“The massive propaganda play is working.”
“I always grew up knowing that I would live through these times, and wanted to know how we would lose our liberties in this country. And we are doing it, and we’re watching as it’s happening as we speak.”
Transcribed by Jeff Fenske
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World Affairs Brief, June 14, 2013 Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World. Copyright Joel Skousen. Partial quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Joel Skousen’s World Affairs Brief (http://www.worldaffairsbrief.com)
This Week’s Analysis:
Government Won’t Stop Spying
Utah Data Center Ready by September
IRS Training with Assault Weapons
US Says Syria Crossed Red Line
US China Summit Symbolic of Placating China
GOVERNMENT WON’T STOP SPYING
There is not a hint of contrition in the statements of intelligence officials as they pulled out all the old justifications for violating the 4th Amendment—to save us from terror. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, head of the National Security Agency told a Congressional committee this week that “dozens” of terror threats have been stopped thanks to the huge database of phone calls and emails the NSA has amassed. I say, “Prove it.” He also claimed that records are destroyed after 5 years, but the only files that get deleted are the remnants of information that have been sifted through already. The emails and calls that get a person on the lists of potential dissidents is never erased. When the new data center in Utah is completed this fall, they will keep everything, including all bank records, credit card and real estate data. Welcome to the Total Information Awareness system that DARPA claimed was shut down—another in a series of BIG lies.
Brandon Smith commented that,
In the past, Liberty Movement champions have been derided as “paranoid” for pointing out that there were no limitations to FISA, and that the entire nation might one day be monitored and catalogued like animals in a great technological cage. Today, the public now knows that this concern is concrete and undeniable. EVERYONE is being watched. Reports now estimate that NSA hackers harvest over 2.1 million gigabytes of data on American citizens per hour.
And, it’s not just domestic spying, the NSA is building a system to capture all digital signals from every country in the world. That can only mean that the system the US is building is ultimately intended to become a global surveillance system under a global world government. Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian details the nature of this global spy system.
The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.
The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.
That isn’t true. The NSA has huge computers sifting the content and the metadata—don’t be fooled into thinking there is a difference between simply collecting the data and “not doing anything about it.” They are always doing something with the data, and names and dossiers are being sorted into various categories and lists every minute of the day.
The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. An NSA factsheet about the program, acquired by the Guardian, says: “The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country.”
The heatmap gives each nation a color code based on how extensively it is subjected to NSA surveillance. The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America’s closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn,[—all 3 labeled as Red on the Heat Maps] Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.
But this is merely a reflection of the ease with which these nation’s systems can be penetrated, not necessarily the number of threats in the country. Jordan certainly isn’t third on the NSA target list. Allies like Germany and France are incensed that the US is spying on all their communications as well. Zerohedge reports:
German outrage over a U.S. Internet spying program has broken out ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, with ministers demanding the president provide a full explanation when he lands in Berlin next week and one official likening the tactics to those of the East German Stasi.
Interestingly, the US captures much more information from within the US than it does on Russia, China or any other nation that is a real threat to the US. Let’s look at some of the government lies and excuses on this subject:
From the Guardian story above: At a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee In March this year, Democratic senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” “No sir,” replied Clapper.
Jason Ditz of Anti-War.com derided Clapper’s attempt to defend his lies: “Clapper was defiant on Sunday news shows when asked about that particular federal offense, saying he felt the question he was asked was “unfair” and that he gave the “least untruthful” lie he could think of in response. Which was still a horrible lie that he eventually got caught in, as he attempted to defend lying under oath. [how is a flat out “no” the least untruthful?”]
The Guardian again: Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: “NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case.”
Emmel’s quote is misleading. It sounds like the NSA can rarely read even the metadata accurately, but in fact all she said is that the identity of a communicant sometimes evades their detection. That might be a glimmer of hope for those who know how to cover their tracks well online, but it’s hardly reassuring to the general public. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says the government is capturing digital communications from everyone—not just those suspected of terror. The Guardian comments on the proof Snowden showed them (and much of the good stuff hasn’t been released by the Guardian):
Other documents seen by the Guardian further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.
The litany of government excuses to help downplay the scandal runs the gamut of 1) saying they collect data but don’t do anything with it, and 2) that oversight by the Courts and Congress guarantees that American’s privacy is still protected—really big lies:
On Friday, in his first public response to the Guardian’s disclosures this week on NSA surveillance, Barack Obama said that congressional oversight was the American peoples’ best guarantee that they were not being spied on.
Oversight is a sham. How can he say with a straight face that we are not being spied on when the government doesn’t even contest the fact that all emails and phone calls are recorded? I guess it depends on his “definition of spying.” The trouble with the idea that there is no spying if we aren’t reading what we collect is that there is no possible oversight to ensure computers aren’t reading what is collected. Certainly they never tell Congress any specifics so to the government, “oversight” means “taking our word for it!” —hardly reassuring given the litany of lies. The only safety for privacy is to ensure the government doesn’t collect data. It can’t read what it doesn’t collect.
“These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress and they are being fully briefed on these programs,” he said. Obama also insisted that any surveillance was “very narrowly circumscribed”.
Fully briefed? –Hardly. That’s another lie or misdirection. Congress is briefed only in general and is never given true information about the scope of the spying. In addition, those Congressmen and women who serve on the committee are all certified yes-men and women to government and would never challenge anything. We cannot depend on them to become whistleblowers. Besides, they are sworn never to say anything about what they learn in these briefings to the public, or even other members of Congress. With these kinds of restrictions how can illegal acts be exposed or corrected? Answer: They can’t.
Then there is the excuse that the NSA is only doing what Congress authorized in the FISA court authorization bill. Here’s the NY Times projecting the government line:
The director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who heads both the N.S.A. and United States Cyber Command, which runs the military’s offensive and defensive use of cyberweapons, told skeptical members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that his agency was doing exactly what Congress authorized after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
As an aside, General Alexander is the perfect yes-man to government and no stranger to black operations or lying to Congress. The notorious prison unit responsible for Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse in Baghdad was under his command. He was part of the cover-up there as well blaming the Abu Ghraib scandal on a “group of undisciplined MP soldiers.” Nonsense. These orders for torture came down from the White House and Alexander was in that chain of command.
But the administration cannot justify this under the FISA law. Jim Sensenbrenner (the notorious conservative who introduced the PATRIOT Act) said that the executive branch’s excuses about recent revelations of NSA activity are “a bunch of bunk” according to National Review.
In an interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Wednesday morning, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin reiterated his concerns that the administration and the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court have gone far beyond what the PATRIOT Act intended. Specifically, he said that Section 215 of the act “was originally drafted to prevent data mining” on the scale that’s occurred.
[NY Times again] General Alexander said the agency “takes great pride in protecting this nation and our civil liberties and privacy” under the oversight of Congress and the courts.
But the oversight claim is a lie. Congressman Sensenbrenner made it very clear, that “the secret nature of the FISA court has prevented appropriate congressional oversight over the NSA’s activities.”
“We aren’t trying to hide it,” he said. [Then why was it secret and why are you trying to prosecute Snowden?] “We’re trying to protect America. So we need your help in doing that. This isn’t something that’s just N.S.A. or the administration doing it on its own. This is what our nation expects our government to do for us.”
Just as the intentional leaks of 2007 about illegal surveillance led Congress to pass more laws to make some spying legal, Alexander is directly lobbying Congress to allow this total surveillance program—retroactively. As with 9/11 or the spy scandal of 2007 no one will be disciplined for violating their oath to the Constitution in this matter.
As for Alexander’s claim that all of this is legal because the FISA court authorized it, that isn’t true. When Congress established the FISA court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) it was tasked to scrutinize CIA or NSA requests for domestic surveillance on a case by case basis and those cases had to be directly related to a terror investigation.
The FISA court does nothing to force government officials to prove the legality and origin of evidence they bring before the court—almost all of which is derived from electronic surveillance. Moreover, the FISA court has no authority from Congress to allow the wholesale collecting of all data such as during the supposed 3 month period it authorized the NSA to capture data from all Verizon phone logs.
Frankly, the NSA doesn’t invest billions in creating a huge system like PRISM just for a 3 month window of authorization by the FISA court. In other words, the court was merely providing legal cover for NSA for something they were illegally doing before, and will continue doing with our without the court’s approval. This is not oversight. This is rubber stamping government crimes.
PRISM gets its name from the physical prism lens device that is placed on fiber optic cables in order to split each signal into two identical streams—one that goes to the original destination and the other to the NSA computers. Under the PRISM program, the NSA collects information from all fiber optic communications including internet data and domestic and transatlantic phone calls on trunk lines.
Intelligence analysts already say that suspects of terror within the Middle East and Europe have started using better code words to mask their intentions or have dropped off of Facebook, Skype and Twitter altogether. But the NSA is counting on the fact that no one can operate without digital communications nowadays, so they feel the fallout will be temporary.
Meanwhile, we are getting to see who’s a shill for government by who comes out and defends this total surveillance system in the name of protecting us from terror. The two worst Republican neocons in the Senate, Peter King (NY) and Lindsey Graham (SC) are still up front defending the spying. And it also doesn’t help the cause of privacy when members of the Senate in charge of overseeing government surveillance act as shills for government.
Anti-gun Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to excuse the government’s going beyond its terror fighting mandate by citing as an example that suggested the NSA surveillance had a roll in “slowing down Iran’s nuclear program,” implying that it’s good the NSA goes beyond its limited mandate. Then she dutifully parrots what intelligence officials tell Congress in their secret oversight meetings—that the NSA “can look at the domestic calling data only if there is a reason to suspect it is actually related to Al Qaeda or to Iran… The vast majority of the records in the database are never accessed and are deleted after a period of five years. To look at or use the content of a call, a court warrant must be obtained.”
In reality, this is not true. All the data is sifted and sorted by huge supercomputers, some in real time, others after the fact. The FISA court warrant-seeking process is only done when the government wants to have the legal backing to make one of their high profile terror prosecutions. In other words, it’s legally justifying a case after the facts are gleaned illegally.
Hiding the best stuff: Wired.com also noted that neither the Guardian nor the Washington Post (who both got Snowden’s material) are revealing all:
Only five slides from the presentation have been published. The other 36 remain a mystery. Both the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and the Post’ s Barton Gellman have made it clear that the rest of the PowerPoint is dynamite stuff … which we’re not going to be seeing any time soon.
That’s the same problem with Wikileaks. Julian Assange made a deal with the mainstream media to allow them to sort and selectively decided what to give the public out of the leaked information. All of the really juicy secret black operations stuff is always edited out.
In summary, I feel this revelation on total surveillance by government should have been the straw that breaks the camel’s back and finally convinced people that government is simply lying to them and that the entire system is corrupt and controlled. But so far, it’s business as usual for most people, so what little hope I had in America waking up is dying.
Sadly, no more will come of such a committee investigation than the Church committee investigation of the CIA—except to bring a little more light on the subject. Sadly, I don’t think we are going to turn this around.