"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Warrantless Wiretapping’

UPSTREAM, They Know Much More About You Than You Think

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm
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The headquarters of the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland

Oldspeak: “Within days of Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. On Amazon.com, the book made the “Movers & Shakers” list and skyrocketed 6,021 percent in a single day. Written sixty-five years ago, it described a fictitious totalitarian society where a shadowy leader known as “Big Brother” controls his population through invasive surveillance. “The telescreens,” Orwell wrote, “have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone….” –James Bamford

“The most awesome and near omniscient surveillance network ever created by man has been revealed in much of its grotesquely invasive corptalitarian horror. And what was American’s response? CONSUME.  Sales of the script to the horror show we are currently living Orwell’s “1984” exploded 6,000 PERCENT. No critical thoughts given to the personal telescreens/tracking device/listening device/thought recorder/microwave radiation emitter a.k.a. smart phones. Sheeple literally responded to news that all their actions on the internet are being watched, stored and analyzed, by buying a dystopian novel on the internet. All those people should consider themselves a “selector”. 🙂  More and more I’m seeing all these hip sexy cool invitations to “share everything” via your telescreen. Incessant exhortations to use your telescreen to buy everything, check things, secure things, pay things, scan things, tweet things, like things, post things, photograph things, record things, ask things, watch things, play things, listen to things, control devices, read, get medical advice, report crime, inform on others, etc, etc, etc…. Never mind that your ever expanding constellation of ever more convenient and personalizable apps are watching youSoon, your televisions, dvr’s and video games will watch you too. Keep consuming, keep providing free content, that make it ever easier to target more marketing at you to buy more shit you don’t need. When will we wake from our hyperconsumptive soma coma?. I’ll tell you one thing though, somebody is making an ass ton of money collecting and analyzing this exponentially expanding flow of digital content. ” –OSJ

By James Bamford @ The New York Review Of Books:

In mid-May, Edward Snowden, an American in his late twenties, walked through the onyx entrance of the Mira Hotel on Nathan Road in Hong Kong and checked in. He was pulling a small black travel bag and had a number of laptop cases draped over his shoulders. Inside those cases were four computers packed with some of his country’s most closely held secrets.

Within days of Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. On Amazon.com, the book made the “Movers & Shakers” list and skyrocketed 6,021 percent in a single day. Written sixty-five years ago, it described a fictitious totalitarian society where a shadowy leader known as “Big Brother” controls his population through invasive surveillance. “The telescreens,” Orwell wrote, “have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone….”

Today, as the Snowden documents make clear, it is the NSA that keeps track of phone calls, monitors communications, and analyzes people’s thoughts through data mining of Google searches and other online activity. “Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it,” Orwell wrote about his protagonist, Winston Smith.

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Of course the US is not a totalitarian society, and no equivalent of Big Brother runs it, as the widespread reporting of Snowden’s information shows. We know little about what uses the NSA makes of most information available to it—it claims to have exposed a number of terrorist plots—and it has yet to be shown what effects its activities may have on the lives of most American citizens. Congressional committees and a special federal court are charged with overseeing its work, although they are committed to secrecy, and the court can hear appeals only from the government.

Still, the US intelligence agencies also seem to have adopted Orwell’s idea of doublethink—“to be conscious of complete truthfulness,” he wrote, “while telling carefully constructed lies.” For example, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, was asked at a Senate hearing in March whether “the NSA collect[s] any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper’s answer: “No, sir…. Not wittingly.”

Three months later, following the revelations of the phone-log program in which the NSA collects telephone data—the numbers of both callers and the length of the calls—on hundreds of millions of Americans, Clapper switched to doublethink. He said that his previous answer was not a lie; he just chose to respond in the “least untruthful manner.” With such an Orwellian concept of the truth now being used, it is useful to take a look at what the government has been telling the public about its surveillance activities over the years, and compare it with what we know now as a result of the top secret documents and other information released by, among others, the former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden.

Looking back, the NSA and its predecessors have been gaining secret, illegal access to the communications of Americans for nearly a century. On July 1, 1920, a slim balding man in his early thirties moved into a four-story townhouse at 141 East 37th Street in Manhattan. This was the birth of the Black Chamber, the NSA’s earliest predecessor, and it would be hidden in the nondescript brownstone. But its chief, Herbert O. Yardley, had a problem. To gather intelligence for Woodrow Wilson’s government, he needed access to the telegrams entering, leaving, and passing through the country, but because of an early version of the Radio Communications Act, such access was illegal. With the shake of a hand, however, Yardley convinced Newcomb Carlton, the president of Western Union, to grant the Black Chamber secret access on a daily basis to the private messages passing over his wires—the Internet of the day.

For much of the next century, the solution would be the same: the NSA and its predecessors would enter into secret illegal agreements with the telecom companies to gain access to communications. Eventually codenamed Project Shamrock, the program finally came to a crashing halt in 1975 when a Senate committee that was investigating intelligence agency abuses discovered it. Senator Frank Church, the committee chairman, labeled the NSA program “probably the largest governmental interception program affecting Americans ever undertaken.”

As a result of the decades of illegal surveillance by the NSA, in 1978 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was signed into law and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) came into existence. Its purpose was, for the first time, to require the NSA to get judicial approval for eavesdropping on Americans. Although the court seldom turned down a request for a warrant, or an order as it’s called, it nevertheless served as a reasonable safeguard, protecting the American public from an agency with a troubling past and a tendency to push the bounds of spying unless checked.

For a quarter of a century, the rules were followed and the NSA stayed out of trouble, but following the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration decided to illegally bypass the court and began its program of warrantless wiretapping. “Basically all rules were thrown out the window and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans,” I was told by Adrienne J. Kinne, who in 2001 was a twenty-four-year-old voice intercept operator who conducted some of the eavesdropping. She or her superiors did not have to get a warrant for each interception. “It was incredibly uncomfortable to be listening to private personal conversations of Americans,” she said. “And it’s almost like going through and stumbling and finding somebody’s diary and reading it.”

All during this time, however, the Bush administration was telling the American public the opposite: that a warrant was obtained whenever an American was targeted. “Anytime you hear the United States government talking about a wiretap, it requires—a wiretap requires a court order,” President George W. Bush told a crowd in 2004. “Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.” After exposure of the operation by The New York Times in 2005, however, rather than strengthen the controls governing the NSA’s spying, Congress instead voted to weaken them, largely by codifying into the amendment to FISA what had previously been illegal.

At the same time, rather than calling for prosecution of the telecom officials for their role in illegally cooperating in the eavesdropping program, or at least a clear public accounting, Congress simply granted them immunity not only from prosecution but also from civil suits. Thus, for nearly a century, telecom companies have been allowed to violate the privacy of millions of Americans with impunity.

With the arrival of the Obama administration, the NSA’s powers continued to expand at the same time that administration officials and the NSA continued to deceive the American public on the extent of the spying. In addition to the denial I have mentioned by James Clapper, General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, also blatantly denied that his agency was keeping records on millions of Americans. In March 2012, Wired magazine published a cover story I wrote on the new one-million-square-foot NSA data center being built in Bluffdale, Utah. In the article, I interviewed William Binney, a former high-ranking NSA official who was largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. He quit the agency in 2001 in protest after he saw the system designed mainly for intelligence about foreign threats turned inward on the American public. In the interview, he told how the agency was tapping into the country’s communications and Internet networks. He revealed that it also was secretly obtaining warrantless access to billions of phone records of Americans, including those of both AT&T and Verizon. “They’re storing everything they gather,” he said.

In the months afterward, General Alexander repeatedly denied Binney’s charges. “No…we don’t hold data on US citizens,” he told Fox News, and at an Aspen Institute conference he said, “To think we’re collecting on every US person…that would be against the law.” He added, “The fact is we’re a foreign intelligence agency.”

But the documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA does have a large-scale program to gather the telephone records of every Verizon customer, including local calls, and presumably a similar agreement with AT&T and other companies. These are records of who called whom and when, not of the content of the conversations, although the NSA has, by other methods, access to the content of conversations as well. But the NSA has, on a daily basis, access to virtually everyone’s phone records, whether cell or landline, and can store, data-mine, and keep them indefinitely. Snowden’s documents describing the PRISM program show that the agency is also accessing the Internet data of the nine major Internet companies in the US, including Google and Yahoo.

Snowden’s documents and statements add greatly to an understanding of just how the NSA goes about conducting its eavesdropping and data-mining programs, and just how deceptive the NSA and the Obama administration have been in describing the agency’s activities to the American public. In a video interview conducted in his room in the Mira Hotel, Snowden elaborated on the extent of the NSA’s capabilities. “Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere,” he said.

Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president, if I had a personal e-mail [address].

What Snowden was discussing was the way in which analysts at the NSA can place such things as names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses on target lists, thus causing communications containing those “selectors” to be intercepted. He seemed to be indicating—although this remains to be officially confirmed—that while under FISA, a court order would be required to enter an American on a target list, analysts have the capability to unilaterally bypass the procedure by simply listing a name or e-mail address on the target list. To understand what Snowden is saying, it is necessary to elaborate a bit on the way the NSA conducts its eavesdropping.

Bamford_2-081513.jpgEdward Gorey Charitable Trust

Drawing by Edward Gorey

During the past decade, the NSA has secretly worked to gain access to virtually all communications entering, leaving, or going through the country. A key reason, according to the draft of a top secret NSA inspector general’s report leaked by Snowden, is that approximately one third of all international telephone calls in the world enter, leave, or transit the United States. “Most international telephone calls are routed through a small number of switches or ‘chokepoints’ in the international telephone switching system en route to their final destination,” says the report. “The United States is a major crossroads for international switched telephone traffic.” At the same time, according to the 2009 report, virtually all Internet communications in the world pass through the US. For example, the report notes that during 2002, less than one percent of worldwide Internet bandwidth—i.e., the international link between the Internet and computers—“was between two regions that did not include the United States.”

Accessing this data is possible through a combination of techniques. Through the most effective of them, the NSA can gain direct access to the fiber-optic cables that now carry most kinds of communications data. According to a slide released by Snowden, the cable-tapping operation is codenamed “UPSTREAM” and it is described as the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.” It also appears to be both far more secret and far more invasive than the PRISM program revealed by Snowden. Although PRISM gives the NSA access to data from the individual Internet companies, such as Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft, the companies claim that they don’t give the agency direct access to their servers. Through UPSTREAM, however, the agency does get direct access to fiber-optic cables and the supporting infrastructure that carries nearly all the Internet and telephone traffic in the country.

As part of its cable-tapping program, the NSA has secretly installed what amount to computerized filters on the telecommunications infrastructure throughout the country. According to the leaked inspector general’s report, the agency has secret cooperative agreements with the top three telephone companies in the country. Although the report disguises their names, they are likely AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint:

NSA determined that under the Authorization it could gain access to approximately 81% of the international calls into and out of the United States through three corporate partners: Company A had access to 39%, Company B 28%, and Company C 14%.

The filters are placed at key junction points known as switches. For example, much of the communications—telephone and Internet—to and from the northwestern United States pass through a nearly windowless nine-story building at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco. This is AT&T’s regional switching center. In 2003, the NSA built a secret room in the facility and filled it with computers and software from a company called Narus. Established in Israel by Israelis, and now owned by Boeing, Narus specializes in spyware, equipment that examines both the metadata—the names and addresses of people communicating on the Internet—and the content of digital traffic such as e-mail as it zooms past at the speed of light.

The agency also has access to the telephone metadata—the numbers called and calling and other details—of all Americans. Phone calls from telephone numbers that have been selected as targets can be routed directly to the agency and recorded. According to William Binney, the former NSA senior official, the NSA has established between ten and twenty of these secret rooms at telecom company switches around the country.

It is this daily access to the telephone metadata of all Americans without FISA warrants that the NSA and the Office of National Intelligence tried to hide when they falsely denied that the agency had surveillance records on millions of Americans. For years, the agency also had a nationwide bulk e-mail and Internet metadata collection and storage program, although that was ended in 2011 for “operational and resource reasons,” according to the director of national intelligence.

But according to a joint statement issued on July 2 by senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, the real reason the program was shut down was that the NSA was “unable” to prove the usefulness of the operation. “We were very concerned about this program’s impact on Americans’ civil liberties and privacy rights,” they said, “and we spent a significant portion of 2011 pressing intelligence officials to provide evidence of its effectiveness. They were unable to do so, and the program was shut down that year.” The senators added, “It is also important to note that intelligence agencies made statements to both Congress and the [FISA court] that significantly exaggerated this program’s effectiveness. This experience demonstrates to us that intelligence agencies’ assessment of the usefulness of particular collection program—even significant ones—are not always accurate.”

Speaking on Meet the Press, Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and journalist who wrote the story about the NSA’s collection of phone data for The Guardian, also mentioned a still-secret eighty-page FISA court opinion that, he said, criticized the NSA for violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the FISA statute. According to Greenwald, “it specifically said that they are collecting bulk transmissions, multiple conversations from millions of Americans…and that this is illegal.” The NSA, he said, “planned to try to accommodate that ruling.” On the same program, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, confirmed that the FISA court had issued a critical opinion and said that the NSA had “figured out how to correct that.”

According to The Economist of June 29, “the NSA provided congressional intelligence committees with what it said were over 50 cases in which the programmes disclosed by Mr. Snowden had contributed to the ‘understanding and, in many cases, disruption’ of terrorist plots in America, and over 20 other countries.” In a recent New York Review blog post, Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch and a former federal prosecutor, commented that “upon scrutiny” many of the plots referred to by the NSA

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

At the AT&T facility on Folsom Street and the other locations, fiber-optic cables containing millions of communications enter the building and go into what’s known as a beam-splitter. This is a prism-type device that produces a duplicate, mirror image of the original communications. The original beams, containing Internet data, continue on to wherever they were originally destined. The duplicate beam goes into Room 641A, the NSA’s secret room one floor below, a discovery made by another whistleblower, AT&T technician Mark Klein. There the Narus equipment scans all the Internet traffic for “selectors”—names, e-mail address, words, phrases, or other indicators that the NSA wants to know about. Any message containing a selector is then retransmitted in full to the NSA for further analysis, as are the contents of phone calls selected. With regard to targeted phone numbers, the agency supplies them to the company, which then gives the NSA access to monitor them.

The selectors are inserted by remote control into the Narus equipment by NSA analysts sitting at their desks at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland or at dozens of locations around the world. What Snowden seemed to be saying in his interview is that as long as certain analysts have an e-mail address, for example, they can simply enter that information into the system and retrieve the content of the e-mails sent from and to that address. There are, by his account, no judicial checks and balances to assure that the targeting of an American has been approved by a FISA court order and not just by NSA employees. These claims by Snowden, and other revelations from the documents he released, should be investigated by either a select committee of Congress, such as the Church Committee, or an independent body, like the 9/11 Commission.

While UPSTREAM captures most of the telecommunications—about 80 percent according to Binney—there are still gaps in the coverage. That is where the PRISM program comes in. With PRISM, the NSA is able to go directly to the communications industry, including the major Internet companies, to get whatever they miss from UPSTREAM. According to the top secret inspector general’s report, the “NSA maintains relationships with over 100 US companies,” adding that the US has the “home field advantage as the primary hub for worldwide telecommunications.”

According to a recent slide released by Snowden, the NSA on April 5, 2013, had 117,675 active surveillance targets in the program and was able to access real-time data on live voice, text, e-mail, or Internet chat services, in addition to analyzing stored data.

In the end, both UPSTREAM and PRISM may be only the tips of a much larger system. Another new document released by Snowden says that on New Year’s Eve, 2012, SHELLTRUMPET, a metadata program targeting international communications, had just “processed its One Trillionth metadata record.” Started five years ago, it noted that half of that trillion was added in 2012. It also noted that two more new programs, MOONLIGHTPATH and SPINNERET, “are planned to be added by September 2013.”

One man who was prescient enough to see what was coming was Senator Frank Church, the first outsider to peer into the dark recesses of the NSA. In 1975, when the NSA posed merely a fraction of the threat to privacy it poses today with UPSTREAM, PRISM, and thousands of other collection and data-mining programs, Church issued a stark warning:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology…. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

Church sounds as if he had absorbed the lessons of 1984. From the recent evidence, they are still to be learned.

—July 12, 2013

Carrier IQ Is Watching You – Secret App On Millions Of Phones Logs Key Taps, Geographic Locations & Received Messages Of Users

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Oldspeak:“So apparently it’s not just iPhones that keep a secret record of your movements. Surveillance companies can use your iPhone to take photos of you and your surroundings without your knowledge. If you use an Apple, Android, BlackBerry, or Nokia smartphone then you may be at risk of being illegally wire-tapped by Carrier IQ. Carrier IQ’s “mobile intelligence platform”, currently on at least 150 million devices surreptitiously records keystrokes, SMS messages, and internet search topics. Without your knowledge or consent. It can’t be turned off or opted out of. It’s always running even, when your phone’s screen is off. The ostensible reason given for this spyware on your phone is it is “a diagnostic tool designed to give network carriers and device manufacturers detailed information about the causes of dropped calls and other performance issues.” –Carrier IQ VP of Marketing Andrew Coward I’m not sure what your private information  has to do with dropped calls and performance. But if it’s simply a ‘diagnostic tool’ Why is its purpose not explicitly delineated? Why is it not accessible to users? Why is there no privacy policy as there is with every other app? These troubling questions remain unanswered by Carrier IQ? But more people are beginning to ask questions. “Without controls on this industry, the threat that surveillance poses to freedom on expression and human rights in general is only going to increase.” –Steven Murdoch of Cambridge Security Group “Ignorance Is Strength”

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Does your smartphone run Carrier IQ? Find out here

Secret app on millions of phones logs key taps

By James Mulroy @ PC World:

If you use an Android, BlackBerry, or Nokia smartphone then you may be at risk of being illegally wire-tapped by Carrier IQ–a provider of performance monitoring software for smartphones–according to reports.

Earlier this month, security researcher Trevor Eckhart announced that he found software made by Carrier IQ that may be logging your every move on your mobile phone. Trevor referred to it as a “rootkit“, a piece of software that hides itself while utilizing privileged access like watching your every move. Carrier IQ didn’t take too kindly to this accusation, and responded aggressively with acease-and-desist letter, and went on to deny this accusation. However, to further back his accusation, Eckhart released a video that he says shows the software in action.

In the video, Eckhart navigates to a list of running applications on his phone, and he found that the application IQRD–made by Carrier IQ–was not shown. However, when he searched all of the applications on the device, Eckhart discovered that IQRD showed up with the option to force stop it; therefore, he determined that the app must have been running. However, when he tried to stop the application, the force stop function did absolutely nothing. Additionally, this application always runs when the device is started, according to his research.

After connecting his HTC device to his computer, Trevor found that IQRD is secretly logging every single button that he taps on the phone–even on the touchscreen number pad. IQRD is also shown to be logging text messages.

In the video, Eckhart shows that Carrier IQ is also logging Web searches. While this doesn’t sound all that bad by itself, it suggests that Carrier IQ is logging what happens during an HTTPS connection which is supposed to be encrypted information. Additionally, it can do this over a Wi-Fi connection with no 3G, so even if your phone service is disconnected, IQRD still logs the information.

Wired goes on to say that the application “cannot be turned off without rooting the phone and replacing the operating system.”

While Eckhart tested his accusation on an HTC device it is likely that Carrier IQ is logging information on millions of more devices. According to Carrier IQ (pdf)”Carrier IQ’s Mobile Intelligence platform is currently deployed with more than 150 million devices worldwide.”

While Carrier IQ has since backed off and apologized for its aggressive legal action against Eckhart, this isn’t the end of the story for Carrier IQ. Paul Ohm, a former Justice Department prosecutor and professor at the University of Colorado Law School, told Forbes that this isn’t just creepy, but it’s also likely grounds for a class action lawsuit, citing a federal wiretapping law.

Make sure to check out the video below to see what Trevor discovered.

 

Update, Nov 30, 2011: iOS jailbreak developer Grant Paul (AKA chpwn) points out on Twitter that earlier versions of iOS appear to have included Carrier IQ. And Erica Sadum of The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) notes that iOS 5 makes references to Carrier IQ as well. In the TUAW post, Erica analyzes the Carrier IQ references and concludes that Carrier IQ in iOS 5 doesn’t appear to be collecting much data–if any at all (i.e. it may need to be explicitly turned on). Read her story for the full details.

Update 2: The Verge claims that neither the Nexus-branded Android phones nor the Motorola Xoom tablet include Carrier IQ, and suggests that the carriers insist on including the software. We haven’t been able to verify this, but if you have any more information, feel free to tip us off.

 

 

FBI To Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers As Details Emerge Of Its Spy Campaign Targeting American Activists

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Oldspeak:”While Obama smiles and waves in Puerto Rico, his justice department is wildin the fuck out.  Today in the supposed land of the free, COINTELPRO is on steroids. Political activists who don’t adhere to the status quo are labeled “domestic terrorists”. They are physically and electronically surveiled and intimidated for years, without firm evidence for suspecting criminal activity.  What’s to stop this vast and unaccountable misuse of government power from being turned on non-politically active Americans? “The FBI is giving agents more leeway to conduct domestic surveillance. According to the New York Times, new guidelines will allow FBI agents to investigate people and organizations “proactively” without firm evidence for suspecting criminal activity. The new rules will free up agents to infiltrate organizations, search household trash, use surveillance teams, search databases, conduct lie detector tests, even without suspicion of any wrongdoing.”- Amy Goodman. Best believe the Thought Police are in full effect.

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By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: Civil liberties advocates are raising alarm over news that the FBI is giving agents more leeway to conduct domestic surveillance. According to the New York Times, new guidelines will allow FBI agents to investigate people and organizations “proactively” without firm evidence for suspecting criminal activity. The new rules will free up agents to infiltrate organizations, search household trash, use surveillance teams, search databases, conduct lie detector tests, even without suspicion of any wrongdoing.

The revised guidelines come as the FBI’s existing practices have already come under wide scrutiny. Last month, the New York Times revealed a number of new revelations against activists targeted by domestic spying. One of those activists is 44-year-old Scott Crow, an Austin, Texas resident, self-proclaimed anarchist. He has just learned he was targeted by the FBI from 2001 until at least 2008. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Scott received 440 pages of heavily redacted documents revealing the FBI had traced the license plates of cars parked in front of his home, recorded the arrival and departure of his guests, observed gatherings that he attended at bookstores and cafes. The agency also tracked his emails and phone conversations, picked through his trash to identify his bank and mortgage companies, visited a gun store where he had sought to purchase a rifle for self-defense. Agents monitored—also asked the Internal Revenue Service to examine his tax returns, and even infiltrated activist groups he associated with. While Crow has been arrested a dozen times in his years of activism, he has never faced a charge more serious than trespassing. He is among a growing number of people and groups finding themselves on the receiving end of government spying.

Well, Scott Crow joins us now from Austin, Texas, to tell his story. And we’re also joined from Washington, D.C., by Mike German, national security policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He previously served as an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism from 1988 to 2004.

Mike German, we want to start with you on the most recent news of the new leeway granted to FBI agents, of which you were one years ago, to monitor people, not under any criminal charges or even suspicion. Explain what you understand is happening right now.

MIKE GERMAN: Right. You might remember that in 2008 Attorney General Michael Mukasey altered the attorney general guidelines that govern the FBI’s investigative authorities, and he created a new category of investigations called “assessments.” And these required no factual predicate—in other words, no evidence that anybody had done anything wrong, much less the person who is under investigation. And there are a number of intrusive investigative techniques that were allowed to be used, including physical surveillance, including recruiting and tasking informants, including FBI agents acting in ruse trying to gather information from the subjects of the investigation, conducting interviews, even using grand jury subpoenas to get telephone records.

What the new changes to the FBI’s internal policy is, to allow FBI agents, even without an assessment being open, to search commercial databases—these are subscription services of data aggregators that collect, you know, a broad swath of information and really have a lot of detailed private information about people—and also state and local law enforcement databases. Again, this is without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Without even opening an investigation, agents can start searching for all this private information.

Another increase in their authority is with assessments that they use to determine whether an informant is—whether they can recruit an informant. And one of the things they’re allowed to do is they’re adding trash haul, which means that when you put your garbage out for the garbageman to pick up, it’s an FBI agent picking it up instead, and they go through all this material. And when I asked why they would want to give agents that authority—again, before you have any evidence of wrongdoing—and they said, “Well, it’s often helpful to find something derogatory that could be used to pressure the person into becoming an informant.” So, you know, this is a technique being used specifically to coerce somebody to cooperate against their neighbors or co-workers.

AMY GOODMAN: The FBI declined our interview request today but did send us a statement about the new guidelines. Quoting FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni, saying, quote: “Each proposed change has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of the tools our employees need to accomplish their mission, the possible risks associated with use of those tools, and the controls that are in place. Overall, this is fine tuning, not any major change. The FBI’s authority to use specific investigative tools is determined through the U.S. Constitution, U.S. statutes, executive orders and the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations. The Domestic Investigations Operations Guide cannot and does not confer additional powers to agents beyond that provided by those controlling authorities.” Your thoughts on that, Mike German?

MIKE GERMAN: Well, again, the 2008 attorney general guidelines so loosened the standards for FBI investigations that they’re basically nonexistent. No factual predicate is required. So the idea that agents would be able to start those investigations without even going through an administrative hurdle of opening an assessment, I think, is an expansion of power that is completely unaccountable.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Scott Crow to hear a real-life story. Scott, talk about when you first applied under the Freedom of Information Act to get information about whether the FBI was monitoring you.

SCOTT CROW: Well, there’s a local organization called the Austin People’s Legal Collective. It all came out after Brandon Darby came out as an informant in 2008. Austin People’s Legal Collective decided to put together a FOIA request for about 30 activists, about 40 organizations and about 10 events going back to the year 2000 in Austin. We sent it to multiple field offices around the country and then—to see what we’d get back, to try to build a picture of what kind of surveillance had been going on, if there’s other infiltration. And in that, most—about 50 percent of the documents that came back came back with nothing. About 30 percent came back—people came back with a mention, or a group came back with a mention. And then there was two cases, a case with the woman who organized the Showdown in Texas, which was an event in 2003—there was about 400 pages of documents—and then mine was a case where they had years of extensive documentation going on. And that was kind of the impetus of it all. And through that, I was able to find out that, you know, that I had—there had been five informants in my life. Brandon Darby was just the last one, who had run through our communities. But when we did this, we did it across nine states. And I found out I was investigated in nine states for arsons and other criminal acts that I was never charged with.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Brandon Darby, for those who aren’t familiar, who has become a very familiar name in progressive circles, explain your relationship with him and who he is.

SCOTT CROW: Brandon Darby was a person who had been a friend of mine and been on the edge of the activist community within Austin for a number of years. He and I had gone to New Orleans together, and then I ended up co-founding an organization called Common Ground Relief out of that, out of those actions. And he worked at Common Ground for a couple of years and left, and then he ended up setting up—participating in this case with two men at the Republican National Convention, where he possibly entrapped them, but definitely provoked them into doing actions that they would not normally have done, which they ended up going to prison for. And then he came out as an informant, and it turned out he had been investigating a number of us for a number of years.

AMY GOODMAN: So, when exactly did you get the documents from the FBI? And talk about the extent that they showed of their surveillance of you.

SCOTT CROW: Well, let me—let me backtrack for a second. I first found out that I was listed as a domestic terrorist in 2006. The FBI, in the way that they ended up dealing with a lot of law enforcement around the country is they let the local DAs and the local law enforcement officers know in different cities. So in 2006, they let the DA in Baton Rouge know, and he let the lawyers for the Angola 3 know, and the Angola 3 lawyer told me. And that was the first time I ever heard about it, that I was listed as a domestic terrorist and an animal rights extremist.

And what it did was it opened up this world of possibilities in this kafkaesque world, where I’m not being formally charged with anything, but all of these things are happening. I mean, I could see people sitting out in front of my house for years—I mean, all different kinds of cars. And I’m not a paranoid person. I live a very transparent, open glass house. But I could see all these things happening.

There was a BOLO that was issued, a “be on the lookout” report that was issued in 2008, in the Austin Police Department that said I might injure police officers, burn down police cars, or incite riots. And the way I knew about it is because people from the city that I had worked with told me that they saw this poster with my picture on it. Now, again, I couldn’t do anything about this. Well, finally, in 2010, I get these documents that list me as a domestic terrorist since 2001, and it starts—the picture starts to become clearer on all of the things that the FBI has been doing across states, across multiple states, to investigate me and to sow dissent, basically, amongst local and regional law enforcement.

AMY GOODMAN: Some of the redacted FBI documents that show the surveillance of you, Scott, have been posted on the New York Times website. One FBI report describes the meeting of an activist group that you were a part of, saying, quote, “Most attendees dressed like hippies, had [dreadlocks] (both men and women), and smelled of bad odor.” Another report has the extensive details on the contents of your trash.

SCOTT CROW: I mean, those two incidences just scratch the surface. The infiltration happened over and over again in different groups, in different events. There would be law enforcement and informants and people gathering information at all different levels—city, county, state and federal authorities—and private security, too. It’s a revolving door between that sharing information and all of these things. Going through the trash was part of it.

But really, what was—to me, what I think we should talk about is that—how much money they spent investigating me, and not charging me with anything. You know, like, if I’m the tip of the iceberg and there’s other people in other communities that they’re doing this with, how much is the government spending to do something like this? And what kind of chilling effect does it have on activist communities and on us as citizens in this country?

AMY GOODMAN: How extensive, in terms of throughout the United States, was the monitoring of you, Scott? What have you figured out at this point?

SCOTT CROW: Well, they investigated me in nine states, like I said, in 12 field offices. There was five informants. There was one in Austin, two in Houston, one in Dallas and one in Detroit. I could only identify three of those people. The other ones I can’t even identify who they are, people I might have come in contact with over and over again. But they’re targeting—but what we found out through these FOIAs—

AMY GOODMAN: They went to—they went out—

SCOTT CROW:—and through other FOIAs that—

AMY GOODMAN: They went out to the IRS to investigate you, as well?

SCOTT CROW: Absolutely. They sent a letter to the IRS to see if they could get me for tax evasion. And luckily, my partner Ann and I had always had our taxes done, because we had owned our own businesses for the longest time, and they found—the IRS came back and said they couldn’t—there was nothing they could do about it. And there seemed to be a consternation at the FBI about that.

They also used closed-circuit television on a house in Dallas that I lived in, and then in Austin, where they put cameras across—on poles across the streets from my house. The levels that they went to, I think, are unimaginable to most people, because it’s what you hear about in movies or what people fear the most about it. But pretty much anything that you can think of that they did, except for kicking my door in, happened to me. I was threatened with grand juries, the trash digging, which they did on two occasions on the trash digging, being visited at my work and visited at my home. You know, Mike German spoke to, earlier, how they try to put pressure on people to give information. I was first visited by the FBI in 1999. That was the first time I ever heard the words “domestic terrorism” and “animal rights” used together. And also, not only did they try to implicate me in some crimes in Dallas or say that I had—or suggest that I had some responsibility for those crimes, then they tried to use that pressure to get me to give information on other people.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you were—

SCOTT CROW: And so, how many people is that happening to across the country?

AMY GOODMAN: That is a very important question. Mike German, you’re with the ACLU. There have been a number of raids. These are the obvious—you know, more obvious manifestations of this, raids in Chicago and Minneapolis of activists’ homes. Can you talk about how wide this surveillance is and what you understand is happening in other parts of the country?

MIKE GERMAN: Sure. I think, like Scott said, we only see the tip of the iceberg. But in 2004, 2005 and 2006, the ACLU issued a number of Freedom of Information Act requests for Joint Terrorism Task Force investigations against a number of political—politically active groups who suspected that they were spied on, the same way Scott did. And we uncovered widespread surveillance of different, you know, peace and justice groups, environmental groups, all kinds of different groups. And that, in turn, started an inspector general investigation that was just released in September of 2010 that showed that the FBI was opening these investigations with what they called factually weak predicates, sometimes even speculative predicates. So it wasn’t that they thought that the groups were involved in any criminal activity now, but just that it was a possibility in the future they might be. Well, of course, that’s true for all of us. We all might be future criminals. And that was the sole criteria that the FBI was using to open preliminary inquiries.

Now, these are supposed to be predicated investigations where there is some factual basis. And these investigations, unfortunately, the IG only looked at the cases that the ACLU had already uncovered. He didn’t look beyond those. But what he found was those investigations remained open for years, with no evidence of wrongdoing, that the victims of these investigations would be put on terrorist watch lists. And, you know, you can imagine, for a political activist, you know, kind of like Scott recounted, when the FBI is going around telling local officials that this political activist is a terrorist, that cripples their ability to be effective in their advocacy. And it creates a huge chilling effect that affects not just the people under investigation, but others active on those political issues, and even further, people who want to be active but feel it’s not worth it to come under that kind of surveillance. So it has a real serious effect on our democracy. And that’s really, you know, one of the most dangerous parts about this.

AMY GOODMAN: How has the FBI changed from Bush to Obama? I mean, Robert Mueller has now been head of the FBI for almost 10 years under Bush and Obama.

MIKE GERMAN: You know, this meeting that we were brought to about the expansion of the FBI’s authority last month was really the first opportunity. We were hoping, because we criticized the 2008 guidelines that were put in place in December of 2008—so, literally just a month before the Obama administration took over—we had criticized those heavily, so we were hoping that what we were going to hear was that our criticism had been heard and that they were going to scale back some of the things they were doing. One of the things that we’re still working on is an authority the FBI has given itself in their internal guidelines that allows them to collect racial and ethnic demographic data and to map racial and ethnic communities and collect racial and ethnic behavioral information, whatever that is. And we’re trying to use Freedom of Information Act to get at that information, but it’s difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Crow, what are your plans right now? And I want to ask Mike German also, what kind of recourse does someone like Scott have, now that you’ve learned the extent of the surveillance? Do you even know, Scott, right now if you’re be monitored?

SCOTT CROW: I assume that I am, because my documents ended in 2008. They said that was all that there was. And just to clarify, they gave me 500 pages of 1,200 pages. So there’s still 700 pages more to get. We’re going to sue to try to get the rest of them and try to get the redactions taken away, so we can see what was going on. But my biggest thing is not to—to tell people not to be afraid, because everything that people fear I’ve had happen to me, and I’m still OK. And I don’t mean that in a cavalier way, because it’s been definitely traumatizing at different points, but if we don’t come out and be open about this, then they’ve already won, and the surveillance and the “war on terror” wins against us.

AMY GOODMAN: And Mike German, the kind of recourse people have? How do they even find out if they are the subject of surveillance?

MIKE GERMAN: It’s very difficult. I mean, one of the things that we’re just finding out in a California case is that the FBI and the Department of Justice have been interpreting a portion of the Freedom of Information Act to allow them to falsely say they do not have responsive documents when they do. So it makes unclear whether the government is even being upfront about whether they have documents that they’re not giving you. So it’s very difficult, but we’re working with the Freedom of Information Act the best we can. We’re working through the courts, and we’re working on Capitol Hill, trying to get our elected representatives to realize how important this is to the American public and to our democracy. If people are afraid to engage in political activism, that’s ultimately going to hurt us more than, you know, the waste of resources and other aspects of this that are also untenable.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both very much for being with us, Mike German, national security policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, formerly an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism, and thank you to Scott Crow, Austin-based activist targeted by FBI surveillance. His book Black Flags and Windmills is set to be published in August.

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Deserving Neither Liberty Nor Safety: The Patriot Act & The FBI’s Long-Term Assault on Civil Liberties In America

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2011 at 9:34 am

Oldspeak:” In the wake of the Congress and Obama’s reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT ACT (sans Candidate Obama’s promised reviews and reforms, complete with ‘secret’ interpretations of the laws’ provisions) rest assured that violations of your 4th amendment rights will continue unabated.  “This assault on the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance, has some startling ramifications. The FBI can not only search your home or business, but also listen to your phone conversations, monitor your computer and Internet use, and search your medical, financial, library, and academic records. All this without ever letting you know…Moreover, the FBI gets to label any group it wants as supporting terrorism. Did you give money to the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid in South Africa? Did you support CISPES, an organization trying to change U.S. policy in El Salvador and Central America? If you did and you are not a citizen, you could join the thousands who have been rounded up, questioned, and held in indefinite detention, without charges and without access to legal representation. Two U.S. citizens have also been imprisoned in this manner, establishing a chilling precedent for the future, no matter what their supposed crimes.” –Fred Nagel.  Yet another disheartening example of President Obama extending and unchanging an unconstitutional, anti-democratic, police state promoting Bush era policy. It’s getting harder and harder to distinguish these tactics, secret police, the spying, the intimidation, the warrantless searches, from those used by the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.   The “War On Americans” is still going strong, and Americans are losing. They’re losing HUGE.”

Related Story: FBI’s Counterterrorism Operations Scrutinizing Political Activists

 

Related Story: Spying on U.S Citizens — Uncle Sam turns his multi-billion dollar espionage network on U.S Citizens

By Fred Nagel @ Z Magazine:

Visiting Budapest in the early nineties, after the fall of the Soviet Union, I had a chance to talk to some Hungarians about their lives during and after the Soviet occupation. I was particularly interested in the secret police. Did they feel safer now that they couldn’t be taken away in the middle of the night for something they had said or written? One woman’s response was typical. “They would never
come for me,” she said. “They came for our writers, our intellectuals, but never for me; I was never scared.”

Perhaps the average American thought the same way about the USA PATRIOT Act, passed within a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Certainly members of Congress felt that way. The act was over 300 pages long, and most simply did not have time to read it in the rush for passage.

They should have. It gives our government the right to secretly investigate individuals and groups if they violate criminal laws and their actions “appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population…” Cutting a fence, throwing a stone, or crossing a police barrier in pursuit of civil rights, protecting the environment, or protesting the World Trade Organization would certainly qualify.

And only one member of a group needs to engage in this type of action for the whole group to be investigated. The USA PATRIOT Act does away with the need for a search warrant, the process that requires the government to show a judge some good reason for snooping in your house (reasonable cause that there is evidence relevant to a crime). This assault on the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance, has some startling ramifications. The FBI can not only search your home or business, but also listen to your phone conversations, monitor your computer and Internet use, and search your
medical, financial, library, and academic records. All this without ever letting you know.

As an example, librarians were put on notice that it is a violation of law to let any library user know that his/her records have ever been checked. And hundreds of libraries report that records have been checked, although they are forbidden to reveal the specifics. There can be little doubt that homes have also been searched, patient records copied, etc. since passage of this act. Could my house or
computer be searched simply because I wrote this article? In the brave, new world of the USA PATRIOT Act, anything is possible.

Indefinite imprisonment without charges and without evidence used to be unthinkable as well. But the USA PATRIOT Act allows this for non-citizens who are members of a designated “terrorist organization.” Moreover, the FBI gets to label any group it wants as supporting terrorism. Did you give money to the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid in South Africa? Did you support CISPES, an organization trying to change U.S. policy in El Salvador and Central America? If you did and you are not a citizen, you could join the thousands who have been rounded up, questioned, and held in indefinite detention, without charges and without access to legal representation. Two U.S. citizens have also been imprisoned in this manner, establishing a chilling precedent for the future, no matter what their supposed crimes. The line has clearly been crossed, and as a citizen of this country,
you can be locked up and denied your most basic rights, based on evidence you may never even find out about.

Secret military tribunals have been set up to try immigrants and other foreigners for terrorism, with the death penalty a distinct possibility. Even U.S. citizens who are allowed access to a lawyer may have their conversations monitored if the attorney general “suspects” that terrorist activity is involved. Good-bye to another very basic right we have come to expect, that of attorney/client
privilege. The Total Information Awareness database, organized as part of the Bush Era’s Department of Homeland Security, was a omonous step toward a police state. Masterminded by Admiral John Poindexter (criminally convicted in 1990 for lying to Congress, destroying official documents, and obstruction of justice), this database would have collected every bit of information that existed on
every citizen in this country. A massive public outcry stopped that program before it was put into place. But since then, the goverment’s surveillance programs have multiplied dramatically, especially under Obama, who signed the extension of the USA PATRIOT Act without any reforms at all. Currently, the Justice Department is trying to get a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling against planting GPS devices without a warrant.

“Big deal,” you reply. “The FBI has been doing all this stuff for years. Where have you been?” Well, it has been doing this since 1908, when Congress first refused to authorize the FBI (at that time the Bureau of Investigation), explaining that “a system of spying upon and espionage of the people, such as has prevailed in Russia” was unacceptable in a free society. The president then created the FBI
while Congress was not in session.

The clearest and most reliable source of FBI history is the Church Committee Report, a congressional investigation of the Bureau conducted in 1975. According to this report, the FBI was in trouble by the 1920s when agents carried out the “Palmer Raids” that eventually rounded up 10,000 citizens in what was termed “indiscriminate arrests of innocent with the guilty” as well as “unlawful seizures by federal detectives.” The Church Committee also cited reports by legal scholars that “found federal agents guilty of using third-degree tortures, making illegal searches and arrests, using agents provocateurs.” A young man, J. Edgar Hoover, joined
the Bureau in time to take part in these raids .

By the 1950s Hoover, as head of the FBI, was one of the most powerful men in the country. He used his investigators to collect information on a broad range of public figures and had no scruples when it came to using that information to influence congressional votes or presidential decisions. It was under Hoover that COINTELPRO was born, a comprehensive system of surveillance that the Church Committee found “had no conceivable rational relationship to either national security or violent activity. The unexpressed major premise of much of COINTELPRO is that the Bureau has a role in maintaining the existing social order, and that its efforts should be aimed toward combating those who threaten that order.” Combating the civil rights movement, the American Indian Movement, and the anti-Vietnam War movement to be specific. The FBI served as thought police of the 1950s and 1960s.

The mindless destruction caused by COINTELPRO is still coming to light. Martin Luther King Jr. was a particular target. Over several years, the FBI wiretapped King’s home and office phones and put bugs in his hotel rooms. At the same time, it worked to deny him awards and honorary degrees, and even tried to prevent an audience with Pope Paul VI. Hoover was quick to exploit the results of the wiretaps, proof of King’s illicit affairs that he then had his agents mail to King’s supporters and to the media. Finally, the FBI mailed copies of bedroom tapes to King himself, along with an anonymous letter suggesting he commit suicide rather than having his wife, family, and the nation know about his marital infidelity.

The FBI vendetta against other African-American and Indian groups was just as brutal. Leonard Peltier sits in a federal prison today, framed for a murder that most historians doubt he committed. The role of the FBI in his extradition from Canada and the withholding of more than 12,000 FBI documents from his trial is another low point in the violation of civil liberties. Among the documents withheld was a ballistic test that proved that the fatal bullets could not have come from the gun tied to Mr. Peltier at the trial. According to Amnesty International, he is a “political prisoner” who should be “immediately and unconditionally released.”

The Church Committee Report was released in 1976. Senator Frank Church told the nation at that time that the FBI’s COINTELPRO had been “a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association.” He also reassured U.S. citizens “that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers a threat to the established order.”  But by 1980, things were back to normal for the FBI, at least according to Frank Varelli, who infiltrated a CISPES office in Dallas for the Bureau that year. In an in-depth statement to Congress in 1987, he revealed a complicated but all too familiar pattern of surveillance, theft, and dirty tricks directed at this legal and nonviolent organization.

CISPES was founded to promote peace in El Salvador. Specifically, it worked to expose U.S. military aid that funded right-wing death squads operating there. Varelli was hired by the FBI as part of an “international terrorism investigation,” but his tactics included the familiar cameras and sound equipment in bedrooms, this time as part of an attempt to smear and blackmail the Dallas head of CISPES, a nun by the name of Sister Linda Hajak. Varelli also provided the Salvadoran National Guard with lists of U.S. citizens traveling there “who were not friendly to Reagan policies.” Just one year before Varelli supplied these lists, three nuns and one church worker, all U.S. citizens, had been raped and murdered in El Salvador by members of this same National Guard. The FBI has admitted to launching this investigation from 1981 through 1985 but has refused to reveal on what legal authority it did so. More than 50 CISPES offices were broken into during this period. In 1990, it was the turn of the environmental movement. Two activists, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, were arrested and accused of making and transporting bombs, a charge the FBI knew was false. Historian and writer,Howard Zinn’s testimony in a successful lawsuit against the FBI says it all. “It seems clear that the history of the FBI is consistent with the charges that it sought to discredit and ‘neutralize’ Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, and the environmental cause they were working for, by smearing them publicly with sensational false charges of possession of a bomb,
and that it did not hesitate to violate their constitutional rights to achieve its ends.”

The fact that the average U.S. citizen is unaware of all of this is a testament to the FBI’s skill at public relations. Of course, the FBI has done some excellent crime fighting in its history. But even its campaign against the Mafia has been exaggerated in the media. Anti-crime efforts in places like Boston are now being exposed for what they were. The FBI  allied itself with certain crime families to arrest and take the credit for convicting members of other families. It was a little crime fighting and a lot of PR, a Hoover legacy that extends into the 21st century. How many movies and TV shows were influenced by the Bureau over the last 40 years? That is where you and I learned about the FBI. The FBI, as well as similar federal law enforcement agencies, has done a much better job of protecting us from dissent than of protecting us from crime for all these years. And as for terrorists, in the entire history of the FBI there were precious few of those caught among the tens of thousands detained, bugged, discredited, falsely charged, and publicly humiliated. Looking at the history of the FBI, is it any wonder that 19 men were able to board four domestic airliners and fly them with such deadly accuracy into their targets? They learned to fly at U.S. flight schools while the Bureau was busy tracking down and playing dirty tricks on students protesting free trade and the World Bank. Police forces all across this land have followed the
lead of the FBI in snooping.

The Denver Police Department revealed a 40-year program of gathering and storing information on the usual suspects: Sister Antonia Anthony, a 74-year-old nun who taught destitute Indians, and Shirley Whiteside, who with her husband ran a community soup kitchen. These were the types of people labeled “criminal extremists” in the database developed by Orion, a software company with ties to the Pentagon. When asked how more than 3,000 Denver citizens ended up with this label, the police said that it was up to each officer to “use his own judgment” in characterizing people. The label “criminal extremist” was often used when a person didn’t seem to fit any other category. There just doesn’t seem to be much hesitation when it comes to spying on and labeling this country’s citizens. It is done from the FBI all the way down to the local police.

On Friday, September 24, 2010, the FBI raided seven homes and an antiwar office. Fourteen activist in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan were also handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury. The usual groups were targeted: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. All had been involved in the antiwar marches at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
Tracy Molm was one of the activists targeted in the early morning raid.

“I heard a pounding on my door in my apartment complex; that was pretty bizarre. I opened the door and they shoved their way in saying ‘We are FBI agents and we have a warrant.’ I was in my bathrobe and they told me I had to sit on my couch, and they were going to search my apartment. They pulled my roommate and a friend out of her room and told them to sit on the couch too. They took my phone from me. And they took my computer. They proceeded to go through everything in our apartment. If we wanted to go to the bathroom, a FBI agent had to come with us. We were told we could leave, but couldn’t come back. “I was outraged and stunned. I never thought in my wildest dreams that this could happen. Everything I have ever done has been around peace and justice issues around the world, and particularly U.S. foreign policy. So it was really surprising. I was on a delegation to the West Bank, in the occupied territories in 2004, which is six years ago. And they said this is in regards to that.” I have never much liked Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote about civil liberties: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It seemed a little elitist, suggesting that some people haven’t earned the right to enjoy freedom of expression. Perhaps they have no need for it, like the woman in Budapest saying that the secret police would never come for her. But maybe Franklin was simply saying he had done his part and the rest was up to us.

In many ways, we have failed Ben Franklin and we have failed ourselves. I like to think that there is still time to win back our basic civil liberties in the land of the free, home of the brave. To get involved, make a donation or find out more go to http://www.stopfbi.net.
Fred Nagel is an activist writer, filmmaker,and radio show host ; his website is classwars.org.

Inside Obama’s “Orwellian World” Where Whistleblowing Has Become Espionage: The Case Of Thomas Drake

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency, faces some of the gravest charges that can be brought against an American citizen. Photograph by Martin Schoeller.

Oldspeak:”In this supposed era of “hope” and “change” and “transparency in government”, truth tellers are catching hell. Why has the Obama Administration prosecuted more whistleblowers (who’ve dutifully reported waste, mismanagement and criminal activity) THAN ALL OTHER PREVIOUS PRESIDENTS COMBINED?! Why have laws been passed to protect the lawbreakers?! Thomas Drake is facing 35 years in prison for telling the truth, but bankers who lied and stole and crashed the U.S. economy are walking around free and with your money. Change I can’t believe in.”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake faces 35 years in prison on espionage charges for alleged unauthorized “willful retention” of five classified documents. “Espionage is the last thing my whistleblowing and First Amendment activities and actions were all about,” Drake said recently in a public speech. “This has become the specter of a truly Orwellian world where whistleblowing has become espionage.” According to The New Yorker, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined. We play excerpts of Thomas Drake’s first public comments and talk to former Justice Department whistleblower, Jesselyn Radack.

Jesselyn Radack, former Department of Justice whistleblower. She is currently the homeland security director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization.
Thomas Drake, National Security Agency whistleblower. Democracy Now! airs excerpts of his speech last month at the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling award ceremony. Watch his “full remarks”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14f16JUFaHo

AMY GOODMAN: A new exposé by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker magazine has revealed more details about the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers. The article focuses on former National Security Agency analyst Thomas Drake, who’s being prosecuted for leaking information about waste and mismanagement at the agency. Drake was the source for a Baltimore Sun series on the NSA’s overspending and failure to properly maintain its large trove of domestic spy data.

Drake faces 35 years in prison for espionage but isn’t actually accused of spying. Instead, he’s accused of holding on to classified documents in his basement that he says he didn’t know were classified. His trial is set to begin next month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Overall, The New Yorker magazine reports, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined. Gabriel Schoenfeld of the Hudson Institute said, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

Drake received the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling last month. In his acceptance speech, he criticized the prosecution of whistleblowers.

THOMAS DRAKE: Truth tellers, such as myself, are those who are simply doing their jobs and honoring their oaths to serve their nation under the law of the land. We are dedicated to the proposition that government service is of, for, by the people. We emphatically do not serve in order to manipulate on behalf of the powerful, nor to conceal unlawful, illegal or embarrassing secrets from the public, because truth does matter. Truth may be inconvenient. It may cause embarrassment. It may threaten the powers that be and their unlawful activities, but it is still the truth. I have but this one life to live.

AMY GOODMAN: That was whistleblower Thomas Drake.

For more, we’re joined by Jesselyn Radack in Washington, D.C., homeland security director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group. Radack is a former ethics adviser to the Department of Justice, who herself came under attack after bringing to light ethic violations in the FBI’s interrogation procedures, particularly in relation to John Walker Lindh, when she warned those involved with taking him back to the United States that he needed to be able to have access to his lawyer.

Jesselyn Radack, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about, first, Thomas Drake and the significance of Thomas Drake’s case.

JESSELYN RADACK: This case is hugely significant. I’m glad it’s finally being put under a microscope and looked at for the farce that it is. It has huge implications that the Obama administration is not only prosecuting whistleblowers, but doing so under the Espionage Act, which is meant to go after spies, not whistleblowers. And it’s even more ironic because this is coming from an administration whose mantra is to look forward, not backwards at torture and warrantless wiretapping. But apparently it’s willing to look backwards at the people who blew the whistle on precisely that kind of wrongdoing. So this—again, legally, it could set a terrible precedent for both sources and for journalists, but on a larger level, for secrecy and the secret surveillance state. And it would be a backdoor way of creating an Official Secrets Act in this country, which we don’t have.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play more of what Thomas Drake has to say. He spoke for the first time to Jane Mayer. But I think it’s important to hear him in his own words. He was awarded the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling by the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. The organizations said he risked his career and freedom when he “exposed the ethical, budgetary and acquisition shortcomings” at the Nation Security Agency, the NSA, including a multibillion-dollar program that was designed to analyze communications data. This is another excerpt of his speech.

THOMAS DRAKE: I have already paid a frightfully high price for being a whistleblower. But worse still lies ahead of me. Although I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution and faithfully upheld the law of the land over a public service career spanning more than 20 years, I now stand before you as a criminal defendant, with my own life and liberty very much at stake, in a public trial set to begin on 13 June in Baltimore, Maryland.

My case is centered on a government prosecution bent not on serving justice, but on meting out retaliation, reprisal and retribution for the purpose of relentlessly punishing a whistleblower. Furthermore, my case is one that sends a most chilling message to other would-be whistleblowers: not only can you lose your job, but also your very freedom.

The government made my cooperation with official investigations a criminal act. It is now apparently a federal crime to report illegalities, malfeasance, fraud, waste and abuse perpetrated by our own government. The government is making whistleblowing a crime. They are making dissent a crime, especially when it embarrasses the government and calls the government to account. What is the difference between my situation and that of the Chinese artist who was detained when trying to leave his country because Chinese authorities deemed him a threat to national security?

The fact remains that the heart of my case rests directly on whistleblowing and First Amendment activities involving issues of significant and even grave concern in terms of government illegalities, contract and program malfeasance, as well as fraud, waste and abuse, protected by the Constitution, case law and statutes. And yet the government is censoring and criminally prosecuting protected communications I made in furtherance of government investigations, and doing so under the Espionage act. Espionage is the last thing my whistleblowing and First Amendment activities and actions were all about. This has become the specter of a truly Orwellian world where whistleblowing has become espionage.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Thomas Drake, who faces 35 years in prison for espionage. I want to talk about Thomas Tamm. He is the former U.S. Justice Department attorney who helped expose the Bush administration’s domestic warrantless eavesdropping program that intercepted private email messages and phone calls of U.S. residents without a court warrant. Thomas Tamm and Thomas Drake have a lot in common. They both blew the whistle on malfeasance and illegality at the National Security Agency. However, Drake still faces 35 years in prison, while Tamm is no larger the target of criminal inquiry. I asked Thomas Tamm recently on Democracy Now! why he believes the charges against him were dropped.

THOMAS TAMM: I mean, it’s very difficult to prosecute someone such as myself, recognizing that what I did was reveal something that was against the law. And I also believe that it would have been a problem proving the case against me, because President Bush, the day after that article was published, basically acknowledged that the program existed. In fact, he almost seemed like he was proud of the fact that there was warrantless wiretapping, you know, to supposedly protect the country. In my opinion, he revealed more classified information than I ever did. And the bottom line is, as we mentioned earlier, I didn’t turn over any documents, I didn’t reveal any sources. And really, the bottom line is, I don’t think I ever broke the law.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Thomas Tamm. Jesselyn, tell us why Thomas Drake is receiving such different treatment.

JESSELYN RADACK: I think—I mean, interestingly, Thomas Drake landed on the government’s radar screen as part of the massive million-dollar ongoing leak investigation, leak investigation, that it launched after the publication of the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning story on warrantless wiretapping. I think, basically, you know, it defies any meaningful reason that people like Tom Tamm, who admitted to being sources for the Times, are not prosecuted—not that I want Tom Tamm to be prosecuted. Neither he nor Drake should be prosecuted. But it goes to why they’re going after Drake. And I think that they feel they need to bring home a scalp as a result of this sprawling investigation that has eaten up the time of five full-time prosecutors and 25 FBI agents. And it certainly is deserving of a little oversight by Congress and some auditing by the GAO. I think that’s why they’re going after Drake. I think they also like the Drake case because they can go after him without having to go after or implicate or target a reporter. I think that’s another reason. For whatever reasons, I mean, it really is perplexing why they’re doing this, why the Obama administration, in particular, is doing this.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you have this differential treatment. Former Bush administration officials, if we all remember, John Deutch, the former CIA director, who had classified information at home, Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general, both faced much less stringent punishment after taking classified documents home without authorization. Even Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, smuggled classified documents out of a federal building, reportedly by hiding them in his pants or his socks. What about this differential treatment?

JESSELYN RADACK: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s selective prosecution and, I would argue, an abusive prosecution. First of all, you don’t—I mean, you have people like Bob Woodward publishing books with much higher-level, tippy-top classified information, not [no audio]. And then you have other people who have taken home classified information, on purpose, who get a slap on the wrist. And then you have Tom Drake, who is alleged to have taken home classified information, but we’re talking about five very innocuous pieces of information that were only deemed to be classified after they were seized from his home and after the government did a forced classification review of them. I mean, it’s definitely selective and, I think, quite vindictive.

AMY GOODMAN: Also from Jane Mayer’s explosive piece in The New Yorker, she quotes Mark Klein, the former AT&T employee who exposed the telecom company wiretaps, also dismayed by the Thomas Drake case. Mark Klein says, “I think it’s outrageous. The Bush people have been let off. The telecom companies [got] immunity. The only people Obama has prosecuted are the whistle-blowers.” Jesselyn Radack?

JESSELYN RADACK: Right, that is absolutely correct. Again, you would think as part of the “we’re going to look forward, not backwards, at wrongdoing,” that that would preclude—I mean, if that precludes going after the people who engaged in torture and warrantless wiretapping, then it really adds insult to injury to be going after a whistle [no audio] break, who blew the whistle on secret domestic surveillance programs that were selected over cheap, effective programs that had built-in privacy protections to protect U.S. citizens. And it sends a very chilling message to whistleblowers, on whose back Obama was elected. Obama was elected in part based on revelations that were brought forth by whistleblowers revealing torture and electronic eavesdropping. So it’s really a slap in the face that this is being done to Drake. But more than that, it’s the clanging of jail doors, because they’re trying to put him away for the rest of his natural life, which is completely unacceptable.

I urge everybody to take a closer look at this case. And we have a petition onchange.org—just type in “Tom Drake”—calling for some desperately needed congressional oversight here, because there has been none.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesselyn Radack, we just have a minute to go, but I wanted to quickly ask you about John Walker Lindh, because he remains in jail. We interviewed his parents—I encourage people to go to our website—for an hour about his case. But quickly say what it was that you did that caused you to be pushed out of the Justice Department and where the case stands today.

JESSELYN RADACK: I was an ethics attorney at the Justice Department, so I’m really laughing over the last segment about John Ashcroft now being an ethics counsel for Blackwater. But I had advised not to interrogate a U.S. citizen without his counsel, and parenthetically, not to torture him. I didn’t think my advice was particularly radical, but the Justice Department sought to put me under a criminal investigation and refer me to the state bars and put me on the no-fly list. However, that pales in comparison to what is being done to Tom Drake, who they’re threatening to imprison for telling the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: And interesting, it was John Ashcroft, the attorney general, under whom you worked, who said he was given full access to an attorney, when in fact you understood that he was interrogated without an attorney, though his father said he had one for him.

JESSELYN RADACK: All public records support that he did, in fact, have an attorney and that he was tortured and interrogated, even though he signed a plea agreement saying that he would never sue for being tortured. It’s clear that he had an attorney, and they were not allowing him access to James Brosnahan. That’s name of the attorney who had been retained to represent him.

In a similar kind of way, Drake tried to cooperate with the government and tried to report high-level criminal wrongdoing at the NSA. And again, instead of investigating that criminal wrongdoing that led to one of the greatest scandals of my generation, instead they have chosen to go after Tom Drake, Tom Tamm, Russell Tice, people who were blowing the whistle on that misconduct, although people who engaged in it have gotten off scot-free, and laws have been passed to protect those lawbreakers.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesselyn Radack, I want to thank you for being with us, former ethics adviser to the U.S. Department of Justice, currently homeland security director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization.