On Friday, we wrote about Jeremy Hammond’s 10-year prison sentence, mentioning that the judge had required part of Hammond’s statement be redacted from any reports as his discussion of the list of targets he was asked to hack by FBI informant Sabu (Hector Xavier Monsegur) was considered classified. Of course, it will come as little surprise that the unredacted/uncensored text of his original statement is alleged to have leaked soon after the sentencing. Someone posted it to Pastebin. While it’s entirely possible that this is fake, there are at least some indications that it’s accurate.
Sabu also supplied lists of targets that were vulnerable to “zero day exploits” used to break into systems, including a powerful remote root vulnerability effecting the popular Plesk software. At his request, these websites were broken into, their emails and databases were uploaded to Sabu’s FBI server, and the password information and the location of root backdoors were supplied. These intrusions took place in January/February of 2012 and affected over 2000 domains, including numerous foreign government websites in Brazil, Turkey, Syria, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Nigeria, Iran, Slovenia, Greece, Pakistan, and others. A few of the compromised websites that I recollect include the official website of the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Internal Affairs Division of the Military Police of Brazil, the Official Website of the Crown Prince of Kuwait, the Tax Department of Turkey, the Iranian Academic Center for Education and Cultural Research, the Polish Embassy in the UK, and the Ministry of Electricity of Iraq.
Sabu also infiltrated a group of hackers that had access to hundreds of Syrian systems including government institutions, banks, and ISPs. He logged several relevant IRC channels persistently asking for live access to mail systems and bank transfer details. The FBI took advantage of hackers who wanted to help support the Syrian people against the Assad regime, who instead unwittingly provided the U.S. government access to Syrian systems, undoubtedly supplying useful intelligence to the military and their buildup for war.
All of this happened under the control and supervision of the FBI and can be easily confirmed by chat logs the government provided to us pursuant to the government’s discovery obligations in the case against me. However, the full extent of the FBI’s abuses remains hidden. Because I pled guilty, I do not have access to many documents that might have been provided to me in advance of trial, such as Sabu’s communications with the FBI. In addition, the majority of the documents provided to me are under a “protective order” which insulates this material from public scrutiny. As government transparency is an issue at the heart of my case, I ask that this evidence be made public. I believe the documents will show that the government’s actions go way beyond catching hackers and stopping computer crimes.
Again, while Hammond is responsible for actually carrying out the activity of breaking into these sites, it still seems incredibly questionable that the targets may have been suggested by the FBI, which then basically got to take advantage of Hammond’s activities, and then when that wasn’t useful any more, to throw him in jail for a decade.
Congress has taken the first step towards expanding the abilities of the United States intelligence community by advancing a draft bill that will ensure the government’s spy budget stays intact into next year.
A Senate commitee approved the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act during a closed door session on Tuesday, a bill that if signed into law will allow the US National Security Agency and other departments to keep receiving funding amid an international scandal that has caused calls for reform and even abolishment of the NSA both in the US and abroad in recent months.
Notwithstanding the backlash brought on by an array of secret NSA documents disclosed to the media by contractor-turned-leaked Edward Snowden since June, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed the draft bill by a 13-2 vote. Next, the full chamber will weigh in on the matter before it is reconciled with a sister act by way of the House of Representatives and sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
If approved with all of its current provisions in place, the law will let the government continue to fund programs operated for purposes of counterterrorism and nuclear weapon proliferation prevention, authorizing initiatives within more than a dozen federal departments, including the NSA and others that deal in covert, intelligence-gathering operations.
In a press release issued Tuesday by the committee, however, its members also acknowledged that the bill expands certain intelligence community operations, including in particular the very programs enacted to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
The bill, the committee wrote, “includes important provisions to enhance the conduct, accountability and oversight of the intelligence activities of the United States,” such as one intended “to protect against insider threats by adding necessary funds to deploy information technology detection systems across the intelligence community.”
The bill would also empower the Director of National Intelligence to “improve the government’s process to investigate . . . individuals with security clearances to access classified information,” while at same time “Instituting new statutory protections that protect the ability of legitimate whistleblowers to bring concerns directly to the attention of lawmakers, inspectors general and intelligence community leaders.”
Since the identity of the NSA leaker was revealed to be 30-year-old Edward Snowden, opponents of his actions have suggested that alternative, legal routes to questions the intelligence community’s tactics could have been taken, such as appealing to an inspector general. History, however, suggests that recent whistleblowers before him had a nearly impossible time doing as much, including Thomas Drake, a former senior NSA executive who was charged under the Espionage Act after he attempted to draw attention to waste, fraud and abuse within his agency years earlier. Speaking at an anti-NSA rally in Washington last month, Drake told a crowd of a couple thousand, “Any domestic surveillance legislation must include whistleblower protection for the credibility and enforcement of any reform effort, otherwise secrecy enforced by repression will turn into a faux reform passed into simply an honor system” for the NSA.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia said, “This year’s intelligence authorization bill achieves both objectives by providing clear guidance and appropriate resources to the intelligence community, while enhancing the committee’s oversight of vital intelligence activities.”
If signed into law, the act will allow for funding to continue with regards to a number of intelligence-gathering operations conducted not just by the likes of the NSA, but also the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Energy and Justice, among others.
Committee to Stop FBI Repression | October 23, 2013
She is charged with immigration fraud. Allegedly, in her application for citizenship, she didn’t mention that she was arrested in Palestine 45 years ago by an Israeli military court that detains Palestinians without charge – a court that has over 200 children in prison today and does not recognize the rights of Palestinians to due process.
The arrest today appears to be related to the case of the 23 anti-war activists subpoenaed to a grand jury in 2010. Well-known labor, community and international solidarity activists around the Midwest had their homes raided by the FBI when the U.S. attorney alleged that they had provided material support to foreign terrorist organizations in Palestine and Colombia.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas is leading the investigation against the 23. He was at the courtroom in Chicago this morning, consulting with the assistant U.S. attorney who was presenting the indictment to the judge. Jonas was also the prosecutor in the case of the Holy Land Five, the heads of the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. before 9/11. He was successful in getting prison sentences for as long as 65 years for the five men, who provided charity to children in Gaza.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) denounces this attack as another example of the continuing repression of Palestinians and people who stand in solidarity with them. Homeland Security, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s office now are carrying out enforcement of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Odeh will appear in court in Detroit on Nov. 1, where she will be represented by Jim Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild. CSFR urges people to attend the proceedings at the Federal Court in Detroit in her defense.
MANHATTAN – A Muslim man says he has been unable to visit his ailing mother for over two years because he refused to spy for the FBI and is now on the no-fly list.
Muhammad Tanvir says he is not the only one who the FBI unlawfully placed on the no-fly list “in retaliation for their refusal to work as informants against their communities and submit to questioning.”
The Queens man says his predicament has left him unable to visit his ailing mother in Pakistan for over two years, and that it has burdened his practice of Islam.
He notes that he is a lawful permanent resident employed at a 99-cent store in the Bronx who has “never been convicted of a crime nor does he pose any threat to aviation safety.”
The FBI declined to comment.
Though the no-fly list is supposed to represent a list of suspected terrorists, the American Civil Liberties Union calls it “a draconian tool to coerce Americans into spying on their communities.” In this case, Tanvir is represented by Shayana Kadidal with the Center for Constitutional Rights.
After refusing FBI agents’ request that he serve as an informant in his predominantly Muslim community and landing on the no-fly list, Tanvir says he reached out to the FBI to clear things up. Instead of helping, FBI agents offered to take him off the list in exchange for information.
Tanvir, who has lived in the United States since 2002, again refused.
“Mr. Tanvir has been prevented from flying despite the fact that he does not present any threat to aviation security,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, defendants sought to exploit the draconian burden posed by the No Fly List – including the inability to travel for work, or to visit family overseas – in order to coerce him into serving the FBI as a spy with American Muslim communities and places of worship.”
Named as defendants are FBI Director James Comey; Terrorist Screening Center Director Christopher Piehota; Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers; and Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole.
The FBI agencies are responsible maintaining the Terrorist Screening Database, which includes the no-fly list.
Tanvir wants the court to declare as unconstitutional the FBI’s alleged practice of placing people on the no-fly list for not cooperating, then using an offer to remove them as a bribe for information.
He also wants off the list, along with damages.
A report published on Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union urges the Obama administration to reform the Federal Bureau of Investigation following years of documented instances in which the FBI has abused its authority.
In thousands of words spanning a 60-plus page report titled Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority, the ACLU this week condemns the agency, particularly in the years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The ACLU argues that since the attacks of 9/11, the federal government has time and time again allowed the FBI to broaden its law enforcement powers, often without sufficient oversight. As a result, they write, the FBI has been transformed into “a domestic intelligence and law enforcement agency of unprecedented power and international reach.”
Despite reform enacted in the wake of the infamous years J. Edgar Hoover spent as FBI director, the ACLU says that the agency has “subverted internal and external oversight” in recent time, in turn allowing for gross abuse, often impacting the civil liberties of Americans as a result.
In a plea for change, the ACLU accuses the FBI of “squelching whistleblowers, imposing and enforcing unnecessary secrecy and actively misleading Congress and the American people” since 9/11, and says the agency has “regularly overstepped the law, infringing on Americans’ constitutional rights while overzealously pursuing its domestic security mission.”
Items highlighted by the ACLU in the report include the secretive surveillance powers the agency has inherited through the PATRIOT Act, its power to open investigations of Americans without proof of a crime, racial and religious profiling and the targeting of people exercising their First Amendment-protected rights, such as journalists and political activists.
Published on the anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution, the ACLU urges President Barack Obama and his administration “to conduct a comprehensive examination of the FBI’s policies and practices to identify and curtail any activities that are unnecessary, ineffective or misused,” especially before the newly appointed director of the agency, James Comey, can subvert any further the policies enacted by his predecessor, James Mueller, who ran the FBI from before 9/11 up until only this month.
Should the executive and legislative branches not consider reform, the ACLU writes, “FBI officials and certain members of Congress will undoubtedly demand that the new director stay the course, no matter how disastrous it may be for American civil liberties and privacy rights.”
“The list of abuses is long and demonstrates that Congress must do a top-to-bottom review of FBI politics and practices to identify and curtail any activities that are unconstitutional or easily misused,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement accompanying the report. “The time for wholesale reform has come.”
One figure cited in the new report portends that the FBI “will soon have the equivalent of 20 pieces of intelligence on every American.”
“An FBI budget request for fiscal year 2008 said the FBI had amassed databases containing 1.5 billion records, and two members of Congress described documents predicting the FBI would have 6 billion records by 2012, which they said would represent “20 separate ‘records’ for each man, woman and child in the United States.”
In turn, the ACLU believes that this huge volume of amassed data can be “shared widely.”
“According to a 2012 Systems of Records Notice covering all FBI data warehouses, the information in these systems can be shared broadly, even with foreign entities and private companies, and for a multitude of law enforcement and non-law enforcement purposes.”
In the wake of the continuing leaks about the NSA’s activities, most commentators are understandably still trying to get to grips with the enormity of what has been happening. But John Naughton, professor of the public understanding of technology at the UK’s Open University, tackles a very different question on his blog: what is likely to happen in the future, if things carry on as they are?
Naughton notes that the NSA’s mission statement includes the following phrase: “to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances.” “Under all circumstances” means that as the Internet grows — and as we know, it is currently growing rapidly — so the NSA will naturally ask for resources to allow it to do tomorrow what it is doing today: monitoring more or less everything that happens online. Naughton then asks where that might lead if the political climate in the US remains sufficiently favorable to the NSA that it does, indeed, get those resources:
The obvious conclusion therefore, is that unless some constraints on its growth materialise, the NSA will continue to expand. It currently has 35,000 employees. How many will it have in ten years’ time? Who can say: 50,000, maybe? Maybe even more? So we’re confronted with the likelihood of the growth of a bureaucratic monster.
How will such a body be subjected to democratic oversight and control? Let me rephrase that: can such a monster be subjected to democratic control?
Although optimists might answer ‘yes’, Naughton points to the FBI as an example of what has already happened in this area:
those with long memories recall the fear and loathing that J. Edgar Hoover, the founder — and long-term (48 years) Director — of the FBI aroused in important segments of the American polity. The relatively restrained Wikipedia entry for him claims that even US presidents feared him and quotes Harry Truman as saying that “Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force”. “We want no Gestapo or secret police”, Truman is reported as saying. “FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.”
He then goes on to draw the obvious parallel with a possible tomorrow:
Now spool forward a decade or so and imagine a Director of the NSA, a charismatic ‘securocrat’ imbued with a mission to protect the United States from terrorists and whatever other threats happen to be current at the time. He (or she) has 50,000+ operatives who have access to every email, clickstream log, text message, phone call and social-networking post that every legislator has ever made. S/he is a keystroke away from summoning up cellphone location logs showing every trip a lawmaker has made, from teenager-hood onwards, every credit- and debit-card payment. Everything.
And then tell me that lawmakers will not be as scared of that person as their predecessors were of Hoover.
- Zero Sum: Americans Must Sacrifice Some Security to Reform the NSA (theatlantic.com)
The former top lawyer at the FBI deeply implicated in surveillance abuses revealed before and by Edward Snowden’s leaks was confirmed as a federal judge in a top court for terrorism cases this week.
The US Senate voted 73-24 on Monday in approving Valerie Caproni, Federal Bureau of Investigation general counsel from 2003 to 2011, to the Southern District of New York, one of the country’s most important federal courts for terrorism cases.
Caproni has received bipartisan criticism for allowing and defending surveillance abuses both found to be overbroad during her tenure and those not disclosed when she was counsel but later revealed to be inappropriate or illegal. For example, the Snowden leaks showed Caproni mischaracterized the limits of the Patriot Act during her term.
A 2010 report by the Department of Justice revealed the FBI inappropriately used non-judicial subpoenas called “exigent letters” to gather phone numbers of over 5,550 Americans until 2006.
“The FBI broke the law on telephone records privacy and the general counsel’s office, headed by Valerie Caproni, sanctioned it and must face consequences,” said John Conyers in April 2010 as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Conyers called for Caproni’s firing at the time over the use of the non-judicial subpoenas, according to the Guardian.
“It’s not in the Patriot Act. It never has been. And its use, perhaps coincidentally, began in the same month that Ms Valerie Caproni began her work as general counsel,” Conyers said in 2010.
Caproni told House lawmakers in 2008 if phone numbers — acquired from telephone companies by the FBI via the non-judicial subpoenas evidently sanctioned in the Patriot Act — were not related to a “currently open investigation, and there was no emergency at the time we received the records, the records are removed from our files and destroyed.”
Yet revelations found in documents supplied by Snowden outlined how the National Security Agency stores phone records on all Americans for up five years no matter if they are associated with an open investigation or not. In addition, it’s been found that the NSA has the capability to feed the FBI phone records if there is a “reasonable articulable suspicion” they are related to terrorism.
“Caproni knew that the Bush administration could use or was using the Section 215 provision in the Patriot Act to obtain Americans’ phone records on a broad scale, an issue that has recently been documented by the whistleblower material first printed in the Guardian,” Lisa Graves, a former deputy assistant attorney general who dealt with Caproni while working on national security issues for the ACLU, told the Guardian.
In 2007, DOJ’s Inspector General Glenn Fine found the FBI was serially abusing National Security Letters — a demand regarding national security independent of legal subpoenas– to obtain business records, including “unauthorized collection of telephone or internet email transactional records.” While the larger collection of phone records was still not exposed at the time, Caproni called the inappropriate collection a “colossal failure on our part.”
“Government officials that secretly approved of overbroad surveillance programs the public is only seeing now because of leaks, and whose testimony on the issue obscured rather than revealed these abuses, should be held to account for their actions in a public forum,” former FBI agent Mike German told the Guardian.
Caproni’s nomination to the federal bench had some bipartisan opposition, but not enough to block her appointment.
“She is a woman with impeccable credentials,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Monday. “This country needs more women like her.”
In recent weeks, two cert petitions were filed seeking review of whether the Fourth Amendment covers police searches of cellphone records upon arrest.
From mobile phone and GPS tracking to license plate reading and domestic surveillance drones — not to mention recent revelations of widespread abuse of surveillance capabilities by the National Security Agency — these cases and many others highlight major questions that remain unanswered regarding how privacy rights of Americans can co-exist with the use of rapidly evolving technologies.
State and federal law enforcement agencies have wasted no time seizing on gaps and omissions in established legal precedent to justify vast, routine surveillance of the American public which tests Fourth Amendment rights.
On July 30, a petition was filed in Riley v. California challenging a previous ruling in a California appellate court that affirmed the petitioner’s convictions, which stemmed in part from a questionable search of his smartphone in 2009 following a traffic stop for expired license plates. And late last week, the US Department of Justice filed a petition in United States v. Wurie asking for review of a First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that police needed a warrant to access a suspect’s phone records. Regarding Wurie, the government contends a cell phone is no different from any other item on a suspect at the time of arrest. The search pertaining to Wurie occurred in 2007.
On the surface, the two cases have much in common. But in Riley, the phone in question is a smartphone – a Samsung Instinct M800. In Wurie, the cellphone was a Verizon LG flip-phone incapable of maintaining the breadth of information – including internet searches, email, photos and other media – that a smartphone can store.
As of May, Pew Research Center found that 91 percent of Americans own cellphones, and 61 percent of those cellphones are smartphones.
GPS technology has received more scrutiny from courts than cellphones have in recent years. Last week, the Justice Department appeared before a federal court defending its right to shield legal memos that provide guidance to federal prosecutors and investigators for how to use GPS devices and other surveillance technologies from the public. In a sense, the memos were released upon a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil LIberties Union (ACLU), though their contents were heavily redacted.
The memos (read here and here) were legal interpretations of a January 2012 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Jones in which the court ruled the use of GPS technology to track a car’s movements constitutes a “search” within the parameters of the Fourth Amendment. Upon release of the indecipherable legal memos, the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking the full, uncensored guidelines.
“While we agree that executive branch lawyers should be able to freely discuss legal theories, once those opinions become official government policy the public has an absolute right to know what they are,” wrote Brian Hauss, legal fellow with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Otherwise, the government is operating under secret law that makes accountability to the people impossible.”
The ruling in United States v. Jones left many unanswered questions regarding the use of other location-monitoring technologies pertaining to, for example, the tracking of cellphones or the use of license-plate readers – not to mention the use of surveillance drones in the US. In addition, the Jones ruling fell short of even determining whether a warrant is necessary to use GPS devices.
Building on the Jones decision, New Jersey recently became a state ahead of the curve in defining rules for law enforcement and privacy rights in the digital age. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in July that state police must have a search warrant before obtaining tracking information from cellphone providers.
“Using a cellphone to determine the location of its owner can be far more revealing than acquiring toll billing, bank, or internet subscriber records,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote in the case’s opinion. “Details about the location of a cellphone can provide an intimate picture of one’s daily life and reveal not just where people go – which doctors, religious services and stores they visit – but also the people and groups they choose to affiliate with. That information cuts across a broad range of personal ties with family, friends, political groups, health care providers and others.”
In June, Montana became the first state to require police to obtain a warrant before tracking a suspect’s cellphone.
In March 2012, the ACLU reviewed records from over 200 local police departments, finding vast, aggressive use of cellphone tracking for emergency and nonemergency uses.
Another ACLU report, released in July of this year, queried around 600 local and state police departments (and other state and federal agencies) via public records requests to assess how these agencies use automatic license plate readers. The civil liberties organization found massive databases of innocent motorists’ location information gleaned through hundreds of millions of “plate reads” by the ubiquitous readers. Data is often stored for an indefinite period of time, revealing just how easy it is for law enforcement – as well as many private companies – to track any license plate with few legal restrictions in place to stop them.
For example, for every one million plates that were read in the state of Maryland in the first half of 2012, 2000 (0.2 percent) were hits, mostly regarding registration or emissions issues. Of those 2000 hits, less than 3 percent (47) were potentially connected to more serious crimes.
In addition, much of this network of readers throughout the nation is in place thanks to a large amount of federal funding – $50 million in the last five years.
Approval of licenses for domestic drones has begun, as RT has reported, even though solid rules for their eventual use in American skies have yet to materialize from either Congress or the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA expects as many as 30,000 drones in American airspace by 2020.
For now, many local law enforcement agencies are leading the quest for drone-use approval, though requests for commercial drones are mounting. As of February 15, 2013, there were 327 active drone certifications despite there being no regulatory framework in place. However, the FAA did get around to certifying two types of unmanned aircraft for civilian use in the US in late July.
In the meantime, federal government agencies have used drones domestically both out in the open and in secret. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has admitted to already using surveillance drones despite no established law or guidelines for their use. The US Department of Homeland Security has used surveillance-capable drones along the border for years, even allowing other federal agencies to use its fleet to the tune of 250 times in 2012 alone, The New York Times reported.
The “summer of NSA revelations” rolls along, with a blockbuster finale today. In June, Jennifer Granick and Christopher Sprigman flatly declared the NSA criminal. Now the agency’s own internal documents (leaked by Snowden) appear to confirm thousands of legal violations.
Legal scholars will not be surprised by the day’s revelations, just as few surveillance experts were all that shocked by the breadth and depth of PRISM, PINWALE, MARINA, and other programs. Ray Ku called warrantless surveillance unconstitutional in 2010. Civil liberties groups and legal scholars warned us repeatedly about where Bush-era executive power theories would lead. As anyone familiar with Bruce Ackerman’s work might guess, pliable attorneys have rubber-stamped the telephony metadata program with a “white paper” that “fails to confront counterarguments and address contrary caselaw” and “cites cases that [are] relatively weak authority for its position.” There are no meaningful penalties in sight (perhaps because the OLC has prepared documents that function as a “get out of jail free” card for those involved).
Like the data mining they employ, the NSA surveillance programs are hard to govern democratically (or cabin legally) because of the speed, scale, and secrecy of the problems they address. They fall into “black holes” of administrative review, where the inclination of judges to review them is at lowest ebb. Even if judges find “ticking time bomb” scenarios unlikely in the extreme, the surveillance apparatus can evoke plenty of other existential risks to demand deference. If you were on the FISA court and the NSA told you that they needed to collect everyone’s data because they were trying to track down a swarm of poison-bearing microdrones, how long would you delay them to “dig into the substance” before approving the request? As Desmond Manderson has argued, “Trust Us Justice” is the order of the day.
Nevertheless, the long-term danger of an unaccountable surveillance state is probably much greater than that posed by any particular terror threat.* Both Julie Cohen and Neil Richards have explained the many dangers arising out of pervasive surveillance. As Richards observes,
[The] special harm that surveillance poses is its effect on the power dynamic between the watcher and the watched. This disparity creates the risk of a variety of harms, such as discrimination, coercion, and the threat of selective enforcement, where critics of the government can be prosecuted or blackmailed for wrongdoing unrelated to the purpose of the surveillance.
To make this more concrete: note that the US’s intelligence apparatus has already extensively monitored libertarians and peace activists. According to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, “from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat.” During Occupy Wall Street, investigative journalists uncovered command centers advised by federal and local officials and banks. Skeptics wondered whether banks’ lucrative “private detail pay” and donations for police helped motivate multiple, brutal crackdowns on peaceful (if unorthodox) protesters. Homeland security officials may have advised local police on containment of the hundreds of “Occupy” encampments that arose in the fall of 2011. And in terms of selective enforcement: one has to wonder why police decided to care about a six-year-old open container violation at the homes of activists one day before May Day protests.
For a concrete example of how an activist deals with this type of news, consider the story of one Daytona woman:
[She] is a 45-year-old married mother of two young children. She is a homeowner, a taxpayer and a safe driver. She votes in every election. She attends a Unitarian Universalist church on Sundays. She is also, like nearly all who have a relationship with the Occupy movement in the United States, being monitored by the federal government. . . . McLeish worries about how being a target of FBI attention will affect her life. “Can the inclusion of my name and information on a federal law enforcement domestic terrorist watch list impact my ability to make a living and provide for my children?” she asked.
This is not a purely speculative concern, however much the SCOTUS majority in Clapper v. Amnesty may dismiss such worries as the fruit of a “chain of contingencies.” FBI screens are used to deny persons jobs, now. Many applicants have no idea they are even part of the hiring process:
Updating the records of those who fall through the cracks can be confusing and cumbersome. FBI regulations say that employers and licensing agencies should give applicants time to challenge and correct their records, either by contacting the FBI or the jurisdiction that collected the data. But applicants are not always given a copy of their report or told why they were disqualified. Often, the burden is on them to prove an error was made.
Even if the databases don’t include those who are not arrested, what stops law enforcement agencies from including “suspects” in related databases? Employers may not want to have anything to do with someone “under watch” by the government. Moreover, even being arrested can be a form of speech: consider the Moral Monday protesters in North Carolina.
Speculative No More
In his press conference last week, President Obama stated, “If you look at the reports, even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden’s put forward, all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and, you know, listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s e-mails.” In Clapper v. Amnesty Int’l, Justice Alito trivialized the plaintiffs’ concerns as mere conjecture. Surveillance promoters on both left and right argue that privacy activists haven’t demonstrated any concrete harms. The former NSA director has dismissed those concerned as “nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven’t talked to the opposite sex in five or six years.”
Implications of paranoia (among those worried about surveillance) now themselves appear fantastical. The Supreme Court’s bizarre decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International, that respondents’ claims about being monitored were “too speculative” to merit judicial review, now deserves not merely rebuke, but reconsideration. Unless the surveillance apparatus wants to claim that Greenwald, the ACLU, EPIC, and PCJF are making up documents out of whole cloth, it has to acknowledge that not only have laws been violated, but exactly the types of harms those laws were designed to stop have indeed occurred. This is not just a matter of legalist punctilio or nihilist skepticism.
Tragically, the core surveillance harms are not likely to provoke much political pushback against the NSA. Unlike the Framers, who wrote the Constitution shortly after risking their lives for their political commitments, most Americans have little respect for the political targets of NSA/DHS/FBI/Police/DEA surveillance and information sharing.** For the average voter, about the only thing more suspect than the two major parties are political activists who operate outside their ken. Justice Roberts’s FISA Court, and the dozens of appellate judges like them, are unlikely to have more enlightened views. A movement to make the surveillance apparatus more accountable will need to achieve its goals indirectly, focusing on the costs, creepiness, or crony capitalism of mass surveillance. I hope to elaborate on each of these issues in future posts.
**To preempt the comment “you’re mixing up different programs:” please take a look at this article on vertical and horizontal fusion of data sources in the new Information Sharing Environment. For the TL;DR crowd, there’s this.
- NSA “Nothing to see here, people” types thoroughly embarrassed again (washingtonmonthly.com)
Before I came across the book Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11: Counterfeiting Evidence by Elias Davidsson, I believed in the official narrative on 9/11. I read the book twice. It completely shattered my former belief.
I’m no expert on 9/11 and do not believe in esoteric theories. My attitude towards 9/11 has been marked by a certain curiosity, but also by healthy skepticism. When I initially stumbled across articles questioning the official 9/11 narrative, I just read them and put them away. With Davidsson’s book, it was different: it immediately captivated me.
Having hitch-hiked extensively all over the United States and studied international relations at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, I am somehow familiar with how American society ticks. I have noted that after every severe calamity in the US, an immediate inquiry is initiated to determine the facts. When it comes to airplane crashes, it befalls the National Transportation Security Board (NTSB) to determine the circumstances in which the airplane crashed: the plane is pieced together from the debris, the cause of the crash is determined and a public report is issued regarding the circumstances of the crash. The U.S. government did not, however, permit the NTSB to investigate the 9/11 crashes. It had to be carried out, exceptionally, by the more secretive FBI, which has no obligation to publish its findings. Why did the U.S. government insist on such unprecedented secrecy?
Elias Davidsson’s book may provide an answer to this question. His book is a very thorough study of specific aspects of the 9/11 events that have hitherto been neglected. The strength of his book lies in its reliance on primary evidence, the sources for which are provided so that readers can check for themselves the accuracy and relevance of the evidence. Davidsson does not merely provide footnoted references to the sources but has actually posted a great number of source documents on his website, sparing readers tedious searches. This unusually user-friendly approach indicates the author’s willingness to subject him to the most exacting scrutiny by readers. What makes his study so compelling is his judicious use of official U.S. government documents to undermine the assertions of the U.S. government itself? A great part of his sources are FBI documents culled from the U.S. National Archives (NARA).
The author provides persuasive evidence that the official narrative is riddled with contradictions, anomalies, puzzling coincidences, lies, forged and planted evidence; that witnesses were intimidated; and that news was fabricated. A substantial chunk of his book is devoted to an analysis of the telephone calls made between passengers and crew-members with their colleagues or loved-ones on the ground. It is actually the most comprehensive and thorough analysis of these phone calls undertaken to date. One gets the rather sinister impression – reading the quoted phone calls – that the callers were not experiencing true hijackings. Readers will have to judge for themselves whether this impression is justified.
The author was born in Palestine in 1941 to Jewish parents and grew up in Jerusalem but lived for most of his life in Iceland. Apart from his double professional career, first as a computer expert and then as a music teacher and composer, he became interested in international law in the 1990s and published a number of extensive papers in the fields of international law, human rights law, and international criminal law. In 2002, prompted by anomalies he discovered in the official narrative on 9/11, he started researching these events. The present book represents the culmination of ten years’ work.
The book is divided into four parts and 14 chapters. The style of the presentation is narrative and easy to follow. Davidsson’s book is the first one that demonstrates, beyond reasonable doubt, that there exists no evidence for the claim that Muslim terrorists hijacked planes on 9/11. His book is not limited to debunking this claim. He also shows that the U.S. authorities have failed to identify the debris of the aircraft that crashed or allegedly crashed at the various sites on 9/11. Based on his comprehensive analysis of the phone calls, Davidsson invites readers to consider what he designates as his best theory regarding the nature of the phone calls.
Before involving readers with the intricate forensics of the case, the author highlights the incredible swiftness with which the official narrative on 9/11 emerged: CBS News named Osama bin Laden as the main suspect within 15 minutes. Approximately 20 minutes after the second plane crash, President Bush declared that “America is under attack,” although he had no evidence that the events were related to a foreign source. The facts of the case were not determined by investigators, but by the U.S. Congress, meeting 24 hours after the events. Relying on a statement made by Senator Lott, Davidsson reveals that the congressional resolution was already in the works on the very day of the incident.
For the author, 9/11 was a brilliantly orchestrated “propaganda coup”. The dramatists of 9/11 must have envisaged that the events, played out real time on television, would serve to unite the American people and rally the population behind the flag. This turned out to be the case. The role of U.S. and European media in promoting the official 9/11 version is well known. Established media deliberately and routinely suppress facts that might undermine public belief in the official version, for example the admission by the FBI in June 2006 to possess no hard evidence of a link between Osama bin Laden and 9/11.
Is it possible to challenge Davidsson’s work? One might argue that a colossal crime such as 9/11 would involve so many people, that the plot could not be kept secret. According to this argument someone, among the many participants, would have long ago “spilled the beans.” How compelling is this view? What does it mean to “spill the beans”? How likely will eyewitnesses “spill the beans”?
First, it should be clarified that government conspiracies do not always remain secret. They are often exposed by scholars and historians. But as long as such exposure is limited to scholarly books and suppressed by the corporate media, these plots remain – for the general public – “conspiracy theories”. A few examples should suffice:
In 1967, the US and Israel conspired in attempting to sink the USS Liberty off the coast of Israel. The US Navy personnel who survived the perfidious attack attempted to raise public knowledge about this conspiracy but did not succeed. The facts have been thoroughly documented by British journalist Peter Hounam, who interviewed survivors and participants. They are known to those who wish to know, but are kept suppressed from the large public.
The Tuskegee Syphilis experiment is cited as “arguably the most infamous biomedical research study in U.S. history.” This experiment was conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service. The conspiracy of deception on which this experiment was based, was only brought to public in 1972 by a whistleblower, i.e. 40 years after the experiment began.
Operation Gladio refers to terrorist acts secretly engineered by the secret services in Italy, Belgium, Greece, Turkey and possibly Germany during the Cold War. These murderous acts were staged to appear as terrorism by leftist groups. The operation was kept secret for 40 years in Western Europe with no one blowing the whistle. It was revealed in 1990 by the Italian Prime Minister Julio Andreotti, addressing the Italian parliament, but even that did not ensure wide public knowledge because major media did not cover the story. Most European people, including academics, journalists and politicians, are not aware of this murderous conspiracy which was carried out by their own governments. Those unaware of this operation will be tempted to call it a “conspiracy theory”.
In addition to media reluctance to report government conspiracies, the modus operandi of covert operations needs also to be considered. Covert operations carried out by the military are always organized according to the “need to know” principle. Michael Ruppert, one of the first independent investigators of 9/11, reminded readers: “From the Manhattan Project to the Stealth fighter, the US government has successfully kept secrets involving thousands of people. Secondly, in order to execute a conspiracy of the size and type I am suggesting – 9/11 — it is not necessary that thousands of people see the whole picture. The success of the US in maintaining the secrecy around the atom bomb and the Stealth fighter, or in any classified operation, lies in compartmentalization. A technician in Tennessee refining uranium ore in 1943 would have had no knowledge of its intended use or any moral culpability in any deaths that occurred as a result of it. Another technician in Ohio, mixing a polymer resin in 1985, would have had no knowledge of what an F117A looked like or what it was intended to do.”
Many people believe that a government employee aware of illegal practices by his agency or his superiors will immediately report to the police or speak to a journalist. This belief is not justified. Exposing a high state crime requires great personal courage and entails risks to one’s career, security or even life. Even the courageous whistleblower cannot be certain that those, to whom he confides will publicize the information, suppress it or inform on him to his superiors. Just consider what happened to Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden or Julian Assange! Sadly, most people do not even dare to ask elementary questions about 9/11, afraid of being ostracized or even losing their jobs. Civil courage is a rare commodity.
Summing up his findings, Elias Davidsson refers to human rights norms according to which the families of 9/11 victims are entitled to know what happened to their next-of-kin and society is entitled to have the perpetrators, planners and facilitators of the mass-murder identified, prosecuted and convicted. He furthermore sees in efforts to expose 9/11 a “revolutionary potential” because it would reveal what he sees as the monumental failure of our institutions to seek the truth on these murderous events.
Davidsson’s book is not an introduction to 9/11 critical studies. It caters to those who are already aware of the major anomalies in the official narrative. The book is a must read to those concerned with the stealthy transformation of Western democracies into police states and to those who oppose the wars conducted by the United States and its allies.
Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany.
Yes, the FBI was spying on the Muslim community in Southern California and, yes, it lied to a federal judge about the existence of documents relevant to a case regarding that surveillance.
But, no, the FBI shouldn’t be sanctioned for its behavior.
That was the ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which disagreed with U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who ordered the government in 2011 to pay court costs for those bringing suit on behalf of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization of mosques and Muslim organizations that has operated in Southern California since 1995.
The civil liberties case before the District Court alleged that U.S. authorities illegally spied on mosques in 2006 and 2007. The FBI was accused of sending an undercover informant into several Orange County mosques as part of Operation Flex and may have collected information on hundreds of people. The FBI admitted that it used the informant, but demanded that the case be tossed for national security reasons.
Lawyers for the mosques demanded to see surveillance records on the plaintiffs. The FBI told the judge it had provided all the information within the scope of the plaintiffs’ original Freedom of Information Act request. That wasn’t true and an incensed Judge Carney sanctioned the FBI.
“The Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court,” Judge Carney wrote.
But the Ninth Court of Appeals said that wasn’t true and reversed his ruling. You can, apparently lie to a judge if later on you admit you lied.
The FBI had initially released eight heavily-redacted pages of information in response to the lawsuit brought against them and said that was all there was. But eventually they coughed up another 100 pages of equally heavily-redacted documents that they showed the judge privately in camera. Then, later, the FBI produced yet more documents.
In response to the serial deception, Carney wrote in his 2011 ruling, “The court must impose monetary sanctions to deter the government from deceiving the court again.”
The three-judge appellate panel disagreed, cited what is known as a safe harbor provision of the law, and reversed on procedural grounds, saying what counted was the fact that the judge eventually got the documents.
A frustrated Judge Carney tossed out the spying lawsuit against the FBI in August 2012 for national security reasons, likening himself to a fictional Greek hero who must save all those around him at the expense of a few. “Odysseus opted to pass by the monster and risk a few of his individual sailors, rather than hazard the loss of his entire ship to the sucking whirlpool,” the apologetic judge wrote.
To Learn More:
No Sanctions for FBI’s Evasive Court Tactics (by Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service)
Judge Sanctions FBI for Hiding Info from Him (by Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service)
Mosques Will Not Get Day in Court to Contest U.S. Spying (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)
Federal Court Sanctions FBI for Lying about Surveillance Records (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Islamic Shura Council of Southern California et al v. Federal Bureau of Investigation (U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)
During the past few days, the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe have published stories citing evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a 9/11 truth supporter. However, they failed to mention the obvious implication: Tsarnaev was an innocent patsy who was framed for a bombing he did not commit.
The Boston Globe said of Tsarnaev: “He believed that 9/11 was an inside job and that the government had pulled it off.” The source: Donald Larking, a friend of Tsarnaev and member of the Cambridge, Massachusetts Islamic community.
Why would a Muslim who knew that 9/11 was an anti-Islam PR stunt – and a disaster for Muslims – want to stage another 9/11-style attack on US civilians? (Especially since Islam prohibits attacks on civilians.) Obviously, Muslims, who are aware that 9/11 served the Zionist agenda, benefitted the military-industrial complex, and damaged the cause of Islam, wouldn’t stage such attacks.
The government-media narrative is that Tamerlan was a “radical Chechen Muslim.” But wait a minute – why would a “radical Chechen Muslim” want to attack the United States? The United States has supported and funded radical Chechen Muslims in their struggle against Russia.
Friends of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, including Donald Larking, say Tamerlan was a kind, gentle person. None of the Tsarnaev’s family and friends believes Tamerlan or Dzokhar committed the bombing. (Unless we count Uncle Ruslan the CIA asset.)
If Tamerlan had been a violent person, a “freedom fighter,” perhaps he might have attacked one of the Zionist Islamophobes he believed guilty of the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Or if he were a partisan of the Chechen freedom struggle, he might have accepted CIA money to fight against Russia, as so many Chechens have.
But the claim that a 9/11-truth supporting Chechen Muslim would bomb the Boston Marathon is ridiculous on its face. Saying a Chechen freedom-fighter would bomb America is like saying that Charles De Gaulle and the French Resistance would bomb the London subway during World War II.
Sadly, the mainstream media has failed to point out the absurdity of the US government’s preposterous and demonstrably false story about what happened at the Boston Marathon. According to the US media – which is largely owned and run by Zionist Islamophobes – Muslims are just violent, irrational individuals who engage in mass murder for no particular reason, against their own interests.
Since the Islamophobic mainstream media is dedicated to portraying Muslims as irrational and violent, it does not even bother to note the insanity of claiming that a Chechen freedom-fighter would bomb the US, a historic supporter of the Chechen struggle. “He was just a crazy Muslim,” the media says. “He would bomb anyone, even the country that supports his cause, because … well, Muslims just like to kill lots of people in precisely those ways that most damage their cause.”
And if anyone even asks the question, “Who benefits?” the media starts screaming “anti-Semite! Conspiracy theorist!”
The FBI, like the media, is determined to avoid asking the hard questions. That would explain why the FBI showed no interest whatsoever in Tamerlan’s 9/11 truth library.
The Boston Globe quoted Tamerlan’s neighbor, Harvey Smith, as saying that Tamerlan owned many 9/11 truth publications, some of them gifts from Donald Larking. But according to Smith, the FBI showed no interest in Tamerlan’s 9/11 truth material; they carted off all of his Islamic books as “evidence,” but left the 9/11 stuff.
Smith, puzzled by this oversight, told the Globe: “I think it’s interesting the FBI didn’t take them. Maybe it’s because it didn’t fit into their thinking about him.”
Indeed, 9/11 truth publications would not “fit into the FBI’s thinking” about Tamerlan. The FBI’s whole case is based on the absurd notion – accepted by Americans only due to ignorance and Islamophobia – that Tamerlan’s “radical Chechan Muslim” identity would somehow lead him to bomb the country that supported his struggle.
That ridiculous lie might be shoved down the throats of the American people, who know next to nothing about Chechnya, and who have been conditioned by the 9/11 inside job to hate and fear Islam.
But were the FBI to admit that Tamerlan (like his brother Dzokhar) was a 9/11-truth-supporting Muslim, their case might begin to look ridiculous even to the sheeple who graze on mainstream media loco-weed. Even the dumbest American could see that a Muslim who thought 9/11 was an anti-Islam psy-op would be the last person on earth to perpetrate ANOTHER anti-Islam psy-op!
So the FBI left all of Tamerlan’s 9/11 truth material in his apartment, assuming it would be lost to history.
But now the mainstream media is publicizing it, possibly in hopes of demonizing the 9/11 truth movement – especially the Muslim-sponsored Million American March Against Fear in Washington DC this coming September 11th.
The media are betting that the American people are too stupid to ask the obvious questions.
They assume that Americans are incapable of searching the Internet and finding the photographs that prove that Craft International, not the Tsarnaevs, perpetrated the Boston bombings.
Are they right? Are Americans really that stupid?
As H.L. Mencken said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”
Nor have any false-flag terrorists gone to jail for underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
Not yet, anyway.
But they say there is a first time for everything.