BIG BROTHER’S EARS DEPT.
If you have been wondering what the brouhaha over National Security Agency spying might be all about, here’s a lengthy piece by conspiracy analyst Joel Skousen. It is a pretty good overview of the controversy and should send shivers up the spine of every freedom and privacy-loving American. But, according to the polls, most don’t seem to care. I guess the fluoride in the water supply is working well for those in government who seek to work in secrecy and against the Constitution. Or is it that the polls are skewed and spun?
GOVERNMENT WON’T STOP SPYING
By Joel Skousen
World Affairs Brief
June 14, 2013
There is not a hint of contrition in the statements of intelligence officials as they pulled out all the old justifications for violating the 4th Amendment—to save us from terror. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, head of the National Security Agency told a Congressional committee this week that “dozens” of terror threats have been stopped thanks to the huge database of phone calls and emails the NSA has amassed. I say, “Prove it.” He also claimed that records are destroyed after 5 years, but the only files that get deleted are the remnants of information that have been sifted through already. The emails and calls that get a person on the lists of potential dissidents is never erased. When the new data center in Utah is completed this fall, they will keep everything, including all bank records, credit card and real estate data. Welcome to the Total Information Awareness system that DARPA claimed was shut down—another in a series of BIG lies.
Brandon Smith commented that,
In the past, Liberty Movement champions have been derided as “paranoid” for pointing out that there were no limitations to FISA, and that the entire nation might one day be monitored and catalogued like animals in a great technological cage. Today, the public now knows that this concern is concrete and undeniable. EVERYONE is being watched. Reports now estimate that NSA hackers harvest over 2.1 million gigabytes of data on American citizens per hour.
And, it’s not just domestic spying, the NSA is building a system to capture all digital signals from every country in the world. That can only mean that the system the US is building is ultimately intended to become a global surveillance system under a global world government. Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian details the nature of this global spy system.
The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA data mining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.
The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.
That isn’t true. The NSA has huge computers sifting the content and the metadata—don’t be fooled into thinking there is a difference between simply collecting the data and “not doing anything about it.” They are always doing something with the data, and names and dossiers are being sorted into various categories and lists every minute of the day.
The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. An NSA factsheet about the program, acquired by the Guardian, says: “The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country.”
The heatmap gives each nation a color code based on how extensively it is subjected to NSA surveillance. The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America’s closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn,[—all 3 labeled as Red on the Heat Maps] Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.
But this is merely a reflection of the ease with which these nation’s systems can be penetrated, not necessarily the number of threats in the country. Jordan certainly isn’t third on the NSA target list. Allies like Germany and France are incensed that the US is spying on all their communications as well. Zerohedge reports:
German outrage over a U.S. Internet spying program has broken out ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, with ministers demanding the president provide a full explanation when he lands in Berlin next week and one official likening the tactics to those of the East German Stasi.
Interestingly, the US captures much more information from within the US than it does on Russia, China or any other nation that is a real threat to the US. Let’s look at some of the government lies and excuses on this subject:
From the Guardian story above: At a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee In March this year, Democratic senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” “No sir,” replied Clapper.
Jason Ditz of Anti-War.com derided Clapper’s attempt to defend his lies: “Clapper was defiant on Sunday news shows when asked about that particular federal offense, saying he felt the question he was asked was “unfair” and that he gave the “least untruthful” lie he could think of in response. Which was still a horrible lie that he eventually got caught in, as he attempted to defend lying under oath. [how is a flat out “no” the least untruthful?”]
The Guardian again: Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: “NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case.
Emmel’s quote is misleading. It sounds like the NSA can rarely read even the metadata accurately, but in fact all she said is that the identity of a communicant sometimes evades their detection. That might be a glimmer of hope for those who know how to cover their tracks well online, but it’s hardly reassuring to the general public. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says the government is capturing digital communications from everyone—not just those suspected of terror. The Guardian comments on the proof Snowden showed them (and much of the good stuff hasn’t been released by the Guardian):
Other documents seen by the Guardian further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.
The litany of government excuses to help downplay the scandal runs the gamut of 1) saying they collect data but don’t do anything with it, and 2) that oversight by the Courts and Congress guarantees that American’s privacy is still protected—really big lies:
On Friday, in his first public response to the Guardian’s disclosures this week on NSA surveillance, Barack Obama said that congressional oversight was the American peoples’ best guarantee that they were not being spied on.
Oversight is a sham. How can he say with a straight face that we are not being spied on when the government doesn’t even contest the fact that all emails and phone calls are recorded? I guess it depends on his “definition of spying.” The trouble with the idea that there is no spying if we aren’t reading what we collect is that there is no possible oversight to ensure computers aren’t reading what is collected. Certainly they never tell Congress any specifics so to the government, “oversight” means “taking our word for it!” — hardly reassuring given the litany of lies. The only safety for privacy is to ensure the government doesn’t collect data. It can’t read what it doesn’t collect.
“These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress and they are being fully briefed on these programs,” he said. Obama also insisted that any surveillance was “very narrowly circumscribed”.
Fully briefed? –Hardly. That’s another lie or misdirection. Congress is briefed only in general and is never given true information about the scope of the spying. In addition, those Congressmen and women who serve on the committee are all certified yes-men and women to government and would never challenge anything. We cannot depend on them to become whistleblowers. Besides, they are sworn never to say anything about what they learn in these briefings to the public, or even other members of Congress. With these kinds of restrictions how can illegal acts be exposed or corrected? Answer: They can’t.
Then there is the excuse that the NSA is only doing what Congress authorized in the FISA court authorization bill. Here’s the NY Times projecting the government line:
The director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who heads both the N.S.A. and United States Cyber Command, which runs the military’s offensive and defensive use of cyberweapons, told skeptical members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that his agency was doing exactly what Congress authorized after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
As an aside, General Alexander is the perfect yes-man to government and no stranger to black operations or lying to Congress. The notorious prison unit responsible for Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse in Baghdad was under his command. He was part of the cover-up there as well blaming the Abu Ghraib scandal on a “group of undisciplined MP soldiers.” Nonsense. These orders for torture came down from the White House and Alexander was in that chain of command.
But the administration cannot justify this under the FISA law. Jim Sensenbrenner (the notorious conservative who introduced the PATRIOT Act) said that the executive branch’s excuses about recent revelations of NSA activity are “a bunch of bunk” according to National Review.
In an interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Wednesday morning, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin reiterated his concerns that the administration and the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court have gone far beyond what the PATRIOT Act intended. Specifically, he said that Section 215 of the act “was originally drafted to prevent data mining” on the scale that’s occurred.
[NY Times again] General Alexander said the agency “takes great pride in protecting this nation and our civil liberties and privacy” under the oversight of Congress and the courts.
But the oversight claim is a lie. Congressman Sensenbrenner made it very clear, that “the secret nature of the FISA court has prevented appropriate congressional oversight over the NSA’s activities.”
“We aren’t trying to hide it,” he said. [Then why was it secret and why are you trying to prosecute Snowden?] “We’re trying to protect America. So we need your help in doing that. This isn’t something that’s just N.S.A. or the administration doing it on its own. This is what our nation expects our government to do for us.”
Just as the intentional leaks of 2007 about illegal surveillance led Congress to pass more laws to make some spying legal, Alexander is directly lobbying Congress to allow this total surveillance program—retroactively. As with 9/11 or the spy scandal of 2007 no one will be disciplined for violating their oath to the Constitution in this matter.
As for Alexander’s claim that all of this is legal because the FISA court authorized it, that isn’t true. When Congress established the FISA court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) it was tasked to scrutinize CIA or NSA requests for domestic surveillance on a case by case basisand those cases had to be directly related to a terror investigation.
The FISA court does nothing to force government officials to prove the legality and origin of evidence they bring before the court—almost all of which is derived from electronic surveillance. Moreover, the FISA court has no authority from Congress to allow the wholesale collecting of all data such as during the supposed 3 month period it authorized the NSA to capture data from all Verizon phone logs.
Frankly, the NSA doesn’t invest billions in creating a huge system like PRISM just for a 3 month window of authorization by the FISA court. In other words, the court was merely providing legal cover for NSA for something they were illegally doing before, and will continue doing with our without the court’s approval. This is not oversight. This is rubber stamping government crimes [this emphasis by Jim].
PRISM gets its name from the physical prism lens device that is placed on fiber optic cables in order to split each signal into two identical streams—one that goes to the original destination and the other to the NSA computers. Under the PRISM program, the NSA collects information from all fiber optic communications including internet data and domestic and transatlantic phone calls on trunk lines.
Intelligence analysts already say that suspects of terror within the Middle East and Europe have started using better code words to mask their intentions or have dropped off of Facebook, Skype and Twitter altogether. But the NSA is counting on the fact that no one can operate without digital communications nowadays, so they feel the fallout will be temporary.
Meanwhile, we are getting to see who’s a shill for government by who comes out and defends this total surveillance system in the name of protecting us from terror. The two worst Republican neocons in the Senate, Peter King (NY) and Lindsey Graham (SC) are still up front defending the spying. And it also doesn’t help the cause of privacy when members of the Senate in charge of overseeing government surveillance act as shills for government.
Anti-gun Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to excuse the government’s going beyond its terror fighting mandate by citing as an example that suggested the NSA surveillance had a roll in “slowing down Iran’s nuclear program,” implying that it’s good the NSA goes beyond its limited mandate. Then she dutifully parrots what intelligence officials tell Congress in their secret oversight meetings—that the NSA “can look at the domestic calling data only if there is a reason to suspect it is actually related to Al Qaeda or to Iran… The vast majority of the records in the database are never accessed and are deleted after a period of five years. To look at or use the content of a call, a court warrant must be obtained.”
In reality, this is not true. All the data is sifted and sorted by huge supercomputers, some in real time, others after the fact. The FISA court warrant-seeking process is only done when the government wants to have the legal backing to make one of their high profile terror prosecutions. In other words, it’s legally justifying a case after the facts are gleaned illegally.
Then Gen. Alexander broached the tough subject of how Edward Snowden got access to all the sensitive data he collected and revealed to the Guardian. Indeed, that’s the only real question I have about this story, although Jon Rappoport (who often defends conspiracy theories) thinks his background is an improbable explanation of how he got so far, so fast, in the CIA and NSA. My comments [in brackets].
In 2003, at age 19, without a high school diploma, Snowden enlists in the Army. He begins a training program to join the Special Forces. Snowden breaks both legs in a training exercise. He’s discharged from the Army. Is that automatic? How about healing and then resuming Army service? Just asking.
Actually, that’s pretty standard procedure in an all-volunteer army and in a program where they have lots of people wanting to get in. During officer training in the USMC, I got a case of chronic shin splints being forced to run long distance in non-ergonomic combat boots. The Marine Corps offered me two choices—get out of the Marines or go become a pilot. I took the latter.
If he was accepted in the Special Forces training program because he had special computer skills, then why discharge him simply because he broke both legs? [He didn’t have special computer abilities then—he got that schooling later in the CIA who like to cultivate their own technicians].
Circa 2003, Snowden gets a job as a security guard for an NSA facility at the University of Maryland. He specifically wanted to work for NSA? It was just a generic job opening he found out about? [The U of Maryland President is embarrassed about this revelation and declines to talk to the press about what kind of facility the NSA has there. It’s a special linguistics unit developing linguistic based algorithms for data mining of thought patterns rather than searching for key words. This proves the NSA is serious about searching for more than terror].
Also in 2003 (?), Snowden shifts jobs. He’s now in the CIA, in IT. He has no high school diploma. He’s a young computer genius? [No, Rappoport is jumping ahead too soon. Whether the CIA found Snowden from Army records or whether Snowden applies after rubbing shoulders with the NSA in Maryland, we don’t know. But, it is after joining the CIA, and passing certain personality and skill assessment tests that the CIA determines he would be good at computer work and gives him special training].
In 2007, Snowden is sent to Geneva. He’s only 23 years old. The CIA gives him diplomatic cover there [standard practice for all CIA employees in foreign locations. Some are given business covers]. He’s put in charge of maintaining computer-network security. Major job. Obviously, he has access to a very wide range of classified documents. Sound a little odd? [Not really. Knowing nothing about his performance during CIA training, it’s impossible to speculate. Just because he didn’t have a high school diploma is no reason to assume he’s not very smart. Often those people are extremely put off by the junk in public education and don’t do well].
Snowden says that during this period, in Geneva, one of the incidents that really sours him on the CIA is the “turning of a Swiss banker.” One night, CIA guys get a banker drunk, encourage him to drive home, the banker gets busted, the CIA guys help him out, then with that bond formed, they eventually get the banker to reveal deep banking secrets to the Agency. Snowden is this naïve? He doesn’t know by now that the CIA does this sort of thing all the time? He’s shocked? He “didn’t sign up for this?”
Rappoport sounds like he’s made up his mind and isn’t really asking questions. In fact, this kind of revelation happens to a lot of young CIA or NSA workers. At some point they find out illegal stuff is going on. Very few have a fit of conscience like Snowden has. Give him credit for that, at least.
In 2009, Snowden leaves the CIA. Why? Presumably because he’s disillusioned. It should [be] noted here that Snowden claimed he could do very heavy damage to the entire US intelligence community in 2008, but decided to wait because he thought Obama, just coming into the presidency, might make good changes [that is a little naive, especially for a budding libertarian who voted for Ron Paul]. After two years with the CIA in Geneva, Snowden really had the capability to take down the whole US intelligence network, or a major chunk of it? He had that much access to classified data? [When you are working in computer security—presumably what gave him his “entre” into Booze Hamilton, you can get access to damaging information others can’t—because you have access to the programs that control the firewalls.]
Anyway, in 2009, Snowden leaves the CIA and goes to work for a private defense contractor. This defense contractor (unnamed) assigns him to work at an NSA facility in Japan. Surely, Snowden understands what the NSA is. He knows it’s a key part of the whole military-intelligence network, the network he opposes.[not necessarily. A libertarian is against foreign intervention, but not necessarily against foreign surveillance for defensive purposes. Libertarians aren’t against everything in government.]
Snowden goes on to work for two private defense contractors, Dell and Booze Allen Hamilton. In this latter job, Snowden is again assigned to work at the NSA. He’s an outsider, but he claims to have so much sensitive NSA data that he can take down the whole US intelligence network in a single day. Hmm.
Normally, intelligence matters are so compartmentalized that it’s not possible for low level operators to see into other parts of the NSA computers. But, as I said, Snowden was working in the area of computer security and as a programmer may have been able to alter programs or safeguards in order to give himself access.
Contrary to Rappoport’s expansive suspicions of Snowden’s combination naiveté and youth, there is no indication that Edward was gathering enough classified information to destroy the entire intelligence gathering capacity of the NSA or CIA. He was gather evidence of illegal surveillance on a scale so broad that he felt only public exposure would force the government to stop it.
That too was naive, as we are seeing now. Government has turned this scandal into a crisis of opportunity to feed Americans all the reasons a total surveillance system should continue.And, it will continue, regardless of what Congress does. This is a conspiracy of power we are dealing with. They’ve been doing what they want to do for years and they aren’t about to come under the rule of law, no matter how many assurances political leaders give us.
As a further exploration of the question of whether Snowden could have gotten access to what he did, Rappoport, writing for the Activist Post, says he thinks that Snowden was given the secret information by the CIA, as a form of coup against the rival NSA:
This was a covert op launched by the CIA against a chief rival, the NSA. NSA, the agency that’s far bigger than the CIA. NSA, the agency that’s been taking over intelligence gathering, that considers itself superior to everybody else in the intelligence field. The CIA, of course, couldn’t be seen as the NSA leaker. They needed a guy. They needed a guy who could appear to be FROM the NSA, to make things look worse for the NSA and shield the CIA. They had Ed Snowden. He had worked for the CIA in Geneva, in a high-level position, overseeing computer-systems security. People would later assume he had the wherewithal to get into NSA files and steal documents all by himself.
I’m not buying this. The CIA has a long history of dark operations longer than the NSA. Turf wars are only permitted on the white side of these agencies. The dark side has a ruthless chain of command that doesn’t have to worry about legalitiesif they want something done—only about how to cover things up when they get messy.
Some have further questioned how a libertarian like Snowden could be stupid enough to think about seeking asylum in Hong Kong which is under Chinese control. To me, that too is not surprising. Even Ron Paul was naive about the Chinese and Russian threat. He is so concerned about US unjustified foreign intervention, Paul is all too willing to give China the benefit of the doubt as to their intentions. Many libertarians believe China is reforming because of economic and market pressures. Not true. They are simply playing the economic card for all they can. Eventually, their true communist strategy of deception and attack will come back to haunt us.
Expect the government to pull out all the stops in an effort to find Snowden (who has gone further underground) and prosecute him. Our government doesn’t like real whistleblowers, and goes after them with a vengeance. Look how they treated Qwest Telephone’s CEO Joseph Nacchio when he refused to allow the NSA access to his telephone network. John Gilmore has the details:
We know what happened in the case of QWest before 9/11. They contacted the CEO/Chairman asking to wiretap all the customers. After he consulted with Legal, he refused. As a result, NSA canceled a bunch of unrelated billion dollar contracts that QWest was the top bidder for. And then the DoJ targeted him and prosecuted him and put him in prison for insider trading — on the theory that he knew of anticipated income from secret programs that QWest was planning for the government, while the public didn’t because it was classified and he couldn’t legally tell them, and then he bought or sold QWest stock knowing those things.
This CEO’s name is Joseph P. Nacchio and TODAY he’s still serving a trumped-up 6-year federal prison sentence today for quietly refusing an NSA demand to massively wiretap his customers.
I think the massive propaganda play is working. Every day, the media airs more public figures saying this is important to the war on terror. Those that are wringing their hands and making some show of concern have a history of not following throughwith strong sanctions.
But, just to make sure the public goes along, pollsters are out in force pushing carefully crafted poll questions at the public, inducing them to connect domestic spying with saving them from the specter of terror:
[From the NY Times story] In a Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll conducted June 6-9, 56 percent of Americans said the N.S.A’s program tracking the phone records of “millions of Americans” was an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, while 41 percent said it was unacceptable. But a CBS News poll conducted June 9-10, which instead asked about collecting phone records of “ordinary Americans,” found that just 38 percent supported it and 58 percent opposed it.
Notice the question only asks about “collecting phone records.” People assume no one is actually listening or recording the conversations—and they’re not, unless your profile happens to match a “constitutional conservative” such that you are on one of their lists. It isn’t just the IRS that targets conservative groups. If people knew all the details about what is being done with the data, they would be outraged. That is why those details are always omitted by both the press and the pollsters in the current coverage.
My gut feeling is that Edward Snowden is legit. Here is the Guardian’s interview with Snowden:
Hiding the best stuff: Wired.com also noted that neither the Guardian nor the Washington Post (who both got Snowden’s material) are revealing all:
Only five slides from the presentation have been published. The other 36 remain a mystery. Both the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and the Post’ s Barton Gellman have made it clear that the rest of the PowerPoint is dynamite stuff … which we’re not going to be seeing any time soon.
That’s the same problem with Wikileaks. Julian Assange made a deal with the mainstream media to allow them to sort and selectively decided what to give the public out of the leaked information. All of the really juicy secret black operations stuff is always edited out.
In summary, I feel this revelation on total surveillance by government should have been the straw that breaks the camel’s back and finally convinced people that government is simply lying to them and that the entire system is corrupt and controlled. But so far, it’s business as usual for most people, so what little hope I had in America waking up is dying. I’ll end this section with a powerful essay by Butler Shaffer called ‘Just Shut Up or Die‘
Sophie and Hans Scholl and the White Rose, remind us what it means to be civilized. These young people – most in their teens or early twenties – lived in Nazi Germany and, fearing for the future of their country, took it upon themselves to write – and publicly distribute – leaflets critical of the government. They apparently operated from the premise that what transpired in their country was any of their business. They were soon found out, arrested on February 18, 1943, found guilty of “treason” on February 22, by the People’s Court, and summarily beheaded that same day.
Modern-day voices of fascism, American style, have been urging the same kind of “due process” for such individuals as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and now Edward Snowden, who have had the “arrogance” – in the words of a few of their critics – to do what members of the White Rose did in the early 1940s: to make public the wrongdoings of the American government including such intelligence agencies as the NSA. Political, legal, and media hacks have been stumbling over one another to get in front of network cameras to denounce these men, and to demand the same kind of swift punishment as was meted out to the Scholls and other White Rose members.
The bankruptcy that is driving this campaign against truth-telling is shown by some of the content of the attacks on the accused: “Mr. Snowden doesn’t even have a high-school diploma!” Well, what more needs to be said? The unstated presumption, here, is that this man hadn’t even completed his government-school conditioning in the unquestioned power of the state. Had he graduated from high-school and gone on to college and graduate school, his conditioning in the statist mindset might have been completed. He might even have received a PhD or JD degree that would have allowed him to ascend to the upper heights of the establishment pyramid, from whence – like his accusers – he would not risk his position amongst other elitists.
If his lack of a diploma is not enough to condemn this young man, consider this: he had contributed $500 to the Ron Paul political campaign! Now the entire libertarian movement can be smeared as “traitorous.” If individuals are troubled by what the state is doing, they should confine their complaints to government officials! Had the Scholls and other White Rose members addressed their complaints to the Gestapo, all problems would have been corrected, right? Right?
Messrs. Manning, Assange, and Snowden apparently took literally the message that has been plastered on public buildings, subways, airports, and billboards: “if you see something, say something.” What the “something” is, and to whom your report is to be made, are never indicated, but the reaction of the hacks is clear: don’t have that “something” be critical of the state or its owners!
In fact, this is Snowden’s best defense—the law about “Misprision of Felony”—an archaic term from common law days that refers to the necessity to report felonious activities to a judge: “Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
Perhaps the most lack witted condemnation of Mr. Snowden is found in the last resort to which all statists eventually come: the public opinion poll. More Americans condemn this man than support him. The Barrabas factor; turning to the well-conditioned mob, whose members probably did graduate from high-school, for the final verdict, has long served the interests of state power. Even now, idolaters of state power are hoping that the rest of us will remain firm in our conditioning, and join in their lynch-mob frenzy.
Snowden has revealed how the government has insisted on having access to every private piece of information regarding every American. If this is true, and if it serves any valid purpose of the state to have such power, how can it be wrong for Americans to be made aware of this fact? If the state is entitled to know everything about us, why aren’t we entitled to know all the details of state action?
The hacks’ thoughtless reaction to these revelations is the familiar one: it will help our enemies. But who are the “enemies” who might benefit from knowing the details of the state’s surveillance, wiretapping, e-mail snooping, DNA and medical records, and other attributes of “Big Brother”? You and I are the foe most feared by those who keep their power over us through our state-induced fears, ignorance, and belief in their necessity.
Manning, Assange, and Snowden have challenged each of us: will we, as the hacks and their owners continue to insist, do as we have been trained to do, namely, mind our own business and do as we are told by those in authority? Or shall we, like these courageous men – and the White Rose members before them – have the individualized “arrogance” to believe that the fate of mankind is our business, and that we have a responsibility to act, with focused and peaceful energy, to help extricate ourselves from the collective arrogance of power that is destroying us?
At least some groups are taking action to apply pressure to Congress to stop the surveillance. Rainey Reitman writes that,
A bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies — including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks, and the American Civil Liberties Union — are demanding swift action from Congress in light of the recent revelations about unchecked domestic surveillance, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In an open letter to lawmakers sent today, the groups call for a congressional investigatory committee, similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s. The letter also demands legal reforms to rein in domestic spying and demands that public officials responsible for this illegal surveillance are held accountable for their actions.
Sadly, no more will come of such a committee investigation than the Church committee investigation of the CIA—except to bring a little more light on the subject. Sadly, I don’t think we are going to turn this around.
UTAH DATA CENTER READY BY SEPTEMBER
Many have asked me why Utah, the most Red state in the union would allow this NSA monstrosity in their state. The answer is twofold: 1) It was built on federal land (Camp Williams) so the state had no say in it, but 2) even conservative states like Utah and Idaho, sadly, have mainstream “conservative” Republican governors who love the recognition that comes with dealing with federal leaders. Many mainstream people are seduced by the invitation to participate in some big secret government project.
Of course, now we know about why all the secrecy. Wired.com filed 5this story on the Data Center’s progress toward completion:
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013.
Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy. [Or so we thought!]
But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
This admission bolsters concerns of the EU who have often claimed that the US uses it’s ECHELON satellite spy system to steal commercial secrets and share them with insider corporations. The NSA PRISM system dwarfs ECHELON’s capacity to spy, and the government is clearly including all financial transactions. Let’s face it. There is no privacy anymore.
The NSA is also expanding the facilities that will feed data to Utah. James Bamford, a prominent critic of our surveillance state wrote a column for Reuters and reported:
The NSA was so flooded with billions of dollars from post-September 11, 2001 budget increases that it went on a building spree and also expanded its eavesdropping capabilities enormously. Secret rooms were built in giant telecom facilities, such as AT&T’s 10-story “switch” in San Francisco. There, mirror copies of incoming data and telephone cables are routed into rooms filled with special hardware and software to filter out email and phone calls for transmission to NSA for analysis. New spy satellites were launched and new listening posts were built – such as the recently opened operations center near Augusta, Ga. Designed to hold more than 4,000 earphone-clad eavesdroppers, it is the largest electronic spy base in the world.