In recent years we have seen the growth of an enormous infrastructure for routine commercial surveillance on the internet. This infrastructure includes not only “free” advertising-based services like Google and Facebook, but also a largely invisible system of ad networks that track people across the different sites they visit. While most people are not familiar with the extent of tracking and/or are uncomfortable with it, the advertising industry would like to normalize this surveillance and have us believe that humanity has reached some new phase where privacy is not as important as it once was.
I have seen this firsthand in the current battle over whether the FCC should extend longstanding privacy protections from old communications networks like the telephone, to the newest communications network, broadband internet service.
As I have discussed before, when an American picks up the phone to call a suicide hotline, an outreach service for gay teens, or a cancer doctor, he or she doesn’t have to worry that the phone company will sell that information to others, thanks to a privacy law (section 222 of the Communications Act) that prohibits such privacy invasions. There is no reason why that same privacy protection should not apply to the internet, which has superseded the telephone system as the most important communications network in Americans’ lives. Chairman Tom Wheeler of the FCC is moving to do just this — apply the traditional privacy protections of the Communications Act to broadband internet access service — and on Friday the ACLU filed comments with the FCC supporting that agency’s proposal.
The influence and example set by the advertising-based services that use the internet have loomed large in the efforts of industry to convince the FCC not to apply the law as clearly written. And some of the people I’ve discussed broadband privacy with have just shrugged their shoulders at the issue, as if privacy has already been so compromised online that one more set of rules won’t really make a difference.
The broadband providers are trying to milk that attitude for all it’s worth. They’re asking the FCC not to enforce the law precisely because they want to get in the game — grab short-term profits by monitoring communications as they provide internet service, just like many of the companies that use the internet do. They are pointing to the Googles and Facebooks of the world and saying, “why should we be subject to stricter rules than they are?”
It’s a big mistake to view things that way. There is a fundamental difference between the destinations at the edges of the network that people choose to use online, and can abandon for a competitor virtually at the click of a mouse, and the internet infrastructure itself. Broadband providers have the potential to monitor not just one area of a customer’s internet use, but all of them. We pay for broadband, it is not a free, ad-supported service. And the state of competition among broadband carriers (oligopolistic at best) is such that they have significant market power, and even where equivalent competitive options are available, the switching costs can be considerable. Most importantly, perhaps, the broadband providers are clearly covered by those privacy protections in the Communications Act, and the edge providers are not.
But there’s one more big reason that we should not consider the online advertising system to be a normalized part of life: it is far from clear that it is here to stay. As we stressed to the FCC in our comments, the online ecosystem is a fluid, rapidly changing environment, where consumers can stampede from one web service to another at a whim, where empires rise and fall seemingly overnight (for example Myspace, Friendster, Netscape, RealNetworks, Orkut, and Digg), or across a decade (for example AOL or Yahoo). The ad-based regime of today may look completely different in a few years.
There’s reason to think it will. While some communications infrastructures have been regularly spied upon from time to time throughout history, in the end people need, and always demand, privacy. As historian David Kahn put it, invasions of privacy contradict
a long evolution toward the secrecy of communications. Centuries ago, people in England, France and the German states fought for the right to send letters without their being opened by the ‘black chambers’ of absolutist monarchs.
Across Europe, Kahn writes,
the public knew about the letter-opening and hated it. The pre-revolutionary French assembly, the Estates-General, received complaints from all regions of France and from all classes of society about this invasion of their thoughts. A month after the fall of the Bastille, Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man held that citizens may write with freedom — in effect nullifying the right of the government to read letters. In the United States, the 1792 law establishing the Post Office forbade its agents from illegally opening the mail entrusted to it.
In 1794 Prussia enacted a law punishing letter-opening, Kahn writes, and “other states of Germany and elsewhere in Europe followed.” In 1844 the British Parliament “exploded” when an Italian visitor learned his letters had been opened, and the resulting “uproar” ended the practice.
More recently, the revelations about wholesale spying by the NSA have created a new firestorm of controversy—and a worldwide movement toward increasing the protection of privacy through both political and technological means.
In the end, people demand privacy. Confidentiality and control over the information about oneself that one disseminates are an inherent part of human life, and privacy is a core human need. When communications media are not regarded as trustworthy and private, people seek out other means of communicating — or demand change in the media they do use.
Often there is a lag, sometimes substantial, between when people first lose their privacy and when they begin to understand and resent that loss, and demand its correction. It is just this lag that the advertising industry is currently depending upon in today’s online edge-provider ecosystem. But this ecosystem, in which millions of people appear to have traded their privacy for free online services, evokes profound discomfort in many people, according to numerous polls.
In short, while many industry players would like to proclaim the advent of a “new era” in which privacy matters less, nothing could be further from the truth. The current prevalence of privacy invasions among certain edge providers does not enjoy wide legitimacy and should not be used to justify a betrayal of legally clear, culturally deep, and historically longstanding protection for privacy in our essential communications infrastructure. We must not let the essentially corrupt practices that happen to dominate our online ecosystem at the current moment in time be imported into the essential communications infrastructure on which that ecosystem lives. As one commentator put it, “we are only in the Middle Ages of digitization. The Renaissance has yet to come.”
After a big announcement on May 16, 2016, The Intercept made 166 documents available to the public. At this rate, it will take an estimated 600 years to read all of the documents! I would like to ask The Intercept, ‘Where’s the beef?’
Last updated on May 16, 2016, Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept released its first data dump of the Snowden NSA files. For a long time, I wondered why the Snowden files weren’t available to us like the WikiLeaks files were. After all, the information could further research on US “asymmetric warfare.” I wanted to search them just as I had done with WikiLeaks. And then, perhaps it was fate that gave me a partial answer: I used Wikileaks documents for my dissertation and was forced to scrub every WikiLeaks reference in order to get my dissertation published and receive my Ph.D.
You see, in its zeal to crack the whip on whistle blowers revealing the government’s multitudinous dirty dealings and to deter even more acts of conscience from potential whistle blowers, the Obama Administration chose to prosecute and imprison journalist Barrett Brown who had merely republished via hyperlinks some of the same WikiLeaks sources found in my dissertation.
Thus, my institution foreclosed a similar fate for me and I can write this article from a comfortable room rather than the federal penitentiary—where Barrett Brown currently is located. In one place, I had compiled Operation Condor, COINTELPRO, and WikiLeaks documents pertaining to America’s use of “asymmetric warfare” against inconvenient states and their leaders, as well as US actions against inconvenient civil society leaders.
Our knowledge of COINTELPRO helps us to understand that what was done at home to organizations like the Black Panther Party is also done abroad. In fact, many US political prisoners today are incarcerated as a result of the illegal actions of the US government against organizations like the American Indian Movement as well as the Black Panther Party. If the US would carry out such actions against its own citizens, why wouldn’t it do such things to foreigners?
My dissertation captures some of what was done abroad to President Hugo Chavez of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and places these actions in the larger context of US practice of asymmetric warfare against people and states it doesn’t like. Therefore, I relished the new information revealed in WikiLeaks about US attitudes toward Venezuela and Chavez written by American bureaucrats who believed that their words would be cloaked by classification.
So, when the Snowden leaks became known, I rushed to all sites political to find the treasure trove of US misdeeds—er, asymmetric warfare – that I knew would be buried inside the raw data. But, alas, it was nowhere to be found! I wrote e-mails to everyone I could think of who might have access to the information, but continued to draw a blank. The dribble of stories, sanitized by a suspect press, was not good enough for me. I began to have my doubts about whether I would ever see the data for myself and search it for my research needs. Indeed, articles began to question if we would ever see the Snowden data.
Cryptome, a digital library site especially for whistle blowers, began to keep a count of the released data versus the total number of pages. On May 14, 2016, Cryptome estimated that at its current rate of release, it would take as many as 620 years for the public to see all of the Snowden documents. On May 16, 2016, Omidyar’s Intercept released a fully-searchable tranche of 166 Snowden documents and promised that more are on the way. Sadly, this pace may take more than six hundred years as there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of documents to be released.
The Intercept has set aside a special section for its signals intelligence directorate newsletter releases, known in the National Security Agency (NSA) as SIDtoday. By scrolling down the page, one can find a download button to download all 166 documents, which I have done. Here, The Intercept explains its methodology of unveiling the oldest documents from 2003 first and then working its way through to its most recent 2012 articles.
The Intercept requests readers to contact them if something of public interest is found, while also noting that the names of low-level functionaries have been redacted by its staff. Additionally, it writes that its innovative approach is to partner with newspapers like Le Monde to go through the documents. The Intercept warns that some documents will not appear because of the speculative nature of accusations leveled against individuals by government operatives at NSA. The Intercept maintains that it chose a different route from WikiLeaks (fully searchable complete archive of all documents) because of different conditions set for release of the documents by different whistle blowers which The Intercept is bound to honor.
The Intercept accompanies release of the 166 documents with a story highlighting the “most intriguing” NSA reports. This first release of documents demonstrates how closely the NSA worked alongside the CIA and the Pentagon and other government departments to fight the US ‘war on terror.’ One example is the April 14, 2003 SIDtoday that boasts of the NSA role in the rescue of Jessica Lynch. What is not mentioned (how could it be?) is the role played by signals intelligence in the fabrication of the ‘Jessica-Lynch-is-an-American-hero’ story! Politifact, in reconstructing the false story, finds that the faked intelligence didn’t come from the Pentagon, and came from Iraqi “intercepts.”
The SIDtoday boasts that six government agencies, most from NSA, contributed to the successful rescue of hero Jessica Lynch. It wrote, “Such information assists the warfighter in planning operations to destroy or disable an underground facility, or, in this case, to rescue U.S. personnel and save lives.”
Recently, another leak came to our attention, the results of which are still reverberating throughout the international scene. The Panama Papers came to our attention and caused quite a stir about off-shore bank accounts, usually used to stash tax-free, ill-gotten cash abroad. Even David Cameron, the U.K. Prime Minister was found to have an off-shore account—even while calling an anti-corruption summit!
The Guardian calls the Panama Papers, at over eleven million documents, “history’s biggest data leak.” The Panama Papers contain a who’s who and a how to stash cash offshore. At 11 million plus documents, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has made the database available to the public in a fully-searchable format. I can go there and find any information that I want. The possibilities for research are phenomenal. So, what’s up with the Snowden documents and why can’t I search the approximately one million or so of them?
Well, as of May 16, the situation is improved, somewhat. Only 166 documents can be found in chronological order here; 166 documents are not going to create the kind of consciousness for which I believe Edward Snowden made his tremendous sacrifice. He is now marooned in Russia when he would much rather be at home with his family and friends, I would imagine.
Still, I believe he was right to inform us about what the US government is doing with our tax dollars, to its citizens at home and to the rest of the world. In my opinion, the US government is a rogue state and COINTELPRO, Operation Condor, WikiLeaks, and what little we know of the Snowden documents amply demonstrates that. The time for keeping secrets from the people who are paying for them is long over, in my opinion.
Edward Snowden said that he wanted to start a bottom-up revolution. The drip-drip-drip of the Snowden documents is the best way to ensure document release without revolution! I can’t help but wonder what’s going on with The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, whom Vice called “Snowden’s journalist of choice,” and the documents that I can’t wait to review! The researcher in me still wishes that, after doing its due diligence, The Intercept will see to it that Snowden’s more than one million documents will be made available to the public on a fully searchable platform in the manner that WikiLeaks and the Panama Papers has provided to the world.
After serving in the Georgia Legislature, in 1992, Cynthia McKinney won a seat in the US House of Representatives. She was the first African-American woman from Georgia in the US Congress. In 2005, McKinney was a vocal critic of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and was the first member of Congress to file articles of impeachment against George W. Bush. In 2008, Cynthia McKinney won the Green Party nomination for the US presidency.
German intelligence agencies and police have granted asylum to roughly 1,000 refugees in exchange for sensitive information, often by means of “intervention” in the decisions of the national immigration authority, the government has said.
Intelligence services and the federal police have granted asylum to almost 1,000 migrants over the past 15 years, the government’s official response to a parliamentary request for information said. According to the paper, between 1958 and 2013 Germany’s main intelligence agency, the BND, operated a so-called Main Questioning Facility (HBW) which was in charge of collecting specific intelligence from migrants entering the country.
Many “questioning” sessions involved US officers from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), though respondents were not aware of the officials’ real identities. Other German agencies such as the federal police, customs service and regional domestic intelligence authorities were also said to have access to recruiting their own informants among migrants.
The HBW would then ask the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) to grant asylum to each migrant deemed suitable to become a BND source. Such requests, described in the paper as “interventions,” were justified by the claim that the migrants would face imminent death or torture if forced to return to their countries of origin.
Most informants came from the Middle East – with the peak figures in 2001-2002 after 9/11 – followed by nationals of post-Soviet countries, Africa, Asia and the Balkans, the document says. Notably, the immigration service rejected two asylum “interventions” in 2002, even after those informants had been recruited by the BND.
The BND’s “questioning facility” allegedly maintained close contact with both the DIA and NSA, allowing them to access intelligence collected from migrants. In several cases, the intelligence was used to identify targets for US drone strikes in the Middle East and Africa. The government document described the information as extremely valuable for military use.
But Martina Renner, an MP from Die Linke party who co-authored the request for information, told Die Zeit newspaper that “the quality of information obtained could be very questionable.” She argued that refugees – keen to get permission for their stay in Germany – would say anything they believed their questioners wanted to hear.
One of the most dramatic examples, Renner said, was the DIA agent codenamed “Curveball” (real name Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi), who initially defected from Iraq to Germany in 1999.
His fake testimonies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program were used by the US as a rationale to invade Iraq in 2003, despite both the BND and British MI6 questioning the authenticity of the claims.
Although the BND’s questioning facility was officially closed in 2013, the recruitment of agents from among migrants did not stop. Germany’s domestic intelligence, the Federal Service for the Protection of the Constitution, contacts asylum seekers on a “case-by-case” basis, while the BND still monitors refugee hostels to look for prospective informants, Die Zeit reported.
© Flickr/ EFF Photos
Last week, NSA chief, Admiral Michael Rogers met with Israeli security officials in secret to explore forging closer ties between US and Israeli cyber intelligence gathering.
The NSA, America’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) agency, is responsible for electronic collection abroad in addition to protecting US government information and communication systems from foreign penetration and sabotage.
Admiral Rogers was hosted by the leadership of the Israeli Defense Forces’ SIGINT unit, or Corps Unit 8200. The secretive Corps Unit 8200 is tasked with collecting SIGINT from the Middle East. The meeting was focused on cooperation of the two entities to tackle regional powers with an emphasis on Iran and Hezbollah.
Security analysts have largely credited IDF’s Unit 8200 with creating the Stuxnet virus which toppled Iran’s main nuclear reactor in 2010. That effort, codenamed OLYMPIC GAMES, similarly involved a collaboration between Unit 8200 and NSA between 2008 and 2011.
Reports are that Rogers’ visited with a view towards not just defensive and intelligence gathering collaboration, but offensive cyber operations like the Stuxnet operation.
This stride towards offensive cyber collaboration with Israel comes less than one week after the US government advanced criminal charges against Iranian military officials for engaging in cyber warfare.
The Obama administration, by consistently refusing to turn over documents and information, has gone out of its way to make it more difficult for the inspectors general of executive branch agencies to do their jobs.
The concept of inspectors general investigating executive branch departments and agencies came into being in the late 1970s after the Watergate scandal. The idea was that inspectors general would have free rein to investigate wrongdoing in their departments and bring government abuse to light.
But thanks to an obsession with secrecy on the part of the Obama administration, inspectors general who previously had access to all documents, emails and other information have had to beg for evidence, which is often produced after months of requests and is sometimes heavily redacted.
“The bottom line is that we’re no longer independent,” Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, told The New York Times.
More than three decades of established federal policy that gave watchdogs unrestricted access to government records in their investigations is now at serious risk of being undone. That includes “at least 20 investigations across the government that have been slowed, stymied or sometimes closed because of a long-simmering dispute between the Obama administration and its own watchdogs over the shrinking access of inspectors general to confidential records,” according to the Times’ Eric Lichtblau.
Justice Department lawyers wrote an opinion last summer that stated grand jury transcripts, wiretap intercepts and financial credit reports and some other “protected records” could be withheld from inspectors general. As a result of that order, investigators who need to review government records are now required to get permission from the very agencies they are monitoring in order to do so.
“This is by far the most aggressive assault on the inspector general concept since the beginning,” Paul Light, a New York University professor who has studied inspectors general, told the Times. “It’s the complete evisceration of the concept. You might as well fold them down. They’ve become defanged.”
Among the investigations being hindered are those involving FBI use of phone records collected by the NSA, the DEA’s role in the shooting of unarmed civilians in Honduras drug raids, international trade agreement enforcement at the Commerce Department, the “Fast and Furious” gun operation, intelligence relating to the Boston Marathon bombings, and additional cases at the Afghanistan reconstruction board, the EPA and the Postal Service.
Even the Peace Corps has worked to prevent access to records. The agency’s inspector general was denied information when looking into cases of sexual abuse of Peace Corps volunteers. This despite claims that the agency is in favor of “rigorous oversight” and that it cooperated with investigators.
The situation has drawn criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of a plan to give the Justice Department inspector general more access, but not those at other agencies, “It’s no fix at all.” His colleague on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said at a hearing that the Obama administration has “blocked what was once a free flow of information” to investigators.
Justice IG Horowitz said the consequence of the watchdog clampdown may be an increase in cases of waste, fraud and abuse across the government.
To Learn More:
Tighter Lid on Records Threatens to Weaken Government Watchdogs (by Eric Lichtblau, New York Times )
Pentagon Stonewalls U.S. Watchdog’s Inquiries into $800 Million Afghanistan Program (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )
Justice Department Tries to Limit Inspectors General Access to Government Documents (by Steve Straehley, AllGov )
FBI Claims it Doesn’t Have to Share Records with Justice Dept. Inspector General (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov )
The High Cost of Secrecy to American Taxpayers (by Matt Bewig, AllGov )
Glenn Greenwald has written an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times. In this editorial he asserts that American spies are motivated primarily by the desire to thwart terrorist plots. Such that their inability to do so (i.e., the attacks in Paris) coupled with the associated embarrassment motivates a public relations campaign against Ed Snowden. Greenwald further concludes that recent events are being opportunistically leveraged by spy masters to pressure tech companies into installing back doors in their products. Over the course of this article what emerges is a worldview which demonstrates a remarkable tendency to accept events at face value, a stance that’s largely at odds with Snowden’s own documents and statements.
For example, Greenwald states that American spies have a single overriding goal, to “find and stop people who are plotting terrorist attacks.” To a degree this concurs with the official posture of the intelligence community. Specifically, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence specifies four topical missions in its National Intelligence Strategy: Cyber Intelligence, Counterterrorism, Counterproliferation, and Counterintelligence.
Yet Snowden himself dispels this notion. In an open letter to Brazil he explained that “these [mass surveillance] programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”
And the public record tends to support Snowden’s observation. If the NSA is truly focused on combatting terrorism it has an odd habit of spying on oil companies in Brazil and Venezuela. In addition anyone who does their homework understands that the CIA has a long history of overthrowing governments. This has absolutely nothing to do with stopping terrorism and much more to do with catering to powerful business interests in places like Iran (British Petroleum), Guatemala (United Fruit), and Chile (ITT Corporation). The late Michael Ruppert characterized the historical links between spies and the moneyed elite as follows: “The CIA is Wall Street, and Wall Street is the CIA.”
The fact that Greenwald appears to accept the whole “stopping terrorism” rationale is extraordinary all by itself. But things get even more interesting…
Near the end of his article Greenwald notes that the underlying motivation behind the recent uproar of spy masters “is to depict Silicon Valley as terrorist-helpers for the crime of offering privacy protections to Internet users, in order to force those companies to give the U.S. government ‘backdoor’ access into everyone’s communications.”
But if history shows anything, it’s that the perception of an adversarial relationship between government spies and corporate executives has often concealed secret cooperation. Has Greenwald never heard of Crypto AG, or RSA, or even Google? These are companies who at the time of their complicity marketed themselves as protecting user privacy. In light of these clandestine arrangements Cryptome’s John Young comments that it’s “hard to believe anything crypto advocates have to say due to the far greater number of crypto sleazeball hominids reaping rewards of aiding governments than crypto hominid honorables aiding one another.”
It’s as if Greenwald presumes that the denizens of Silicon Valley, many of whose origins are deeply entrenched in government programs, have magically turned over a new leaf. As though the litany of past betrayals can conveniently be overlooked because things are different. Now tech vendors are here to defend our privacy. Or at least that’s what they’d like us to believe. In the aftermath of the PRISM scandal, which was disclosed by none other than Greenwald and Snowden, the big tech of Silicon Valley is desperate to portray itself as a victim of big government.
You see, the envoys of the Bay Area’s new economy have formulated a convincing argument. That’s what they get paid to do. The representatives of Silicon Valley explain in measured tones that tech companies have stopped working with spies because it’s bad for their bottom line. Thus aligning the interests of private capital with user privacy. But the record shows that spies often serve private capital. To help open up markets and provide access to resources in foreign countries. And make no mistake there’s big money to be made helping spies. Both groups do each other a lot of favors.
And so a question for Glenn Greenwald: what pray tell is there to prevent certain CEOs in Silicon Valley from betraying us yet again, secretly via covert backdoors, while engaged in a reassuring Kabuki Theater with government officials about overt backdoors? Giving voice to public outrage while making deals behind closed doors. It’s not like that hasn’t happened before during an earlier debate about allegedly strong cryptography. Subtle zero-day flaws are, after all, plausibly deniable.
How can the self-professed advocate of adversarial journalism be so credulous? How could a company like Apple, despite its bold public rhetoric, resist overtures from spy masters any more than Mohammad Mosaddegh, Jacobo Árbenz, or Salvador Allende? Doesn’t adversarial journalism mean scrutinizing corporate power as well as government power?
Methinks Mr. Greenwald has some explaining to do. Whether he actually responds with anything other than casual dismissal has yet to be seen.
We work so hard to establish ourselves and to get where we are and to have somebody (Jonathan Pollard) screw it up… and then have Jewish organizations line up behind this guy and try to make him out a hero of the Jewish people, it bothers the hell out of me…
— Admiral Sumner Shapiro, US Navy Rear Admiral who served as Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence (1978-82), Washington Post, 6/16/2008
We … feel obligated to go on record with the facts regarding Pollard in order to dispel the myths that have arisen from the clever public relations campaign… aiming at transforming Pollard from greedy, arrogant betrayer of the American national trust into Pollard committed Israeli patriot.
— Sumner Shapiro, William Studeman, John Butts and Thomas Brooks, former Directors of Naval Intelligence cited in Ronald Olive, Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How one of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice, Annapolis Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 248.
Over two decades ago, Harvard political science professor, Samuel Huntington, argued that global politics would be defined by a ‘clash of civilizations’. His theories have found some of the most aggressive advocates among militant Zionists, inside Israel and abroad.
During the past month, the Israeli regime has been slaughtering and wounding thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. The Israeli state terrorists, who commit mass murder in Palestine, are part of a movement that sees an inevitable mortal final battle between Zionism and the Islamic and Western world.
Many Western democratic leaders have questioned Huntington’s prognosis and discreetly refuted the Zionist belief that different faiths and cultures cannot live and work together.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, leading Western Zionist ideologues have argued that, while liberal values should be reaffirmed, the US and EU leaders must recognize ‘malign global Islamic trends’. Influential Western Zionist journalists and ideologues, who dominate the mass media, argue that ‘hardline Islamism’ is on the rise, even in previously moderate Muslim countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Bangladesh… These ideologues (for example Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times ) systematically avoid commenting on the rise of hardline Zionism in its most racist form in Israel and the conversion of formerly moderate Zionist organizations into willing accomplices of Israeli state terror against a captive people.
Together, these developments in Israel and among the major Zionist organizations in the US and the European Union have limited the space for critics of the ‘clash of civilizations’ dogma.
State terror assaults, such as those taking place daily in Palestine, incite tensions between Zionists and non-Zionists – and that is their intent. Larger structural and systemic forces are at work and are driving Zionist radicalization. One of the most pernicious is the way in which wealthy US and EU Zionist individuals and organizations, in particular the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish Organizations, have used their economic power to spread the most intolerant forms of Judaism into the rest of the Western World.
The effects are now visible in the major political institutions and media of the US, England and the Continent. Previously, France was held up as an example of a successful multi-cultural nation – a dubious assumption as any historian of colonial France can testify. But that image is rapidly changing. Influential Zionists have fomented widespread Islamophobia and authored legislation restricting free speech which has outlawed criticism of Israel as ‘anti-Semitism’.
French civil libertarians have noted that political and social space has increasingly narrowed for ‘non-Zionists’, especially for anyone critical of Israel’s state terrorism. In other words, there is immense pressure in France to ‘keep quiet’ or self-censor in the face of Zionist racist brutality – so much for Les Droits de L’Homme et Du Citoyen.
For over a decade, Zionist influence, especially from Israel’s far-right Netanyahu regime, has eroded the French version of ‘moderate Zionism’, replacing it with a more doctrinaire, exclusivist and authoritarian version. World-wide condemnation of Israel’s massacre of over 4,000 entrapped Palestinians in Gaza, the world largest prison camp, led the Netanyahu regime to resort to a virulent Zionist version of ‘identity politics’ to rally support for the slaughter – or enforce silence among the horrified. Israeli Cabinet ministers recently denounced US President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry as ‘anti-Semites’ for their administration’s negotiations over Iran. Numerous prestigious rabbis have blessed the killing of unarmed Palestinians. A prominent Israeli jurist, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked urged the killing of Arab women so they would not give birth to ‘little snakes’. Israeli-Jewish judges have exonerated Israeli soldiers, police, and settlers for killing Palestinian children – even unarmed teenage Arab girls hysterical over their brutal humiliation. And world public opinion is ordered to ‘move along, look away, nothing for you to see here…’
All the major overseas Jewish organizations have marched in step. In the United States, a country with a democratic constitution and centuries-old Bill of Rights, self-styled ‘mainstream Zionists’ have defended Israeli spies and criminals, as well as un-extraditable swindlers, and organized nation-wide networks of university, professional and business organizations to demand the firing of colleagues and to suppress free speech and free assembly of Israel’s critics.
First and foremost, major Zionist organizations and leaders have stoked the fire of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racist rhetoric, which has become commonplace in the mass media and among Republican candidates engaged in the current Presidential nomination campaign.
The convergence of these developments in Israel and among the Zionist power configuration in North America, Europe and the Middle East is fueling the idea of a ‘clash of civilizations’.
The ideological marriage of Herzl and Huntington is fast eroding the former reality of Jewish and non-Jewish integration and intermingling across the globe. The alternative to a plural civilization is more primitive and brutal injustice, violence and death.
Contemporary Manifestations of Zionist Power: The Release of the Most Damaging Spy-Traitor in US History
On November 20, 2015, former Naval Intelligence Analyst, Jonathan Pollard, the American-Jewish spy for Israel, was freed by the Obama regime under Zionist pressure after repeated refusals by three Republican and one Democratic President and over the objections of the heads of all 27 major US intelligence agencies. The significance of this release has to be viewed against the history of Pollard’s crimes.
Fabricating Lies to Justify Obama’s Release of Pollard
The mass media and the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations (AIPAC, ADL, etc…), claim that 1) Pollard committed espionage against US security for ‘altruistic reasons’ — a deep concern for Israel’s security and because US intelligence agencies had refused to share crucial information with Israel’s intelligence counterparts (out of anti-Semitism), 2) the information Pollard handed over had no lasting harm and did not endanger US security, and 3) Pollard’s punishment was ‘excessive’, his ‘repentance’ was sincere and his example precluded any future Israeli espionage activity against the US. These assertions are completely false.
Pollard was a mercenary, spying against the US out of greed. He lived a decadent, expensive lifestyle and had demanded the Israelis pay him a total package of over $250,000 for his work. The Israeli Embassy was known to have paid Pollard, a US Naval Analyst, to spy against the United States government. Court records reveal that he collected over $50,000 for ‘expenses’ during his espionage career, including expensive jewelry, and a monthly stipend of $2500. Court records furthermore reveal that he offered to sell additional secret documents to Pakistan, Apartheid South Africa, Australia, Russia and some Middle East countries. He collected dozens of box-loads of confidential documents, many of which had nothing to do with the ‘security of Israel’, but were deemed essential to US global security, including a top secret ten volume set of National Security Agency high level codes exposing the most advanced means and methods of espionage and the main targets of intelligence collection. Some of his ‘vacuumed-up’ treasure trove included the identity of US intelligence operatives and assets in Warsaw pact countries and the Soviet Union. The 27 US intelligence agencies have consistently opposed Pollard’s release because his sale of this information to the Israelis led to the capture and execution of US operatives after Israel handed over this top-secret information to the Soviet Union in exchange for allowing Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel in massive numbers. Needless to say, this treason crippled US intelligence operations and led to deaths. US military and intelligence officials view Pollard as having ‘blood on his hands’. So much for the ‘altruistic American Zionist keen on helping insecure, little Israel.’ Years of Zionist propaganda and lobbying have obscured this aspect of Pollard’s crimes.
Excessive Punishment or Excessive Leniency?
Far right Israeli Cabinet Ministers and liberal American Jews, supporters and opponents of Pollard, pundits and editorialists argue that the life imprisonment given to Pollard was out of proportion to the crime of treason. They claim that, after 30 years, he was ‘overdue’ for release.
The severity of the punishment is determined by the crime and the damage caused. In case of treason and espionage committed by US officials, (especially for money), the sentence is always severe. The leaders of the John Anthony Walker Naval spy ring were given multiple life sentences in 1985 and there are many other similar cases.
Among the documents Pollard handed over to his Israeli handlers (operating out of the Israeli Embassy), was US intelligence on strategic installations in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. No doubt, this provided Israel with strategic coordinates to bomb major security facilities in those countries as well as facilitated their brutal invasion and occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s. Pollard’s treachery led to the death of thousands of civilian lives in Lebanon and facilitated the wars in Iraq and Syria. The damage to those countries and to innocent people would not have been considered by the judge in Pollard’s life sentence – but it must be considered here, in understanding the enormity of his crimes. Pollard has boasted that he was operating out of a ‘racial imperative’ to protect Israel.
Pollard did not serve a life sentence. In fact, while in prison he became an Israeli citizen, a salaried officer in the Israeli armed forces and, after divorcing his American wife (who had also engaged in espionage for pay and served several years in prison), he re-married a Canadian-Israeli woman. This sheds a different light on the ‘severity’ of a life sentence for treason.
Pollard did not serve this ‘life sentence’. He was paroled in November 2015 (to the cheers of his adoring Jewish-American fans) demonstrating the wealth and power of American Zionists and their ability to buy the support of US politicians, domestic and foreign notables and the entire Israeli-Jewish political spectrum-and push aside the objections of the heads of the three major US armed services and intelligence agencies.
Israeli public opinion overwhelmingly supports Pollard and regards him as a ‘role model’ for other US Zionists in official positions. Contrary to Israeli lies, several other major Israeli spy operations occurred in the US after Pollard, including the case involving AIPAC officials, Rosen and Weissman, and Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin during George W. Bush’s administration.
In stark contrast to the freeing of an Israeli spy responsible for endangering the security of thousands of US operatives abroad and millions of innocent civilians, two authentic American political prisoners, who have fought for the rights of minorities, rot in jail with no prospect of freedom. Leonard Peltier, a Native American leader has spent 38 years in the highest security prison and Mumia Abu-Jamal, an African-American leader from Philadelphia, whose 33 years in prison have been on death row or brutal solitary confinement. Both were framed by perjured evidence in a parody of justice, which has revolted millions around the world. Neither threatened US security. Over the years, numerous witnesses, legal authorities and academics have testified regarding the miscarriage of justice that characterized their ‘show trials’ and have pleaded for their humanitarian release.
Unlike Pollard, and despite decades of worldwide campaigns for their release, Peltier and Abu-Jamal will probably die entombed in prison. Unlike Pollard, their cases were never about treason, selling information and greed. They have worked hard for justice within their communities, hence earning the hatred of the police state. They fought to serve their oppressed American communities, rather than an oppressive and racist Israeli elite – determined to oppress and erase the native Palestinian population.
The decisive factor has been the political power of Pollard’s supporters, the US Zionist Power Configuration, which leads President Obama and 430 US members of Congress by the nose. Through their media connections, they can lie about Pollard’s case and his motives. They can minimize the consequences of his treason and twist the arms of obedient politicians to support a traitor. Despite the fact that scores of high-ranking US intelligence and military officials have repeatedly attested to the damage inflicted by Pollard on the US, campaign finance hungry politicians recite the Zionist line that Pollard’s treason did not warrant a harsh sentence!
Beyond the immediate shame of a US president caving in to Israeli pressure with regard to this spy, there is the issue of the flagrant double standard:
Why do Israeli spies (or American Zionist traitors) evoke the unconditional support of the entire US Zionist apparatus? Why do thousands of rabbis, hundreds of movie executives and media moguls and scores of billionaires (talk about the 0.01%!) campaign on behalf of this arrogant, greedy thief? Why does Pollard merit a totally different standard of justice, in stark contrast to the vast majority of American minorities – who can rot in dungeons even when clearly innocent? Why does a self-described Israeli (who renounced his US citizenship in jail), who sold vital national secrets to fund a decadent life-style and for what he described as a ‘race imperative’ merit such favors while hundreds of thousands of poor US citizens are routinely denied leniency – let alone mercy? Clearly, the interests of Israel, a foreign regime, carry much greater weight within the US judicial system than millions of American minorities…
Cyber Crimes of Our Times: Billionaire Israeli Swindlers and the Chinese Military
For over three years, the Obama administration, the NSA and the Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter have fed their media mouthpieces breathless denunciations against China for cyber-theft. Every week, there are lurid stories about the theft of confidential US industrial, military and political intelligence committed by the Chinese. The Obama regime has followed up his charges of ‘cybertheft” by threatening to confront China in the South China Sea, apply sanctions and raise the military ante in the Pacific against the world’s most dynamic economic superpower.
Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland (Nudelman-Kaplan) has claimed that Chinese cyber theft is a top national security threat requiring an immediate military-security response. US officials have provided no evidence that Chinese officials, at any level, are involved in espionage. Moreover, they have presented no proof that cyber theft is a policy of the Chinese government! There has been no evidence that these alleged thefts have damaged US companies or security interests. Nevertheless, US hostility toward China has been justified by unproven accusations and are used to increase the possibility of a major confrontation.
Contrasted with the ‘allegations’ against the Chinese, three ‘Israeli businessmen’ have been officially charged by US prosecutors with running a multi-billion dollar cyber-hacking scam within the US over the past five years. Dubbed the biggest financial hack in US history, the story hardly made headlines in the US media and was conveniently buried by subsequent ‘terror attacks’ in Europe.
The case is instructive. Three Israelis (one a US-Israeli dual citizen) hacked-attacked ten of the largest US financial institutions, including JP Morgan Chase and Fidelity Investments, as well as the Wall Street Journal … downloading protected information on over 100 million Americans – the biggest hack-attack in US history. Gery Shalon, Ziv Orenstein and Joshua Samuel Aaron employed hundreds of employees in Israel and elsewhere running a mega-cybercriminal enterprise.
According to the Financial Times (11/11/2015, p1), “the hacks took place from 2012 to mid-2015 and were aimed at aiding stock market manipulation that generated tens of millions of dollars.” In addition to selling ‘pumped-up’ stocks to millions of customers of the companies they had hacked, Shalom et al. launched cyber attacks to launder millions (more likely billions) for illegal drug and counterfeit software dealers, malicious malware distributors, illegal online casinos and an illegal ‘bitcoin exchange’ known as ‘Coin.mx.’ Someone within the financial security apparatus of the US government (white collar crime unit) must have tipped them off. They are safe in Israel; the Netanyahu regime has yet to act on a US extradition order, although they are reportedly under ‘house arrest’ in their villas.
In contrast to the on-going bellicose rhetoric, which Washington has directed against China’s alleged hackers, Washington has been ‘very reluctant’ to press the issue of extraditing the cyber-thieves with its ‘special partner’ in Tel Aviv.
Israeli super-hackers launched virulent attacks against major US financial institutions and American investors with apparent impunity, following the practice of Israeli info-tech operatives who have raided US military, technology and industrial sites for years.
While the US sends air squadrons and an armada of warships to Chinese waters over a few sand-bars, and brays about arresting Chinese researchers (who it later released with no charges) for alleged cyber-theft, it cannot persuade its ‘closest strategic ally’, Israel, to hand over a trio of formally charged swindlers. Instead, the US increased its annual $3 billion in military aid and provides an open market for Israeli ‘security’ products based on stolen US technology!
The reason for the differential response is not the nature of the ‘crimes’ – it is who commits the crimes! Israeli dominance of US politics via the unconditional support of its US Zionist power configuration ensures impunity for Israeli citizens, including the ability to delay or postpone the extradition of notorious multi-billion cyber thieves! Washington feels free to accuse China, without proof of official Chinese complicity, despite overwhelming evidence, while it cannot persuade its close ‘friend’ Israel to extradite criminals. Netanyahu, backed by his Israeli-Jewish public will decide if, when and where to extradite. When it comes to shielding Israeli or American-Israeli criminals from American justice, Israel treats its ally in Washington like an enemy.
Zionist political clout is evident in Washington’s judicial leniency toward other mega-swindlers with ties to Israel. Michael Milken contributed millions of (swindled) dollars to Israeli and US Zionist programs and won a ‘get out of jail’ card despite his conviction for major financial scams. He served 2 years out of a 10-year sentence and was granted a ‘humanitarian release’ because he was ‘dying’ of extensive terminal metastatic prostate cancer. So far, Michael’s quarter century of miraculous remission from ‘terminal metastatic prostate cancer’ constitutes a first in the annals of urologic cancer! He has gone on to re-constitute his fortune and prominence, while welfare mothers who took a few extra dollars rot in jail.
Ivan Boesky, another uber-Zionist and mega-donor to Israel was a swindler of gargantuan proportions. He raked in hundreds of millions a year. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to a mere 42 months in prison. He was out in less than 24 months, thanks to the support of ….
Marc Rich, a mega- billionaire rogue trader who broke US sanctions against trading with enemies, was also a self-described agent for the Israeli Mossad. Despite having been convicted in absentia in US courts for fraud, (he had skipped bail for Switzerland), President ‘Bill’ Clinton pardoned the ‘absentee felon’ in absentia– a historical first for a criminal who had never spent a day in jail. Mrs. Rich’s $100,000 donation to the Hilary Clinton New York senatorial campaign probably did little to influence the President’s sense of mercy…..
However, ‘Bernie’ Madoff, a $50 billion dollar swindler’ who gave huge amounts of illicit earnings to Zionist charities and projects in Israel was convicted and sentenced to over 100 years in prison. Unlike the above mentioned ‘untouchables’, Madoff will never breathe free again because he made the unforgivable mistake of mostly swindling other Jews, ardent Zionists and even ripping off a number of pro-Israel foundations. His differential treatment stems from his poor choice of victims rather than the crimes… Otherwise he might now be enjoying a comfortable villa in Israel rather than a cold cell in Pennsylvania.
Israeli capacity to manipulate and influence the American judicial process is based on 52 powerful front organizations – organized in the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations. This situation has made a mockery of the American court system and feeds the cynicism and bitterness of the average American. Zionist officials and allies occupy strategic position within the White House and judiciary.
Through their influence in the mass media, they converted a grotesque mercenary spy, like Jonathan Pollard, into an altruistic, Israeli-Jewish patriot, celebrated throughout Israel and within US Zionist circles. Veteran American intelligence and military officials who opposed his release have been painted with the broad brush of ‘anti-Semite’. The formidable Zionist power configuration, nurtured and financed by mega-swindlers, successfully secured his release. Zionist dominance essentially guarantees that the US will treat an indicted Israeli cyber-thief with extreme tact, supplicating the Israeli government for their extradition, while going ballistic over an alleged Chinese hacker.
Few progressive web sites or even the micro-Marxist journals confront these issues, more out of moral cowardice (self-censorship) than ignorance. Instead they bleat general clichés and ‘radical rhetoric’ about ‘US imperialism’ and the ‘rise of the right’ without identifying the precise social and political identity of the forces who move national policy. In a word, the Zionist Power Configuration gets more than a ‘free ride’. Across the political spectrum it continues to campaign on behalf of Israeli spies and Zionist financial swindlers. This corruption of the American judicial system and the betrayal of American trust have far-reaching consequences and undermine efforts to effectively address major national problems.
The U.S. National Security Agency accessed the internal communications of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela and acquired sensitive data it planned to exploit in order to spy on the company’s top officials, according to a highly classified NSA document that reveals the operation was carried out in concert with the U.S. embassy in Caracas.
The March 2011 document, labeled, “top secret,” and provided by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, is being reported on in an exclusive partnership between teleSUR and The Intercept.
Drafted by an NSA signals development analyst, the document explains that PDVSA’s network, already compromised by U.S. intelligence, was further infiltrated after an NSA review in late 2010 – during President Barack Obama’s first term, which would suggest he ordered or at least authorized the operation – “showed telltale signs that things were getting stagnant on the Venezuelan Energy target set.” Most intelligence “was coming from warranted collection,” which likely refers to communications that were intercepted as they passed across U.S. soil. According to the analyst, “what little was coming from other collectors,” or warrantless surveillance, “was pretty sparse.”
Beyond efforts to infiltrate Venezuela’s most important company, the leaked NSA document highlights the existence of a secretive joint operation between the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency operating out of the U.S. embassy in Caracas. A fortress-like building just a few kilometers from PDVSA headquarters, the embassy sits on the top of a hill that gives those inside a commanding view of the Venezuelan capital.
Last year, Der Spiegel published top-secret documents detailing the state-of-the-art surveillance equipment that the NSA and CIA deploy to embassies around the world. That intelligence on PDVSA had grown “stagnant” was concerning to the U.S. intelligence community for a number of reasons, which its powerful surveillance capabilities could help address.
“Venezuela has some of the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world,” the NSA document states, with revenue from oil and gas accounting “for roughly one third of GDP” and “more than half of all government revenues.”
“To understand PDVSA,” the NSA analyst explains, “is to understand the economic heart of Venezuela.”
Increasing surveillance on the leadership of PDVSA, the most important company in a South American nation seen as hostile to U.S. corporate interests, was a priority for the undisclosed NSA division to which the analyst reported. “Plainly speaking,” the analyst writes, they “wanted PDVSA information at the highest possible levels of the corporation – namely, the president and members of the Board of Directors.”
Given a task, the analyst got to work and, with the help of “sheer luck,” found his task easier than expected.
It began simply enough: with a visit to PDVSA’s website, “where I clicked on ‘Leadership’ and wrote down the names of the principals who would become my target list.” From there, the analyst “dumped the names” into PINWALE, the NSA’s primary database of previously intercepted digital communications, automatically culled using a dictionary of search terms called “selectors.” It was an almost immediate success.
In addition to email traffic, the analyst came across over 10,000 employee contact profiles full of email addresses, phone numbers, and other useful targeting information, including the usernames and passwords for over 900 PDVSA employees. One profile the analyst found was for Rafael Ramirez, PDVSA’s president from 2004 to 2014 and Venezuela’s current envoy to the United Nations. A similar entry turned up for Luis Vierma, the company’s former vice president of exploration and production.
“Now, even my old eyes could see that these things were a goldmine,” the analyst wrote. The entries were full of “work, home, and cell phones, email addresses, LOTS!” This type of information, referred to internally as “selectors,” can then be “tasked” across the NSA’s wide array of surveillance tools so that any relevant communications will be saved.
According to the analyst, the man to whom he reported “was thrilled!” But “it is what happened next that really made our day.”
“As I was analyzing the metadata,” the analyst explains, “I clicked on the ‘From IP’ and noticed something peculiar,” all of the employee profile, “over 10,000 of them, came from the same IP!!!” That, the analyst determined, meant “I had been looking at internal PDVSA comms all this time!!! I fired off a few emails to F6 here and in Caracas, and they confirmed it!”
“Metadata” is a broad term that can include the phone numbers a target has dialed, the duration of the call and from where it was placed, as well as the Wi-Fi networks used to access the Internet, the websites visited and the times accessed. That information can then be used to identify the user.
F6 is the NSA code name for a joint operation with the CIA known as the Special Collection Service, based in Beltsville, Maryland – and with agents posing as diplomats in dozens of U.S. embassies around the world, including Caracas, Bogota and Brasilia.
In 2013, Der Spiegel reported that it was this unit of the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy that had installed, within the U.S. embassy in Berlin, “sophisticated listening devices with which they can intercept virtually every popular method of communication: cellular signals, wireless networks and satellite communication.” The article suggested this is likely how the U.S. tapped into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
SCS at the U.S. embassy in Caracas played an active role throughout the espionage activities described in the NSA document. “I have been coordinating with Caracas,” the NSA analyst states, “who have been surveying their environment and sticking the results into XKEYSCORE.”
XKEYSCORE, as reported by The Intercept, processes a continuous “flow of Internet traffic from fiber optic cables that make up the backbone of the world’s communication network,” storing the data for 72 hours on a “rolling buffer” and “sweep[ing] up countless people’s Internet searches, emails, documents, usernames and passwords.”
The NSA’s combined databases are, essentially, “a very ugly version of Google with half the world’s information in it,” explained Matthew Green, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, in an email. “They’re capturing so much information from their cable taps, that even the NSA analysts don’t know what they’ve got,” he added, “an analyst has to occasionally step in and manually dig through the data” to see if the information they want has already been collected.
That is exactly what the NSA analyst did in the case of PDVSA, which turned up even more leads to expand their collection efforts.
“I have been lucky enough to find several juicy pdf documents in there,” the NSA analyst wrote, “one of which has just been made a report.”
That report, dated January 2011, suggests a familiarity with the finances of PDVSA beyond that which was public knowledge, noting a decline in the theft and loss of oil.
“In addition, I have discovered a string that carries user ID’s and their passwords, and have recovered over 900 unique user/password combinations” the analyst wrote, which he forwarded to the NSA’s elite hacking team, Targeted Access Operations, along with other useful information and a “targeting request to see if we can pwn this network and especially, the boxes of PDVSA’s leadership.”
“Pwn,” in this context, means to successfully hack and gain full access to a computer or network. “Pwning” a computer, or “box,” would allow the hacker to monitor a user’s every keystroke.
A History of US Interest in Venezuelan Affairs
PDVSA has long been a target of U.S. intelligence agencies and the subject of intense scrutiny from U.S. diplomats. A February 17, 2009, cable, sent from the U.S. ambassador in Caracas to Washington and obtained by WikiLeaks, shows that PDVSA employees, were probed during visa interviews about their company’s internal operations. The embassy was particularly interested in the PDVSA’s strategy concerning litigation over Venezuela’s 2007 nationalization of the Cerro Negro oil project – and billions of dollars in assets owned by U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil.
“According to a PDVSA employee interviewed following his visa renewal, PDVSA is aggressively preparing its international arbitration case against ExxonMobil,” the cable notes.
A year before, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the U.S. government “fully support the efforts of ExxonMobil to get a just and fair compensation package for their assets.” But, he added, “We are not involved in that dispute.”
ExxonMobil is also at the center of a border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. In May 2015, the company announced it had made a “significant oil discovery” in an offshore location claimed by both countries. The U.S. ambassador to Guyana has offered support for that country’s claim.
More recently, the U.S. government has begun leaking information to media about allegations against top Venezuelan officials.
In October, The Wall Street Journal reported in a piece, “U.S. Investigates Venezuelan Oil Giant,” that “agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies” had recently met to discuss “various PDVSA-related probes.” The “wide-ranging investigations” reportedly have to do with whether former PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez and other executives accepted bribes.
Leaked news of the investigations came less than two months before Dec. 6 parliamentary elections in Venezuela. Ramirez, for his part, has rejected the accusations, which he claims are part of a “new campaign that wants to claim from us the recovery and revolutionary transformation of PDVSA.” Thanks to Chavez, he added, Venezuela’s oil belongs to “the people.”
In its piece on the accusations against him, The Wall Street Journal notes that during Ramirez’s time in office PDVSA became “an arm of the late President Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution,” with money made from the sale of petroleum used “to pay for housing, appliances and food for the poor.”
The former PDVSA president is not the only Venezuelan official to be accused of corruption by the U.S. government. In May 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice accused Diosdado Cabello, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, of being involved in cocaine trafficking and money laundering. Former Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami, the former director of military intelligence, Hugo Carvajal, and Nestor Reverol, head of the National Guard, have also faced similar accusations from the U.S. government.
None of these accusations against high-ranking Venezuelan officials has led to any indictments.
The timing of the charges, made in the court of public opinion rather than a courthouse, has led some to believe there’s another motive.
“These people despise us,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in October. He and his supporters argue the goal of the U.S. government’s selective leaks is to undermine his party ahead of the upcoming elections, helping install a right-wing opposition seen as friendlier to U.S. interests. “They believe that we belong to them.”
Loose Standards for NSA Intelligence Sharing
Ulterior motives or not, by the NSA’s own admission the intelligence it gathers on foreign targets may be disseminated widely among U.S. officials who may have more than justice on their minds.
According to a guide issued by the NSA on January 12, 2015, the communications of non-U.S. persons may be captured in bulk and retained if they are said to contain information concerning a plot against the United States or evidence of, “Transnational criminal threats, including illicit finance and sanctions evasion.” Any intelligence that is gathered may then be passed on to other agencies, such as the DEA, if it “is related to a crime that has been, is being, or is about to be committed.”
Spying for the sole purpose of protecting the interests of a corporation is ostensibly not allowed, though there are exceptions that do allow for what might be termed economic espionage.
“The collection of foreign private commercial information or trade secrets is authorized only to protect nation the national security of the United States or its partners and allies,” the agency states. It is not supposed to collect such information “to afford a competitive advantage to U.S. companies and U.S. business sectors commercially.” However, “Certain economic purposes, such as identifying trade or sanctions violations or government influence or direction, shall not constitute competitive advantage.”
In May 2011, two months after the leaked document was published in NSA’s internal newsletter, the U.S. State Department announced it was imposing sanctions on PDVSA – a state-owned enterprise, or one that could be said to be subject to “government influence or direction” – for business it conducted with the Islamic Republic of Iran between December 2010 and March 2011. The department did not say how it obtained information about the transactions, allegedly worth US$50 million.
Intelligence gathered with one stated purpose can also serve another, and the NSA’s already liberal rules on the sharing of what it gathers can also be bent in times of perceived emergency.
“If, due to unanticipated or extraordinary circumstances, NSA determines that it must take action in apparent departure from these procedures to protect the national security of the United States, such action may be taken” – after either consulting other branches of the intelligence bureaucracy. “If there is insufficient time for approval,” however, it may unilaterally take action.
Beyond the obvious importance of oil, leaked diplomatic cables show PDVSA was also on the U.S. radar because of its importance to Venezuela’s left-wing government. In 2009, another diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks shows the U.S. embassy in Caracas viewed PDVSA as crucial to the political operations of long-time foe and former President Hugo Chavez. In April 2002, Chavez was briefly overthrown in a coup that, according to The New York Times, as many as 200 officials in the George W. Bush administration – briefed by the CIA – knew about days before it was carried out.
The Venezuelan government was not informed of the plot.
“Since the December 2002-February 2003 oil sector strike, PDVSA has put itself at the service of President Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, funding everything from domestic programs to Chavez’s geopolitical endeavors,” the 2009 cable states.
Why might that be a problem, from the U.S. government’s perspective? Another missive from the U.S. embassy in Caracas, this one sent in 2010, sheds some light: Chavez “appears determined to shape the hemisphere according to his vision of ‘socialism in the 21st century,’” it states, “a vision that is almost the mirror image of what the United States seeks.”
There was a time when not so long ago when the U.S. had an ally in Venezuela, one that shared its vision for the hemisphere – and invited a U.S. firm run by former U.S. intelligence officials to directly administer its information technology operations.
Amid a push for privatization under former Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, in January 1997 PDVSA decided to outsource its IT system to a joint a company called Information, Business and Technology, or INTESA – the product of a joint venture between the oil company, which owned a 40 percent share of the new corporation, and the major U.S.-based defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, which controlled 60 percent.
SAIC has close, long-standing ties to the U.S. intelligence community. At the time of its dealings with Venezuela, the company’s director was retired Admiral Bobby Inman. Before coming to SAIC, Inman served as the U.S. Director of Naval Intelligence and Vice Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Inman also served as deputy director of the CIA and, from 1977 to 1981, as director of the NSA.
In his book, “Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government,” author Gregory Wilpert notes that Inman was far from the only former intelligence official working for SAIC in a leadership role. Joining him were two former U.S. Secretaries of Defense, William Perry and Melvin Laird, a former director of the CIA, John Deutsch, and a former head of both the CIA and the Defense Department, Robert Gates. The company that those men controlled, INTESA, was given the job of managing “all of PDVSA’s data processing needs.”
In 2002, Venezuela, now led by a government seeking to roll back the privatizations of its predecessor, chose not to renew SAIC’s contract for another five years, a decision the company protested to the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which insures the overseas investments of U.S. corporations. In 2004, the U.S. agency ruled that by canceling its contract with SAIC the Venezuelan government had “expropriated” the company’s investment.
However, before that ruling, and before its operations were reincorporated by PDVSA, the company that SAIC controlled, INTESA, played a key role in an opposition-led strike aimed at shutting down the Venezuelan oil industry. In December 2002, eight months after the failed coup attempt and the same month its contract was set to expire, INTESA, the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information alleges, “exercised its ability to control our computers by paralyzing the charge, discharge, and storage of crude at different terminals within the national grid.” The government alleges INTESA, which possessed the codes needed to access those terminals, refused to allow non-striking PDVSA employees access to the company’s control systems.
“The result,” Wilpert noted, “was that PDVSA could not transfer its data processing to new systems, nor could it process its orders for invoices for oil shipments. PDVSA ended up having to process such things manually because passwords and the general computing infrastructure were unavailable, causing the strike to be much more damaging to the company than it would have been if the data processing had been in PDVSA’s hands.”
PDVSA’s IT operations would become a strictly internal affair soon thereafter, though one never truly free from the prying eyes of hostile outsiders.
“Where no counsel is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Mossad Motto
On the 13th November 2015 during the Paris attacks, 4.1 million people submitted their personal details to the Facebook Safety App, 360 million people received Facebook messages reassuring them of their friends and family’s safety. This information may well have been deposited into an Israeli intelligence bank.
Paris 13/11 aftershocks.
As the dust settles and the pall of grief envelops the scenes of the 13/11 Paris attacks, information begins to seep through the inevitable cracks in the mainstream media, security apparatus narrative.
Very few “subversive” media outlets in France do as good a job of deconstruction as Panamza. Their reporting on the Charlie Hebdo affair blazed a trail of evidence to counter the sprawling inaccuracies of the “official” storyline. Their articles over the last two days have motivated my investigation into the insidious drivers possibly behind the 13/11 attacks on the French capital.
Unsurprisingly the common denominator connecting both Charlie Hebdo and Paris 13/11 appears to be the covert involvement of the Israeli security apparatus.
Lets return to the scene of mayhem and bloodshed in Paris on Friday night. The panic that spread like wildfire across social media, tearful messages and desperate attempts to connect with loved ones, suspected to be in the firing zone.
Then suddenly, Facebook “sympathetically” employed its Safety Check APP, to enable terrified families to reconnect with their missing relatives and to reassure themselves of their safety as the bullets ricocheted off the walls & streets of Paris.
The Safety Check APP was originally named the Disaster Message Board and was introduced on October 15, 2014. Its first major deployment was on Saturday April 25 2015 in the wake of the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake. The tool has since been utilised after the May 2015 Nepal earthquake and the Pacific Hurricane Patricia October 2015.
The 13/11 Paris attack was the first time that this Safety Check APP was deployed for an “unnatural” disaster. Over 4.1 million people checked in with friends and relatives, a total of 360 million people received messages that their loved ones were “safe”.
Alex Schultz: Facebook’s vice president of Growth:
“We chose to activate Safety Check in Paris because we observed a lot of activity on Facebook as the events were unfolding. In the middle of a complex, uncertain situation affecting many people, Facebook became a place where people were sharing information and looking to understand the condition of their loved ones… This activation will change our policy around Safety Check and when we activate it for other serious and tragic incidents in the future. We want this tool to be available whenever and wherever it can help.”
Wonderful, I hear you exclaim! Wonderful for whom?
“During the 24 hours after the terror attack, 4.1 million people checked in with friends and relatives using Facebook Safety Check, a technology developed by Facebook Israel’s research and development department,” said a spokesperson for Facebook Israel. “A total of 360 million people received messages that their loved ones were safe.”
Perhaps coincidence but this acquistion slots neatly into the timeline with the long since debunked Ghouta Chemical weapons claims against the Syrian Government and the seed funding of White House, UK Foreign Office, CIA, Soros backed and funded Syria Civil Defence Group aka the White Helmets.
Roi Tiger Facebook Profile Picture.
Roi Tiger is a graduate of IDC Herzliya, Tel Aviv, a “non profit” education organisation dedicated to the promotion of Zionist ideology and the fortification of the illegal state of Israel.
IDC HERZLIYA is committed to the fundamental values of a free and tolerant society, while maintaining a Zionist philosophy – first and foremost, freedom of the individual for self-realization in all realms of thought and action, while striving to strengthen the State of Israel.
Roi Tiger then went on to join the IOF Elite 8200 division, an Israeli Intelligence Corps responsible for collecting signal intelligence (SIGINT) and code decryption, described in 2010 by Le Monde diplomatique, as a massive spying operation. Also in 2010, implicated by US Intelligence in Operation Orchard, the 2007 Israeli air strikes on an alleged nuclear reactor in the Deir Ezzor region of Syria.
Full background to this 2007 Israeli illegal incursion into Syrian airspace here.
So, when people innocently clicked “safe” or put a name of their loved ones into the search box of the Facebook Safety app, it is quite probable that they fed a stream of information directly into the Israeli Intelligence data banks.
Web front page of Internet.org
Onavo, a relatively small start-up comprising 40 employees, was based in Tel Aviv and was bought by Mark Zuckerburg as part of his all consuming internet.org project which has as its objective, to create universal access to the Internet.
The significance of this purchase is manifold.
It is Facebook’s first foray onto Israeli territory. In 2012 they purchased Face.com, an Israeli company focused on powerful facial recognition but this had not precipitated an actual base in Israel. With the acquisition of Onavo, Facebook Israel was born.
According to TechCrunch, there’s no official figure attached to the deal, but Israeli paper Calcalist reports between $150-200 million and other sources put the figure closer to $100 million. Whether the real sum is closer to the low end or the high end of that range, it’s a massive amount of money for Onavo, which started three years ago and has previously raised around $13 million in venture funding. – www.digitaltrends.com
This purchase of Onavo and the development of the Safety APP will give Facebook increased capability of compiling one of the most extensive personal data bases in existence in the world today.
On November 11th, 2 days before the Paris attacks, Facebook published a blog report.
“This report, which covers the first half of 2015, provides information about the number of government requests we receive for data, as well as the number of pieces of content restricted for violating local law in countries around the world where we provide service. The report also includes updated information about the national security requests we received from US authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters.
Overall, we continue to see an increase in content restrictions and government requests for data globally. The amount of content restricted for violating local law increased by 112% over the second half of 2014, to 20,568 pieces of content, up from 9,707. Government requests for account data increased across all countries by 18% over the same period, from 35,051 requests to 41,214″
The full report is here. This is a deliberate policy of obscurantism by Facebook. When one reads their data policy it is obvious that there are no restraints on information sharing. Their figures cannot truthfully reflect the number of Government requests in France that would have spiked, following Charlie Hebdo and even if they do, out of a claimed 2,500+ Government requests for information, only a meagre 295 were “restricted” with very little explanation of what “restricted” actually means.
“We restricted access in France to content reported under local laws prohibiting Holocaust denial and the condoning of terrorism.”
This statement is rendered portentous by the wave of arrests and house searches sweeping France before the blood is even dry on the streets of Paris and certainly prior to the conducting of a full and objective investigation into the perpetrators of the “greatest atrocity committed on French soil since WWII.” This, according to media pundits reporting from Paris as the propaganda wagon rolls smoothly into its habitual groove.
It must be noted that this deliberately emotive media claim is an insult to the 200+ Algerians massacred by Paris police, during protests against France’s brutal neocolonialist war in Algeria, on the streets of Paris in 1961. Colonialist selective memory fails to honour the ghosts of these oppressed and marginalised souls, forbidden from protesting the genocide of their people and punished for daring to stand in solidarity with Algerian resistance against French hegemony. Paris police dumped the murdered bodies into the cold waters of the Seine, over 11,500 Algerians were arrested, beaten, starved and later tortured in the Palais des Sports.
The 13/11 Paris attacks with all the accompanying media frenzy will surely lead us further down the path to the implementation of Patriot Act equivalents in Europe.
“Debate on Govt Spying and Privacy Rights, now off the table. As expected, politicians looking to appear ‘tough on terror’ and the growing gaggle of security lobbyists, and other assorted corporate fascists, have called for something akin to a ‘European Patriot Act’ – an end to the ‘Post-Snowden’ debate over bulk data collection and privacy – covering issues like NSA and GCHQ blanket spying on all citizens, and imposing more regulations and government monitoring of mandatory manufacturer ‘back doors’ for computers, mobile phones, gaming consoles, and also calls to make encryption illegal, except for government.”
“Special” police forces in St Denis, Paris 18/11/2015
CIA & Intelligence Connections
We must also take into consideration the worrying Cyber security developments in the UK:
Lord Mendelsohn: We welcome the appointment of the former British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, who will have a key role in cyber security inside the Cabinet Office – a very useful and important position – Look Who’s in Charge of UK Government Cyber Security.
Matthew Gould, self proclaimed “passionate Zionist”, first Jewish British Ambassador in Tel Aviv and co creator of the controversial UK Israel Tech-Hub which was established to:
“Promote partnerships in technology and innovation between Israel and the UK, and is the first initiative of its kind for the British government and for an embassy in Israel. The hub’s creation followed an agreement between prime ministers David Cameron and Binyamin Netanyahu to build a UK-Israel partnership in technology.”
For full details on this burgeoning UK-Israel cyber marriage, read this excellent piece by Stuart Littlewood.
Now lets add a little more spice into the evolving narrative.
Two weeks prior to the 13/11 attacks on the 27th of October 2015, Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius was moderator for the CIA-GW [George Washington University] Conference.
Included on the panel of the “Shared 21st Century International Mission” were:
CIA Director John Brennan, former UK MI6 Chief John Sawers, Director of the French Directorate for External Security Bernard Bajolet, and former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaacov Amidror
Perhaps even more concerning is the subliminal message that can be interpreted from DGSE Director, Bernard Bajolet’s remarks, endorsed by CIA Director John Brennan.
“The Middle East will never go back to how it was. Syria and Iraq will never retrieve their pre-existing features and culture
Syria is already “partitioned”. The Syrian regime only controls a tiny part, perhaps less than one third of the country established post WWII.
The North is under Kurdish control and “we” have the central region under ISIS control [I have deliberately translated the French exactly as it was written]
The situation in Iraq is the same.”
“When I look at the devastation in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen it is hard to envisage a central government that would be capable of controlling and governing these post WWII territories.
It appears that the partitioning plan for the Middle East is resisting all efforts to reduce its holy grail status. The partitioning plan that best serves the Israeli Yinon plan for Greater Israel and ensures permanent sectarian strife and division in countries bursting at the seams with economic, resource and geopolitical jewels for the Imperialist crown.
The timing of this conference, a mere two weeks prior to the 13/11 Paris attacks that would almost certainly propel France and allies towards increased intervention in Syria & ensure revived calls for a No Fly Zone, must be considered a little more than purely coincidental.
While we must stress that no concrete conclusions may be drawn at this stage, previous Gladio operations, and we would include Charlie Hebdo in that list, lead us to see very clear parallels emerging between the events surrounding Paris 13/11 and those preceding other such attacks.
The omnipresence of the Israeli Intelligence apparatus in its many forms should, at least, motivate us to suspect foul play and to question the white noise mainstream media accounts. The tsunami of propaganda, the conversion of all icons to a French flag, even including Skype heart emoticons, must ring alarm bells.
Experience teaches us that, propaganda is intrinsically linked to government agendas and that terror attacks invariably engender an increase in global oppression, conflict, sectarian division and the suffering of the very peoples universally judged and condemned by scraps of evidence that bear no resemblance to the truth.
As Sayed Nasrallah has said we are living in the age predicted by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, the propaganda serves to ensure our rapid descent through the layers of social conditioning, from regionalism to individualism, a state of mind where there is potential for the fabric of society to be shredded and scattered into the winds of the brewing “perfect storm”
“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
St Denis, Paris 18/11/2015.
Police forces operate in Saint-Denis on Wednesday, November 18. Police say two suspects in last week’s Paris attacks, a man and a woman, have been killed in a police operation north of the capital.
The system for classifying intelligence and other national security documents is broken in major respects. Increasingly, it is also manipulated to punish perceived critics or to protect agency reputations and high officials, both from adverse publicity and in the courts. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private rather than State Department email service illustrates many of these issues. Her experience stands in stark contrast to treatment of national security whistleblowers, as illustrated in particular by variance in National Security Agency (NSA) communications intelligence policies.
–Culpability. Former Secretary of State Clinton clearly and knowingly mishandled classified information. As a U.S. senator, security clearances were required for her membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee from 2003 to 2009. Therefore, she knew the rules for handling classified information before she decided, at the outset when she became Secretary of State in early 2009, to use personal rather than secure email.
Hillary and Bill Clinton had suffered many political and public relations crises. She had already run for the presidency and likely would do so again. Rules for handling classified information were ignored, the effect being to hide records that could be used against her in a second presidential run.
It simply could never be argued plausibly that for four years, a person in the highest U.S. foreign policy slot had no classified or sensitive information in any business emails that she wrote or received – over 30,000 of them. This defies the definition of the job.
The State Department is a primary user and a significant generator of classified information that bears on the great majority of issues coming before the Secretary. The State Department is also a profligate designator of “Sensitive But Unclassified” information.
–Overclassification. It is widely admitted that the intelligence classification system suffers from systemic over-classification. President Barack Obama has acknowledged the problem, and one review group even stated that almost every item now labeled Confidential should be Unclassified. There is no penalty for playing it safe – or playing it political – by classifying at too high a level, but there are potentially severe repercussions for an individual who mistakenly classifies at too low a level, or who is known to mishandle or publicly reveal classified information.
It is most unlikely, however, that Hillary Clinton will fall victim to accusations that rely on improper overclassification. The State Department and White House, including President Obama himself, sought to protect her and to minimize the effects of her behavior.
The case is extremely high-profile, Democrats in Congress would attack any borderline classification, and a host of wellpaid lawyers would rise to her defense. Improperly classified items or those deemed Sensitive but Unclassified may be redacted from publicly released documents, but it is hard to imagine that Mrs. Clinton would be falsely accused of felonies.
Whistleblowers suffer a quite different fate. Intelligence agencies easily and repeatedly retaliate for the airing of their dirty laundry by accusing the whistleblower of improperly handling or revealing allegedly classified information. The Obama administration then prosecutes them under the Espionage Act, under which altruistic motivation is irrelevant and may not even be raised in court.
Former CIA official John Kiriakou revealed on television that post 9/11 torture was official U.S. policy, not just attributable to a few rogue agents. The CIA seethed, but the Justice Department would not prosecute. Unfortunately, Kiriakou erred in giving a reporter the business card of a man he thought had retired from CIA but was still an agent under cover. The agent’s name was not published, but CIA got its revenge when Kiriakou was indicted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1981. Left penniless with over $700,000 in legal bills even before trial, Kiriakou finally accepted a felony plea bargain and went to jail.
Thomas Drake and this author went through proper official channels in 20012002 to protest NSA’s surveillance of U.S. citizens. Along with colleagues Kirk Wiebe, William Binney and Edward Loomis, they also reported to the Defense Department Inspector General the waste of money on NSA modernization.
After domestic surveillance leaked to the New York Times four years later, the five became primary suspects, partly because the IG improperly offered their names to the FBI. All were raided, but no evidence was found because, as the reporter later stated publicly, he had not then met or communicated with any of the five.
Nonetheless, Drake was prosecuted under the Espionage Act for possessing five Unclassified NSA papers that NSA retroactively classified. He was threatened with 35 years in prison unless he pled guilty, but heroically resisted. Pretrial hearings proved all the information in the documents had been declassified by NSA. After a yearsold interview record was orally falsified, this author was asked to plead guilty to felony perjury, but also refused.
Section 1.7 of Executive Order 13526 governing classification stipulates that no information may be classified to conceal violations of law, inefficiency or administrative error; to prevent embarrassment; to restrain competition; or to prevent or delay release of information not requiring protection. This section is observed in the breach, as political considerations dictate.
For all the above proscribed reasons, unclassified parts of the NSA IG audit we requested are still withheld by NSA ten years after the audit was first published. Former NSA contractors Edward Snowden and John Kiriakou showed that illegal and unconstitutional activities were hidden from American citizens and others behind the veil of classification. For revealing material that never should have been classified in the first place, they are paying a very high price.
In Snowden’s case, many revelations about domestic surveillance still are treated as classified to keep them from U.S. voters, although every terrorist and every intelligence agency in the world has access to the documents and almost no ordinary person in any country of interest to the U.S. can function efficiently whilst avoiding NSA surveillance.
–Sensitive but Unclassified Material. Individual agencies claim an unsupervised right to withhold admittedly Unclassified information according to any criteria they see fit and for as long as they choose. In the Clinton email case, it is quite striking that not a word has been breathed about such Unclassified but Sensitive material. Her free pass in this respect is the envy of whistleblowers.
In our case, NSA initially refused to return any materials seized in the raids. When sued, NSA claimed that if a computer contained even one admittedly Unclassified document with material that had not been officially released by NSA, the Agency could retain and destroy the entire computer content. Courts eventually allowed NSA to keep such individual documents in their entirety and at their sole discretion, but required that others be copied and returned.
–With ordinary citizens or lower-level whistleblowers, Sensitive but Unclassified material is wielded as yet another weapon in the Executive’s arsenal of punishments. Even highlevel intelligence officials have had difficulty publishing their memoirs, partly because prepublication review agreements routinely allow an agency to withhold unclassified information.
Since the 1950s, most judges refuse to review allegedly classified or sensitive material even to determine that it does not fall under the commonsense prohibitions of Section 1.7 of the Executive Order on classification. The Executive Branch has also been famously successful in promulgating a “state secrets” doctrine to avoid or indefinitely delay court scrutiny of important civil liberties issues such as domestic surveillance. It is now known, however, that the original state secrets precedent wrongly invoked intelligence sources and methods to cover up Air Force culpability for a plane crash.
In the author’s case, even NSA’s grossly inconsistent classifications got a free pass. A document that was released to Kirk Wiebe as Unclassified was branded Top Secret Compartmented when found on the author’s computer. Confronted with this vast discrepancy, NSA alleged that it could neither confirm nor deny that the document had previously been released. It keeps no records of prior declassifications. Even in a related court case. Nor is it interested in an available system to compile and compare such records. But the judge let the classification stand.
Diane Roark retired in 2002 after 17 years on the professional staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and prior service on the National Security Council Staff, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and in the Intelligence section of the International division of the Department of Energy.
After a delay, cybersecurity legislation dreaded by privacy advocates and relentlessly pursued by national security officials, known as CISA, will get a vote on the Senate floor “in a couple of days,” a top sponsoring senator anticipates.
The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, also known as CISA, is as polarizing as it is close to a vote. It finally hit the Senate floor for debate on Tuesday, with top sponsor Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) highlighting its necessity because “actors around the world continue to attack US systems, and in many cases penetrate it.”
Under the bill, private companies would have increased liability protection with respect to collecting American’s personal data that could potentially be related to security threats. It would also make it easier for them to share such data with the government, including departments like the National Security Agency.
Prominent CISA opponent and privacy advocate, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), challenged Burr, who chairs the Select Committee on Intelligence, on one argument in particular.
“He said that the most important feature of the legislation is that it’s voluntary. The fact is, it is voluntary for companies. It will be mandatory for their customers,” Wyden said, “and the fact is the companies can participate without the knowledge and consent of their customers, and they are immune from customer oversight and lawsuits if they do so.”
In many cases, customers have been able to nudge companies from a pro to a con position on CISA. In one instance last month, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) sent a letter to legislators, in part calling for “cyber threat information sharing legislation” granting them immunity so that they could “more easily share that information voluntarily.” However, after Fight for the Future, an internet freedom advocacy group, set up YouBetrayedUs.org to criticize the organizations, the BSA changed its tune.
The BSA, which includes Apple, IBM, and Microsoft, now opposes CISA, as does the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which includes Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Reddit, Wikimedia, Twitter, and Yelp have also released anti-CISA statements.
“Leading security experts argue that CISA actually won’t do much, if anything, to prevent future large-scale data breaches such as the federal government has already suffered, but many worry it could make things worse, by creating incentives for private companies and the government to widely share huge amounts of Americans’ personally identifiable information that will itself then be vulnerable to sophisticated hacking attacks,” added the American Library Association in a press release.
The discussion on CISA comes after a stall in the Senate’s schedule before its August recess. Lawmakers agreed to delay a vote on the bill when it became clear that senators had many amendments to submit, some of which included so-called “riders,” or unrelated issues, such as Senator Rand Paul’s (R-Kentucky) amendments to audit the Federal Reserve and defund “sanctuary cities.” At least 22 amendments will be given a chance to be added to CISA before a final passage vote.
Burr optimistically told The Hill that “a couple of days” was all that was needed to get to a final vote on CISA. He may have overshot, however, because there could be a scrimmage over amendments despite his efforts. Burr, with support of other Senate leaders, has managed to combine eight amendments into a legislative package he shares with CISA co-sponsor Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), but the grouping includes only one of Wyden’s two amendments.
Wyden told reporters that the one he feels “most strongly about” hadn’t been included. It would have provided a review system for deleting private info before data gets passed on to the government. The Wyden amendment that was included in the bill only requires that people be notified when their data is inappropriately shared.
Although no vote has been scheduled yet, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is trying to end debate by Thursday. Beyond CISA, the Senate has an ambitious to-do list. It will decide whether to extend government spending beyond September 30, address the Iran nuclear deal, and fund highways and transportation systems in a comprehensive bill.
A group of journalists and a human rights watchdog in the UK have put forth an unprecedented array of data on the CIA’s notorious secret detention centers, where terrorist suspects were kept and tortured in the early-2000s.
The investigation reveals the real names of detainees for the first time, as well as the locations they were kept in at the behest of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) around the world and the exact dates of events connected to their detention and torture.
In late 2014, a 480-page-long summary on the CIA detention centers was published by the US Senate Intelligence Committee after having been heavily redacted by the secret service. It is only a prelude to the original 6,000-page report, which remains secret.
It took nine months for the independent UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in cooperation with The Rendition Project to reveal what was cut off from the government report using open sources and investigative techniques. All the data they discovered is available online.
“Although many published accounts of individual journeys through the black site network exist, this is the first comprehensive portrayal of the system’s inner dynamics from beginning to end,” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism stated.
The testimonies of former prisoners, flight records, commercial contracts, court cases, declassified government documents, information leaks and NGO reports, along with media coverage, were put together and compiled into accessible interactive databases and maps revealing the locations of the CIA black sites.
The countries that participated in the CIA’s terrorist detainee interrogation and transfer program had full knowledge of what was being done within their borders, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told Sputnik earlier this year.
In May, the European Court of Human Rights forced the government of Poland to pay approximately $250,000 in reparations to two terrorist suspects who had reported being tortured at a CIA black site in Poland.
According to reports, the United States gave Poland and other countries millions of dollars to allow the CIA to operate a detention center within their borders in 2002 and 2003.
Morell noted that the countries hosting CIA sites supported the program “”because they thought that we would be able to keep all of this secret.”
“This was facilitated, supported and was very closely monitored at the highest level of the United States government, up to and including the White House,” former senior executive at the National Security Agency (NSA) and whistleblower Thomas Drake commented to Sputnik earlier.
The 2014 report produced by the US Senate provided official documentation of numerous incidents of torture, and so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against enemy combatants in US-controlled detention facilities. Little has been revealed about the foreign sites or the practices there.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, then the chair of the Intelligence Committee, released the report’s 480-page executive summary, over objections from CIA and White House officials.
After the release in December, the US government publicized 27 pages of interview notes compiled by lawyers for Guantanamo detainee Majid Khan in which he described his torture.
Khan said interrogators poured ice water on his genitals, videotaped him naked and repeatedly touched his “private parts” – details which were not described in the Senate report.
A month after the summary’s release, in January 2015, the government said it had issued new classification rules that permitted only the release of “general allegations of torture,” and “information regarding the conditions of confinement.”
But, they said, the names of CIA employees and locations of secret CIA “black sites” could not be released.
Later, the US government blocked the release of 116 pages of notes detailing the torture another Guantanamo Bay detainee, Abu Zubaydah, says he endured while in CIA custody, defense lawyers said in September.
Zubaydah, a 44-year-old Saudi national, has been held in Guantanamo for nine years despite not ever being charged with a crime.