Why Plutocrats Prefer Crisis over Growth

Conventional wisdom about economic depressions informs us that the moneyed class deplore them as the decrease in economic growth costs them income in terms of profits and interest. Political economists Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler explain the questionable underlying assumptions behind this perspective:

"Their ultimate aim is not to consume more goods and services (although that happens too), but to increase their power over others. And the key measure of this power is their distributive share of income and assets."

"Capitalism pits capitalists against other groups in society – as well as against each other. And in this multifaceted struggle for greater power, the yardstick is always relative."

"Capitalists seek not utility through consumption but more power through redistribution. And they achieve their goal not by raising investment and fueling growth, but by allowing unemployment to rise and jobs to become scarce."

Recall that some of the country's most notorious plutocrats (e.g. Howard Hughes, Joe Kennedy, J. Paul Getty) arose during the last Great Depression. An instance of what has been referred to as disaster capitalism. -BB(2014-12-28)

See also:

"Remember, this is the second time we've had a global financial crisis followed by a prolonged worldwide slump. Then, as now, any effective response to the crisis was blocked by elite demands for balanced budgets and stable currencies. And the eventual result was to deliver power into the hands of people who were, shall we say, not very nice."

CIA Report on Assasination Plots

WikiLeaks has released a classified document entitled Best Practices in Counterinsurgency. "The report weighs the pros and cons of killing 'insurgent' leaders in assassination plots. After the report was prepared, US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high."

German outlet DW notes:

"The CIA document also lists risks related to targeted assassinations, including 'strengthening an armed group's popular support with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, and creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter,' as well as 'provoking insurgents to alter strategy or organization in ways that favor the insurgents.'"

"Instead of always targeting the most important targets: 'a pruning approach can be used to remove effective midlevel leaders,' and 'protect incompetent leaders or restore them to positions of authority,' CIA analysts believe."

"However, the report also states that the Taliban and al Qaeda are quite successful at replacing leaders, 'especially at the middle level,' and that 'numerous al Qaeda leaders oversee external operations, minimizing the disruptive impact of individual losses, according to clandestine reports.'"

"According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been 354 drone strikes in Pakistan alone targeting Taliban and al Qaeda leadership since 2009, and between 2,400 and 3,888 people have been killed in the campaign."

"Depending on the estimate, civilian casualties are believed to number from 416 to 959, including hundreds of children."

Even the CIA concedes that these programs are resulting in self-perpetuating war -BB(2014-12-19)

See Also:

"Assassination has always been an arm of US foreign policy, just as in periods of turbulence, as in the Sixties, it has always been an arm of domestic repression as well. This is true either side of the executive order, issued by president Gerald Ford in 1976, banning assassinations. 'No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination,' states Executive Order 11905."

See Also: Watch the CIA Sell Death

"This clinical depiction of assassination parallels the descriptive language used by Pacific Northwest gardening newspaper columnist Marianne Binnetti when offering friendly advice to gardeners combatting botanical independence movements on the homefront,"

"The importance of this leaked report is the view it provides us of how the CIA privately talked to itself and the Executive Branch, in part aping a pose of comparative social science, as it sold a new generation of assassination campaigns designed to thwart the development of insurgent political movements challenging American military interests."

Senate Torture Report Summary Released (Updated)

The Senate's executive summary of their torture report lists 20 key findings (pages 2-16). They're enumerated (i.e. a summary of a summary) here. Pretty damning material even with redactions. Intelligence officials knowingly tortured people, lied habitually about what they did, and also lied about its effectiveness so that they could keep doing it. To this day U.S. spy masters claim they have no regrets and continue to spin propaganda in defense of their crimes.

In 1989 the CIA reported to Congress that:

"Inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers"

The current CIA Director thinks otherwise, he claims that torture is a good thing:

"Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs [torture] were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day"

In light of this Marcy Wheeler makes an important observation:

"As the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on torture... makes clear, the Bush regime embraced torture not for 'intelligence' but for 'exploitation.'... to help recruit double agents and to produce propaganda."

All told some 54 countries were involved with the CIA's program. Some hosted black sites. As you might expect, the media also played along. A myriad of laws were broken. Obama claims to confront the past while signaling that he won't prosecute anyone. Just like banking executives, intelligence officers are above the law:

"One of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better. Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today's report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past."

Witness Article 12 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture (which the U.S. ratified in 1994):

"Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committee in any territory under its jurisdiction."

This is all very telling:

"Obama's refusal to enforce this unequivocal prohibition means that torture effectively remains a policy option rather than a criminal offense"

In the end the CIA does just what it's told. As does the President. The Deep State is in charge. -BB(2014-12-09)

See Also: Globalizing Torture Report (2013)

"This report provides for the first time the number of known victims of secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations and the number of governments that were complicit. Based on credible public sources and information provided by reputable human rights organizations, this report is the most comprehensive catalogue of the treatment of 136 individuals reportedly subjected to these operations. There may be many more such individuals, but the total number will remain unknown until the United States and its partners make this information publicly available."

See Also: An Appraisal Of Technologies Of Political Control (1998)

"The objectives of this report are fourfold: (i) to provide Members of the European Parliament with a guide to recent advances in the technology of political control; (ii) to identify, analyse and describe the current state of the art of the most salient developments; (iii) to present members with an account of current trends, both in Europe and Worldwide; and (iv) to develop policy recommendations covering regulatory strategies for their management and future control."

Surveillance technology, crowd control weapons, prisoner control as a privatised industry, mark-free interrogation and torture technologies...

See Also: CIA's Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual

See Also: U.S. Army Military Intelligence Battalion Interrogation Manual

Glenn Greenwald Neglects Cypherpunk History

In a recent Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald endorsed the commercial-grade encryption advertised by Google and Apple:

"It is well-established that, prior to the Snowden reporting, Silicon Valley companies were secret, eager and vital participants in the growing Surveillance State. Once their role was revealed, and they perceived those disclosures threatening to their future profit-making, they instantly adopted a PR tactic of presenting themselves as Guardians of Privacy. Much of that is simply self-serving re-branding, but some of it, as I described last week, are genuine improvements in the technological means of protecting user privacy, such as the encryption products now being offered by Apple and Google, motivated by the belief that, post-Snowden, parading around as privacy protectors is necessary to stay competitive."

So, it's all hype with the exception of "genuine" countermeasures like encryption. History illustrates the risky nature of this stance. Read my full response here. Beware of illusory, underhanded, magic acts. -BB(2014-12-06)

Update: Julian Assange likewise promotes encryption in a New York Times op-ed.

Egypt Sentences 188 To Die

After dropping charges against deposed President Hosni Mubarak Egyptian courts continue to hand out death sentences on an industrial scale:

"In the third such mass sentencing in less than a year, an Egyptian court on Tuesday condemned a group of nearly 200 defendants to die after a single mass trial in the killing of a handful of police officers during a riot last year."

Will President Obama claim to be "appalled"? Of course not. As Marilyn Vogt-Downey explains it helps to remember that American foreign policy doesn't mean well:

"It was, thus, not a revolution that occurred in 2011 with the overthrow of Mubarak, but a 'regime change,' a frequent goal of such elaborate and well-resourced US imperialist operations. The US State Department has unlimited funds as do Google and the other capitalist collaborators, who operate as a well-integrated engine of the Pentagon and the US State Department–they are, in really, a single entity."

A reminder that U.S. leaders have no scruples when it comes to working with authoritarian regimes or terrorists. In the end alleged values (e.g. freedom, democracy) espoused by the "shining city on a hill" take a back seat to powerful corporate interests. -BB(2014-12-03)

Update: Glenn Greenwald recalls how Hillary Clinton claimed that "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family." The democrats are just as guilty as the republicans: oligarchy is bipartisan.

CIA-Trained Forces In Syria Work With al-Qaeda

The Associated Press reports:

"Syrian rebels backed by the United States are making their biggest gains yet south of the capital Damascus, capturing a string of towns from government forces and aiming to carve out a swath of territory leading to the doorstep of President Bashar Assad's seat of power... The rebel forces are believed to include fighters who graduated from a nearly 2-year-old CIA training program based in Syria's southern neighbor Jordan... the rebels are working together with fighters from al-Qaida's Syria branch, whose battle-hardened militants have helped them gain the momentum against government forces."

One netizen comments:

"I find it quite astonishing that there is not any critical reporting in the Main Stream Media about this quite direct U.S. cooperation with al-Qaeda."

Building up enemies is necessary to keep the war machine fed. -BB(2014-11-29)

Update: CIA-Trained Rebels Not Subject to Leahy Law

"Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said. Instead, the alternate screening plan was developed under Army Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of CENTCOM’s special operations component."

Somehow CIA trained/equipped mercenaries aren't "state-sponsored", offering the CIA the ability to put itself beyond the law (once again).

Drone Killings Anything But Targeted

CIA director John Brennan speaks of applying "targeted, surgical pressure" to terrorists. Yet reality stands in stark contrast to Brennan's cool assurances:

"A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls 'targeted killing' – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November."

On top of that propaganda factories like USA Today inflate the threat of ISIS attacks against the United States. Dave Lindorff offers an effective antidote:

""How serious a risk do these perhaps dozens of IS fighters with US passports pose to the security of American citizens here in the US? Probably not much. Certainly no more of a risk than that posed by some of the hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry US soldiers who are shipped off to fight America's imperial wars, only to find out later that they have been simply enforcers of US imperialism, and that the buddies they lost, or the limbs or parts of their brains that they themselves lost, were sacrificed not to 'protect America's freedom,' but to make the world safe for Exxon, Goldman Sachs and RJ Reynolds, or to enrich the likes of Boeing, Litton Industries and Halliburton.""

The Deep State is champing at the bit to dive into the next round of perpetual war. -BB(2014-11-26)

The Neoliberal "Disimagination Machine"

Corporate money has done much more than capture our republic. The Mighty Wurlitzer of mind-warping propaganda has infiltrated our cultural and social systems, crippling our ability to envision a new way of doing things:

"The 'disimagination machine' is both a set of cultural apparatuses extending from schools and mainstream media to an idiotic celebrity culture and advertising apparatus that functions primarily to undermine the ability of individuals to think critically, imagine the unimaginable, and engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue. Put simply, to become critically informed citizens of the world."

This is a lengthy treatment but it's well worth the effort. In the spirit of the 1971 Powell Memo the moneyed elite are using a multifaceted approach to consolidate control. -BB(2014-11-24)

Glenn Greenwald Blames The Hostage

In his latest piece at the Intercept Glenn Greenwald posits that governments "don’t walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead he advocates relying on consumer demand to solve the failings of cyber security. This is very telling. That we turn to corporate interests to protect us.

Yet our government cedes power and authority on a regular basis, and corporations pathologically lure customers with clever marketing without actually providing better security. Indeed this is how the hi-tech industry has operated for years. The techno-libertarians are masters of security theater. Profits can be decoupled from genuine security in a society defined by secrecy, propaganda, and state capture.

Read my full response to Greenwald here (there's also an HTML version at Counterpunch). Let's hope Mr. Greenwald responds like an adult. -BB(2014-11-21)

Henry Giroux adds the following:

"What is odd about Greenwald's piece is that he has no understanding of how traditional state sovereignty has given way to corporate sovereignty or for that matter how under neoliberalism power is global and politics is local. Corporations are the problem in that they are the life line for a form of casino capitalism in which capital is all that matters and market fundamentalism is the template for governing not merely economics but all of social life. What is at stake here is imagining a notion of democracy that is not compatible with capitalism."

This article should illustrate what Giroux is talking about:

"From 2007 to 2012, the two hundred most politically active corporations in the United States spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions. And they received more than $4 trillion in US government contracts and other forms of assistance. That's $760 for every dollar spent on influence, a stunning return on investment."

See Also:

"The notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism is morally bankrupt and politically reactionary. It is degrading to claim that people simply need to be shoppers to fulfill their role as citizens. This ideological monstrosity both undermines any viable notion of citizenship and makes a mockery of democracy."

Neoliberal Whistleblowing

Tarzie laments the corporate takeover of both Snowden's documents and the surrounding narrative:

"Here we have a public resource in the form of government documents affecting everyone on earth and paid for by the good people of the United States, the only complete cache of which has been effectively privatized, by a bunch of rich white people, mostly dudes, who are also touting the private sector as the vessel of our deliverance from state surveillance evil. Yay Apple! Yay Google! Yay Whisper Systems! All of it wrapped in a tightly controlled, corporate mediated, relentlessly commodified narrative that is as much, if not more, about the self-actualization of the whistleblower and members of his inner circle as the global violation of human rights by the United States government."

Business interests are keen to cast themselves as the solution to mass surveillance when the reality is that they're central to the problem! -BB(2014-11-19)

Columbia Researchers Defeat Tor

More bad news for the Tor project, per this paper:

"Our method revealed the actual sources of anonymous traffic with 100% accuracy for the in-lab tests, and achieved an overall accuracy of about 81.4% for the real-world experiments, with an average false positive rate of 6.4%"

Given the resources they throw at subversion the NSA probably already has an equivalent approach. Perhaps this explains all of the animosity and juvenile outcry from Tor developers?

"Curiously, not a single one of these critics disputed the facts in the story. There wasn’t a single factual error they could point to; so instead, they took to a range of familiar PR smear tactics—tactics one usually sees used by oil company PR flacks, but not by privacy hacktivists. First, they flooded social media telling anyone who showed interest in my article that they should ignore it; then when that didn’t work and the article caught fire, they tried to discredit it with crude insults, misdirection, and outright lies, even going as far as to claim that I’m funded by the CIA. From my experience, when your article produces bizarre hostile reactions like this it means you've hit on something important."

Attacking the messenger is an age-old tactic of the desperate. Hats off to truth tellers. -BB(2014-11-15)

Update: The Tor team's response is dismissive, "traffic correlation attacks are not a new area." A weak counter argument and a sign that things are not looking well in light of an adversary (Five Eyes) that dominates the Internet.

EFF Plugs The Senate's USA Freedom Act, Loses More Credibility

After recognizing that Skype might not be as secure as Microsoft claims, the Electronic Frontier Foundation turns around and places its full support behind the Senate's version of the USA Freedom Act:

"While Leahy's version of the USA Freedom Act may have some flaws... We urge you to contact your senator and tell them to support the USA Freedom Act."

The Sunlight Foundation and a group of well-known whistleblowers beg to differ:

"The Senate version of the USA FREEDOM Act is a problematic answer to an enormous problem... The USA FREEDOM Act legalizes currently illegal surveillance activities, grants broad immunity to corporations that are undercutting our right to privacy, fails to reform other authorities used to collect bulk/bulky information about Americans and everyone else in the world, and reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act for another 2.5 years."

Recall how Julian Assange noted that the EFF is funded heavily by Google. The USA Freedom Act is evidence that NSA reform is largely theater performed by lawmakers too scared of the Deep State to take substantive action. -BB(2014-11-11)

Operation Onymous Casts Doubt on Tor

European and American officials have been busy taking down hundreds of Tor-protected services:

"In all, the agency says it's seized 414 '.onion' domains, the web addresses used by the anonymity software Tor that hides the physical location of those sites’ servers"

Thus affirming John Young's prescient statement on the folly of comsec:

"The most widely trusted and promoted systems are the most likely to be penetrated, exploited, spied upon, successfully attacked, covertly compromised with faults hidden by promoters, operators, competitors, compromisers and attackers all of whom warn against the others while mutually benefiting from continuous alarms about security and privacy."

Don't say I didn't warn about this. Read the full essay here. -BB(2014-11-08)

Former NSA General Counsel Does a Corporate Tap Dance

Yesterday the Guardian published an article where former NSA lawyer Stewart Baker described the relationship between hi-tech and goverment spies as being adversarial:

"The state department has funded some of these tools, such as Tor, which has been used in Arab Spring revolutions or to get past the Chinese firewall, but these crypto wars are mainly being fought between the American government and American companies"

As with Comey and Hannigan, this is yet another performance by officials to push the focus towards overt backdoors (key escrow, a zombie idea) and draw attention away from covert backdoors (zero-day flaws). Private sector collaboration continues unabated despite the kabuki theater of alleged resistance. Over 70% of the Intel Budget goes to corporate players and the U.S. hosts a data broker industry that dwarfs the NSA. So for all intents and purposes it's not unreasonable to view our government's surveillance apparatus as a public sector appendage of a much larger corporate system.

History shows very clearly that our foreign policy works to benefit elite interests and that intelligence services dutifully follow orders. Mass interception, as well as the mass subversion that enables mass interception, are instruments of this agenda. -BB(2014-11-05)

Hacking Team Remote Control System (RCS) Manuals

The press is finally starting to recognize the power of subversion, dispelling the notion that strong encryption is a panacea. Today a report by The Intercept says as much:

"When Apple and Google unveiled new encryption schemes last month, law enforcement officials complained that they wouldn't be able to unlock evidence on criminals' digital devices. What they didn't say is that there are already methods to bypass encryption, thanks to off-the-shelf digital implants readily available to the smallest national agencies and the largest city police forces — easy-to-use software that takes over and monitors digital devices in real time"

As I've warned earlier, the faux cries of protest by FBI James Comey about the FBI "going dark" are entirely theater as are most gestures towards reforming our intelligence services. The American Deep State is running rampant and there is very little that our political leaders can do about it (after all, they're just the hired help). If history is any indicator I doubt if mere "reform" will be sufficient. -BB(2014-10-30)

Related: The FBI will use similar tools (built in-house or purchased) to defeat encryption. James Comey is misrepresenting the level of protection afforded by strong crypto.

Serpico's Lessons Instruct NSA Reform

Politico has posted an essay by Frank Serpico (entitled "The Police Are Still Out of Control") and while most of his observations dwell upon recent events in Ferguson another way to view this article is from the vantage point of addressing much larger institutionally entrenched organizations like the NSA and CIA. Power dynamics, you see, recur at varying levels of granularity.

For example, Serpico laments:

"I went successively to the inspector's office, the mayor's office and the district attorney. They each promised me action and didn't deliver. The lobbying power of the police was too strong. I discovered that I was all but alone in a world of institutionalized graft"

"It's the same old problem of political power talking, and it doesn't matter that both the president and his attorney general are African-American. Corruption is color blind. Money and power corrupt, and they are color blind too."

Faced with leaked documents our political class will likewise offer optimistic reassurances in public while also failing to deliver anything that threatens the global surveillance apparatus. Deep State capture goes to the top of the food chain. I imagine Otis Pike or Frank Church penning an article entitled "The Spies Are Still Out of Control." Society needs more than just reform. -BB(2014-10-24)

Surveillance Reform Theater

The FBI wants to bring back key escrow. Bruce Schneier offers a biting retort:

"All the FBI talk about 'going dark' and losing the ability to solve crimes is absolute bullshit. There is absolutely no evidence, either statistically or even anecdotally, that criminals are going free because of encryption."

Why, pray tell, would James Comey promote a strategy like key escrow that has already been utterly refuted and is unlikely to be accepted by lawmakers?

I'd argue that what we're witnessing is largely theater, efforts that offer the impression that legal issues are being contemplated without actually challenging the surveillance state. Officials pretend to "do something" while keeping the global panopticon firmly in place and catering to their corporate masters.

James Comey understands much of this. Like other officials (e.g. Keith Alexander, James Clapper, John Brennan, and President Obama) he has absolutely no shame when it comes to brazenly telling lies. Politicians are born actors with latent talent for the national stage. -BB(2014-10-21)

Covert Agencies, Democracy, and Ed Snowden

As classified documents trickle into the public eye spymasters are well aware that they likely face nothing more than band aid reform. That is, if emerging distractions don’t preclude change entirely. What happened to Diane Roark can be interpreted as a litmus test, an indicator that congressional leaders have been co-opted. The type of pervasive compromise that enables the CIA to spy on Senators and subsequently receive the full confidence of the chief executive. The fingerprints of the American Deep State are unmistakable.

All told Admiral Mike Rogers and CIA director John Brennan probably see the Snowden affair as a mere public relations issue. Nothing more.

What really threatens government spies is the notion that society doesn't need them or their machinations. That clandestine groups which undermine our collective cyber-security, manipulate the media, foment regime change, and wield a global panopticon are intrinsically dangerous to the republic despite construed external threats to national security. Recall how President Truman regretted turning the CIA "into peacetime cloak and dagger operations."

In this regard the former CIA operative named Edward Snowden largely colors within the lines, plugging for spy-friendly reform without striking at the root. –BB(2014-10-14)

Read the full essay here. I hope Ed does.

Related: to create the perception that they're "doing something" officials and executives are primarily engaged in Surveillance Reform Theater.

Happy Bartolomé de las Casas Day

The Oatmeal does an outstanding job of covering Columbus Day:

"Good ol' Chris Columbus: sex slaver, mass murderer, and champion of sociopathic imperialism, has his own holiday."

"They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned... . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

Howard Zinn's Chapter on Columbus should be mandatory reading for elementary school students so that they understand the true face of empire. -BB(2014-10-13)

Former Editor Admits CIA Manipulation

The former editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany's larger papers has come forward to admit that he worked closely with the CIA. Udo Ulfkotte indicates that U.S. intelligence is set on fomenting military conflict with Russia:

"This is a point of no return, and I am going to stand up and say... it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, all over Europe. ...I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don't like to have this situation again, because war is never coming from itself, there is always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too. ...We have betrayed our readers, just to push for war. ...I don't want this anymore; I’m fed up with this propaganda. We live in a banana republic, and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom"

Yet another data point which rienforces the notion that the CIA is playing a much larger role than the corporate media is depicting. -BB(2014-10-09)

Related: NSA Operatives in Foreign Countries. NSA "Core Secrets" ECI Programs Revealed:

"The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use 'physical subversion' to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices"

"The most controversial revelation in Sentry Eagle might be a fleeting reference to the NSA infiltrating clandestine agents into 'commercial entities.'"

"The ACLU's Soghoian said technology executives are already deeply concerned about the prospect of clandestine agents on the payroll to gain access to highly sensitive data, including encryption keys, that could make the NSA's work 'a lot easier.'"

As I've said before, crypto is no panacea in the face of subversion! -BB(2014-10-11)

Bill Black on The Deep State's Overlords

Former regulator Bill Black was on Moyers & Company a couple of days ago reminding viewers that bank executives were at the heart of the 2008 financial collapse (via Control Fraud). As with our intelligence services, Black laments that the plutocrats of the financial class are often above the law:

"There is no justifiable reason [for not prosecuting bankers]... We prosecuted successfully over 1,000 bankers in the savings and loan and bank crises."

"If you want to create the next crisis and make it vastly worse, leave the people in charge who led the frauds in the senior ranks at the banks in charge of those banks. So now they have all the postgraduate education in how to run a fraud."

He points to state capture as a primary enabler. In a nutshell, the parasitic rentiers of the banking industry can afford to buy what they want:

"The problem definitely comes from the top. And remember, Obama wouldn't have been president but for the financial contribution of bankers."

Looking forward Black isn't optimistic:

"We have created the incentive structures that is going to produce a much larger disaster. And just look at it. Again it isn't just the frauds that led to the crisis. It is all the frauds afterwards. HSBC knowingly launders over $1 billion in funds for the Sinaloa cartel, one of the most vicious drug cartels in the world that has caused the deaths of thousands of people."

"Standard Chartered, one of the, again one of the largest banks in the world, not only evaded sanctions on funding terrorist groups and nations that we say are funding terror, but actually had training manuals on how to deceive the United States regulators."

Bankers are the high-level architects of our current economic system, the technocratic vanguard of the neoliberal revolution. It's all about opening up new markets, accessing resources, and generating debt. This relatively small subset defines the core financial infrastructure that the American Deep State serves. -BB(2014-10-05)

Perpetual War, An Intended Outcome

A number of writers have pointed out the contradictory nature of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), that alleged efforts to stamp out terrorism only creates more terrorists. An essay by David Mizner published in Jacobin explains that perpetual war may not be accidental:

"How much death and destruction would American terror warriors have to cause before their ostensible opponents rejected their claims of noble intent? During the thirteen years of the 'war on terror,' actions of the United States government have consistently and predictably strengthened anti-American terrorist groups. To chalk this all up to stupidity — rather than unstated imperial imperatives — is to choose ignorance."

Mizner further asserts that what's developed isn't exactly the product of a conspiracy but rather the logical, structural, result of elites seeking to further their own economic interests:

"Corporate chieftains, pro-war pundits, and political leaders didn't huddle in a room and plot to keep the war going. They didn't have to; the process drives itself as elites fulfill their wants."

"The United States bombed Libya as part of a larger military buildup... The reason the US strengthened the jihadist groups trying to overthrow Assad... The Syrian regime is an ally of Iran... It wasn't until ISIS threatened Irbil in Kurdistan, an oil capitol, that the United States started to bomb ISIS"

History has demonstrated that U.S. policy makers have no problem with jihadists as long as their goals don't contravene those of U.S. elites:

"The US has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the name of fighting terrorism. The war is all too real. But it's also fake. There is no clash of civilizations, no ideological battle, no grand effort on the part of the United States to defeat terrorism. As long as terrorism doesn't threaten core US interests, American elites are content to allow it — and help it — flourish. They don't want to win this war. It will go on forever, unless we make them end it."

The real victors in this never-ending conflict are the private-sector forces that stand behind the American Deep State: the defense industry, the fossil fuel companies, and the banks. -BB(2014-10-04)

Related: Greenwald echoes this message.

"This war – in all its ever-changing permutations – thus enables an endless supply of power and profit to flow to those political and economic factions that control the government regardless of election outcomes."

Regulatory Capture By The Banks

In my presentation on cyber espionage I note that the plutocrats of Wall Street own U.S. political leadership, federal regulators, and the rating agencies. Today This American Life offers up additional evidence. For example, in the wake of the 2008 collapse the New York Fed asked a columbia professor, David Beim, to examine why regulation had failed so badly:

"Dudley gave Beim a team of Fed managers and they went around interviewing people at the New York Fed. And what they found were a whole range of problems, all of them distressing to read about. They found deference to the banks, they found an unwillingness to take action, extreme passivity, and they found what experts call 'regulatory capture.'"

On an aside, Willem Buiter actually also used the term "regulatory capture" earlier in a 2008 paper. Anyway, in response to Beim's report the Fed hired a bunch of new people and one of these hires was a lawyer named Carmen Segarra. What she found echoed Beim's report:

"What I was sort of seeing and experiencing was this level of deference to the banks. This level of fear. And just not really showing a lot of interest in putting two and two together. It's not like we would walk out of a meeting and they would be like 'Oh my God, when they said that, what did that mean? Let's go research it.' It was like 'Oh well, next meeting.'"

Segarra has tape recordings that corroborate her assertion. Bankers have the resources and ability to reward those who serve them. As long as this is true regulation will likely continue to be a parody of what it should be. -BB(2014-09-26)

Update: In an extended postmortem Yves Smith comments on the sorry state of journalism:

"Most journalists are afraid to rock the access journalism boat and do real sleuthing, and to make up for that, they'll pile onto a story where someone else has taken the risk, in this case Segarra by making her tapes public. And while their release proves Segarra to be as credible as she appeared to be from her court filings, it remains to be seen whether she can really come out a winner. Reputable institutions close their ranks against people who refuse to knuckle under to pressure to conform"

Arabs & U.S. Bomb Syria, Manufacture Enemies

The United States with the help of Gulf State actors like Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has launched a wave of air strikes against targets in Syria. Professor Vijay Prashad dispenses a couple of useful insights:

"The fact that no air defense system from Syria had engaged any of the American planes or drones is indicative that there was some kind of coordination."

"They are currently, as I said, attacking in northern Syria. So where the strikes happened were not exactly where their main fighting forces are right now based."

"The real solution in the region is going to come from some kind of grand bargain between Iran and Saudi Arabia. These two countries have been at each other's throats since 1979."

That last observation is particularly salient. There are powerful undercurrents that drive the Middle East's multi-tiered proxy battles. As long as American foreign policy ignores these factors military action will only make things worse.

Glenn Greenwald concludes that this dysfunctional approach is part of an intentional strategy to feed the defense industry:

"The U.S. has known for years that what fuels and strengthens anti-American sentiment (and thus anti-American extremism) is exactly what they keep doing: aggression in that region. If you know that, then they know that. At this point, it's more rational to say they do all of this not despite triggering those outcomes, but because of it. Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug. It is what justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War."

Keep in mind that the ensuing destruction weakens targeted countries so that they're less likely to resist the overtures of fossil fuel players and the banks which back their projects. It's the Deep State model for neocolonialism. -BB(2014-09-23)

Are Google and Apple On Your Side Against The NSA?

Both companies have scored headlines in the Washington Post about their device-level encryption. But will this technology really protect you against NSA warrants? Leaked documents indicate otherwise. Read the full essay here. Keep in mind that corporate spies and government spies converge in the corridors of the Deep State. -BB(2014-09-22)

Related: Andy Greenberg reminds readers that courts can still hand out jail time in an effort to acquire passwords.

Related: Apple has a history of Inflating security claims.

Please understand that this is the same company that has absolutely no qualms about using slave labor. Do you honestly believe that civil liberties are anything other than a marketing strategy? If leaks had never revealed Apple's complicity with NSA surveillance then you can bet that executives wouldn't give civil liberties a passing thought. They're too busy rolling around in all that money. -BB(2014-09-23)

Yahoo's Innocent Victim Narrative

The Washington Post has reported that the U.S. government threatened Yahoo with a "massive" $250,000 per day fine if the company failed to hand over user data to the NSA. Observers have depicted Yahoo's legal activity as part of an ongoing "battle" with the government. The company's general counsel has also stated:

"Users come first at Yahoo. We treat public safety with the utmost seriousness, but we are also committed to protecting users' data. We will continue to contest requests and laws that we consider unlawful, unclear, or overbroad."

This coverage creates the impression that Yahoo is an intrepid champion of human rights. But is this really the case? Is filing a law suit really the best that Yahoo could've done? Lavabit’s founder, Ladar Levison, decided that he’d rather shutter his business when confronted with government demands for information. Keep in mind that in the past Yahoo has cooperated with the Chinese government, handing over information of political dissidents who were subsequently imprisoned and tortured. Are these the actions of a company that "battles" for civil liberties? Or perhaps they indicate that executives are more interested in obeying the law to maintain quarterly profits? -BB(2014-09-18)

The Rise of ISIS and The Hegelian Dialectic - Part II

John Pilger offers a brief glimpse into the early origins of what currently manifests itself as ISIS. The CIA's fingerprints are everywhere:

"Modern jihadism was invented by US and Britain, assisted by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The original aim was to use and develop an Islamic fundamentalism that had barely existed in much of the Arab world in order to undermine pan-Arab movements and secular governments. By the 1980s, this had become a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA called it Operation Cyclone; and a cyclone it turned out to be, with its unleashed fury blowing back in the faces of its creators."

Details of more recent ISIS history are provided in a lengthy treatment by Nafeez Ahmed:

"Classified assessments of the military assistance supplied by US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar obtained by the New York Times showed that “most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups... are going to hardline Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster."

"By the SSG's own conservative estimate, as much as 15% of rebel fighters are Islamists affiliated to al-Qaeda, either through the Jabhut al-Nusra faction, or its breakaway group ISIS. But privately, Pentagon officials estimate that 'more than 50%' of the FSA is comprised of Islamist extremists, and according to rebel sources neither FSA chief Gen Salim Idris nor his senior aides engage in much vetting, decisions about which are made typically by local commanders."

As you may have guessed, it's about oil and what's taking place looks an awful lot like a strategy of divide and plunder:

"Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for US protection – and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That in turn would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh"

The United States has shown a talent for creating its own enemies, hence justifying perpetual military spending and weakening the Middle East on behalf of the oil industry. -BB(2014-09-17)

Update Harvard's Garikai Chengu provides more context:

"There are essentially three wars being waged in Syria: one between the government and the rebels, another between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and yet another between America and Russia. It is this third, neo-Cold War battle that made U.S. foreign policy makers decide to take the risk of arming Islamist rebels in Syria, because Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, is a key Russian ally. Rather embarrassingly, many of these Syrian rebels have now turned out to be ISIS thugs, who are openly brandishing American-made M16 Assault rifles."

"America’s Middle East policy revolves around oil and Israel. The invasion of Iraq has partially satisfied Washington's thirst for oil, but ongoing air strikes in Syria and economic sanctions on Iran have everything to do with Israel. The goal is to deprive Israel's neighbouring enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine's Hamas, of crucial Syrian and Iranian support."

ISIS Plan Will Foment Terrorism

After declaring that the United States has no strategy with regard to ISIS, within a matter of days the President has fleshed out a multi-phased agenda which entails U.S. military involvement:

"The first phase, an air campaign with nearly 145 airstrikes in the past month, is already underway..."

"The next phase... intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes"

"The final... — destroying the terrorist army in its sanctuary inside Syria — ...some Pentagon planners envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months."

The defense industry heard this and likely celebrated; an approach that will create even more enemies because it fails to account for the factors that motivate militant jihadism:

"They thought the far enemy—the U.S., they called the 'far enemy'—was the one that had to be hit, because it was the U.S. that was supporting all these dictators in the Arab world, and therefore better to hit the far enemy. And then, after the U.S. came into the Middle East in the Iraq War to liberate Kuwait, and then the U.S. stayed, troops in Saudi Arabia, then the United States became the main enemy because, again, like the Russians in Afghanistan, it was a foreign army in Arab or Islamic lands, and therefore it had to be driven out."

"So the problem is that all these Arab countries are in the same dilemma that the U.S. is in, which is their autocracy, their mistreatment of their citizens, created this problem over the years, and American militarism, from the American perspective, is also part of the impetus that expands this problem. So, combining American militarism with Arab dictatorships is probably the stupidest recipe that anybody could possibly come up with to try to fight jihadi movements like al-Qaeda and Islamic State and others, because it was that combination of Arab autocracy and American militarism that actually nurtured and let these movements expand"

Echoes of Hegel's dialectic. U.S. foreign policy tends to manufactures its own enemies, intentionally or through sheer incompetence. Either way the corporate interests behind the Deep State win. -BB(2014-09-08)

Update: Obama Panders to Elites

"In an effort to win over elite opinion before a speech to the nation this week on Iraq and Syria, President Obama played host at a White House dinner on Monday evening for a bipartisan group of prominent foreign policy experts."

These are the people who matter to POTUS, the corporate money they represent are his true constituents.

The Holes in NATO's Cyber Defense Pledge

Today the New York Times published an op-ed letter which I composed a couple of days ago.

The moral of the story is this: when high-level Pentagon types start yammering about cyberattacks from Russia or China keep in mind that our security services are neck deep in deception ops (their own classified documents boast about it). History shows that the American Deep State is constantly in search of new enemies and its corporate rulers have no scruples about launching attacks which kill untold thousands of innocent people so that they can boost quarterly profits. -BB(2014-09-04)

Update: The editors limit submissions to about 150-words, so I've posted a longer version of my letter here.

Putin's Remarks on Iraq, Ukraine

Vladimir calls out the American Deep State, commenting on our failed state model for resource extraction married with the elite's zero-sum game of perpetual war:

"Do you remember the joke: 'Whatever Russians make, they always end up with a Kalashnikov?' I get an impression that whatever Americans touch they always end up with Libya or Iraq"

See also:

"I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers"

This explains why the Cold War targeted third-world countries. The U.S. elite prefer "manageable" regional conflicts. Feed the war machine without the threat of nuclear escalation. -BB(2014-08-30)

Related: Kissinger confuses 'order' with 'hegemony.' Naturally the Wall Street Journal publishes this apologia for empire.

The Rise of ISIS and The Hegelian Dialectic

An essay by Patrick Cockburn, exerpted from his new book, describes how the United States lost the War on Terror. Here are a few choice snippets:

"By continuing these contradictory policies in two countries, the U.S. has ensured that ISIS can reinforce its fighters in Iraq from Syria and vice versa. So far, Washington has been successful in escaping blame for the rise of ISIS by putting all the blame on the Iraqi government."

"In 2009, eight years after 9/11, a cable from the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, revealed by WikiLeaks, complained that donors in Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

"The 'war on terror' has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The U.S. did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon."

The defense industry is ecstatic, selling heavy ordinance to destroy U.S. weaponry left behind by the Iraqi army which is now being wielded by CIA-armed jihadists. Likewise, a partitioned Iraq will have diminished bargaining power to the greater glory of the oil barons. It's the new failed state model for corporate imperialism draped in faux humanitarian concerns.

Hegel's model lives on: control the nature of the conflict and you can manipulate its final outcome. Supply and fund both sides: cognitive dissonance or a fixed fight? Either way the Middle East will endure a self-perpetuating regional conflict that churns on forever. War is peace as Orwell's book described. -BB(2014-08-21)

Update: an echo from Greenwald:

"U.S. military action in that region virtually never fulfills the stated goals (nor is it intended to do so), and achieves little other than justifying endless military action for its own sake."

Update: And another from Jan Oberg:

"The Western world including Denmark has the enemies it has created by itself. And, in reality, not many others."

Snowden Shows His Hand

In an interview with James Bamford published by Wired Ed Snowden asserts that:

"We have the means and we have the technology to end mass surveillance without any legislative action at all, without any policy changes... By basically adopting changes like making encryption a universal standard—where all communications are encrypted by default—we can end mass surveillance not just in the United States but around the world."

The fact that he blatantly ignores the problem of subversion is very telling. It hints at a libertarian perspective with its contempt for government. Who needs political solutions when you can just download an App? This is a mindset that would definitely make Pierre Omidyar some money.

Yet as history has shown technology can be subverted (witness the Heartbleed vulnerability), and shared class interest encourages [secret] cooperation between executives and spies. The only way to really put a stop to this is by changing the ground rules by which companies and intelligence agencies operate under. Though there are technical and economic aspects, fundamentally this is a political problem. -BB(2014-08-13)

Extended Commentary: See this Counterpunch essay.

Related: Agee vs. Snowden

Notice Agee's emphasis on a political solution while Snowden thinks that using strong crypto will be sufficient. Tarzie comments:

"Agee's statement about how capitalism requires a security apparatus is undeniably true and one needn't betray the CIA or be super informed to figure that out. It's also something that you will never hear Snowden, Greenwald or any of their more highly placed admirers and colleagues say."

Cornering the Market on Zero-Day Exploits

Taken from a Slash-Dot post that a reader has directed my attention to:

"Kim Zetter of Wired Magazine has recently covered Dan Geer's keynote speech at Black Hat USA. In his lengthy address Geer, representing the CIA's venture funding arm, suggested that one way that the United States government could improve cyber security would be to use its unparalleled budget to buy up all the underground's zero-day vulnerabilities."

Geer is a gifted speaker and his rhetoric borders on art. But the basic idea of cornering the market is dangerously flawed. Though it is predictable if you understand the nature of the Deep State and the private sector interests that it caters to. My formal response to Mr. Geer is here. -BB(2014-08-08)

This is priceless: Rudyard Kipling presciently countered Geer's proposition close to a century ago. With homage to VUPEN and the software developers at Microsoft, allow me to introduce the poem "Dane-Geld."

The CIA Spied on Senate Computers

This is a truly grave warning sign:

"In a statement issued Thursday morning, a C.I.A. spokesman said that agency's inspector general had concluded that C.I.A. officers had acted inappropriately by gaining access to the computers."

Despite the CIA's best effort to deny it. What happens to checks and balances when the executive branch spies on the other two branches? Friends, it's called the Deep State. -BB(2014-07-31)

Update: Calls for resignation emerge. Note how the White House backs Brennan. Our whole intelligence systems needs fundamental structural reform, firing a CIA director would only be cosmetic. But a house-cleaning would be a good start...

Related: Jeff Moss and his ilk provide a platform for the Deep State to broadcast its propaganda.

Update : The fact that POTUS has stated that John Brennan has his "full confidence" should be seen as the canary in the coal mine dropping dead.

"Leaving Clapper, and especially Brennan, in office is the ultimate surrender by Congress of what little remains of democratic government in the US. It is the end of the Constitution. If secret government cannot be called to account, then the country is being run by a secret government whose power no longer has any limits."

"There are ways to recover government of, by and for the people, but they are no longer likely to involve elections, since secret government has the power to subvert elections. If Brennan and Clapper can get away with what they have thus far gotten away with — not just thumbing their noses at Congress, but actually spying on its members with impunity — then the only way to take back popular government remains overthrowing those in power, dragging them before public tribunals, and administering people's justice, whatever form that may ultimately take."

NSA Links With Saudi Arabia

The United States tries very hard to provide the veneer of a liberal democracy by relegating practices like torture to secret prisons in other countries. Yesterday The Intercept released a top secret memo which proves that the NSA is providing direct support to Saudi Arabia, a country that the State Department openly admits is a police state. The Intercept article states:

"The NSA's formal 'Third Party' relationship with the Saudis involves arming the MOI with highly advanced surveillance technology. The NSA 'provides technical advice on SIGINT topics such as data exploitation and target development to TAD,' the memo says, 'as well as a sensitive source collection capability.'"

"The Saudi Ministry of Defense also relies on the NSA for help with 'signals analysis equipment upgrades, decryption capabilities and advanced training on a wide range of topics.' The document states that while the NSA 'is able to respond to many of those requests, some must be denied due to the fact that they place sensitive SIGINT equities at risk.'"

Once again our leaders show that elite interests trump our alleged democratic values. When push comes to shove the U.S. reveals the face of empire. -BB(2014-07-26)

Crypto, Cure-Alls, and State Capture

Shava Nerad, the founding executive director of the Tor project, contacted me about my recent article on Tor. I've offered a public response here.

If you read the comment section below Yasha Levine's piece on Tor you'll see that Shava jumps into the discussion early and points out that one of the most effective tools of an activist is their ability to reach out towards members of the establishment and win them over. Ground troops of the elite who lose faith in their cause hardly fight for it at all.

To play Devil's advocate and highlight an interesting corollary, I'd also note that (as Nietzsche observed) "if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." Intelligence services actually prefer to be on intimate terms with their opponents. The Soviet security services implemented the canonical example of this technique in a counter-intelligence program called "Operation Trust." In the aftermath of the Russian Civil War Soviet Spies identified a series of loosely coupled monarchist White Guard cells. Rather than crush them outright the Soviets leveraged them to manufacture a larger "resistance movement."

Anyway, Shava has a long history as an activist and this cannot be discounted. I'd encourage you to read her comments at Pando, the various responses, and then make up your own mind. -BB(2014-07-24)

Update: More details from Levine in a second story. Here are a couple of snippets that caught my attention:

"In 2009, Jacob Appelbaum came onboard as one of five salaried employees of the Tor Network, earning a salary of $96,000 as a developer. About 90% of Tor's funds that year came from federal grants, mostly from the State Department and the CIA-spinoff International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). Appelbaum's Tor gig has continued uninterrupted ever since, netting him somewhere around a half-million dollars. Not a bad haul."

"Appelbaum trained an employee of Qatar's 'censorship network'? That's nice of him — I mean, why wouldn’t you train a censorship apparatchik working for an autocratic state known for brutal 'modern slavery,' where foreign workers are routinely worked to death in the punishing Qatari heat, and where there’s no freedom of religion and sexuality?"

Snowden Neglects Crypto Caveat

In a recent interview with the Guardian:

"Journalists have to be particularly conscious about any sort of network signalling, any sort of connection, any sort of licence-plate reading device that they pass on their way to a meeting point, any place they use their credit card, any place they take their phone, any email contact they have with the source because that very first contact, before encrypted communications are established, is enough to give it all away"

What he fails to mention is the crypto, in an of itself, is not enough. -BB(2014-07-19)

Would You Trust Tor with Your Life?

If you lived in a police state where political activism could get you killed, would using Tor be enough to safeguard your identity? The general sympathy conveyed by privacy advocates is that "Tor still works." But are these Tor supporters soft-pedaling the potential pitfalls? There are cynics in the crowd (like me), researchers who feel that the users are being given a false sense of security, that people are depicting Tor as the digital equivalent a reinforced concrete barrier when in practice it can often be little more than a speed bump against trained spies. There's evidence that while the NSA thinks that "Tor Stinks" there are also reasons why spies don't want to scare people away from using it…"

Read the essay here, cross-posted at Cryptome, Counterpunch, and Dissident Voice. -BB(2014-07-17)

Update: Yasha Levine at Pando has written an in-depth article on the history of Tor. This is worth reading also.

Open the Snowden Files

Krystian Woznicki :

"The snowden story has been a great, exceptional media narrative -- if only for its unusual duration (unfolding over the course of more than a year and stimulating a variety of debates). but the fact, that material, that one brave whistleblower considered to be worth of public interest, has been "secured" or "privatised", rendering again unaccessible what previously has been unaccessible -- doesn't this fact add a very unsettling layer to the narrative, turning the success story into somewhat of a tragedy?"

Cryptome notes that:

"This piecemealing is common among the Snowden doc withholders. As if they do not know what to do with the full material, so dribble the parts they understand (or judge the public will believe) with lengthy narratives confected with modest evidence."

The media is also vulnerable to pressure from spies and the corporate empire which they represent. Any news agency that abides by the traditional model of journalism will likewise be subject to various forces that wish to manufacture consent. -BB(2014-07-06)

Update Cryptome demands a public accounting and release:

"Your prompt response to this demand is expected. If not received within two weeks from the date of this letter, I will initiate legal proceedings to enforce your compliance. Public support for this demand and class action participants in the legal proceeding will be solicited by publication today of this letter on the website Cryptome.org"

Microsoft Transparency Center Propaganda

A couple of days ago a fresh-faced Microsoft VP with a Colgate smile announced that Microsoft had implemented TLS to protect its email services as well as running a victory lap for a new "Transparency Center" to Redmond:

"Our Transparency Centers provide participating governments with the ability to review source code for our key products, assure themselves of their software integrity, and confirm there are no 'back doors.' The Redmond location is the first in a number of regional transparency centers that we plan to open. We continue to make progress on the Transparency Center in Brussels that I announced in January, with other locations soon to be announced."

Really? No back doors in Windows? --horse laughter--

Hear that dull thud? That's a Microsoft executive running head first into reality. Ken Thompson, the original architect of UNIX, solidly refuted Microsoft's reasoning decades ago:

"The moral is obvious. You can't trust code that you did not totally create yourself. (Especially code from companies that employ people like me.) No amount of source-level verification or scrutiny will protect you from using untrusted code. In demonstrating the possibility of this kind of attack, I picked on the C compiler. I could have picked on any program-handling program such as an assembler, a loader, or even hardware microcode. As the level of program gets lower, these bugs will be harder and harder to detect. A well installed microcode bug will be almost impossible to detect. "

This is why the subversion programs being run by intelligence services need to be outlawed. Read my entire essay about Microsoft's silly PR stunt here. -BB(2014-07-03)

NSA Surveillance and Social Control

Snowden's statements at the National Press Club in Washington underscore his earlier claims that NSA surveillance is relatively useless as a tool for counterterrorism. Rather, mass interception is being applied to conduct economic espionage and diplomatic manipulation—and (most important) impose social control. Snowden implies that the NSA's surveillance apparatus isn’t being wielded to protect America from terrorism. It’s being used as a mechanism in service of the powerful.

The United States is now a surveillance state where corporate and government spies collaborate to monitor citizens. If academic researchers like Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are correct in their analysis of growing economic inequality, the end game for society will be pretty grim. As our social fabric disintegrates and the climate becomes less hospitable, the immiseration of the average person will lead to widespread mobilization.

The US elite are well aware of what happened to French aristocrats in the eighteenth century. To save themselves from a similar fate, they will switch the cogs of the surveillance state into high gear, and the United States will witness the sort of oppression that is the hallmark of a police state.

This is an op-ed letter that will appear in the July 14, 2014, issue of The Nation. -BB(2014-07-02)

Blackwater: Deep State Mercenaries

James Risen, the same journalist being strong-armed for exposing the CIA's botched MERLIN operation in his 2006 book State of War, has dropped a bombshell in the New York Times. Risen describes how a 2007 State Department investigation into Blackwater (now Academi) ground to a halt:

"The inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater's top manager there issued a threat: 'that he could kill' the government's chief investigator and 'no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq'"

A State Department memo written by Jean Richter states:

"I witnessed Blackwater contractors make disparaging remarks of superiority in reference to the FBI personnel presence in Iraq. These comments along with my COM Authority conversation sent a clear message that the Blackwater contractors saw themselves as 'above the law' and actually believed that they 'ran the place.'"

As those people who attended the ill-fated wedding party in Yemen can tell you, outside U.S. borders the Deep State's contempt for rule of law is legendary. -BB(2014-06-30)

A Question for Glenn Greenwald

It's Wednesday evening, June 18th, at 8:35pm and I just spent an hour listening to Glenn Greenwald speak at the Nourse Theater in downtown San Francisco as he kicked off his nation-wide book tour.

I think that anyone who attended would agree that he masterfully deconstructed several myths surrounding the Snowden revelations (e.g. Snowden is a Russian spy, Snowden is a narcissist, meta-data collection is not an invasion of privacy, the NSA programs collect data selectively, and mass interception is aimed at keeping us safe from terrorism). He sprinkled his presentation liberally with humor and kept the audience engaged. Yet when it came time to Glenn to discuss solutions he was nowhere near as explicit as he was with his earlier material. Given that he opted to forgo a public question and answer session; here I am.

Hello there Glenn...

You can read the rest of this essay here. It's also cross-posted at Counterpunch and also at Cryptome. -BB(2014-06-19)

Google's Shareholder Theater

Scanning over the headlines of the New York Times this past Saturday, June 6th, the public relations team at Google scored a splashy front page spot which confidently boasts that the company is working hard to impede the NSA (e.g. to “erect barriers”) by comprehensively encrypting data in transit through Google's networks. Other hi-tech companies, like Yahoo, have implemented similar measures. Of course, there are a number of particulars that this story fails to acknowledge…

Read the rest of this essay here. Encryption is no panacea, never mind the corporate spying. -BB(2014-06-10)

Related: Is Al Gore is more progressive than the EFF on the subject of corporate surveillance?

"Business are collecting way more information than they should. We now have a stalker economy where customers become products."

Microsoft Lies About NSA Collaboration

In response to Chinese allegations that Windows 8 can be used as a tool for U.S. intelligence, Microsoft has publicly asserted that:

"Microsoft has never provided any so-called 'Backdoor' into its products or services."

This is patently not true:

"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... Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and other software or Internet security companies have been aware that this type of early alert allowed the U.S. to exploit vulnerabilities in software sold to foreign governments, according to two U.S. officials."

Of course Microsoft plays ball with the NSA, the defense industry has always been good to the executives in Redmond. Recall the four zero-day exploits in Stuxnet? Why let something trivial like civil liberties get in the way of quarterly earnings? CEOs watch the Nightly Business Report, not Democracy Now!

Corporate spies, despite their many staged protests to assuage shareholders and customers, have much more in common with government spies than they let on. See the WikiLeaks cables on Google's secret dealings in the Middle East. Who's holding the shit-bag now? Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Smith while the Deep State consolidates control. -BB(2014-06-06)

Ed Snowden Ignores Private Sector Spies

The following is an excerpt from Ed Snowden's "Reset The Net" statement:

"I'm asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government."

Very odd, seeing as how the private sector plays a crucial role in driving the surveillance state. Approximately 70 percent of the intel buget goes to the private sector. Smaller companies that don't play ball tend to end up like Lavabit. For the large corporate interests linked with the American Deep State there's too much money at stake to let something like civil liberties get in the way. Such that the whole notion of privacy is often a marketing gimmick. Don't be evil my eye.

Is Ed showing his libertarian naïveté? Mass subversion, and the mass interception it enables, are fundamentally political problems that cannot be solved by sheer technical means. -BB(2014-06-05)

Keith Alexander and The Neoliberal Agenda

In the previous blog entry (from 2014-05-25) I mentioned the "neoliberal agenda". Readers have asked for elaboration and I believe that Henry Giroux offers a concise description:

"What we have seen in the United States and a number of other countries since the 1970s is the emergence of a savage form of free market fundamentalism, often called neoliberalism, in which there is not only a deep distrust of public values, public goods and public institutions but the embrace of a market ideology that accelerates the power of the financial elite and big business while gutting those formative cultures and institutions necessary for a democracy to survive."

The intelligence services form part of a structural layer around the visible government to construct a Deep State. Oligarchic factions use this layer to implement neoliberal policies via their agents in elected office. As Ed Snowden described, in an open letter to Brazil, the American surveillance apparatus primarily serves elite interests:

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

Let's not forget that mass interception is also used to enable more brutal methods of oppression:

"The Pakistani report, obtained and published this week by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, details 75 drone strikes and their alleged collateral damage between 2006 and 2009. Of 746 people killed by drones in that period, the BIJ report says, at least 147 'are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children'"

Is it any wonder that former spy chief Keith Alexander is currently in Copenhagen at the Bilerberg Conference pressing the flesh with business executives? He stands to profit handsomely for being such a faithful servant. -BB(2014-05-30)

United States Mulls DEFCON Restrictions

DEFCON originally rejected my talk on Chinese Cyber Espionage because I wasn't .gov, didn't have enough first-hand knowledge of China, and lacked adequate citations. A quick glance at our book should dismiss all of these concerns as ridiculous.

Now it looks as though the U.S. government may be exerting some influence directly:

"Washington is considering using visa restrictions to prevent Chinese nationals from attending popular summer hacking conferences in Las Vegas as part of a broader effort to curb Chinese cyber espionage, a senior administration official said Saturday."

"The official said that Washington could use such visa restrictions and other measures to keep Chinese from attending the August DefCon and Black Hat events to maintain pressure on China after the United States this week charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into U.S. companies to steal trade secrets."

"Speakers included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other high-ranking U.S. intelligence and military officials."

There you have it, dear reads, out-group homogeneity bias on display by the U.S. government. Every Chinese citizen is deemed to be a spy. Why? Because DEFCON is actually a platform for the U.S. intelligence community and they wouldn't dare entertain dissenting opinions that might reveal American spies for what they are: the Praetorian Guard of the corporate elite and their neoliberal agenda. -BB(2014-05-25)

Postscript: My co-author, the psychology professor, has pointed out that, strictly speaking, this is profiling more than out-group bias. Either way there are elements of xenophobia.

Behold a Pale Farce - Signed By The Authors

We've recently happened upon a bulk delivery from Trine Day and can now offer signed copies of this book at a discount ($11 per copy + shipping). Please see this site's publication page for details. - The Management (2014-05-24)

The American Deep State Remains In Iraq

Now that the United States of Amnesia has forgotten about Iraq, Al Jazeera can disclose the punchline of our disasterous invasion:

"While the US military has formally ended its occupation of Iraq, some of the largest western oil companies, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, remain."

"According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Iraq's oil reserves of 112 billion barrels ranks second in the world, only behind Saudi Arabia. The EIA also estimates that up to 90 per cent of the country remains unexplored, due to decades of US-led wars and economic sanctions."

Mike Whitney comments:

"Big oil runs everything in America. People talk about the power of Wall Street and Israel, but oil is still king. They run it all, and they own it all."

This is how neo-colonial wealth extraction operates. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis pay with their lives on behalf of fossil fuel industry profits. -BB(2014-05-23)

DoJ To Charge Chinese Officials With Espionage

The New York Times reports on this comical political gesture:

"The Department of Justice said on Monday it had charged five individuals in China’s People's Liberation Army in connection with stealing trade secrets from some of the largest American companies, including Westinghouse, United States Steel and Alcoa."

Really? Does this means that the Chinese Government can prosecute General Alexander for the NSA's theft of source code from Huawei? Alexander may need to put his consulting gig on hold while he hires a legal team.

George Smith understands this security theater for what it really is, a distraction:

"Now all us Americans who either have crap jobs or no jobs and are needing food stamps will know where to point the finger of blame: The Chinese army that is stealing our corporate secrets."

We know where the blame clearly lies: our parasitic financial class and their corrupted operatives in the public sector. -BB(2014-05-19)

Related: China Responds:

"The US' deceitful nature and its practice of double standards when it comes to cyber security have long been exposed, from the Wikileaks incident to the Edward Snowden affair."

"A Xinhua report on Tuesday stated that between March and May this year, a total of 1.18 million computers in China were directly controlled by 2,077 machines in the United States via Trojan horse or zombie malware."

Related: Marcy Wheeler notes that:

"Much of the charged activity involves stealing information about trade disputes — the same thing NSA engages in all the time."

Related: The New York Times adds that France is just as culpable:

"The French, for example, were notorious for conducting state-backed corporate espionage long before the Chinese mastered the form. And if they choose, Chinese leaders has ample opportunity to retaliate by making life even harder for American companies."

"As President Obama has said on numerous occasions, we do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies, or U.S. commercial sectors."

Related: In an open letter to Brazil, Ed Snowden contradicts this narrative.

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

Related: And there are numerous instances of economic espionage conducted by the NSA that benefited U.S. business interests. For example:

"when the Clinton administration was locked in a high-stakes negotiation in the 1990s to reach an accord with Japan, it bugged the Japanese negotiator's limousine. At the time, the chief beneficiaries would have been the Big Three auto companies and a smattering of parts suppliers."

Related: Officials admit that the NSA spies for economic advantage:

"The officials say, while the N.S.A. cannot spy on Airbus and give the results to Boeing, it is free to spy on European or Asian trade negotiators and use the results to help American trade officials — and, by extension, the American industries and workers they are trying to bolster."

Yves Smith: Somehow it's OK to spy if it relates to trade policy. I'm not making that up.

NSA Surveillance Serves Corporate Interests

Beatrice Edwards answers questions about her book The American Corporate Security State. A couple of points resonate:

"The government's surveillance operations are put at the service of corporate interests, but they are presented as operations undertaken in the public interest. Corporate power and the public interest are not the same. The government finances its surveillance with taxpayer funds, but then puts its operations at the service of private power rather than the public. This conflict of interest is concealed through government secrecy."

"Wholesale surveillance means that journalists cannot protect their sources' identities, which means that the press becomes little more than a mouthpiece for the state. That represents the end of democratic governance as we know it."

Though I strongly disagree with this author on encryption as a panacea. If intel agencies root your box and scrape enough RAM to recover keys it doesn't matter how strong your crypto is. Remember Heartbleed? Or the Target Breach?

Mass subversion enables mass surveillance. These strategies undermine our collective liberty and security on behalf of a small cabal of spies and corporate interests. Security for the 1%. -BB(2014-05-18)

NSA Subversion: U.S. Is World's Leading Rogue State

Back in December of 2013 Der Spiegel reported that:

"If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called 'load stations,' agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer."

"These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the 'most productive operations' conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks 'around the world.'"

While the hypocrites in the House Intelligence Committee directed all sorts of accusations at Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE, everyone can now see that the NSA is currently neck deep in subversion. Today in the Guardian Glenn Greenwald provides more details:

"A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA's Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers."

"The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. The document gleefully observes that some "SIGINT tradecraft … is very hands-on (literally!)".

According to Greenwald not only did U.S. officials want to promote U.S. hardware to benefit American hi-tech (by badmouthing Chinese products), but they also wanted to increase the reach of the NSA's surveillance programs:

"Warning the world about Chinese surveillance could have been one of the motives behind the US government's claims that Chinese devices cannot be trusted. But an equally important motive seems to have been preventing Chinese devices from supplanting American-made ones, which would have limited the NSA's own reach. In other words, Chinese routers and servers represent not only economic competition but also surveillance competition."

There you have it, the NSA has undermined countless network devices and servers being used all over the world. What else would you expect from the world's leading rogue state. -BB(2014-05-13)

The NSA's Corporate Collaborators

Counterpunch has published an essay of mine. Here's an excerpt:

"Since Ed Snowden's documents have trickled out into public view companies like Google have tried to distance themselves from the NSA, to make public displays of anger, to create the impression that they were somehow strong-armed into helping government spies and that they've been working to bolster their security against the NSA's prying eyes. Above all hi-tech companies want to look like they're siding with their users."

"These gestures are likely theater, being performed by executives on behalf of quarterly earnings. Such is the beauty of PR [public relations]. Hi-tech companies don't really need to fend off government spies but merely provide users with the perception of resistance."

Check out the rest here.

After all of the lies it's hard to believe that the monoliths of hi-tech are merely innocent pawns. Anyone who has studied the history of the CIA knows that business interests have a long and storied history of working with our intelligence services. There are any number of financial, legislative, and operational incentives. Keep in mind that the Deep State is driven by sources of influence outside of government. In other words, Wall Street is used to giving orders, not taking them. Watch Scott Noble's documentary Counter-Intelligence to gain insight into this. -BB(2014-05-09)

Deep State Players Push for Extinction Events

An excellent article written by Peter Hart at FAIR documents how elite front men in the corporate press have suggested that accelerating the development of domestic fossil fuel is the solution to the unfolding crisis in the Ukraine. Hart quotes Bill O'Reilly:

"Fox News host Bill O’Reilly (3/3/14) advised that 'the Keystone Pipeline must be approved' because 'Russia is blackmailing Europe over energy.... The more oil and natural gas the USA and Canada can produce and distribute, the weaker Russia becomes on the world stage.'"

Anyone who has read the recent UN Report on climate change or followed the work of activists like Bill McKibben understands that expanding fossil fuel programs is a path to global collapse.

The corporate interests of the American deep state are fully aware of this. Their general response: why let the future of a few billion people stand in the way of quarterly profits? When the immiseration of the average person reaches critical mass the powers that be will be ready with their Orwellian surveillance apparatus and associated legal provisions like Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act. Chris Hedges offers a few comments along this line:

"The nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights."

Recall the lesson passed on by the activists from Pennsylvania who broke into an FBI office in 1971, exposing the illegal COINTELPRO operation. Our representatives don't represent us. If there will be change it will be up to us. -BB(2014-05-06)

Piketty's Solution Is Intentionally Myopic

In a comprehensive and brilliant essay published by Counterpunch political economist Alan Nasser points out that while Piketty's treatise goes a long way towards illustrating the grave nature of the threat society faces (i.e. plutocratic tyranny), the book's admittedly "utopian" solution of a global wealth tax is clearly wanting:

"If the existing economic system makes Piketty's prescription -a global tax on wealth- virtually impossible to realize, why does he not question the system itself, and describe the outlines of a workable alternative? Because Piketty’s conception of the most discussed alternative, democratic socialism, is inexcusably narrow."

Nasser points out that from the 1930s to the 1970s the share of the national income subsumed by the top 1% fell steadily. In no small part due to the blood and sacrifice of organized workers:

"What accounted for this remarkable period when Americans enjoyed the highest standard of living they had ever experienced, and capital experienced its greatest defeats? Why this outbreak of relative equality? Militant labor, extensive unionization, ongoing additions to government programs and aggressive black activism were essential factors."

The inequality that has blossomed since the 1970s is can be largely attributed to the process of state capture, where the wealthy use their resources to purchase influence and adjust policies in a feedback look that accelerates itself. Such is the conclusion of Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page in an analytic study, which does not mince words:

"Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

Implementing real change will remain a pipe dream as long as our leaders are beholden to oligarchic factions. Tackling inequality will mean following the examples of the past and taking on the entrenched power structures of the elite. -BB(2014-05-02)

Commentary on The FBI's Global Hacking Campaign

Recently a Russian journalist, Nikita Alentyev, asked me for a response to a New York Times story which described how Hector Xavier Monsegur supplied Jeremy Hammond with a list of foreign websites to hack on behalf of the FBI. Here are a couple of choice snippets:

"In light of Edward Snowden's revelations it's clear that the United States is the world's leading aggressor as far as cyber-espionage and mass interception are concerned. The NSA is without equal among nation-states in this regard..."

"Publicity of this sort seriously undermines U.S. credibility, America's so-called 'soft power.' It illustrates that U.S. leaders are unwilling to adhere to the values and principles that they outwardly claim to represent. Our leaders certainly don’t make much of a fuss when other countries get hacked. When the Chinese complain of 'massive and shocking' intrusions, its disclosures are met with silence. Yet cyber-attacks on the United States cause officials to erupt in spasms of righteous indignation... With regard to current American foreign policy, hypocrisy is something that the U.S. excels at."

For another incredible example of this double standard, witness Secretary of State Kerry's complaint about Russia's "contrived pretext for military intervention". As if he had no memory of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the imaginary WMDs that our leaders used to justify it. -BB(2014-04-29)

The "Job Creator" Myth Debunked

In an op-ed piece Paul Krugman describes how the public relations apparatus of the moneyed elite has historically tried to dismiss the subject of economic inequality:

"For the past couple of decades, the conservative response to attempts to make soaring incomes at the top into a political issue has involved two lines of defense: first, denial that the rich are actually doing as well and the rest as badly as they are, but when denial fails, claims that those soaring incomes at the top are a justified reward for services rendered. Don’t call them the 1 percent, or the wealthy; call them 'job creators.'"

Economist Michael Hudson reminds us that the term job creator is a rhetorical ploy used by the oligarchs to make us align their interests with ours. Hudson remarks:

"Let's look at Forbes' list of the richest people in Russia, China, the Ukraine or the post-Soviet economies. I can guarantee you that they didn't make this wealth by saving up income, they didn't earn a higher income; they stole the property by fraud and internal bribery, the same way that the great fortunes were made in the United States. American Fortunes by Gustavus Myers shows how the railroad land grants made fortunes by bribing congressmen and by privatising the land. The great fortunes are made by privatising natural resources, land and the public domain, and since 1980, when the concentration of wealth and income have really taken off, as Piketty shows, this is the age of privatisation, of Margaret Thatcher, of Ronald Reagan, and Boris Yeltsin in Russia."

The truth is that the primary actors of the Deep State are often parasites. -BB(2014-04-25)

Private Equity Emperors of the Deep State

Every year the New York Times prints a list of CEO salaries and while Larry Ellison may seem to be cleaning up, making over $70 million in 2013, Les Leopold points out that $70 million is actually small potatoes compared to the transnational capitalist class...

"The true robber barons run hedge funds and private equity companies. They make billions, not millions, and they do it not by running businesses, but by siphoning wealth away from companies, consumers, students and governments."

For example, Steven Cohen made $2.3 billion in 2013. Several times what Ellison makes. But they don't necessarily create value, rather they extract it like financial parasites:

"One of the biggest strip mining efforts takes place when private equity funds and hedge funds buy up companies using borrowed money, which they then put on the books of the target company. They then use the target company's cash flow to pay off the debt and pay themselves enormous fees and special dividends. Their profits are sheltered by a special 'carried interest' tax loophole, which allows the financial honchos to pay 19 points below the standard income tax rate for high earners. The odds are high that the top hedge fund earners listed above pay a lower tax rate than you do, given the loopholes open to them. (Think Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.)

"To pay for the enormous incomes earned through these leveraged buyouts, the strip miners' companies raid pension funds, cut wages and benefits, sell product lines, reduce R & D and ship jobs abroad. The CEOs of the target companies become junior partners in the rape of their own companies through golden parachutes and enormous stock options."

Yes, you're right. There is something very wrong about this. But why don't we hear more about it?

"No one wants to mess with the big hedge funds and private equity firms. After all, any one of them could buy up The New York Times in a heartbeat and turn it into a cooking magazine. And, I can tell you from personal experience these guys are touchy — when first writing about the John Paulson Abacus deal, his lawyers threatened to sue me."

This kind of money and power purchases a lot of influence. It's one of the driving forces behind the American Deep State. -BB(2014-04-21)

Taibbi Assails the Untouchables

Matt Taibbi was on Democracy Now! today to discuss the how members of the financial elite have avoided doing prison despite the obvious devastation that they've wrought, as detailed in his new book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. He laments that, with homage to Orwell, some animals are more equal than others when it comes to the U.S. justice system:

"If you're going to put people in jail for having a joint in their pocket or for slinging dime bags on the corner in a city street, you cannot let people who laundered $800 million for the worst drug offenders in the world walk."

Like former SEC lawyer James Kidney, Taibbi indicates that this state of affairs can be traced all the way to the top:

"You have a whole bunch of people sort of at the top of the regulatory agencies, whether it's Justice, the SEC, the CFTC, maybe the Enforcement Division of the SEC, who all came from these big banks or from law firms that represented these big banks... as a result of this kind of merry-go-round of people who all work for the same companies —and they're going to go to government for a while, then they're going to go back to the corporate defense community after they leave and make millions of dollars—they're very, very reluctant to be aggressive against these companies, because it's their—culturally, they're the same people as their target"

"This was a crisis that was much huger in scope than the S&L crisis or the accounting crisis. I mean, it wiped out 40 percent of the world's wealth, and nobody went to jail"

It's worse than that, in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse executives laughed all the way to the bank:

"Not only were these guys not prosecuted, they got to keep all of their money, all of the ill-gotten gains that they made during these periods."

As Peter Dale Scott observes, the very fact that events have played out in this manner hints at the true nature of America's power structure. -BB(2014-04-15)

Selective Amnesia About USAID

Mark Ames has written a piece on USAID that's a must-read with regard to putting current events into context. For example, he goes into the details of an infamous USAID police-training program:

"Under Kennedy's reorganization, a police training program set up under President Eisenhower, the Office of Public Safety (OPS), was placed under USAID's authority. The OPS had been set up in 1957 to train friendly overseas police forces how to be more professional, more democratic, less corrupt, more like us — but in reality, the OPS was essentially a CIA proxy, headed by an agent named Byron Engle, its ranks covertly sprinkled with CIA spooks in hotspots across the globe."

On the OPS roster was a former FBI agent named Dan Mitrione who taught advanced counterinsurgency techniques:

"By the end of the 1960s, when Mitrione left for Uruguay, USAID had trained over 100,000 of Brazil's police in the dark arts of rule-by-terror; another 600 Brazilian police were brought to the US for special USAID training in explosives and interrogation techniques."

"Brazil's military dictatorship murdered or disappeared hundreds of dissidents, and tortured and jailed thousands more. Among those tortured: a Marxist student named Dilma Rousseff, arrested in 1970 and subjected to beatings to her face that distorted her dental ridge, and electrical shocks from car batteries, resulting in the hemorrhaging of her uterus. Today, Rousseff is Brazil's president"

Former CIA officer turned whistleblower John Stockwell describes how Mitrione would randomly grab people off the streets and torture them to death as a form of instruction:

"All they [the guinea pigs, beggars from off the streets] could do was lie there and scream. And when they would collapse, they would bring in doctors and shoot them up with vitamin B and rest them up for the next class. And when they would die, they would mutilate the bodies and throw them out on the streets, to terrify the population so they would be afraid of the police and the government."

Mark Ames comments:

"Multiply Dan Mitrione’s story by all the other Dan Mitrione's working in all the other USAID Offices of Public Safety that we rarely hear about, and you start to get a sense of how small USAID's failed Twitter revolution in Cuba is by the agency's standards."

So when you hear officials laud all of the wonderful things that USAID does, keep in mind that there's a brutal side to this organization that's heavily linked to CIA black bag ops. -BB(2014-04-13)

Desde La Sombra Episode

If your Castilian Spanish is up to par, you can follow Daniel Estulin as he interviews me about the pale farce of Cyberwar and the threat inflation that feeds the malware-industrial complex. The Pentagon is opting for offensive solutions that undermine our collective security and liberty on behalf of a cabal of spies and private sector interests. Witness the operation of the Deep State, the Praetorian Guard of the corporate elite. -BB(2014-04-09)

Turkey & Saudis Involved in Syrian Sarin Attacks

Yesterday Seymour Hersh dropped a bombshell in the London Review of Books, explaining why President Obama opted for disarmament in Syria while the United States rushed headlong into Liya. Here are some snippets:

"'We knew there were some in the Turkish government,' a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, 'who believed they could get Assad's nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.'"

"On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page 'talking points' briefing for the DIA's deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell... 'Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,' it said, 'were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.'"

"Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention."

Hersh, during an interview with Amy Goodman about his LRB article, added that the weapons used to deliver nerve gas in Syria weren't military grade:

"I can tell you, I quote somebody from inside that investigation unit who was very clear that the weapons fired were homemade and were not Syrian army."

All of this is particularly interesting given the recent leaked conversation where Turkish officials debated conducting a false flag operation in their own country to spur Turkey's involvement in Syria. The Deep State is alive and well, and using the Hegelian dialectic in an attempt to establish a Syrian client state. -BB(2014-04-07)

NSA Coverage Ignores the [Obedient] CIA

The people behind Cryptome.org have raised an interesting point: the NSA doesn't work in a vacuum, it's part of a much larger community that includes heavyweight Deep State players like the CIA. Here are a couple of choice snippets:

"The CIA is the principal customer of NSA products outside the military. When global cyber spying Cybercom was proposed NSA did not want to do it, claiming it exceeded NSA's military mission. However, the pols, and CIA, wanted that very excess, in particular for spying inside the US, ostensibly banned for the CIA but now needed for terrorists inside."

"The joint CIA-NSA Special Collection Service (SCS) -- with 5-Eyes Echelon -- has been doing for decades what NSA is now alone accused of doing: CIA provided the targets, NSA did the technical collection from those global stations identified by X-Keyscore (most located in embassies or nearby)..."

"SCS also does burglaries, code snatches, decrypts, doc drops, stings, ploys, blackmail, the panoply of CIA operations. The increased civilian target panoply bestowed upon NSA came from CIA demands channeled through ODNI."

"The last thing CIA and its supporters want is a revelation of its manipulation of civilian leaders institutionalized by the 1947 National Security Act (also opposed by the military)."

Note the reference to 1947. It's part of the public record that President Truman, who created the CIA when he signed the National Security Act of 1947, publicly regretted that the CIA had become a nexus of covert operations. In a Washington Post op-ed (written shortly after President Kennedy was assassinated) Truman stated:

"I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue—and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda."

However, this doesn't mean that the CIA is a rogue agency. When congressman Otis Pike investigated the CIA in the 1970s he found that the CIA was largely an obedient arm of the executive, a conclusion that was echoed by CIA officer Philip Agee.

"All evidence in hand suggests that the CIA, far from being out of control, has been utterly responsive to the instructions of the President and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs."

This would make sense as both POTUS and the CIA tend to be linked heavily to the same sources of wealth and influence outside of the government. In fact, when the "rogue agency" narrative is dusted off it's usually done so to serve an institutional purpose. Recall the strategy of plausible deniability used to build a wall around President Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair. Noam Chomsky notes:

"What the record shows is that the C.I.A. is just an agency of the White House, which sometimes carries out operations for which the Executive branch wants what's called 'plausible deniability'; in other words, if something goes wrong, we don't want it to look like we did, those guys in the C.I.A. did it, and we can throw some of them to the wolves if we need to."

According to Daniel Ellsberg the executive, ordering secret operations under the authority of secret laws supported by the secret rulings of secret courts, has used the NSA and CIA (and other IC members) to skew the power structure of the republic.

"I don't see how democracy can survive when one branch, the executive branch, has all the personal communications of every member of Congress, and every judge, every member of the judiciary, as well as the press, the fourth estate that I have just been describing."

The ongoing struggle between the CIA and the Senate bolsters this hypothesis. Senator Feinstein warns:

"Mr. President, the recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our Intelligence Community. How Congress responds and how this is resolved will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation's intelligence activities, or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee."

Yet, considering all of this in-fighting, it's also important to keep in mind that POTUS is just a faithful servant of his constituents. The oligarchic factions that purchase what they want. -BB(2014-04-03)

Related: A must-read by Tom Engelhardt which draws together the failing war on terror and the burgeoning surveillance state. Both are symptoms of the same illness, the power elite consolidating their wealth and control.

"The orderliness of secret power in Washington and chaos under heaven, the growth of a police state and a planet run riot, turn out to be two sides of the same coin."

Response to Schneier: The Public-Private Partnership

Bruce Schneier has posted an essay where he concedes that measures being implemented by the private sector are intended merely to give the perception of stronger security. In other words, all of the various press releases about stronger encryption and contacting the White House are just PR-driven performances. Corporate spies and the government spies are cast from the same mold:

"Yes, it may seem like the the public/private surveillance partnership has frayed -- but, unfortunately, it is alive and well. The main focus of massive Internet companies and government agencies both still largely align: to keep us all under constant surveillance. When they bicker, it's mostly role-playing designed to keep us blasé about what's really going on... "

"The biggest Internet companies don't offer real security because the U.S. government won't permit it."

But this begs a question that Mr. Schneier is conspicuously ignoring...

Who, pray tell, is driving the government to undermine security? Any thoughts on this, Bruce? Who are the "deciders"?

It should be abundantly clear to anyone who follows American politics that corporate factions have largely achieved state capture. Perhaps the average person assumes that only places like the Ukraine suffer from this sort of problem? Our government responds primarily to those interests that have the resources to punish and reward those in government. The Deep State has been the conduit for the neoliberal coup d'état. As things stand now elected leaders have a tendency to dance to the tune of Big Oil, Defense Contractors, and Hi-Tech. Above it all reigns Wall Street, which has illustrated the sort of power it has over the economy.

Asking corporate interests to increase pressure on the government is nonsensical. The 1%, with their market fundamentalism, intentionally created this mess. Listen to the final echoes of the Occupy Movement: in order to reclaim our privacy and our security, the 99% need to reclaim the government. -BB(2014-04-01)

Comsec, Tor, and Hunting Admins

Cryptome remarks on the unpleasant reality of compromised COMSEC as the (profitable) industry standard:

"Not many honest comsec wizards nowadays are promising more than compromised comsec, and the compromise is gradually increasing as Snowden material is dribbled out to convince the public and wizards not a hell of a lot can be done about it except believe in and buy more compromised comsec."

In other words, vendors use the sorry state of their own products to convince you to buy "new and improved" versions that are equally subverted! The flawed technology softly whispers "trust me" while hiding a dagger behind its back. It's a feature not a bug.

Take Tor as a case study: one advocate claims its the best thing since sliced bread with regard to protecting yourself online while another old hand (Roger Dingledine) is gleefully showing spooks how to compromise it. -BB(2014-03-23)

Related: Operation Shotgiant reminds us that the United States performs industrial espionage, subverting foreign equipment and undermining our collective security, while officials predictably focus all of their attention on Chinese threats.

Related: In a Nutshell:

"No risk, no security market, so what fool would want an Internet that had no faults. No bank would want perfect security to be available directly to customers. No military or spy agency would want perfect national security available to the citizenry. No government would want a threat-free populace. No comsec industry would want ... "

NSA's TURBINE: Millions of Implants

Today The Intercept posted a lengthy report on the NSA's plans to enable computer subversion on an industrial scale:

"The implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps. But the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system – codenamed TURBINE – is designed to 'allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.'"

"Earlier reports based on the Snowden files indicate that the NSA has already deployed between 85,000 and 100,000 of its implants against computers and networks across the world, with plans to keep on scaling up those numbers."

In other words, it doesn't matter how strong your crypto is if the NSA can infect your system with an implant. Eat your heart out Google. -BB(2014-03-12)

Related: Naturally CYBERCOM nominee Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers is proposing this technique as a way to solve the problem of attribution and thus leverage the cold war strategy of deterrence. For reasons that I discuss in my upcoming book, Behold a Pale Farce, Rogers is selling a dangerous pipe dream:

"Without referring directly to a secret N.S.A. program to place 'implants' on computer networks around the world, so American officials could see attacks in the making, he said in his written answer that the United States could make it clear that it knows where attacks are coming from and is prepared to retaliate."

Related : Cryptome Advocates Cyber Security as a Public Good

"Comsec as a right for human discourse rather than a commercial service could enforce privacy beyond easy violation for official and commercial purposes. Freedom of comsec, say, as a new entry in the US Bill of Rights could lead the way for it to be a fundamental element of Human Rights."

Also : Beware Cyber Carpet Baggers

"Thanks, Ed, comsec evangelist extraordinaire. If the media operation goes well Snowden could die penniless like the genius Tesla was aced by profit-driven Edison."

The State, the Deep State, and the Wall Street Overworld

Former diplomat and UC Berkeley Professor Peter Dale Scott, whose work focuses on the machinations of the American Deep State, has recently written a fairly lengthy article in The Asia-Pacific Journal. Scott contends that:

"This development of a two-level or dual state has been paralleled by two other dualities: the increasing resolution of American society into two classes – the 'one percent' and the 'ninety-nine percent”' – and the bifurcation of the U.S. economy into two aspects: the domestic, still subject to some governmental regulation and taxation, and the international, relatively free from governmental controls. All three developments have affected and intensified each other – particularly since the Reagan Revolution of 1980, which saw American inequality of wealth cease to diminish and begin to increase. Thus for example we shall see how Wall Street – the incarnation of the 'one percent' – played a significant role in increasing the deep state after World War Two, and how three decades later the deep state played a significant role in realigning America for the Reagan Revolution."

Scott goes on to offer a historical cross section which shows how Wall Street, defense contractors, and the oil industry have leveraged covert operations since the late 1940s to further their own narrow financial interests. -BB(2014-03-11)

Related : The Far Right in The Ukraine

"The new deputy prime minister, Oleksandr Sych, is from Svoboda; National Security Secretary Andriy Parubiy is a co-founder of the neo-Nazi Social-National Party, Svoboda's earlier incarnation; the deputy secretary for National Security is Dmytro Yarosh, the head of Right Sector. Chief prosecutor Oleh Makhnitsky is another Svoboda member, as are the ministers for Agriculture and Ecology"

Putting fascists into power is something the American Deep State excels at.

Related : Nafeez Ahmed concludes that events in Ukraine are driven by clashing oil interests.

"Resource scarcity, competition to dominate Eurasian energy corridors, are behind Russian militarism and US interference... Ukraine is caught hapless in the midst of this accelerating struggle to dominate Eurasia’s energy corridors in the last decades of the age of fossil fuels."

Henry Giroux on the Deep State

Mike Lofgren, a former Congressional staff member who served both the House and Senate Budget Committees, wrote an essay at Bill Moyers site about the Deep State. This is a concept that originated in Turkey but was largely popularized in the West by Berkeley scholar Peter Dale Scott.

Moyers had some of his former guests respond to Lofgren's essay. By far Henry Giroux offers the most illuminating critique, underscoring that the Deep State is itself an effect, not a root cause:

"The Deep State is symptomatic of something more ominous, the rise of a new form of authoritarianism, a counter-revolution in which society is being restructured and advanced under what might be called the neoliberal revolution. This is a revolution in which the welfare state is being liquidated, along with the collective provisions that supported it. It is a revolution in which economics drives politics."

Bravo, Mr. Giroux! I hear echoes of Sheldon Wolin's concept of Inverted totalitarianism. The driving force behind the emergence of the Deep State can be traced to sources of wealth, power, and violence in the private sector. The moneyed elite find ways to purchase what they want, "money, like water, will always find an outlet." To see the origins of the neo-colonial path in American history, look to the War and Peace Studies. -BB(2014-02-22)

Related: I've added a graphic interpretation of the Deep State here. Also, U.S. billionaires have apparently funded activity in the Ukraine, in addition to U.S. government-backed USAID. Glenn Greenwald has posted a response. One reader comments:

"Forget about journalistic independence, can anyone in good conscience work for someone who helped fund what *they believe* was a coup?"

Update: Marcy Wheeler, of The Intercept, asserts that:

"I don't see any evidence here that those donations were explicitly intended to pay for regime change"

Also, an article at Pando addresses the alleged journalistic independence of Intercept writers:

"Pierre Omidyar, First Look's sole backer, has a vision. A vision he spends his day sharing with First Look's reporters via their internal messaging. By Scahill's own admission, Omidyar's voice is heard more frequently than any editorial staffer at the company."

The underlying issue here is this: billionaires have largely achieved state capture. The course that society takes is now being decided by a constantly shifting mass of corporate factions and this is directly opposed to the spirit of democratic government:

"Clubs of elite donors in both parties are taking a more central role in shaping policy and campaigns, displacing party leaders and the outside-spending organizations they helped create after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010. And the sheer scale of their spending is almost certain to rewrite the playbook for political campaigns this year, as candidates reckon with the strongly held views of some of the world’s wealthiest people."

Obama Masks His Ukraine Agenda

Counterpunch columnist Chris Floyd responds to recent criticism of Putin by President Obama. Here are some choice snippets:

"Take his astonishing attack on Vladimir Putin for 'interfering' in Ukraine. That Obama could make this charge with a straight face — days after his own agents had been exposed (in the infamous “Fuck the EU” tape) nakedly interfering in Ukraine"

"It is, by all accounts, a highly corrupt enterprise given to insider deals for well-connected elites who influence government policy for their own benefit. (I guess this might be a reason for overthrowing a democratically elected government with an armed uprising supported by foreign countries, but I would be careful about espousing this as a general rule if I were an American president.)"

"If the entire Ukrainian people now want to get rid of their president, there are free elections scheduled for 2015"

Also, professor Stephen Cohen provides some much needed context:

"Since the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the U.S.-led West has been on a steady march toward post-Soviet Russia, began with the expansion of NATO in the 1990s under Clinton. Bush then further expanded NATO all the way to Russia's borders. Then came the funding of what are euphemistically called NGOs, but they are political action groups, funded by the West, operating inside Russia. Then came the decision to build missile defense installations along Russia's borders, allegedly against Iran, a country which has neither nuclear weapons nor any missiles to deliver them with. Then comes American military outpost in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which led to the war of 2008, and now the West is at the gates of Ukraine. So, that's the picture as Moscow sees it. And it's rational. It's reasonable. It's hard to deny."

"What are they doing? The highest-ranking State Department official, who presumably represents the Obama administration, and the American ambassador in Kiev are, to put it in blunt terms, plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine."

Floyd and Cohen are right on, Obama provides all of the outward gestures of "a compassionate, progressive, anti-elitist peacemaker" while his agents in the Ukraine facilitate chaos in the name of economic interests. -BB(2014-02-20)

Related : The Deep State is at work in the Ukraine.

"This is not some cabal that was hatched in the dark of night. This is something that hides in plain sight. It's something we know about, but we can't connect the dots, or most people don't connect the dots. It's kind of a natural evolution when so much money and political control is at stake in the most powerful country in the world. This has evolved over time... It is a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state."

Mike Lofgren's full essay is here. I would also advise readers to peruse a similar essay by John Young here.

"Behind the avoidance of public responsibility is the ever increasing use of unjustified secretkeeping, prolongation of exaggerated threats to national security, and as Ike warned the perpetuation of the lucrative military-industry-media complex hidden by official secrecy."

More On Economic Espionage By The NSA

The Times reports that the NSA was involved in spying on an American law firm which was assisting Indonesia with trade issues:

"Even though the Indonesian issues were relatively modest for the United States — about $40 million in annual trade is related to the clove cigarette dispute and $1 billion annually to shrimp — the Australian surveillance of talks underscores the extent to which the N.S.A. and its close partners engage in economic espionage."

One classified document implicates the U.S.D.A. as a frequent recipient of economic intelligence:

"'The U.S.D.A. is involved in trade operations to protect and secure a large segment of the U.S. economy,' that document states. Top agency officials 'often rely on SIGINT' — short for the signals intelligence that the N.S.A. eavesdropping collects — 'to support their negotiations.'"

Yet NSA officials loudly claim that the United States doesn't engage in economic espionage:

"The department [of defense] does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber"

More lies. That's all these spies do. There's no reason to trust anything they tell us directly. Better to rely on what they say when they think no one is listening. -BB(2014-02-16)

Related :

"I find it a bit mind boggling and a little bit difficult how I can connect or reconcile discussion about shrimps and how it impacts on Australian security"

State Department Conversation Leaked

A leaked conversation between between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to the Ukraine provides unique insights into the nature of U.S. foreign policy:

"I don't think Klitsch should go into the government. I don't think it's necessary, I don't think it's a good idea."

Paul Craig Roberts nails the takeaway:

"Ukraine has a democratically elected government, but Washington doesn't like it because Washington didn't pick it. The Ukraine or the western part of it is full of Washington funded NGOs whose purpose is to deliver Ukraine into the clutches of the EU where US and European banks can loot the country, as they looted, for example, Latvia, and simultaneously weaken Russia by stealing a large part of traditional Russia and converting it into US/NATO military bases against Russia."

Another astute comment:

"The 'fuck the EU' remark is only about the difference in style. The U.S. wants fast sanction against the legal government and the people of Ukraine and to install its own puppet while the EU wants a different puppet and a less noisy kind of coup."

As William Blum has observed, since the end of World War II the United States has "endeavored to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected." U.S. foreign policy isn't about democracy, it's about neo-imperial hegemony. Kissinger himself, in a fit of candor, admitted as much:

"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves."

The State Department has, once again, shown its true colors. They're not pretty. -BB(2014-02-07)

See also :

"Her [Victoria Nuland's] husband is Robert Kagan, the right-wing foreign policy pundit who served as the founding chairman of the Project for a New American Century, the neo-conservative Washington think tank that played a key role in the political and ideological preparation for the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan."

Pike: The Whole Barrel of Apples is Bad

With the recent passing of Otis Pike, Pando has published a piece that dwells on the hard kernel of truth that Pike bit down on while investigating the misdeeds of the CIA:

"As Pike put it, in Watergate the American people were asked to believe that 'their President had been a bad person. In this situation they are asked much more; they are asked to believe that their country has been evil. And nobody wants to believe that.'"

For this incredible public service the Deep State went after him:

"'I'm serious, there will be retaliation,' Rogovin said. 'Any political ambitions that Pike had in New York are through. We will destroy him for this.'"

Which leads us to where the United States is today, staring down the intelligence services once again.

"Any politician' —or political handler— with a sense of history will point to Otis Pike’s fate: He stuck his neck out and took on the National Security State on terms that should've appealed to common sense conservative values: Are taxpayers getting fleeced? Is America safer under these programs? He was destroyed. And after he was destroyed, he was forgotten. Now he's dead, and no one noticed, or cared."

The Deep State will go to great lengths to protect its privilege and power. Don't expect many U.S. politicians to take a stand. -BB(2014-02-05)

Related : DEA + Sinola Cartel = Deep State.

"Business Insider reported, 'An investigation by El Universal found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs while Sinaloa provided information on rival cartels.'"

"Written statements were provided to a U.S. District Court in Chicago, confirming the alliance between the DEA and Mexico's largest cocaine cartel. The written testimony, combined with other evidence, shows DEA officials met with leaders of the Sinaloa cartel more than 50 times between 2000 and 2012."

Edward Snowden: Spies Informally Collaborate

Snowden tells how the NSA sidesteps the legal constraints of spying on Americans with a little help from foreign agencies:

"So there is a sort of a trading dynamic there but it's not, it's not open. It's more of a nudge and wink and beyond that the key is to remember the surveillance and the abuse doesn't occur when people look at the data; it occurs when people gather the data in the first place."

He also responds to DNI Clapper's assertion that he still has documents or relied on 'accomplices'.

"I gave all of my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues"

Snowden closes with an explanation of why he's not coming back to the United States any time soon:

"It's, I would say, illustrative that the President would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial."

There's not been much coverage of this by the U.S. media... -BB(2014-02-04)

Bankers Send Us A Message

Matt Taibbi has just written a sardonic piece for Rolling Stone which dwells on the inability of the Department of Justice to punish the financial elite:

"Eric Holder drops a bunch of fines on the Chase corporate entity from 20,000 feet and then watches as bank leaders give themselves raises, force low-level underlings to pay the tab, and publicly denounce the settlements as undeserved. And get away with doing it."

Nice. This is how the bankers remind us who's in charge. Taibbi explains that the problem has to do with how our government deals with reckless corporate behavior:

"People like Holder still don't understand that the leaders of these rogue firms have no problem blowing up their own companies and/or imperiling the world economy, so long as they continue to personally get paid."

Though it could be argued that officials know exactly what's going on and they're simply too timid to strike at the root:

"They decided last year to make a big show of punishing JP Morgan Chase as a symbol of bank corruption, then forgot to punish the actual people who oversaw the bank's misdeeds. This is a little like trying to rein in a class bully by halving his school's budget. It doesn't work. Crimes are committed by people, and justice has to target people, too. Or else the whole thing is a joke, as we found out last week."

The nature of our justice system hints at a reality that is aptly described by Mike Whitney at Counterpunch:

"Obama is merely the mask that conceals the ruthless machinery of Empire. The real power lies beyond the veil, in the Deep State apparatus which decides everything from drone strikes to Gitmo, from NSA dragnets to habeas corpus, from deficit-slashing austerity to the 'pivot to Asia'. Obama has no say-so in any of these decisions. He's merely a public relations invention whose job is to look sincerely into the teleprompter while announcing the latest round of budget cuts or more of the deeply-regressive social policies his puppetmasters crave. That's his job and everyone knows it."

Short-term self interest wins because the current system rewards it. Sociopaths in the corporate domain arise as a result of behavioral adaptation. These are the type of people who start wars to protect their interests, maintain access to precious resources, and ensure the flow of global capital. -BB(2014-01-31)

Destroying the Constitution to Protect the 1%

The New York Times has published a noteworthy op-ed by Peter Ludlow which details how the propaganda apparatus of the moneyed elite is being leveraged to extort the American public into sacrificing civil liberties:

"Just like authoritarian states, democracies can use fear to exert control over the populace and consolidate power."

It's interesting that both Bill Keller and Tom Friedman have presented fundamentally flawed arguments for giving up consitutional rights in order to save the constitution (in the New York Times of course). Eric Prince, not someone who could be mistaken for a bleeding heart liberal, describes the folly of this mindset:

"I don't know if I want to live in a country where lone wolf and random terror attacks are impossible 'cause that country would look more like North Korea than America."

Luldow points out that The Pentagon and its patronage networks are guilty of intentional threat inflation to bolster a perpetual war on terror that lines the pockets of oligarchs:

"We are conditioned to fear persons in caves in Pakistan but not the destruction of our water supply by frackers, massive industrial accidents, climate change or the work-related deaths of 54,000 American workers every year. Fear of outside threats has led us to ignore the more real dangers from within."

"Does it not occur to the United States that the drone strikes and assassinations are creating more terrorists than they are neutralizing? Perhaps it has, but the calculation has been made that it does not matter. The newly minted enemies can be used to gin up more fear, more restrictions on our freedoms, and so the cycle goes. One might argue that the United States has become a government of fear, by fear, and ultimately, for fear."

"In each case, the images of mushroom clouds, environmental terrorists and agents of mayhem were used to justify actions that would otherwise seem excessive – all in the service of protecting corporate interests."

Bravo, Professor Ludlow. These are very much in line with the conclusions that Dr. Cheung and I arrived at in our book Behold a Pale Farce. -BB (2014-01-21)

A More Honest Rendition of Obama's NSA Speech

Martin Luther King, Jr., was targeted by U.S. intelligence services because he was viewed as a threat by what C. Wright Mills called the Power Elite. With homage to King, Chris Hedges has recast Obama's recent speech on NSA reform to make it both shorter and more direct. Here are some choice excerpts:

"I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Martin Luther King Jr. who were spied upon by their own government. But I, like Bill Clinton, have sold out those true patriots and gutted those government programs that made possible my own education and ascent into systems of elite power. As president I understand, as do Bill and Hillary, that political power is about us, not about you. I know where power in this country lies. It does not lie with the citizen. It lies with Wall Street and corporate boardrooms. And since my vanity demands that I be famous, wealthy and powerful, I work hard for these centers of power. None of these centers of power want to see any curbs on the security and surveillance state. And so I will make sure there are none."

"I will propose turning over the storage of all your data to a third party, perhaps a private corporation. This will offer you no protection, but it should provide a good government contract to one of my major campaign donors."

"It does not matter if they are ordinary people or foreign leaders. I am not going to apologize for monitoring the communications of friends and allies. We know what we are doing. We know why this is important. The effects of declining incomes for working men and women, the massive debt peonage that keeps people trapped, the slashing of government assistance programs, the chronic, long-term unemployment, and the effects of climate change will eventually trigger volatile unrest. We are ready. The likelihood of totalitarianism no longer comes from fascism or communism. It comes from corporations. Corporations, for which I work, fear those who think and write and speak out and form relationships freely. Individual freedom impedes their profits. And the surveillance system I am protecting today is designed to keep these corporations in power."

Alfred McCoy adds:

"For an imperial power losing its economic grip on the planet and heading into more austere times, the NSA’s latest technological breakthroughs look like a bargain basement deal when it comes to projecting power and keeping subordinate allies in line -- like, in fact, the steal of the century."

It's all about control and empire. Witness the hand of the Deep State at work. -BB(2014-01-20)

Obama's Speech on NSA "Reform"

The President unveiled proposals yesterday that amount to cosmetic changes in how mass interception is performed.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation responds:

"Mass non-targeted surveillance violates international human rights law. It is disproportionate because it sweeps up the communications and communications records of million of innocent people first and only sorts out second what is actually needed. Obama's reforms take a step forward in recognizing that foreigners deserve at least some privacy, but to be consistent with the rule of law, the NSA must be forbidden from engaging in mass, untargeted surveillance in the U.S. or abroad"

So our President just barely scratched the surface. The EFF offers specifics in their speech scorecard:

"There are three types of mass surveillance that we know about that we were using to evaluate Obama's promises in this category: surveillance of millions of phone records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act; surveillance of Internet communications internationally under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act; and surveillance of communications overseas under Executive Order 12333."

The ACLU echoes the EFF's observations:

"The president's decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans' data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end – not mend – the government's collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans' data."

Kevin Gosztola responds:

"Where the speech failed tremendously was in its ignorance of issues that arise from the fact that NSA has weakened encryption. There was no part of the speech that addressed whether criminal defendants have a right to information collected against them during their criminal trials. He said nothing about how agencies are collecting information on targets illegally, arresting them for crimes and then going back and using parallel construction through the use of legally collected evidence to put a case together and prosecute them."

Glenn Greenwald responds:

"The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are 'serious questions that have been raised.' They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic 'reforms' so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge."

Julian Assange responds:

"I think it's embarrasing for a head of state to go on like that for forty minutes and say almost nothing."

Pierre Omidyar responds:

"Obama to Snowden: thanks for showing me the gaping hole we tore in the Constitution. Here's a band-aid. Now please go to jail."

Indeed, the President has tipped his hat. He's not going to do anything substantive as far as the NSA is concerned. The President is beholden to his constituents in the corporate sector who use their wealth, power, and violence to set policy in D.C. The President is beholden to the Deep State. As the burglars who broke into the FBI's office decades ago noted: "It became pretty obvious to us... that if we don't do it, nobody will." A prayer, then, for activists like Jeremy Hammond. -BB(2014-01-18)

From Surveillance State to Police State

Chris Hedges strikes at the root in an essay posted today via truthdig. We currently live in a surveillance state. The moment that large swathes of people begin to mobilize against the Corporatocracy it will morph into a police state:

"The public debates about the government's measures to prevent terrorism, the character assassination of Edward Snowden and his supporters, the assurances by the powerful that no one is abusing the massive collection and storage of our electronic communications miss the point. Any state that has the capacity to monitor all its citizenry, any state that has the ability to snuff out factual public debate through control of information, any state that has the tools to instantly shut down all dissent is totalitarian. Our corporate state may not use this power today. But it will use it if it feels threatened by a population made restive by its corruption, ineptitude and mounting repression. The moment a popular movement arises—and one will arise—that truly confronts our corporate masters, our venal system of total surveillance will be thrust into overdrive."

History has shown that government and corporate monitoring (though there is ultimately little difference) is aimed at the Deep State's greatest enemy: an engaged population. -BB(2014-01-06)

Related: Snowden and Hammond revelations echo the COINTELPRO Leaks.

"The book shows how the break-in, and subsequent release of the contents of the FBI's files to newspapers across the country, upended the public's perception of the up-till-then inviolate head of the Bureau, paving the way for the FBI's overhaul"

Glenn Greenwald notes:

"Former FBI and CIA chief William Webster is shown in the film conceding that the documents they revealed led to important debates, but nonetheless condemning them on the grounds that they used the 'wrong methods' - criminal methods! - to expose these bad acts, insisting that they should have gone through unspecified Proper Channels."

The Times has also covered this story.

"'When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,' said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. 'There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.'"

"Since 1956, the F.B.I. had carried out an expansive campaign to spy on civil rights leaders, political organizers and suspected Communists, and had tried to sow distrust among protest groups. Among the grim litany of revelations was a blackmail letter F.B.I. agents had sent anonymously to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not commit suicide."

"'It became pretty obvious to us... that if we don't do it, nobody will.'"