Category Archives: Privacy

The Sunday Times’ Snowden Story is Journalism at its Worst — and Filled with Falsehoods

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Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept: June 14, 2015

Western journalists claim that the big lesson they learned from their key role in selling the Iraq War to the public is that it’s hideous, corrupt and often dangerous journalism to give anonymity to government officials to let them propagandize the public, then uncritically accept those anonymously voiced claims as Truth. But they’ve learned no such lesson. That tactic continues to be the staple of how major U.S. and British media outlets “report,” especially in the national security area. And journalists who read such reports continue to treat self-serving decrees by unnamed, unseen officials — laundered through their media — as gospel, no matter how dubious are the claims or factually false is the reporting.

We now have one of the purest examples of this dynamic. Last night, the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times published their lead front-page Sunday article, headlined “British Spies Betrayed to Russians and Chinese.” Just as the conventional media narrative was shifting to pro-Snowden sentiment in the wake of a key court ruling and a new surveillance law, the article (behind a paywall: full text here) claims in the first paragraph that these two adversaries “have cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.” It continues:

Western intelligence agencies say they have been forced into the rescue operations after Moscow gained access to more than 1m classified files held by the former American security contractor, who fled to seek protection from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, after mounting one of the largest leaks in US history.

Senior government sources confirmed that China had also cracked the encrypted documents, which contain details of secret intelligence techniques and information that could allow British and American spies to be identified.

One senior Home Office official accused Snowden of having “blood on his hands,” although Downing Street said there was “no evidence of anyone being harmed.”

Aside from the serious retraction-worthy fabrications on which this article depends — more on those in a minute — the entire report is a self-negating joke. It reads like a parody I might quickly whip up in order to illustrate the core sickness of Western journalism.

Unless he cooked an extra-juicy steak, how does Snowden “have blood on his hands” if there is “no evidence of anyone being harmed?” As one observer put it last night in describing the government instructions these Sunday Times journalists appear to have obeyed: “There’s no evidence anyone’s been harmed but we’d like the phrase ‘blood on his hands’ somewhere in the piece.”

The whole article does literally nothing other than quote anonymous British officials. It gives voice to banal but inflammatory accusations that are made about every whistleblower from Daniel Ellsberg to Chelsea Manning. It offers zero evidence or confirmation for any of its claims. The “journalists” who wrote it neither questioned any of the official assertions nor even quoted anyone who denies them. It’s pure stenography of the worst kind: some government officials whispered these inflammatory claims in our ears and told us to print them, but not reveal who they are, and we’re obeying. Breaking!

Stephen Colbert captured this exact pathology with untoppable precision in his 2006 White House Correspondents speech, when he mocked American journalism to the faces of those who practice it:

But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works.The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction!

The Sunday Times article is even worse because it protects the officials they’re serving with anonymity. The beauty of this tactic is that the accusations can’t be challenged. The official accusers are being hidden by the journalists so nobody can confront them or hold them accountable when it turns out to be false. The evidence can’t be analyzed or dissected because there literally is none: they just make the accusation and, because they’re state officials, their media-servants will publish it with no evidence needed. And as is always true, there is no way to prove the negative. It’s like being smeared by a ghost with a substance that you can’t touch.

This is the very opposite of journalism. Ponder how dumb someone has to be at this point to read an anonymous government accusation, made with zero evidence, and accept it as true.

But it works. Other news agencies mindlessly repeated the Sunday Times claims far and wide. I watched last night as American and British journalists of all kinds reacted to the report on Twitter: by questioning none of it. They did the opposite: they immediately assumed it to be true, then spent hours engaged in somber, self-serious discussions with one another over what the geopolitical implications are, how the breach happened, what it means for Snowden, etc. This is the formula that shapes their brains: anonymous self-serving government assertions = Truth. 

By definition, authoritarians reflexively believe official claims — no matter how dubious or obviously self-serving, even when made while hiding behind anonymity — because that’s how their submission functions. Journalists who practice this sort of primitive reporting — I uncritically print what government officials tell me, and give them anonymity so they have no accountability for any it — do so out of a similar authoritarianism, or uber-nationalism, or laziness, or careerism. Whatever the motives, the results are the same: government officials know they can propagandize the public at any time because subservient journalists will give them anonymity to do so and will uncritically disseminate and accept their claims.

At this point, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that journalists want it this way. It’s impossible that they don’t know better. The exact kinds of accusations laundered in the Sunday Times today are made — and then disproven — in every case where someone leaks unflattering information about government officials.

In the early 1970s, Nixon officials such as John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger planted accusations in the U.S. media that Daniel Ellsberg had secretly given the Pentagon Papers and other key documents to the Soviet Union; everyone now knows this was a lie, but at the time, American journalists repeated it constantly, helping to smear Ellsberg. That’s why Ellsberg has constantly defended Snowden and Chelsea Manning from the start: because the same tactics were used to smear him.

The same thing happened with Chelsea Manning. When WikiLeaks first began publishing the Afghan War logs, U.S. officials screamed that they — all together now — had “blood on their hands.” But when some journalists decided to scrutinize rather than mindlessly repeat the official accusation (i.e., some decided to do journalism), they found it was a fabrication. […]

An AP report was headlined “AP review finds no WikiLeaks sources threatened,” and explained that “an Associated Press review of those sources raises doubts about the scope of the danger posed by WikiLeaks’ disclosures and the Obama administration’s angry claims, going back more than a year, that the revelations are life-threatening.” Months earlier, McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef wrote an article headlined “Officials may be overstating the dangers from WikiLeaks,” and she noted that “despite similar warnings ahead of the previous two massive releases of classified U.S. intelligence reports by the website, U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone’s death.”

Now we have exactly the same thing here. There’s an anonymously made claim that Russia and China “cracked the top-secret cache of files” from Snowden’s, but there is literally zero evidence for that claim. These hidden officials also claim that American and British agents were unmasked and had to be rescued, but not a single one is identified. There is speculation that Russia and China learned things from obtaining the Snowden files, but how could these officials possibly know that, particularly since other government officials are constantly accusing both countries of successfully hacking sensitive government databases?

What kind of person would read evidence-free accusations of this sort from anonymous government officials — designed to smear a whistleblower they hate — and believe them? That’s a particularly compelling question given that Vice’s Jason Leopold just last week obtained and published previously secret documents revealing a coordinated smear campaign in Washington to malign Snowden. Describing those documents, he reported: “A bipartisan group of Washington lawmakers solicited details from Pentagon officials that they could use to ‘damage’ former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s ‘credibility in the press and the court of public opinion.’”

Manifestly then, the “journalism” in this Sunday Times article is as shoddy and unreliable as it gets. Worse, its key accusations depend on retraction-level lies.

The government accusers behind this story have a big obstacle to overcome: namely, Snowden has said unequivocally that when he left Hong Kong, he took no files with him, having given them to the journalists with whom he worked, and then destroying his copy precisely so that it wouldn’t be vulnerable as he traveled. How, then, could Russia have obtained Snowden’s files as the story claims — “his documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure ” — if he did not even have physical possession of them?

The only way this smear works is if they claim Snowden lied, and that he did in fact have files with him after he left Hong Kong. The Sunday Times journalists thus include a paragraph that is designed to prove Snowden lied about this, that he did possess these files while living in Moscow:

It is not clear whether Russia and China stole Snowden’s data, or whether he voluntarily handed over his secret documents in order to remain at liberty in Hong Kong and Moscow.

David Miranda, the boyfriend of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was seized at Heathrow in 2013 in possession of 58,000 “highly classified” intelligence documents after visiting Snowden in Moscow.

What’s the problem with that Sunday Times passage? It’s an utter lie. David did not visit Snowden in Moscow before being detained. As of the time he was detained in Heathrow, David had never been to Moscow and had never met Snowden. The only city David visited on that trip before being detained was Berlin, where he stayed in the apartment of Laura Poitras.

The Sunday Times “journalists” printed an outright fabrication in order to support their key point: that Snowden had files with him in Moscow. This is the only “fact” included in their story that suggests Snowden had files with him when he left Hong Kong, and it’s completely, demonstrably false (and just by the way: it’s 2015, not 1971, so referring to gay men in a 10-year spousal relationship with the belittling term “boyfriends” is just gross).

Then there’s the Sunday Times claim that “Snowden, a former contractor at the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA), downloaded 1.7m secret documents from western intelligence agencies in 2013.” Even the NSA admits this claim is a lie. The NSA has repeatedly said that it has no idea how many documents Snowden downloaded and has no way to find out. As the NSA itself admits, the 1.7 million number is not the number the NSA claims Snowden downloaded — they admit they don’t and can’t know that number — but merely the amount of documents he interacted with in his years of working at NSA. Here’s then-NSA chief Keith Alexander explaining exactly that in a 2014 interview with the Australian Financial Review:

AFR: Can you now quantify the number of documents [Snowden] stole?

Gen. Alexander: Well, I don’t think anybody really knows what he actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting. What we do have an accurate way of counting is what he touched, what he may have downloaded, and that was more than a million documents.

Let’s repeat that: “I don’t think anybody really knows what he actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting.” Yet someone whispered to the Sunday Times reporters that Snowden downloaded 1.7 million documents, so like the liars and propagandists that they are, they mindlessly printed it as fact. That’s what this whole article is.

Then there’s the claim that the Russian and Chinese governments learned the names of covert agents by cracking the Snowden file, “forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries.” This appears quite clearly to be a fabrication by the Sunday Times for purposes of sensationalism, because if you read the actual anonymous quotes they include, not even the anonymous officials claim that Russia and China hacked the entire archive, instead offering only vague assertions that Russia and China “have information.”

Beyond that, how could these hidden British officials possibly know that China and Russia learned things from the Snowden files as opposed to all the other hacking and spying those countries do? Moreover, as pointed out last night by my colleague Ryan Gallagher — who has worked for well over a year with the full Snowden archive — “I’ve reviewed the Snowden documents and I’ve never seen anything in there naming active MI6 agents.” He also said: “I’ve seen nothing in the region of 1m documents in the Snowden archive, so I don’t know where that number has come from.”

Finally, none of what’s in the Sunday Times is remotely new. US and UK government officials and their favorite journalists have tried for two years to smear Snowden with these same claims. In June, 2013, the New York Times gave anonymity to “two Western intelligence experts, who worked for major government spy agencies” who “said they believed that the Chinese government had managed to drain the contents of the four laptops that Mr. Snowden said he brought to Hong Kong.” The NYT‘s Public Editor chided the paper for printing that garbage, and as I reported in my book, then-editor-in-chief Jill Abramson told The Guardian’s Janine Gibson that they should not have printed that, calling it “irresponsible.” (And that’s to say nothing of the woefully ignorant notion that Snowden — or anyone else these days – stores massive amounts of data on “four laptops” as opposed to tiny thumb drives).

The GOP’s right-wing extremist Congressman Mike Rogers constantly did the same thing. He once announced with no evidence that “Snowden is working with Russia” — a claim even former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell denies — and also argued that Snowden should “be charged with murder” for causing unknown deaths. My personal favorite example of this genre of reckless, desperate smears is the Op-Ed which the Wall Street Journal published in May, 2014, by neocon Edward Jay Epstein, which had this still-hilarious paragraph:

A former member of President Obama’s cabinet went even further, suggesting to me off the record in March this year that there are only three possible explanations for the Snowden heist: 1) It was a Russian espionage operation; 2) It was a Chinese espionage operation, or 3) It was a joint Sino-Russian operation.

It must be one of those, an anonymous official told me! It must be! Either Russia did it. Or China did it. Or they did it together! That is American journalism.

The Sunday Times today merely recycled the same evidence-free smears that have been used by government officials for years — not only against Snowden, but all whistleblowers — and added a dose of sensationalism and then baked it with demonstrable lies. That’s just how western journalism works, and it’s the opposite of surprising. But what is surprising, and grotesque, is how many people (including other journalists) continue to be so plagued by some combination of stupidity and gullibility, so that no matter how many times this trick is revealed, they keep falling for it. If some anonymous government officials said it, and journalists repeat it while hiding who they are, I guess it must be true. 

 

UPDATE: The Sunday Times has now quietly deleted one of the central, glaring lies in its story: that David Miranda had just met with Snowden in Moscow when he was detained at Heathrow carrying classified documents. By “quietly deleted,” I mean just that: they just removed it from their story without any indication or note to their readers that they’ve done so (though it remains in the print edition and thus requires a retraction). That’s indicative of the standard of “journalism” for the article itself. Multiple other falsehoods, and all sorts of shoddy journalistic practices, remain thus far unchanged.

(read the full article at The Intercept)

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Wikileaks Releases Documents from Shady “Trade in Services Agreement,” or TISA

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Michael Krieger
Liberty Blitzkrieg: June 5, 2015

If it sounds complicated, it is. The important point is that this trade agreement contains a crucial discussion of governments’ abilities to meaningfully protect civil liberties. And it is not being treated as a human rights discussion. It is being framed solely as an economic issue, ignoring the implications for human rights, and it is being held in a classified document that the public is now seeing months after it was negotiated, and only because it was released through WikiLeaks. 

The process is also highly secretive—in fact, trade agreement texts are classified. While the executive branch does consult with members of Congress, even congressional staffers with security clearance have until recently been prevented from seeing the texts. Furthermore, certain trade industry advisers are allowed access to U.S. negotiating objectives and negotiators that the public and public interest groups do not have.

– From the Slate article: Privacy Is Not a Barrier to Trade

If you haven’t heard about about the Trade in Services Agreement, aka TISA, don’t worry, you’re not alone. While I had heard of it before, I never read anything substantial about it until today. What sparked my reading interest on the subject were a series of very troubling articles published via several media outlets following a document dump by Wikileaks. Here’s how the whistleblower organization describes the TISA leak on it document release page:

WikiLeaks releases today 17 secret documents from the ongoing TISA (Trade In Services Agreement) negotiations which cover the United States, the European Union and 23 other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan & Israel — which together comprise two-thirds of global GDP. “Services” now account for nearly 80 per cent of the US and EU economies and even in developing countries like Pakistan account for 53 per cent of the economy. While the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become well known in recent months in the United States, the TISA is the larger component of the strategic TPP-TISA-TTIP ‘T-treaty trinity’. All parts of the trinity notably exclude the ‘BRICS’ countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. 

I’ve covered the extreme dangers of what’s colloquially known as trade “fast track” authority previously. In the post, As the Senate Prepares to Vote on “Fast Track,” Here’s a Quick Primer on the Dangers of the TPP, I noted:

Passing this corporate giveaway masquerading as a “free trade deal” is a lengthy process; a process that begins today with a Senate vote on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as “fast track.”  Passing TPA would be Congress agreeing to neuter itself to a yes or no vote on a trade pact and ceding its power to amend it. Even worse, it would give trade deals this expedited process for six years, thus outlasting the current Administration, and applying to other “trade” deals like the TTIPMind you, TPA is being voted on while the TPP text remains completely hidden from the public.

Naturally, “fast track” ultimately passed through the corrupt, rancid body known as the U.S. Senate despite the best efforts of people such as Elizabeth Warren to stop it. As noted in the above paragraph, fast track isn’t just about the TPP, it covers other deals already well in the works such as TTIP and TISA. Makes you wonder whether these other deals are even worse.

For more information on TISA, let’s turn to the Huffington Post:

The latest leak purports to include 17 documents from negotiations on the Trade In Services Agreement, a blandly named trade deal that would cover the United States, the European Union and more than 20 other countries. More than 80 percent of the United States economy is in service sectors.

According to the Wikileaks release, TISA, as the deal is known, would take a major step towards deregulating financial industries, and could affect everything from local maritime and air traffic rules to domestic regulations on almost anything if an internationally traded service is involved.

The pact would be one of three enormous deals whose passage through Congress could be eased with passage of Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast-track authority. The Senate has passed fast-track, and it could be taken up in the House this month.

“Today’s leaks of TISA (trade in services) text reveal once again how dangerous Fast Track Authority is when it comes to protecting citizen rights vs. corporate rights,” he added. “This TISA text again favors privatization over public services, limits governmental action on issues ranging from safety to the environment using trade as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights.”

The Office of the United States Trade Representative and top European officials have repeatedly denied that TISA or the Transatlantic deal would impact local laws, releasing a joint statement to that effect earlier this spring.

Still, the Wikileaks documents suggest that World Trade Organization-style tribunals would be expanded under TISA, and that such tribunals convened to resolve trade disputes can impact local laws. One such WTO tribunal ruled last month that the United States must repeal its laws requiring meat to be labeled with its country of origin, or face punitive tariffs on exports.

I covered this ruling a couple of weeks ago in the post: Congress Moves to Eliminate Labels Showing Consumers Where Meat Comes from Following WTO Ruling

Moving along to the UK Independent’s coverage of TISA:

Wikileaks has warned that governments negotiating a far-reaching global service agreement are ‘surrendering a large part of their global sovereignty’ and exacerbating the social inequality of poorer countries in the process.

The Trade in Services Agreement exposed in a 17 document dump by Wikileaks on Thursday relates to ongoing negotiations to lock market liberalizations into global law.

Under the agreement, retailers like Zara or Marks & Spencers would have the right to open stores in any of the signing countries and be treated like domestic companies. A nationalized service, such as the British telecoms industry in the eighties, would have to ensure it was not harming competition under these terms. 

Wikileaks says that corporations would be able to use the law in its current form to hold sway over governments, deciding whether laws promoting culture, protecting the environment or ensuring equal access to services were ‘unnecessarily burdensome’, or whether knowledge of indigenous culture or public services was essential to achieve ‘parity’.

“In other words, unaccountable private ‘trade’ tribunals would decide how countries could regulate activities that are fundamental to social well-being,” Wikileaks said.

No wonder these deals are being keep so secret. Let’s now turn to Slate, which examined TISA’s potential threat to a human right that is increasingly under attack: personal privacy.

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks released the draft text of the biggest international agreement you’ve probably never heard of: the Trade in Services Agreement, or TISA. And buried in one of the 12 leaked chapters (which are mostly on things like “air transport services” and “competitive delivery services”) is a volatile and crucial debate about online privacy and the global Internet.

Trade agreements used to focus on things like tariffs, but they aren’t just about trade anymore. They consist of hundreds of chapters of detailed regulations, on subjects ranging from textiles to intellectual property law. TISA purports to promote fair and open global competition in services, thus increasing jobs. (You may have also heard about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, another trade agreement currently being negotiated and criticized. This one’s even more mammoth.) TISA is being negotiated between 23 countries representing some 75 percent of the global services market. Buried in its e-commerce annex are rules that will reshape the relationship between the free flow of information and online privacy.

The Internet is global, but privacy regulations incorporate localized norms. The U.S., for example, protects only some things, like your video-watching history and health information, while the European Union has a comprehensive framework for safeguarding far more information.

But TISA is different. The leaked draft language, proposed by the U.S. and several other countries, states that a government may not prevent a foreign services company “from transferring, [accessing, processing or storing] information, including personal information, within or outside the Party’s territory.” Essentially, this says that privacy protections could be treated as barriers to trade. This language could strike most privacy regulations as they apply to foreign companies—and not just in the EU. It would also apply to U.S. regulation of foreign companies at home. For instance, U.S. health privacy law requires patient consent for health information to be shared. This, technically, is a restriction on transferring information that could be invalidated by TISA, if nothing changes. 

The subject matter TISA covers is already governed by a global agreement called GATS, which has an exception for privacy protections. In other words, privacy protections are explicitly not treated as trade barriers in GATS. The leaked draft language from TISA shows that there is an ongoing debate between countries over whether to create an explicit privacy exception within TISA itself. The result of this debate is hugely important for states that want privacy laws.

If it sounds complicated, it is. The important point is that this trade agreement contains a crucial discussion of governments’ abilities to meaningfully protect civil liberties. And it is not being treated as a human rights discussion. It is being framed solely as an economic issue, ignoring the implications for human rights, and it is being held in a classified document that the public is now seeing months after it was negotiated, and only because it was released through WikiLeaks. 

TISA’s contents are not all bad, and protection of an open global Internet through trade could theoretically be a good thing. But these fine points should be openly debated, not bartered away in an enormous agreement that bundles privacy together with maritime transport services.

The process is also highly secretive—in fact, trade agreement texts are classified. While the executive branch does consult with members of Congress, even congressional staffers with security clearance have until recently been prevented from seeing the texts. Furthermore, certain trade industry advisers are allowed access to U.S. negotiating objectives and negotiators that the public and public interest groups do not have.

Trade agreements governing civil liberties (and jobs, and the environment, and public health … ) need to receive meaningful input from the public and its real representatives—not after negotiations are concluded, not through a Congress hampered by excessive executive secrecy, and not through vague negotiating objectives that fail to meaningfully address human rights and other values.

Fast track just passed in the Senate. Senators including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio tried to stop its passage but narrowly lost. Now, the vote is coming up in the House—maybe as soon as this week. About 2 million Americans have already signed a petition against the legislation. It would be sad indeed if one of the few times Congress decides to actually pass legislation, embrace bipartisanship, and show support of the president is a law that enables states to bargain away citizens’ freedoms behind closed doors.

Actually, it would’t be sad, it would make perfect sense. As George Carlin so accurately noted:

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 9.47.50 AM

Finally, from the New Republic:

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks brought this agreement into the spotlight by releasing 17 key TiSA-related documents, including 11 full chapters under negotiation. Though the outline for this agreement has been in place for nearly a year, these documents were supposed to remain classified for five years after being signed, an example of the secrecy surrounding the agreement, which outstrips even the TPP.

TiSA has been negotiated since 2013, between the United States, the European Union, and 22 other nations, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, Israel, South Korea, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and others scattered across South America and Asia. Overall, 12 of the G20 nations are represented, and negotiations have carefully incorporated practically every advanced economy except for the “BRICS” coalition of emerging markets (which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

The deal would liberalize global trade of services, an expansive definition that encompasses air and maritime transport, package delivery, e-commerce, telecommunications, accountancy, engineering, consulting, health care, private education, financial services and more, covering close to 80 percent of the U.S. economy. Though member parties insist that the agreement would simply stop discrimination against foreign service providers, the text shows that TiSA would restrict how governments can manage their public laws through an effective regulatory cap. It could also dismantle and privatize state-owned enterprises, and turn those services over to the private sector. You begin to sound like the guy hanging out in front of the local food co-op passing around leaflets about One World Government when you talk about TiSA, but it really would clear the way for further corporate domination over sovereign countries and their citizens.

You need to either be a trade lawyer or a very alert reader to know what’s going on. But between the text and a series of analyses released by WikiLeaks, you get a sense for what the countries negotiating TiSA want.

First, they want to limit regulation on service sectors, whether at the national, provincial or local level. The agreement has “standstill” clauses to freeze regulations in place and prevent future rulemaking for professional licensing and qualifications or technical standards. And a companion “ratchet” clause would make any broken trade barrier irreversible.

No restrictions could be placed on foreign investment—corporations could control entire sectors. 

Corporations would get to comment on any new regulatory attempts, and enforce this regulatory straitjacket through a dispute mechanism similar to the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process in other trade agreements, where they could win money equal to “expected future profits” lost through violations of the regulatory cap.

For an example of how this would work, let’s look at financial services. It too has a “standstill” clause, which given the unpredictability of future crises could leave governments helpless to stop a new and dangerous financial innovation. In fact, Switzerland has proposed that all TiSA countries must allow “any new financial service” to enter their market. So-called “prudential regulations” to protect investors or depositors are theoretically allowed, but they must not act contrary to TiSA rules, rendering them somewhat irrelevant.

Most controversially, all financial services suppliers could transfer individual client data out of a TiSA country for processing, regardless of national privacy laws. This free flow of data across borders is true for the e-commerce annex as well; it breaks with thousands of years of precedent on locally kept business records, and has privacy advocates alarmed.

(read the full article at Liberty Blitzkrieg)

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This Shadow Government Agency Is Scarier Than the NSA

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William M. Arkin
Phase Zero: June 1, 2015

If you have a telephone number that has ever been called by an inmate in a federal prison, registered a change of address with the Postal Service, rented a car from Avis, used a corporate or Sears credit card, applied for nonprofit status with the IRS, or obtained non-driver’s legal identification from a private company, they have you on file.

They are not who you think they are. They are not the NSA or the CIA. They are the National Security Analysis Center (NSAC), an obscure element of the Justice Department that has grown from its creation in 2008 into a sprawling 400-person, $150 million-a-year multi-agency organization employing almost 300 analysts, the majority of whom are corporate contractors.

The Center has its roots in the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (FTTTF), a small cell established in October 2001 to look for additional 9/11-like terrorists who might have entered the United States. But with the emergence of significant “homegrown” threats in the late aughts, the Task Force’s focus was thought to be too narrow. NSAC was created to focus scrutiny on new threat, specifically on Americans, particularly Muslims, who might pose a hidden threat (the Task Force became a unit within NSAC’s bureaucratic umbrella). As Americans began traveling abroad to join al-Shabaab and then ISIS, the Center’s dragnet expanded to catch the vast pool of “youth” who also might fit a profile of either radicalism or law-breaking. Its mission runs the full gamut of “national security threats…to the United States and its interests,” according to a partially declassified Justice Department Inspector General report. That includes everything from terrorism to counter-narcotics, nuclear proliferation, and espionage.

NSAC not only has a focus beyond foreign investigations or terrorists, but in the past year-and-a-half, according to documents obtained by Phase Zero and extensive interviews with contractors and government officials who have worked with the Center and the Task Force, it has also aggressively built up a partnership with the military, taking on deep background investigations of foreign-born and foreign-connected soldiers, civilians, and contractors working for the government. Its investigations go far beyond traditional security “vetting”; NSAC scours certain select government employees, contractors and their affiliates, examining multiple layers of connected relatives and associates. And the Center hosts dozens of additional “liaison” officers from other government agencies, providing those agencies with frictionless access to private information about U.S. residents that they would otherwise not have.

Today, through a series of high-level classified authorities and commercial relationships, the Center has access to over 130 databases and datasets of information comprising some two billion records, over half of which are unique and not contained in any other government information warehouse. The Center is, in fact, according to interviews with government officials, the sole organization in the U.S. government with the authority to delve deeply into the activities and associations of foreigners and Americans alike. From its unmarked office in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, the Center can not only gain access to the full gamut of intelligence databases of the U.S. government, but also query and retain information contained in law enforcement and commercial data. It also conducts live searches, and retains classified and open datasets of identity and transactional data for later examination. In some ways then, the data that the Center accesses and regularly trawls against its data mining protocols is the FBI’s equivalent of NSA’s bulk collection, the examination of databases with the hope of finding triggers or links to terrorists rather than the specific accessing of information to look at an individual or even group of individuals.

The Center’s powerful perch—and its virtually unlimited reach—brings the federal government closer than ever to the Holy Grail of connecting every dot, a dream that has been pursued by terrorist hunters since the failures that permitted the 9/11 attacks 14 years ago. The data access and analytic methods it uses grew out of a retrospective analysis of the vast reams of data about the 19 hijackers that law enforcement and intelligence agencies had indicators off, but never acted on. The Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (originally called “F-tri-F” by insiders) meticulously reconstructed the actions of the 19 hijackers and other known law-breakers—how they lived their day-to-day lives and what they did to avoid intelligence detection—to find patterns and triggers of potential wrongdoing. They created thousands of pages of chronologies covering the 19 hijackers from the moment they entered the United States, trying to recreate what each did every day they were here.

This Shadow Government Agency Is Scarier Than the NSA

Those patterns then became profiles that could be applied to vast amounts of disparate and unstructured data to sniff out similar attributes. Those attributes, once applied to individuals, became the legal predicate for collection and retention of data. If someone fit the profile, they were worthy of a second look. They were worthy of a second look if they might fit the profile.

Beyond public records and what appears on the internet, beyond news articles or what’s in law enforcement databases—but in addition to all of those things—the mere presence of a name becomes justification enough. NSAC’s methods turn the notion of legal predicate—a logical proposition or an earlier offense that justifies law enforcement action—on its head. Using big data analysis to discover non-obvious and even clandestine links, the Center looks not just for suspects, but for what the counter-terrorism world calls “clean skins”—people with no known affiliation to terrorism or crime, needles in a giant haystack that don’t necessarily look like needles. Or people who aren’t needles at all, but who might become needles in the future and thus warrant observation today.

The American people have repeatedly rejected the notion of a domestic intelligence agency operating within our borders. Yet NSAC has become the real-world equivalent. Along the way in its development though, the Center has rarely been discussed in the federal budget or in congressional oversight hearings available to the public. And being neither solely a part of the intelligence community (IC) nor solely a law enforcement agency (and yet both), it skirts limitations that exist in each community, allowing it to collect and examine information on people who are not otherwise accused of or suspected of any crime.

(read the full article at Phase Zero)

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FREEDOM Act Passes Senate, Freedom Dies

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Daniel McAdams
LewRockwell.com : June 2, 2015

By a vote of 67-32 the Senate today passed the USA FREEDOM Act, just days after the expiration of key elements of the USA PATRIOT Act. The FREEDOM Act is billed as a reform of the unconstitutional and recently-ruled illegal bulk collection of Americans’ telecommunications, but in fact it is a whole new level of attack on civil liberties.

Here are just a couple of ways the FREEDOM Act is worse than the PATRIOT Act:

1) The recent decision of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the bulk collection of American citizens’ telecommunications information was not authorized by the USA PATRIOT Act means that as of this afternoon, the bulk collection of American citizens’ telecommunications information was an illegal act. The government was breaking the law each time it grabbed our metadata. The moment the FREEDOM is signed by President Obama that same activity will become legal. How is making an unconstitutional and illegal act into a legal one a benefit to civil liberties?

2) The FREEDOM Act turns private telecommunications companies into agents of state security. They will be required to store our personal information and hand it over to state security organs upon demand. How do we know this development is a step in the wrong direction? It is reportedly the brainchild of Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the NSA director at the time! According to press reports, this was but a public relations move to deflect criticism of the bulk collection program. Alexander “saw the move as a way for Obama to respond to public criticism without losing programs the NSA deemed more essential,” reports Homeland Security News.

3) The FREEDOM Act turns private telecommunications companies into depositories of “pre-crime” data for future use of state security agencies. It is a classic authoritarian move for the state to co-opt and subsume the private sector. Once the FREEDOM Act is signed, Americans’ telecommunications information will be retained by the telecommunications companies for the use of state security agencies in potential future investigations. In other words, an individual under no suspicion of any crime and thus deserving full Fourth and Fifth Amendment protection will nevertheless find himself providing evidence against his future self should that person ever fall under suspicion. That is not jurisprudence in a free society.

4) The FREEDOM Act provides liability protection for the telecommunications firms who steal and store our private telecommunications information. In other words, there is not a thing you can do about the theft as long as the thief is a “private” agent of the state.

It is very telling that the same Congressional leaders who have supported the PATRIOT Act for all these years are now propagandizing Americans in favor of the FREEDOM Act.

FREEDOM Act becomes law; freedom, RIP.

Source: lewrockwell.com cc

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FBI Confirms No Major Terrorism Cases Cracked via Unconstitutional Patriot Act Phone Spying

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Michael Krieger
Liberty Blitzkrieg: May 22, 2015

FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

– From the Washington Times article: FBI Admits No Major Cases Cracked with Patriot Act Snooping Powers 

Back in 2013, as debate about the Snowden revelations was at its zenith, I published a post titled NSA Chief Admits “Only One or Perhaps Two” Terror Plots Stopped by Spy Program. Here’s an excerpt:

The Obama administration’s credibility on intelligence suffered another blow Wednesday as the chief of the National Security Agency admitted that officials put out numbers that vastly overstated the counterterrorism successes of the government’s warrantless bulk collection of all Americans’ phone records.

Pressed by the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing, Gen. Keith B. Alexander admitted that the number of terrorist plots foiled by the NSA’s huge database of every phone call made in or to America was only one or perhaps two — far smaller than the 54 originally claimed by the administration.

“One or perhaps two.” Or perhaps zero. The guy has the nerve to say “perhaps.” How do you not know? What a bunch of lying assholes. How the heck does 54 turn into “one or two,” and I’ll tell you something else, I don’t believe the one or two figure for a minute. I mean there’s no way he would say “zero” when he is fighting to keep his petty little Stasi state intact. Furthermore, how about some details here. What was the one plot the NSA foiled? Some teenager throwing firecrackers on the White House lawn? These guys need to get lost already. From the Washington Times:

As time has passed and the years have gone by, it has become increasingly clear that the phone records collection program hasn’t stopped a single terror attack. In fact, a recently published report by the Justice Department’s inspector general admitted as much. This takes on increased significance with parts of the Patriot Act set to automatically sunset on June 1st.

The Washington Times reports:

FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

Backers say the Patriot Act powers are critical and must be kept intact, particularly with the spread of the threat from terrorists. But opponents have doubted the efficacy of Section 215, particularly when it’s used to justify bulk data collection such as in the case of the National Security Agency’s phone metadata program, revealed in leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden.

“The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” the inspector general concluded — though he said agents did view the material they gathered as “valuable” in developing other leads or corroborating information. 

The report was heavily redacted, and key details were deleted. The entire chart showing the number of Section 215 requests made from 2007 through 2009 was blacked out, as was the breakdown of what types of investigations they stemmed from: counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cyber or foreign intelligence investigations.

[…]

Moving along, the conclusion that Section 215 of the Patriot Act hasn’t stopped any terror attacks naturally won’t stop FBI director James Comey (and others) from fear-mongering. A favorite pastime of government officials and their lapdogs. As Politico reports:

Speaking at an American Law Institute event this week, FBI Director James Comey warned that a PATRIOT Act sunset would “severely” affect his agency. The FBI relies heavily on the soon-to-expire provisions of the law to obtain specific business records — from library records to gun ownership data — and wiretaps for multiple devices, he said.

 

“If I lose these tools, it’s a huge, huge problem,” Comey said. “We use [Section 215 to obtain specific records] fewer than 200 times per year, but when we use it, it matters tremendously.”

But not for terrorism, and the Patriot Act was specifically passed to deal with terrorism.

“ISIS is singing a siren song, calling people to their death to crash on the rocks — and it’s the rocks that ISIS will take credit for,” said Ron Hosko, president of Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI. “They’re looking for those who are disaffected, disconnected and willing to commit murder. So if we’re willing to take away tools, OK, congressman, stand behind it [and] take the credit for putting the FBI in the dark.”

Can you believe people like this exist, and that their insane rhetoric actually speaks to some people? Scary.

While the current debate about Section 215 of the Patriot Act is encouraging and necessary, it is extremely important to understand that this is just a tiny, potentially meaningless tip of the iceberg when it comes to unconstitutional government surveillance. As The ACLU’s Chris Soghoian explains courtesy of Schneier.com:

There were 180 orders authorized last year by the FISA Court under Section 215 — 180 orders issued by this court. Only five of those orders relate to the telephony metadata program. There are 175 orders about completely separate things. In six weeks, Congress will either reauthorize this statute or let it expire, and we’re having a debate — to the extent we’re even having a debate — but the debate that’s taking place is focused on five of the 180, and there’s no debate at all about the other 175 orders.

 

Now, Senator Wyden has said there are other bulk collection programs targeted at Americans that the public would be shocked to learn about. We don’t know, for example, how the government collects records from Internet providers. We don’t know how they get bulk metadata from tech companies about Americans. We don’t know how the American government gets calling card records.

 

So the 215 program that has been disclosed publicly, the 215 program that is being debated publicly, is about records to major carriers like AT&T and Verizon. We have not had a debate about surveillance requests, bulk orders to calling card companies, to Skype, to voice over Internet protocol companies. Now, if NSA isn’t collecting those records, they’re not doing their job. I actually think that that’s where the most useful data is. But why are we having this debate about these records that don’t contain a lot of calls to Somalia when we should be having a debate about the records that do contain calls to Somalia and do contain records of e-mails and instant messages and searches and people posting inflammatory videos to YouTube?

 

Certainly the government is collecting that data, but we don’t know how they’re doing it, we don’t know at what scale they’re doing it, and we don’t know with which authority they’re doing it. And I think it is a farce to say that we’re having a debate about the surveillance authority when really, we’re just debating this very narrow usage of the statute.

(read full article at liberty blitzkrieg)

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USA FREEDOM Act: Just Another Word for Lost Liberty

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Ron Paul: May 3, 2015

Apologists for the National Security Agency (NSA) point to the arrest of David Coleman Headley as an example of how warrantless mass surveillance is necessary to catch terrorists. Headley played a major role in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed 166 people.

While few would argue that bringing someone like Headley to justice is not a good thing, Headley’s case in no way justifies mass surveillance. For one thing, there is no “terrorist” exception in the Fourth Amendment. Saying a good end (capturing terrorists) justifies a bad means (mass surveillance) gives the government a blank check to violate our liberties.

Even if the Headley case somehow justified overturning the Fourth Amendment, it still would not justify mass surveillance and bulk data collection. This is because, according to an investigation by ProPublica, NSA surveillance played an insignificant role in catching Headley. One former counter-terrorism official said when he heard that NSA surveillance was responsible for Headley’s capture he “was trying to figure out how NSA played a role.”

The Headley case is not the only evidence that the PATRIOT Act and other post-9/11 sacrifices of our liberty have not increased our security. For example, the NSA’s claim that its surveillance programs thwarted 54 terrorist attacks has been widely discredited. Even the president’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies found that mass surveillance and bulk data collection was “not essential to preventing attacks.”

According to the congressional Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 and the 9/11 Commission, the powers granted the NSA by the PATRIOT Act would not have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Many intelligence experts have pointed out that, by increasing the size of the haystack government agencies must look through, mass surveillance makes it harder to find the needle of legitimate threats.

Even though mass surveillance threatens our liberty, violates the Constitution, and does nothing to protect us from terrorism, many in Congress still cling to the fiction that the only way to ensure security is to give the government virtually unlimited spying powers. These supporters of the surveillance state are desperate to extend the provisions of the PATRIOT Act that are set to expire at the end of the month. They are particularly eager to preserve Section 215, which authorizes many of the most egregious violations of our liberties, including the NSA’s “metadata” program.

However, Edward Snowden’s revelations have galvanized opposition to the NSA’s ongoing violations of our liberties. This is why Congress will soon vote on the USA FREEDOM Act. This bill extends the expiring surveillance laws. It also contains some “reforms” that supposedly address all the legitimate concerns regarding mass surveillance.

However, a look at the USA FREEDOM Act’s details, as opposed to the press releases of its supporters, shows that the act leaves the government’s mass surveillance powers virtually untouched.

The USA FREEDOM Act has about as much to do with freedom as the PATRIOT Act had to do with patriotism. If Congress truly wanted to protect our liberties it would pass the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which repeals the PATRIOT Act. Congress should also reverse the interventionist foreign policy that increases the risk of terrorism by fostering resentment and hatred of Americans.

Fourteen years after the PATRIOT Act was rushed into law, it is clear that sacrificing liberty does little or nothing to preserve security. Instead of trying to fool the American people with phony reforms, Congress should repeal all laws that violate the Fourth Amendment, starting with the PATRIOT Act.

source: Ron Paul institute

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Frankly My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn

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First Rebuttal : May 4, 2015

I find it shocking how often I have people tell me the Constitution is out of date and is no longer relevant or necessary.  Then there are the vast majority of people that think about the Constitution the same way they think about religion; it makes us feel good to believe in it and we’ll even worship it on a holiday or two   The reality is that those who seem to get very worked up to the point that they are willing to act in defense of the Constitution even against the highest levels of government make up a very small minority of Americans.  This is a real problem.

You see if people gave a damn the government couldn’t get away with negating the Constitution.  But the vast majority of people just don’t give a damn and so the government very easily provides ridiculous and false legal sounding arguments to explain away why they have become a higher law than the Constitution. Now I’ve tried to understand why it is that we Americans are so damn apathetic about everything the government and government officials do.

Let me give a couple examples for which our apathy just boggles my mind.   We know they took us into wars on false pretenses resulting in the wrongful deaths of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and yet we’ve prosecuted no one.  Hell they’ve admitted to hacking into millions of our home webcams and downloading videos and pictures of us in our most private moments and maintaining those downloads on government servers and then sharing these files with foreign governments.

But because today’s American is simply a shell of a citizen none of the criminal atrocities creates even a stir from us.  Sure we all read about these atrocities and we are angered in the moment but it passes rather quickly and we fall back into our self induced ignorant bliss.  Only two things can get Americans to formidably rise up.  The first is a very direct and immediate impediment to our comfort.  For example try cutting back on the monthly social welfare checks.  You’ll have riots.   The second way is if the mainstream media relentlessly instructs us to be upset about a particular issue.  Outside of that there is absolutely nothing the new American won’t move past like water off a duck’s back.

What we’re finding out is that, and it sounds slightly over-dramatic but isn’t at all, unless we are willing to fight and die to win back the freedom our forefather’s fought and died to secure for us and all future generations we will continue to feel our chains grow heavier and shorter.  The simple reason is because our government is very much willing to kill to keep its ever encroaching control.  A free population is the antithesis to a political class.  And make no mistake the American federal government is the largest and most powerful group of aristocrats the world has known.

This group of traitors (and I mean that in the very technical sense of the word) not only behave according to a separate set of laws they have actually gone so far as to legislate a separate set of laws.  This in itself is a direct breach of the very Constitution they swear to defend.  Their intent is clear and that my friends is treason.  They are directly negating the very basis of the American concept for their own personal self interest and they are doing so by defrauding American citizens into believing their intent is to represent the will of their constituents.  Treason, Treason, Treason!  What else would you call it?

Now are you ready to fight and die to win the freedoms back for your children and grandchildren?  Hell No!  No, not at all!  And that’s kinda the problem because again the government is willing to kill to ensure your kids and grandkids don’t have the freedoms Americans were guaranteed.  The fuck of it is Americans have become so damn brainwashed that despite the founding fathers telling us explicitly our government would end up enslaving the rest of us to solidify their own power and wealth we ignore it. These were the guys that figured out the British were effectively enslaving us and decided to rise against it and create the greatest damn nation the world has ever known.  They literally created fucking America!!!  I mean holy shit, imagine having that on your CV.  And we pay them no mind, like they’re bat shit crazy and not relevant in our intellectual new world.

Today’s legislators rarely discuss the founding fathers or the Constitution beyond the very thin idea that they know we expect them to defend it.  That is, like freedom and apple pie, they love it during the campaign cycle.  However, ask them why then they continue to legislate against the Constitution and well they don’t want to talk about the Constitution anymore.  And we the people ,like apathetic morons , buy into the bullshit they feed us because we simply don’t care.  It’s to the point they can pretty much do anything knowing they can bullshit us with any damn nonsense that pops into their swollen heads.  And so they do things like hack into our webcams, take nude pictures of us and send them to foreign governments and tell us it’s for our own good.  We don’t give a shit because 1. it doesn’t impede our immediate comfort and 2. the press isn’t telling us it’s something to be concerned about.

The danger of being apathetic until it impacts our immediate day to day is that we allow the government to take away all the freedoms we are not currently using.  What I mean by that is we so far have not had to face what it means to be powerless and in chains.  But only because we haven’t yet ventured out far enough so as to reach the end of our chains.  Like a sleeping dog that isn’t aware he’s been shackled until he wakes and tries to chase a bird, we are asleep and unaware of the shackles placed around our ankles.

Some will say “wait, it isn’t apathy it is a trade off between safety and freedom”.  But the truth is freedom and safety are not conflictual we’ve only been led to believe so.  Fear has replaced freedom here in America and that is not by chance but by strategy of a government that has its own agenda, separate from its oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.  So while we should have prosecuted these recent governments for treason we’ve instead rewarded them the rights of dictatorship.

The Constitution is our freedom keeper but once the Constitution is made subordinate the precedent is set and in our legal system precedence is king.  The strength in the Constitution is just that, it’s strength.  Once we allow an exception to the Constitution’s superseding authority it no longer has any authority.  Unfortunately that exception has already been made.  With it, the destruction of the Constitution and the end to a guaranty of freedom.  Our corrupt government has created ‘legislation’ providing them a legal basis to imprison us without due process.  This is a fact.

This desecrates one of the most important axioms of America, in fact, due process is the very idea we are sold to spend $1 trillion per year fighting multiple simultaneous major theatre wars.  Yet here at home it no longer exists.  But remember our loss of due process is for our own good.  Giving a federal legislator or policy maker absolute discretion over our fate is in our best interest.  You and I have agreed with these propositions.  And you and I will have to adhere to being placed in prison for life if that is the will of our president or any delegate who will benefit by accusing us of being a national security threat.

Just by the fact the threat exists fulfills its objective.  People will not want to bring attention to themselves and thus will avoid protesting the wants of those who now have the authority to impede their freedom.  That in itself impede’s their freedom.  This is the one thing I really wish people could see.  What seem like issues too narrow or small to get worked up over are just marks of the snake bite.  Two very small holes in the skin but those holes are the gateway for the real killing agent to spread and overtake the whole system.

In March alone our beefed up and militarized public service workers killed more than 180 citizens they were meant to serve and protect on American soil.  That makes them an infinitely higher risk to our safety than the foreign terrorists to whom we’ve handed our Constitution.  That’s exactly what we’ve done.  If you listen to the terrorists’ videos that was their goal.  They wanted to end the freedom and free will that America seems to be jamming down the throats of societies around the world.  And so they won the moment Americans accepted to trade away its freedoms for safety.  That was their goal and they have achieved it.

Let’s look at Edward Snowden’s situation to see how one loses one’s freedom.  Snowden is a man that knowingly sacrificed his own freedom to expose the corruption and criminality of our policy makers and their respective agencies.  He is also a citizen that has been deemed a threat to national security.  Why would a man who exposed the criminal enslavement of Americans and citizens around the world be deemed a terrorist rather than a hero??  Because he is a threat to the power and control and really the entire system of those who can now legally classify him as a threat, removing his right to due process.

In effect, these political criminals can now legally lock away any prosecutor at will.   This is a gross conflict of interest and the hero that exposed this conflict of interest is now a victim of it.  Edward Snowden not only informed America, he recognized that he would be the first example so that Americans would see, first hand, the sort of corruption that has infected our system.  I can only infer he made himself known because he believed seeing it actually happen would get Americans to rise up and correct the moral transgression.  And what did we the people do in response to Snowden’s incredibly brave and patriotic action?  Absolutely nothing!!!  We force this hero to live in exile.  We don’t even demand the corruption to stop.  We do nothing.  How very American of us.  And why do we do nothing?  Because it doesn’t impede our immediate comfort and the media hasn’t told us we need to be concerned about the issue.

The lives of Americans have become so easy and so secure that we no longer recognize living in a utopia of freedom comes not with costs but with obligations.  We seem to believe that paying taxes indemnifies us of our real obligations as citizens who have been handed a beautiful gift and who are responsible for passing on that precious gift to future generations of Americans.   And that is a mistake that will have historians writing of us as we write of Eve in the garden of Eden.  Our lack of principles resulting in the suffering of all future generations having destroyed a gift we obviously didn’t deserve.

source: first rebuttal
emphasis: zero hedge

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Security-bill snooping goes too far, federal watchdogs warn

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Ian MacLeod
Ottawa Citizen: April 23, 2015

The federal government’s proposed security bill contains serious and contradictory flaws that will allow more than 100 government entities to exchange Canadians’ confidential information – yet no provision for similar information-sharing between the agencies that track the lawfulness of federal spies and police, parliamentarians were told Thursday.

Four of Canada’s top government watchdogs – who monitor privacy, the country’s two spy agencies and the RCMP – testified on Bill C-51 before the Senate national security committee.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien levelled the harshest blows. Canadians risk being caught in a web of unbridled government snooping into their personal lives if the draft security legislation becomes law, he warned.

“The bill would potentially lead to disproportionately large amounts of personal information of ordinary, law-abiding citizens being collected and shared. This sets up the prospect of profiling and Big Data analytics on all Canadians. In short, the means chosen are excessive to achieve the end,” Therrien said.

A crucial concern is C-51’s proposed Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. It would allow more than 100 federal departments, agencies and other entities to share information about Canadians with 17 departments and agencies that have national security responsibilities. The information would only have to be “relevant” to a potential or suspected national security threat. The 17 agencies also could share and collate information among themselves.

Therrien fears this could lead the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), RCMP, Department of Finance and others to share potentially all information they may hold on Canadians and businesses.

“The minister of public safety has indicated there are several privacy protections envisaged by Bill C-51. While I agree there are some, I believe they fall quite short of what a balanced approach would require,” he said.

(read the full article at Ottawa Citizen)

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‘Patriot Act’ not an effective counterterrorism tool; is being used for mass domestic surveillance

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US unveils 6-year-old report on NSA surveillance

Nedra Pickler
AP: April 25, 2015

With debate gearing up over the coming expiration of the Patriot Act surveillance law, the Obama administration on Saturday unveiled a 6-year-old report examining the once-secret program to collect information on Americans’ calls and emails.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence publicly released the redacted report following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the New York Times. The basics of the National Security Agency program had already been declassified, but the lengthy report includes some new details about the secrecy surrounding it.

President George W. Bush authorized the “President’s Surveillance Program” in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The review was completed in July 2009 by inspectors general from the Justice Department, Pentagon, CIA, NSA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

They found that while many senior intelligence officials believe the program filled a gap by increasing access to international communications, others including FBI agents, CIA analysts and managers “had difficulty evaluating the precise contribution of the PSP to counterterrorism efforts because it was most often viewed as one source among many available analytic and intelligence-gathering tools in these efforts.”

Critics of the phone records program, which allows the NSA to hunt for communications between terrorists abroad and U.S. residents, argue it has not proven to be an effective counterterrorism tool. They also say an intelligence agency has no business possessing the deeply personal records of Americans. Many favor a system under which the NSA can obtain court orders to query records held by the phone companies.

The Patriot Act expires on June 1, and Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would allow continued collection of call records of nearly every American. The legislation would reauthorize sections of the Patriot Act, including the provision under which the NSA requires phone companies to turn over the “to and from” records of most domestic landline calls.

(read the full article at AP)

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CBS Denver Report: TSA Screeners Exploited Scanners To Grope “Attractive” Male Passengers

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Annabelle Bamforth
Ben Swann: April 14, 2015

An investigation conducted by Denver’s CBS4 station revealed that two TSA employees at Denver International Airport have been fired after one employee acknowledged manipulating the airport’s scanning machines to allow the intentional groping of male passengers.

According to an anonymous tip from a TSA employee from last November, a male TSA screener allegedly told a female colleague that he was able to fondle “attractive male passengers” that arrive at the screening area by having another employee deliberately input incorrect data into the scanning machines:

“He related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows (the male TSA screener) to conduct a pat-down search of that area.”

In February, three months after the initial claim, TSA security supervisor Chris Higgins observed the screening area to check the accuracy of the anonymous tip. A law enforcement report obtained by CBS4 stated that Higgins “observed (the male TSA screener) appear to give a signal to another screener … (the second female screener) was responsible for the touchscreen system that controls whether or not the scanning machine alerts to gender- specific anomalies.”

The report went on to state that after a male passenger was seen entering the scanner, the investigator “observed (the female TSA agent) press the screening button for a female. The scanner alerted to an anomaly, and Higgins observed (the male TSA screener) conduct a pat down of the passenger’s front groin and buttocks area with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy.”

The female employee who took part in the groping scheme was later interviewed by Higgins and admitted that “she has done this for (the male TSA officer) at least 10 other times. She knew that doing so would allow (the male TSA officer) to perform a pat down on a male passenger that (the male TSA screener) found attractive.”

The two TSA employees involved in the incidents have since been fired. The TSA declined to name the employees who were fired.

The TSA reportedly has video of the incident observed by Higgins, but it was not yet been released to CBS4. The TSA claims that there have been no further complaints of “serial” groping, and the male passenger observed by Higgins has not been identified. A prosecutor declined to press charges in the case because no victim had been identified and there was no “reasonable likelihood of conviction.”

(read the full article at Ben Swann)

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‘SCANDALOUS': Baltimore Police Spying On Cellphones And Hiding It

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Casey Harper
Daily Caller: April 20, 2015

A detective’s court testimony Monday revealed that Baltimore law enforcement is spying on residents at an incredible rate without a warrant — and doing their best to hide it.

Detective Michael Dressel testified that Baltimore law enforcement have used “sting rays”–devices that track personal cell phone data and location–more than 4,300 times with court orders and an undocumented number of times without them, The Baltimore Sun reports.

“This is scandalous,” Tim Lynch, the Cato Institute’s Director for the Project on Criminal Justice, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Police agencies have misled the public about how the stingray devices have been used and how often. We need to find out what has been happening in other cities around the country. FBI officials and police chiefs need to come clean about this.”

The testimony came in a murder case where law enforcement used sting rays to find a phone involved in the alleged murder. Sting rays are devices used by authorities that act like cell phone towers, intercepting cell phone signals that would normally go to cellular towers. This allows authorities to track where you are, usually without a warrant and often even without a court order. Some sting rays can even detect information about your texts, calls and emails.

Local police departments obtain these devices from federal agencies but only on the condition that they keep the entire project entirely hidden from the public. In fact, police often drop charges or offer plea bargains in cases related to sting rays when pressured by defense lawyers or judges to reveal how they work.

In one Florida case, prosecutors who had what seemed an open and shut robbery case offered the defendant a plea bargain when pressured on police’s use of sting rays.

They would rather drop the charge than expose the practice. Because of this, how the devices work and how often they are used is one of law enforcement’s best kept secrets.

(read the full article at Daily Caller)

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Undercover Mounties pushed pressure-cooker bomb plan on accused terror couple, court hears

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Ian Mulgrew
Postmedia News: April 9, 2015

The Surrey couple accused of plotting to bomb the B.C. Legislature was taken on a three-day holiday in the Okanagan by the RCMP so they could relax while working on their terrorist plan.

But surveillance recordings of the impoverished addicts relishing the police-provided corner hotel suite and personal bathrobes don’t buttress the prosecution case against the pair. They broadsided it.

Organized after RCMP undercover officers had spent more than four months in a futile attempt to have John Nuttall articulate a real plan, the police used the Kelowna getaway to persuade him to abandon a harebrained scheme involving rockets armed with explosives made from cow manure and use pressure-cooker bombs filled with C-4.

“The reason I like the pressure-cooker idea is because we know it works, and it’s doable,” said an undercover officer acting as an Islamic extremist in the sophisticated police sting.

Later during the meeting, the officer, who like his colleagues cannot be named or identified by court order, enthusiastically reiterated the message: “I like that idea (using pressure-cooker bombs) … if you had a bunch of those and you decided you actually wanted to use that … if you wanted to put C-4 in that, like holy shit, how much damage would that (cause)…”

If Nuttall didn’t get the message, it was repeated a third time by the cop: “I like the pressure cooker thing a lot. I think it is feasible. It’s exciting. You know you can do it.”

It was a banner day for the defence, which has called on the jury to scrutinize police conduct.

Nuttall, 40, and Amanda Korody, 31, have pleaded not guilty to four charges in connection to the supposed plan to detonate explosive devices in Victoria during July 1, 2013 Canada Day celebrations.

But their B.C. Supreme Court trial has heard that by mid-June Nuttall, who was on methadone, didn’t know what day of the week it was and often confused the federal and provincial governments, Parliament and the Legislature, Ottawa and Victoria.

His lawyer Marilyn Sandford suggested the holiday was organized because the Mounties were concerned their 240-officer investigation was off the rails because Nuttall was unbalanced and unfocused.

Much of what he said was culled from Rambo movies, conspiracy plots and extremist Islamic literature.

He was wearing mirrored-rock-star sunglasses and eye-makeup, known as kohl, as the RCMP officer pretending to be an extremist Arab businessman drove them to Kelowna on June 16.

Nuttall intended to launch rockets at the “Parliament Buildings” and if he had any left over he would launch them at Seattle — which he believed was 32 km from Vancouver rather its true distance, 230 km.

“It’s going to take a lot of planning … a year to plan this and build this,” he said.

“A year, holy, that’s…” the corporal said, staggered.

“Starting today, oh yeah,” Nuttall continued. “By this time next year I want to be doing this … maybe sooner, the sooner the better.”

“I thought you wanted to make the pressure cookers?” the officer asked.

“I did, but as a distraction,” Nuttall replied.

Nuttall had told the undercover officer earlier he wanted to arm the rockets with homemade explosive made in part from cow manure.

But on the way to the Okanagan, the officer told him: “Don’t worry about explosives. Know what we are going to use? We are going to use C-4.”

“C-4 for the test?”

“For the pressure cooker,” the officer said.

(read the full article at National Post)

RELATED:
Did FBI “Set Up” Capitol Bombing Suspect? They’ve Done It 49 Times Since 9/11!

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Leaked Documents Reveal False Flags Used By The Canadian Communications Security Establishment

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Press For Truth : March 25, 2015

Leaked documents have revealed that the Communications Security Establishment has been “creating unrest by using false-flags” This could include using ‘honeypot’ or ‘watering hole’ techniques as well as disrupting online traffic by such techniques as deleting emails, freezing internet connections, blocking websites and redirecting wire money transfers.

(Source: Press For Truth)
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Communication Security Establishment’s cyberwarfare toolbox revealed

By Amber Hildebrandt, Michael Pereira and Dave Seglins
CBC News: March 23, 2015

Top-secret documents obtained by the CBC show Canada’s electronic spy agency has developed a vast arsenal of cyberwarfare tools alongside its U.S. and British counterparts to hack into computers and phones in many parts of the world, including in friendly trade countries like Mexico and hotspots like the Middle East.

The little known Communications Security Establishment wanted to become more aggressive by 2015, the documents also said.

Revelations about the agency’s prowess should serve as a “major wakeup call for all Canadians,” particularly in the context of the current parliamentary debate over whether to give intelligence officials the power to disrupt national security threats, says Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, the respected internet research group at University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

“These are awesome powers that should only be granted to the government with enormous trepidation and only with a correspondingly massive investment in equally powerful systems of oversight, review and public accountability,” says Deibert.

Details of the CSE’s capabilities are revealed in several top-secret documents analyzed by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, a U.S. news website co-founded by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who obtained the documents from U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The CSE toolbox includes the ability to redirect someone to a fake website, create unrest by pretending to be another government or hacker, and siphon classified information out of computer networks, according to experts who viewed the documents.

The agency refused to answer questions about whether it’s using all the tools listed, citing the Security of Information Act as preventing it from commenting on such classified matters.

In a written statement, though, it did say that some of the documents obtained by CBC News were dated and do “not necessarily reflect current CSE practices or programs.”

Canada’s electronic spy agency and the U.S. National Security Agency “cooperate closely” in “computer network access and exploitation” of certain targets, according to an April 2013 briefing note for the NSA.

(read the full article at CBC)


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Chris Hedges on Bill C-51 and the corporate state

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H.G. Watson
rabble: March 15, 2015

[…]Why did you want to travel all the way to Toronto to be a part of the protests against Bill C-51?

Chris Hedges: I’ve been fighting you know the [erosion] of civil liberties in the United States for a long time. I sued president Obama over section 1021 of the National Defence Authorization Act, which permits the U.S. military overturning over 150 years of law to carry out domestic policing on American city streets, to seize American citizens who “substantially support” the Taliban, Al Qaeda or something called associated forces — another kind of nebulous phrase — strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities.

I was also part of the lawsuit that worked its way up to the Supreme Court on warrantless wire-tapping. I covered the Stasi state in East Germany, I spent 20 years in some of the most despotic regimes around the globe as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and I think because of that, understand that this is not the kind of power that you ever want to give to a government. 

We can’t talk about free citizens in the state where everyone has all of their electronic forms of communication not only monitored, but stored in perpetuity in government computers. It doesn’t matter if they’re not using it. History has shown that if the government feels threatened or they seek greater control — and I think that is the trajectory of the corporate state — they will use it. The goal of wholesale surveillance, and something that Hannah Arendt wrote about in The Origins of Totalitarianism, is not to discover crimes but to give information to the government that it can use if it decides to arrest a certain category of the population. I think this is extremely grave.

What I find disturbing is that although the revelations of Edward Snowden are known, we’re not reacting. We don’t understand the danger that’s in front of it, when you talk about a population that is watched and tracked 24 hours a day. The relationship between a population that is monitored on that level and knows that [the government watches] them is a relationship between masters and slaves — you can’t even use the word liberty anymore and we’re already at that point.

I want to go back to the point you mentioned, that we’re not reacting. Why do you think that is?

People are politically passive because they have kind of given up on the system. That’s certainly true — more true — in the United States where Congress has a nine per cent approval rating. Only 38 per cent of the population even bothers to cast a ballot anymore. I think the other thing is that they don’t quite understand how incredibly dangerous handing any government this kind of power is.

So I think it’s those two factors, coupled with the fact [that] our mass radical movements — more so again in the United States, but Canada is not immune to this — have been largely broken. Labour unions are under assault, and I find that frightening. 

That’s why I was willing to fly up here because if we don’t react in a sustained way then we will see cemented into place one of the most frightening dystopias in human history — something that dwarfs anything ever dreamed of by the communist Stasi state in East Germany.

In terms of this particular bill, do you think that this fits into a wider trend of similar legislation in the western world?

Of course it fits into a wider trend — not only into the western world but in Canada. Canadians are monitored as closely as U.S. citizens are as closely as British citizens or any other. This is a global phenomenon and the corporate state — and Harper is representative of the corporate power and the corporate state — seeks this kind of control because they know what is coming with climate change and the inevitable financial collapse that is looming now that global speculators are back on a spree as they were before 2008. With a flick of a switch essentially we have both the legal and physical mechanisms through the creation of massive security forces — militarized police forces — to in essence declare a militarized state both in Canada and the United States. Or should we have another catastrophic act of domestic terrorism anything like that, all the mechanisms are there… we have to fight it now.

So do you think that this bill will actually will do anything towards its stated goal of combatting terrorism?

None of these bills are about terrorism. Terrorism is the excuse. That’s what 9/11 was and that’s what this gunman who carried out this attack on Parliament Hill — they seize on that the same way, for instance, the Nazi party seized on the Reichstag fire to strip away civil liberties in Germany. What people forget is that the next day, after the Nazis essentially eviscerated all civil liberties for the German population, everything appeared normal. Everyone went to work; came home; had dinner. They had ceded to themselves this kind of power in the name of fighting terrorism.

But for most people there’s a kind of normalcy and they don’t quite yet understand what a sea change this has been, and how dramatic this change is, and of course how terrifying it is. Totalitarian systems, they creep forward because they have to break any kind of obstacles or opposition that lie in their path. By the time people grasp what has happened to them, its kind of too late. There are no mechanisms left by which they can fight back. That’s kind of where we’re headed; that’s what is going on.

In what ways can we combat this kind of surveillance?

Well I’ve spent a lot of time with Julian Assange, who believes in encryption up to a point. Even Assange says finally the best encryptors — and he is one of them — will finally not be able to keep channels of privacy open. So he’s kind of optimistic in the short term but not in the long term.

I don’t encrypt. Rather than trying to build a parallel encryption mechanism I think what we have to do is carry out sustained and long term acts of civil disobedience in order to try and force the state to back down. I think that’s the only hope we have left. I think that we have to build radical mass movements and radical alternatives. Political parties I don’t trust. I see with the Democrats, they will, under the bush administration, decry the assault on civil liberties, but Obama’s assault on civil liberties has been far more egregious than that carried out by Bush. I don’t think the traditional political establishment has any intention — I can’t speak for Canada, I’m not Canadian, but that is certainly true in the United States that neither the Republican nor the Democrats have any intention of rolling any of this back 

You’ve written a little bit about radicalization and how it really stems from alienation from society. Do you think Bill C-51 that can contribute to radicalization in Canada?

Of course it does because what you do is you target a certain segment of the population and Muslims have already been targeted in the United States and Canada for harassment and abuse and discrimination even though they haven’t done anything. This breeds a kind of rage, especially among the young who feel caught between two cultures already and then feel alienated from two cultures. This feeds into exactly the propaganda that jihadists hand out, which is why you have roughly 20,000 foreign fighters with ISIS, 3,000 or 4,000 of them from Europe and Canada.

What would you propose as a way of them making sure people don’t feel like they are alienated or isolated?

Don’t take away their rights. Don’t take away their right to privacy; don’t take away their right to dissent.

Don’t take away — you know, a functioning democracy is a mechanism by which reform: incremental and peaceful reform can be carried out. When you [shut down] that mechanism you inevitably radicalize, especially your disenfranchised.

You know, if we don’t win this fight, then we are going to cement into place a species of corporate totalitarianism which will usher in a dystopia of terrifying proportions.

(Read the full article and listen to the interview at rabble)


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Canadian anti-terror bill opens door for human rights abuses, law scholars argue

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John Barber
The Guardian : February 27, 2015

More than 100 Canadian law professors have warned the prime minister, Stephen Harper, that a sweeping new anti-terror law introduced by his Conservative government is a “dangerous piece of legislation” that threatens to undermine the rule of law, human rights and democracy itself.

Although one poll showed that four out of five Canadians supported the proposed law shortly after it was tabled last month, criticisms that originated with scattered human-rights groups have since been amplified by a growing chorus of the nation’s leading jurists, academics, editorial-writers and opinion-makers.

The latest open letter follows an earlier plea to scrap the bill signed by four former Canadian prime ministers, five former supreme court justices and several cabinet ministers.

“Protecting human rights and protecting public safety are complementary objectives, but experience has shown that serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security,” the former prime ministers and supreme court jurists wrote. “Given the secrecy around national security activities, abuses can go undetected and without remedy. This results not only in devastating personal consequences for the individuals, but a profoundly negative impact on Canada’s reputation as a rights-respecting nation.”

The law professors present a close legal analysis of the proposed law, concluding with a sharp criticism of the government’s attempt to speed it through parliament.

“It is sadly ironic that democratic debate is being curtailed on a bill that vastly expands the scope of covert state activity when that activity will be subject to poor or even non-existent democratic oversight or review,” the experts wrote.

Amid growing criticism and a filibuster in parliament, the Conservatives reluctantly agreed late in the week to extend the previously abbreviated schedule for committee hearings on the bill, impeding what had hitherto been its fast track into law.

The move raised hope among opponents that the Harper government will ultimately be forced to accept amendments to curtail the sweeping new police and spy powers contained in the bill.

Drafted in response to two attacks by lone terrorists this year, including one that ended with a hail of bullets in the corridor of the House of Commons in Ottawa, Bill C-51 significantly loosens current restrictions on police and spies seeking to disrupt terrorist activity. But critics claim that it also opens the way for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to target legitimate dissent, making criminals of environmentalists, native people and other protesters hostile to the government.

Previously, the prime minister has derided the criticisms as “ridiculous” and critics as members of a conspiracy-addled “black helicopter fleet”. But the latest fusillade from some of the country’s leading legal scholars is the most forceful attack so far levelled against the increasingly controversial new bill.
‘Neither extremists, nor dismissive of threats’

In a letter running more than 4,000 words and covering “some (and only some)” of the terror bill’s alleged defects, the professors warn that the new law would not only do little to fight terrorism, it could actually set back the cause.

“In this respect,” they wrote, “we wish it to be clear that we are neither ‘extremists’ (as the Prime Minister has recently labelled the Official Opposition for its resistance to Bill C-51) nor dismissive of the real threats to Canadians’ security that government and Parliament have a duty to protect.

“Rather, we believe that terrorism must be countered in ways that are fully consistent with core values (that include liberty, non-discrimination, and the rule of law), that are evidence-based, and that are likely to be effective.”

The growing resistance to the new measures has eclipsed the popular approval that greeted the bill when the prime minister introduced it in January, vowing revenge against “violent jihadists” who “want to harm us because they hate our society and the values it represents”.

(read the full article at The Guardian)


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Domestic Terrorism in Canada : Funded by The Government of Canada

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An Open Letter to Canadian Media

Elisa Hategan
Incognito Press: February 19, 2015

My name is Elisa Hategan and I’m a Canadian writer and freelance journalist. Twenty years ago, I was a teenage member of an Ontario-based domestic terrorist group called the Heritage Front. They were a radical white supremacist, neo-Nazi lobby group with ties to organizations that connected into parliamentary politics. After turning against them, collecting information and testifying against group leaders in court, the Toronto Sun broke the story that one of the group’s leaders was a CSIS agent, Grant Bristow. For a period of approx. 4 years, the Heritage Front had been founded and funded in large part by Canada’s own intelligence service, CSIS (Canadian Intelligence Security Service) – the Canadian equivalent of the CIA. They called it Operation Governor.

After the official inquiry resulted in a whitewashed report that was slammed by both left-wing activists and Preston Manning, then-leader of the Reform Party which was essentially destroyed by revelations that Heritage Front members had infiltrated its ranks, I went into hiding and tried to forget what had happened. Over the years, however, I realized it was a story I had to tell. So in 2010 I wrote a memoir titled Race Traitor and entered into negotiations with Penguin Canada over the acquisition rights, but after a month and no solid offer I walked away from the negotiation table. I should add that no other publishers, big or small press, were interested in publishing it. “The issue of white supremacy has had its day” Douglas & McIntyre. “ I can’t see a broad market for the book.” – Random House. Last year I ended up self-publishing it: Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence’s Greatest Cover-Up

In the month after the book came out, I was interviewed by a senior journalist at the Globe & Mail, Colin Freeze, as well as the Director of Programming at the CBC here in Toronto. They both expressed great interest in covering the story, but afterwards came back at me with excuses that senior editors were reluctant to go to print (or, as in the case of CBC, to air) with it – mainly because it was an old, irrelevant story since it happened 20 years ago. Also, there was the pesky issue that in today’s political climate, and according to Minister of Justice Peter MacKay’s own admission, only religion-based violence can be considered terrorism, i.e. only Muslims can be terrorists. In other words – when a Christian massacres almost 100 defenceless youth on Utoya Island in Norway, murders innocents outside a Kansas City synagogue (on the heels of Holocaust-denier David Irving’s talk two weeks earlier), plots a Halifax Valentine’s Day massacre or shoots 3 innocent Muslims in Chapel Hill execution-style, they are not terrorists but misguided, lone misfits.

Just this past month, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper (who in the 1980s was a member of the extreme right-wing Northern Foundation, which had Heritage Front and Reform Party members, along with skinheads, anti-abortionists, Holocaust-deniers and Conrad Black) has announced a new bill that essentially duplicates the NSA laws of arrest without warrant, anybody can be detained for a week under the pretext of “terrorism”, etc. Bill C-51 is extremely troubling, considering that they will be giving CSIS far greater powers than ever before, turning it into what many have called a “Secret Police” with far-reaching powers.

Given the context of Bill C-51, it didn’t surprise either myself or the numerous activists, anti-racists and aboriginal protesters I’ve communicated with, that we cannot get any mainstream press coverage in Canadian media. Telling the story of how Canada’s own intelligence agency formed a domestic terrorist group that stalked, harassed and assaulted several left-wing activists in the 1990s would be in direct conflict with what Stephen Harper’s government is attempting to pass into law – a law whose definition is so broad, so undefined, that anyone in direct opposition to our government’s interests (such as Aboriginal protesters and the Idle No More movement) would fall into the category of “terrorist.”

Under Bill C-51, ‪CSIS will have the power to: 1) detain people without charges for up to 7 days; 2) interfere with bank transactions and seize bank accounts if they are “suspected” of potential terror activity; 3) order the seizure of “terrorist propaganda” or order it deleted from an online source; 4) stop any passengers “suspected” of travelling overseas to commit a terror offence to be removed from a flight; 5) seal court proceedings; 6) make it illegal to “promote” or “counsel” terrorist activity – the definition of what this constitutes is, of course, left up to CSIS’ interpretation. Using “disruption warrants,” Canada’s spies will do just about anything: “enter any place or open or obtain access to any thing,” to copy or obtain any document, “to install, maintain, or remove any thing,” and, most importantly, “to do any other thing that is reasonably necessary to take those measures.”

Bill C-51 MUST be stopped, or at the very least re-examined. The repeated violations and more violations on the part of the former intelligence unit of the RCMP, which became CSIS, which evolved into CSEC, cannot be overlooked. Neither is Harper’s ongoing use of CSIS as his personal domain pet whenever he wants to keep tabs on anti-fracking protesters, Green Party members, or whoever is opposed to the Conservative Party’s mandate. Such collusion between government and intelligence agencies is insidious at best, and will be used politically to defeat (or even imprison) political opponents.

History has already showed us what can happen when agents run amok: Grant Bristow’s handlers had been inherited from the same RCMP department which preceded CSIS’s inception. Back in the 1970s they were burning barns in Quebec while blaming it on the FLQ. After that scandal ensued and RCMP intelligence was disbanded, they moved over to the newly-minted CSIS and taught neo-Nazis and violent skinheads (some of whom were part of the now-disbanded Airborne Regiment) intelligence techniques, thus contributing to assaults, stalking, harassment and worse. Since they got away with all of the above, I cannot imagine what will happen when they gain autonomy.

(view the full article, documentation & pictures at Incognito Press)


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New Snowden Documents Reveal American and British Spies Hacked SIM Card Manufacturer

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Derek Broze
Ben Swann : February 20, 2015

New documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal the National Security Agency (NSA) and the British GCHQ hacked into a SIM card manufacturer in the Netherlands and now has access to encryption keys that allow monitoring of voice calls and metadata.

The Intercept released the new documents which detail the existence of the Mobile Handset Exploitation Team (MHET), a team formed in April 2010 to study and target cellphones and hack computer networks of manufacturers of SIM cards. The team specifically targeted Gemalto, a SIM card manufacturer based in the Netherlands that produces SIM cards for 450 wireless companies, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Gemalto has operations in 85 countries around the world.

Internal slides from the NSA and GCHQ show that the team was after encryption keys that “live in” the SIM cards. By possessing these keys the spy agencies are able to access wireless networks without leaving any clues and without the need for a warrant. Beyond simply accessing current communications, accessing “authentication servers” allows the agencies to unlock past encrypted communications they may not have had the ability to decrypt. One agent wrote on a slide that he was “very happy with the data so far and [was] working through the vast quantity of product.”

The 2010 document refers to this as “PCS Harvesting at Scale,” or harvesting large amounts of encryption keys as the data passed between the wireless providers and the “SIM card personalisation centres,” such as Gemalto. The NSA boasted at having the ability to process 12 to 22 million keys per second. The spy agency was aiming to process more than 50 million per second. These keys are processed and made available for use against surveillance targets.

Indeed, the GCHQ specifically targeted individuals in key positions within Gemalto and began accessing their emails in hopes of following their trail into the SIM card manufacturers servers. The team of spies even wrote a script which allowed them to access private communications of employees for telecommunication and SIM “personalization” companies in search of technical terms that might be used in assigning encryption keys to cellphone customers.

Paul Beverly, a Gemalto executive vice president, told The Intercept he believed,“The most important thing for me is to understand exactly how this was done, so we can take every measure to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, and also to make sure that there’s no impact on the telecom operators that we have served in a very trusted manner for many years.”

More than likely the NSA and the GCHQ violated international law every time they covertly accessed the emails of employees in foreign nations. Dutch officials are already calling for an investigation into who knew the American and British agencies were conducting such a program, and if so, under what doctrine is such a policy allowed.

(read the full article at Ben Swann)


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VIDEO: Rex Murphy calls on Canada to go to war against Stephen Harper’s terror bill

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And they will say that this was Rex Murphy’s finest hour.

The CBC freelancer just issued the nation its ultimate call to arms, challenging Canadians to fight Stephen Harper’s new anti-terrorism bill clause by clause, and word by word — and to refuse to cede an inch of freedom beyond what is needed.

“Every clause should be fought over,” Murphy said on CBC’s The National Thursday night. “Every potential advance on the liberty of the citizen should be examined as to its ultimate necessity.”

Murphy added: “The powers and agencies to be granted license to monitor and investigate outside or beyond the protections normally in place must be put to the fullest Parliamentary, media and democratic testing…. We should not abridge our liberties or set up mechanisms to abridge them without the fullest and most strenuous scrutiny and opposition we are capable of.”

Canadians of all political persuasions and all points of view should all find common cause in challenging the Conservatives as they attempt to cut off debate on Harper’s new terror bill.

“That’s not the way we do things” in this country.

(Press Progress)

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A close eye on security makes Canadians safer

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Jean Chrétien, Joe Clark, Paul Martin and John Turner
The Globe and Mail : February 19, 2015

The four of us most certainly know the enormity of the responsibility of keeping Canada safe, something always front of mind for a prime minister. We have come together with 18 other Canadians who have served as Supreme Court of Canada justices, ministers of justice and of public safety, solicitors-general, members of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee and commissioners responsible for overseeing the RCMP and upholding privacy laws.

Among us, we have served in our various public office roles from 1968 to 2014. Over that time we were faced with, and responded to, a range of pressing security concerns. We all agree that protecting public safety is one of government’s most important functions and that Canada’s national security agencies play a vital role in meeting that responsibility.

Yet we all also share the view that the lack of a robust and integrated accountability regime for Canada’s national security agencies makes it difficult to meaningfully assess the efficacy and legality of Canada’s national security activities. This poses serious problems for public safety and for human rights.

A detailed blueprint for the creation of an integrated review system was set out almost a decade ago by Justice Dennis O’Connor in his recommendations from the Maher Arar inquiry, which looked into the role that Canada’s national security agencies played in the rendition and torture of a Canadian citizen. Justice O’Connor’s recommendations, however, have not been implemented; nor have repeated calls from review bodies for expanded authority to conduct cross-agency reviews.

Meanwhile, efforts to enhance parliamentary oversight of national security agencies have also been unsuccessful. For example, in October 2004, a report calling for parliamentary oversight over national security activities was presented to the minister of public safety; this report contained an oversight structure that was agreed upon by representatives of all parties in both the House of Commons and the Senate. Legislation was introduced at the time, but not adopted before the next election.

Canada needs independent oversight and effective review mechanisms more than ever, as national security agencies continue to become increasingly integrated, international information sharing remains commonplace and as the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies continue to expand with new legislation.

Protecting human rights and protecting public safety are complementary objectives, but experience has shown that serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security. Given the secrecy around national security activities, abuses can go undetected and without remedy. This results not only in devastating personal consequences for the individuals, but a profoundly negative impact on Canada’s reputation as a rights-respecting nation. A strong and robust accountability regime mitigates the risk of abuse, stops abuse when it is detected, and provides a mechanism for remedying abuses that have taken place. In the years since the Arar inquiry, international human rights experts – including the UN Committee against Torture – have called on Canada to improve oversight of its national security agencies.

Canada’s national security policies and practices must be effective in order to protect public safety. Independent oversight and effective review mechanisms help ensure that resources devoted to national security activities are being utilized effectively and efficiently. The confidential nature of national security activities means that it is more difficult to rely on the usual public checks on government performance, such as scrutiny from Parliament, civil society, media and the general public. Security-cleared review bodies play crucial roles in catching and correcting operational and structural problems before they become full-blown national security failures, leading to better security for Canadians.

National security agencies, like all government institutions, must be accountable to the public. Accountability engenders public confidence and trust in activities undertaken by the government, particularly where those activities might be cloaked in secrecy. Independent checks and balances ensure that national security activities are protecting the public, and not just the government in power. Oversight and review mechanisms are necessary to make sure that powers are being exercised lawfully, and that government officials are not called upon to undertake activities that might expose them or Canada to legal liability either at home or abroad.

The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada (1993-2003), Minister of Justice (1980-82);

The Right Honourable Joe Clark, Prime Minister of Canada (1979-80), Minister of Justice (1988-89);

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada (2003-06);

The Right Honourable John Turner, Prime Minister of Canada (1984), Minister of Justice (1968-72);

The Honourable Louise Arbour, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1999-2004);

The Honourable Michel Bastarache, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1997-2008);

The Honourable Ian Binnie, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1998-2011);

The Honourable Claire L’Heureux Dubé, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1987-2002);

The Honourable John Major, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1992-2005);

The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice (2003-06);

The Honourable Marc Lalonde, Minister of Justice (1978-79);

The Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice (1997-2002), Minister of Public Safety (2003-06);

The Honourable Warren Allmand, Solicitor General of Canada (1972-76);

The Honourable Jean-Jacques Blais, Solicitor General of Canada (1978-79);

The Honourable Wayne Easter, Solicitor General of Canada (2002-03);

The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Solicitor General of Canada (1998-2002);

The Honourable Frances Lankin, Member, Security Intelligence Review Committee (2009-14);

The Honourable Bob Rae, Member, Security Intelligence Review Committee (1998-2003);

The Honourable Roy Romanow, Member, Security Intelligence Review Committee (2003-08);

Chantal Bernier, Acting Privacy Commissioner of Canada (2013-2014);

Shirley Heafey, Chairperson, Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (1997-2005);

Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada (2003-2013)

(originally posted at The Globe and Mail)

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Levitation : Canada running global mass surveillance program; monitor 15 million downloads daily

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Canada’s spy agency is running its own global Internet mass surveillance program – and Canadians are among the targets

Amber Hildebrandt, Michael Pereira and Dave Seglins
CBC: January 28, 2015

Canada’s electronic spy agency sifts through millions of videos and documents downloaded online every day by people around the world, as part of a sweeping bid to find extremist plots and suspects, CBC News has learned.

Details of the Communications Security Establishment project dubbed “Levitation” are revealed in a document obtained by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and recently released to CBC News.

Under Levitation, analysts with the electronic eavesdropping service can access information on about 10 to 15 million uploads and downloads of files from free websites each day, the document says.

“Every single thing that you do — in this case uploading/downloading files to these sites — that act is being archived, collected and analyzed,” says Ron Deibert, director of the University of Toronto-based internet security think-tank Citizen Lab, who reviewed the document.

In the document, a PowerPoint presentation written in 2012, the CSE analyst who wrote it jokes about being overloaded with innocuous files such as episodes of the musical TV series Glee in their hunt for terrorists.

CBC analyzed the document in collaboration with the U.S. news website The Intercept, which obtained it from Snowden.

(read the full article at CBC)

Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads

Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept: January 28, 2015

Canada’s leading surveillance agency is monitoring millions of Internet users’ file downloads in a dragnet search to identify extremists, according to top-secret documents.

The covert operation, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, taps into Internet cables and analyzes records of up to 15 million downloads daily from popular websites commonly used to share videos, photographs, music, and other files.

The revelations about the spying initiative, codenamed LEVITATION, are the first from the trove of files provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden to show that the Canadian government has launched its own globe-spanning Internet mass surveillance system.

According to the documents, the LEVITATION program can monitor downloads in several countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. It is led by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the NSA. (The Canadian agency was formerly known as “CSEC” until a recent name change.)

The latest disclosure sheds light on Canada’s broad existing surveillance capabilities at a time when the country’s government is pushing for a further expansion of security powers following attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last year.

Ron Deibert, director of University of Toronto-based Internet security think tank Citizen Lab, said LEVITATION illustrates the “giant X-ray machine over all our digital lives.”

“Every single thing that you do – in this case uploading/downloading files to these sites – that act is being archived, collected and analyzed,” Deibert said, after reviewing documents about the online spying operation for CBC News.

David Christopher, a spokesman for Vancouver-based open Internet advocacy group OpenMedia.ca, said the surveillance showed “robust action” was needed to rein in the Canadian agency’s operations.

“These revelations make clear that CSE engages in large-scale warrantless surveillance of our private online activities, despite repeated government assurances to the contrary,” Christopher told The Intercept.

(read the full article at The Intercept)

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