From a nation of laws toward a nation of policies

According to Sophie McAdam, Edward Snowden alerts us that our smart phones can be taken over by government creeps. Big whoop!  How this is news or newsworthy is beyond me.  This is not news or newsworthy.  The surveillance state is well-known, and Snowden’s revelations are not revelatory let alone newsworthy. What should be newsworthy is how incompetent the surveillance products are in stopping terrorism.

William Binney, former U.S. Intelligence official, notes how in Nice, France a killer took a truck and mowed down scores of people in the promenade, killing over 80 people and injuring over 300 but nobody saw this coming.  Though I am glad that he is making the point that he is, I really I don’t trust these whistleblowers.  It’s as if the different intel agencies in the U.S. and Britain now have their spokesmen out of the company and out doing PR with the public, both good and bad, instructing us on behalf of the tools, tricks, and gadgets of the surveillance state.  To whom is this stuff useful?  Do any of the tools mentioned give us greater protections?  No.  It’s more like a salesman reviewing the latest line of tech gadgets, for which we’re all so fascinated, at the CIA’s or the NSA’s or any other security agency’s discretionary disposal to use against the American people or whomever.  It’s obfuscation at every turn.  To the different branches of the U.S. military, the American citizen is an enemy combatant who will now be subject to every wartime indignity under the radar of course.

Nonetheless, Binney raises some good points.  Namely that the amount of data is so vast that it renders the assemblage of building a solid profile incompetent. I can believe that there’s just too much data.  The NSA collects the data, but it is the CIA and FBI who use it. But aren’t there analysts trained to cipher this data? I mean if someone is part of a known terrorist cell, isn’t that an important detail versus, say, a kid growing up in San Jose working at UPS?  So I find that hard to believe.  Binney was not the only analyst. I am sure others were trained to cipher intelligence.  The software itself is programmed to spot details on a suspect or “person of interest” even before an analyst sees the particular data.  What about false flag terrorists, guys who are set up by the surveillance agencies, the FBI, the CIA, and others that incite, dare I say it, lead unsuspecting members of different groups to terror? Binney does admit that the software was designed with capability to be subverted, which it was, in order to spy not just on enemies, not just on Americans, not just on corporate CEO’s, but on the entire world.  This in effect turns every person on the globe into an enemy combatant, the term used by the military to justify state terror.

Further, at least in this interview, he keeps limiting the data to terrorists or criminals or drug dealing.  But the data is not limited; nothing is excluded, which means that any American is a target.  This is how the U.S. military treats its own people–as enemy combatants.  Further, what we are dealing with here is an agency that sets the criteria for enemy combatant or terrorist or criminal.  Binney did admit in that 2012 interview linked below that the central government defines what you’ve done wrong, not some local municipality.  Where is that criteria laid out for all Americans to see?

Who cannot help but remember National Security Agency Chief, Keith B. Alexander?

Alexander says nothing in this interview. Typical of military leaders. And Americans genuflect to these guys.

Here the Young Turks examines James Clapper’s lying testimony all the way back in 2009. Clapper is a retired lieutenant general in the United States Air Force and is the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (1991-1995) as well as Director of National Intelligence (2010–2017). Cenk Uygu references the PRISM program.  [In this 2012 interview, William Binney explains that the Narus device takes in the whole line of data–everybody.] But then Cenk Uygu goes off the rails saying “I’m glad at least someone in Congress was doing their job and holding you accountable.” That is truly reaching. But he amends it as he continues, “By the way, you violated the law there.  That’s clearly a violation. That’s perjury in front of Congress. In fact, Congressman Amash–he’s a Republican–said he should resign immediately because he committed perjury . . . committed a crime.  Of course, if you’re powerful in this country, you’re never held accountable–whether you’re the bankers, the Bush Administration, James Clapper . . . you’re free to go.  If you don’t have power, and you question the people in power, then they will hunt you down all across the globe.” Perhaps even more stunning is that fact that Senator Ron Weyden gave Clapper 24-hour notice of his question and after the hearing a day to amend his answer.  The enormity of it all.

“So that he would be prepared to answer, I sent the question to Director Clapper’s office a day in advance.  After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer.”  Senator Ron Weyden, (D-OR)

How is this not a Punch and Judy Show?  Or Kabuki Theater?  And Americans expect justice or restitution?  Good luck.

Then Binney tells the story–eight days later in Munich, a young man got a gun, shot and killed 9 and wounded over 30 people in a shopping center.  And nobody saw that coming.

“These are not isolated events but typical” he says. Most terrorist have no warning in advance despite the fact that we are more surveyed today than at any other time in the world.  There’s lots of data that’s just being collected.  The only time. Where was the surveillance then?

Compare Binney’s report with Sophie McAdam’s report about Snowden labeling the different capabilities Britain’s GCHQ has in hijacking your phone to turn it into a recorder or speaker for the benefit of data collection for the surveillance state.

Then there is the interview by the RT reporter, Gayane Chichakyan, of Thomas Andrew Drake, former NSA intelligence officer.  In this interview, he references the Trailblazer program used by the NSA to gather all internet data.  Amazing.  Each whistleblower comes out citing a different program that collects all the data.  How is this not like a barker at some exhibition?

foreign intelligence surveillance act.  NSA would be the executive agent for running surveillance on behalf of the United States.  SISPA?  Allow web service providers to funnel information from users to the government.  PATRIOT Act gives government unfettered access to online users.  It raises the specter of soft tyranny.  It raises the specter that you’re a suspect until proven innocent.  Raises the specter of a persistent, universal wiretap on every single person.  Or if not, they can create one.  What happens if they don’t like you?  What happens if you speak ill will against the government?  What happens if you say something they consider disloyal?  That’s not the country that he took an oath to defend in his government career.  And you also have the fear element.  Fear in itself is control.  What people will do when they’re fearful is begin censoring themselves. The National Security State has effectively become the state religion.  You don’t question it.  And if you do question it, then your loyalty is questioned.

Drake was asked about Julian Assange, and he said that the U.S. gov’t wants to get him. Drake himself got caught up in a criminal, national security investigation over the course of several years on how to bring an indictment against him.  “Speaking truth to power is very dangerous in today’s world.”  I always get suspicious with that phrase. Little is accomplished when one does speak truth to power, except as he said earlier they will destroy you.  “They don’t like dirty linen being aired.  They don’t like skeletons in the closet being seen. Not only do they object to it, they turn it into criminal activity.  His whistleblowing was criminalized by his own government.

She recognized that there’s a smear campaign against journalists who are critical against the drone strikes.  “They go after the messengers because they don’t want to deal with the message.  You’re talking about all the activities–the secret surveillance, the warrantless wiretapping, torture, rendition, drone strikes, enhanced interrogation, and a whole host of other measures. Going after the message becomes very uncomfortable.  What’s happened is that law . . . we’re moving away from a nation of laws and leaving it up to policy as a substitute, we’re travelling down a very slippery slope in the United States of America.”

Gayane Chichakyan raises the Flame virus, a malware, that the U.S. and Israel used to spy on Iran.  And then there’s the actual cyberweapon, the Stuxnet, which created havoc on Iran’s nuclear facilities.  We hear U.S. officials condemn cyber attacks all the time but it turns out that the U.S. itself is involved in cyber attacks.  These authoritative leaks means that somebody wants other governments and other nations what the United States is capable of doing.  This reminds me of what sociopaths do to their victims–they celebrate the torture that they’re conducting on their victim.  It is another form of warfare.  The Pentagon is on record for having said that if other countries do what this country has done, say with cyberweapons like Stuxnet, that is an act of war.  But if we’re doing it, it’s not an act of war.  It’s information acquisition or something.

Anybody whose paid any attention knows of the Eschelon database housed somewhere in Europe all the way back to the early 90’s.  Newsworthy would be products that people can buy to effectively keep military and government and private enterprise creeps out of your phone and out of your life.  That would be news.  It gets subjected to a whole host of other labels to make it into something from what it really is.

Then there is John Kiriakou, the only guy who’s been prosecuted with the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.  Here is his crime, according to Wikipedia

He was a CIA analyst and case officer, senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, counterterrorism consultant for ABC News,[1] and author.[2][3] He was the first U.S. government official to confirm in December 2007 that waterboarding was used to interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners, which he described as torture.

To me it seems like the military or any of these government organizations honor no way in hell any service done by these agents on behalf of Americans.  The government just trashes people for the reason that Thomas Andrew Drake mentioned–to avoid addressing the message, they go after the messenger.  And though I am suspicious of all the attention given to whistleblowers, I can’t help but think that there are some good guys coming out against government policy willing to sacrifice their own careers to bring evil to light.

This is serious stuff, much more so than what Ms. McAdam covered in her story on the Snowden interview where he reveals the intelligence value of smurf code names.  I mean really.

  • “Dreamy Smurf”: lets the phone be powered on and off
  • “Nosey Smurf”:lets spies turn the microphone on and listen in on users, even if the phone itself is turned off
  • “Tracker Smurf”:a geo-location tool which allows [GCHQ] to follow you with a greater precision than you would get from the typical triangulation of cellphone towers.
  • “Paranoid Smurf”: hides the fact that it has taken control of the phone. The tool will stop people from recognizing that the phone has been tampered with if it is taken in for a service, for instance.

. . . revelations should worry anyone who cares about human rights, especially in an era where the threat of terrorism is used to justify all sorts of governmental crimes against civil liberties. We have willingly given up our freedoms in the name of security; as a result we have neither.

Human rights?  I do hate the extrapolation of writers who take meaningful topics, like property rights and turn them into abstractions like human rights.  Rothbard articulated this quite well

The basic flaw in the liberal separation of “human rights” and “property rights” is that people are treated as ethereal abstractions

He disclosed that government spies can legally hack into any citizen’s phone to listen in to what’s happening in the room, view files, messages and photos, pinpoint exactly where a person is (to a much more sophisticated level than a normal GPS system), and monitor a person’s every move and every conversation, even when the phone is turned off.
Should we be worried?  Did you hear what Thomas Drake said above?  Government is never going to be accountable to anything.  They do not like airing their dirty linens or making visible skeletons in their closet.  So what they do is collect dirt on their countrymen and other men and women around the world and do to them what they loath having done to them.  I don’t trust military brats or veterans.  They are trained to kill or hurt people, and some are quite good and adept at it.  Why would you want these folks snoopy into your personal life?
Her points only worry me more.

And as much as we convince ourselves how cool they are, it’s hard to deny their invention has resulted in a tendency for humans to behave like zombies, encouraged child labor, made us more lonely than ever, turned some of us into narcissistic selfieaddicts, and prevented us from communicating with those who really matter (the ones in the same room at the same time). Now, Snowden has given us yet another reason to believe that smartphones might be the dumbest thing we could have ever inflicted on ourselves.

Doesn’t mean that we have to engage with them; we can and should opt out of their designs on us.

The danger for law-abiding citizens who say they have nothing to fear because they are not terrorists, beware: many peaceful British protesters have been arrested under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act since its introduction in 2005.

This is disturbing.

She says that smartphones suck, “It’s one more reason to conclude that smartphones suck.”  They don’t suck.  They provide extraordinary value.  It’s just that the value lies more in the hands of the folks who enjoy sticking their nose in your business and try to destroy you.  Make no mistake about it–the snoopers are there to destroy you.  Why doesn’t McAdam mention any of this?  Instead, she sings that hackneyed lament about the loss of privacy and loss of freedom.  Get over it, honey.  We live in a police state, where the military and the police sell their tools to private enterprise who also uses these nefarious tools against anyone they deem fit, which is everyone.

Maybe courageous, maybe helpful, I do like what Snowden did I do think that his information is only marginally valuable.  It certainly hasn’t stopped the military or the NSA or Verizon from snooping on us.  Note, too, how his revelations came during the Obama Administration, the president who presided over the largest expansion of surveillance programs in U.S. history.  So there’s that.  And then there are the careers that have been destroyed by this whistleblowing trend.  Yet government has grown, not reduced.

One of the benefits of torture is that it creates false propaganda or fear that any government or group can use to scare and control others.  Drake’s remarks again play out.

Here is Judge Napolitano with a concise assessment of the situation in the U.S.  But remember, too, that the U.S. and British intelligence communities share tools.  So there’s that.

h/t Lew Rockwell

This site might be worthwhile.

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