the hands of a few and is increasing the power of military and paramilitary organizations and spy agencies. This reflects an authoritarian mindset.
- Actions, policies and law changes are being progressively geared to disempower the public. At the same time, the public appears to be often provided misinformation versus the truth about what is going on. Actions are increasingly geared to prevent the press and public from speaking out against government wrong-doing or questioning policies, procedures and changes in law.
- The growing power of spy agencies and the military; and a focus on systems geared to quel civil disturbances (which to date have been virtually non-existant) is further evidence of intrusive surveillance being part of a “Big Brother” police state mind-set.
- Suspected preparations to squash civil protests and resettle political critics, dissidents and competitors along with persons dubbed as suspected “terrorists” into detention facilities – should not be dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theory, in light of the whole picture.
- 1984 and “Big Brother” rule is not coming. The evidence indicates that it has settled into the US administrative processes already. The executives of both major parties appear to support authoritarian rule. It is questionable whether other legislators are fully aware of what has been going on, and how many of those agree with it.
- The current US government has made the domestic use of propaganda legal – making a mockery of the reasonable expectation of the public to be told the truth by government. This puts the genuine transparent execution of the democratic process in further jeopardy.
- It is consequently not a surprise that the US administration and military complex appears to think it necessary to prepare for large scale domestic disturbances. Their actions have created a situation that may well provoke this.
“If you have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
The focus of this post has been on the US for a reason. The democratic rights and freedoms of the American people are under threat – not by terrorists – but by the actions of a powerful elite in their own government. What happens in the US is important for all other democratic countries. If the former giant of democracy falls to autocratic rule, and progresses further towards a “Big Brother” state – what hope do the rest of us have? Let’s hope that the feisty determination of a nation that stopped this kind of carry-on in 1975-76 can do the same again.
What do you think?
- Is there sufficient objectively verifiable evidence that intrusive government surveillance is effective in protecting the population from terrorism and serious crime? or,
- Does current and cumulative evidence indicate that certain governments are likely predominantly using spying as a tool for the power elite to obtain and maintain power and to repress dissent or criticism?
The information we are provided may be “truthiness” (which is not the truth, and involves all manner of deception), not truth. Lies and deception are often used to put a positive spin on matters we would not agree to, or would disgust us if we knew the truth. Secrecy is another tool of “impression management” to cover up wrong-doing, shameful or corrupt acts.
|Original 3 Monkeys|
It goes without saying that journalists are by nature deeply suspicious of politicians and the motives which drive them – and vice versa.
Thrown together in the rabbit warren which passes for the parliamentary complex – a veritable hothouse fuelled by rampant ego, unrequited ambition, never-ending rumour and constant intrigue – MPs and media nevertheless have to establish a degree of trust for their mutually parasitic relationship to function effectively.
That trust works on many levels, be it MPs feeling they can talk off-the-record confident they will not be shopped to their superiors, to journalists respecting embargoes, to Cabinet ministers not blocking the release of sensitive documents sought by media under the Official Information Act.
That trust can take a long time to establish. It can be destroyed in a matter of seconds.
Even so, when trust does break down, it usually amounts to little more than a pin-prick on the fabric of democracy.
The trawling of a Press Gallery reporter’s phone logs by parliamentary authorities is a breach of trust of such mega proportions that it may well place a lingering chill on politician-journalist contact.
The legacy of the David Henry inquiry into the leaking of the Kitteridge report on the workings of the Government Communications Security Bureau may be to always leave just the tiniest question lurking at the back of everyone’s mind as to who else might be listening, reading or watching.
The supplying of the phone records of the Dominion Post’s Andrea Vance to the inquiry displayed a callous disregard for press freedom which is without recent precedent. It was even more reprehensible for having been done without her knowledge or permission.
Following days of Opposition claim and prime ministerial denial, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet yesterday issued around 135 pages of emails in part to verify that John Key’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, was not complicit in dredging up Vance’s phone records.
His role was confined to getting National Party ministers to comply with the inquiry and liaising with Peter Dunne’s office.
Eagleson may be off the hook. Key isn’t.
Yesterday’s material brought a fresh and further shocking revelation that all of Vance’s relevant emails were also briefly supplied to the inquiry by the Parliamentary Service, the sprawling bureaucracy which runs the parliamentary complex, as well as by a contractor working for the organisation.
Key says he takes responsibility for Henry’s inquiry. As he set it up, he is obliged to do so.
However, Key has refused to take responsibility for the inquiry seeking information about phone calls and other matters which he says it should not have done.
In making distinctions between what he is and is not responsible for, Key is indulging in a convenient dilution of the already heavily watered down constitutional convention of ministerial responsibility.
This attempt to put distance between himself and the shoddy behaviour of the Parliamentary Service has him now saying he will not be appearing before the inquiry being conducted by Parliament’s privileges committee which will attempt to get to the bottom of why Vance’s phone records were supplied to the Henry inquiry.
Key probably feels yesterday’s release of email traffic answers that question.
But his non-appearance, while depriving the Opposition of an opportunity to grill him, only reinforces the feeling that Key is not treating the matter with the seriousness it deserves.
He should. If anything, this latest episode in the political follies flowing from the dysfunctional GCSB threatens to further undermine what little public confidence remains in the country’s two security agencies.
The public may not be completely au fait with the detail of the highly contentious legislation formally giving the GCSB the powers that it thought it always had.
But when institutions like the Parliamentary Service, which is supposed to understand and work within the confines of the democratic ethos, displays such a cavalier attitude to private information, what confidence can the public have that the far more secretive GCSB, along with the Security Intelligence Service, will follow the letter of the law.
No doubt Key is counting down the days to next week when the GCSB bill will finally be passed by Parliament into law.
One headache for him may be nearly over. The privileges committee probe remains.
That this committee – the most powerful of all the bodies charged with ensuring Parliament functions properly – has moved with relative speed is an indication that some of Key’s colleagues realise how much the Parliamentary Service has overstepped the mark.
The suspicion will be that this apparent concern for the Fourth Estate is motivated by a fear of a wounded parliamentary media turning irreversibly against National with election year fast approaching.
That charge, however, cannot be levelled at the Speaker, David Carter, who referred the whole matter of access to phone logs, emails and individuals’ swipe-card movements around the parliamentary complex to the privileges committee in order to get some protocols formulated for future guidance.
Carter is as much a victim of the monumental lapse of judgment by his officials as the Press Gallery. He has every right to be furious.
As Speaker, he chairs the Parliamentary Service Commission, the body responsible for the Parliamentary Service. The Press Gallery and its rules also fall under his aegis.
His reward from Key for making a more than reasonable fist of a job he never wanted was to be kept in the dark about the accessing of Vance’s phone records.
His officials also misinformed him such that he has been obliged to correct replies to written questions submitted by the Greens. That in itself is hugely embarrassing for the Speaker, given he is responsible for the sanctity of parliamentary questions which are one of the few means open to the Opposition of extracting reliable information from Government ministers.
A head had to roll. The resignation of Geoff Thorn, the general manager of the Parliamentary Service, was deemed necessary to restore confidence in an administrative body which had long ago relinquished any confidence that both journalists and MPs might have placed in it.
With Thorn gone, the pressure shifted to Eagleson to do likewise. Hence yesterday afternoon’s sudden bout of crisis management. The damage control, however, was also a case of using the old trick of a late Friday afternoon dump of screeds of paper to bury the problem over the weekend – and hopefully the journalists with it.
Brendan O’Conner is an unabashed hacker who has worked for DARPA and taught at the US military’s cybersecurity school. CreepyDOL (Creepy Distributed Object Locator), his new personal tracking system, allows a user to track, locate, and break into an individual’s smartphone. “For a few hundred dollars,” he says, “I can track your every movement, activity, and interaction, until I find whatever it takes to blackmail you.”
Privacy is becoming ever more difficult to insure in today’s connected world. It is not clear whether it is governments or businesses that are more interested in your innermost secrets, but both have a pretty good handle on most of us. CreepyDOL and similar systems now threaten to make the ability to ferret out a person’s private affairs available to anyone with the inclination and a few hundred dollars to spare.
CreepyDOL is a network of sensors that communicates with a data-processing server. The sensor network runs on boxes about the size of a small external hard drive, with each node containing a Raspberry Pi Model A, two Wi-Fi adapters, and a USB hub. Previously developed by O’Connor, these are called F-BOMBs (Falling/Ballistically-launched Object that Makes Backdoors) and are sufficiently rugged to be thrown, or even dropped from a UAV. Each F-BOMB costs just over US$50, giving a network of 10 a price of around $500.
The F-BOMBS run software that allows the nodes to communicate with each other, as well as look for Wi-Fi traffic within its detection range. The nodes look for various forms of data, including Dropbox and iMessage data, that can provide information about the user of the smartphone. Some data only reveals that a particular protocol is being used by a particular user, while others may leak a great deal of personal information, including names, pictures, and email addresses. To stay within the law, O’Connor tested CreepyDOL with software settings that made the sensor nodes blind to any but his own smartphones.
All the acquired information is reported back to the data processor, which analyzes, organizes, and stores the personal data. The system includes the ability to display people moving around the area covered by the sensor network in real time.
The impact of CreepyDOL is that it eliminates the idea of “blending into a crowd.” If you’re carrying a wireless device, CreepyDOL will see you, track your movements, and report home, even if you aren’t using it.
O’Connor appears (mostly) to be wearing a white hat in this project. “At some level I’m doing this because it’s interesting, but I’m also doing it to prove that this level of knowledge and detail isn’t only the province of intelligence agencies anymore. If you think that only the government, with millions and billions to blow on watching someone can create this problem for privacy, then we’re not going to solve it.”
On the other hand, his security consultancy Malice Aforethought is selling F-BOMBS to the public. Will CreepyDOL emerge from the hacker underground? Time will tell.