The NSA and Entrenched Power Structures

A piece from Pando steps up to the elephant standing in the corner:

"For now, the question is: How can revelations about the out-of-control NSA (and GCHQ) spying program lead to something better? How do we make sense of it given all the bewildering technologies, and how can it be transformed into a politics?..."

"As journalist Tim Shorrock discovered, 70 percent of today's intelligence budget flows to private contractors. Privatization and public-private contracting, did more than funnel taxpayer billions into private hands. It also blurred legal accountability. It's one of the main problems we're still dealing with today, and it's why the current monomaniacal fixation on NSA evils, without a proportionate focus on private sector surveillance, is another dead-end..."

"What the hell were those tech heads from Apple, Google, Facebook, and other tech giants doing in the White House the day before Obama’s NSA report was released? No one seemed to think anything was weird about that picture, the picture of corporate power nakedly dictating to a democratically elected President on the eve of a report that directly concerns those tech titans’ bottom lines."

How to address state capture by the corporate empire? The machinations of the Deep State? Develop infrastructure and a new vision for society. In other words, the Democratic and Republican parties are different wings of the corporate party. The entire political class of this republic must be voted out of office. -BB(2013-12-30)

Snowden Christmas Message 2013

"Hi, and merry Christmas. I’m honored to have a chance to speak to you and your family this year."

"Recently, we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance watching everything we do."

"Great Britain's George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book: microphones, video cameras, TVs that watch us — are nothing compared to what we have today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go."

"Think about what that means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters."

"Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."

"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together, we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government if it really wants to know how we feel asking is always cheaper than spying."

"For everyone out there listening, thank you and merry Christmas."

BlackRock: Deep State Player

The Economist, as one might expect, infers that the notion of corporate state capture is a mere "conspiracy":

"Ask conspiracy theorists who they think really runs the world, and they will probably point to global banks, such as Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Oil giants such as Exxon Mobil and Shell may also earn a mention. Or perhaps they would focus on the consumer-goods firms that hold billions in their thrall: Apple, McDonald’s or Nestlé."

Of course, they turn around and tacitly admit that the folks at Project Censored were right all along. Meet BlackRock, a card-carrying member of the Deep State:

"One firm unlikely to feature on their list is BlackRock, an investment manager whose name rings few bells outside financial circles. Yet it is the single biggest shareholder in all the companies listed above. It owns a stake in almost every listed company not just in America but globally. (Indeed, it is the biggest shareholder in Pearson, in turn the biggest shareholder in The Economist.) Its reach extends further: to corporate bonds, sovereign debt, commodities, hedge funds and beyond. It is easily the biggest investor in the world, with $4.1 trillion of directly controlled assets (almost as much as all private-equity and hedge funds put together) and another $11 trillion it oversees through its trading platform"

Of course, it's not a conspiracy. It's well documented, by credible scholars from world-class universities, that the United States is devolving into corporate fascism. Even Nobel Prize Winning Economists acknowledge the truism of private power. Good Lord, even former White House officials and Presidents (when they're being honest) admit as much. Yet the free-market cult at The Economist would dismiss this obvious development because it flies in the face of their ideological stance, a stance which often serves as a pretext for class war. -BB(2013-12-21)

A Proposal to Rein in The Deep State

A recent post at Cryptome offers a blueprint for throttling global espionage operations. The author begins by noting that existing justifications for spying have only created a worldwide system of private-sector interests that transcend state control:

"The circular defense of spying that 'we have to do it because every nation does it' has led to spiralling increases comparable to excessive military expenditures which inhibit action on far greater social needs..."

"The national security state has become a global enterprise through technology beyond control of any particular state due to excessive secrecy, inter-state agreements, mutual assistance treaties, transgression of local laws and, most importantly, the industry providing the personnel, tools and skills for excessive global spying, as Snowden himself represented."

Next, the author proposes that the U.N. give Snowden amnesty and that the entire trove of documents be deposited with the U.N. as a globally accessible resource.

"Snowden should be given sanctuary and amnesty by the United Nations in a location of his choosing to provide testimony about what he knows and what might be done to harness the technology of excessive global spying."

"Snowden's material should be deposited securely with the United Nations as a unique global resource for study, understanding and development of policy to uniformly reduce among all nations the need for excessive spying and how to control the technology which is now driving it."

Finally, Snowden could be granted a permanent UN position of ombudsman for control of excessive spying technology so that privacy can be fomented at a grass roots level. Spies lose; Mr. and Mrs. Smith win.

"In addition to UN sanctuary and amnesty for Snowden, he should be appointed, with his concurrence, for a permanent UN position of ombuds for control of excessive spying technology, with assistance from a panel of global experts in the full range of this invasion technology by land, sea, air and electromagnetic spectrum..."

"The ombudsman should be non-commercial civilian operating without secrecy to avoid the excessive secrecy upon which global spying is dependent, customarily justified by military defence and commercial proprietary..."

"Freedom from and individual protection against spying would be instituted as a global right to privacy against governments, commerce and institutions overseen by the office of UN ombudsman, beginning with control of and demilitarization of spying technology, and then by legislative assurance of lawful compliance."

An interesting proposal. Though it puts an awful lot of faith in the United Nations. Prominent members like the United States, driven by powerful corporate factions, have demonstrated in the past that, when push comes to shove, they do what they want despite what the world thinks. -BB(2013-12-21)

Judge Rules Against Phone Surveillance

The Electronic Frontier Foundation covers this encouraging development, though they qualify:

"Judge Leon stayed the order pending appeal because of the significant nature of the decision. Both EFF and the ACLU have active lawsuits challenging the same program, before other judges."

Here are a few interesting snippets from Judge Leon's ruling:

"I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval"

"Turning to the efficacy prong, the Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature. In fact, none of the three 'recent episodes' cited by the Government that supposedly 'illustrate the role that telephony metadata analysis can play in preventing and protecting against terrorist attack' involved any urgency."

In an open letter to Brazil, NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden takes this train of thought to its logical conclusion:

"These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power."

Amy Davidson remarks on the implications of Judge Leon's ruling:

"What his ruling does is deprive the N.S.A. of the argument of obviousness: the idea that what it is doing is plainly legal, plainly necessary, and nothing for decent people to worry about."

Though the EmptyWheel wisely advises readers not to get too excited as this is just the first step of progress in an interminable struggle against the agenda of the Deep State. -BB(2013-12-17)

Alleged Links Between NSA and PayPal

Sibel Edmonds has been contacted by a retired NSA official who claims that Snowden's document cache contains evidence of a close partnership between the NSA and Paypal. Other NSA whistleblowers have offered comments:

William Binney:

"Sunlight, transparency, is the only cure; the only way to bring about needed changes. This is why the public is entitled to have all the evidence and documents. The partnership with PayPal's owner, thus, the new ownership of Mr. Snowden's documents by an individual who is implicated in these documents, presents grave concerns and consequences, and a major conflict of interest for transparency, integrity and whistleblowers."

Note: An addendum by Binney

"Unfortunately, Sibel attributes some of her words to me. I do not know that PAYPAL is involved – only that financial data is being used by NSA. And, based on the 'BR' number 13/80 on the Verizon court order to give records to NSA, I estimated that this program involved 78 companies. These would include: telecom's, internet service providers, banks/finance/credit cards, travel, plus others. So, there's a lot of business data being collected by NSA and the FBI. In the future, if I am to be quoted, I will have to I will have to insist on a pre-publication review."

Russell Tice:

"For NSA, information from financial institutions such as PayPal is equally if not more valuable and sought after than that obtained from social media and other software companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google... I wouldn't doubt the existence of evidence and documents implicating corporations such as PayPal within the large cache obtained by Edward Snowden. The partnership and data collection arrangements have existed for many years."

John Young at Cryptome describes the dynamics at play:

"Government access to financial transactions has always been top priority for all government agencies, worldwide. Nothing is more important to governments than where the money is, especially money for taxation required to avoid death-stake in the heart of governments. So it is consistent that NSA (and other spies) have access to all on- and off-line financial services providers. As you know, financial services are required to cooperate with their governments, perhaps second only to defense industries, perhaps first due to the need to track worldwide arms sales. Control of arms means control of wealth, and nothing is more appreciated by the few wealthy to offload arms cost to millions of taxpayers"

This is a fairly scathing indictment by credible voices. -BB(2013-12-13)

Related: Corporate Spies Must Be Neutered

The Free Software Foundation makes a salient point that has been largely ignored by the corporate media:

"Nowhere on the coalition site, or in the open letter, do any of the companies take any responsibility for what is happening. Yet, they have intentionally put their users in a vulnerable position, and exploited them without hesitation."

See also:

"Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, always keen to play the market, has been one of the greatest single influences in eroding the private domain of users. 'People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time' (Switched, Jan 11, 2010). Now, Zuckerberg has changed the tune for the moment, fearing that such 'sharing' may well have to be qualified."

It's all about corporate profits, the focus on the NSA is distracting people from another nexus of monitoring. Google's CEO publicly sheds a few tears and desperately hopes to divert attention from private-sector spooks.

Greenwald Ignores The Deep State

In a Q&A with CNET, Glenn Greenwald claims that there's a key difference between government and corporate surveillance:

"If you look at the Bill of Rights, it limits what the state can do but doesn't limit what corporations can do, and that's because, as oppressive as corporations can be, the state has unique powers -- like the ability to put you into a cage for a long time, or life, or even take your life; and the ability to take your property; to impose all kinds of taxation; to build weapons that can be used against people around the world -- that corporations don't actually have alone."

This is a naive conclusion (has someone been seduced by a billionaire? overcome with vainglory?). Greenwald fails to recognize that the government, for years, has often served as a proxy for sources of wealth and power outside of government. When the Koch brothers or the less conspicuous elements of the financial elite want something, they buy it. It works this way in many countries.

If corporate interests want you in a cage, they'll get their political operatives in Washington D.C. to do their dirty work for them. Companies like Google will seek control by concurrently purchasing influence and also subverting regulatory frameworks. The oligarchs that largely run this country seek to cement their hold into full-blown inverted totalitarianism, corporate dictatorship without tears. -BB(2013-12-07)

Plutocrats Drive Presidential Elections and The Surveillance State

An article published by Salon covers an eye-opening research paper by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen (Ferguson in particular is well known for his analysis of how big money rules electoral politics in the United States). This paper finds:

"Both major party campaigns float their campaigns on the basis of appeals to the one percent – fully 59 percent of the president's campaign funding came from that quarter (56 percent, if one applies the higher threshold of $1,000 contributions) while 79 percent of the funds mobilized by Romney’s campaign originated there."

The Salon article notes that:

"This contrasts rather jarringly with the popular image of the 2012 campaign as one pitting Obama's middle-class constituency against Romney's plutocratic backers. It was more of a plutocrat vs. plutocrat affair."

Once more, there are financial links connecting President Obama to the hi-tech corporate interests involved in building the surveillance state:

"President Obama's support within big business was broader than hitherto recognized. His level of support from firms in telecommunications and software was very strong indeed, sometimes equaling or exceeding Romney's. Many firms and sectors most involved in the recent controversies over surveillance were among the President’s strongest supporters."

Salon comments:

"In the wake of the ongoing revelations from Edward Snowden of a national security state-turned-surveillance behemoth, the level of financial support the president enjoys from the industries working with the government to spy on Americans starts to make sense."

This is the Deep State at work. Sources of private influence and wealth which lack constitutionally vested authority have leveraged their ample resources to exercise state power and shape policy decisions on their own behalf. The surveillance state benefits the wealthy elite in many ways at the expense of our civil rights and the integrity of the republic. -BB(2013-12-01)

Publication Notice: Behold a Pale Farce

Behold a cavalcade of legislators, government officials, and think tank fellows. They claim that the United States waivers perilously at the brink of catastrophe, that foreign powers are poised to cripple the U.S. power grid and decimate the banking system. They warn that if we fail to implement the measures which they endorse, we risk a Cyber Armageddon.

Yet this End Times narrative is a farce, and a pale one at that. These doomsday scenarios serve only to benefit the military-industrial complex. Cyberwar propaganda is an instance of threat inflation. Much like during the run-up to the disastrous global War on Terror. The message of cyberwar elicits a crisis mentality. The end result is an anxious public that's susceptible to ill-conceived, but highly profitable, solutions.

Once more, while the apparatchiks sound the alarm about external threats, there are genuine threats emanating from within. America's Deep State is busy executing campaigns of espionage and sabotage in foreign networks. U.S. intelligence agencies are embroiled in covert operations at home and abroad which have been instrumental in the emergence of a sprawling underground industry that develops weaponized malware and Orwellian mass interception tools. Proponents explain that these developments are necessary to ensure our 'national security.' The reality is that this decidedly offensive approach is seriously undermining our collective security.

In these pages you'll see who is stirring the cyberwar pot, the real threats that we're being distracted from, and the often unacknowledged root causes of our growing cyber insecurity.

Author Note: The original publisher of this book got cold feet and backed off. The chief editor in particular voiced deep concern about "push back," coverage of former DNI Mike McConnell, and the onset of the 2012 Presidential election. Kris Millegan at TrineDay has proven that he's not so easily bullied. -BB(2013-11-15)

TPP Chapter is Revealed To Public

Announced a few hours ago:

"Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter."

Salon covers this:

"Intellectual property experts are critical of the draft treaty, which they say would help the multinational movie and music industries, software giants and pharmaceutical manufacturers to maintain and increase prices by reinforcing the rights of copyright and patent owners, clamping down on online piracy and raising obstacles to the introduction of generic drugs and medicines."

McClatchy and Kevin Gosztola have also written about the release. -BB(2013-11-13)

Corporate Spies Ramp Up Their "Fight The Power" Propaganda

In an essay published by The Atlantic, Bruce Schneier claims that corporate America has gotten its mind right, making a veritable 180 with regard to mass interception:

"This is the new reality. The rules of secrecy are different, and companies have to assume that their responses to NSA data demands will become public. This means there is now a significant cost to cooperating, and a corresponding benefit to fighting."

Schneier is way off the mark: there is a benefit if companies create the *perception* that they are fighting. The reality that society actually confronts is more accurately spelled out by Heidi Boghosian, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild:

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

Recall that political leaders in D.C. take their marching orders from boardrooms in Manhattan. Google spends more money than Lockheed on the beltway to purchase influence. Corporate spies in the Pentagon's patronage networks are the ones driving all this. Anti-establishment narratives are pure propaganda. These private sector interests *are* the establishment. -BB(2013-11-10)

TPP: Plutocrats Consolidate Control

The media has nearly blacked out the story of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations. This raises questions:

"Why all the sudden newfound enthusiasm for more free trade? Even more important, why all the secrecy? Why are our leaders desperately reconfiguring the legal super structures of global trade without either consulting their respective voting constituencies or even divulging what is actually up for grabs in the negotiations?"

Spanish writer Don Quijones offers a few answers:

"The new generation of trade treaties goes far beyond what was envisaged for NAFTA and GATT. What they ultimately seek is to transfer what little remains of our national sovereignty to the headquarters of the world's largest multinational conglomerates. In short, it is the ultimate coup de grâce of the ultimate coup d'état. Not a single shot will be fired, yet almost all power will be seized and transferred into private hands — and all of it facilitated by our elected representatives who, by signing these treaties, will be permanently abdicating their responsibilities to represent and protect the interests of their voting constituencies."

This is how neo-imperialism works. Note how it relies heavily on secrecy to marginalize civil society so that the public cannot interfere while these moneyed sociopaths plan to hollow out the middle class. -BB(2013-11-06)

The Deep State & Extrajudicial Executions, War Crimes

Counterpunch has published an appropriately scathing response to a fan-boy piece in the Washington Post regarding the NSA's role in drone strikes:

"There is not a single word in the entire story to suggest, even remotely, that there is anything wrong with the government of the United States running high-tech death squads and blanketing the globe with a level of invasive surveillance far beyond the dreams of Stalin or the Stasi. There is not even a single comment from some token 'serious' person objecting to the policy on realpolitik grounds: i.e., that such actions create more terrorists (as the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai told Obama to his face last week), or engender hatred for the US, destabilize volatile regions"

In the end, Floyd shows that the whole idea of "reform" is farcical, an obvious effort to appease main street without weakening the Deep State:

"Let us be clear: we are talking about moral compromise here. What is at issue is not the levels of 'legitimacy' that might or might not be produced by a broader 'debate' or 'reform' of the system. What is at issue is the actual moral content of actual policies being perpetrated by the government: the killing of human beings on the arbitrary order of the state, outside even the slightest pretense of judicial process; invasive surveillance, overturning even the slightest pretense of the integrity, autonomy and individual liberty of citizens; and all that falls between these two poles – such indefinite detention, black ops, and torture."

Even now, the Deep State's political operatives are dutifully insisting that Orwellian mass interception is necessary to protect us. This train of thought essentially argues that the only thing standing between us and security is the constitution.

Related: Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have published reports on U.S. drone murders. Amnesty International concludes:

"Because the US government refuses to provide even basic information on particular strikes, including the reasons for carrying them out, Amnesty International is unable to reach firm conclusions about the context in which the US drone attacks on Mamana Bibi and on the 18 laborers took place, and therefore their status under international law. However, based on its review of incidents over the last two years, Amnesty International is seriously concerned that these and other strikes have resulted in unlawful killings that may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes."

Our leaders say that these attacks are carefully targeted. But revelations show just how dishonest our politicians are:

"On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes."

This is, dear reader, the grisly face of empire. Now perhaps it's clear why we need all this secrecy. -BB(2013-10-23)

"In short, the government may classify information, not because that information reveals tactical or operational secrets but because the conduct it reveals could in theory anger existing enemies or create new ones... this justification for secrecy will be strongest when the U.S. government's conduct most clearly violates accepted international norms."

Related: U.N. Report on Drone Strikes and Perpetual War

"The Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing policy will come under scrutiny at the United Nations today with a report concluding at least 400 Pakistani civilians have been killed by drone strikes over the past decade. Another 200 victims have been deemed 'probable non-combatants.'"

"If the United States were to take the position that it remains in a state of armed conflict—because that is its position in relation to al-Qaeda—with all of these organizations, wherever they are, then of course the United States would be condemning itself to a permanent state of war."

Related: A Report from Alkarama

"While the other 'human rights' groups ask President Obama to please lay out what the law is, whether his killing spree is part of a war or not, who counts as a civilian and who doesn't, etc., Alkarama actually compares U.S. actions with existing law and points out that the United States is violating the law and trying to radically alter the law."

NSA Involved In State-Sponsored Terror

This earlier story, about collaboration between Greenwald and Scahill, strongly suggested that the NSA's link to CIA ops would come to light. The NSA is complicit in the global campaign of terror being conducted by the United States.

"Former CIA officials said the files are an accurate reflection of the NSA's contribution to finding targets in a campaign that has killed more than 3,000 people, including thousands of alleged militants and hundreds of civilians, in Pakistan, according to independent surveys. The officials said the agency has assigned senior analysts to the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, and deployed others to work alongside CIA counterparts at almost every major U.S. embassy or military base overseas."

Kevin Gosztola notes that:

"There are clear issues, such as whether the United states is violating international humanitarian law or committing war crimes, when it launches drone strikes in Pakistan (or other countries) in which it has not declared war. No nod to this reality can be found in the Post's story"

Witness the Praetors of the Deep State at work. General Alexander claims that "ours is a noble cause," refusing to acknowledge the blood of all those innocent people. -BB(2013-10-18)

NSA Contact List Collection

More Snowden-based disclosures. This time on mass interception of contact lists. Here's the skinny:

"During a single day last year, the NSA's Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250?million a year."

"The collection depends on secret arrangements with foreign telecommunications companies or allied intelligence services in control of facilities that direct traffic along the Internet’s main data routes."

"Although the collection takes place overseas, two senior U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged that it sweeps in the contacts of many Americans. They declined to offer an estimate but did not dispute that the number is likely to be in the millions or tens of millions."

"The agency avoids the restrictions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by intercepting contact lists from access points 'all over the world,' one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program. 'None of those are on U.S. territory.'"

More proof that dragnet surveillance is the rule, and that the NSA will do everything it can to find ways to skirt existing rules. BB(2013-10-17)

The NSA/GCHQ Subvert Tor Anonymity

In the Summer of 2013, Cryptome's John Young warned that alleged anonymity services were often not as safe as advertised:

"Crypto, anonymizers, dropboxes, pastebins, brilliantly ineffective code and privacy policies fail to deliver on their promises despite endless tantrums, permutations, tweeks, corrections, apologias, excuses, exculpation"

Today the Guardian has published documents that support this stance. Intelligence services like the NSA and GCHQ are working diligently to undermine Tor-based anonymity. The technology itself is solid enough that the NSA admits it "will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time." But at the same time the agency has been successful enough that internal researchers state:

"[A] critical mass of targets use tor. Scaring them away from Tor might be counterproductive"

In other words, they want people to keep using Tor because it will keep targets of interest in a domain where they can use a growing collection of tools to spy on them.

The NSA appears to have the most success undermining the anonymity that Tor offers by attacking the computers of the people using Tor (rather than attacking Tor directly). Ah yes, the quandary of endpoint security. Bruce Schneier has written an article describing the process:

"After identifying an individual Tor user on the internet, the NSA uses its network of secret internet servers to redirect those users to another set of secret internet servers, with the codename FoxAcid, to infect the user's computer."

"FoxAcid is the NSA codename for what the NSA calls an 'exploit orchestrator,' an internet-enabled system capable of attacking target computers in a variety of different ways. It is a Windows 2003 computer configured with custom software and a series of Perl scripts. These servers are run by the NSA's tailored access operations, or TAO, group. TAO is another subgroup of the systems intelligence directorate."

"To trick targets into visiting a FoxAcid server, the NSA relies on its secret partnerships with US telecoms companies. As part of the Turmoil system, the NSA places secret servers, codenamed Quantum, at key places on the internet backbone. This placement ensures that they can react faster than other websites can. By exploiting that speed difference, these servers can impersonate a visited website to the target before the legitimate website can respond, thereby tricking the target's browser to visit a Foxacid server."

It's interesting to note the government's ties with Tor. Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer. -BB(2013-10-04)

The NSA Maps Out "Contact Chains"

The Times has publihsed a story on "Sigint Management Directive 424," which allows the NSA to collect and analyze metadata "without regard to the nationality or location of the communicants." Here's a basic outline:

"The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans' networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes"

"The legal underpinning of the policy change, she said, was a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that Americans could have no expectation of privacy about what numbers they had called. Based on that ruling, the Justice Department and the Pentagon decided that it was permissible to create contact chains using Americans' 'metadata,' which includes the timing, location and other details of calls and e-mails, but not their content. The agency is not required to seek warrants for the analyses from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."

"N.S.A. analysts were told that they could trace the contacts of Americans as long as they cited a foreign intelligence justification. That could include anything from ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation or international drug smuggling to spying on conversations of foreign politicians, business figures or activists."

It would seem that American metadata is up for grabs, without a warrant, as long as the collectors can claim some sort of foreign intelligence angle (which could be fairly tenuous). Business figures? Activists?

"The N.S.A. documents show that one of the main tools used for chaining phone numbers and e-mail addresses has the code name Mainway. It is a repository into which vast amounts of data flow daily from the agency's fiber-optic cables, corporate partners and foreign computer networks that have been hacked."

"An internal briefing paper from the N.S.A. Office of Legal Counsel showed that the agency was allowed to collect and retain raw traffic, which includes both metadata and content, about 'U.S. persons' for up to five years online and for an additional 10 years offline"

It's clear that the United States is now a surveillance state. The next step in this process is the emergence of a police state. All the tools are in place... while our politicians tell us they're working to keep us safe. -BB(2013-09-29)

Related : NSA's Marina Metadata Database

"Any computer metadata picked up by NSA collection systems is routed to the Marina database, the guide explains. Phone metadata is sent to a separate system."

"Of the more distinguishing features, Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection."

"The ability to look back on a full year's history for any individual whose data was collected – either deliberately or incidentally – offers the NSA the potential to find information on people who have later become targets. But it relies on storing the personal data of large numbers of internet users who are not, and never will be, of interest to the US intelligence community."

How The Elites View Oppositon to Drones

A Yemeni anti-drone activist was recently detained in the UK under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000. Apparently drone opponents are treated as a terrorist threat, such that the law is being used to silence dissent. According to Glenn Greenwald this mindset is widespread in US intelligence circles:

"Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of 'propaganda campaigns' from America's 'adversaries'."

Here's an interesting top secret snippet:

"Attacks against American and European persons who have become violent extremists are often criticized by propagandists, arguing that lethal action against these individuals deprives them of due process."

Greenwald responds:

"In the eyes of the US government, 'due process' – the idea that the US government should not deprive people of life away from a battlefield without presenting evidence of guilt – is no longer a basic staple of the American political system, but rather a malicious weapon of 'propagandists'."

Yet the true propaganda isn't coming from activists, it's coming from our leaders. David Swanson points out a whopper in Obama's recent speech at the UN:

"We have limited the use of drones." (Bush drone strikes in Pakistan: 51. Obama drone strikes in Pakistan: 323)

Orwell: "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act" -BB(2013-09-27)

Yves Smith Deconstructs Robert Reich

And boy does he have it coming. Robert Reich is a globalist who masquerades as a champion for workers rights. Quelle surprise! In a recent post author Yves Smith drives this point home. Don't be seduced by his apparently leftist stance. Yves notes that Reich contends that globalization is inevitable, there's nothing we can do. Politicians just *love* this because it absolves them of responsibility. Yves counters:

"We live in a system of managed trade. And contra Reich's cheery [free trade] assertion that we simply have to accept these inevitable forces, the fact is that our trade partners have negotiated deals with an eye to preserving trade surpluses and helping protect their workers. The US has come to assume the role of consumer for the rest of the world. Our trade partners are perfectly happy with the result, since our trade deficits are tantamount to exporting US demand to support jobs overseas."

Reich is also one to push for better education, though this does little when high-level STEM jobs are being offshored en masse to other countries to bolster corporate profits. CEOs justify this by claiming that there's a shortage of engineers. The IEEE has debunked this as a myth. Norma Matloff, a professor at UC Davis, has also researched this topic extensively. Yves Smith directs our attention to an important fact:

"Reich has been a speaker at major offshoring industry events.. Reich is performing a monstrous sleight of hand. He tells rapt audiences that he's all for just about everything on labor's wish list. But then he shakes an adult finger and says, 'Yes, but you must work hard and have good skills to compete with those diligent Germans and Chinese.' He then proposes subsidies and training and a grand national strategy to build up target industries, while failing to tell his following that the very trade rules he's touting as inevitable and even helpful make the pro-labor program he pretends to back impossible."

George Smith offers spot-on commentary:

"Fuck the celebrity professional left edutainment and collections machine."

Very clever, promote the interests of the 1% in the guise of a flawed populist agenda. Paul Ryan sits up at night desperately wishing that he could be this slick. -BB(2013-09-26)

The 1,600 Pound Gorilla That Pushes for War

There are those who would lay all of the blame on the push for military action in Syria on the Israeli lobby. In an excellent Counterpunch essay Shamus Cooke illustrates how this viewpoint is myopic. Follow the money says Cooke. Specifically, he directs the reader to examines the banks and their craving for new markets:

"When there are overseas barriers to these types of profits, such as currency controls and other restrictions on foreign investment — as exist in Syria, Iran, and China — these nations are viewed as 'enemies' by the banks who cheerlead their destruction. A submissive nation with an 'open' economy is very good for the profits of U.S. corporations, and submissiveness is best taught by fear, i.e., the threat of military intervention."

The banks are accompanied by a series of related business sectors, many of which directly profit from manufacturing instability:

"The banks don't act alone, but lead a pro-war coalition of corporations, such as the lesser gorillas the authors mention, like weapons manufacturers, the giant construction companies that 'rebuild' a bombed nation, oil companies, and a gaggle of other companies — and there are many — who directly benefit from war profiteering; not to mention the fact that every U.S. multinational corporation has a stake in ensuring that their business is operating in a secure environment, with minimal chance of being nationalized by the host country."

Cooke also points out something with often goes unnoticed. The U.S. dollar is the world's primary reserve currency and oil is priced in terms of the U.S. dollar. This enables massive defense spending on behalf of the United States...

"It is not the individual oil companies that matter so much — as the authors suggest — but the role oil plays in broader geopolitics and as the motor of the U.S economy. Monopolizing this prized resource allows the U.S. massive deficit spending (war spending) via the 'petro-dollar' trade, while ensuring that rival nations will be intimidated by the possibility of having the oil valve turned off. This is why the Middle East continues to be the prime objective for U.S. foreign policy."

Then there's an obvious truism which anyone who has read Imperial Brain Trust can appreciate:

"Ultimately, however, the U.S. empire existed before the nation of Israel was even born, and would continue if Israel no longer existed. Obama's administration is not full of AIPAC lobbyists, but wealthy bankers."

When global developments like this occur there are typically multiple forces at work transpiring on several layers. While AIPAC is certainly a player in all this, it's just one factor in a very complicated equation. -BB(2013-09-18)

Meet The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC)

The truth tellers at Project Censored has released a chapter from their 2014 book:

"In this study, we decided to identify in detail the people on the boards of directors of the top ten asset management firms and the top ten most centralized corporations in the world. Because of overlaps, there is a total of thirteen firms, which collectively have 161 directors on their boards. We think that this group of 161 individuals represents the financial core of the world's transnational capitalist class. They collectively manage $23.91 trillion in funds and operate in nearly every country in the world."

The authors, Phillips and Osborne, begin with a comprehensive overview of earlier studies on American elites and then move out to broader works on the Transnational Capitalist Class. There's one point they make that really caught my attention:

"The billionaires inside the TCC are similar to colonial plantation owners. They know they are a small minority with vast resources and power, yet they must continually worry about the unruly exploited masses rising in rebellion. As a result of these class insecurities, the TCC works to protect its structure of concentrated wealth. Protection of capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world's defense spending, with the US spending more on military than the rest of the world combined. Fears of rebellions motivated by inequality and other forms of unrest motivate NATO’s global agenda in the war on terror"

The real service of this study is that it tells you who, exactly, these people are. Most academic scholars prefer to speak in the abstract. Here Phillips and Osborne actually name names, 161 to be precise. -BB(2013-09-13)

Questions for Greenwald

The Rancid Honeytrap (RH) points out that Snowden's disclosures are transpiring within the framework provided by the corporate mass media. This, in and of itself, is reason for pause. RH states:

"There are no miracles on cable news networks co-owned by defense contractors and cable monopolists; there aren't even happy accidents"

In other words, the leaks could be serving an agenda. An agenda with just enough institutional clout behind it to aggravate other powerful entities. This reflects the fact that ruling class interests (i.e. the oligarchs) have been known to coalesce into factions such that their various stances eventually surface in the media cloaked as opposing viewpoints.

"I certainly don’t believe the conspiracy theory that Snowden is a CIA warrior in a turf dispute with the NSA, but its conception of competing crime syndicates is truer in broad strokes than the left wing vision of power as one undifferentiated mass of united malice. People who use 'NSA' and 'the government' and 'the oligarchs' interchangeably and within that framework see Snowden and Greenwald as gatecrashers are seriously missing the point. Along with rival agencies and corporate elites who covet a bigger share of post 9/11 loot and power, there are certainly those who realize how the NSA's virtually unlimited snooping capabilities give the agency and its friends a tremendous amount of deal-breaking leverage."

From 10,000 feet, I believe that Sheldon Wolin's concept of Inverted Totalitarianism is being realized. The Deep State is in control. Though, as Tom Ferguson has described in his Investment Theory of Party Competition, it doesn't mean that big money is a single united front. However, at the same time I would also argue that there are times where the oligarchs exhibit, and pursue, shared class interests.

RH notes that Greenwald and his colleagues have explicitly self-censored (see the final paragraph of this article). The end result being that Greenwald risks supporting the very power structures he claims to struggle against:

"Greenwald has proven a surprisingly capable gatekeeper, whether he sees himself as such or not."

Last, but not least, a series of questions...

"When choosing partners in the US, why did the Guardian choose the New York Times, with its abysmal record on Wikileaks and on truth-telling generally? If, for some reason, Snowden wants to keep this under the auspices of establishment journalism, could he be encouraged to open it up to less dubious institutions, like say, McClatchey?"

"Considering that a lot of people in the security field are starting to resent the withholding of technical information that would assist them in building tools to circumvent the NSA, are there any plans to distribute the leaks to engineers so that technical measures for resisting the NSA can be improved and so that more specialized stories are available to technicians?"

"To what extent, if any, are commercial considerations affecting the timing and placement of the leaks? What financial dealings, if any, have potential to cause conflicts of interest?"

I would sincerely hope that Glenn would address these questions. -BB(2013-09-11)

Update: Glenn has responded. Though he doesn't necessarily answer the three questions above and the tone that he assumes is very telling. Nevertheless, as Howard Zinn would say, we live in the United States of Amnesia, so there is an argument for dragging things out. -BB(2013-09-12)

The NSA and GCHQ are Undermining Our Collective Security

Despite attempts by intelligence agencies to censor this story, both the New York Times and the Guardian report that the NSA and GCHQ have invested a significant amount of effort towards subverting modern cryptographic tools:

"The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated."

"The N.S.A. hacked into target computers to snare messages before they were encrypted. In some cases, companies say they were coerced by the government into handing over their master encryption keys or building in a back door. And the agency used its influence as the world's most experienced code maker to covertly introduce weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world."

"the N.S.A. spends more than $250 million a year on its Sigint Enabling Project, which 'actively engages the U.S. and foreign IT industries to covertly influence and/or overtly leverage their commercial products’ designs' to make them 'exploitable.' Sigint is the acronym for signals intelligence, the technical term for electronic eavesdropping."

The intelligence services gleefully admit what they've done:

"Classified briefings between the agencies celebrate their success at 'defeating network security and privacy'."

Bruce Schneier comments that the Internet has become a global panopticon and that the U.S. has set a very bad example that will enable abuses in other countries:

"By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards."

Glenn Greenwald likewise focuses on the betrayal that hi-tech security vendors have committed:

"So it's really a form of fraud that the—that the technology industry is perpetrating on its users, pretending that they’re offering security while at the same time working with the U.S. government to make sure that these products are being designed in a way that makes them actually vulnerable to invasion. And again, sometimes it's the fault of the technology companies. They do it because they want good relationships with the U.S. government. They're profit-motivated. They get benefits from it. But a lot of times there's just pressure and coercion on the part of a very powerful, sprawling U.S. government that induces these companies to do it against their wishes."

One way towards better security is inidcated by Ed Snowden, and then echoed by Schneier:

"Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on."

Thus we see the hand of the Deep State at work. This is the natural end result of top-down security. Security for no one, no one except the minions of the Deep State. -BB(2013-09-07)

Related: The Washington Post examines Tor funding:

"Last year, DoD funding accounted for more than 40 percent of the Tor Project’s $2 million budget. Other major donors include the U.S. State Department, which has an interest in promoting Internet freedom globally, and the National Science Foundation. Add up all those sources, and the government covers 60 percent of the costs of Tor’s development."

"Roger Dingledine, a founder of the Tor Project, says that the Defense Department money is much more like a research grant than a procurement contract."

Mr. Dingledine, it's now a documented part of the public record that the U.S. government has shown that it's ultimate goal is "defeating network security and privacy"

What better way to spy than to subvert a tool that people mistakenly believe will offer them anonymity. Cryptome's John Young nailed this whole subversion story months ago:

"The current comsec excuplt is to claim the Internet and personal devices constitutie a surveillance state, a vast spying machine, a tool for public manipulation, no matter that this has been a hoary blame shifting of security experts since fear-mongering was invented. Security is deception. Comsec a trap. Natsec the mother of secfuckers. You, Applebaum."

Red Lines, Credibility, and Al-Qaeda

President Obama insists that:

"My credibility's not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line."

"First of all, I didn't set a red line."

"As commander in chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress"

Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer responds:

"It was the president who drew that line. It's the president's credibility."

Tony Blinken, Obama's Deputy NatSec Advisor, claims:

"There's been a norm against the use of chemical weapons for nearly 100 years"

It appears that Mr. Blinken in unaware that the U.S. government helped Iraq deploy chemical weapons back during the reign of Saddam. Never mind the white phosphorus, depleted uranium, or the atom bombs. Blinken seems entirely comfortable with the U.S. acting as Al-Qaeda's air force.

That's what happens when politicans have been captured by the Deep State. Wired magazine reports on the recent Senate vote:

"Senators voting Wednesday to authorize a Syria strike received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war."

Lo, Senators bow to war despite the fact that public opinion is overwhelmingly against military intervention:

"Many of the president's core supporters, especially African-Americans and members of the Democratic Party's liberal wing who voted repeatedly against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are expressing the deepest reservations... Democrats say they are being confronted with a difficult choice: Go against the wishes of a president who is popular and well respected in their caucus, or defy voters back home who are overwhelmingly opposed to another United States military intervention overseas."

This raises a question: who, exaclty, is pressuring the President if not his grass roots voter base? The Deep State, that's who. -BB(2013-09-06)

The Deep State Is In Charge

Yves Smith examines a thesis proposed by Gaius Pubius; that the intelligence services have taken over:

"Gaius focuses on the question of the degree to which the military-surveillance complex is already calling the shots in the US. While he uses the current sanitized formulation, 'deep state,' I wish he and others in the opposition would use a more accurate, if perhaps less tidy, turn of phrase, like 'slow motion military coup.'"

With regard to a more accurate definition, the Deep State is embodied in terms of a Corporate Coup d'Etat. Peter Dale Scott, who has written at length on this topic, defines the Deep State as:

"The wider interface in America between the public, the constitutionally established state, and the deep forces behind it of wealth, power, and violence outside the government."

In other words, the Deep State consists of power not constitutionally or legally established that's fundamentally driving the exercise of state power. The United States is an empire and the emperor is an amalgam of corporate interests. Intelligence agencies like the NSA and CIA are the Praetorian Guard of the insular elite who pull the strings for their own benefit. -BB(2013-08-31)

Norms, Chemical Weapons, and Contradictions

Paul Waldman examines the recent focus on chemical weapons:

"Why do we have this international consensus saying that while it's bad for someone like Assad to bomb a neighborhood full of civilians and kill all the men, women, and children therein, it's worse for him to kill that same number of civilians by means of poison gas than by means of 'conventional' munitions that merely tear their bodies to pieces?"

"If the same number of children had been blown apart by bombs, you'd never see the pictures at all, because the editors would have considered them too gruesome to broadcast. And not having seen the images, we might be just a little less horrified."

John Mearsheimer, during an impressive tour de force on the PBS News Hour, adds:

"The United States used nuclear weapons in World War II. So the norms could not have been very powerful in that war... I ask you, what's the difference between killing somebody with shrapnel or bullets vs. killing them with chemical weapons? I don't see any meaningful difference. If we're so concerned about the fact that people have been killed, we should have intervened a long time ago in Syria. And, of course, we didn't because we don't want to get in the middle of this situation because we have no way to fix it."

Tariq Ali reminds:

"The country that has of course used chemical weapons is the United States, which used white phosphorus in Fallujah. No red lines were drawn them, except the red lines of Iraqi blood."

Despite the obvious lack of public support, the media continues to report that President Obama is feeling "pressure" to engage our military. Who exactly is exerting this pressure?

"The 'growing calls ... for forceful action' aren't coming from the people, or Congressional majorities, or an expert consensus. The pressure is being applied by a tiny, insular elite that mostly lives in Washington, D.C., and isn't bothered by the idea of committing America to military action that most Americans oppose. Nor are they bothered by the president launching a war of choice without Congressional approval, even though Obama declared as a candidate that such a step would be illegal. Some of them haven't even thought through the implications of the pressure they're applying."

Robert Fisk notes that the insular elite also don't seem to care very much that U.S. military action will benefit the same sort of radicals that we spent over a trillion dollars fighting.

"If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida."

The Deep State fixates on its credebility and influence. Raytheon's stock surges. The people of Syria will suffer, as it's highly unlikley that there's a feasible military solution. -BB(2013-08-30)

Google: Welcome to the Deep State

In the wake of reports that the NSA is handing out cash in return for people's data, Julian Assange sheds some sunlight on the ties between service providers like Google and our government. The connections are much deeper than most people think. According to Fred Burton, Stratfor's Vice President for Intelligence and a former State Department official:

"Google is getting WH [White House] and State Dept support and air cover. In reality they are doing things the CIA cannot do... [Cohen] is going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google's covert role in foaming up-risings, to be blunt. The US Gov’t can then disavow knowledge and Google is left holding the shit-bag"

Assange offers additional nuggets of information that demonstrate just how tightly linked things are:

"WikiLeaks cables also reveal that previously Cohen, when working for the State Department, was in Afghanistan trying to convince the four major Afghan mobile phone companies to move their antennas onto US military bases. In Lebanon he covertly worked to establish, on behalf of the State Department, an anti-Hezbollah Shia think tank. And in London? He was offering Bollywood film executives funds to insert anti-extremist content into Bollywood films and promising to connect them to related networks in Hollywood. That is the Director of Google Ideas. Cohen is effectively Google’s director of regime change. He is the State Department channeling Silicon Valley."

Ultimately, the U.S. government acts abroad to benefit corporate leadership. Respected foreign policy experts like Noam Chomsky and William Blum have written extensively on this. It's a matter of state capture. The execs at Google can be seen above in the blatant pursuit of shared class interests abroad:

"(1) a single-minded focus on maximizing short-term elite economic and military interests; (2) a refusal to let other societies follow their own paths if perceived to conflict with these interests; (3) continual and massive violations of international law; (4) indifference to human life, particularly in the Third World; (5) massive violation of the U.S. Constitution, especially through the executive branch's seizure of the power to wage unilateral and unaccountable war in every corner of the globe; (6) indifference to U.S. and international public opinion, which is often more progressive and humane than that of the elites; (7) a remarkable ability to 'manufacture consent,' aided by the mass media and intellectuals, that has blinded most Americans to the truth of what their leaders actually do in their names."

Witness the machinations of the 1% -BB(2013-08-24)

Keith Alexander: Inside The Elite Mindset

Recently Jennifer Granick, the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, was given access to Keith Alexander. In the aftermath of their dinner together Granick sums up the ideological void that separates them:

"Whether you believe that unchecked power inevitably corrupts, or rather believe that the sincere intentions of well-meaning individuals will protect us."

General Alexander's stance is nearly identical to that assumed by monarchies for thousands of years. China's many dynasties speak to this directly. In theory it didn't matter that the leadership had complete authority because they were assumed to be an enlightened, good-intentioned, individuals. History shows exactly how dangerous this misplaced trust is. Dynasty after dynasty were consumed by their own corruption.

Granick observes that:

"The General seemed convinced that if only I knew what he knew, I would agree with him. He urged me to visit Pakistan, so that I would better understand the dangers America faces."

Ah, yes: "If you only knew what I knew". This is an old stand-by, wielded by leaders who wish to conceal their true nature. Former CIA office John Stockwell, who sat on a sub-committee of the National Security Council, explains how this talking point is merely an apologia for corrupt apparatchik:

"I wanted to know if wise men were making difficult decisions based on truly important, threatening information, threatening to our national security interests. If that had been the case, I still planned to get out of the CIA, but I would know that the system, the invisible government, our national security complex, was in fact justified and worth while. And so I took the job.... Suffice it to say I wouldn't be standing in front of you tonight if I had found these wise men making these tough decisions. What I found, quite frankly, was fat old men sleeping through sub-committee meetings of the NSC in which we were making decisions that were killing people in Africa. I mean literally. Senior ambassador Ed Mulcahy... would go to sleep in nearly every one of these meetings...."

Oh, and as far as Pakistan is concerned, I'm sure General Alexander understands the backlash that our global terror campaign is creating. How a man with over a dozen granchildren enables a brutal program that kills hundreds of innocent children is beyond me. -BB(2013-08-24)

The Deep State Unbound: Oversight Fails Completely

The Washington Post has reported that the NSA has broken surveillance laws thousands of times. These developments, captured in an internal agency audit, were not shared with the President, the FISA Court, or Congress:

"The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."

"The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders."

According to the Post these violations have increased over time. So much for empty claims (e.g. Obama, Clapper, Alexander) that the U.S. doesn't listen in on Americans.

But it gets even worse, the chief justice of the FISA court, Judge Reggie B. Walton, warns that his court doesn't have the authority to sufficiently oversee the NSA:

"The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court... The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders."

It would seem that the Executive, the secret courts, and Congress are not really in charge. Instead, the Deep State is in charge. Senior Fellow at Global Security, George Smith, laments:

"Have to be the deliveryman of bad news: It’s not fixable in my lifetime. The technology of American global security has been turned on the civilian populace because that’s where the money is now."

There are deep forces at work here. Chris Hedges spells it out. The accelerating divergence between the moneyed elite and everyone else:

"What is happening in Egypt is a precursor to a wider global war between the world’s elites and the world’s poor, a war caused by diminishing resources, chronic unemployment and underemployment, declining crop yields caused by climate change, overpopulation and rising food prices."

Impeachment would be a good start. But in the end our entire body politic has been subverted by the Deep State, power not constitutionally or legally established that's driving the exercise of state power. Here it is, people, right before our eyes. Reform at this point would be a cosmetic band-aid. What the United States needs is nothing short of a Consitutional Convention. -BB(2013-08-16)

The Times Finally Confronts Obama's Lies

On August 8th, Charlie Savage published an article which described NSA mass interception:

"It [the NSA] copies virtually all overseas messages that Americans send or receive, then scans them to see if they contain any references to people or subjects the agency thinks might have a link to terrorists."

In light of this disclosure, even the editorial board of a mainstream outlet concedes:

"Data collection on this scale goes far beyond what Congress authorized, and it clearly shreds a common-sense understanding of the Fourth Amendment... Naturally, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved these half-baked assertions with a secret opinion."

To top it all off, in a move that's very revealing, Barack Obama has the audacity to go on national televsion and claim "there is no spying on Americans." As you can see, these front men for the Deep State (President Obama, General Keith Alexander, DNI James Clapper) dissimulate almost as easily as they breathe. Perhaps they're trying to leverage the PR tactic known as the Big Lie:

"The broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods."

The mainstream can no longer dismiss people like Mark Kelin, William Binney, or Ed Snowden. The surveillance apparatus of the Leviathan known as the Deep State has emerged from the depths for all to see. The U.S. Republic faces nothing short of a Consitutional Crisis. Will society hold felons and war criminals accountable? -BB(2013-08-09)

General Alexander: The Deep State's Talking Points

The man who presides over the NSA and CYBERCOM appeared yesterday at Black Hat USA, repeating a number of standard talking points about the emerging surveillance state. Pulling the national security card, he pleaded that Orwellian mass interception is necessary to keep us safe It’s a ridiculous argument that essentially extorts privacy (e.g. as Tom Friedman and Bill Keller both asserted, we must undermine the Constitution to save it). A notion, by the way, that Founding Father Benjamin Franklin found abhorrent:

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Likewise, a former Stasi officer warns:

"It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won't be used... This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people's privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place"

To support his stance, in a public statement given by General Alexander on June 25, 2013, the NSA director claims:

"We provided over 50 cases to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that show the specific contribution of these programs to our understanding and, in many cases, disruption of terrorist plots in the United States and over 20 countries throughout the world."

Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch (and a former federal prosecutor during the 1980s,), says otherwise:

"Upon scrutiny, however, many of these plots appear in fact to have been uncovered not because of the mass collection of our metadata but through more traditional surveillance of particular phone numbers or email addresses—the kinds of targeted inquiries that easily would have justified a judicial order allowing review of records kept by communications companies or even monitoring the content of those communications."

When asked about why terrorists are attacking the United States (this is where he really shows the true extent of his indoctrination) General Alexander asserts that terrorists attack us to impose a caliphate of sharia law:

"'Why do so many countries want to attack us?' the person asked."

"The general replied that America stands in the way of them reaching their objective, which is to force everybody to comply with sharia law."

More unadulterated propaganda; terrorists are attacking us because the United States is engaged in an unrivaled global campaign of state-sponsored terror. President Obama's own words explain the basic dynamic at work:

"There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders"

The people who have attacked the United States confirm President Obama's observation. Glenn Greenwald points out:

"In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on US soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world - violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children"

It's well documented that the Deep State has embarked on a self-perpetuating program of systematic mass murder that has killed hundreds of innocent children. Is it any wonder why people abroad despise us? It's not our freedoms that they hate; it's the brutal reign of terror that our leaders are executing. In other words, Muslims look around and conclude that the United States hates their freedoms.

The epicenter of the progressive movement, Noam Chomsky, describes the contradictory nature of Alexander's various explanations:

"You can’t seriously on the one hand be not only carrying out massive terror but even generating potential terrorists against yourself and claim that we have to have massive surveillance to protect ourselves against terror. That’s a joke. It should be headlines."

General Alexander, sitting on mountains of pilfered data, is no doubt aware of this. The very fact that he falls back on such a blatantly flawed argument reveals the interests that he represents. General Alexander serves the deep forces of wealth and power that reside outside of government. -BB(2013-08-01)

Related Questioning the NSA's Success Rate:

"At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the chairman, Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, accused Obama administration officials of overstating the success of the domestic call log program. He said he had been shown a classified list of 'terrorist events' detected through surveillance, and it did not show that 'dozens or even several terrorist plots' had been thwarted by the domestic program."

According to National Security Agency Deputy Director John Inglis:

"Bulk collection of phone records of millions of Americans under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act has been key in stopping only one terror plot — not the dozens officials had previously said."

Related: Terrorists Admit Why They Attack

"In his address, Mr. Zawahri called for attacks on American interests in response to its military actions in the Muslim world and American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors statements by jihadists."

General Alexander, I don't hear any mention of sharia law...

The Manning Verdict And The Ascent Of The Deep State

Here are a collection on responses to recent developments in the Manning trial:

Michael Ratner:

"Here you have man who who's revealed very important information about war crimes, whose information actually sparked the Arab spring, and you have him being convicted of 20 charges that can carry 134 years. And you have people who were engaged in the criminality he revealed not being investigated at all."

Julian Assange via WikiLeaks

"This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is 'espionage'."

Julian Assange on Democracy Now!:

"The prosecution has not alleged that a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning's alleged actions, not a single person. And, in fact, no evidence was presented that anyone was indeed harmed. The defense is not allowed to argue that that means that these charges should be thrown out."

"We now have a state within a state in the United States. There are more than five million people with security clearances, more than one million people with top-secret security clearances. The majority of those one million people with top-secret security clearances work for firms like Booz Allen Hamilton and so on, where they are out of the Freedom of Information Act, where they are out of the inspector general of intelligence’s eye. That is creating a new system, a new system of information apartheid, a new asymmetry of information between different groups of people. That’s relating to extensive power inequalities with the — if you like, the essence of the state, the deep state, the intelligence community, lifting off from the rest of the population, developing its own society and going its own way."

More from Assange

"Assange said the only victim in the case had been the US government's 'wounded pride', adding that Manning's disclosures had helped spark the Arab Spring... He described the soldier as the best journalistic source the world had ever seen, uncovering war crimes in Iraq which he maintained had led to the removal of US troops from that country."

Daniel Ellsberg:

"When I hear Bradley Manning and when I read what he said in the chat logs and whatever, I'm hearing myself when I was twice his age 40 years ago, and I know my motives and I perceive the same motives in his case, in each case actually, to save lives, to shorten a wrongful, hopeless, stalemated war, and to do so by informing the public and challenging them to live up to the Constitution in an unconstitutional war, to live up to ideals of democracy and of nonaggression, rather than fighting an aggressive war"

Commentary: Manning has exposed the war crimes and corruption of the Deep State. Thanks to him, and other whistleblowers, our understanding of the Deep State's true nature has gained clarity. Peter Dale Scott elaborates:

"More and more, it is becoming common to say that America, like Turkey before it, now has what Marc Ambinder and John Tirman have called a deep state behind the public one. And this parallel government is guided in surveillance matters by its own Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, which according to the New York Times, 'has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court.' Thanks largely to Edward Snowden, it is now clear that the FISA Court has permitted this deep state to expand surveillance beyond the tiny number of known and suspected Islamic terrorists, to any incipient protest movement that might challenge the policies of the American war machine."

Hence Lon Snowden correctly observes that his son should stay abroad. Decision makers know they have to make an example of whistleblowers to safeguard their power. -BB(2013-07-31)

XKeyscore: NSA's Mining Tool

The Guardian releases another document that fleshes out Ed Snowden's initial statement about being able to get anything on anyone, in addition to making Mike Rogers look like an idiot:

"'I, sitting at my desk,' said Snowden, could 'wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.'"

"US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: 'He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.'"

"But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed."

The NSA responds to this article:

"Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law."

Response: Legal? Would this be public law or secret law?

"These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad."

Response: As expected, the spearhead of the Deep State pleads national security and claims that auditing prevents misuse (Really? And who pray tell maintains the audit logs?) -BB(2013-07-31)

Chomsky: Drones and The Surveillance State

Noam Chomsky, speaking recently at the Geneva Press Club, explained why our political leaders have such a fixation with secrecy:

"Governments as I mentioned before always plead security no matter what's going on... If you look at anyone who's spent any time poring through declassified records –I have, I'm sure many of you have– you find that overwhelmingly the security is the security of the state from its own population and that's why things have to be kept secret."

He also pointed out that U.S. foreign policy and our state-sponsored war crimes are creating the very threat that all of this surveillance is allegedly intended to prevent:

"The plea of the US government in this case for the surveillance and so on, is that it’s security against terror. But at the very same moment the US policy is designed in a way to increase terror. The US itself is carrying out the most awesome international terrorist campaign, ever, I suppose– the drones and special forces campaign. That’s a major terrorist campaign, all over the world, and it’s also generating terrorists. You can read that and hear that from the highest sources, General McChrystal and scholars and all, so on."

"So you can’t seriously on the one hand be not only carrying out massive terror but even generating potential terrorists against yourself and claim that we have to have massive surveillance to protect ourselves against terror. That’s a joke. It should be headlines."

But it's not, because the Deep State is exerting its influence. The same sort of influence that can force heads of state out of the sky. The Hegelian dialectic is at work, we're racing toward an apocalypse of the Deep State's creation. -BB(2013-07-31)

Addendum: George Smith observes:

"And therein lies a central dilemma in any attempt to restore prosperity, genuine security and fairness in the country. They're a big part of the problem."

Drone Strikes and The Face of Empire

Cornel West responds to Obama's recent public statements:

"President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense"

This is particularly salient in light of a leaked document on drone strikes in Pakistan:

"The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years. Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children."

Empire, while earnestly trying to maintain a respectable facade at home, reveals its true nature abroad. -BB(2013-07-24)

Related : Don't expect things to change anytime soon.

"It doesn't matter who is president. No 'ordinary American who can dream of one day becoming president' is in a position to alter the basic equation, which would involve bucking the vast military-financial-industrial-academic complex that drives the American economy, funds our political elections and keeps people in line through any means necessary. That's as true of Obama as it was of Kennedy or Nixon or …fill in the blank."

"The Pentagon and CIA are powerful and independent fiefdoms characterized by entrenched agendas and constant intrigue. They are full of lifers, who see an elected president largely as an annoyance, and have ways of dealing with those who won’t come to heel."

Related : Drones and Surveillance

"The two are functionally of a piece because they both aim at the same goal: control over everything that can possibly bear on the fortunes of the elites Obama serves."

Related : The Spearhead of Inverted Totalitarianism

"N.S.A. is the spearhead for an American version of fascism, running neck-and-neck with the CIA-JSOC paramilitary-operation synthesis for that honor."

How Elites Thwart Revolutions, Impose Police States

Author Yves Smith points us to an op-ed by UCSB professor William Robinson:

"The Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci developed the concept of passive revolution to refer to efforts by dominant groups to bring about mild change from above in order to undercut mobilisation from below for more far-reaching transformation..."

"The Obama project co-opted that brewing storm from below, channelled it into the electoral campaign, and then betrayed those aspirations, as the Democratic Party effectively demobilised the insurgency from below with more passive revolution."

Yves then adds that:

"A general strike would be a galvanizing event but I don't see how that gets done. I suspect we'll see more and more random violence as frustrated individuals lash out. And that sort of violence will serve as the perfect pretext for more and more aggressive policing and surveillance."

And now, dear reader, this may provide some perspective on the NSA's mass interception programs. Economic and political assaults will continue until people are forced to respond. When they do, the surveillance state will be there to greet them. -BB(2013-07-20)

Hayden Defends The Surveillance State

Former CIA/NSA Director Michael Hayden writes about Ed Snowden's disclosures in a CNN op-ed:

"First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence's tactics, techniques and procedures..."

Response As Bruce Schneier points out, this assertion doesn't even pass the laugh test. Terrorists changed their tactics years ago. Unless, of course, when Hayden uses the word "adversaries" he's referring to the American public. Noam Chomsky offers insight in this regard:

"The worst enemy of any government is its own population."

Hayden continues, detailing the alleged "damage" the Snowden has wrought through whistleblowing:

"But there is other damage, such as the undeniable economic punishment that will be inflicted on American businesses for simply complying with American law."

Response Just becuase it's legal doesn't make it right... It's the classic Eichmann Defense, "I was just following orders."

Anyway, onto Hayden's final (ridiculous) charge against Snowden:

"The third great harm of Snowden's efforts to date is the erosion of confidence in the ability of the United States to do anything discreetly or keep anything secret."

Response Good lord, man, the problem here is not that we can't keep secrets. The problem is that we've got too many. We've established a system where secret courts pass secret laws on secret programs that impact our constitutional rights; where privacy is being sacrificed on the altar of national security. This kind of secrecy and control are antithetical to democracy. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has admitted as much. And the fact that Hayden supports the machinations of the surveillance state reveals his authoritarian colors. Then again, what would you expect from someone who was so completely entrenched in the power structures of the Deep State? -BB(2013-07-20)

False Flag Ops Are Everywhere

A blog entry at Darker Net explores the connections between Barret Brown, Michael Hastings, and the Endgame company. In doing so this essay points out a salient aspect of the malware-industrial complex:

"What is at stake here is that the United States government has outsourced the most evil elements of national security: the ability to hack into computer systems across the world, foreign and domestic, private or government owned. The organizations they outsourced this to then set about monetizing the process, selling it to the highest bidder. This process could also allow corporations and the financial and political elites to create acts of war that appear to have come from the US Government due to the severely interconnected nature of the intelligence community, split between private companies and actual government agencies with alleged oversight of sorts. Edward Snowden’s access to NSA data while an employee of a private company for only four months (Booz Allen Hamilton, owned in large part by the Carlyle group which has long ties to the Bush family) illustrates the extent of the problem."

Vendors may outwardly claim that they don't sell malware to a particular set of customers, but in the end corporations exist to generate profit and any vestige of patriotism often gets tossed out the window when shareholder interests are at stake. Such is the siren call of the highest bidder.

Furthermore, I would take this one step further. The rise of these independent private sector operators means that the field is now flooded with non-state actors who will gladly do the day-to-day dirty work for anyone who can pay. It's naive to think that only government agencies can launch ops.

T.S. Eliot queried:

"In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do, Suspend its operations, will the weevil Delay?"

As someone who has researched anti-forensics, I can confirm that there's been significant investment in this arena. In my opinion it would be failry simple for an idependent outfit to launch an attack and stage it (operationally, technically, and geographically) to implicate an uninvolved party as the aggressor. Certainty is the false refuge of officials begging for government funding. -BB(2013-07-19)

Snowden Statement from Moscow Airport

Today, 5pm Moscow time, our hero reiterated the dangers that mass interception, coupled with state secrecy, posed to liberty and democracy.

"The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law."

Snowden is reconsidering asylum in Russia given how the President of Bolivia was treated and how the United States is executing a full-court press to influence Latin American governments.

"As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights."

Obama claimed that he wouldn't scramble jets "to get a 29-year-old hacker" but one has to admit that there are veiled threats at work. When the U.S. security apparatus wants something, it tends to get it, as Microsoft would no doubt agree. -BB(2013-07-12)

Rob Urie observes :

"If NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden can find his way to political asylum in Venezuela, as current rumor has it, the local issue of an American democratic activist (Snowden) finding refuge in a democratic country is solved. But the larger problem of the citizens of the U.S. passively accepting the increasingly oppressive terms of empire remains."

"The next move of empire is for 'reformers' to step in to save the totalitarian apparatus under the guise of 'correcting its excesses.' And until life becomes a lot more uncomfortable for the bourgeois wasteland of the American left, 'reform' will likely serve its purpose of derailing change."

Snowden Interview, Part 2

Snowden recalls that he started as a true-believer and then, over time, his faith was shaken by the blatant manipulation he witnessed:

"As I watched the news and I increasingly was exposed to true information that had not been propagandized in the media, that we were actually involved in misleading the public and misleading all publics, not just the American public, in order to create a certain mindset in the global consciousness... the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics."

Then he touches on what his disclosures ultimately reveal:

"The NSA doesn't limit itself to foreign intelligence. It collects all communications that transit the United States. There are literally no ingress or egress points anywhere in the continental United States where a communication may enter or exit without being monitored and collected and analyzed. The Verizon document speaks highly to this, because it literally lays out they're using an authority that was intended to be used to seek warrants against individuals, and they're applying it to the whole of society by basically subverting a corporate partnership through major telecommunications providers, and they're getting everyone’s calls, everyone's call records, and everyone's Internet traffic, as well."

And don't expect things to get any better under allegedly progressive leaders:

"We're compounding the excesses of prior governments and making it worse and more invasive. And no one is really standing to stop it"

You can expect elements in the media, which have long-standing relationships with the intelligence community, to continue to focus on the messenger instead of his message. -BB(2013-07-10)

More From Snowden on Big Brother

The following statements are from an article that was published by Der Spiegel:

"Yes of course. They [the NSA] are in cahoots with the Germans, as well as with the most other Western countries"

"When the last large wiretapping scandal was investigated - the interception without a court order, which concerned millions of communications - that should really have led to the longest prison sentences in world history. However, then our highest representatives simply stopped the investigation. The question, who is to be accused, is theoretical, if the laws themselves are not respected. Laws are meant for people like you or me - but not for them."

"The partners in the 'Five Eyes' [the secret services of the Americans, the British, the Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians] sometimes go even further than the NSA people themselves. Take the Tempora program of the British intelligence GCHQ for instance. Tempora is the first 'I save everything' approach ('Full take') in the intelligence world. It sucks in all data, no matter what it is, and which rights are violated by it."

Related : Secret Court Creates Secret Law for Secrect Monitoring

"In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation's surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say."

"The FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.'s collection and examination of Americans' communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said."

Secrecy may very well be the primary threat to our Republic. How can important issues be debated and examined if everything is a secret? National security is just an excuse, secrecy is a tool to marginalize the public - BB(2013-07-07)

Related:

Glenn Greenwald states that this proves what a joke the FISA court is, and the whole notion of oversight:

"What kind of a country has a court that defines the Constitution in total secrecy and forces us to live under truly secret law in which the government can do all sorts of things to us that we're not even aware of, that it's claiming the right to do and being given the power to do it?"

Where is this headed if left unhindered? Greenwald warns:

"The NSA is in the process, in total secrecy, with no accountability, of constructing a global, ubiquitous surveillance system that has as its goal the elimination of privacy worldwide"

The evidence, in addition to recent events, supports his conclusions. -BB(2013-07-08)

EU Leaders Show Their Colors

Yesterday, the aircraft flying Bolivian President Evo Morales from a convention in Moscow back to Bolivia was forced to reroute its flight path when France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain refused to authorize the President's plane to fly through their airspace.

"Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, Sacha Llorenti Soliz France, said Portugal, Spain and Italy 'violated international law' by blocking Morales's plane, adding that 'the orders came from the United States.'"

Like other EU members, despite the appearance of outrage, Germany has yielded to pressure from the U.S.:

"Germany on Tuesday evening became just the latest country to reject NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's application for asylum"

These actions speak very loudly. They reveal a massive disconnect between the song and dance that officials perform for the public and the full-court grovel that they do in private when dealing with the U.S.

With this in mind, Dave Lindorff raises an interesting point:

"Has the US, with its massive spy network, just demonstrated that it now has a power greater than its nuclear arsenal: a dossier perhaps on almost every leader in the world with which it is able to blackmail even the likes of Hollande, Merkel and Putin? It is hard to come up with another explanation for the way this incident played out."

Consider the implications from the following New York Times op-ed :

"N.S.A. listening in on ordinary Europeans is perfectly legal under United States law; the agency is prohibited only from snooping on Americans without court authorization. German intelligence agencies are similarly prohibited from spying on Germans. It is naïve to assume that allied intelligence agencies do not share data that may be off limits to one and not the other."

This is power being exercised being the scenes as our leaders strive desperately to keep the truth from us and deter future whistleblowers. -BB(2013-07-04)

Related : France performs mass interception, "at the margins of legality and outside all serious control," just like the UK's GCHQ!

Related : Nicaragua Steps Up

"We are open, respectful of the right to asylum, and it is clear that if circumstances permit it, we would receive Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum here in Nicaragua"

Related : Venezuela Steps Up

"He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world."

"The European people have seen the cowardice and the weakness of their governments, which now look like colonies of the United States"

Related : Bolivia Steps Up

"He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world."

For live updates, see this link.

Latin American nations demonstrate that they're willing to confront the Hegemon, showing far more backbone than the 'colonies' over in the EU. -BB(2013-07-06)

PRISM: It's Not About Terrorists

Recently on Democracy Now! Michael Ratner, the legal counsel for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, made a very astute observation regarding the PRISM program:

"You have to ask yourself, is this huge, massive surveillance system, of every single person in the world, conceivably—is this—is terrorism the real justification for it, or is it something else? Is it simply the U.S. and a couple of other countries, the U.K., trying to dominate what would have been the most democratic platform in the world, the Internet system, and trying to dominate it from a vertical point, a high country point on top of it, and just take control of all of our lives through information? That's what I think is going on. This is not about terrorism."

Why all the fuss about Snowden then? Thomas Drake offers his insight:

"The government is desperate to not deal with the actual exposures, the content of the disclosures. Because they do reveal a vast, systemic, institutionalized, industrial-scale Leviathan surveillance state that has clearly gone far beyond the original mandate to deal with terrorism — far beyond."

An article published by Bloomberg concurs:

"The Prism surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America's largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous elements typically use."

What's driving PRISM then? Money and Power. It's about transferring money to defense contractors and controlling dissent as the U.S. decays into a third-world country.

In light of what's truly at stake, perhaps an advisory is in order:

"The American security state does not like being made to look impotent and foolish. Getting Snowden rendered or killed has to be a very high priority."

Let them pursue. The world is watching: di pia facta vident -BB(2013-06-26)

Related: A former Stasi officer Comments on the NSA's monitoring programs.

"It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won't be used... This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people's privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place."

Related :

"What very few people are acknowledging, amidst all the discussion about the Snowden leak and what it reveals, is that a very real purpose of the surveillance programs—and perhaps the entire war on terror—is to target and repress political dissent. 'Terrorism' is the new 'Communism,' and the war on terror and all its shiny new surveillance technology is the new Cold War and McCarthyism."

More Lies and Exceptionalism From Obama

Recently the President was on Charlie Rose, decked out in full damage control mode. Here's one of the more ridiculous soundbites:

"What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a US person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls... by law and by rule, and unless they... go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it's always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause"

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald calls out Obama on his B.S.:

"This has become the most common theme for those defending NSA surveillance. But these claim are highly misleading, and in some cases outright false."

"Top secret documents obtained by the Guardian illustrate what the Fisa court actually does – and does not do – when purporting to engage in 'oversight' over the NSA's domestic spying. That process lacks many of the safeguards that Obama, the House GOP, and various media defenders of the NSA are trying to lead the public to believe exist."

Here's another gem from Obama during his chat with Charlie Rose:

"Every country in the world, large and small, engages in intelligence gathering and that is an occasional source of tension but is generally practiced within bounds... Our value added is at the top of the value chain and if countries like China are stealing that that affects our long-term prosperity in a serious way."

It's almost as if Obama is claiming that other groups aren't 'fighting fair' by hitting the United States below the belt. Ha! Sorry Mr. President, all's fair in the Wilderness of Mirrors. The New York Times Joe Nocera shows the flaw in this hypocritical stance:

"If you are going to lecture the world about right and wrong — and if you're trying to stop bad behavior — perhaps you shouldn't be engaging in a version of that behavior yourself"

Intelligence services steal secrets to achieve a strategic advantage. Period. While it's now a matter of public record that the United States is one of the principal aggressors in Cyberspace, somehow when other groups spy on us to acquire valuable data it's different because, well, the United States is 'special.' Again, perhaps this is the benefit of being the world's leading rogue state. -BB (2013-06-20)

Related : Schneier observes that the U.S. is even more culpable.

"More than passively eavesdropping, we're penetrating and damaging foreign networks for both espionage and to ready them for attack. We're creating custom-designed Internet weapons, pretargeted and ready to be 'fired' against some piece of another country's electronic infrastructure on a moment's notice."

"This is much worse than what we're accusing China of doing to us. We're pursuing policies that are both expensive and destabilizing and aren't making the Internet any safer. We're reacting from fear, and causing other countries to counter-react from fear. We're ignoring resilience in favor of offense."

All of this is true, yet our leaders still promote these destructive solutions. Why is the United States focusing on offense in addition to Orwellian monitoring solutions? Because they represent money and power to the patronage networks that constitute the U.S. war machine; the vanguard of the 1%. -BB(2013-06-21)

Bill Keller, Tom Friedman, and Privacy Extortion

Today in the New York Times, the former executive editor (the very same editor who failed to challenge stories about imaginary WMDs in Iraq) brazenly shows his true colors:

"Tom's important point was that the gravest threat to our civil liberties is not the N.S.A. but another 9/11-scale catastrophe that could leave a panicky public willing to ratchet up the security state, even beyond the war-on-terror excesses that followed the last big attack. Reluctantly, he concludes that a well-regulated program to use technology in defense of liberty — even if it gives us the creeps — is a price we pay to avoid a much higher price, the shutdown of the world's most open society."

In this instance he's backing Tom Friedman's earlier apology for Big Brother:

"I believe that if there is one more 9/11 — or worse, an attack involving nuclear material — it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it. If there were another 9/11, I fear that 99 percent of Americans would tell their members of Congress: 'Do whatever you need to do to, privacy be damned, just make sure this does not happen again.' That is what I fear most."

You may notice a subtle form of extortion at play here. Society is being lectured that it must yield privacy or face a future, potentially nuclear, act of terror. In other words, the mouthpieces of the establishment are saying that we must undermine the Constitution in order to save it. Such is the power of emotionally loaded propaganda. To paint pictures of the apocalypse, to sow anxiety, and convince the public to accept Orwellian monitoring schemes because the alternatives are so much worse.

But we do not have to sacrifice privacy to have security. We can have both. The proper response to the threat of terror is not to devolve into a police state. The appropriate response is to refuse to be terrorized; to become more open, more transparent, and more democratic. -BB (2013-06-17)

The Aggressor in Cyberspace? The United States

Yet another incredible disclosure from The Guardian:

"Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals."

"The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) 'can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging.'"

While the Pentagon and our elected officials go into hysterics with regard to other countries inflicting losses on our economy (good lord, it's as if they slept through the 2008 financial crisis), the Malware-Industrial complex is busy behind the scenes planning to launch its own attacks on behalf of advancing "US national objectives around the world" (read, the interests of the oligarchs that own the United States). But, hey, the defense contractors have found a new growth industry to sustain their budgets!

These fear-mongers make such compelling hypocrites. This is American exceptionalism at its finest. Cyber-attacks are a grave violation, unless of course the United States is doing the attacking. This is the advantage of being the world's preeminent rogue state, led by a war criminal who's been bought and paid for by the deep state. -BB(2013-06-08)

Related : George Smith comments on our government's double standard

"Truth be told, the US has been in terrible position to lecture people on proper conduct in cyberspace since releasing the Stuxnet virus into Iranian networks in an effort to physically damage its nuclear program."

"It set off an escalating cyber-arms race. This, in turn, triggered retaliations against US networks and greased the black market for the hoarding and clandestine sale of security vulnerabilities."

Rancid Cyberwar Hypocrisy : Glenn Greenwald spells it out

"Obama administration has spent three years now running around the world warning about the dangers of cyber-attacks and cyberwarfare coming from other nations like China, like Iran, like other places, and what is unbelievably clear is that it is the United States itself that is far and away the most prolific and the most aggressive perpetrator of exactly those cyber-attacks that President Obama claims to find so alarming. And as you say, we published the story on the eve of his conference with the president of China, in which the top agenda item, because of the United States' insistence, was their complaints about Chinese cyber-attacks and hacking. And it just shows the rancid, fundamental hypocrisy of the statements the United States makes, not just to the world, but to its own people about these crucial matters."

That sums it up nicely. We've met the enemy: our leaders, the same people who take their marching orders from boardrooms all over Manhattan. -BB(2013-06-10)

Related : The NSA's Offensive Unit

"According to former NSA officials interviewed for this article, TAO's mission is simple. It collects intelligence information on foreign targets by surreptitiously hacking into their computers and telecommunications systems, cracking passwords, compromising the computer security systems protecting the targeted computer, stealing the data stored on computer hard drives, and then copying all the messages and data traffic passing within the targeted email and text-messaging systems. The technical term of art used by NSA to describe these operations is computer network exploitation (CNE)."

Related : More Details on Offensive Ops

"The detailed records - which cannot be independently verified - show specific dates and the IP addresses of computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland hacked by the National Security Agency over a four-year period."

"The small sample data suggests secret and illegal NSA attacks on Hong Kong computers had a success rate of more than 75 per cent, according to the documents. The information only pertains to attacks on civilian computers with no reference to Chinese military operations, Snowden said."

"The primary issue of public importance to Hong Kong and mainland China should be that the NSA is illegally seizing the communications of tens of millions of individuals without any individualised suspicion of wrongdoing... They simply steal everything so they can search for any topics of interest."

Related : Security for the 1%

"Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world's largest software company, provides intelligence agencies with information about bugs in its popular software before it publicly releases a fix, according to two people familiar with the process. That information can be used to protect government computers and to access the computers of terrorists or military foes."

Corporate oligarchs have always been enabling and driving our security services. Recall United Fruit in Guatemala? Corporate interests are the "objectives" that Obama references in PPD 20.

Big Brother: Execs Open Their Front Doors for PRISM

According to a breaking story covered by the Guardian, since 2007 the public sector spooks at the NSA have had "direct access" to private sector servers run by several prominent online providers. This includes companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple.

Glenn Greenwald describes the implications: An Orwellian mass interception system that turns the Internet into the world's largest telescreen.

"The objective of the NSA and the U.S. government is nothing less than destroying all remnants of privacy. They want to make sure that every single time human beings interact with one another, things that we say to one another, things we do with one another, places we go, the behavior in which we engage, that they know about it, that they can watch it, and they can store it, and they can access it at any time. And that's what this program is about. And they're very explicit about the fact that since most communications are now coming through these Internet companies, it is vital, in their eyes, for them to have full and unfettered access to it. And they do."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says "see, we told you so":

"EFF and others had long alleged that, despite the rhetoric surrounding the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, the government was still vacuuming up the records of the purely domestic communications of millions of Americans. And yesterday, of course, with the Verizon order, we got solid proof.. And it appears that the reach of this vacuum goes much further, into the records of our Internet service providers as well."

The EFF also recommends a course of action:

"Congress now has a responsibility to the American people to conduct a full, public investigation into the domestic surveillance of Americans by the intelligence communities, whether done directly or in concert with the FBI. And it then has a duty to make changes in the law to stop the spying and ensure that it does not happen again. In short, we need a new Church Committee."

In a twist that's almost comical, corporate execs plead ignorance:

"An Apple spokesman said: 'We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers and any agency requesting customer data must get a court order'"

Senator Feinstein offers up an apology for programs like PRISM:

"I read intelligence carefully, and I know that people are trying to get to us. This is the reason why we keep TSA doing what it's doing. This is the reason why the FBI now has 10,000 people doing intelligence on counterterrorism. This is the reason for the National Counterterrorism Center that's been set up in the time we've been active. It's to ferret this out before it happens. It's called protecting America."

Norman Solomon responds:

"You're all playing abhorrent roles, maintaining a destructive siege of precious civil liberties. While building a surveillance state, you are patting citizens on the head and telling them not to worry."

National security is the excuse of choice for those who wish to undermine the consitution. Note how she hides behind a wall of secrecy: "trust me, I read the briefings." -BB(2013-06-08)

Chomsky: U.S. Leaders are War Criminals

The MIT professor who represents the ideological epicenter of the modern progressive movement has recently put out a call for international justice:

"Bush and Blair ought to be up there [at the International Criminal Court]. There is no recent crime worse than the invasion of Iraq. Obama's got to be there for the terror war."

Similarly, during an interview on Democracy Now! :

"When I saw the pictures of the Bush library presentation. There was a group of men standing there, former presidents, the ones that are alive. Every one of them is a major criminal. A major criminal."

After all of the lies about WMDs, high-level officials admit why so many innocent poeple had to die:

"'Of course it's about oil; we can't really deny that,' said Gen. John Abizaid, former head of U.S. Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq, in 2007. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan agreed, writing in his memoir, 'I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.' Then-Sen. and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the same in 2007: 'People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are.'"

The outcome of our approach towards 'national security' is an endless global war which has been rebranded in terms of "persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks."

Will there ever be trials? Probably not. That's the benefit of being the world's largest and most powerful rogue state: absolute impunity -BB(2013-06-01)

Related : Civil War in Iraq

"More than 1,000 people were killed in violence in Iraq in May, making it the deadliest month since the sectarian slaughter of 2006-07."

Related : Palast Dwells on Motives

"The invasion was not about 'blood for oil', but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward."

Related : On the media's role

"President george w. bush took america to wars based on obvious lies, and so did president obama. Both administrations are guilty of war crimes and almost every possible infraction of constitutional and international law. Yet, no presstitute member of the media would dare mention impeachment, and the House would never bring the charge."

Responses to Obama's Speech on Counterterrorism

Today at National Defense University in Washington, Obama spoke at length on the topic of drones. Despite our President's emphasis on the precise nature of drone assassinations, it's important to recognize that the C.I.A. has no idea who is actually being killed.

"The documents also show that drone operators weren't always certain who they were killing despite the administration's guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA's targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been 'exceedingly rare.'"

Hence, it's only logical that the victims are often innocent people:

"Sadaullah Wazir was another victim of hope and change. His house in North Waziristan was targeted on Sept. 7, 2009. The strike killed four members of his family. Sadaullah was 14 years old when it happened. A few days after the attack, he woke up in a Peshawar hospital to the news that both of his legs had to be amputated and he would never be able to walk again. He died last year, without receiving justice or even an apology. Once again, no militant was present or killed."

What we've created, as Jeremy Scahill explains , is a global battlefield that perpetuates itself:

"The president, like his predecessors Bush and Cheney, has asserted the right to strike in any country around the world and has effectively subscribed to the doctrine that the world is the battlefield. And so, as long as that remains on the books, that the United States says, 'Well, we're different than every other nation around the world, in that we have the right to strike in any country where we perceive an imminent threat, and imminent has been redefined in our secret proceedings inside the White House or the Justice Department,' then none of this is going to fundamentally change."

WAR IS PEACE, proclaims the Ministry of Truth. The Telescreens are here. So are the Thought Police. Orwell's vision is being realized in all its horrific glory. The oligarchs quietly gloat and we mostly remain silent. -BB(2013-05-23)

Related : CodePink Takes on Obama's Doublespeak

"We have been so disappointed with Obama; we expected him to make serious changes like taking drones out of the hands of the CIA, stopping the signature strikes, apologising to innocents who have been killed, families of the innocent, and announcing that he, as commander-in-chief, would close Guantánamo, so when he did not I felt compelled to speak out."

Related : Gosztola's deconstruction

"It is essentially a public relations gambit, a recognition that critics are increasingly being considered credible so there must be a rebranding. That means the policies and operations could potentially remain the same, but the government will define what is being done as 'persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks' and not some kind of 'boundless global war.'"

Related : Increasing Drone Strikes?

"Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from 'those who want to kill us' and 'terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat' to 'all potential terrorist targets.'"

Glenn Greenwald : On Obama's masterful use of Orwellian doublethink

"His most consequential speeches are shaped by their simultaneous affirmation of conflicting values and even antithetical beliefs, allowing listeners with irreconcilable positions to conclude that Obama agrees with them."

"Obama's formulation for when drone strikes should be used was broader than past government statements, which meant he 'appeared to be laying groundwork for an expansion of the controversial targeted killings.'"

Ross Douthat isn't convinced...

"Listened to or skimmed, the address seemed to promise real limits on presidential power, a real horizon for the war on terror. But when parsed carefully, it's not clear how much practical effect its promises will have."

Obama claims that "This is a just war - a war waged proportionally, in last resort and in self-defense." And he's wrong on all three counts.

Austerity, Krugman, and The 1%

Over the past few months Paul Krugman has authored a series of "see, I told you so" articles in the New York Times on the failings of austerity dogma. And rightly so, as austerity doctrine is merely an ideological weapon of the elite:

"Business interests hate Keynesian economics because they fear that it might work — and in so doing mean that politicians would no longer have to abase themselves before businessmen in the name of preserving confidence. This is pretty close to the argument that we must have austerity, because stimulus might remove the incentive for structural reform that, you guessed it, gives businesses the confidence they need before deigning to produce recovery."

Rob Urie, however, observes that Krugman's Keynesian solutions tend to focus on treating the symptoms of our economic illness:

"Were a leading 'liberal' economist able to implement his/her wish list of fiscal stimulus it would do little to stabilize the system of finance capitalism. And by avoiding the larger issues Keynesian economic 'patch' jobs facilitate the next spectacular catastrophe. In fact, modest Keynesian patches have been applied during recessions in the recent decades of the ascendance of finance capitalism and its associated crises keep getting worse."

In other words, Dr. Krugman would be well-advised to revisit his tacit support for Obama and start considering underlying structural issues (e.g. state-capture and the subsequent growing inequality) that shape our economy. Urie concludes:

"The 'debate' isn't a debate at all—the ruling class wants austerity to transfer wealth from government to their pockets and austerity is what we have. The Ivy League Keynesian contingent can continue to have their egos soothed with phone calls from the White House but that does little to suggest their economics aren't an effete hoax—they might be right if they could get their policies implemented but they can't. For everyone else Marx and Lenin are the new go-to political economists, not because I say so but because the ruling class does."

Looks like someone has called Krugman out... -BB(2013-05-18)

Power Grid: Physical Threats Trump Cyber Threats

Gerry Cauley, chief executive of the North American Electric Reliability Corp, just put a damper on all of the hype surrounding cyber-attacks on the power grid:

"It takes a small number of crews with explosives and you've created not only an outage over an area or a city, but smoke and fire and flash-type stuff"

"We don't do ourselves a favor if we only concentrate on cyber. Physical security is a concern for us as well... Anyone who is smart enough to do those kinds of things has better things to do than shut the lights out"

Cauley refers to recent attempts to hack the power grid "not that overwhelming" and says that he's genuinely more concerned about physical security. -BB(2013-05-15)

The Pentagon Fixates on China

Buried on page 36 of the DoD's 2013 report on China:

"The US government continued to be targeted for [cyber] intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military"

China responds:

"We firmly oppose any groundless criticism and hype, because groundless hype and criticism will only harm bilateral efforts at co-operation and dialogue."

George Smith chimes in, noting that trends like offshore outsourcing gave away the family jewels to China long ago:

"American businesses ceded their technology to the Chinese industrial base long before Chinese espionage became an issue the national security megaplex decided to exploit for the purpose of corporate computer security business rent-seeking."

"Who are you going to find on the street who cares if Chinese cyberwarriors from a building in Shanghai are into American businesses? They've already lost their jobs or much of their earning power. And their access to the Internet is a smartphone made in China."

"Take a day off from the memes. Corporate America isn't hiring, haven't you heard? It's not because of mass Chinese cyber-spying."

Chinese officials echo this to a degree:

"Trumpeting China's military threat to promote its domestic interests groups and arms dealers... U.S. arms manufacturers are gearing up to start counting their money."

As with Drones, the Pentagon views "cyber" as a growth market. The strategies at play in both domains will ultimately make us less safe. -BB(2013-05-09)

Updated: Questioning The Global Assassination Program

The New Yorker has just published an essay on U.S. drone attacks. It begins by presenting some insightful historical context:

"During the nineteen-seventies, it seemed as though this era of covert action were coming to an end. After a congressional investigation exposed the extent of C.I.A. plots, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning political assassinations. Successive Presidents strengthened the ban with executive orders of their own, codifying a growing bipartisan consensus that assassinations undercut America's avowed commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law."

This raises some important questions:

"Is a program of targeted killing, conducted without judicial oversight or public scrutiny, consistent with American interests and values?"

"As things stand, Obama will bequeath to his successors a worrisome precedent: without trial, the President has the right to kill any U.S. citizen who is judged, on the basis of unpublished criteria, to have become an enemy combatant."

The criteria, though secret, would appear to be fairly loose:

"In an area of known militant activity, all military-age males were considered to be enemy fighters. Therefore, anyone who was killed in a drone strike there was categorized as a combatant."

Once more, is assassination-by-drone even a plausible solution. Or will it just make matters worse and set an awful precendent?

"Several former Shin Bet leaders argue forcefully that terrorism is ultimately a political problem that cannot be resolved by endless campaigns of assassination."

"Just as Eisenhower failed to think through the consequences of his push-button interventionism, Obama seems unwilling to confront the possibility that drone strikes may be creating more enemies than they're eliminating."

"Ten years or less from now, China will likely be able to field armed drones. How might its Politburo apply Obama's doctrines to Tibetan activists holding meetings in Nepal?"

Our leaders don't seem to be interested in publicly discussing any of this. It's far more convenient for them to marginalize the public by keeping everything secret. -BB(2012-04-30)

Related : A Yemeni speaks on drone strikes in his country.

"In another botched strike, a missile struck a passenger van in central al-Bayda governorate on September 2, 2012, killing 12 civilians, 3 of them children. Local and international media initially quoted anonymous Yemeni officials as saying the strike targeted militants, but state-run media later conceded the killings were an 'accident' that killed civilians."

"The short-term military gains are miniscule compared to the long-term damage that the targeted killing program causes. In the place of one slain leader, new leaders swiftly emerge in furious retaliation for attacks in their territories. And with each strike, it becomes ever easier to belong to a militant group in the region where your tribe lives."

"There is no easy way to end terrorism. Only a long-term approach that strengthens democracy, accountability and justice, together with programs to address structural economic and social drivers of extremism can bring about security in my country."

A very telling Obama quote:

"There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

Yet drone strikes persist. Why? Perhaps it might help to follow the money.

Update : Using Old War Crimes to Justify New Ones

"In a chilling 16-page dossier known simply as the White Paper, one of Obama's statutory brains at the Justice Department cites the 1969 secret bombing of Cambodia as a legal rationale justifying drone strikes, deep inside nations, against which the United States is not officially at war."

Update : Drones or Indefinite Detention?

"John Bellinger, who was responsible for drafting the legal framework for targeted drone killings while working for George W Bush after 9/11, said he believed their use had increased since because President Obama was unwilling to deal with the consequences of jailing suspected al-Qaida members."

Update : Chomksy speaks

"JSOC and the drones are a self-generating terror machine that will grow and expand, meanwhile creating new potential targets as they sweep much of the world. And the executive won't want them just 'sitting around.'"

"The dangers of unexamined and unregulated monopoly power, particularly in the state executive, are hardly news. The right reaction is not passive acquiescence."

More Allegations of Price Fixing

Matt Taibbi drops a bombshell in an article published this past week by Rolling Stone:

"Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world's largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps."

"Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It's about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget."

The European Federation of Financial Services Users warns that:

"Those markets which are based on non-attested, voluntary submission of data from agents [Libor, ISDAfix] whose benefits depend on such benchmarks are especially vulnerable of market abuse and distortion"

Or, as Taibbi puts it:

"When prices are set by companies that can profit by manipulating them, we're fucked."

Yet the financial institutions involved in this alleged manipulation have proven too big to fail in the past. Officials offered apologies about preventing harm to the economy and the Oligarchs who've captured our political system basically walked away Scott Free. In other words, don't expect anyone to do any jail time. -BB(2013-04-27)

Airstrike Kills 12 Children in Afghanistan

According to a report in the New York Times, Afghan officials believe that the U.S. Deep State is involved in a recent massacre:

"The spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that the C.I.A. was responsible for calling in an airstrike on April 7 that left 17 Afghan civilians dead, 12 of them children, and that the secret Afghan militias that the agency controls behaved as if they were 'responsible to no one.'"

Surely you can imagine the wave of outrage that would shake the United States if an airstrike killed 12 children on American soil. -BB(2013-04-20)

Related : Why Terrorists Attack

"Al-Muslimi will meet with White House officials to tell them what he told a Senate subcommittee yesterday: CIA and military drone strikes are strengthening al-Qaida's Yemeni affiliate and making average Yemenis hate America."

Also:

"In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on US soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world - violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children"

On the Boston Bombings

In a Danger Room post, Spencer Ackerman cautions readers not to jump to conclusions:

"Not every bombing, no matter how many civilians are killed or how terrifying it is, is terrorism. The Boston Marathon atrocity on Monday may qualify or it may not... Terrorism is not just violence aimed at civilians. Terrorism is violence aimed at civilians with a political objective. Most often, but not always, terrorism is violence aimed at civilians with a political objective, aimed to cause a spectacle."

If the bombings actually end up to be a genuine act of terrorism, Bruce Schneier has a few choice words of advice:

"There's one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized."

"Don't glorify the terrorists and their actions by calling this part of a 'war on terror.' Wars involve two legitimate sides. There's only one legitimate side here; those on the other are criminals. They should be found, arrested, and punished. But we need to be vigilant not to weaken the very freedoms and liberties that make this country great, meanwhile, just because we're scared."

Related:

"A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that 'it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture' and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it."

Finally, Glenn Greenwald focuses on the need to extend empathy and compassion towards all innocent victims of violence, especially those in other countries:

"Indeed, just yesterday in Iraq, at least 42 people were killed and more than 250 injured by a series of car bombs, the enduring result of the US invasion and destruction of that country. Somehow the deep compassion and anger felt in the US when it is attacked never translates to understanding the effects of our own aggression against others."

Cyberwar Rent-Seeking

George Smith responds to a Reuters story which announces that Obama is going to make cybersecurity a growing priority:

"There are no statistics on what cyberespionage or cyberwar costs (or could cost) the nation, just claims and wild estimates based on nothing."

"By contrast, charts and graphs of hard statistics are published weekly on the horrifying state of the economy for the middle and lower class. They show that among western civilized nations, yawning inequality that dwarfs the rest has grown. They show that foodstamp usage has ballooned to an all time high because the American economy does not produce jobs that pay a living wage. They show that corporate profits have soared but that the great majority of people have seen nothing except shrinkage or, even, total collapse in their worth and fortunes."

"Yet today we are saddled with an administration that has actively worked to create the impression that defense against cyberattack is one of the country's most pressing problems."

George makes a valid point. So what's behind the media push?

"As the sequestration slowly starts to grind at the sick, the poor, the elderly and the other parts of the middle class, the cyberwar-is-coming campaign is all about realignment of taxpayer dollars for the preservation and expansion of security jobs and services, a transfer of wealth from the bottom and the middle of American society, to the top."

We're being barraged by messages that point to external agents attacking U.S. banks. But perhaps we should be more concerned about these same banks attacking us. -BB(2013-04-13)

Related , Theat inflation during the Cold War:

"To hide the ugly realities and to overcome popular opposition to the policies, Reagan granted CIA Director William Casey extraordinary leeway to engage in CIA-style propaganda and disinformation aimed at the American people, the sort of project normally reserved for hostile countries. To oversee the operation – while skirting legal bans on the CIA operating domestically – Casey moved Raymond from the CIA to the NSC staff."

Actors and Spectators in the Grand Arena

There are respected political philosophers like Sheldon Wolin who argue that the public has largely receded into the background of contemporary politics, assuming the role of disinterested observers:

"Roughly between one-half and two-thirds of America's qualified voters fail to vote, thus making the management of the 'active' electorate [the political class] far easier. Every apathetic citizen is a silent enlistee in the cause of inverted totalitarianism. Yet apathy is not simply the result of a TV culture. It is, in its own way, a political response. Ordinary citizens have been the victims of a counterrevolution that has brought 'rollbacks' of numerous social services which were established only after hard-fought political struggles, and which the earlier Republican administrations of Eisenhower and Nixon had accepted as major elements in a national consensus. Rollbacks don't simply reverse previous social gains; they also teach political futility to the Many. And along the way they mock the ideal and practice of consensus."

In his book Griftopia Matt Taibbi provides an example of this sort of general disengagement:

"The presidential election is a drama that we Americans have learned to wholly consume as entertainment, divorced completely from any expectations about concrete changes in our own lives. For the vast majority of people who follow national elections in this country, the payoff they’re looking for when they campaign for this or that political figure is that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when the home team wins the big game. Or, more importantly, when a hated rival loses. Their stake in the electoral game isn't a citizen's interest, but a rooting interest"

Occassionally high-level planners will experience fits of honesty and admit how they view the rest of society:

"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Decision makers employ the necessary stimulus to elicit the desired response from the political class. From the vantage point of Hegel's Dialectic, controlling the interaction between the thesis and antithesis produces the necessary synthesis. This is how oligarchs manufacture consent. -BB(2013-04-06)

The Cult of Cyberwar's Misdirection

Nearly a year ago, General Keith Alexander stood up in front of the American Enterprise Insitute and made the following statement regarding the losses attributed to cyber attacks:

"In my opinion, it's the greatest transfer of wealth in history"

Perhaps General Alexander was too busy running the NSA and CYBERCOM to notice the $7.7 trillion (roughly half our annual GDP) that our government secretly committed to bailing out the banks back in 2008? If you want to ponder genuine economic destruction all you need to do is follow the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. According to UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong:

"When I take present values and project the US economy's lower-trend growth into the future, I cannot reckon the present value of the additional loss at less than a further 100% of a year’s output today – for a total cost of 1.6 years of GDP. The damage is thus almost equal to that of the Great Depression – and equally painful"

Yet President Obama, during his 2013 State of the Union address, chanted the Cult of Cyberwar's standard doomsday mantra:

"Our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems."

And in the wake of recent DDoS attacks he's making conspicuous public gestures.

"The difficulty of deterring such attacks was also the focus of a White House meeting this month with Mr. Obama and business leaders, including the chief executives Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America; Rex W. Tillerson of Exxon Mobil; Randall L. Stephenson of AT&T and others."

George Smith succinctly explains the misdirection at work:

"The President cannot get the minimum wage raised. He cannot do anything to reverse the austerity policies the Republican Party, from its minority position, has imposed on the country. He cannot or will not enact any measures as chief executive that might begin to make economic life in the country better for the majority of its citizens.

"So what is he doing? Partially busying himself meeting with Wall Street's master bankers and ginning up news on the daggers of cyberwar, attributed to China, Iran and North Korea, aimed at America’s heart."

While the 1% is busy hollowing out the middle class, our leaders distract us with intimations of Cybergeddon. -BB(2013-04-01)

The Deep State's Dirty Wars

Peter Dale Scott (who coined the phrase Deep Politics) spoke about the origins of the Deep State concept in a 2011 interview:

"The term 'Deep state' comes from Turkey. They invented it after the wreck of a speeding Mercedes in 1996 in which the passengers were a Member of Parliament, a beauty queen, a local senior police captain, and an important drug trafficker in Turkey who was also the head of a criminal paramilitary organization – the Grey Wolves – that went around killing people. And it became very obvious in Turkey that there were a covert relationship between the police who officially were looking for this man – even though a policeman was there with him in the car – and these people who committed crimes on behalf of the state. The state that you commit crimes for is not a state that can show its hand to the people, it’s a hidden state, a covert structure."

The New Yorker offers a somewhat equivalent definiton:

"The deep state is a presumed clandestine network of military officers and their civilian allies who, for decades, suppressed and sometimes murdered dissidents, Communists, reporters, Islamists, Christian missionaries, and members of minority groups—anyone thought to pose a threat to the secular order, established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal, or Atatürk. The deep state, historians say, has functioned as a kind of shadow government, disseminating propaganda to whip up public fear or destabilizing civilian governments not to its liking."

While the term was invented in Turkey, Scott has his own interpretation which he uses to discuss power structures in the U.S.:

"I adapt the term somewhat to refer to the wider interface in America between the public, the constitutionally established state, and the deep forces behind it of wealth, power, and violence outside the government. You might call it the back door of the Public state, giving access to dark forces outside the law."

In a review of the Movie Dirty Wars published today by the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald provides astute commentary about what enables, and the consequences of, the global covert war being fought by the American Deep State:

"The most propagandistic aspect of the US War on Terror has been, and remains, that its victims are rendered invisible and voiceless. They are almost never named by newspapers... As Ashleigh Banfield put it her 2003 speech denouncing US media coverage of the Iraq war just months before she was demoted and then fired by MSNBC: US media reports systematically exclude both the perspectives of 'the other side' and the victims of American violence. Media outlets in predominantly Muslim countries certainly report on their plight, but US media outlets simply do not, which is one major reason for the disparity in worldviews between the two populations."

"The evidence has long been compelling that the primary fuel of what the US calls terrorism are the very policies of aggression justified in the name of stopping terrorism. The vast bulk of those who have been caught in recent years attempting attacks on the US have emphatically cited US militarism and drone killings in their part of the world as their motive. Evidence is overwhelming that what has radicalized huge numbers of previously peaceful and moderate Muslims is growing rage at seeing a continuous stream of innocent victims, including children, at the hands of the seemingly endless US commitment to violence."

Witness the combined potency of secrecy, violence, and propaganda as the body politic stumbles recklessly forward under their influence. -BB(2013-03-31)

Secrets Exposed in Deep State

Cryptome's John Young has reviewed Deep State, a book by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady about our thriving surveillance state and the imminent threat it represents to our Constitutional liberties:

"The least protected, most Wall Street billboarded, secret is that war is immensely profitable to those shrewd enough to avoid the carnage while being generously rewarded by wartime picking of citizen wallets, aided by ridiculously paid safe-at-home shills celebrating valor and sacrifice (market boom, Zero Dark Thirty ilk, ex-SEAL chest-beaters)."

"The open-dirty-secret secrecy industry exposed in Deep State is as rouged as war harlotry, as venal as political campaigns, as crass as high-brass military coins, as formulaicly vulgar as thanking troops for service, as duplicitous as veterans' filthy hospitals and always delayed, cropped and denied benefits."

"Top leaders lust for secretly sharing means and methods to exploit the bottom, so gather to swap kisses with PR whores in Aspen, Bilderberg and Davos. They serve on secrecy-slathered advisory boards of governments, rotate through government offices, eroticize military contracting officers with promises of future triple-dipping benefits."

"Read Deep State to be informed, galvanized and bold-heartened to raise the black flag, commence cutting throats of secretkeepers."

I strongly suspect that the authors may have drawn from Peter Dale Scott's concept of Deep Politics when they decided on the title for their book. A synopsis of Deep Politics and the Deep State can be found in Scott's recent book American War Machine -BB(2013-03-30)

The Cost of The Iraq Invasion

The Christian Science Monitor is covering a recently updated report published by scholars at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. Among other things, the report finds that:

"More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians – an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher."

"The Iraq war will ultimately cost US taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion."

"Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries."

To think that all of this devastation took place on behalf of imaginary WMDs. But if WMDs were a pretext, why the invasion? Former chair of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, stated:

"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also noted:

"People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America's national interest. What the hell do you think they're talking about? We're not there for figs."

Greg Palast has concluded:

"The invasion was not about 'blood for oil', but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward."

The ability of our leaders to lead the charge into Iraq is a testimony to the power of modern propaganda. -BB(2013-03-19)

Related:

"The agency's intelligence collection on Iraq's relationship with al-Qaida was thin — Iraq's connections to terrorist organizations were so minute it wasn’t a priority for us — so it was difficult to even construct a chart showing connections, as if we were mapping the Barksdale crew on The Wire."

Related , The Invasion as Premeditated Crime:

"Four of the administration's key sources were not verified. Two sources were fabricators, one had provided forged documents and the other shared hearsay."

"Iraqis, at minimum, deserve to see officials in the United States and United Kingdom who engineered the war and then waged empire for over eight years brought to justice."

Commentary on the APT1 Story

There is a counter-narrative emerging:

Gary McGraw:

"Sadly, policymakers seem to think we have completely solved the attribution problem. We have not... Those of us who work on security engineering and software security can help educate policymakers and others so that we don't end up pursuing the folly of active defense."

Steven Naslund:

"If you see an attack coming from China in particular it is because they WANT you to know it is coming from China. I would think any state sponsor conducting a very serious attack would conceal themselves better than that. I also believe that a lot of attacks that look like they are coming from China are actually coming from elsewhere. Think about this, if I am a hacker in the US, attacking a US victim, it would be a big advantage to look like I was coming from China because it almost guarantees no attempt to prosecute or track me down since everyone in this business knows that if it comes out of China you can't do anything about it."

As mentioned in a previous post below, false flag operations are an age-old tactic used by spies throughout history. It's typically in the best interest of an intel operator to muddy the water by framing someone else. Who better than China? Anti-forensic technology has attained a level of sophistication where you can tell whatever story you want... and it will entirely convince more susceptible members of the public.

Does anyone find the timing of this story's publication with the President's release of his strategy on mitigating the theft of trade secrets interesting? Just a coincidence? Really? - BB(2013-02-23)

Related : Cryptome on Staged Attacks

"Malware can be invented, planted and discovered by cybersecurity and AV experts to exploit fearful clients, governments, citizens, users and in complicity with other experts and their witting and unwitting hackers -- cyberwarfare is booming thus mostly war-time profligate waste, duplicity, treachery and chicanery."

China Accused of Hacking, No Solid Evidence

Security researchers have announced that they've identified attackers whom they suspect are backed by the Chinese government. However, as the New York Times article on this story concedes:

"The firm was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story building, but makes a case there is no other plausible explanation for why so many attacks come out of one comparatively small area."

Another security professional comments:

"For non-technologically savvy people, it is easy to become starry-eyed for the forensics experts. They seem to have this magical power to pinpoint the bad guys. I can picture readers of these stories smirking and trying to high five these CSI themed cybersuperheros. In a fantasy world, it is touching. In the intelligence, political, financial and security world, it is a dangerous precedent being set by companies like Mandiant and others. It is slowly becoming 'cyber yellow cake' [WIK] at its finest with the outcomes always being distorted, or misunderstood, or outright flagrant lies being told by security professionals."

Allow me offer a degree of clarity. If I were running an operation for an organization in Eastern Europe, as a matter of standard operating procedure I would go to great lengths to obfuscate my trail and stage my attacks in such a way as to implicate a 3rd-party. Honestly, it's anti-forensics 101. Using internationalized tools, a different language, indigenous computing algorithms, planted artifacts, and pivot points in other countries are all par for the course. Any operator worth their salt will use these techniques. Welcome, dear reader, to the wilderness of mirrors. -BB(2013-02-19)

The 2013 State of The Union Adress

President Obama raises the specter of Cybergeddon:

"Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy."

It's interesting that the President mentions real threats to the U.S. economy. Because, by all means there are real threats to our economy: the bankers who brought us the 2008 collapse.

D.B. Grady comments :

"It's hard to take warnings of an 'imminent' cyber-9/11 seriously, in part because no serious observer of electronic warfare considers it possible, let alone imminent."

Yet Obama focuses on hypothetical worst-case scenarios. He doesn't have a choice. President's are, after all, merely the political operatives of the 1%. -BB(2013-02-12)

Funding The War Machine

The New Yorker has just published a piece that questions the wisdom of U.S. military spending:

"The U.S. once regarded a standing army as a form of tyranny. Now it spends more on defense than all other nations combined... Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis."

Where does all this money go? The author, Jill Lepore, states:

"Much of the money that the federal government spends on 'defense' involves neither securing the nation's borders nor protecting its citizens. Instead, the U.S. military enforces American foreign policy."

Foreign policy that, ultimately, is dictated from boardrooms across the country by the various corporate interests that have captured our political structures. Much to the benefit of the patronage networks which branch out from the Pentagon.

To convince the public to submit to high levels of military spending, our leaders have deployed a truly massive campaign of propaganda. According to former Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich:

“'The mystical war against Communism... finds its counterpart in the mystical war on terrorism.' Mystification, he said, leads us to exaggerate threats and ignore costs. 'It prevents us from seeing things as they are.'"

And now the front men of the Military-Industrial Complex have identified new markets. They use the same basic PR tactics to convince us that a "cyber-Pearl Harbor" is imminent. Unless, of course, we fork over a mountain of cash so that they can keep us "safe." -BB(2013-01-27)

Related: U.S. Cyber Command Grows Significantly

"The command, made up of about 900 personnel, will expand to include 4,900 troops and civilians."

"The plan calls for the creation of three types of forces under the Cyber Command: 'national mission forces' to protect computer systems that undergird electrical grids, power plants and other infrastructure deemed critical to national and economic security; 'combat mission forces' to help commanders abroad plan and execute attacks or other offensive operations; and 'cyber protection forces' to fortify the Defense Department’s networks."

Glenn Greenwald offers a much-needed sanity check:

"This massive new expenditure of money is not primarily devoted to defending against cyber-aggressors. The US itself is the world's leading cyber-aggressor. A major purpose of this expansion is to strengthen the US's ability to destroy other nations with cyber-attacks. Indeed, even the Post report notes that a major component of this new expansion is to 'conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries.'"

"This new massive expansion has little to do with any actual cyber-threat - just as the invasion of Iraq and global assassination program have little to do with actual terrorist threats. It is instead all about strengthening the US's offensive cyber-war capabilities, consolidating control over the internet, and ensuring further transfers of massive public wealth to private industry continue unabated."

Bravo, Mr. Greenwald. -BB(2013-01-31)

Banking Oligarchs Are Untouchable

Frontline recently broadcast a program that demonstrates the degree to which rule of law has been subverted in the United States. Jeff Connaughton, the former Chief of Staff for Senator Ted Kaufman, states:

"I think that is without a doubt a factor in the difficulty of proving intent. But I'm sorry, I just don’t believe there was enough effort. It just doesn't make common sense. And so you're telling me that not one banker, not one executive on Wall Street, not one player in this entire financial crisis committed provable fraud? I mean, I just don’t believe that."

Former New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer adds:

"The Justice Department failed. They have not done what needed to be done. They didn’t ever try to bring together one coherent narrative, laying out the entirety of the story against one of the major players and demand sanctions that are meaningful. That to me is what has been fundamentally lacking."

Our security services threatened Aaron Swartz with decades in prison for downloading files from JSTOR. Yet the executives who sent the economy into a death spiral, rigged LIBOR, and washed money for the Cartels are doing just fine. This is what happens when politicians are bought and paid for by Wall Street money:

"As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff."

The gains of the New Deal Era are gradually being rolled back until there's just the Plutonomy and the Precariat. The battles that were waged by organizations like the Wobblies will now have to be fought all over again. As you can glean from this Army Manual, the owners of our society understand what's coming and are making preparations to deal with the inevitable. -BB(2013-01-23)

The Great Divergence Reflects State Capture

The Economic Policy Institute explains that the growing wage gap isn't the result of a skill shortage, despite what high-tech companies claim (normally when they want the government to raise the H1-B ceiling):

"In our view, the substantially increased need for education and skills has been met by the increased supply of education and skills. Changing wage differentials have been driven by economic policy in acts of omission and commission."

This conclusion has been rienforced by a well-known Professor at Berkeley:

"Despite anecdotes about how employers cannot find workers with the skills they need, there is little evidence that the unemployment rate remains elevated because of mismatches between the skill requirements of available jobs and the skills of the unemployed... The high unemployment rate is the result of weak demand, not structural mismatches."

There are plenty of highly-skilled workers in the United States. There are also plenty of lobbyists who funnel a veritable mountain of cash into D.C. on behalf of corporate interests.

What we're seeing is the gradual deconstruction of notion that increases in productivity and economic growth will benefit everyone. The rising tide does not lift all boats. When the 99% finally realize that they're losing ground to the benefit of a ruling elite, the social fabric of the United States will begin to disintegrate.

When this fabric begins to break apart, dear readers, people will begin to see why the Department of Homeland Security was really created. -BB (2013-01-13)