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News :: Human Rights
The NSA's Corporate Collaboators
10 May 2014
A Privatized Police State
The NSA’s Corporate Collaborators. by BILL BLUNDEN

Emails published by Al Jazeera America, in addition to showing hi-tech executives and senior intelligence officials interacting on a casual first-name basis, reference a government program referred to as the Enduring Security Framework (ESF) [1]. An NPR piece on the ESF back in 2012 offers a nutshell summary of what this initiative is all about [2]:

“For each session, the CEOs get special, top-secret clearances so they can be told about the latest in cyberweaponry. They can then go back to their companies and take steps to deal with the threats they hear about, threats they may not previously have taken seriously. In the words of one government participant: We scare the bejeezus out of them”

This description reinforces the notion that the big bad NSA somehow coerced hi-tech companies into collaboration. Since Ed Snowden’s documents have trickled out into public view companies like Google have tried to distance themselves from the NSA [3], to make public displays of anger [4], to create the impression that they were somehow strong-armed into helping government spies [5] and that they’ve been working to bolster their security against the NSA’s prying eyes [6]. Above all hi-tech companies want to look like they’re siding with their users [7].

These gestures are likely theater, being performed by executives on behalf of quarterly earnings. Such is the beauty of PR. Hi-tech companies don’t really need to fend off government spies but merely provide users with the perception of resistance.

Keep in mind that social media survives by selling user data. Spying is their business model. In padding their bottom lines executives have worked diligently to dilute privacy legislation [8] in addition to garnering a myriad of fines [9]. All of this data harvesting services a data broker industry which generates something in the neighborhood of $200 billion in revenue annually [10].

Those who resist government pressure like Nicholas Merrill, who was running an Internet service provider in New York called Calyx, and Ladar Levison, the former owner of Lavabit, are rare exceptions to the rule. For the big multinationals too much money is at stake to let something like civil liberties get in the way. Google’s Larry Page opines that [11]:

“There’s many, many exciting and important things you could do that you just can’t do because they’re illegal or they’re not allowed by regulation”

Though the Washington Post may imply otherwise [12], in reality as far as the National Security State is concerned there is very little dividing line between the public sector and the private sector. According to Heidi Boghosian, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild [13]:

“People need to know that for all intents and purposes, the distinction right now between government and the corporate world is virtually nil. They are hand-in-hand working to gather information about Americans as well as people across the globe, to really be in a race to collect more information than any other country can, because I think in their eyes, having this information, storing it, and being able to access it for years on end is a symbol of power and control. So that you can’t really make that distinction anymore between big business and government.”

Glenn Greenwald echoed this point after the Polk Award ceremony [14]: ”There almost is no division between the private sector and the NSA, or the private sector and the Pentagon, when it comes to the American national security state. They really are essentially one.”

Despite Eric Schmidt’s vocal tirade over NSA spying [15], Google is linked tightly with the elements of the defense industry (e.g. SAIC, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Blackbird) [16] and is no stranger to covert
cooperation with the U.S. government. For example, in an e-mailed published by WikiLeaks Fred Burton, a former State Department official and a VP at Stratfor, described the director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, as involved in secret missions near the Iranian border with the support of the White House and the State Department [17]. Ostensibly Burton heard this from Eric Schmidt.

When a provider like Amazon is awarded a $600 million 10-year contract to provide the CIA with cloud services [18] do you suppose that Amazon is inclined to cater to government requests? Think of it this way: Roughly 70% of the intelligence budget goes to the private sector [19]. There are incentives for executives to go along.

Years ago the banking industry single-handedly used its resources to push through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, effectively repealing the protections of Glass-Steagall, in addition to deregulating the market for derivatives with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. If the moneyed elite don’t like certain laws, in the absence of a strong countervailing public opinion, they have the means to impose change. Their influence isn’t total but history has shown that it’s often sufficient.

Yahoo has been known to help Chinese officials identify citizens who make critical remarks about the Chinese government [20]. According to news reports from overseas, Microsoft has redesigned Skype so that government security forces in countries like Russia can tap into and monitor Skype traffic [21]. Companies like Microsoft (sitting on 60 billion in cash [22]) or Apple (sitting on $147 billion in cash [23]) aren’t exactly defenseless. Corporate spies choose to collaborate with government spies because the benefits outweigh the negative consequences.

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

Notes.

[1] Jason Leopold, “Exclusive: Emails reveal close Google relationship with NSA,” Al Jazeera America, May 6, 2013, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/6/nsa-chief-google.html

[2] Tom Gjelten, “Cyber Briefings ‘Scare The Bejeezus’ Out Of CEOs,” NPR, May 9, 2012, http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=152296621

[3] Craig Timberg and Tom Hamburger, “Tech executives visit White House to discuss online surveillance issues with Obama,” Washington Post, March 21, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/tech-ceos-to-meet-with

[4] Andy Greenberg, “Zuckerberg Says He Called Obama To Express ‘Frustration’ Over NSA Surveillance,” Forbes, March 13, 2014,http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2014/03/13/zuckerberg-says-he-/

[5] Dominic Rushe, “Zuckerberg: US government ‘blew it’ on NSA surveillance,” Guardian, September 11, 2013,http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/sep/11/yahoo-ceo-mayer-jail-n

[6] Craig Timberg, “Google encrypts data amid backlash against NSA spying,” Washington Post, September 6, 2013,http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/google-encrypts-data-a

[7] Craig Timberg, “Apple, Facebook, others defy authorities, notify users of secret data demands,” Washington Post, May 1, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/apple-facebook-others-

[8] Melissa Eddy And James Kanter, “Merkel Urges Europe to Tighten Internet Safeguards,” New York Times, July 15, 2013,http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/world/europe/merkel-urges-europe-to-ti

[9] Claire Cain Miller, “F.T.C. Fines Google $22.5 Million for Safari Privacy Violations,” New York Times, August 9, 2012, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/f-t-c-fines-google-22-5-million/

[10] Yasha Levine, “What Surveillance Valley knows about you,” Pando Daily, December 22, 2013, http://pando.com/2013/12/22/a-peek-into-surveillance-valley/

[11] Claire Cain Miller, “Google Gives a Hint About Its Mystery Barges,” New York Times, November 6, 2013, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/google-gives-a-hint-about-its-m

[12] Brian Fung, “NSA e-mails purport to show a ‘close’ relationship with Google. Maybe, maybe not,” Washington Post, May 6, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/05/06/nsa-e-mails

[13] “Segment: Heidi Boghosian on Spying and Civil Liberties,” Moyers and Company, November 8, 2013, http://billmoyers.com/wp-content/themes/billmoyers/transcript-print.php?

[14] “”We Won’t Succumb to Threats”: Journalists Return to U.S. for First Time Since Revealing NSA Spying,” Democracy Now! April 14, 2014,http://www.democracynow.org/2014/4/14/we_wont_succumb_to_threats_journal#

[15] Deborah Kan, “Google’s Eric Schmidt Lambasts NSA Over Spying,” Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2013,http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142405270230439120457917710415

[16] Yasha Levine, “The revolving door between Google and the Department of Defense,” Pando Daily, April 23, 2014, http://pando.com/2014/04/23/the-revolving-door-between-google-and-the-de/

[17] Julian Assange, “Google and the NSA: Who’s holding the ‘shit-bag’ now?,” Stringer, August 24, 2013, http://thestringer.com.au/google-and-the-nsa-whos-holding-the-shit-bag-n

[18] Frank Konkel, “Sources: Amazon and CIA ink cloud deal,” FCW, March 18, 2013, http://fcw.com/articles/2013/03/18/amazon-cia-cloud.aspx

[19] “Digital Blackwater: How the NSA Gives Private Contractors Control of the Surveillance State,” Democracy Now! June 11, 2013,http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/11/digital_blackwater_how_the_nsa_giv#

[20] Yasha Levine, “Rentacops on desktops: Edward Snowden’s dismissal of Surveillance Valley is wrong, and dangerous,” Pando Daily, December 30, 2013,http://pando.com/2013/12/30/rentacops-on-desktops-edward-snowdens-danger/

[21] RAPSI, “FSB, Russian police could tap Skype without court order,” March 14, 2013, Moscow News,
http://www.themoscownews.com/russia/20130314/191336455/FSB-Russian-policcourt-order.html

[22] Juliette Garside, “Microsoft Windows performance helps cash reserves grow by $5bn in six months,” Guardian, January 24, 2013,http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jan/24/microsoft-cash-reserve

[23] Emily Chasan, “Apple Now Holds 10% of All Corporate Cash: Moody’s,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2013, http://blogs.wsj.com/cfo/2013/10/01/applenow-holds-10-of-all-corporate-c

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Re: The NSA's Corporate Collaboators
10 May 2014
Conditioned Minds
When Censorship is the Norm
by LAWRENCE DAVIDSON and JANET AMIGHI
Most Americans assume the United States government speaks “the truth” to its citizens and defends their constitutional right to “free speech” (be it in the form of words or dollars). On the other hand, it is always the alleged enemies of the U.S. who indulge in propaganda and censoring of “the truth.”

In practice it is not quite that way. Washington, and more local American governments as well, can be quite censoring. Take for instance the attempt to censor the boycott of Israeli academic institutions – institutions engaged in government research that facilitates illegal settlement expansion and the use of Palestinian water resources. In this case, the fact that a call for boycott is an age-old, non-violent practice also falling within the category of free speech, is mostly disregarded. Instead we get a knee-jerk impulse on the part of just about every American politician to shut down debate, even to the point where various state legislatures threatened their own state colleges and universities with a cutoff of funds if they tolerate the boycott effort on their campuses.

It is not only American academics who suffer censorship at the hands of a government that claims to defend freedom of speech. Academics of countries deemed unfriendly to the U.S. have been subjected to the same treatment. Take, for instance, Iranian academics. U.S. trade sanctions on Iran, put in effect in 1980, included strict curbs on academic exchanges. Later, a few in Congress managed to ease these with a “free trade in ideas” amendment, but the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sabotaged the effort. That office violated the spirit of the Congressional amendment by asserting that while there could now be exchanges of information with academics in sanctioned states, say, in the form of manuscripts submitted to U.S. journals for publication, they could not be “enhanced” by such practices as editing for style purposes. Violation of this regulation could result in fines and imprisonment for journal editors. On the other hand, as far as we know, no OFAC official was ever fined, fired or imprisoned for violating the intent of Congress.

Several organizations, including the American Association of Publishers, took the U.S. government to court over the issue in 2003. In 2004 the matter was settled out of court, granting the right of publishers to use standard editing procedures for manuscript submissions from Iran. However, the OFAC has failed to officially promulgate this change in regulations, and as a result many journal editors are ignorant of the revised regulation. Many still “play it safe” and simply return submissions from Iran marked “denied due to sanctions.”

More generally, there are now reports that the internet provider Yahoo, which is used by a 63 percent of Iranians communicating through the worldwide web, has “decided that it will not allow Iranians to create new e-mail accounts. Cutting off access to Yahoo will require many in Iran to use the e-mail service provided by the Iranian government – which, of course, censors communications. Yahoo thus becomes complicit in the process of censoring millions of people.

Media Manipulation

Perhaps the grossest ongoing censorship of all is the culturally conditioned, narrow range of opinion fed to the vast majority of Americans by their own media. The differences in story lines and opinions in the “news” given by well-watched television channels such as ABC. CBS, NBC and CNN, or those of the nation’s major newspapers and news magazines, is minuscule. One venue that stands out is Fox TV, and its “news” and opinion offerings verge on the mendacious. The narrow range of views offered creates a uniform background noise hiding most of what is at variance with the standard message. In other words, media practices constitute de facto censorship.

So well does this process work that it is probably the case that many news editors and broadcasters and most of the public taking in their reporting do not understand that their reductionism has rendered the constitutional right of free press ineffectual. Really meaningful contrary opinion and reporting (particularly of the progressive persuasion) is so infrequent and marginalized that it stands little chance of competing with the orthodox point of view.

An exception is to be found on the TV channel Comedy Central. There Americans can find the popular Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This show presents the only ongoing, nationally televised critique of the foibles of U.S. government leaders and their policies. But, of course, it all must be done in the form of comical political satire.

As successful as media conditioning is, some elements of the U.S. government feel they must go the extra mile to guarantee that the public receives an acceptable view of events. Take the revelations given in a recent report by Amnesty International on the trial of the so-called Cuban Five (five Cuban residents of Florida arrested for espionage on the part of the Cuban government). Amnesty’s official report on the trial of the five defendants alleges that “the United States [government] paid journalists hostile to Cuba to cover the trial and provide prejudicial articles in the local media asserting the guilt of the accused.” Under such circumstances the “free press” was transformed into a vehicle for government propaganda and this, in turn, helped to generally devalue the right of free speech. We do not know how often the government acts in this corruptive way.

Et Tu, Obama?

In a report issued late in 2013 by the Committee to Protect Journalists, President Obama, a liberal within our political spectrum, has been accused of pressuring journalists to tow the line. He has done this by “attacking sources, conducting surveillance, creating a climate of fear, and prosecuting double the amount of cases for alleged leaks of classified information as all previous administrations combined.”

As a consequence the global index on media freedom issued annually by the conservative Freedom House alleges that in 2014 the U.S. suffered a sharp erosion of press freedom and the right of the citizen to know what his or her country is doing. The report cites “attempts by the government to inhibit reporting on national security issues” as a major reason for this situation.

At the same time, President Obama makes speeches critiquing foreign governments, such as that in Egypt, for limiting freedom of the press and speech. There is no doubt that the governments he targets are guilty of gross violation of these rights and many more besides. But what is equally true is that the vast majority of Americans can listen to the president castigate these governments with no sense of cognitive dissonance. They do not know that they too are victims of propaganda and manipulation. How could they? They are culturally conditioned to believe that their country is the foundation of freedom and truth. And, beyond their local area, they haven’t the knowledge, or often the interest, to fact-check what their leaders and media agents tell them. That is why it is accurate to describe the U.S. information environment as closed.

Censorship Ubiquitous

Actually, there is nothing particularly unique about the self-censoring environment under which Americans live. All states and cultures, to one extent or another, practice this sort of manipulation of the information environment whereby reality is distorted. Thus we can ask, is the United States the great defender of its own constitutional freedoms? It is when it suits the purposes of policy makers. When it doesn’t, hypocrisy prevails. The system is successful because all but a few people are culturally conditioned not to notice or care. Such a manipulative process as this at once helps keep societies cohesive and at the same time creates the conditions wherein hate is easily bred and vast numbers are made willing to charge enemy machine guns.

Those who see through their conditioning and manipulation are, if you will, cultural mistakes. They are also the human race’s best, albeit slim, hope for a saner, more tolerant world.
Re: The NSA's Corporate Collaboators
10 May 2014
A couple of months ago, Sen. Rand Paul and I, along with more than 386,000 other plaintiffs and lead counsel Ken Cuccinelli filed a class-action suit against the president of the United States and the directors of the National Security Agency (NSA). We aren’t seeking damages. We don’t want money.

We simply want the NSA to stop violating the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens. We want to end the NSA’s warrantless mass collection of civilian telephone data, and we ask that the existing data be purged from government databases.
The lawsuit represents an important step in reclaiming our constitutional rights from a government gone wild. The Fourth Amendment was created to prohibit the government from engaging in unreasonable search and seizure, or conducting such searches without warrants. Since 2006, however, the NSA has brazenly collected the personal telephone data of hundreds of millions of people without any suspicion of criminal intent.
The NSA attempted to justify its actions on the basis of “national security,” but there is no evidence that the data being collected has led to the arrest of a single terrorist, or the prevention of a single attack.

A general warrant issued by a secretive FISA court is not enough to justify the surveillance of every phone call in the country. The Fourth Amendment was specifically designed to prevent such generalized warrants, requiring that suspicion apply to individuals and not entire classes of people. Since the NSA has apparently seen fit to group us all as potential threats to national security, though, we are happy to band together as a class to fight back.
The Department of Justice issued a motion to dismiss our case, letting the NSA off the hook for its reported actions. They are trying to deny the American people their day in court.

The Obama administration can’t quietly “dismiss” the largest violation of Fourth Amendment rights in its history. There must be a way for citizens to hold their government accountable when it wanders out of its constitutional bounds. A system where even the clearest complaints of the abuse of power are dismissed out of hand amounts to outright tyranny.

That’s why we are not letting go of this issue. The sort of government that refuses to allow itself to be questioned by its citizens is neither representative nor free. We are going to continue to pursue justice until we get a fair hearing. It’s the least we can do on behalf of the people who have had their civil liberties violated by their own government.

This is not an issue of “left versus right” or “Republican versus Democrat.” Blanket, warrantless surveillance is an issue that affects everyone who has used a phone in the last eight years, regardless of their politics. At its core, this case is about the Washington insiders who use their political power to violate the rights of ordinary citizens, and the steps that “We the People” can and must take to stop it.

The greatest danger to liberty is complacency. The NSA scandal isn’t “old news.” We have to stand up — every time — to challenge the political establishment when it oversteps its bounds. We cannot meet unprecedented levels of federal abuse with a collective shrug.

The Obama administration’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit is an attempt to shut down dissent, to prevent the people from holding their elected representatives accountable. The burden is on us to make sure our voices are heard.

Matt Kibbe is president of FreedomWorks and author of “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff” (William Morrow, 2014).


Read more: http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/may/6/kibbe-hanging-up-on-the-nsa
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