Following the Money Trail: Telecoms and ISPs Feed the Secret State’s Surveillance Machine By Tom Burghardt

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Dandelion Salad

Spying on Myspace users?

By Tom Burghardt
ICH
Antifascist Calling
December 11, 2009

“Follow the money.”

And why not. As the interface between state and private criminality, following the money trail is oxygen and combustible fuel for rooting out corruption in high places: indelible signs left behind like toxic tracks by our sociopathic masters.

After all, there’s nothing quite like exposing an exchange of cold, hard cash from one greedy fist to another to focus one’s attention on the business at hand.

And when that dirty business is the subversion of the American people’s right to privacy, there’s also nothing quite like economic self-interest for ensuring that a cone of silence descends over matters best left to the experts; a veritable army of specialists squeezing singular advantage out of any circumstance, regardless of how dire the implications for our democracy.

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An Analysis of Warrantless Wiretapping – Part I by Richard Scott

by Richard Scott
Dandelion Salad
originally published by Boiling Frogs Post
8 November 2009

Definition of Terms & Analysis of Klein’s Affidavit

This piece will attempt to analyze the US Government’s Warrantless Wiretap Program utilizing open source information including A.T.&T. Whistleblower Mark Klein’s EFF affidavit, podcasts by James Bamford and Russell Tice available on this site, and comparisons with similar surveillance networks currently in use in Great Britain and China. The rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the past thirty years has been touted as a mechanism of information freedom and open societies, a global clearinghouse for political and personal empowerment and a panacea against the forces of repression and censorship. What I will attempt to show in this piece is how those lofty goals remain largely unrealized and how governments, under the guise of “security” are, in fact, using the Internet as a new, overarching and suffocating surveillance state to monitor, compile and track the personal and private lives of virtually everyone who uses modern telecommunications in any form. I will attempt to demonstrate that, because of the erection of this surveillance regime, privacy of communications is essentially dead. I will also attempt to show how information gathered under this program can be used to populate private corporation databases and affect the general populace through credit reports, employment opportunities and the convergence of private and government databases.

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Spying on Americans: Obama Endorses Bush Era Warrantless Wiretapping by Tom Burghardt

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by Tom Burghardt
www.globalresearch.ca/, November 7, 2009
Antifascist Calling…– 2009-11-05

President Barack Obama instructed Justice Department attorneys to argue last week in San Francisco before Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker, that he must toss out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Shubert v. Bush lawsuit challenging the secret state’s driftnet surveillance of Americans’ electronic communications.

This latest move by the administration follows a pattern replicated countless times by Obama since assuming the presidency in January: denounce the lawless behavior of his Oval Office predecessor while continuing, even expanding, the reach of unaccountable security agencies that subvert constitutional guarantees barring “unreasonable searches and seizures.” EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston wrote:

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Big Brother is Watching You: Pervasive Surveillance Under Obama by Tom Burghardt

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by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, July 6, 2009
Antifascist Calling…

The DHS-NSA-AT&T “Cybersecurity” Partnership

Under the rubric of cybersecurity, the Obama administration is moving forward with a Bush regime program to screen state computer traffic on private-sector networks, including those connecting people to the Internet, The Washington Post revealed July 3.That project, code-named “Einstein,” may very well be related to the much-larger, ongoing and highly illegal National Security Agency (NSA) communications intercept program known as “Stellar Wind,” disclosed in 2005 by The New York Times.

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Spying on Individuals and Organizations: Anglo-American Defense Giants Entrusted with “Mastering the Internet” by Tom Burghardt

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, May 8, 2009
Antifascist Calling

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the National Security Agency’s “kissin’ cousin” across the pond, has awarded a £200m ($300m U.S.) contract for an internet panopticon.

American defense and security giant Lockheed Martin and BAE subsidiary Detica (yet another firm specializing “in collecting, managing and exploiting information to reveal actionable intelligence”), snagged the contract The Register and The Sunday Times revealed May 3.

According to The Register the new system, called Mastering the Internet (MTI) “will include thousands of deep packet inspection probes inside communications providers’ networks, as well as massive computing power at the intelligence agency’s Cheltenham base, ‘the concrete doughnut’.”

Lockheed Martin and Detica aren’t talking and have referred all inquiries on the MTI contract to GCHQ. ComputerWeekly however, reported May 6 that Detica, a firm with close ties to MI5 and MI6, “has data mining software that can detect links between individuals based on their contacts with sometimes widely separated organisations.”

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Obama Administration Endorses Continued Spying on Americans by Tom Burghardt

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, April 13, 2009
Antifascist Calling…

Justice Department Moves to Squash NSA Spying Suits

Since fatuously declaring his to be a “change” administration, President Barack Obama has quickly donned the blood-spattered mantle of state secrecy and executive privilege worn by the Bush regime.

On Friday April 3, the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss one of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) landmark lawsuits against illegal spying by the National Security Agency (NSA).

That suit, Jewell v. NSA, was filed last September against the NSA, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence. But with the departure of the Bush gang, the defendants now include President Barack Obama, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence.

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NSA Spying and the Shredding of the Constitution by Tom Burghardt

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, October 18, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

ACLU Files New FOIA Requests for NSA Spying Documents. EFF Charges Telecom Amnesty Unconstitutional

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests demanding that the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and the National Security Agency (NSA) disclose “any policies and procedures” that protect Americans’ privacy rights when the ultra-spooky agency “collects, stores and disseminates private U.S. communications.”

The FOIA brief opens a new front in an on-going campaign by the civil liberties’ group to pry information from unaccountable Bush administration spy agencies and their “up-armored” lawyers in the Justice Department.

According to Melissa Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, “the American public needs to know whether the NSA’s procedures are sufficiently protective of our privacy rights. Unfortunately, there is often no meaningful court oversight of the NSA’s surveillance activities and the NSA is left to police itself,” Goodman said in a press release on Wednesday.

Coming on the heels of last week’s report by ABC News that provided new details of the Agency’s illegal spying on hundreds of aid workers, journalists and soldiers stationed in Iraq, the ACLU is charging that the NSA spied on personal phone calls that “were not in any way related to national security.” Indeed, intimate phone calls intercepted by Army communications specialists were routinely shared and swapped like salacious trophies amongst NSA personnel for their amusement.

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Democracy or Police State? by Tom Burghardt

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, September 21, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

New Lawsuit Targets Bush, Cheney, NSA over Illegal Spying

On Wednesday, Antifascist Calling reported on moves by the Department of Justice to seek blanket immunity for AT&T under provisions of the disgraceful FISA Amendments Act (FAA).

If approved by Judge Vaughn Walker, the presiding magistrate hearing the landmark Hepting v. AT&T lawsuit in federal district court in San Francisco, the giant telecommunications corporation and Bush crime family partner would walk away scott free.

The suit, brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of AT&T customers caught up in the state’s illegal internet and telephone driftnet surveillance, is challenging unconstitutional spying on U.S. citizens and legal residents.

The shocking extent of the “public-private partnership” in political repression was first revealed in depth when former AT&T technician Mark Klein filed an affidavit in support of EFF’s contention that AT&T had systematically violated their customers’ right to privacy.

As Antifascist Calling has previously reported on many occasions, the telecommunications giant had constructed a secret room (SG3 Secure Room, room number 641A) for the exclusive use of the National Security Agency’s spying operations at AT&T’s Folsom St. office.

On Saturday, EFF reported that the government “started the formal process for retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies sued by EFF and others for their involvement in the warrantless surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans.” That hearing is set for December 2, 2008 in San Francisco.

The state filed a secret “certification” by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey with the court along with a public submission of its claim of limitless executive power “during a time of war.”

However in a bold, preemptive move on Thursday, EFF filed a new lawsuit against the government. That suit, Jewel v. NSA, targets the National Security Agency, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney’s sinister chief of staff, David Addington, and former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Filed “on behalf of AT&T customers,” the civil rights organization has opened a new front against the government and their corporate partners. EFF declared:

The lawsuit, Jewel v. NSA, is aimed at ending the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it. Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA. (“EFF Sues NSA, President Bush and Vice President Cheney to Stop Illegal Surveillance,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, Press Release, September 18, 2008)

As in Hepting v. AT&T, the identical evidence of gross malfeasance on the part of well-heeled corporate lawbreakers who acted in concert with unaccountable secret state agencies, is central to Jewel v. NSA.

These covert intelligence operations arose as the result of secret Department of Justice memorandums written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). According to an unsigned and undated memo released by by the OLC, the Justice Department claims that President Bush has an “inherent right” to carry out “communications intelligence targeted at the enemy.” Indeed, as the extent of these illegal programs have revealed, the “enemy” is none other than the American people themselves!

A January 19, 2006 Justice Department White Paper, Legal Authority Supporting the Activities of the NSA Described by President Bush, states:

The NSA’s activities are supported by the President’s well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs to conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces for intelligence purposes to detect and disrupt armed attacks on the United States.

Under color of the dubious theory of the “unitary executive,” propounded by ultra-rightist outfits such as the Federalist Society, Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights are flagrantly–and illegally–violated on a daily basis by the Bush administration. Such specious assertions represent nothing less than an open declaration of war on our rights and the framework for a limitless presidential dictatorship.

Senior EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston commenting on the intent of Jewel v. NSA averred,

“In addition to suing AT&T, we’ve now opened a second front in the battle to stop the NSA’s illegal surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and hold personally responsible those who authorized or participated in the spying program. For years, the NSA has been engaged in a massive and massively illegal fishing expedition through AT&T’s domestic networks and databases of customer records. Our goal in this new case against the government, as in our case against AT&T, is to dismantle this dragnet surveillance program as soon as possible.”

By targeting the individuals responsible for these illegal programs, EFF intends to bring these felons to justice by holding them accountable for the destruction of our constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment states in plain and simple language:

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.

But in a perverse interpretation of the constitutional separation of powers, Bushist minions such as torture-enabler John C. Yoo, formerly an attorney with the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel and currently a tenured professor at the University of California’s Boalt Hall Law School, stated publicly that the President, in his role as “Commander-in-Chief,” has the authority to bypass, indeed subvert, laws passed by Congress.

Under this novel interpretation of the Constitution, the President has the right under the theory of the “unitary executive” to grab unlimited executive power to conduct foreign and domestic policy as he sees fit.

As limited as the Watergate-era Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was, it represented an attempt by Congress after Nixon’s resignation to curtail unchecked Executive branch surveillance of domestic dissidents under color of “national security.” Indeed, Nixon’s blatant and illegal surveillance of his political opponents was included in Article 2 of the impeachment articles against him.

In the view of miscreants such as Cheney, Addington and Yoo, congressional limitations on the president’s power are “unconstitutional” maneuvers meant to strip the Chief Executive of his rightful power to act as he–and the corporatists setting policy–see fit. Under their reading, the Executive, particularly in his role as “Commander-in-Chief,” must interpret laws on an equal footing with the courts, if he is to perform his “wartime” function. However, no such provision exists in the U.S. Constitution and in fact, the “unitary executive” is a fantasy.

Since 1803, U.S. constitutional tradition has recognized that the courts wield what Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall called “judicial supremacy,” that is, the court is the final arbiter of what is and what is not the law. Bushist ideologues stand this principle on its head and transform a society based on law into a “managed democracy” predicated on the whims of corporations and the men who wield executive power in their “unitary” interests.

If such flagrant violations of democratic and republican norms go unchecked–either by the coequal branches of government or salutary direct action by the people themselves, the rights of citizens to determine the fundamental nature of society is replaced by a Führerprinzip, that is to say, a “leader principle” rooted in an antidemocratic hierarchy of warlords that resemble the military structures of the Nazi Party. In other words, a high-tech, panoptic police state.

Since September 11, 2001, the United States Government has launched systematic assaults against the constitutional rights of American citizens and legal residents. As the illegal aggression against the people of Iraq has revealed in all its ghastly horror, the “war on terror” is a war of terror against anyone who would challenge U.S. imperialism’s claim to be undisputed “masters of the universe.”

From warrantless wiretapping to torture, from preemptive wars of aggression and conquest to the plunder of the environment on behalf of corporate “friends,” and from indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” to secretive plans for martial law, the Bush administration and their congressional enablers in both capitalist political parties demonstrate on a daily basis that the greatest threat to the American people comes, not from foreign terrorists or Islamic jihadists, but from neofascist fundamentalists here at home.

© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10280

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America’s Spying Telecoms – ACLU Challenges FISA Law in Federal Court

Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism By Dr. Lawrence Britt (2003)

FISA

Domestic Spying

Burghardt-Tom

America’s Spying Telecoms – ACLU Challenges FISA Law in Federal Court

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, September 18, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

Last Friday the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) in Federal District Court in New York. But on the same day, Wired reported that Justice Department special counsel Anthony Coppolino informed U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco that the government would seek blanket immunity under FAA for spying telecoms.

Calling the FAA “the most sweeping surveillance bill ever enacted by Congress,” the ACLU urged the court to strike down the law as an unconstitutional breach of privacy and free speech rights.

The FAA, a piece of Bushist legislative flotsam, was overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law in July by president Bush. While the reputed “opposition” party, the Democrats, managed a few bleats against immunity provisions for lawbreaking corporate grifters, they quickly fell into line and passed this disgraceful statute.

Why? So as not to appear “soft on terror” during November’s general election according to The New York Times. But flip-flopping “liberal” Democrats, including the party’s nominee for president, Sen. Barack Obama, joined their colleagues across the aisle for a more salient reason: cold, hard cash.

As I wrote in June (see: “‘Fighting Democrats’ Rake-in Big Telecom Bucks”), citing a blistering report by the watchdog group MAPLight, “the 94 Democrats who changed their position on telecom immunity ‘received on average $8,359 in contributions from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint from January, 2005, to March, 2008’.”

While none of this should come as a surprise to readers of Antifascist Calling, Glenn Greenwald pointed out Monday in Salon,

…it is extremely easy to understand why not only the White House and Congressional Republicans, but also the Democratic leadership, was so eager to ensure that this law-breaking remain concealed from the public and that there are never any consequences for it. It’s because, as is true for so much of the Bush radicalism and lawbreaking over the years, top Democrats were fully aware of what was taking place and either explicitly endorsed the lawbreaking or, with full complicity, allowed it to continue.

Indeed, Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman documents in his new book, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, that top congressional Democrats worked covertly to conceal the Bush administration’s illegal NSA surveillance programs from the American people. Gellman writes:

More than three years later, [former U.S. Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales would testify that there was “consensus in the room” from the lawmakers, “who said, ‘Despite the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, go forward with these very important intelligence activities.'” By this account–disputed by participants from both parties–four Democrats and four Republicans counseled Cheney to press on with a program that Justice called illegal.

Greenwald comments:

…there is no dispute that the meeting took place and that these members were repeatedly briefed on the spying program–not only after 2004, but before 2004. This specific meeting described by Gellman, and the briefings generally, included Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, Steny Hoyer, and Jay Rockefeller–all of whom voted to put an end to the telecom lawsuits (and thereby ensure that these crimes remain concealed), and the latter two of whom were, far and away, the key forces behind the new law that killed the lawsuits looking into these spying activities (and then joined Bush and Cheney at a festive, bipartisan White House signing ceremony to celebrate their joint victory). (“What illegal ‘things’ was the government doing in 2001-2004?”, Salon, Monday, September 15, 2008)

In other words, even when presented with the facts of Bushist criminality, congressional Democrats urged Cheney to “press on” with programs that would have made Watergate felon Richard Nixon and his cronies blush, a stunning indictment of the “Washington consensus” and the bogus “war on terror.”

In this context, it makes perfect sense that the biggest recipients of telecom largesse were House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), $29,000, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), $24,000. No slouch herself, Jane Harman (D-CA), House co-sponsor of the Orwellian “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” (H.R. 1955) pulled down some $7,000 from grateful corporate grifters in the telecommunications industry. But no matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of boodle for the best Congress money can buy!

The FAA gives the Bush–and future administrations–virtually unlimited power to intercept the emails and phone calls of American citizens and legal residents. Indeed, the new law hands the state the authority to conduct intrusive spying operations “without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and email addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing,” according to the ACLU. Jameel Jaffer, the Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said:

“The FISA Amendments Act allows the mass acquisition of Americans’ international e-mails and telephone calls. The administration has argued that the law is necessary to address the threat of terrorism, but the truth is that the law sweeps much more broadly and implicates all kinds of communications that have nothing to do with terrorism or criminal activity of any kind. The Fourth Amendment was meant to prohibit exactly the kinds of dragnet surveillance that the new law permits.” (“ACLU Asks Court to Strike Down Unconstitutional Spying Law,” American Civil Liberties Union, Press Release, September 12, 2008)

As the civil liberties group argues in its brief, the FAA grants unaccountable Executive branch agencies the right to acquire all of the international communications of American citizens under the pretext that “the surveillance is directed at collecting foreign intelligence information and targeted at people outside the United States.”

This is a patent falsehood. Driftnet-style communications obtained by the government in league with spying telecoms, as AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein revealed, were facilitated by AT&T when the NSA installed intercept equipment in a secret room in the corporation’s San Francisco switching office.

Indeed, Klein submitted an affidavit in support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) landmark lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T. In that affidavit Klein declared, the room contained among other equipment, a Narus STA 6400 traffic analyzer into which all of AT&T’s internet and phone traffic was routed. The retired technician should know since he helped wire the splitter box that made this possible.

Klein told the court that the company routed its “peering links” into the splitter which means that any and all traffic passing through AT&T’s network could also be scanned. The whistleblower told Judge Walker that AT&T offices in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego had similar secret rooms built for the exclusive use of NSA’s multitude of surveillance programs.

In a direct threat to attorney-client privilege and the right of a detained person to receive a fair trail, the ACLU declares that FAA grants the government the right to “acquire all of the communications of European attorneys who work with American attorneys on behalf of prisoners held at Guantánamo, including communications in which the two sets of attorneys share information about their clients and strategize about litigation.”

This is a particularly sinister feature of the law, considering Bushist treatment of so-called “enemy combatants” at the Guantánamo Bay prison gulag and global CIA “black sites.”

Meanwhile, Wired reports that the Justice Department has moved to dismiss EFF’s Hepting v. AT&T lawsuit. When Judge Walker ruled that the so-called “state secrets privilege” was not grounds for dismissal, the government deployed a new tactic, this time relying on the FAA’s immunity provisions.

Like the ACLU, EFF has stated in court briefs that the FAA is unconstitutional. The organization provided the court with five reasons not to dismiss their case against AT&T:

1. Congress violated the separation of powers by attempting to usurp judicial authority to decide the Fourth Amendment claims of millions of ordinary Americans who have been, and continue to be, subjected to dragnet surveillance for the past seven years.

2. Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by passing legislation that grants to the Executive the discretion to essentially dictate the outcome of specific, pending litigation.

3. The statute improperly requires dismissal of claims of illegal surveillance between September 11, 2001 and January 17, 2007 based not on a judicial finding about the facts of the surveillance or the legality or constitutionality of the surveillance, but instead merely based on a ‘certification’ from the attorney general that some unknown member of the Executive branch told the carriers that some undescribed surveillance is ‘lawful.’

4. The legislation denies due process to the plaintiffs by granting to the Executive, rather than the courts, the essential decision making about their constitutional and statutory rights.

5. The legislation purports to grant the Executive a unilateral right to require that the court keep secret not only the evidence, but also its own decisions. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Joint Case Management for Cases Involving Telecommunications Carrier Defendants,” United States District Court, Northern District of of California, San Francisco Division, MDL Docket No 06-1791 VRW, Filed September 2, 2008)

If the legislation stands constitutional muster–Bushist style–the telecoms will get off scott free if the government can prove their “assistance” was the result of a court order, authorized under the Protect America Act of 2007, or was approved by the president and was designed “to detect or prevent a terrorist attack, or in activities in preparation for a terrorist attack, against the United States, and the subject of a written request or directive.”

But given the climate of hysteria surrounding “national security” and “terrorism” (the retail variety practiced by religious nutters such as al-Qaeda or Christian fundamentalist abortion clinic bombers, not the wholesale brand of state terrorism practiced let’s say, by the U.S. government itself), the jury is out on how far the courts are willing to go in defiance of the Executive branch and a lap-dog Congress.

Endnote

Speaking of hysteria, the whistleblowing website Wikileaks released a non-public “for official use only” document by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Titled “Fear of Terrorist Attack Could Trigger Mass Psychogenic Illness,” the 2006 report by the Homeland Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis Center (HITRAC) cautions that terrorism-fear-created illnesses are “an additional factor to consider in the response to terrorist attacks, particularly those involving chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) weapons. The number of those suffering psychogenic illness could far exceed the number of actual casualties in a CBR event.”

That’s rich coming from a government office that specializes in whipping-up endless terror frenzies amongst the American public! The HITRAC “private sector note” provides DHS’s “perspective on the potential for mass psychogenic illness occurring as a result of anxiety over terrorism.” (emphasis added)

Proving once again, as Lilly Tomlin wisely said: “No matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up”!

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10267

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COINTELPRO and Domestic Spying by Tom Burghardt

Senate Moves Forward on Orwellian “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act”

Homegrown Terrorism

FISA

Domestic Spying

Burghardt-Tom

Multibillion “Homeland Security” Market: Telecoms Assist in NSA Spy Operations

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, September 11, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

What do the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and enterprising capitalist grifters have in common? Workarounds…and lots of them. The kind that aren’t covered by any law.

Two highly-disturbing reports by CNET and the London Review of Books describe how government intelligence agencies and niche telecom providers have teamed-up to subvert our privacy rights–while providing security agencies with real-time cell phone tracking capabilities.

The stuff of paranoid delusions? Hardly.

According to London Review of Books editor Daniel Soar, to the Intelligence Support Systems Industry (ISS), “which sells analysis tools to government agencies, police forces and–increasingly–the phone companies themselves,” the least interesting thing about your call may be what you say. Soar writes,

At a very rough estimate half a trillion calls are made each day on the world’s mobile networks: their origin and destination, their time and duration and all identifying codes are logged on telecom provider hard-drives and generally retained, under emerging legislation, for up to two years. It’s impossible to exaggerate the value of these data. … At the frequent ISS conferences–Dubai, Qatar, Washington, Prague–one of the key topics of discussion tends to be how to identify targets for LI (that’s ‘lawful intercept’) in the first place: it’s a cinch to bug someone, but how do you help a law enforcement agency decide who to bug?  (“Daniel Soar Considers Mobile Surveillance,” London Review of Books, 14 August 2008)

And with a swarming multitude of new companies crawling out of the woodwork to “service” the “homeland security” market, why its a snap. Firms such as ThorpeGlen, VASTech, Kommlabs, and Aqsacom all sell what CNET’s Chris Soghoian describes as “off-the-shelf data-mining solutions to government spies interested in analyzing mobile-phone calling records and real-time location information.”

Called “passive-probing” data mining, these companies are carving-out lucrative niche markets. Only there’s nothing “passive” about these intrusive operations undertaken in concert with a veritable army of state and corporate spooks.

According to Soghoian, while firms such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint directly collaborated with NSA on the agency’s driftnet-style surveillance programs, legal experts are now suggesting that the public-private partnership in illegal spying may run far deeper into the wireless phone industry than anyone suspects.

With over 3,000 wireless companies operating in the United States, the majority of industry-aided snooping likely occurs under the radar, with the dirty-work being handled by companies that most consumers have never heard of.  (Chris Soghoian, “Exclusive: Widespread Cell Phone Location Snooping by NSA?”, CNET, September 8, 2008)

Indeed, a “Webinar” hosted by the UK’s ThorpeGlen in May, demonstrated that company’s tools by “mining a dataset of a single week’s worth of call data from 50 million users in Indonesia, which it has crunched in order to try and discover small anti-social groups that only call each other,” Soghoian reports.

In the case of the Indonesian analysis presented in ThorpeGlen’s “Webinar,” the London Review of Books reported that the VP of sales and marketing told prospective clients,

Everyone on a network … is part of a group; most groups talk to other groups, creating a spider’s web of interactions. Of the 50 million subscribers ThorpeGlen processed, 48 million effectively belonged to ‘one large group’: they called one another, or their friends called friends of their friends; this set of people was dismissed. A further 400,000 subscriptions could be attributed to a few large ‘nodes’, with numbers belonging to call centres, shops and information services. The remaining groups ranged in size from two to 142 subscribers. Members of these groups only ever called each other–clear evidence of antisocial behaviour–and, in one extreme case, a group was identified in which all the subscribers only ever called a single number at the centre of the web. This section of the ThorpeGlen presentation ended with one word: ‘WHY??’ (LRB, op. cit.)

The question arises: Is the NSA deploying similar technologies in the United States to spy on citizens doing no more than exercising their constitutional rights to protest state policies? If the swift preemptive raids by St. Paul police and the FBI during last week’s Republican National Convention are any indication, the answer inevitably is yes.

In other words, were the pin-point raids on homes shared by protest organizers and media workers such as I-Witness Video and the Glass Bead Collective simply the result of blind luck or human intelligence gathered by paid provocateurs? If report’s emerging on real-time cell phone tracking are any indication of the state’s desire to quash dissent–and those who document their repressive behavior, journalists–then the answer is a resounding no.

How then, would the NSA gather this information? Soghoian reports,

The massive collection of customer data comes down to the interplay of two specific issues: First, thousands of companies play small, niche support roles in the wireless phone industry, and as such these firms learn quite a bit about the calling habits of millions of U.S. citizens. Second, the laws relating to information sharing and wiretapping specifically regulate companies that provide services to the general public (such as AT&T and Verizon), but they do not cover the firms that provide services to the major carriers or connect communications companies to one other. [emphasis added]

That’s right. While it might be illegal for the NSA to obtain real-time customer location information from any of the giant telecoms, Bushist spooks can simply go to the companies that own and operate the wireless towers that the telecoms use for their networks “and get accurate information on anyone using those towers–or go to other entities connecting the wireless network to the landline network. The wiretapping laws, at least in this situation, simply don’t apply,” Soghoian writes.

Since networks “are more and more disaggregated and outsourced,” a single call is handled “by many more parties than the named provider today,” according to Albert Gidari, a lawyer at Perkins Cole in Seattle “who frequently represents the wireless industry in issues related to location information and data privacy.”

Such legal loopholes are in fact so massive that a fleet of tanker trucks could be driven right through them!

And since Sprint, AT&T or Verizon don’t actually own their own cellular towers, TowerCo, the company that does, “learns some information on every mobile phone that communicates with one of its towers.” But it gets worse, much worse. According to Soghoian, this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

There are companies that provide “backhaul” connections between towers and the carriers, providers of sophisticated billing services, outsourced customer-service centers, as well as Interexchange Carriers, which help to route calls from one phone company to another. All of these companies play a role in the wireless industry, have access to significant amounts of sensitive customer information, which of course, can be obtained (politely, or with a court order) by the government.

As we know, perverse laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, not to mention FBI National Security Letters come with ready-made gag orders attached that forbid companies–or anyone else so served–from disclosing any information to the public or those whom the state is spying upon. Gidari told CNET,

“So any entity–from tower provider, to a third-party spam filter, to WAP gateway operator to billing to call center customer service–can get legal process and be compelled to assist in silence. They likely don’t volunteer because of reputation and contractual obligations, but they won’t resist either.”

Short of a whistleblower like Mark Klein or Babak Pasdar spilling the beans, the existence of these programs will likely remain a closely-guarded state secret. Why? Paul Ohm, a cyberlaw professor at the University of Colorado Law School and former federal prosecutor told CNET,

“Whether [a] vendor to a carrier to the public cooperates with agencies (either for a fee or by acquiescence in an order), is something you will not find out as FISA makes it so, regardless of whether the person is in the U.S. or communicating with a person abroad. Such means and methods largely are hidden.”

And there you have it. Niche telecom providers are the latest players in the West’s burgeoning “terrorism industry,” one that “keeps us safe” by destroying our privacy and our rights with hefty profits all around. Call it another seamless victory for the market’s “invisible hand” that clenches as it morphs into the state’s iron fist wrapped in American flags and blood-drenched corporate logos.

Note: Since Antifascist Calling published “New Spy Software Coming on-Line: ‘Surveillance in a Box’ Makes its Debut,” last month, we’ve received an intriguing package from the good folks at Quintessenz, “IT and telco surveillance equipment–data sheets and presentations.”

Described as, “A collection of network monitoring and datamining suites made by Nokia Siemens, Ericsson, Verint and others. All systems are compliant to ETSI and CALEA ‘lawful interception’ standards, the vendors themselves are involved in the standardization. While the official name of the game is still ‘lawful interception’ the newer suites also perform ‘high speed government surveillance’. From Iran to China they are ab/used to track down the democratic opposition, dissidents, ethnic and religious minorities. The vendors are mostly European and US companies.”

The power-point presentations and accompanying documentation are definitely worth a look and are highly recommended! Check out, “The making of the European Surveillance Union, 1993-2001,” a real eye-opener!

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10156

Police State USA: Spying as Law of the Land

Dandelion Salad

by Larry Chin
Global Research
July 11, 2008

FISA “Compromise” Completes Transformation of US into Full Police State

On July 9, 2008, the US Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation permitting government spying, including immunity to telecommunications companies involved in secret domestic surveillance programs. With the stroke of George W. Bush’s pen, the US is now a police state by definition.

The extent of the spying program, and its larger implications, have been revealed by Mark Klein, who blew the whistle on secret domestic spying program of Bush/Cheney’s National Security Agency (NSA) and AT&T:

AT&T whistleblower: spy bill creates infrastructure for police state

The update of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, called the “FISA compromise”, or more appropriately, the “spy bill”, largely completes the triumph of the Bush/Cheney administration and a bipartisan criminal consensus. By convenient design, the FISA revision derails pending law suits filed against the Bush administration’s corporate spying partners (AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and Verizon), silences (the largely empty-to-begin-with) congressional investigations into Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying program. Presidential nominee Barack Obama and the Democrats have now moved to silence all discussion about the issue.

Fear itself, a.k.a. spying itself

Between the false flag mass murder of 9/11 and the creation of the “war on terrorism”, the USA Patriot Act and this new FISA revision, the Bush-Cheney administration and its enthusiastically complicit congressional partners, have achieved total victory–world war, open criminality, and the end of law itself.

It gives the US government unprecedented new spying powers and sweeping new legal cover for spying that goes well beyond even the original FISA law—which itself was an abomination that already permitted the US president broad surveillance powers.

Given the fact that the US government is a wholly corrupted criminal organization by definition, the political spin over “oversight”, warrants, the involvement of the Inspector General, etc. is all the more transparently ridiculous: the operatives of such apparatuses do not investigate or punish their own. Nor do they voluntarily stop the lucrative and intoxicating criminal activity that is their lifeblood.

In fact, the debate over the spy bill is a red herring, clouding the larger central (purposely unaddressed) issue: the “war on terrorism” lie itself.

The mass murder of 9/11 was a false flag operation, orchestrated and executed by the Bush administration. The “war on terrorism” is a perpetual covert operation, an endless pretext for war and murder, supported by a bipartisan consensus. (See “Who is Osama bin Laden?” and “Al-Qaeda:the database”.) No 9/11, no “war on terrorism”, no war in the Middle East. No “war on terrorism” lie, no dictatorial powers for the White House, and no beefed-up FISA.

Given that the “war on terrorism” is a lie, the need for unprecedented spying is also a lie. Just as 9/11 remains the endless pretext for endless war and terrorism, it also remains, in its countless propaganda manifestations, the justification for open totalitarian rule of force and intimidation within US borders.

The totalitarian criminal agenda is fully endorsed by neoliberal Democrats, including Barack Obama. According to the Obama campaign, “Senator Obama has said before that the compromise bill is not perfect. Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, Senator Obama chose to support the FISA compromise.”

The pro-surveillance Democrats, led by Senator Jay Rockefeller and Obama (whose lame hemming-hawing justifications can be read here) are repeating asinine lies, and groundless excuses.

In calling criminal spying and covert operations “important surveillance tools”, Obama is showing his truest colors. Obama, whose politics and rhetoric have been consistently in line with the Bush/Cheney agenda on all of the most telling issues (war in Afghanistan, war on Iran, “terrorism”, “homeland security”, globalization, and most recently, other right-wing positions), is a smooth-talking and appealing front for the Bush-Cheney status quo. Obama and McCain, like Bush-Cheney, will continue to push the endless “war on terrorism” lie, and embrace every single criminal act conducted in the name of this propaganda construct.

All “homeland security”/Big Brother measures such as FISA, in any form, provides political cover for the US government to engage in criminal activity. Any politician, be it Bush/Cheney or Obama, who approve of any sort of “surveillance” is guilty of committing a criminal act, and of raping the Constitution along the way.

Cynical posturing and election-year flatulence from Obama’s legion of defenders and fans cannot hide what has happened, or who is responsible. The rape of the US Constitution is so overt and so egregious that it has set off a wave of outrage and backlash, spawning unusual new grassroots coalitions.

Clearly, however, the powers that be, including the Obama camp, has casually dismissed this relatively small portion of the US public out of its election-year calculations, regardless of how stridently they organize, blog, blow whistles or file law suits.

Senator Russ Feingold (whose own record on opposing the Bush administration is less than stellar) warned that the FISA revision “could mean millions upon millions of communications between innocent Americans and their friends, families or business associates overseas could now be legally collected.”

It means much more than Feingold states, and it has for many years—perhaps decades.

Spying: the pre- and post-9/11 norm

Returning again to the expose by whistleblower Mark Klein, his detailed and stomach-turning expose, which includes materials from the key court cases, exposes the fact that the NSA began breaking into local telephone circuits in 2001. As pointed out by Robert Parry, the current program may have been in place before 2001.

In other words, the spying program never had anything to do with international “terrorists”, and everything to do with a larger police state agenda, including the power to identify, designate and destroy individuals whose opinions run counter to those of whichever Big Brother is “in charge”. This is a long-planned program that 9/11 allowed to push to full fruition.

It is a well-documented fact that the US government’s spying capabilities are overwhelming, and that continuous illegal surveillance has always trumped congressional oversight, and the law itself. Obviously, the light reigning-in of criminal covert operations in the post-Watergate 1970s has been completely undone in the decades since.

Investigators such as former NSA operative James Bamford (author of the expose of the NSA, Body of Secrets) and Mike Ruppert’s Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil have thoroughly detailed the pervasiveness and effectiveness of a wide range of spying and intelligence programs used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. These include Echelon and PROMIS, which are used by operatives in criminal fashion, as ordered by high-level officials, specifically to get around all oversight.

Completely unaddressed throughout the years of noise over spying and FISA, the Total Information Awareness Program (formerly known as DARPA, and spearheaded by Iran-Contra participant John Poindexter) has found new life as the IARPA program.

Nobody is talking about IARPA. Nobody will.

Welcome to hell, again

The George W. Bush administration seized the White House in 2000 by way of an openly stolen election, then cemented its criminal power into place with the unprecedented 9/11 mass murder, and its two resulting abominations: the fabricated “war on terrorism” (the pretext for endless global war), and the USA Patriot Act (the full-scale destruction of the Constitution, and the militarization of the US homeland).

These continuing atrocities were the works of a bipartisan “war on terrorism” consensus, a full partnership at the top echelons, whose overriding agenda is the survival of the criminal racket known as the Anglo-American empire.

The deepening of the war and security state has continued unabated. Under a US congress with a Democratic Party majority, nothing been done to stop, reverse or undo the world war, boundless US government criminality, open corruption, or the absolute and systematic rape of law itself. Now, particularly with a looming US presidential election, leading members of both political parties have shown their true colors: as flagrant proponents of military-intelligence/”homeland security”, and enthusiastic destroyers of the Constitution.

In The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, Victor Marchetti and John Marks wrote in 1974:

“The clandestine mentality is a mind-set that thrives on secrecy and deception. It encourages professional amorality—the belief that righteous goals can be achieved through the use of unprincipled and normally unacceptable means….”

Today, exemplified by actions of the bipartisan US consensus, assisted by an acquiescent and dumbed-down populace, the clandestine mentality is not clandestine. “Professional amorality” is the norm—celebrated openly, and opposed by few.

In other words, your life and all of your communications—from your emails, your web searches, medical records, and financial information, to your reading this article and clicking this web site—has been “hoovered up” by the US government’s spying machine, to be used against you at some future time, if the powers that be so choose.

If 9/11, the Patriot Act, and the relentless destruction of law since 2000 have not already make abundantly clear, a “Homeland Security” police state within US borders, courtesy of the spy bill, is now complete. Not even the trappings of a democracy remain.

© Copyright Larry Chin, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9565

see

Democrats lose on FISA

1984 Knocking On Your Door – FISA – Telecom Immunity Bill

Max and the Marginalized: Free Evenings and Weekends (FISA)

Fear and Petitioning in Las Vegas (Nader)

Senate Approves HR6304: 4th Amendment Abolished

Nader: Telecoms and Bush Above the Law

AT&T Whistleblower: Spy Bill Creates ‘Infrastructure for a Police State’

The two winners of the 2008 presidential election: fear and war by Larry Chin

“Keeping America Safe”- from the Constitution

Domestic Spying

Police State

***

Spying on Myspace users?

AT&T Whistleblower: Spy Bill Creates ‘Infrastructure for a Police State’

Dandelion Salad

By Ryan Singel
Wired
June 27, 2008

Mark Klein, the retired AT&T engineer who stepped forward with the technical documents at the heart of the anti-wiretapping case against AT&T, is furious at the Senate’s vote on Wednesday night to hold a vote on a bill intended to put an end to that lawsuit and more than 30 others.

…continued

see

Ralph Nader says no to wire tapping

Confronting Foreign Intelligence and Information Gaps + Feingold on the 4th Amendment

HR 6304 – A Bill to Abolish the 4th Amendment

The Hedonists of Power By Chris Hedges

Mark Klein

Big Brother: Illegally Spy on Americans … Win Fabulous Prizes!

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, May 17, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

Fingered by whistleblower’s Mark Klein and Babak Pasdar for their role in illegally spying on Americans, AT&T and Verizon were awarded a major contract by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Washington Technology reports.

According to David Hubler and Alice Lipowicz,

Verizon Business will perform the lion’s share of the work on the Homeland Security Department’s OneNet telecommunications contract with support from AT&T Government Solutions.

The OneNet award, under the General Services Administration’s Networx Universal contract vehicle, has a maximum value of $970 million through March 2017, DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie said. (“Verizon to Lead DHS OneNet Award,” Washington Technology, May 15, 2008)

Carolyn Duffy Marsan avers,

“The Department of Homeland Security is looking for a partner to help them build, manage and secure their global network for…22 agencies,” says Marlin Forbes, regional vice president for Verizon Business’ Federal Defense & International Services. “There’s a huge legacy…from what they were doing in the past as separate agencies before they were part of DHS. We think this deal goes right to Verizon’s sweet spot.” (“Verizon snares $678 million federal network deal,” IDG News Service, May 15, 2008)

“Sweet spot,” indeed! That’s a lot of boodle however you slice it, for trampling on our civil liberties. But no matter, since the House seems poised to pass “compromise” legislation that would grant “limited immunity” (read, “get-out-of-jail-free cards”) to enterprising telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon.

Under cover of granting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court the power to determine whether anti-surveillance cases can go forward, the House undoubtedly will join their Senate colleagues in gutting constitutional guarantees not to be spied upon by “outsourced” corporate spooks in league with the national security state.

It’s a “win-win” all around–for lobby-ensnared congressional leaders, the Bush administration and scandal-averse telecom executives–given that it’s right-wing Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bushist sycophant, who gets to pick who sits on the secret FISA court. Sounds like another “slam dunk” defense of civil liberties by “opposition” Democrats.

In March, AT&T won a $20 million contract for DHS’ Customs and Border Protection agency. Under terms of the 10-year deal, AT&T “will be the primary provider of network voice services to Customs and Border Protection’s 47,000 employees around the country,” Washington Technology explains.

Meanwhile, under terms of the closed-door deal with Verizon, the dodgy wireless carrier that “partnered” with the FBI on its illegal data-sucking “Quantico circuit,” Verizon Business will “help combine the multiple, separate WANs at DHS’ 22 agencies into one common, secure IP network,” and “manage and secure more than 5,000 agency sites worldwide and create a Security Operations Center for DHS,” Hubler and Lipowicz report.

And considering all the hard work DHS does to “secure the homeland,” safeguarding America’s borders from “threats” posed by poverty-stricken migrants escaping one or another “free trade” deal struck by the Clinton or Bush administrations, it sounds like money well spent. Unless that is, you’re an “illegal” immigrant on the receiving end of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “professionalism.”

On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the U.S. government “has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.”

That’s right, the state’s forced use of antipsychotic drugs on defenseless people unable to resist their deportation was repeated some 250 times, explained Post reporters who examined ICE records and court depositions in their excellent, though highly-disturbing report.

According to psychoanalyst Stephen Soldz,

These drugs, especially Haldol are extremely powerful and are almost never utilized in individuals not diagnosed as actively psychotic. They can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if first administered in high doses and can disorient an individual for days. … The use of drugs by ICE is, unfortunately, part of a pattern by the Bush administration of the misuse of the health professions for non-therapeutic purposes. I and others have written extensively about the role of psychologists in aiding national security interrogations, interrogations that often cross the line into torture. … It is beginning to look as if there is a pattern of inappropriate use of psychopharmacological agents for overcoming resistances of various types. (Stephen Soldz, “Involuntary Drugging of Detainees,” CounterPunch, May 16, 2008)

Needless to say, AT&T and Verizon Business care not a whit for the incalculable harm done in the name of the American people by their DHS “partners” (in crime).

These days, corporate America’s “little Eichmanns” may not have many trains to “run on time,” but from Guantanamo Bay to an ICE holding cell, and from the NSA’s “Terrorist Surveillance Program” to the FBI’s “Quantico circuit” one can easily discern the same seamless web of corporatist greed and corruption.

After all, $970 million buys a great deal of complicity–and silence.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9011

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Glenn Greenwald: No Retroactive Immunity (video)

Domestic Spying

Democrats Prepare Sell-Out on Telecom Immunity

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, May 6, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

House Leaders to Give White House a Blank Check to Spy on Americans

As revelations of the Bush administration’s illegal surveillance programs continue to expose the criminal nature of the regime in Washington, new reports suggest that House Democrats are preparing to capitulate to the White House on warrantless wiretapping and amnesty for lawbreaking telecoms.

When the Orwellian “Protect America Act” expired in February, Republicans and right-wing Democrats argued that unless the state’s covert alliance with giant telecommunications companies were not shielded from congressional oversight or public scrutiny, “Americans would die.” Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mike McConnell made this threat explicit last August when he told the El Paso Times:

Now part of this is a classified world. The fact we’re doing it this way means that some Americans are going to die, because we do this mission unknown to the bad guys because they’re using a process that we can exploit and the more we talk about it, the more they will go with an alternative means and when they go to an alternative means, remember what I said… (Chris Roberts, “Transcript: Debate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” El Paso Times, August 22, 2007)

But as Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists told The New York Times, “If we’re to believe that Americans will die from discussing these things, then he is complicit in that. It’s an unseemly argument. He’s basically saying that democracy is going to kill Americans.”

But with “Blue Dog” Democrats on-board with the Bush administration, its more a case of Americans killing (their own) democracy.

As Salon’s Glenn Greenwald reports,

Numerous reports — both public and otherwise — suggest that [Steny] Hoyer is negotiating with Jay Rockefeller to write a new FISA bill that would be agreeable to the White House and the Senate. Their strategy is to craft a bill that they can pretend is something short of amnesty for telecoms but which, in every meaningful respect, ensures an end to the telecom lawsuits. It goes without saying that no “compromise” will be acceptable to Rockefeller or the White House unless there is a guaranteed end to those lawsuits, i.e., unless the bill grants amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms. (Glenn Greenwald, “What backroom conniving Are Steny Hoyer and the Chris Carney Blue Dogs up to on FISA?,” Salon, May 2, 2008)

According to Alexander Bolton’s article in The Hill, right-wing and freshman congressional Democrats “are growing skittish,” and that House Speaker Nancy “impeachment is off the table” Pelosi (D-CA), “has stepped back from the FISA talks and let Hoyer spearhead House talks with the Senate and executive branch.” Translation: give the White House what it wants.

And what the White House wants is the ability–and legal cover–to spy at will.

As AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein revealed in 2006, NSA gained access to “massive amounts” of internet data after the company allowed the spy agency to hook into its network in San Francisco and other cities. The retired technician described how the NSA created a system that vacuumed up internet and phone-call data with AT&T executives as the agency’s willing accomplices.

Despite administration claims that its so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program” is aimed solely at overseas terrorists, Klein demonstrated that a vast proportion of the data swept up by AT&T and forwarded to NSA was purely domestic. Klein told The Washington Post,

…the NSA built a special room to receive data streamed through an AT&T Internet room containing “peering links,” or major connections to other telecom providers. The largest of the links delivered 2.5 gigabits of data — the equivalent of one-quarter of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s text — per second, said Klein, whose documents and eyewitness account form the basis of one of the first lawsuits filed against the telecom giants after the government’s warrantless-surveillance program was reported in the New York Times in December 2005. (Ellen Nakashima, “A Story of Surveillance: Former Technician ‘Turning In’ AT&T Over NSA Program,” The Washington Post, November 7, 2007, Page D01)

Klein’s story of flagrant lawlessness by the Bush regime and the telecoms was seconded by Babak Pasdar, a security consultant and CEO of Bat Blue Corporation, who provided a signed affidavit to the Government Accountability Project describing the FBI’s “Quantico circuit.”

Last month The Washington Post reported that FBI investigators “with the click of a mouse” have the ability to “instantly” transfer data along a computer circuit “to an FBI technology office in Quantico.” Verizon is the company named by the Post in its report as having provided “unfettered access” to its data stream, a charge denied by the company.

Despite these revelations, the Bush administration continues to illegally target the American people. As Ryan Singel reported last week,

2007 might have been a rough year for U.S. home prices, but growth in government wiretaps remained healthy, with the eavesdropping sector posting a 14% increase in court orders compared to 2006. In 2007, judges approved 4,578 state and federal wiretaps, as compared to 4,015 in 2006, according to two new reports on criminal and intelligence wiretaps. …

It’s unclear how many people these orders applied to since they can name more than one target, and in January 2007, the Bush Administration began getting so-called basket warrants from the secret court, in order to reduce the political heat over its warrantless wiretapping program.

Those orders, which the administration described as “innovative,” likely covered many individuals or entire geographic regions and required periodic re-authorization from the court. Sometime in spring 2007, one judge on the court ruled that the orders were unconstitutional, prompting a summer fear-mongering campaign to get Congress to expand the government’s warrantless wiretapping powers. (Ryan Singel, “Court-Approved Wiretapping Rose 14% in ’07,” Wired, May 1, 2008)

We don’t know, and the administration won’t say, how many Americans have been swept up by so-called “basket warrants.”

None of this however, trouble congressional Democrats. As the administration continues to eviscerate the Constitution, it should be clear that like the Republicans, the Democratic party completely accepts the overall framework of Bushist “national security” and the specious argument that it is waging a global “war on terrorism.”

Since taking control of both house of Congress in 2006, the Democrats–like their Republican “adversaries”–have refused to hold hearings on domestic spying nor have they sought to expose the scope of the illegal NSA program. Lost in the shuffle, are the obvious–and growing–dangers posed by these intrusive programs.

In a time of systemic crisis for the capitalist system as a whole, the massive intelligence being gathered by the Bush regime, and by future administrations–Democratic or Republican, take your pick–will be deployed as tools for wholesale repression under conditions of growing class polarization, economic crisis and mass opposition to war.

Telecom immunity? “There’s nothing to see here, move along.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8905

see

Spying on Americans: The FBI’s “Quantico Circuit” – Still Spying, Still Lying

FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics By Ellen Nakashima

Spying on Americans: The FBI’s “Quantico Circuit” – Still Spying, Still Lying

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, April 9, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

Tuesday’s Washington Post reports that FBI investigators “with the click of a mouse, [can] instantly transfer key data along a computer circuit to an FBI technology office in Quantico.”

Last month I wrote that evidence of the Bureau’s massive spying operations on Americans had been uncovered and “that a new FISA whistleblower has stepped forward with information about a major wireless provider apparently granting the state unrestricted access to all of their customers’ voice communications and electronic data via a so-called ‘Quantico Circuit’.”

According to whistleblower Babak Pasdar, a telecom carrier he worked for as a security consultant, subsequently named as Verizon by the Post, said the company maintained a high-speed DS-3 digital line that allowed the Bureau and other security agencies “unfettered” access to the carrier’s wireless network, including billing records and customer data “transmitted wirelessly.”

Verizon denied the report that the FBI has open access to its network; a denial belied by documents obtained by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation describing the Bureau’s Digital Collection System.

When these allegations first surfaced they were stonewalled by major media. Nevertheless, the reports continued and we now have learned that electronic connections between major telecom firms and FBI personnel scattered across the country provide the Bureau with real-time access to who is speaking to whom, the time and duration of each call as well as the locations of those so targeted.

Despite half-hearted protests by Congress, the FBI’s budget for these operations have increased significantly. According to Post reporter Ellen Nakashima,

“The bureau says its budget for the collection system increased from $30 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2008. Information lawfully collected by the FBI from telecom firms can be shared with law enforcement and intelligence-gathering partners, including the National Security Agency and the CIA. Likewise, under guidelines approved by the attorney general or a court, some intercept data gathered by intelligence agencies can be shared with law enforcement agencies.” (Ellen Nakashima, “FBI Transfers via Telecoms Questioned,” The Washington Post, Tuesday, April 8, 2008; A03)

But who’s “watching the watchers,” or in this case, the listeners?

Since 1994, under rules mandated by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), passed by the “liberal” Clinton administration, federal rules are in place “to make clear a telecommunications carrier’s duty to cooperate in the interception of communications for Law Enforcement purposes, and for other purposes.” [emphasis added]

These rules specify that telecom carriers and manufacturers design their equipment, facilities and services so as to guarantee they have the necessary surveillance capabilities. This onerous piece of legislative flotsam specifies that common carriers, broadband internet access providers and providers of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service are designated “telecommunications carriers” under federal law and thus, are capable of interception by the state’s “security” bureaucracies. (For an historical analysis of CALEA’s civil liberties implications see: “Big Brother in the Wires: Wiretapping in the Digital Age,” ACLU, March 1, 1998)

The FBI has since created a network of links and electronic hubs for collection purposes amongst the nation’s largest telecom carriers and internet providers “and about 40 FBI offices and Quantico, according to interviews and documents describing the agency’s Digital Collection System,” according to the Washington Post.

These revelations mirror those of AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, who revealed that the super secretive National Security Agency had been given access by AT&T management to install “splitters” for the Agency hard-wired to an NSA “secure” room in the company’s central office in San Francisco. According to Klein,

“In short, an exact copy of all internet traffic that flowed through critical AT&T cables–emails, documents, pictures, web browsing, Voice over-internet phone conservations, everything–was being diverted to equipment inside the secret room. In addition the documents reveal the technological gear used in their secret project, including a highly sophisticated search component capable of quickly sifting through huge amounts of digital data (including text, voice and images) in real time according to pre-programmed criteria.

It’s important to understand that the internet links which were connected to the splitter contained not just foreign communications but vast amounts of domestic traffic, all mixed together. Furthermore, the splitter has no selective abilities–it’s just a dumb device which copies everything to the secret room. And the links going through the splitter are AT&T’s physical connections to many other internet providers (e.g., Sprint, Qwest, Global Crossing, Cable & Wireless, and the critical West Coast Internet Exchange Point known as Mae West). Since these networks are interconnected, the government surveillance affects not only AT&T customers but everyone else–millions of Americans.

I also discovered in my conversations with other technicians that other “secret rooms” were established in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego. One of the documents I obtained also mentions Atlanta, and the clear inference in the logic of this setup, and the language of the documents, is that there are other such rooms across the country to complete the coverage–possibly 15 to 20 or more.” (Mark Klein, “Reject Amnesty for Telecoms,” Electronic Frontier Foundation)

As a key networking hub of the national security state’s electronic driftnet, the “Quantico circuit” enables the FBI and their CIA and NSA partners in crime to literally target any one or any group with highly-intrusive and silent monitoring of all electronic communications. Under the Bush administration’s repressive “public-private” police state architecture, privacy rights join Geneva Convention prohibitions against torture as yet another “quaint” notion, a “phantom of lost liberty,” in the memorable phrase uttered by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001.

While the Bureau claims that the content of a phone call or e-mail must be authorized by a court order showing “probable cause,” as with other abusive FBI practices such as the issuance of so-called “national security letters” to obtain financial or other private records, the legal bar undoubtedly is set very low.

These latest revelations of FBI abuse of Fourth Amendment protections, follow on the heels of new initiatives undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security to utilize U.S. spy satellites for domestic “law enforcement and counterterrorism” investigations.

According to Nick Juliano,

“DHS plans to create a new office that would expand law enforcement and other civilian agencies’ access to data gathered by powerful intelligence and military satellites orbiting the earth. The National Applications Office [NAO] will oversee who can access such satellite data, which is typically used to monitor climate change and track hurricane damage, among other uses.

DHS still has not laid out legal frameworks or standard operating procedures for the office, according to a letter from three members of the House Homeland Security Committee.” (Nick Juliano, “DHS Ignores Civil Liberties in Domestic Spy Satellite Plan, Lawmakers Say,” The Raw Story, Monday, April 7, 2008)

First floated last August, then delayed over civil liberties concerns, DHS is now moving full speed ahead with the project. In a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Reps. Bennie G. Thompson, Jane Harman and Christopher P. Carney wrote, “merely mentioning Posse Comitatus and other laws in the NAO Charter does not provide needed assurances that the Department will not transform NAO into a domestic spying platform.”

Tepid protests by congressional Democrats who have systematically enabled these repressive measures by granting unlimited budgetary increases to Bushist spymasters, will have virtually no effect on an administration hell-bent on turning the entire country into a “free spy zone.”


Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by
AK Press.

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