To state the central fact baldly: the amount of data that the NSA now amasses is almost entirely useless with regard to the NSA’s stated goals. Yet they are undeterred: they want still more data. Make no mistake. Their ultimate aim, the final goal of all this hysterically frenzied activity, is to know everything about everyone. This is the chimera of ‘control’ run amok. Their profoundly damaged psychologies permit them to believe that if they know everything, they will be able to direct events in the way they wish: what they wish to happen is all that will happen, and nothing else at all will ever occur. … This has nothing to do with ‘policy,’ about national security or any other subject. This is severe neurosis, and it is the expression of badly damaged human beings whose overriding emotion is terror: of the world, of life, of everything and anything which happens and which is not subject to their direct orders.
Arthur Silber, Dying for Control (I): Neurosis and Terror as National “Policy”

(Source: theamericanbear)

During the George W Bush administrations, many liberals found the expansion of the security state a grave threat to Americans’ civil liberties. No longer. Since the second world war, the US civil libertarian agenda gains traction only when the Democratic Party is in opposition, as in the early 1970s. As soon as the Democrats occupy the executive branch, such concerns evaporate. Today, many Democrat-oriented intellectuals assure the public that their objection is not to government intrusiveness itself but only to such techniques being in the hands of the wrong political party — ‘a common response by liberals who cannot bring themselves to denounce Obama as they did Bush,’ wrote the jurist Jonathan Turley. Former officials of the Bush-Cheney administration have applauded Obama’s normalisation of the post 9/11 security state. (Dick Cheney has been particularly effusive.)
Chase Madar

The “silence of the liberals.”

(via theamericanbear)



Gayane Chichakyan of RT interviews Thomas Andrews Drake. Drake was a senior executive of one of America’s biggest intelligence agencies at the beginning of the 2000’s.

He was an expert on electronic eavesdropping and had top secret security clearance. He was also a decorated United States Air Force and United States Navy veteran, computer software expert, linguist, management and leadership specialist. Then Mr Drake essentially sacrificed his career to blow the whistle on his agency’s wrongdoings, as he saw them.

He was then charged under the Espionage Act, and only last year the charges were dropped.

In 2010, the U.S. government alleged that he ‘mishandled’ documents, one of the few such Espionage Act cases in U.S. history. His defenders claim that he was instead being persecuted for challenging the Trailblazer Project. He is the 2011 recipient of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and co-recipient of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) award.

On June 9, 2011, all 10 original charges against him were dropped. He rejected several deals because he refused to “plea bargain with the truth”. He eventually pleaded to one misdemeanor count for exceeding authorized use of a computer; Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who helped represent him, called it an act of “Civil Disobedience.” The interview makes for very interesting listening, as they discuss the fact that the NSA (National Security Agency had a secret deal with the White House after 9/11, that made the NSA responsible for a secret surveillance program. They also discuss the current situation with whistleblowers and also with the Flame and Stuxnet viruses, created by the U.S. government.

“You go after the messenger because the last thing you want to do is deal with the message. You’re talking about all the activities, the secret surveillance, the warrantless wiretapping, torture, rendition, drone strikes, and a whole host of other measures that I would assert are extra-constitutional. Not only do they violate our own law, but they also violate a number of international laws.

Go after the messenger and not the message because to actually discuss or address the message becomes very uncomfortable. Essentially, what’s happened is that law—and we’re a nation of law—if we start to part (which we have in a very significant way), moving away from being a nation of laws and simply leaving it up to policy as a substitute, we’re going down a very slippery slope in the United States of America.”

On the dramatic expansion of the surveillance of American citizens on the part of the National Security Agency (NSA)


With Morris Berman:

On 19 July 2010 the Washington Post reported that 854,000 people work for the National Security Agency in thirty-three building complexes amounting to 17 million square feet of space, in the DC Metro and suburban area. Every day, collection systems at the NSA intercept and store 1.7 billion emails and phone calls of American citizens, in what amounts to a vast domestic spy system. Writing in the New Yorker on 23 May 2011, Jane Mayer reported that the NSA has three times the budget of the CIA, and has the capacity to download, every six hours, electronic communications equivalent to the entire contents of the Library of Congress. They also developed a program called Thin Thread that enables computers to scan the material for key words, and they collect the billing records and the dialed phone numbers of everyone in the country. In violation of communications laws, ATT, Verizon, and BellSouth have opened their electronic records to the government. At the height of its insanity, the Stasi in East Germany was spying on 1 out of 7 citizens. The U.S. is now spying on 7 out of 7.

To make the surveillance of American citizens even more comprehensive (assuming that is even possible), the NSA is currently building the biggest-ever data complex in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret surveillance program code-named “Stellar Wind.” The center, scheduled for completion in 2013, will be twice as large as the U.S. Capitol, and contain 100,000 square feet of computer space, at a cost of $2 billion. In addition, the NSA has established listening posts throughout the country as part of this operation. All in all, there are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism and homeland security in about 10,000 locations across the U.S. The goal is to store and review the e-mails, phone calls, online shopping lists, and virtually every bit of information about every single American. Everything you do, from traveling to buying groceries, will be displayed on a graph. [NSA whistleblower] William Binney has stated that we are about two millimeters away “from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

FBI Is Building a Database of Iris Scans


By 2014, the FBI plans to test a database for searching iris scans nationwide to quickly track criminals, according to budget documents and a contractor working on the project.

The Next-Generation Identification system, a multiyear $1 billion program already under way, is expanding the server capacity of the FBI’s old fingerprint database to allow for rapid matching of additional physical identifiers, including facial images and palm prints.

Today, iris scans conjure images of covert agents accessing high-security banks and laboratories. But law enforcement agencies are increasingly spending state and federal funds on iris recognition technology at jails to monitor inmates. Some Missouri prisons are buying the same system the FBI acquired, partly so that they can eventually exchange iris images with federal law enforcement officials. And many counties are storing pictures of prisoner irises in a nationwide database managed by a private company, BI2 Technologies.

The FBI expects to collect many of these state and local iris images, according to B12 officials and federal documents.

A May 17 budget justification document states one of the “planned accomplishments for BY13 — the budget year that begins Oct. 1 — is to demonstrate iris recognition capabilities via the iris pilot.”

A June FBI advisory board memo that Nextgov reviewed states, “supervised release/corrections are candidates for the pilot, being that many already have the capability in place. The additional goal is to start to build an iris repository.”

Iris recognition is a helpful identification tool, according to the memo, because it “is very accurate,” does not require human intervention and “the hardware footprint is also very small [due] to the size of the iris image.”

The aim of iris recognition at corrections facilities, according to law enforcement officials, is to promptly catch repeat offenders and suspects who try to hide their identities.

Read more.

Surveillance Society: New High-Tech Cameras Are Watching You


In the era of computer-controlled surveillance, your every move could be captured by cameras, whether you’re shopping in the grocery store or driving on the freeway. Proponents say it will keep us safe, but at what cost?


Pathmark archives every transaction of every customer, and the grocery chain is hardly alone. Amazon knows what you read; Netflix, your taste in movies. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo retain your queries for months, and can identify searches by IP address—sometimes by individual computer. Many corporations log your every transaction with a stated goal of reducing fraud and improving marketing efforts. Until fairly recently it was impractical to retain all this data. But now the low cost of digital storage—you can get a terabyte hard drive for less than $350—makes nearly limitless archiving possible.

So what’s the problem? “The concern is that information collected for one purpose is used for something entirely different down the road,” says Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

This may sound like a privacy wonk’s paranoia. But examples abound. Take E-ZPass. Drivers signed up for the system to speed up toll collection. But 11 states now supply E-ZPass records—when and where a toll was paid, and by whom—in response to court orders in criminal cases. Seven of those states provide information in civil cases such as divorce, proving, for instance, that a husband who claimed he was at a meeting in Pennsylvania was actually heading to his lover’s house in New Jersey. (New York divorce lawyer Jacalyn Barnett has called E-ZPass the “easy way to show you took the offramp to adultery.”)

On a case-by-case basis, the collection of surveillance footage and customer data is usually justifiable and benign. But the totality of information being amassed combined with the relatively fluid flow of that data can be troubling. Corporations often share what they know about customers with government agencies and vice versa. AT&T, for example, is being sued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, for allowing the National Security Agency almost unlimited access to monitor customers’ e-mails, phone calls and Internet browsing activity.

“We are heading toward a total surveillance society in which your every move, your every transaction, is duly registered and recorded by some computer,” says Jay Stanley, a privacy expert with the American Civil Liberties Union.


The debate over surveillance pits the tangible benefits of saving lives and dollars against the abstract ones of preserving privacy and freedom. To many people, the promise of increased security is worth the exchange. History shows that new technologies, once developed, are seldom abandoned, and the computer vision systems being adopted today are transforming America from a society that spies upon a small number of suspicious individuals to one that monitors everybody. The question arises: Do people exercise their perfectly legal freedoms as freely when they know they’re being watched? As the ACLU’s Stanley argues, “You need space in your life to live beyond the gaze of society.”

Surveillance has become pervasive. It is also more enduring. As companies develop powerful archiving and search tools, your life will be accessible for years to come in rich multimedia records. The information about you may be collected for reasonable purposes—but as its life span increases, so too does the chance that it may fall into unscrupulous hands.

Several months after I stayed at the Talbott Hotel, Derene, my editor, called Troy Strand to ask if he still had the security camera images of me at the hotel. He did. My niece Emma’s Statue of Liberty shots are probably stored on a computer, as are the records of all my Pathmark purchases. Ramos could query my shopping trip of, say, Jan. 13, 2005, and replay video keyed precisely to any part of the register tape—from the fifth item scanned, pork chops, to the tenth, broccoli. That’s innocuous and even humorous on the surface, but the more I thought about the store’s power, the more it disturbed me.

“I would never do that,” Ramos assured me. “But I could.”

Googler Wants Error 451 for Government Censorship


In an interview with The Guardian, Google employee Tim Bray said that he’s recommending to the Internet Engineering Task Force to use error code 451 when a website is blocked by the government.

For those who don’t recognize the symbolism, the number pays homage to the late Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 which was first published in 1950. The story warned of a dystopian world defined by government-imposed censorship which arrived in the form of burning any house that contained books.

We are looking at border security using UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) research, law enforcement, firefighting, just to name a few. There are going to be more and more uses for unmanned aerial vehicles to be able to do the surveillance and photographing that have taken helicopter pilots and small general aviation and even large aircraft to do in the past.

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Congress Welcomes The Drones

The ACLU, for one, is concerned that with all this talk of taking limits off drone use, there’s no talk about putting limits on how they’re used.

“Congress — and to the extent possible, the FAA — need to impose some rules (such as those we proposed in our report) to protect Americans’ privacy from the inevitable invasions that this technology will otherwise lead to,” writes the ACLU’s Jay Stanley. “We don’t want to wonder, every time we step out our front door, whether some eye in the sky is watching our every move.”

(via humanformat)
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