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News :: Human Rights
Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
19 Feb 2014
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has begun installing hundreds of high-definition cameras on buses throughout the transit system as part of a plan to implement video surveillance across the entire bus and subway fleet.
From the World Socialist Web Site -

The video installation is to be paid for with a $6.9 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

The cameras are equipped with Verizon’s 4G LTE network to allow the digital video feed inside the bus to be streamed in real time to the MBTA control center, where staff will be able to monitor passengers in real time. The video feed, which provides a 360-degree view of the inside of buses, will also be available to MBTA Transit Police from inside their cruisers.

The MBTA has said it plans to install the new system on 225 buses by the end of the summer, and an additional 210 buses will have existing systems, with cameras currently trained on the fare box, transferred to the new system. These upgrades will also allow live streaming. The 435 cameras will allow monitoring of two thirds of all bus trips. Officials hope to receive funding to place cameras on all the system’s buses and on any new train cars. Randy Clarke, senior director of security and emergency management for the MBTA, told the Boston Globe it is the most extensive surveillance program on a major transit system in the country, with three cameras installed on each bus.

A report published on in December 2012 noted: “Cities across America are equipping their public transport systems with audio recording devices, potentially storing every word spoken by passengers onboard.” The web site reports that multimillion-dollar upgrades are underway in several US cities, including San Francisco; Eugene, Oregon; Traverse City, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Hartford, Connecticut; and Athens, Georgia. Much of the funding for these upgrades comes from the Department of Homeland Security.

Boston transit officials claim the mass surveillance is intended as a deterrent to crime, citing 28 attacks on drivers so far this year. However, Transit Police superintendent Joseph O’Connor acknowledged to the Globe that “crime is relatively low on buses.”

The new surveillance program has nothing to do with fighting crime, but is part of efforts of the US state to gather an unprecedented amount of information about the US population, as revealed in the documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In addition to the massive data gathering and processing at NSA centers, local law enforcement agencies are engaged in routine political spying. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a national network of so-called fusion centers was established. Today, there are a reported 78 of these centers located in states and major urban areas across the country.

According to the Homeland Security web site, “State and major urban area fusion centers serve as focal points within the state and local environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information between the federal government and state, local, tribal, territorial (SLTT) and private sector partners.”

The site claims the fusion centers “provide interdisciplinary expertise and situational awareness to inform decision-making at all levels of government. They conduct analysis and facilitate information sharing while assisting law enforcement and homeland security partnership preventing, protecting against, and responding to crime and terrorism.”

There are two such centers in Massachusetts, the Commonwealth Fusion Center in Maynard and the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) in Boston. These centers played a major role in the police-military lockdown of the Boston area in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings of April 15 last year.

An October 2012 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts and the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) gave a rare view into the real purpose of these centers and the surveillance they conduct. The report, titled “Policing Dissent: Police Surveillance Activity in Boston,” summarizes documents obtained by the ACLU and NLG after suing for access on behalf of six groups and four activists. The report states that the documents “show that officers assigned to the BRIC are collecting and keeping information about constitutionally protected speech and political activity. The documents provide the public with its first glimpse into the political surveillance practices of the Boston Police Department.”

The documents cited in the report present the widescale political spying conducted against antiwar protesters, civil rights campaigners and other political activists, none of it related to criminal activity. The files obtained as result of the lawsuit include so-called intelligence reports written by officers and illegally shared across security agencies and kept on file.

The Code of Federal Regulations provides that federally funded surveillance projects may collect and maintain information on individuals “only if there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal conduct or activity and the information is relevant to that criminal conduct or activity.” The regulations also stipulate that surveillance teams “shall not collect or maintain criminal intelligence information about the political, religious or social views, associations, or activities of any individual or any group...unless such information directly relates to criminal conduct.”

The BRIC’s own guidelines state: “The BRIC will not seek or retain and originating agencies will agree to not submit information about individuals or organizations solely on the basis of their religious, political, or social views or activities; their participation in a particular noncriminal organization or lawful event; or their races, ethnicities, citizenship, places of origin, ages, disabilities, genders, or sexual orientation.”

The report makes clear, however, that this is precisely the information that officers have been gathering in Boston for years. One intelligence report cited talks of a March 23, 2007, meeting at the Central Congregational Church in Jamaica Plain, noting that the meeting “was arranged by Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo” and that a “BU professor emeritus/activist” (the late Howard Zinn) and Cindy Sheehan, a member of Gold Star Families for Peace whose son was killed in Iraq, “will be speaking at the March 24 demonstration.”

Another report refers to an FBI source who provided information to the Boston police on protesters’ plans to “pass out fliers promoting their cause.” A phone call between officers from the BRIC and Metro DC Intelligence Section with officials discussing how many activists from the Northeast attended a Washington, D.C., peace rally is also documented.

The authors of the report write that “Videos taped at public demonstrations and ‘intelligence reports’ written by officers assigned to the BRIC show pervasive monitoring of peaceful demonstrations. Nine out of the 13 reports obtained by the ACLU and NLG discuss only political activity, never mentioning criminal or even potentially criminal acts; two reference nonviolent civil disobedience. Nonetheless, all of the reports include the category ‘Criminal Act’ and use labels such as ‘Extremist,’ ‘Civil Disturbance’ or ‘homSec-Domestic.’ ”

The Homeland Security-funded mass surveillance programs in Boston and other cities across the country have as little to do with fighting crime as the NSA data collection has to do with fighting terrorism. They are directed not at criminal elements and terrorists but at social and political dissent. The preparation of police state measures in anticipation of a mass movement against social inequality and war is well advanced.

See Vimero - 1984 - George Orwell - Radio Dramatization -
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Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
19 Feb 2014
Homeland Security seeking to develop massive license plate database

The US Department of Homeland Security is hoping to find a private company that is technologically capable of providing a system that will track license plates across the nation, according to a new report.

A government proposal noticed by various media outlets including The Washington Post on Tuesday shows that DHS is trying to gain the ability to sift through large amounts of data collected from roadside surveillance cameras and law enforcement license plate readers.

The justification given on the document in question is that the database will be able to identify and track immigrants who entered the United States illegally and are on the run from authorities. The method could easily create such a vast network of information, though, that American citizens suspected of no wrongdoing could easily be snagged in the dragnet and unknowingly have their information shared between police agencies.

A spokeswoman for the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which falls under DHS authority, said the information would only be used in a way that it would not put civil liberties at risk.

“It is important to note that this database would be run by a commercial enterprise and the data would be collected and stored by the commercial enterprise, not the government,” Gillian Christensen told the Post, adding that the huge sum of data “could only be accessed in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations or to locate wanted individuals.”

ICE first issued a solicitation last week asking for bids from contractors willing to build the database. Hypothetically, police officers would use a police camera or even their own smartphone to snap a photo of an individual’s license plate and compare those numbers with a so-called “hot list” of plates already stored in the national register. Police would be permitted to access the network 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Perhaps not surprisingly, as reverberations from the National Security Agency surveillance leak continue to be felt around the world, civil liberties advocates are not sold on the new idea.

“Ultimately, you’re creating a national database of location information,” Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Post on Tuesday. “When all that data is compiled and aggregated you can track somebody as they go through their life.”

Prospective luddites considering relocation to the wilderness should consider, though, that police already use a system similar to the one proposed. Local authorities have teamed up with commercial services to gather license plate data for a number of reasons, with traffic safety perhaps the most common. Police looking into suspected criminal meetings, for instance, have compared the information obtained by their own eyes to much smaller lists.

“The technology in use today basically replaces an old analog function – your eyeballs,” said Chris Metaxas, the chief executive of DRN, one of the largest databases of license plate information in the country. “It’s the same thing as a guy holding his head out the window, looking down the block and writing license plate numbers down and comparing them against a list. The technology just makes things better and more productive.”

See - They Are Watching You - US Police State -
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
21 Feb 2014
Modified: 07:03:22 AM
FCC Sends Interrogation Teams to Broadcasters

In all the brouhaha over Edward Snowden’s exposure of the National Security Agency’s invasion of our home computers, we seem to have forgotten about a long-dormant threat that is now rearing its ugly little head: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Created in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt to oversee our then nascent television and radio sector – and to ensure that these entities were licensed by the government – the FCC imposed the "Fairness Doctrine" on television and radio stations which required that both sides of a controversial issue be presented in order to ensure that the "public interest" was served. The result was that all controversial subjects were virtually barred from the airwaves because management didn’t want to deal with constant demands for "equal time." The rule wasn’t abolished until 1987, but long before that the new technology enabling cable television bypassed the Washington bureaucrats – and injected some life into what had been characterized previously as a vast wasteland.

But old outdated regulators never die – they simply lay in wait for their next opportunity to strike. This came when the administration of Barack Obama took office and appointed a number of FCC commissioners who want to impose "diversity" on America’s newsrooms. In their view, various "underserved" communities are being shortchanged by the media, which doesn’t pay enough attention to their concerns. The FCC is now seeking to rectify that Historic Injustice by sponsoring a study supposedly proving their point – and laying the groundwork for new regulations that clearly pose a direct threat to the First Amendment.

Last year the FCC began its "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs," a "research" project that will send government bureaucrats into the nation’s newsrooms to discover if the Critical Information Needs (CINs, in bureaucratese) of "underserved communities" are being met. What are these CINs? Well, there’s no less than eight of them, covering everything from information on the environment to "economic opportunities” – and also including “civic” and “political information.” These eight categories are deemed so important that broadcasters – and that includes print and internet media as well as television and radio – have a social obligation to cover them. Government agents will descend on media outlets, interview managers, journalists, and presumably the janitors to determine if these obligations are being met.

Is the "news philosophy" of a given media outlet broadcasting its fair share of CINs? Big Brother wants to know.

These interrogations will consist of questions like: “Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?” After this fishing expedition is concluded, managers will then be asked how and why they made particular decisions.

Of course, all of this is "voluntary" – but radio and television stations must go to the FCC to have their licenses approved and/or renewed. So it’s about as "voluntary," in their case, as paying extortion fees to the Mafia. When the FCC comes knocking on the door of some radio station that features Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and the whole panoply of Fox News shock-jocks, questions about "perceived station bias" – as the FCC puts it – are inevitably going to be loaded with all sorts of rather ominous political overtones.

"It is important to identify and talk with people who are willing to provide demographic information about their respective property’s work force," says the FCC. Translation: the racial make-up of the news staff of radio, television, and other media outlets is going to be mapped – and challenged. Because, you see, "underserved communities" are getting short shrift from owners and top level personnel, who are naturally racists and have only gotten where they are today due to the "privilege" conferred on them due to an accident of birth. And to even suggest that there is some kind of barely hidden political agenda behind this survey is in itself racist, classist, sexist, not to mention homophobic and trans-phobic. In the Brave New World we are entering, even raising the question will be considered a hate crime, punishable by being locked in a room with Joan Walsh for twenty-four hours straight.

The FCC is apparently modeling its efforts on the NSA: the former’s goal is to build a gigantic media database geared to give us the metrics in deciding how the government will intervene to provide those oh-so-essentials CINs to long deprived media consumers. As the FCC puts it:

"The final constructed database will contain data for all media outlets at multiple units of analysis. We anticipate that the most granular unit of analysis will be individual news stories, while higher order variables will tap into higher units of analysis. For example, for broadcast television and radio, we also will include station demographics. Likewise, for newspaper content, we will also include newspaper-specific variables. Such data formatting will allow for potential hierarchical analysis of the data, including multi-level modeling (e.g. analysis of news stories that are clustered within particular stations within markets)."

Perhaps the FCC can collaborate with the NSA, in which case the latter can divert the internal correspondence of media providers and journalists to complete the picture.

The rationale for this brazen bullying – aside from the cover story, which employs the fashionable rhetoric of ethnic and "class" victimology – is the alleged disadvantage suffered by "underserved communities" whose members have never had a radio or television station handed to them. These "barriers to entry" are the main obstacles to those "entrepreneurs" who would dearly love to own Fox News but have so far (and through no fault of their own) failed to raise the funds to buy it.

Just to give you a taste of the profoundly authoritarian nature of the FCC’s project, get a load of what they call the "Community Ecology Study":

"The Community Ecology Study seeks to determine the CINs of a broad and demographically diverse population of a metropolitan area, as they are perceived and demanded by individuals nested in neighborhoods within those areas."

The "media ecology" of a given geographical area must reflect the "demographics" of "diversity," or else something is really wrong in Media-Land. And what’s more, those "nested" individuals in "underserved communities" really don’t know what their real "needs" are, you see, because some of these are "latent." So who knows what these "needs" are and ought to be? Why, who else but the designers of this absurd survey, Socialist Solutions International, of Silver Springs, Maryland?!

SSI is a longtime government contractor specializing in behavioral psychology and behavior modification: one study, for example, contracted for by the State Department and worth $1,400,000, researched "mandatory Therapeutic communities" in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to advance our knowledge of how to treat substance abuse. We learned how the SRV "nudges" its slaves citizens out of certain "socially irresponsible" behaviors – yes, that’s how SSI makes its money, and lots of it.

A la Cass "Abolish Modify the First Amendment" Sunstein, what the FCC is doing is "nudging" the media into becoming an instrument of government, at least insofar as it is possible to achieve this within the bounds of what is left of the Constitution. To make the media a force for "good" – as defined by the lords of DC – and "nudge" the population into cooperating with government diktats, it is first necessary to ensure properly compliant people are in the right positions.

In short, the FCC is getting ready to turn the American media landscape into something resembling Venezuela’s – a nation that similarly employs the rhetoric of radical egalitarianism to regulate media for the "public good," and provide a "level playing field" for the "underserved communities" – where El Presidente Nicolas Maduro derives his main support. In 2004, the Chavistas imposed the "Law on Social Responsibility of Radio and Television," ostensibly passed in order to:

"[S]trike a democratic balance between duties, rights, and interests, in order to promote social justice and further the development of the citizenry, democracy, peace, human rights, education, culture, public health, and the nation’s social and economic development."

In short, the Venezuelan media is, for the most part, an instrument of government, not an adversarial entity but a complementary one that enhances "social solutions" as conceived by Venezuela’s avowedly socialist government. The law was used to knock Radio Caracas Television, which had been critical of the Chavez regime, off the air. Daytime news reporting is censored for scenes of violence as well as sexually suggestive material – a rule that allows the government to downplay the recent violence in the streets as well as news of the skyrocketing crime rate. The Chavistas have determined the real "needs" of the "community" – and these do not include exposure to dissenting opinions. Their methods, however, are a bit more than "nudges" – a violent shove is more like it. The difference, however, is merely a matter of degree.

The irony is that while the Obama administration is continuing the policies of George W. Bush in doing everything possible to overthrow the Chavistas in Venezuela – funding the opposition and directing much of the action from behind the scenes – they are importing the Venezuelan media model here, minus (for the moment) its less draconian aspects.

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai was the first to draw attention to this ominous development, and Thomas Sowell followed up here, in which he makes the argument – in a somewhat convoluted polemic against Sen. Ted Cruz – that the agenda of the Obama administration has put us on the slippery slope to authoritarian rule. Citing the FCC’s media "study" as a harbinger of a larger trend, he writes:

"In the German elections of 1932, the Nazi party received 37 percent of the vote. They became part of a democratically elected coalition government, in which Hitler became chancellor. Only step by step did the Nazis dismantle democratic freedoms and turn the country into a complete dictatorship.

"The political majority could have united to stop Hitler from becoming a dictator. But they did not unite. They fought each other over their differences. Some figured that they would take over after the Nazis were discredited and defeated.

"Many who plotted this clever strategy died in Nazi concentration camps. Unfortunately, so did millions of others.

"What such clever strategies overlook is that there can be a point of no return. We may be close to that point of no return, not only with ObamaCare, but also with the larger erosion of personal freedom, of which ObamaCare is just the most visible part."

I don’t know what’s visible to Sowell and what he’s blind to, but regardless of what you think of the President’s healthcare plan it’s possible to substitute the Snowden revelations for Obamacare and come up with a credible argument that we have indeed nearly reached a point of no return. Sowell’s polemic against Sen. Cruz, berating him for insisting on ideological purity, could just as well describe those "progressives" who have spent so many column inches arguing against cooperating with libertarians in a united campaign against the Surveillance State.

Sowell used the example of German National Socialism, but he could just as well have cited the Bolsheviks or the Italian fascists – and indeed the Italian corporatist model seems to fit the closest, albeit not quite like a glove. Mussolini presided over a system of economic crony capitalism that limned and co-opted the collectivist program of the Italian Socialist Party, where Mussolini had formerly been a top leader. Sounds like Obama-land to me, especially the crony capitalist part. (Thomas Wheeler, head of the FCC, is a former lobbyist for the cable industry as well as a major "bundler" for Obama’s presidential campaign: as head of Core Capital Partners, he was a major industry player.)

In any case, and by any measure, the realm of freedom is rapidly shrinking in these United States of America. Journalism is being redefined as a criminal act, which is why Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the two journalists who have done the most to report on the crimes of the NSA, cannot return to their own country without fear of being arrested. That’s why James Risen faces a criminal trial, and why Fox News and the Associated Press have both had their communications systems broken into by government snoops.

And while we’re on the subject, that is why has been subjected to an FBI investigation on the grounds that we might well be "agents of a foreign power."

What in the name of all that’s holy is going on?

We’re almost at the point of no return.

No return to the days when journalism was a profession, and not a crime scene: no return to the days when the Constitution mattered. No return to the America of our forefathers, who fought and died for the Fourth Amendment – and took up arms against the Cass Susteins of their era, who thought they could "nudge" free Americans into allowing British soldiers into their homes. One imagines the FCC interrogating Benjamin Franklin – and his inevitable response – with nostalgia for the America that was, and hope for the America that will yet be.
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
21 Feb 2014
Modified: 07:36:31 AM
Workers Vanguard No. 1039 ( 7 February 2014 )

Surveillance State à la Française

The immense reach of the U.S. and European spy agencies is now out in the open due to the efforts of former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst Edward Snowden. In response, the imperialist powers are taking steps to give their mass surveillance greater legal sanction. A prime example is provided by the French government of Socialist Party president François Hollande, which devised a new domestic spying law—presented as “Article 20” of a military spending bill—to take advantage of the latest technologies like GPS.

Enacted in December without any serious objection in Parliament, this legislation defined the conditions under which government agencies may harvest telephone conversations, e-mails, Internet activity and personal location data. Lacking even the pretense of judicial oversight, the guidelines allow the vacuuming up of data for a broad range of purposes, including “national security,” prevention of “terrorism” or the protection of France’s “scientific and economic potential,” thus expanding the list of state agencies authorized to engage in electronic surveillance.

The groundwork for Article 20 was laid in 1991 under Socialist Party president François Mitterrand, who legalized the longstanding and widespread practice of domestic snooping. The Mitterrand government also established a global satellite surveillance network with bases in the colonies of Mayotte and French Guyana operated in collaboration with the German secret service (BND).

In the U.S., with a wide swath of the population expressing unease over the scope of the NSA spying, president Obama announced a series of measures last month to give the capitalist rulers’ spying apparatus the appearance of greater accountability. A number of liberals hailed the proposals, among them Democrats on Capitol Hill considered critics of certain NSA practices. As we previously noted, we would welcome any hurdle thrown up in the path of the expanding surveillance state. But what Obama has offered is nothing of the sort. In fact, his speech was largely a paean to the NSA.

In a forum presentation held in October and November in New York City, Paris and London, Spartacist League spokesman Alison Spencer explained:

“The spy agencies’ central purpose is to do the dirty work that goes on behind the scenes of the ‘normal’ administrative mechanisms of bourgeois democracy—the surveillance, burglaries, black-bag jobs, infiltration and tricks by agents provocateurs, extraordinary renditions, torture and murder. A whole system of class exploitation—and in this country racial oppression—that is maintained through state repression is not going to come crashing down or be fundamentally reformed…through Congressional cosmetic reforms behind which the state continues its murderous work. Nothing less than victorious socialist revolution can abolish capitalism’s secret police and their deadly ‘dirty tricks’.”

—“Spying, Repression, War: Pillars of Capitalist Rule,” WV No. 1037, 10 January

The forum traced the history of U.S. domestic spying and state repression of leftists, union militants and fighters for black rights over the last century. By shedding some light on the more recent predations and surveillance operations of the American government, Chelsea Manning and Snowden provided a great service to the working class and oppressed. But doing so came at great personal cost. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison last year, and Attorney General Eric Holder recently ruled out any deal involving clemency for Snowden, who is for now still holed up in Russia. Then there is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

We reprint below, edited for publication, accompanying remarks by Xavier Brunoy from the Ligue Trotskyste de France at the forum in Paris on 21 November 2013 that addressed similar themes in the case of France.

*   *   *

Loud howls of protest were provoked in Europe when Snowden revealed that the NSA was tapping the cell phones of “European partners,” such as German chancellor Angela Merkel and French diplomats. These cries had barely died down when more revelations came out, exposing that these “victims” were doing exactly the same thing as the U.S. The German BND foreign intelligence agency asked the Merkel government to amend the law “to make it more flexible for sharing protected data with foreign partners.” The British imperialists operate a secret service that plays a central role in the NSA’s network. They showed their loyalty by detaining David Miranda (the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who published Snowden’s initial revelations) at London Heathrow airport and by destroying the Guardian’s copy of Snowden’s files. Thankfully, several other copies exist.

The shrewd Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign Affairs under former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, exposed the hypocrisy of Hollande’s whining about the NSA when he stated on a France-Info radio broadcast: “They pretend to have just discovered this surveillance, meanwhile their own secret service agencies work together and France has a similar system.” And he’s right. When it was revealed that more than 70 million communications were intercepted in France, the NSA director hastened to fire back that the majority of these intercepted communications were provided to the NSA by the French secret services. And the French were compelled to admit it was true. Kouchner added: “Let’s be honest, we listen in too. Everybody listens in on everybody else. It’s just that we don’t have the means the United States does, and that makes us jealous.”

Le Monde revealed that the French company Amesys sold an Eagle surveillance system (functionally equivalent to the NSA’s Prism program) to the Libyan government. In 2008, former directors of French military intelligence trained Libyan spies. A similar system was sold to the Syrian government by the German company Utimaco. Sensors that make it possible to intercept 5.3 million calls simultaneously and retain two years of metadata were provided by the French company Qosmos, which also, according to one of the company’s founders, worked with the DGSE (the French foreign intelligence service). So much for the innocence of French imperialism.

It is interesting to note that these Qosmos sensors are sold to government spy agencies as well as to private telecommunications companies, which for financial purposes gather essentially the same metadata as the police. This explains the permeability between leaders of private communications companies and the NSA.

French Bourgeoisie: Pioneers of Mass Surveillance

Alison observed that all fighters for social change are on a list. In this regard, the French bourgeoisie has a long history, and we can even say that it was, in its time, a pioneer. In the 19th century, the French bourgeoisie established the first police records on people in Europe. The files included everyone who had been found guilty in a court of law. Or to put it more plainly, all the poor people who were struggling to survive in the cities.

This work was later rationalized in the 1880s by a guy named Bertillon, whose methods were then copied by police agencies all over the world. The records included color-coded cards and notes on physical traits, to which fingerprints and photographs were later added. One hardly needs to point out how useful these types of files were for the army and the police. At the end of the 19th century, socialist militants had files on them, as did the anarchists, who were actively tracked. For example, in 1886 French General Boulanger began compiling the notorious Carnet B list of those considered potential wartime subversives.

Foreigners were also under surveillance, with records kept on them. As a result of wars as well as the massive increase in immigration brought about by the industrial revolution, the number of people with records rapidly grew as the police sought to keep tabs on the entire “non-French” population. In the 1880s, foreigners had to register and get a receipt, which became the “alien identity card” during World War I. This card was an extremely effective means of control: the police knew immediately whether or not the person they stopped was in good standing, that is, whether or not they should be imprisoned or deported. This card was maintained after the war.

As we said in our supplement on Leonarda [the Roma schoolgirl deported from France last October, see WV No. 1035, 29 November 2013], nomadic people were always particular targets for surveillance and kept in the files. Those “found guilty and without a permanent address” were put on special lists. Thereafter, all nomadic people were subject to even more persecution. The witchhunt against the Roma by Sarkozy and now Minister of Interior Manuel Valls is simply the continuation of a long tradition.

Of course, in the computer age, and in light of the new figures of those spied upon with each passing day, all this may seem like small potatoes. But at the time it was substantial.

Police Records and the Vichy Regime

The dangers inherent in being on file under the Third Republic became blatantly obvious when it gave way to the Vichy regime during World War II. Marshall Pétain, the quisling pro-Nazi leader of Vichy France, inherited the files on everyone. All the French police had to do was consult the files to organize roundups and arrests. First the Jews, but also homosexuals, Gypsies and more. All those who the national intelligence agencies had patiently and meticulously kept files on, day after day, for years on end, could suddenly end up in one of Pétain’s jails or a death camp.

The French bourgeoisie’s dreams of keeping files on the entire population to control everyone were realized under the Vichy regime. Every individual living in France was assigned a unique number. A census was organized to assure that nobody had been overlooked, and the country was combed by thousands of census-takers. The national identity card, which served as an internal passport, was instituted in 1940. Starting in 1942, it specified whether the holder was Jewish. This card became universal and mandatory in 1943, featuring the infamous number stamped on it.

At the end of WWII, during the period called “Liberation,” this apparatus for controlling the population was maintained intact by the de Gaulle/Communist Party coalition governments. The individual number instituted by Pétain became what is commonly known in France as the social security number. In 1947, a directory of all social security numbers was established. Think about it for just one moment: how many files are associated with this infamous number and what can be and is done with it? As for the national identity card, few people are aware that it has not been mandatory since October 1955. But do you know many French people who don’t carry it? And for good reason, since it is still a piece of identification that proves French citizenship, and the cops can demand to see your papers at any time.

France’s Colonial Wars

During the war in Indochina and later the Algerian War, the French army worked out a doctrine of “revolutionary war” to suppress the people in France’s colonies who were struggling for independence. In contrast to classic warfare, the French army found itself in Indochina pitted against an enemy that was completely ensconced in the local population. The Vietnamese National Liberation Front had tremendous support among the masses. The French needed to know who was an enemy and who was not. They had to rely on intelligence to find out who thought what.

The implementation of this doctrine reached new heights during the Battle of Algiers when French General Massu’s and General Bigeard’s infamous paratroopers sought to destroy the political wing of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in that city. To this end, the French paratroopers started records on everyone who lived in the Casbah (where they lived, with whom they lived, etc.) They set up a network of informers and other spies for the purpose of gathering all the information they needed about the “enemy.” The city was sealed off, and its residents were put under surveillance. Continuous patrols systematically knocked on doors and terrorized people in a (failed) attempt to drive a wedge between the population and the nationalist and Communist agitators.

As soon as they found someone with FLN ties, the paratroopers swept the entire area to figure out who was in contact with that individual in order to reconstruct the network around him. The military used every means at its disposal to make that person talk, including torture, an area in which the French army acquired considerable experience.

Those who devised this doctrine of “revolutionary war” were convinced that all nationalists or Communists who fought for independence in the Third World were manipulated by the USSR, that they were the vanguard of international Communism, with Moscow pulling the strings from afar in its quest to rule the world. And anything and everything was permissible to counter the “Communist threat.” The French military brass who perpetrated these horrors, like General Aussaresses, later trained thousands of officers in Latin America as well as the United States. The U.S. Army put this expertise to use in Vietnam, as did various military dictatorships in Latin America. Last September was the 40th anniversary of the 1973 coup in Chile. That coup was the Battle of Algiers writ large, with thousands of people killed under torture or otherwise.

“War on Terror” Repression

What’s changed since the demise of the USSR is the primary target of the capitalist state. With the USSR gone and the proletariat no longer on center stage, there is, at the moment, no direct threat to the French bourgeoisie. Of course, they always keep their eyes on the working class, as we saw in the trial in Roanne (in central France) of CGT trade-union activists who refused to provide the police with DNA samples. The secret services focus on those who resist rapacious exploitation and imperialist domination of the neocolonial world. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the “fight against Islamic terrorism” has been wielded to go after such political opposition. Other targets for surveillance are France’s imperialist rivals, as part of the competition for the world’s spoils.

In the fight against “terrorism,” the enemy is considered to live nestled in the heart of the population, among immigrants and their children and grandchildren. The French army’s “revolutionary war” teachings still have currency. There is a continuity between the methods today and those used in the fight against the “terrorists” of the 1950s and ’60s, that is, people struggling for their independence. The same methods, but modernized.

Electronics, computers and technological advances enable the state to search for the same type of information faster. Electronic probes, data centers and software get the job done without the state having to pay for so many finks and informers. Smartphones make it possible to locate people and even record meetings of people considered dangerous. Social networking makes it possible to establish profiles of millions of people. Electronic surveillance facilitates the amassing of all kinds of data on people. All it takes is a few clicks of the mouse to transform any person into a “terrorist,” a designation for which the capitalists set the criteria.

And when the working-class and minority neighborhoods explode, the cops go on patrol, comb the streets and cast a dragnet to terrorize and intimidate, just as the paratroopers did during the Algerian War. What the bourgeoisie fears above all is that the youth in these neighborhoods might trigger a social explosion, as occurred in the past, such as when students sparked the May 1968 general strike. That’s one reason why there is such massive repression against the youth who have no future in this society. The government wages racist campaigns (similar to the psychological warfare conducted during the Algerian War) to separate and isolate not only these youth but the entire layer of the working class that is immigrant or of immigrant descent. Divide and conquer.

With or without electronic means, the bourgeoisie’s army and police can never stop the class struggle and working-class upheavals. We had the 1871 Paris Commune, the first workers government in history. I would note that in its fight against the capitalists and in an effort to avoid getting crushed, the Commune’s police chief ruthlessly tracked down the bourgeois Versailles government’s spies and informers. So he kept files on people. The problem is not keeping files per se, but what class it serves. Unfortunately, such measures were insufficient and incomplete. Among other things, the Commune did not have a revolutionary party to lead it to victory, the kind of party that we want to build.

See - Glenn Greenwald Speaks Out - Skype
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
21 Feb 2014
A new movie - Robocop ( )

"RoboCop and the surveillance state" - Craig Johnson reviews the latest RoboCop movie and compares it to its predecessors.

When I first saw the original RoboCop (1987) and RoboCop 2 (1990) movies starring Peter Weller, robotics and cybernetics were two of my main interests. It wasn't until I grew up that I recognized the deeper themes in the movies, and I realized that they were decidedly anti-capitalist. They tell the story of a city ravaged by crime, a decaying infrastructure and a polluted environment, brought about by a system that benefits a select few.

There are odd satirical commercials throughout the original movies featuring a "nuclear strike" family game, a car anti-theft system that electrocutes the attempted thief, and a sunbathing woman who has to cover herself in blue-green goop in order to avoid skin cancer "ever since we lost the ozone layer." The auto industry was issued repeated beatings by the oversized, gas-guzzling 6000 SUX car. Considering that the movies take place in Detroit, that should have been a real shot across the bow.

The original RoboCop series puts privatization and corporate greed center stage, showing what could happen if law enforcement was taken over by a major corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). It showcases the high-tech solutions that deep pockets can offer side-by-side with the lethal working conditions of RoboCop's human colleagues.

In typical fashion, the company puts profits before people, and the outnumbered and outgunned police force threatens a strike in the first movie, and actually does it in the second. RoboCop is nearly undone in the first movie as his corrupt creators turn on him, revealing that he is unable to take action against company executives engaged in criminal activities.

In the second movie, OCP attempts a complete takeover of city government, claiming that since anyone can buy the company stock, "What could be more democratic than that?" In their attempt to replicate their success with RoboCop, they feel the need to outdo themselves with RoboCop 2. (In capitalism, all companies are in constant battle to make their own products obsolete as quickly as possible in order to sell the next ones.) Eventually, they lose control of their new creation, and countless people are killed before RoboCop can bring it down.

A corporation is an entity that cheapens human life, making it a variable in an equation rather than an end in itself. Aside from examples I've mentioned already, one can point to the callous "very disappointed" response of the CEO when the malfunctioning ED-209 fills a man full of holes in the OCP board room or the commercial where a businessman shoots himself because he "lost the account," among other things.

The re-booted RoboCop film, released in February, takes a different approach to its critiques, but it still sends strong messages. The surreal commercials that broke up the earlier movies are replaced by clips of Samuel L. Jackson's character "Pat Novak," starring in The Novak Element, a spoof of today's news shows that would fit well on the Fox News [sic] Network.

The corporation at the heart of the movie is called "Omnicorp" this time around, and their biggest products are walking "security" robots like ED-209, called "drones." The movie begins with a demonstration of these machines on patrol through a neighborhood in Tehran, where they call everyone out of their homes to be identified to ensure they belong.

This police state environment is championed as the model for a secure and peaceful country, and Novak repeatedly makes Omnicorp's arguments to deploy these drones on U.S. soil, an untapped "market" for their products that would mean billions in new revenue for the company. The use of the term "drones" for these heavily armed and threatening robots on foreign soil calls to mind the Predator drones used by the U.S. to assassinate people in the Middle East.

The struggle of freedom against a surveillance state is one of the strongest themes in the film. The entire criminal database of the Detroit Police Department, as well as closed-circuit television footage covering several years, is downloaded into RoboCop's memory. He also can access closed-circuit cameras and locate cell phone signals wirelessly at any time. In this movie, RoboCop's awareness encompasses the entire digital footprint of the city, so he can witness crimes via camera and apprehend (or interrogate) suspects within minutes.

As the revelations continue regarding foreign and domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies, especially those stemming from Edward Snowden's leaks, this film is very timely. Although RoboCop uses this technology for the greater good, witnessing how it could work and the abuses that could take place paints an eerie picture.

Proponents might believe that if you've done nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide, but a long history of martyred innocents puts the lie to it, and the presumption of guilt rather than innocence at the heart of a surveillance apparatus inevitably leads to corruption and abuses of power.

Unfortunately, the new movie comes up weak in the economics department. Despite having smorgasbord of possible material from recent corporate bailouts, a recession and the bankruptcy of Detroit (where the movie is set), the story takes a pass on each one. The most it mobilizes are a few protests against RoboCop, where some people are holding signs that read, "People need jobs, not robots!"

The new movie is a solid action film (and much less gory than the earlier ones) that should appeal to a large audience, and it's impressive that a mainstream Hollywood film took such strong swings at U.S. militarism and encroachment on civil liberties.
A police officer shoots himself in front of a gun safety class - continues lecturing.
See - Pop Goes the Policeman
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
21 Feb 2014
Modified: 09:11:41 PM
THE LONG arm of the U.S. security state reaches across oceans and stretches into the presidential palaces of America's closest allies. Last month, the National Security Agency (NSA) was exposed for tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone--for over a decade.

This is the most recent exposé of the extent of the U.S. surveillance machine courtesy of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor turned whistle-blower. Snowden, who faces espionage charges in the U.S. and has temporary asylum in Russia, has offered to testify before German parliament on the extent of NSA activity.

Merkel isn't the only head of state to be a target of U.S. surveillance. The NSA also reportedly listened in on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, according to a September report by the Globo television network, based on NSA documents provided by Snowden. Officials from Germany and Brazil are circulating a draft resolution calling on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the NSA for the violation of privacy rights at home and abroad.

According to the information supplied by Snowden, no one anywhere is out of bounds as far as the NSA is concerned.

According to a October 21 report in Le Monde by independent journalist Glenn Greenwald, based on documents from Snowden, the NSA retrieved more than 70 million digital communications inside France in a single month, from December 10, 2012, to January 8, 2013.

In Spain, the El Mundo and El País newspapers, also basing their reporting on documents provided by Snowden and viewed by Greenwald, reported that NSA data covered more than 60 million phone calls of Spanish citizens collected between December 2012 and early January 2013.

Acccording to El Mundo, the leaked documents also revealed a hierarchy that the U.S. government used to classify allies. There are four groups of countries: "Comprehensive Cooperation," which includes Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand; "Focused Cooperation," which includes 19 countries, most of them in Europe, plus Japan and South Korea; "Limited cooperation," which includes France, Israel, India and Pakistan, among plenty of others; and "Exceptional Cooperation," which includes countries the U.S. considers to be hostile.

One day before the El Mundo report was released, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was testifying before the House "Intelligence" Committee, where he was asked about reports that the NSA monitored millions of calls in Spain, France and Italy. His response: "Completely false."

As for accusations that the NSA had gone too far in eavesdropping on all manner of telecom and Internet communications in the U.S. and outside it, Alexander told committee members that the agency would prefer to "take the beatings" from the public and in the media "than to give up a program that would result in this nation being attacked."

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THE REPORTS of the U.S government carrying out surveillance against the heads of state of its closest allies has to be a little embarrassing for the Obama administration.

So far, Barack Obama hasn't said anything definitive about what he knew about the spying. And no wonder--the administration is in a bind. If Obama denies he knew about the surveillance, then it looks like the NSA is running out of control. But if he admits he knew, that raises a different problem--with world leaders who don't look kindly on being monitored by a country that claims to be a "beacon of democracy" to the world.

Either way, it's clear there's a whole lot of lying going on.

But this international breach of trust didn't stop supporters of the surveillance state in Washington from moving on to more important concerns--villifying Edward Snowden.

In the wake of the we-spy-on-everyone-everywhere revelations, California's Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein quickly returned to the security-at-any-cost refrain in an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation, where she promised that Snowden would be prosecuted. "He had an opportunity--if what he was a whistle-blower--to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and say, 'Look, I have some information you ought to see,'" Feinstein said.

Referring to Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Feinstein continued, "And we would certainly have seen him--maybe both together, maybe separately--but we would have seen him, and we would have looked at that information. That didn't happen, and now he's gone and done this enormous disservice to our country. And I think the answer is no clemency."

Put yourself in Edward Snowden's place. Would you trust Dianne Feinstein with the devastating information you possessed about the NSA? Feinstein, after all, made her feelings about whistle-blowers like Snowden crystal clear in June, when she called him a traitor. And the NSA's collection of massive amounts of data from telecommunications and the Internet? "It's called protecting America," Feinstein said.

In a November 2 op-ed article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Feinstein reiterated her support for NSA data collection by invoking--wait for it--the September 11 attacks, which, she claimed, "succeeded in killing nearly 3,000 Americans in large part because our intelligence community lacked the tools to connect disparate pieces of information to uncover the plot, or failed to use them."

But wait--there's more! Feinstein continued:

Ever since Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong and eventually Russia with millions of pages of classified national security secrets, the American intelligence community has been under siege.

This drip, drip, drip of disclosures--often without proper context and frequently just plain wrong--has eroded the confidence of the American people in the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community and the strong legal and constitutional protections already in place to prevent improper behavior.

One program that helps prevent another terror attack--but continues to be mischaracterized--is the National Security Agency's call-records program.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

OUTSIDE THE santimonious Washington establishment, the information Snowden divulged has inspired outrage of a different kind--against the idea that the U.S. government should be able to spy on anyone and everyone, around the world.

More than 50 public figures in Germany, including actors, novelists and the head of the country's soccer league, have called on the government to support Snowden in Der Spiegel magazine. The magazine also published an open statement by Snowden titled "Manifesto for Truth."

Snowden's revelations about the scope of the Big Brother surveillance machine have stunned people around the world. Even the State Department's reliable mouthpiece, otherwise known as the New York Times, is expressing concern that the NSA seems to think there's no such thing as too much eavesdropping.

A September 2 Times article begins with the story of how the NSA prepared for a meeting between Obama and Ban Ki-moon--by intercepting the United Nations Secretary General's talking points in advance. As the Times concluded:

Mr. Obama and top intelligence officials have defended the agency's role in preventing terrorist attacks. But as the documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.

Breathtaking is right--the NSA's crimes certainly aren't limited to invading the privacy of Angela Merkel. America's super-spies are listening in on people everywhere--in Germany, in the U.S. and around the world. And this isn't just about collecting data--it's about preparing for the persecution of individuals and organizations, because of who they talked to or how often. It's about spying on members of mosques, people who donate to Palestinian charities, activists who stand up to U.S. imperialism or racist immigration laws, and much more.

NSA spying isn't protecting America or the world, as Feinstein would have us believe. The American Big Brother state is making the world more dangerous--first of all, for the people who could become targets of the runaway surveillance apparatus.

Far from keeping the U.S. safe from attack, the NSA's super-spies are stoking bitterness and anger at the world's unaccountable superpower. After the September 11 attacks, George W. Bush was fond of saying, "They hate our freedoms." The reality is that people around the world hate and fear the U.S. government because it takes freedoms away from them.

At least outrage at the NSA has forced a re-examination of surveillance programs by members of Congress. On October 31, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it had approved legislation to impose...a five-year limit on the retention of bulk communication records acquired under the USA PATRIOT Act.

Do you feel safer now?

The U.S. government can't be entrusted our freedoms--we have to win them and defend them ourselves. That's the message Edward Snowden is telling the world--as he wrote in Der Spiegel: "Citizens have to fight suppression of information on matters of vital public importance. To tell the truth is not a crime."
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
21 Feb 2014
WHAT DO the new biometrics payroll system at the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), the Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) new fare-collection system Ventra, and the National Security Agency (NSA) program X-Keyscore have in common?

They are the latest examples of ways in which government agencies and private corporations are increasingly using technology to spy on individuals and even entire populations.

As a result of such programs, we are now living in a time of unprecedented--not to mention unconstitutional--invasions of privacy and the wholesale demolition of our civil rights.

At City Colleges, CCCWorks, the biometrics Time & Attendance system, which functions by scanning an employee's fingertip and identifying its key characteristics, has caused a faculty-wide discussion about the ethics of such a program, and rightfully so. The system, which was introduced this September for administrators and non-union staff, is scheduled to roll out for all faculty members this coming spring semester and should warrant a broader discussion among the student body, not just the faculty.

In an October 10 letter to the Faculty Council regarding the Time & Attendance system, Vice Chancellor Laurent Pernot stated, "Estimates are that City Colleges will save...more than $1 million annually once Time & Attendance is fully implemented," and "[B]eyond the convenience and operation and financial benefits...Time & Attendance is indeed about transparency and accountability."

In his letter, Pernot also noted that the Inspector General found "more than a dozen cases in which staff, full-time faculty, lecturers or educators... falsified time and attendance reports in some way."

If indeed it is the case that CCC would save upwards of $1 million by going digital, wouldn't swipe cards or PINs (personal identification numbers) suffice in replacing the cumbersome and outdated pen-and-paper process? My guess is that they would.

So then the question is: Do a dozen cases of "falsified time and attendance reports" among hundreds of CCC employees really justify such invasive and insulting measures? Measures that essentially say to faculty and staff "you are hereby considered guilty of fraud until you prove your innocence via a fingerprint scan" and have the potential to create an environment of distrust and suspicion among faculty, administration and student body, thereby obscuring the mission of the school and distorting the real reason why faculty members become educators in the first place: because they love to teach?

The answer is no.

While we're at it, they should consider paying their staff and faculty a living wage. I have a feeling that would go a long way in curbing the falsification of time and attendance reports.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

IT'S CLEAR that these measure are neither necessary nor justified. Biometrics isn't about preventing fraud or saving City Colleges money, but about the surveillance of CCC employees. Likewise, CCC's planned "reinvention" initiative isn't about improving student experience or retention, but about turning City Colleges into jobs-training centers to meet the needs of the corporations that call Chicago home.

Both of these schemes are part of a larger and more disquieting trend of privatizing and corporatizing public institutions, especially public education.

Under the guise of "corporate partnerships," they divert public dollars to benefit private entities and individuals, while simultaneously turning public higher-education institutions into jobs-training centers whose sole purpose is to churn out "job ready" individuals--individuals who have essentially paid for their right to be exploited by the private corporations CCC has, and will continue to, partner with.

Trish Kahle, a University of Chicago PhD candidate in labor history, summarizes this trend perfectly:

When politicians talk about focusing on job readiness, they aren't talking about an enriching education with diverse subject matter, time to engage in critical thinking, or participation in political, cultural and intellectual life outside the classroom in a campus setting. They're talking about skills-based classes that provide the training and certification that used to be provided on the job, offloading the costs of worker training from corporations and putting it on the backs of students, and through the creation of a student debt crisis, on the back of the working class as a whole.

In the same vein, when CCC talks about using biometrics as a means of "transparency and accountability" what they're really talking about is monitoring faculty and staff.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THIS IS a small and local example of what is a widespread agenda of hyper-surveillance--an agenda that in the age of neoliberalism has allowed technological advances to be used to infiltrate nearly every aspect of our lives.

Take, for example, the CTA's new fare-collection system, Ventra. Not only are its claims of convenience and ease quite the opposite, but by forcing people to register their fare cards in order to avoid service fees and higher fares, Ventra and CTA will now be able to effectively collect meta-data from hundreds of thousands of commuters.

This is disconcerting because this type of meta-data collection allows companies like Ventra--which, incidentally, happens to be owned and operated by multinational defense contractor Cubic Corp.--to provide government agencies and private corporations the time-stamps and travel patterns of individual passengers. Such an unprecedented exchange of information between public and private entities about specific individuals has the potential to open the door to other, more invasive "Big Brother" surveillance programs.

This includes programs like those revealed earlier this year by NSA whistleblower and hero Edward Snowden with the help of journalist Glenn Greenwald. The top-secret government documents leaked by Snowden and Greenwald reveal a terrifying reality--one of insidious and pervasive mass-spying that is both unprecedented and unconstitutional.

PRISM and X-Keyscore, programs that collect meta-data, including phone records and Internet activity on a mass-scale, allow the NSA to spy on individuals and entire sections of the population pre-emptively, without warrants or probable cause, meaning that they are in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment, which was established to guarantee freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Clearly this is a serious problem that affects every single one of us, and thus, should be seen as a key issue for this generation to resist and combat.

This is not to suggest that the new biometrics Time & Attendance program, CCCWorks, or CTA's new Ventra system are on par with the NSA's mass-spying programs like PRISM and X-Keyscore. However, it is to say that they are smaller, local examples of what is an alarming trend of hyper-surveillance and monitoring. A trend of policies and programs that clearly violate our civil rights and threaten to become our new way of life if we don't do something about it.

For these very reasons, I stand with all staff and faculty members at any and all City Colleges of Chicago who oppose this invasive and insulting biometrics system, and I urge all City Colleges students to become aware and informed about these issues so that we may collectively engage with these issues and be able to influence the direction of the institutions created to serve us.
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
22 Feb 2014
Click on image for a larger version

NSA a 035.jpg
2/21/14 6:06 PM EST ( )

The Federal Communications Commission will amend a proposed study of newsrooms in South Carolina after outcry over what some called "invasive questions," the commission's chairman said Friday.

The survey was meant to study how and if the media is meeting the public's “critical information needs” on subjects like public health, politics, transportation and the environment. Now, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said questions about news philosophy and editorial judgment will be removed from the survey and media owners and reporters will no longer be questioned.

(On Media: Trump vs. BuzzFeed, Savage vs. Hannity)

The uproar caught on fire after one of the Republican commissioners, Ajit Pai, penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week blasting the survey and saying the government had no place in newsrooms. The FCC is required by law to conduct media studies.

"Any suggestion the Commission intends to regulate the speech of news media is false," FCC spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said Friday in a statement, adding that a revised study will be released within the next few weeks. Additionally, she said media owners and journalists will no longer be asked to participate in the pilot study.

"Any subsequent market studies conducted by the FCC, if determined necessary, will not seek participation from or include questions for media owners, news directors or reporters," she said.
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
22 Feb 2014
Modified: 11:37:17 AM
Chelsea Manning: US secrecy breeds unilateralism that defies constitution ( RT )

The US government’s pursuit of secrecy and power lends itself to unilateralism which the Founding Fathers feared, Chelsea Manning has said. The whistleblower spoke out after being awarded the Sam Adams prize for Integrity in Intelligence.

In a written statement posted on the Pvt. Manning Support Network, Chelsea Manning said the US is moving towards what the American constitution was written to prevent. Following the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, “the American government has been pursuing an unprecedented amount of secrecy and power consolidation in the Executive branch, under the President and the Cabinet,” Manning wrote.

Referencing a recent Freedom of Information case, when the US government declined to release documents on targeted killings that it deemed harmful to national security, Manning called the White House’s approach “seemingly Orwellian.”

In the case, the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the practice of targeted killing of US citizens was a matter of public interest, and information pertaining to it should be available.

However, the court concluded the American government had “not violated the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests, and [could not] be compelled . . . to explain in detail the reasons why [the Government's] actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

According to Manning, such cases represent a critical problem in US society and raise the issue of the “level of secrecy, obfuscation, and classification or protective marking.” He argues that although the American government claims it is trying to protect the citizens of their nation, it is breeding “a unilateralism that the founders feared, and deliberately tried to prevent when drafting the American Constitution.”

“When the public lacks the ability to access what its government is doing, it ceases to be involved in the governing process,” said Manning, highlighting there is a line to be drawn between tyranny and freedom.

Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years in prison for 20 charges including espionage, theft and violating computer regulations. The charges relate to the 700,000-odd Iraq and Afghanistan battle reports he released to whistleblowing website, WikiLeaks, in 2010 while he was working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

The Sam Adams Prize was awarded to Manning “for casting much-needed daylight on the true toll and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq; human rights abuses by US and ‘coalition’ forces, mercenaries, and contractors; and the roles that spying and bribery play in international diplomacy.”

The award ceremony was held last month and Manning was awarded the prize in absentia, as he is currently incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison.

See - Almost Gone - Bradley Manning - Grahm Nash -

See - Free Bradley Manning Demo -- Boston Aug. 21, 2013 -
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
22 Feb 2014
Targeting the Muckrakers -- The Surveillance of WikiLeaks ( )

It was the worst kept secret in the novella of espionage delights, but the discussion in Glenn Greewald’s the Intercept was anticipated. The article suggested its imminent newsworthiness: “Top-secret documents from the National Security Agency and its British counterpart reveal for the first time how the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert intelligence to prosecution” (Feb 18).

If only we could say it was the first time. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have become the bread and butter of a good many staff in the National Security Agency and their British equivalent, GCQH. The outfit is also providing rich fare for a range of agencies keen to mark out WikiLeaks in some capacity as an illegal organisation. The effort has so far failed because the implications – at least for now – are simply too terrifying, especially for those with even a shade of interest in publishing and reporting. Criminalise WikiLeaks, and you criminalise us all.

In the hawkish eyes of the security establishment that keeps watch on WikiLeaks, the turn from reporter activist to perfidious criminal may be a short one. The language of the US government targeting “the human network that supports WikiLeaks” is chilling. A classified document from August 2010 outlines the Obama administration’s effort to collectivise the targeting of WikiLeaks, urging “foreign allies to file criminal charges against Assange over the group’s publication of the Afghanistan war logs.”

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation correctly observes, such an act is blatant forum shopping on the part of an administration hamstrung by the constitution. The dirty work, in short, can be done elsewhere. “Publishing classified documents is not illegal in the United States, and the US has not charged WikiLeaks with any crime for publishing the Afghanistan war logs or any other classified documents.”

Another document, from July 2011, details discussions between NSA offices as to whether WikiLeaks might be designated a “malicious foreign actor” for reasons of surveillance (the language in the document is “targeting with no defeats”). Such a designation would simply broaden the scope of activities available to the agency. “No defeats are needed when querying against a known foreign malicious actor.” The response from the agency’s general counsel on the subject of WikiLeaks’ status is tentative – “Let us get back to you.”

Anonymous also features in a question about whether it is “okay to target the foreign actors of a loosely coupled group of hackers… such as with Anonymous?” The reply from the counsel: “As long as they are foreign individuals outside of the US and do not hold dual citizenship…then you are okay”.

According to a GCHQ4 document, the British agency monitored the reader traffic to WikiLeaks in 2012, using tapping capabilities of the Internet’s fibre-optic cables. This is hardly earthshattering copy, but it is important in terms revealing scope. Importantly, it also took note of US readers as part of its ANTICRISIS GIRL initiative. Much of the document is otherwise pyscho babble, a tedious watered down attempt to “understand and shape the Human Terrain”. The interesting part, rather, lies in the “real-time monitoring of online activity”.

Greenwald’s discussion, building on Snowden’s documentation, further shapes the picture created by the Electronic Privacy Information Centre through documents obtained through Freedom of Information. In June 2011, the US Department of Justice and the FBI were the subject of claims seeking, “All records regarding any individuals targeted for surveillance for support for or interest in WikiLeaks.” Records with lists of names of individuals who had shown interest in WikiLeaks were also sought, in addition to agency communications with social media companies demonstrating an interest in WikiLeaks.

The DOJ were in no mood to divulge their trophies, and cited a mysterious, unnamed statute that prevented them from doing so. “All three units at DOJ – a reflected in declarations from FBI’s David Hardy, National Security Division’s Mark Bradley, and Criminal Division’s John Cunningham – claimed the files at issue were protected by statute.” The statute would only be named in classified declarations – to have done otherwise, in Cunningham’s terms, “would undermine interests protected by Exemption 7(A)”. To release the documentation requested by EPIC “could reasonably be expected to interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation.”

As the note at Empty Wheel (Feb 19) explains, the DOJ seemed pensive that the Court could be trusted to keep a secret declaration under lock and key. In its motion, it submitted that the, “Defendants respectfully request that the Court not identify the Exemption 3 statute(s) at issue, or reveal any of the other information provided in Defendants’ ex parte and in camera submissions.”

Obfuscation and rejection can often be a form of confession. The documents then made it clear, if only by sleight of hand, that WikiLeaks was the subject of ongoing investigations about potential criminality.

WikiLeaks associate and journalist Jacob Appelbaum was also the subject of DOJ surveillance, as is made clear in two court orders released by Alexa O’Brien (Feb 17). The department was proving hungry for intelligence on the organisation. Prosecutors obtained a court order in April 2011 directing, a US-based internet service provider, to turn over the Internet Protocol and email addresses of people who had been in touch with Applebaum. The attachment is detailed in terms of listing “subscriber names, user names, screen names, or other identities” including, among others, “mailing addresses, residential addresses, business addresses, e-mail addresses, and other contact information.”

This range of actions show the determination to box WikiLeaks into a category that is refuses to fit. A publishing organisation that also acts as a militant discloser of secrets – the operatic spy of the people – is a fundamentally dangerous challenge. Even as far back as 2008, the Pentagon would call WikiLeaks, in the clunky jargon of a report, “a potential force protection, counterintelligence, OPSEC and INFOSEC threat to the US Army.” One almost senses the anxiousness in the otherwise dull disclosures that WikiLeaks is on to something, and the emperor’s guards don’t like it. As the colourful Slavoj Žižek claimed in The Guardian in September last year, the Snowden disclosures showed that “whistleblowing is now an essential art. It is our means of keeping ‘public reason’ alive.”

See Vimeo: Wikirebels - SVT Documentary on Wikileaks -
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
23 Feb 2014
USS Constitution To Conduct Security Drill
By The Associated Press February 22, 2014

BOSTON — The U.S.S. Constitution is preparing to conduct a security drill involving state and local law enforcement agencies together with emergency responders in the area of the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Officials with the world’s oldest commissioned warship say Charlestown residents should not be alarmed by the presence of large numbers of law enforcement and emergency vehicles Tuesday morning.

The ship actively defended sea lanes against global threats from 1797 to 1855. It is now a featured destination on Boston’s Freedom Trail, with her crew of U.S. Navy Sailors educating its 500,000 visitors about the ship’s history and the importance of naval supremacy.
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
23 Feb 2014
computer key boua.bmp
500 Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always Aimed at Crushing Dissent ( )

No matter which government conducts mass surveillance, they also do it to crush dissent, and then give a false rationale for why they’re doing it.

For example, the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Stanford v. Texas (1965):

While the Fourth Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] was most immediately the product of contemporary revulsion against a regime of writs of assistance, its roots go far deeper. Its adoption in the Constitution of this new Nation reflected the culmination in England a few years earlier of a struggle against oppression which had endured for centuries. The story of that struggle has been fully chronicled in the pages of this Court’s reports, and it would be a needless exercise in pedantry to review again the detailed history of the use of general warrants as instruments of oppression from the time of the Tudors, through the Star Chamber, the Long Parliament, the Restoration, and beyond.

What is significant to note is that this history is largely a history of conflict between the Crown and the press. It was in enforcing the laws licensing the publication of literature and, later, in prosecutions for seditious libel, that general warrants were systematically used in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. In Tudor England, officers of the Crown were given roving commissions to search where they pleased in order to suppress and destroy the literature of dissent, both Catholic and Puritan. In later years, warrants were sometimes more specific in content, but they typically authorized of all persons connected of the premises of all persons connected with the publication of a particular libel, or the arrest and seizure of all the papers of a named person thought to be connected with a libel.

By “libel”, the court is referring to a critique of the British government which the King or his ministers didn’t like … they would label such criticism “libel” and then seize all of the author’s papers.

The Supreme Court provided interesting historical details in the case of Marcus v. Search Warrant (1961):

The use by government of the power of search and seizure as an adjunct to a system for the suppression of objectionable publications … was a principal instrument for the enforcement of the Tudor licensing system. The Stationers’ Company was incorporated in 1557 to help implement that system, and was empowered

“to make search whenever it shall please them in any place, shop, house, chamber, or building or any printer, binder or bookseller whatever within our kingdom of England or the dominions of the same of or for any books or things printed, or to be printed, and to seize, take hold, burn, or turn to the proper use of the aforesaid community, all and several those books and things which are or shall be printed contrary to the form of any statute, act, or proclamation, made or to be made. . . .

An order of counsel confirmed and expanded the Company’s power in 1566, and the Star Chamber reaffirmed it in 1586 by a decree

“That it shall be lawful for the wardens of the said Company for the time being or any two of the said Company thereto deputed by the said wardens, to make search in all workhouses, shops, warehouses of printers, booksellers, bookbinders, or where they shall have reasonable cause of suspicion, and all books [etc.] . . . contrary to . . . these present ordinances to stay and take to her Majesty’s use. . . . ”

Books thus seized were taken to Stationers’ Hall where they were inspected by ecclesiastical officers, who decided whether they should be burnt. These powers were exercised under the Tudor censorship to suppress both Catholic and Puritan dissenting literature.

Each succeeding regime during turbulent Seventeenth Century England used the search and seizure power to suppress publications. James I commissioned the ecclesiastical judges comprising the Court of High Commission

“to enquire and search for . . . all heretical, schismatical and seditious books, libels, and writings, and all other books, pamphlets and portraitures offensive to the state or set forth without sufficient and lawful authority in that behalf, . . . and the same books [etc.] and their printing presses themselves likewise to seize and so to order and dispose of them . . . as they may not after serve or be employed for any such unlawful use. . . .”

The Star Chamber decree of 1637, reenacting the requirement that all books be licensed, continued the broad powers of the Stationers’ Company to enforce the licensing laws. During the political overturn of the 1640′s, Parliament on several occasions asserted the necessity of a broad search and seizure power to control printing. Thus, an order of 1648 gave power to the searchers

“to search in any house or place where there is just cause of suspicion that Presses are kept and employed in the printing of Scandalous and lying Pamphlets, . . . [and] to seize such scandalous and lying pamphlets as they find upon search. . . .”

The Restoration brought a new licensing act in 1662. Under its authority, “messengers of the press” operated under the secretaries of state, who issued executive warrants for the seizure of persons and papers. These warrants, while sometimes specific in content, often gave the most general discretionary authority. For example, a warrant to Roger L’Estrange, the Surveyor of the Press, empowered him to “seize all seditious books and libels and to apprehend the authors, contrivers, printers, publishers, and dispersers of them,” and to

“search any house, shop, printing room, chamber, warehouse, etc. for seditious, scandalous or unlicensed pictures, books, or papers, to bring away or deface the same, and the letter press, taking away all the copies. . . .]”


Although increasingly attacked, the licensing system was continued in effect for a time even after the Revolution of 1688, and executive warrants continued to issue for the search for and seizure of offending books. The Stationers’ Company was also ordered

“to make often and diligent searches in all such places you or any of you shall know or have any probable reason to suspect, and to seize all unlicensed, scandalous books and pamphlets. . . .”

And even when the device of prosecution for seditious libel replaced licensing as the principal governmental control of the press, it too was enforced with the aid of general warrants — authorizing either the arrest of all persons connected with the publication of a particular libel and the search of their premises or the seizure of all the papers of a named person alleged to be connected with the publication of a libel.

And see this.

General warrants were largely declared illegal in Britain in 1765. But the British continued to use general warrants in the American colonies. In fact, the Revolutionary War was largely launched to stop the use of general warrants in the colonies. King George gave various excuses of why general warrants were needed for the public good, of course … but such excuses were all hollow.

The New York Review of Books notes that the American government did not start to conduct mass surveillance against the American people until long after the Revolutionary War ended … but once started, the purpose was to crush dissent:

In the United States, political spying by the federal government began in the early part of the twentieth century, with the creation of the Bureau of Investigation in the Department of Justice on July 1, 1908. In more than one sense, the new agency was a descendant of the surveillance practices developed in France a century earlier, since it was initiated by US Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte, a great nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, who created it during a Congressional recess. Its establishment was denounced by Congressman Walter Smith of Iowa, who argued that “No general system of spying upon and espionage of the people, such as has prevailed in Russia, in France under the Empire, and at one time in Ireland, should be allowed to grow up.”

Nonetheless, the new Bureau became deeply engaged in political surveillance during World War I when federal authorities sought to gather information on those opposing American entry into the war and those opposing the draft. As a result of this surveillance, many hundreds of people were prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act and the 1918 Sedition Act for the peaceful expression of opinion about the war and the draft.

But it was during the Vietnam War that political surveillance in the United States reached its peak. Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and, to an even greater extent, Richard Nixon, there was a systematic effort by various agencies, including the United States Army, to gather information on those involved in anti-war protests. Millions of Americans took part in such protests and the federal government—as well as many state and local agencies—gathered enormous amounts of information on them. Here are just three of the numerous examples of political surveillance in that era:

In the 1960s in Rochester, New York, the local police department launched Operation SAFE (Scout Awareness for Emergency). It involved twenty thousand boy scouts living in the vicinity of Rochester. They got identification cards marked with their thumb prints. On the cards were the telephone numbers of the local police and the FBI. The scouts participating in the program were given a list of suspicious activities that they were to report.

In 1969, the FBI learned that one of the sponsors of an anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC, was a New York City-based organization, the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee, that chartered buses to take protesters to the event. The FBI visited the bank where the organization maintained its account to get photocopies of the checks written to reserve places on the buses and, thereby, to identify participants in the demonstration. One of the other federal agencies given the information by the FBI was the Internal Revenue Service.


The National Security Agency was involved in the domestic political surveillance of that era as well. Decades before the Internet, under the direction of President Nixon, the NSA made arrangements with the major communications firms of the time such as RCA Global and Western Union to obtain copies of telegrams. When the matter came before the courts, the Nixon Administration argued that the president had inherent authority to protect the country against subversion. In a unanimous decision in 1972, however, the US Supreme Court rejected the claim that the president had the authority to disregard the requirement of the Fourth Amendment for a judicial warrant.


Much of the political surveillance of the 1960s and the 1970s and of the period going back to World War I consisted in efforts to identify organizations that were critical of government policies, or that were proponents of various causes the government didn’t like, and to gather information on their adherents. It was not always clear how this information was used. As best it is possible to establish, the main use was to block some of those who were identified with certain causes from obtaining public employment or some kinds of private employment. Those who were victimized in this way rarely discovered the reason they had been excluded.

Efforts to protect civil liberties during that era eventually led to the destruction of many of these records, sometimes after those whose activities were monitored were given an opportunity to examine them. In many cases, this prevented surveillance records from being used to harm those who were spied on. Yet great vigilance by organizations such as the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought a large number of court cases challenging political surveillance, was required to safeguard rights. The collection of data concerning the activities of US citizens did not take place for benign purposes.


Between 1956 and 1971, the FBI operated a program known as COINTELPRO, for Counter Intelligence Program. Its purpose was to interfere with the activities of the organizations and individuals who were its targets or, in the words of long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” them. The first target was the Communist Party of the United States, but subsequent targets ranged from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference to organizations espousing women’s rights to right wing organizations such as the National States Rights Party.

A well-known example of COINTELPRO was the FBI’s planting in 1964 of false documents about William Albertson, a long-time Communist Party official, that persuaded the Communist Party that Albertson was an FBI informant. Amid major publicity, Albertson was expelled from the party, lost all his friends, and was fired from his job. Until his death in an automobile accident in 1972, he tried to prove that he was not a snitch, but the case was not resolved until 1989, when the FBI agreed to pay Albertson’s widow $170,000 to settle her lawsuit against the government.

COINTELPRO was eventually halted by J. Edgar Hoover after activists broke into a small FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in 1971, and released stolen documents about the program to the press. The lesson of COINTELPRO is that any government agency that is able to gather information through political surveillance will be tempted to use that information. After a time, the passive accumulation of data may seem insufficient and it may be used aggressively. This may take place long after the information is initially collected and may involve officials who had nothing to do with the original decision to engage in surveillance.

Indeed, during the Vietnam war, the NSA spied on Senator Frank Church because of his criticism of the Vietnam War. The NSA also spied on Senator Howard Baker.

Senator Church – the head of a congressional committee investigating Cointelpro – warned in 1975:

[NSA's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.

This is, in fact, what’s happened …

Initially, American constitutional law experts say that the NSA is doing exactly the same thing to the American people today which King George did to the Colonists … using “general warrant” type spying.

And it is clear that the government is using its massive spy programs in order to track those who question government policies. See this, this, this and this.

Todd Gitlin – chair of the PhD program in communications at Columbia University, and a professor of journalism and sociology - notes:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) has unearthed documents showing that, in 2011 and 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies were busy surveilling and worrying about a good number of Occupy groups — during the very time that they were missing actual warnings about actual terrorist actions.

From its beginnings, the Occupy movement was of considerable interest to the DHS, the FBI, and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, while true terrorists were slipping past the nets they cast in the wrong places. In the fall of 2011, the DHS specifically asked its regional affiliates to report on “Peaceful Activist Demonstrations, in addition to reporting on domestic terrorist acts and ‘significant criminal activity.’”

Aware that Occupy was overwhelmingly peaceful, the federally funded Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), one of 77 coordination centers known generically as “fusion centers,” was busy monitoring Occupy Boston daily. As the investigative journalist Michael Isikoff recently reported, they were not only tracking Occupy-related Facebook pages and websites but “writing reports on the movement’s potential impact on ‘commercial and financial sector assets.’”

It was in this period that the FBI received the second of two Russian police warnings about the extremist Islamist activities of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the future Boston Marathon bomber. That city’s police commissioner later testified that the federal authorities did not pass any information at all about the Tsarnaev brothers on to him, though there’s no point in letting the Boston police off the hook either. The ACLU has uncovered documents showing that, during the same period, they were paying close attention to the internal workings of…Code Pink and Veterans for Peace.


In Alaska, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, intelligence was not only pooled among public law enforcement agencies, but shared with private corporations — and vice versa.

Nationally, in 2011, the FBI and DHS were, in the words of Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, “treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.” Last December using FOIA, PCJF obtained 112 pages of documents (heavily redacted) revealing a good deal of evidence for what might otherwise seem like an outlandish charge: that federal authorities were, in Verheyden-Hilliard’s words, “functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.” Consider these examples from PCJF’s summary of federal agencies working directly not only with local authorities but on behalf of the private sector:

• “As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.”

• “The FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to… [22] campus police officials… A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors.”

• An entity called the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector,” sent around information regarding Occupy protests at West Coast ports [on Nov. 2, 2011] to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report contained “a ‘handling notice’ that the information is ‘meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…’ Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) reported to DSAC on the relationship between OWS and organized labor.”

• DSAC gave tips to its corporate clients on “civil unrest,” which it defined as running the gamut from “small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting.” ***

• The FBI in Anchorage, Jacksonville, Tampa, Richmond, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Birmingham also gathered information and briefed local officials on wholly peaceful Occupy activities.

• In Jackson, Mississippi, FBI agents “attended a meeting with the Bank Security Group in Biloxi, MS with multiple private banks and the Biloxi Police Department, in which they discussed an announced protest for ‘National Bad Bank Sit-In-Day’ on December 7, 2011.” Also in Jackson, “the Joint Terrorism Task Force issued a ‘Counterterrorism Preparedness’ alert” that, despite heavy redactions, notes the need to ‘document…the Occupy Wall Street Movement.’”


In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee learned … that the Tennessee Fusion Center was “highlighting on its website map of ‘Terrorism Events and Other Suspicious Activity’ a recent ACLU-TN letter to school superintendents. The letter encourages schools to be supportive of all religious beliefs during the holiday season.”


Consider an “intelligence report” from the North Central Texas fusion center, which in a 2009 “Prevention Awareness Bulletin” described, in the ACLU’s words, “a purported conspiracy between Muslim civil rights organizations, lobbying groups, the anti-war movement, a former U.S. Congresswoman, the U.S. Treasury Department, and hip hop bands to spread tolerance in the United States, which would ‘provide an environment for terrorist organizations to flourish.’”


And those Virginia and Texas fusion centers were hardly alone in expanding the definition of “terrorist” to fit just about anyone who might oppose government policies. According to a 2010 report in the Los Angeles Times, the Justice Department Inspector General found that “FBI agents improperly opened investigations into Greenpeace and several other domestic advocacy groups after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and put the names of some of their members on terrorist watch lists based on evidence that turned out to be ‘factually weak.’” The Inspector General called “troubling” what the Los Angeles Times described as “singling out some of the domestic groups for investigations that lasted up to five years, and were extended ‘without adequate basis.’

Subsequently, the FBI continued to maintain investigative files on groups like Greenpeace, the Catholic Worker, and the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, cases where (in the politely put words of the Inspector General’s report) “there was little indication of any possible federal crimes… In some cases, the FBI classified some investigations relating to nonviolent civil disobedience under its ‘acts of terrorism’ classification.”


In Pittsburgh, on the day after Thanksgiving 2002 (“a slow work day” in the Justice Department Inspector General’s estimation), a rookie FBI agent was outfitted with a camera, sent to an antiwar rally, and told to look for terrorism suspects. The “possibility that any useful information would result from this make-work assignment was remote,” the report added drily.

“The agent was unable to identify any terrorism subjects at the event, but he photographed a woman in order to have something to show his supervisor. He told us he had spoken to a woman leafletter at the rally who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, and that she was probably the person he photographed.”

The sequel was not quite so droll. The Inspector General found that FBI officials, including their chief lawyer in Pittsburgh, manufactured postdated “routing slips” and the rest of a phony paper trail to justify this surveillance retroactively.

Moreover, at least one fusion center has involved military intelligence in civilian law enforcement. In 2009, a military operative from Fort Lewis, Washington, worked undercover collecting information on peace groups in the Northwest. In fact, he helped run the Port Militarization Resistance group’s Listserv. Once uncovered, he told activists there were others doing similar work in the Army. How much the military spies on American citizens is unknown and, at the moment at least, unknowable.

Do we hear an echo from the abyss of the counterintelligence programs of the 1960s and 1970s, when FBI memos — I have some in my own heavily redacted files obtained through an FOIA request — were routinely copied to military intelligence units? Then, too, military intelligence operatives spied on activists who violated no laws, were not suspected of violating laws, and had they violated laws, would not have been under military jurisdiction in any case. During those years, more than 1,500 Army intelligence agents in plain clothes were spying, undercover, on domestic political groups (according to Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, 1967-70, an unpublished dissertation by former Army intelligence captain Christopher H. Pyle). They posed as students, sometimes growing long hair and beards for the purpose, or as reporters and camera crews. They recorded speeches and conversations on concealed tape recorders. The Army lied about their purposes, claiming they were interested solely in “civil disturbance planning.”

Yes, we hear echoes to the Cointelpro program of the 60s and 70s … as well as King George’s General Warrants to the Colonies … and the Star Chamber of 15th century England.

Because – whatever governments may say – mass surveillance is always used to crush dissent.

See Vimeo - They Are Watching You - US Police State -
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
23 Feb 2014
Click on image for a larger version

How the FBI Plants Evidence on Leftists Targets

For me, some of the most interesting stories involving the FBI in this period come from their attempts at disinformation or counter-intelligence. One example of this is the infamous story of William Albertson. William Albertson joined the Communist Party while he was still at the University of Pittsburgh in 1929. He was a dedicated member of the party both in Pennsylvania and later in New York City where he moved after being expelled from college for organizing rallies. Over the years he worked his way up to being one of the highest raking members of the party and serving as the secretary of the Communist Party for the state of New York. That is, until July of 1964.

In the early days of that July William Albertson had agreed to loan his car to a friend and fellow communist. The FBI saw this as an incredible opportunity to employ a tactic called the “Snitch Jacket.”[1]This tactic involved planting false documents on a person or a person’s possessions that would make it appear as if they had been funneling information to the authorities. Needless to say, the documents were found and Albertson was ousted from the Communist Party and exiled from the community he had been linked to for almost 40 years. The New York Times reported that, “The date of the expulsion was not given nor was the police agency that Mr. Albertson allegedly served identified. Party officials declined to make any comment and Mr. Albertson could not be reached.”[2] Albertson died sometime later in a car accident. He had never stopped trying to assert his innocence to the party but his attempts were futile.

It would not be until over a decade later that the world would know the truth about the Albertson case. The circumstances surrounding the discovery were recorded in a New York Times article from 1976. It says, “The truth came out by ironic mischance. Last year a journalist asked the F.B.I. for documents about its past efforts to disrupt white hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. When the papers were released, one was on another subject. It was a report to bureau officials dated Jan. 6, 1965, that said a high functionary of the Communist Party had been expelled “through our counter-intelligence efforts.”[3]

Many more contemporary writers and historians have looked at the interesting case of William Albertson as a sort of litmus paper for how effective the FBI had become at intimidating the party by reputation alone. David Garrow writes, “Widespread suspicion of informant penetration provided fertile ground for accusations of betrayal whenever movement tensions led to angry, personal recriminations. The CP’s knee-jerk acceptance of William Albertson’s snitch-jacketing is the worst but by no means the only example of how ready thousands of activists within a wide-ranging assortment of FBI target groups—the CP, the Black Panthers, SCLC, and the Ku Klux Klan—were to uncover real or imagined informants within their ranks.”[4] The Albertson case is a great demonstration of how effective the FBI had become in infiltrating not only the organizations of leftists, but also their imaginations. You can read more about this in my post on this topic.

[1] Curt Gentry, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2001. Pp. 444.

[2] Murray Illson, “High-Ranking Communist Here Ousted by Party as ‘Police Agent,’” New York Times. July 8, 1964.

[3] Anthony Lewis, “A Cointel Story.” New York Times. May 29, 1976.

[4] David Garrow, “FBI Political Harassment and FBI Historiography: Analyzing Informants and Measuring the Effects.” The Public Historian. Vol. 10, No. 4. (Autumn, 1988.)
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
23 Feb 2014
Were there any “Side Effects” of Being Watched By the FBI? ( )

“This sense that the FBI was omnipresent was its own kind of power.”-Tim Weiner. Enemies, 77

There are obvious benefits and outcomes that emerged from FBI surveillance. One was information. The first and foremost reason for surveillance was intelligence gathering. However, there is something else that interested me about the omnipresence of these FBI listening devices and informants. Were there any “Side Effects”? Were there any unforeseen benefits or detriments for the FBI? One of the most intriguing ones to me is the idea that knowing you are being watched alters behavior. How can we better understand this effect? What writings can we turn to?

David J. Garrow is one of the more prolific writers on the topic of FBI investigations and techniques during the 1950s and 60s. In a 1988 article, Garrow touches on the subject. He writes:

“With regard to informant’s presence, much more tough-minded consideration must be given to whether passive presence has had tangible effects, to how significant a number of instances of informant activism or agent provocateur behavior actually occurred, and to whether activists’ expectations of informers’ presence may really have been the most significant internal effect of all. Widespread suspicion of informant penetration provided fertile ground for accusations of betrayal whenever movement tensions led to angry, personal recriminations.”[1]

The figure that I find it most beneficial to turn to for these answers is French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault. Based on the ideas of British philosopher and social thinker Jeremy Benthem, Foucault dedicated an entire chapter of his book Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, to the idea of the Panopticon, the round prison. The prison is a giant circle in which all of the cells face inward toward a giant tower. The tower’s windows are slated so even though the prisoners know they are being watched, they cannot see their surveyors. Foucault writes, “Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” [2]

We see this principle unintentionally used by the FBI time and time again. The entire culture of the era was steeped in the understanding that FBI agents, informants, or wiretaps were out there and therefore, one must alter one’s behavior. Movies or popular stories such as 1951’s film I Was A Communist for the FBI, also helped to propagate this fear of FBI infiltration.

The paranoia was effective. One particularly interesting incident involved the American Communist newspaper The Daily Worker. On January 12, 1953, The Daily Worker accused the FBI of harassing its journalists and beseeched the attorney general to take action. The interesting fact however is that the FBI had not harassed any Worker writers. In fact, besides monitoring the publication with daily clippings, little surveillance had been conducted on the daily publication. In a memorandum from the Washington office to the New York office the author writes, “The (Communist) Part has evidently become so jittery that they decided to try to apply pressure on the Attorney General by accusing the Bureau of intimidation and the use of threats both of which are false. It is believed that we should ignore this attempt…in fact this should give impetus to the program as the Party is undoubtedly very much concerned over our successful penetration.” [3] Here we see the Panopticon in action, the fear of being watched overtaking the reality of the situation.

In fact, the prison as Foucault envisioned it, has one more comparison to Hoover’s objectives in the Second Red Scare. Foucault writes that within the construct of the surveillance tower, even the surveyors may be watched and monitored by their superiors. He writes, “In this central tower, the director may spy on all the employees that he has under his orders…he will be able to judge them continuously, alter their behavior, impose upon them the methods he thinks best.”[4]Again, the theory has analogous roots in the FBI structure. FBI special agent William Sullivan joined the bureau in 1941 and eventually rose in the ranks to third in command of the entire organization. In his memoir The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI, Sullivan remarks that from the first day of training on, the threat of internal spies turning agents in for being overly critical of policy or for indecent behavior is perpetual.[5]

The knowledge of FBI presence for both citizens and lesser agents may have contributed to a considerable behavioral change, although substantiating that may be a very difficult task for historians. Either way, the idea of the Panopitcon should remain a very real and effective comparison to make when analyzing surveillance theory and the FBI during this era.

[1] David J. Garrow. “FBI Political Harassment and FBI Historiography: Analyzing Informants and Measuring Effects.” The Public Historian, Vol. 10, No. 4. (Autumn, 1988. Pp. 17.

[2] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books, 1977. Pp. 201.

[3] Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The Daily Worker Internal Security” Mr. A.H. Belmont to Mr. J.E Dunn. (January 11, 1953). (accessed April 9, 2012)

[4] Foucault, 204.

[5] William C. Sullivan. The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI. New York: Norton, 1979. Pp. 19.
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
25 Feb 2014
Modified: 08:30:19 AM
Workers Vanguard No. 1040 - 21 February 2014
COINTELPRO and the New York Times ( )

1971 Break-In Turned Over FBI’s Rocks

If a Pulitzer Prize were awarded for euphemizing government terror and repression, the smart money would surely be on the New York Times. A recent case in point is its article “Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows” (7 January), written in anticipation of the release of The Burglary by Betty Medsger, a book that reveals the identities and motivations of those who carried out a 1971 break-in of a small Pennsylvania FBI office. The subsequent exposure of the secret documents they seized ultimately led to the disclosure of the agency’s COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program).

The Times renders anodyne the FBI’s deadly program of surveillance, disruption, burglary, provocation, frame-up and outright murder, including the killing of 38 members of the Black Panther Party. The Times writes that “since 1956, the F.B.I. had carried out an expansive campaign to spy on civil rights leaders, political organizers and suspected Communists, and had tried to sow distrust among protest groups.” For the bourgeoisie’s newspaper of record, the crime of crimes was “a blackmail letter F.B.I. agents had sent anonymously to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not commit suicide.” While such government intrusion into people’s private lives is both repellent and a measure of the capitalist state’s contempt for anyone advocating black rights, the full story of COINTELPRO is immensely more deadly.

Just as with the belated liberal opposition to the McCarthyite anti-Communist witchhunt of the 1950s, the Times’ problem is that the “wrong” people were put on the rack along with “legitimate” targets. COINTELPRO was launched in 1956 against the Communist Party; it was later extended to the Socialist Workers Party, Puerto Rican nationalists, anyone fighting for black rights, the American Indian Movement and protesters against the U.S. counterrevolutionary war in Vietnam. In a feat of journalistic gymnastics, the Times manages to write about COINTELPRO without a mention of the Feds’ foremost victim—the Black Panther Party (BPP). FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declared the Panthers to be the “greatest threat to the internal security of the U.S.” and vowed in 1968 that “the Negro youth and moderate[s] must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teachings, they will be dead revolutionaries.”

This was no idle threat. The BPP, which represented the best of a generation of black radicals, was destroyed through a combination of FBI/cop terror and its own vicious factionalism exacerbated by COINTELPRO dirty tricks. For the New York Times, those Panthers killed as a direct result of COINTELPRO do not exist. Not “Little” Bobby Hutton, the Panthers’ first recruit, who was gunned down by Oakland cops in 1968. Not L.A. Panther leaders “Bunchy” Carter and John Huggins, who were shot dead by members of the cultural nationalist United Slaves organization of Ron Karenga, inflamed by letters forged by the FBI threatening Karenga in the name of the BPP. Not Chicago Panther leaders Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, assassinated in a December 1969 police raid based on floor plans of Hampton’s apartment supplied by an FBI informant. Not Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), who survived a nearly identical assassination attempt four days later only to spend 27 years in prison on bogus murder charges—the FBI concealed wiretap logs showing he was 400 miles away at the time of the killing—before his release in 1997.

For the Times, all this is just a little blood under the bridge. But we remember COINTELPRO’s victims, some of whom are still behind prison walls today, among them American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier and Panther supporters Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter. We remember Herman Wallace, who died in 2013 after spending 41 years in solitary confinement on bogus charges in Angola Penitentiary; his Panther comrade Albert Woodfox remains incarcerated.


Betty Medsger, a reporter for the Washington Post at the time of the FBI burglary, was among a handful sent the documents and was the first to publish them. These included a 1970 memorandum calling on agents to step up interviews of antiwar activists and other dissidents in order to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and...further serve to get the point across there is an F.B.I. agent behind every mailbox.” Another was an order by Hoover that all black campus organizations be monitored. Hoover declared that “increased campus disorders involving black students pose a definite threat to the Nation’s stability and security,” necessitating more and better intelligence “on Black student Unions and similar groups which are targeted for influence and control by violence-prone Black Panther Party and other extremists.”

Hoover’s directive reflected the bourgeoisie’s fear that the failure of the liberal-led civil rights movement to satisfy black aspirations for equality was driving activists into what in FBI parlance were “black extremist groups.” Malcolm X, the left-moving Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and even black comedian Dick Gregory were all caught in the COINTELPRO web.

What would prove to be the most significant disclosure emerging from the burglary of the unguarded FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, was a memorandum bearing a routing slip with the esoteric designation “COINTELPRO.” Although it mustered some attention, nobody knew what it meant at the time, nor would they until December 1973, when NBC reporter Carl Stern obtained a few heavily edited FBI documents through a Freedom Of Information Act order. In early 1975, Senate hearings convened by Idaho Democratic Senator Frank Church provided a broader, but still expurgated, picture of FBI, CIA and U.S. military spying, terror and provocations.

The courageous act of the eight men and women who risked jail to unearth documentation of FBI crimes was a real service to the working class, the oppressed and all who would protest the barbarity of capitalist imperialism. Two of the activists had previously put their lives on the line in the service of their liberal convictions as volunteers registering black people to vote during Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. Nonetheless, while the Vietnam War was radicalizing a generation of youth, the burglary’s mastermind, William Davidon, and his colleagues were squarely in the pacifist, “peace is patriotic” right wing of the antiwar movement.

Medsger notes that Davidon’s motivation was “to prove or disprove the persistent rumor that the government was spying on Americans for reasons unrelated to suspicion of crime.” Prove to whom? FBI planting of informants and provocateurs in left, civil rights and antiwar groups was no secret to the activists in those movements. As expressed in the name they adopted, “Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the F.B.I.,” the burglars’ political outlook was the belief that protest and exposure could influence those in power to rein in the supposed excesses of the government’s political police.

Medsger’s well-researched and enjoyable book purveys the view that Hoover’s FBI was a rogue agency. As Marxist revolutionists, we understand that the capitalist state exists to defend through organized violence the class rule and profits of the ruling class. This requires an apparatus of repression, of which the FBI is part. A commonplace among liberals is that Hoover’s superiors in the White House and Justice Department were kept in the dark. But as Attorneys General, Robert F. Kennedy authorized wiretaps on Martin Luther King, while in 1967 Ramsey Clark issued directions to expand COINTELPRO operations against “Black Nationalist Organizations,” specifically targeting the Congress of Racial Equality, SNCC and other groups.

The NSA, CIA and military intelligence were also spying on leftists and black activists, and many big-city police departments had their own Red Squads, working with the FBI and carrying out their own COINTELPRO-like operations. The hundreds of pages of FBI files on class-war prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal record information provided by the Philadelphia police Intelligence Division. Mumia, a Black Panther spokesman in his youth and later a supporter of the MOVE commune, has been in prison for 32 years, an innocent man framed up on murder charges. For 30 of those years, he was on death row.

Congressional Oversight: The Fox and the Chicken Coop

Medsger’s prescription is oversight by Congress, with the 1975-76 Church Committee hearings as a model. Those hearings were called in response to the growing uproar following the 1972 burglary of Democratic Party national headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., by operatives of the Nixon administration. The Watergate conspirators incurred the wrath of powerful forces by spying on the respectable bourgeois politicians of the Democratic Party. This was a violation of the accepted rules of the game—rules that have always permitted vicious persecution of leftists, labor leaders and black militants.

The Church Committee’s “reforms” were part of restoring public confidence in the government and its democratic facade after the damage inflicted by the U.S. imperialists’ stunning military defeat in Vietnam and by the Watergate revelations. But they were also intended to rationalize an apparatus of repression that had become unwieldy and evidently unable to tell the difference between Ho Chi Minh and what one might call the real antiwar housewives of Beverly Hills. In 1976, Attorney General Edward Levi implemented FBI guidelines that honed the agency’s targets to a more manageable number of victims.

Also emerging from the hearings was the establishment of the Senate and House Committees on Intelligence, whose “oversight” has consisted of rubber-stamping virtually every intelligence program. Ostensibly to curb NSA/CIA spying, Congress passed the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), setting up a special secret court to vet requests for wiretaps in the name of “national security.” Not only has the court authorized all but 11 out of 34,000 surveillance requests, it has given blanket endorsement of the Bush/Obama NSA program monitoring all phone and Internet communications.

Medsger and the burglars share the view that the FBI should be investigating organized crime and corruption rather than suppressing dissent. As Medsger puts it, “Hoover had distorted the mission of one of the most powerful and most venerated institutions in the country.” As we wrote shortly after the Church hearings, “It is their class allegiance which blinds the liberals to the simple fact that these agencies’ central purpose is to do the dirty work considered inappropriate to the ‘normal’ administrative mechanisms of bourgeois democracy” (“What Is the ADEX File?” WV No. 151, 1 April 1977). Hoover’s FBI was doing precisely what it was formed to do.

The U.S. entry into World War I, the first interimperialist world war, gave impetus to the creation of a far-flung domestic espionage apparatus. But the deadly apparatus employed by this country’s political police—with its vast army of spies and informers, wiretaps and mail interceptions—really took shape in the aftermath of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. At its center was the newly formed Bureau of Investigation and its General Intelligence Division (GID) headed by Hoover. Within months, the GID had compiled a list of 55,000 names. Initially aimed at antiwar dissidents, left-wing Socialists and members of the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World, the political police went on to pursue the fledgling Communist movement, targeting black militants as well.

In 1935, amid a new wave of working-class radicalization, the investigative bureau was recast by liberal icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the FBI. Beginning in the mid ’30s, Roosevelt quietly encouraged Hoover to conduct surveillance of domestic fascists and communists. In 1939, with the outbreak of World War II in Europe, the president expanded the FBI’s jurisdiction to include all cases of suspected domestic sabotage, espionage and subversion. When the Supreme Court outlawed wiretapping, Roosevelt ordered Hoover to keep at it.

The courageous act by the 1971 FBI burglars naturally invites comparison to the actions by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden that, at great personal sacrifice, exposed to public scrutiny some of the international and domestic crimes of the U.S. imperialists and their government. What is obvious, however, is that none of the exposures or reforms stemming from the era of the break-in have impeded the U.S. government from wielding a police and spy apparatus that today dwarfs anything J. Edgar Hoover could have imagined. Our aim as Marxists is to build a revolutionary workers party—a tribune of the people—dedicated to leading the working class in sweeping away capitalist class rule and replacing it with a workers government. Then and only then will the enormous cache of the government’s secrets and the extent of the capitalist rulers’ terror at home and abroad be made plain for all the world to see.
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
25 Feb 2014
How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title “discredit a target”:
Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world,” including “information ops (influence or disruption).”

Critically, the “targets” for this deceit and reputation-destruction extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services. In fact, the discussion of many of these techniques occurs in the context of using them in lieu of “traditional law enforcement” against people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, “hacktivism”, meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardian in the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell,” devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”:

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack,” while dissecting how human beings can be manipulated using “leaders,” “trust,” “obedience” and “compliance”:

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it:

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

These agencies’ refusal to “comment on intelligence matters” – meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do – is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
26 Feb 2014
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To appreciate in full the deeply reactionary import of the ruling that David Miranda was detained lawfully at Heathrow airport last August, one need only cite some of the arguments marshalled by the High Court in London.

The formulations employed by Lord Justice Laws, Mr. Justice Ouseley and Mr. Justice Openshaw in their judgement last Wednesday go far beyond this one incident—itself an unprecedented assault on journalistic freedom. They point to the outlawing of any notion of a “free press.” On the spurious grounds of “anti-terrorism” and “national security”, no one is safe from the reach of a British state determined to cover up its crimes and legitimise those yet to come.

Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, a former Guardian journalist and close associate of National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden. He had been in Berlin with filmmaker Laura Poitras, who collaborated with Greenwald on his disclosures of mass spying by the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). He was en route to Brazil when he was detained by the Metropolitan Police for nine hours and his laptop, phone and encrypted storage devices were seized under the Terrorism Act 2000.

This legislation was enacted by the Labour government of Tony Blair. It permits police to detain any individual at UK borders and confiscate their possessions, even if there is no suspicion of criminal activity. Miranda’s detention marks the first time the Act’s provisions have been used to seize journalistic material.

Miranda challenged this as unlawful on the grounds that the Act was used improperly and the actions of the police constituted disproportionate interference with his right to freedom of expression, as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The High Court acknowledged his arrest “constituted an indirect interference with press freedom,” but ruled that this was warranted by “very pressing” interests of national security.

The subordination of fundamental democratic rights to an omnipotent state runs as a constant thread through the ruling.

Greenwald had submitted that “not to publish material simply because a government official has said such publication may be damaging to national security is antithetical to the most important traditions of responsible journalism.”

Lord Laws dismissed this as “true but trivial.” Journalists have no “constitutional responsibility” as regards matters of national security, he ruled, and could not know the whole “jigsaw” of intelligence information. They are therefore unable to judge whether disclosure of certain information could endanger “life or security.”

Making clear that only the state could make such a judgement, the High Court deferred to the submissions of British cabinet minister Oliver Robbins, deputy national security adviser, and the police.

As regards improper use of the Terrorism Act, the court stated that Miranda was “not a journalist” and that “the stolen GCHQ intelligence material he was carrying was not ‘journalistic material’, or if it was, only in the weakest sense.”

This was only one of numerous references to “stolen” material, which in the Orwellian world of modern-day Britain refers not to the material illegally gathered and hoarded by the NSA/GCHQ, but to Snowden’s exposure of such activities.

Laws stated as regards press freedoms and national security that in “this case, the balance is plainly in favour of the latter.”

In addition, the High Court ruled that it was not necessary for the police to suspect someone as a terrorist to detain and confiscate his possessions, only to decide that he “appears to be”. According to Justice Ouseley, under the Terrorism Act a police officer can act, for example, on “no more than hunch or intuition.”

Laws accepted that the real purpose of Miranda’s detention was to “ascertain the nature” of the material he was carrying and “to neutralise the effects of its release (or further release) or dissemination”, and that this “fell properly” under the 2000 Act.

No “hunch” was involved in the decision to detain Miranda. The High Court heard evidence that the security services had been monitoring both Miranda and Greenwald before the arrest and had sent three requests to border police over several days to ensure Miranda was detained. The final request stated chillingly that the planned disclosure of the material Miranda was thought to be carrying “ is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism…”

The High Court ruling effectively criminalises not only investigative journalism and whistle-blowing, but also anyone who receives such information—in this case the Guardian newspaper. It means that security services responsible for falsifying “intelligence” to justify a pre-emptive war on Iraq, involved in extraordinary rendition and torture, and caught carrying out mass illegal surveillance can brand someone about to expose their criminal actions as a “terrorist,” to be held by police and have their possessions seized.

There are no exceptions and the police do not have to justify their actions. All it requires is the say-so of a government minister and the security services. There is no defence of holding journalistic material or freedom of expression.

Lord Laws dismissed the need to place “any reliance on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights,” declaring that English common law was sufficient. It should be noted that it was also Lord Laws who ruled in 2004 that there was no “principle [that] prohibits the Secretary of State from relying” on evidence obtained by torture overseas.

It is for good reason that Greenwald drew the comparison between the UK’s assertion that the release of the Snowden documents is tantamount to “terrorism” and the way the same argument is “now being used by the Egyptian military regime to prosecute Al Jazeera journalists as terrorists.”

In Britain, as in Egypt, the bourgeoisie recognises that its economic order, based on pervasive and growing social inequality, is unviable and faces massive popular opposition. Just the day before the High Court ruling on Miranda, students at the University of Glasgow in Scotland voted to elect Snowden as rector of the University.

The High Court arguments make plain that Miranda’s detention was not a “misuse” of the Terrorism Act. Rather, the Terrorism Act was conceived as an instrument of state intimidation, with the purpose of waging war on democratic rights and repressing political opposition.

The historical implications are far-reaching. The Gestapo had such powers. Under the guise of the “war on terror”, Britain’s ruling elite have established their own political police force, equivalent to that of Nazi Germany.
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Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
27 Feb 2014
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US Supreme Court backs police on warrantless searches ( )

In a 6-3 decision issued Tuesday, the US Supreme Court further narrowed the application of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits police searches without a judicial warrant.

The decision in Fernandez v. California significantly curtailed the effect of an earlier ruling, in the 2007 case of Georgia v. Randolph, where the court barred the use of evidence recovered by police who searched an apartment after one of the two residents objected, while the other gave permission.

In the California case, Walter Fernandez vociferously objected to the police entering the apartment he shared with Roxanne Rojas, standing in the doorway and declaring, “You don’t have any right to come in here. I know my rights.”

The police then arrested him on suspicion of domestic violence against Rojas, took him away, and came back an hour later. After 20 minutes of bullying, including a suggestion that her children could be taken away if she continued to resist, Rojas agreed orally and in writing to a search. This produced evidence that was used to convict Fernandez of several gang-related crimes and send him to prison for 14 years.

The majority decision upholding the police search is a mass of contradictions papered over with cynical doubletalk, of the kind that gives rise to the phrase “lawyers’ arguments.”

The two most reactionary justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented in Georgia v. Randolph and wanted to overturn it outright, giving the police the right to enter a home without a warrant in the face of a resident’s objection, so long as at least one other resident consented.

They nonetheless signed off on the Fernandez decision, which upholds Randolph, since it further narrows the constitutional restriction on police powers to search without a warrant, the goal they sought to accomplish.

The other four justices in the Fernandez majority included conservatives Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, as well as Stephen Breyer, one of the four moderate liberals.

Alito’s opinion acknowledged a “dictum” in the Randolph case, which noted that while a resident must be physically present to assert his objection to a police search, a search might still be barred if “there is evidence that the police have removed the potentially objecting tenant from the entrance for the sake of avoiding a possible objection.”

While this clearly applied to the California case—police arrested Fernandez after he objected to the search, took him to the station, then immediately returned to his apartment and browbeat his partner into permitting the search—the majority opinion held that as long as the arrest itself was legal, the police motivation was irrelevant.

“We first consider the argument that the presence of the objecting occupant is not necessary when the police are responsible for his absence,” the majority opinion declares, concluding, “We do not believe the statement should be read to suggest that improper motive may invalidate objectively justified removal.”

The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, argued that such reasoning gives a license to police to manipulate those targeted for an illegal search. “Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement,” she wrote, “today’s decision tells the police they may dodge it, never mind ample time to secure the approval of a neutral magistrate.”

Having arrested Fernandez, there was no urgency to dispense with the usual procedure of obtaining a judicial warrant, she noted, since “with the objector in custody, there was scant danger to persons on the premises, or risk that evidence might be destroyed or concealed, pending request for, and receipt of, a warrant.”

The dissent pointed to the far-reaching constitutional implications of the ruling, and the threat to democratic rights, citing the famous statement of Justice Robert Jackson—who also served as chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals—that the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a judicial warrant for a police search is one of the “fundamental distinctions between our form of government, where officers are under the law, and the police-state where they are the law.”

Remarkably, the court majority never acknowledges the constitutional presumption that a warrantless police search should be an exception, permitted only under special circumstances. Instead, the majority opinion treats the requirement of a warrant as an undesirable imposition that “may interfere with law enforcement strategies.”

“The warrant procedure imposes burdens on the officers who wish to search, the magistrate who must review the warrant application, and the party willing to give consent,” their opinion claims.

See Youtube - The Clash - Know Your Rights
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Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
28 Feb 2014
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Spencer Ackerman and James Ball
The Guardian, Thursday 27 February 2014 (

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy".

GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans' images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.

The documents also chronicle GCHQ's sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff, though there is little discussion about the privacy implications of storing this material in the first place.
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Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year.

The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell's 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ's existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.

Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ's servers. The documents describe these users as "unselected" – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

One document even likened the program's "bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events" to a massive digital police mugbook of previously arrested individuals.

"Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for 'mugshots' or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face," it reads. "The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright."

The agency did make efforts to limit analysts' ability to see webcam images, restricting bulk searches to metadata only.

However, analysts were shown the faces of people with similar usernames to surveillance targets, potentially dragging in large numbers of innocent people. One document tells agency staff they were allowed to display "webcam images associated with similar Yahoo identifiers to your known target".

Optic Nerve was based on collecting information from GCHQ's huge network of internet cable taps, which was then processed and fed into systems provided by the NSA. Webcam information was fed into NSA's XKeyscore search tool, and NSA research was used to build the tool which identified Yahoo's webcam traffic.

Bulk surveillance on Yahoo users was begun, the documents said, because "Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets".
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Programs like Optic Nerve, which collect information in bulk from largely anonymous user IDs, are unable to filter out information from UK or US citizens. Unlike the NSA, GCHQ is not required by UK law to "minimize", or remove, domestic citizens' information from its databases. However, additional legal authorisations are required before analysts can search for the data of individuals likely to be in the British Isles at the time of the search.

There are no such legal safeguards for searches on people believed to be in the US or the other allied "Five Eyes" nations – Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

GCHQ insists all of its activities are necessary, proportionate, and in accordance with UK law.

The documents also show that GCHQ trialled automatic searches based on facial recognition technology, for people resembling existing GCHQ targets: "[I]f you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target's ID".

The undated document, from GCHQ's internal wiki information site, noted this capability was "now closed … but shortly to return!"

The privacy risks of mass collection from video sources have long been known to the NSA and GCHQ, as a research document from the mid-2000s noted: "One of the greatest hindrances to exploiting video data is the fact that the vast majority of videos received have no intelligence value whatsoever, such as pornography, commercials, movie clips and family home movies."

Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: "Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography."

The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains "undesirable nudity". Discussing efforts to make the interface "safer to use", it noted that current "naïve" pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people's faces as pornography.
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GCHQ did not make any specific attempts to prevent the collection or storage of explicit images, the documents suggest, but did eventually compromise by excluding images in which software had not detected any faces from search results – a bid to prevent many of the lewd shots being seen by analysts.

The system was not perfect at stopping those images reaching the eyes of GCHQ staff, though. An internal guide cautioned prospective Optic Nerve users that "there is no perfect ability to censor material which may be offensive. Users who may feel uncomfortable about such material are advised not to open them".

It further notes that "under GCHQ's offensive material policy, the dissemination of offensive material is a disciplinary offence".
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Once collected, the metadata associated with the videos can be as valuable to the intelligence agencies as the images themselves.

It is not fully clear from the documents how much access the NSA has to the Yahoo webcam trove itself, though all of the policy documents were available to NSA analysts through their routine information-sharing. A previously revealed NSA metadata repository, codenamed Marina, has what the documents describe as a protocol class for webcam information.

In its statement to the Guardian, Yahoo strongly condemned the Optic Nerve program, and said it had no awareness of or involvement with the GCHQ collection.

"We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity," said a spokeswoman. "This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable, and we strongly call on the world's governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.

"We are committed to preserving our users' trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services."

Yahoo has been one of the most outspoken technology companies objecting to the NSA's bulk surveillance. It filed a transparency lawsuit with the secret US surveillance court to disclose a 2007 case in which it was compelled to provide customer data to the surveillance agency, and it railed against the NSA's reported interception of information in transit between its data centers.

The documents do not refer to any specific court orders permitting collection of Yahoo's webcam imagery, but GCHQ mass collection is governed by the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and requires certification by the foreign secretary, currently William Hague.

The Optic Nerve documentation shows legalities were being considered as new capabilities were being developed. Discussing adding automated facial matching, for example, analysts agreed to test a system before firming up its legal status for everyday use.

"It was agreed that the legalities of such a capability would be considered once it had been developed, but that the general principle applied would be that if the accuracy of the algorithm was such that it was useful to the analyst (ie, the number of spurious results was low, then it was likely to be proportionate)," the 2008 document reads.

The document continues: "This is allowed for research purposes but at the point where the results are shown to analysts for operational use, the proportionality and legality questions must be more carefully considered."

Optic Nerve was just one of a series of GCHQ efforts at biometric detection, whether for target recognition or general security.

While the documents do not detail efforts as widescale as those against Yahoo users, one presentation discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360's Kinect camera, saying it generated "fairly normal webcam traffic" and was being evaluated as part of a wider program.

Documents previously revealed in the Guardian showed the NSA were exploring the video capabilities of game consoles for surveillance purposes.

Microsoft, the maker of Xbox, faced a privacy backlash last year when details emerged that the camera bundled with its new console, the Xbox One, would be always-on by default.

Beyond webcams and consoles, GCHQ and the NSA looked at building more detailed and accurate facial recognition tools, such as iris recognition cameras – "think Tom Cruise in Minority Report", one presentation noted.

The same presentation talks about the strange means the agencies used to try and test such systems, including whether they could be tricked. One way of testing this was to use contact lenses on detailed mannequins.

To this end, GCHQ has a dummy nicknamed "the Head", one document noted.

In a statement, a GCHQ spokesman said: "It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.

"Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

"All our operational processes rigorously support this position."

The NSA declined to respond to specific queries about its access to the Optic Nerve system, the presence of US citizens' data in such systems, or whether the NSA has similar bulk-collection programs.

However, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the agency did not ask foreign partners such as GCHQ to collect intelligence the agency could not legally collect itself.

"As we've said before, the National Security Agency does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the US government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself," she said.

"The NSA works with a number of partners in meeting its foreign intelligence mission goals, and those operations comply with US law and with the applicable laws under which those partners operate.

"A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights. Those procedures govern the acquisition, use, and retention of information about US persons."

See Youtube - US Police Drones that will see into your house, are they Watching You -
Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
28 Feb 2014
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Yahoo slams British spy agency that allegedly snapped up webcam images
Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ intercepted webcam images of millions of innocent Internet users with its Optic Nerve program, according to a report in the Guardian

By Sara Miller

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ intercepted webcam images of millions of innocent Internet users, alleges the Guardian, which bases its report on leaked documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The program, code-named Optic Nerve, includes still images from Yahoo webcam chats from 2008 to 2010. In a one-month period in 2008, images from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts, regardless of whether individuals were suspects or not, were collected. Much of it was sexually explicit, the newspaper reports.

As of publishing time, the Guardian piece has garnered more than 2,500 comments – an indication of how controversial the new allegations are both in Britain and across the globe.

Yahoo reacted angrily to the allegations, saying it was unaware of widespread surveillance. "We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity," a spokeswoman for the US technology firm told Agence France-Presse in an email statement. "This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable. We are committed to preserving our users' trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services."

The Associated Press in San Francisco explains how Internet companies have been caught in government spying webs and are attempting to secure their services in the future.

Companies that operate Internet services send vast amounts of data — including video and webcam chats — through fiber-optic lines between their data centers around the world. After recent disclosures about government tapping of some of those lines, all three companies have said they are working to encrypt links between data centers. Yahoo has said that encryption will be in place for all of its services by March 31. Google has encrypted its video chat services since at least 2010.

It notes that Yahoo Messenger has 75 million users worldwide, according to a recent estimate by digital analytics company comScore.

GCHQ defended itself in the face of the latest allegations, all of which have emerged since Mr. Snowden, who remains in Russia with temporary asylum, began leaking documents to reporters last year. “It is a long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters," it said in a statement. "Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary, and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners, and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.”

American politicians reacted angrily to the news. "We are extremely troubled by today's press report that a very large number of individuals — including law-abiding Americans — may have had private videos of themselves and their families intercepted and stored without any suspicion of wrongdoing," Senators Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon, Mark Udall (D) of Colorado, and Martin Heinrich (D) of New Mexico said in a joint statement published by the AFP. "If this report is accurate, it would show a breathtaking lack of respect for the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding citizens."

"It is becoming clearer and clearer that more needs to be done to ensure that 'foreign' intelligence collection does not intrude unnecessarily on the rights of law-abiding people or needlessly undermine the competitiveness of America's leading industries," the senators added.

The revelations have also prompted anger from Europe. Digital Rights Ireland chairman TJ McIntyre told the Irish Times that the documents highlight “in a vivid way the complaints we and other groups have been saying for a long time about indiscriminate mass surveillance,” he said. “It illustrates how governments – including the Irish Government – have become wedded to monitoring everyone’s communications at all times.”

The Guardian reported that Optic Nerve intended to, at least in part, identify users with automatic facial recognition software. But privacy issues, especially given the intimate material that was netted during the operation, has “echoes of George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ where the authorities – operating under the aegis of 'Big Brother' – fit homes with cameras to monitor the intimate details of people’s home lives,” reports the Associated Press.

“At least Big Brother had the decency to install his own cameras,” British media lawyer David Banksy said in a message posted to Twitter after the revelations broke, reports the AP. “We’ve had to buy them ourselves.”

See Youtube Keep on Rockin in the Free World - Jodi Pederson
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Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
01 Mar 2014
Modified: 02:28:48 AM
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The next person President Obama has targeted for drone assassination is not in the US, officials say. Not this week. When the Brothers Tsarnaev were on the run in Watertown and Boston, heat imagining drone camera's were used to spot the wounded bomber as he hid in a backyard boat with infrared vision. No missiles were fired. But the population was ordered locked down, and anyone on the streets was in a SWAT free fire zone. Ach-tung!

The Obama Administration let out a sort of trial balloon when they revealed recently that they are in the middle of discussions on the possibility of killing an American citizen in another drone strike.

The plan was poorly received, and has sparked another round of criticism of Obama’s claim to be able to execute American citizens without trial or evidence. Since then, the White House and others involved have clammed up.

Officials now insist the soon-to-be-victim’s name is “classified,” an effort to keep anyone from even theoretically being able to contest the killing in court before it happens. Rather, they have only given some vague “impressions” of the person, putatively al-Qaeda linked and called Abdullah al-Shami in reports.

Abdullah al-Shami was indeed the name of an “al-Qaeda leader,” but a Syrian-born one that the US confirmed was killed in an air strike in 2006. The refusal to identify him beyond that raises many questions, and they’re questions the administration simply refuses to answer.

Bizarrely, President Obama has managed to con most of the American public into believing that he can kill them whenever he feels like it with total impunity, and the excuse “he’s a really bad guy” seems as good as evidence to many. The fact that the victim is in Pakistan is actually the source of a secondary controversy, as Pakistan has demanded an end to US drone strikes against their territory, and likely won’t accept the excuse that he’s “a really bad guy.”

See Youtube - US Drone War on Pakistan - ( four minutes )
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Re: Department of Homeland Security invests $6.9 million to spy on Boston commuters
01 Mar 2014
Click on image for a larger version

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Dispatches - On the Meaning of Journalistic Independence By Glenn Greenwald 1 Mar 2014, 8:50 AM EST 179

This morning, I see that some people are quite abuzz about a new Pando article ”revealing” that the foundation of Pierre Omidyar, the publisher of First Look Media which publishes The Intercept, gave several hundred thousand dollars to a Ukraininan “pro-democracy” organization opposed to the ruling regime. This, apparently, is some sort of scandal that must be immediately addressed not only by Omidyar, but also by every journalist who works at First Look. That several whole hours elapsed since the article was published on late Friday afternoon without my commenting is, for some, indicative of disturbing stonewalling.

I just learned of this article about 30 minutes ago, which is why I’m addressing it “only” now (I apologize for not continuously monitoring Twitter at all times, including the weekend). I have not spoken to Pierre or anyone at First Look – or, for that matter, anyone else in the world – about any of this, and am speaking only for myself here. To be honest, I barely know what it is that I’m supposed to boldly come forth and address, so I’ll do my best to make a few points about this specific article but also make some general points about journalistic independence that I do actually think are important:

(1) The Pando article adopts the tone of bold investigative journalism that intrepidly dug deep into secret materials and uncovered a “shocking” bombshell (“Step out of the shadows…. Pierre Omidyar”). But as I just discovered with literally 5 minutes of Googling, the Omidyar Network’s support for the Ukrainian group in question, Centre UA, has long been publicly known: because the Omidyar Network announced the investment at the time in a press release and then explained it on its website.

In a September 15, 2011 press release, the Omidyar Network “announced today its intent to grant up to $3M to six leading organizations focused on advancing government transparency and accountability” including “Centre UA (Ukraine)”. The Network then devoted an entire page of its website (entitled “New Citizen (Centre UA)”) to touting the investment and explaining its rationale and purpose (the group, claims the Network, “seeks to enable citizen participation in national and regional politics by amplifying the voices of Ukrainian citizens and promoting open and accountable government”).


I think it’s perfectly valid for journalists to investigate the financial dealings of corporations and billionaires who fund media outlets, whether it be those who fund or own Pando, First Look, MSNBC, Fox News, The Washington Post or any other. And it’s certainly reasonable to have concerns and objections about the funding of organizations that are devoted to regime change in other countries: I certainly have those myself. But the Omidyar Network doesn’t exactly seem ashamed of these donations, and they definitely don’t seem to be hiding them, given that they trumpeted them in their own press releases and web pages.

(2) Can someone please succinctly explain why this is a scandal that needs to be addressed, particularly by First Look journalists? That’s a genuine request. Wasn’t it just 72 hours ago that the widespread, mainstream view in the west (not one that I shared) was that there was a profound moral obligation to stand up and support the brave and noble Ukrainian opposition forces as they fight to be liberated from the brutal and repressive regime imposed on them by Vladimir Putin’s puppet? When did it suddenly become shameful in those same circles to support those very same opposition forces?

In fact, I’ve been accused more times than I can count – including by a former NSA employee and a Eurasia Foundation spokesman - of being a Putin shill for not supporting the Ukrainian opposition and not denouncing Russian involvement there (by which they mean I’ve not written anything on this topic). Now we seem to have the exact opposite premise: that the real evil is supporting the opposition in Ukraine and any journalist who works at First Look – including ones who are repeatedly called criminals by top U.S. officials for publishing top secret government documents; or who risk their lives to go around the world publicizing the devastation wrought by America’s Dirty Wars and its dirty and lawless private contractors; or who have led the journalistic attack on the banks that own and control the government - are now tools of neo-liberal, CIA-cooperating imperialism which seeks to undermine Putin by secretly engineering the Ukrainian revolution. To call all of that innuendo muddled and incoherent is to be generous.

(3) Despite its being publicly disclosed, I was not previously aware that the Omidyar Network donated to this Ukrainian group. That’s because, prior to creating The Intercept with Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, I did not research Omidyar’s political views or donations. That’s because his political views and donations are of no special interest to me – any more than I cared about the political views of the family that owns and funds Salon (about which I know literally nothing, despite having worked there for almost 6 years), or any more than I cared about the political views of those who control the Guardian Trust.

There’s a very simple reason for that: they have no effect whatsoever on my journalism or the journalism of The Intercept. That’s because we are guaranteed full editorial freedom and journalistic independence. The Omidyar Network’s political views or activities – or those of anyone else – have no effect whatsoever on what we report, how we report it, or what we say.

The author of the Pando article seems to understand this point quite well when it comes to excusing himself from working for a media outlet funded by national-security-state-supporting tech billionaires whose views he claims to find “repugnant”:

It is a problem we all have to contend with—PandoDaily’s 18-plus investors include a gaggle of Silicon Valley billionaires like Marc Andreessen (who serves on the board of eBay, chaired by Pierre Omidyar) and Peter Thiel (whose politics I’ve investigated [GG: before working for a media outlet he funded] and described as repugnant.)

So he acknowledges the truly repellent politics of those who fund the media outlet where he does his journalism: Andreessen, a Romney supporter, has become one of the NSA’s most devoted defenders, while the company owned by Paypal founder Thiel, Palantir Technologies, works extensively with the CIA and got caught scheming against journalists, WikiLeaks supporters and Chamber of Commerce critics. But he obviously believes those repellent views and activities do not reflect on him or his journalism. Indeed, any of you who are approvingly citing the Pando article are implicitly saying the same thing: namely, that media outlets funded by government-supporting tech moguls with repugnant histories can produce important journalism, including reporting on other tech moguls.

More generally, you’re endorsing the point that the political ideology of those who fund media outlets, no matter how much you dislike that ideology, does not mean that hard-hitting investigative journalism is precluded or that the journalism reflects the views of those who fund it. Anyone who thinks that The Intercept is or will be some sort of mouthpiece for U.S. foreign policy goals is invited to review the journalism we’ve produced in the 20 days we’ve existed.

Now, if you want to take the position that people should not work at organizations funded by oligarchs, or that journalism is inherently corrupted if funded by rich people with bad political views, then I hope you apply that consistently. Groups like the ACLU, Media Matters, the Center for Constitutional Rights and a whole slew of left-wing groups have been funded for years by billionaire George Soros and his foundations despite a long history of funding of and profiting from all sorts of capitalism projects anathema to the left, including Ukrainian pro-democracy groups (the same Pando writer previously claimed without evidence that the ACLU received a $20 million donation from the Koch Brothers). Or, as Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts put it:


Are Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow responsible for all the bad acts of Comcast, which owns MSNBC, or is their journalism impugned by those bad acts? Was WikiLeaks infected with Vladimir Putin’s sins, as some argued, because Julian Assange’s show appeared on RT? Or go ahead and apply those questions to virtually every large media organization or advocacy group you like, which needs substantial funding, which in turn requires that they seek and obtain that funding from very rich people who undoubtedly have political views and activities you find repellent.

That journalistic outlets fail to hold accountable large governmental and corporate entities is a common complaint. It’s one I share. It’s possible to do great journalism in discrete, isolated cases without much funding and by working alone, but it’s virtually impossible to do sustained, broad-scale investigative journalism aimed at large and powerful entities without such funding. As I’ve learned quite well over the last eight months, you need teams of journalists, and editors, and lawyers, and experts, and travel and technology budgets, and a whole slew of other tools that require serious funding. The same is true for large-scale activism.

That funding, by definition, is going to come from people rich enough to provide it. And such people are almost certainly going to have views and activities that you find objectionable. If you want to take the position that this should never be done, that’s fine: just be sure to apply it consistently to the media outlets and groups you really like.

But for me, the issue is not – and for a long time has not been – the political views of those who fund journalism. Journalists should be judged by the journalism they produce, not by those who fund the outlets where they do it. The real issue is whether they demand and obtain editorial freedom. We have. But ultimately, the only thing that matters is the journalism we or any other media outlets produce.

(4) Typical for this particular writer, the Pando article is filled with factual inaccuracies, including one extremely serious one:

Of the many problems that poses, none is more serious than the fact that Omidyar now has the only two people with exclusive access to the complete Snowden NSA cache, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Somehow, the same billionaire who co-financed the “coup” in Ukraine with USAID, also has exclusive access to the NSA secrets—and very few in the independent media dare voice a skeptical word about it. [emphasis added]

Let’s leave to the side the laughable hyperbole that Omidyar is now the mastermind who has secretly engineered the Ukrainian uprising. Let’s also leave to the side a vital fact that people like this Pando writer steadfastly ignore: that there are numerous media entities in possession of tens of thousands of Snowden documents, including The Guardian, Bart Gellman/The Washington Post, The New York Times, and ProPublica, rendering absurd any conspiracy theories that Omidyar can control which documents are or are not published.

The real falsehood here is that Omidyar himself has any access, let alone “exclusive access”, to “the NSA secrets.” This is nothing short of a fabrication. The writer of this article just made that up.

The only Snowden documents Omidyar has ever seen are the ones that have been published as part of stories in media outlets around the world. He has no possession of those documents and no access to them. He has never sought or received access to those documents. He has played no role whatsoever in deciding which ones will be reported. He obviously plays no role in deciding which documents all those other news outlets will report. Other than generally conveying that there is much reporting left to be done on these documents – something I’ve publicly said many times – I don’t believe I’ve ever even had a single discussion with him about a single document in the archive.

We’ve continued to report on those documents with media outlets around the world – in the last month alone, I reported on numerous documents with NBC, while Laura did the same with The New York Times - and will continue to report on them at The Intercept with full editorial independence. But the claim that he has obtained possession of, or even access to, the archive (in full or in part) is an outright falsehood.

Other inaccuracies pervade the article. Marcy Wheeler, whose comments were prominently featured, complained rather vehemently and at length that the article wildly misrepresented what she said.

(5) I have a long history of condemning U.S. government interference in the governance of other countries, and of the accompanying jingoistic moral narrative that this interference is intended to engender Freedom and Democracy rather than the promotion of U.S. interests. I have equal scorn for those who feign opposition to Russian interference in the sovereignty of other countries while continuing to support all sorts of U.S. interference of exactly that sort. I know little about the specific Ukrainian group at issue here – do any of you touting this article know anything about them? – and I certainly don’t trust this writer to convey anything accurately.

But what I do know is that I would never temper, limit, suppress or change my views for anyone’s benefit – as anyone I’ve worked with will be happy to tell you – and my views on such interference in other countries isn’t going to remotely change no matter the actual facts here. I also know that I’m free to express those views without the slightest fear. And I have zero doubt that that’s true of every other writer at The Intercept. That’s what journalistic independence means.

See Youtube - 1984 - audio book -
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