Blog Archives

NSA Surveillance Through the Prism of Political Repression


July 28th marks the 35th anniversary of the political assassination of two Puerto Rican independence activists, Carlos Soto Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado, in the infamous Cerro Maravillai case. This case, which was widely followed among Puerto Ricans, involved an agent provocateur that led the activists to an ambush that resulted in their brutal murder by paramilitary agents within the colonial police force. The event led to two investigations, the second of which revealed a conspiracy to cover up both the assassination plot as well as the destruction and manipulation of evidence carried out by the colonial police and justice department, and well as the federal justice department and FBI. Cerro Maravilla symbolizes for many the most outstanding recent example of repressive measures, from surveillance to political assassination, unleashed by US imperialism against the anticolonial movement in Puerto Rico.

The recent revelations of NSA spying by Edward Snowden have provoked mass outrage across the globe. Much of the consternation comes from what is commonly understood as a violation of privacy. In the official media, Snowden’s actions have been framed as a debate between ‘national security’ and ‘privacy’. However, framing the question in these terms is pure subterfuge. The Puerto Rican experience shows that the true objectives of surveillance programs by intelligence agencies like the NSA, CIA, and FBI having nothing to do with ‘security’ or ‘protection’ but rather political repression. Systematic surveillance can only be understood as an essential part of state repression, the purpose of which is to intimidate those that question the status quo by promoting a culture of fear. One can never be separated from the other.

The systematic surveillance and repression of Puerto Rico’s anticolonial movement is obviously just one example of many. A brief historical sketch of US imperialism’s repressive efforts against anticolonial forces in Puerto Rico must begin with the political intrigues that preceded the 1898 military invasion as well as the martial law that characterized both military and civilian colonial governments in its immediate aftermath. This history goes on to include the surveillance and repressive attacks against the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and its followers from the 30s through the 50s, which included massacres of unarmed civilians, political assassinations and imprisonments, the harassment and attacks against labor unions and newly emergent socialist organizations of the same period, as well as COINTELPRO operations against resurgent nationalist and socialist political formations during the 60s and 70s.ii Indeed, in 1987 it was revealed that over 130,000 files on individuals and organizations had been accumulated through systematic surveillance on the island. This history is an integral part of the parallel campaigns of systematic state repression unleashed within the United States against groups such as the Black Liberation Movement, the American Indian Movement, the Chicano Liberation Movement, radical labor organizations, progressive students and antiwar activists, as well as communists.iii As such, what constitutes a scandal for the broader public is in fact part of the daily reality for those that fight for freedom and an end to oppression.

Snowden’s revelation that the United States Security Group Command’s Sabana Seca installation, located in the northern coastal municipality of Toa Baja, is part of an international surveillance network, which includes the Fornstat program, comes to no surprise to Puerto Rican anticolonial activists. From Sabana Seca, US naval intelligence monitors and gathers Internet, phone, and other forms of communication. In 1999, Duncan Campbell and Mark Honigsbaum of The Guardian already highlighted the naval intelligence’s “Echelon” operations from Sabana Seca and other locations both in the US and internationally as part of joint US British surveillance programs.iv

What is critical to highlight about US imperialism in Puerto Rico is the continued military character of colonialism on the island. For the benefit of those that may be unaware or who take the position that US militarism characterized only the past history of colonialism in Puerto Rico, a few contemporary examples serve to illustrate the point. Over the past decade and a half, Puerto Ricans have mobilized en masse to oppose a proposed military radar system intended for the Lajas valley in the southwestern part of the island, to end the practice of using the eastern island of Vieques as a bombing range by the US military and its allies (It should be noted that there was also a successful campaign to end the militarization of Culebra island also off the eastern coast of the main island in the 70s), and in more recent times against a system of potentially toxic and environmentally destructive antennas used both by the military and cellular companies that have proliferated across the island. In an article in the current issue of Claridad, the spokesperson for the grassroots Coalition of Communities Against the Proliferation of Antennas, Wilson Torres, sheds light on the US military’s Full Spectrum Dominance program currently being implemented in Puerto Rico. v

Understood in the context of pervasive unemployment, which serves to ensure an ever present pool of recruits used as cannon fodder in US military campaigns throughout the world as well as the structural dependence of large parts of the colonial economy on the Pentagon, this picture constitutes the modified form of US militarism in Puerto Rico in the present context. One may add the militarization of the colonial police force in the ongoing attacks against residents of public housing and other marginalized communities to this reality.

It would not be difficult to draw parallels between much of what is described immediately above and the realities faced by many North Americans. Heavy-handed policing and economically depressed communities dependent upon military or prison industries are a familiar reality for many. Yet the notion that the United States of America is characterized by a repressive state is much more difficult for the average person to accept. The narrative of 9/11 provides the pretext that results in the conflation of national security and state repression in the minds of many.

Notwithstanding, the revelations about the NSA spying program have provoked the condemnation of all except the most recalcitrant sycophants of US imperialism. Yet, it is absolutely necessary to place these programs in the context of the long history of state repression and militarism. Those on the left must push to extend the public discourse beyond questions of personal privacy to a discussion of systematic political repression within increasingly militarized “liberal” democracies. The experiences of anticolonial activists and militant, class-conscious revolutionaries from Puerto Rico lend valuable insights that add to the discussion around the significance of what Snowden’s leaks reveal: systematic surveillance and state repression are two sides of the same coin.

An insightful comment by Marx, writing in the New York Daily Tribune about British imperialism in India during the mid 1800s and often repeated among Puerto Rican comrades, is a useful starting point for the US left:

“The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, moving from its home, where it assumes respectable form, to the colonies, where it goes naked.”

Carlos Borrero is a New York based writer.

via NSA Surveillance Through the Prism of Political Repression » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

Advertisements

Thousands in Germany protest NSA surveillance


AP)—Thousands of people are taking to the streets in Germany to protest against the alleged widespread surveillance of Internet users by U.S. intelligence services.

Protesters, responding to calls by a loose network calling itself #stopwatchingus, braved searing summer temperatures Saturday to demonstrate in Hamburg, Munich, Berlin and up to 35 other German cities and towns.

Some wore tinfoil hats to shield themselves from the sun—and make a political statement about warding off unwanted eavesdroppers.

Others held placards showing support for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue of the NSA’s alleged interception of Web traffic when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Berlin last month. But German opposition parties remain skeptical of the government’s claim that it had known nothing about the surveillance.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-07-thousands-germany-protest-nsa-surveillance.html#jCp

via Thousands in Germany protest NSA surveillance.

The Surveillance State Strikes Back


When former National Security Agency contractor Ed Snowden exposed the inner workings of the country’s biggest intelligence organization, he said he did so to roll back a spying apparatus that put the United States on the path to “turnkey tyranny.”

But his revelations could end up having the opposite effect. Instead of declawing a single surveillance state, Snowden’s leaks could ironically wind up enhancing government spying around the globe.

According to experts who are advising U.S. email, cloud data storage, and social media companies, executives are concerned that foreign governments — particularly ones with fewer protections for personal privacy and free speech — are already beginning to demand that U.S. tech companies relocate their servers and databases within their borders. Under normal circumstances, companies would rarely comply with those migration demands, especially if those countries have reputations for heavy-handed internal policing. But now that the United States is being seen as a global spying power, they may have little choice.

Other governments can make their relocation demands in the name of protecting citizens from the intrusive powers of the NSA. Then those regimes can use U.S. tech to make their own law enforcement and intelligence agencies more NSA-like.

“Despite Snowden’s sensational revelations, data will not be better protected outside the U.S. in countries where privacy is aspirational at best,” said Al Gidari, a lawyer with the firm Perkins Coie who represents companies on surveillance and communications law. “Data stored locally will be the fuel for corruption, abuse and repression in most of those countries, especially in those countries that are complaining the loudest about U.S. surveillance activities.”

This week, Brazil’s communications minister said that Internet service providers may now be required to store information locally following reports that NSA has spied on communications in Brazil and across Latin America.

“The ideal thing would be for these companies to keep their data in the country so it can be available should Brazil’s justice system request it,” Paulo Bernardo Silva said in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper. Silva described local control of data as a matter of national sovereignty.

Companies that provide cloud computing services are facing particular scrutiny abroad. Their business is to store large amounts of sensitive information about foreign individuals and companies on servers that are located in United States. And there is a growing perception that this infrastructure is firmly within the grip of the U.S. intelligence agencies, several experts said. That impression is not diminished when U.S. officials, attempting to mollify domestic critics, argue that the NSA is only interested in monitoring foreigners.

Over the past few years, overseas governments have increased pressure on marquee technology companies to hand over more data about their customers and to comply with official orders that would be deemed unconstitutional in the United States.

In 2011, Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, gave the government of India access to its consumer and messaging services, in response to authorities’ concerns that they would not be able to monitor criminals and other threats communicating over the company’s networks. Officials had threatened to cut off access to the company’s services inside their country if RIM didn’t comply. The company ultimately agreed to allow India’s security agencies to intercept emails and other messages.

Last year, the Google executive in charge of the company’s business operations in Brazil was arrested after the company failed to comply with a government order to remove YouTube videos critical of a local mayoral candidate. Google, which owns YouTube, said it wasn’t responsible for the content that users post to the video sharing network.

It wasn’t the first time the company had run up against aggressive policing of information that would be protected under the First Amendment in the United States. In 2011, Google removed profiles from its Orkut social-networking system after a court order deemed them politically offensive. And another order told the company to take down thousands of photos from one of its sharing sites.

U.S. companies are required to abide by the surveillance laws in whatever country they operate. But under legal assistance treaties, foreign governments usually funnel their requests through official channels, and U.S. authorities deliver the requests to the American companies. That slows down the surveillance machine in those countries, and they’ve been looking for ways to speed up that process.

Brazil may prove an early test case for the Snowden blowback effect. According to a report in the Brazilian newspaper Folha, the government will present a “formal condemnation of U.S. data collection techniques” to the United Nations Human Rights Council at its next meeting on September 9, in Geneva. Brazil has apparently had little luck attracting supporters to its attempt to politically embarrass the U.S. government — only seven other countries on the 47-member commission have signed on.

But new information about NSA spying, disclosed by the director of the agency himself, may add some momentum to Brazil’s efforts. At the Aspen Security Conference, Gen. Keith Alexander tipped his hand and revealed that the NSA is obtaining a huge amount of communications traffic from cables that come ashore in Brazil.

Brazil is in the espionage business, too, of course, as are most countries. But the NSA revelations have tended to obscure the obvious hypocrisy in one nation feigning outrage that another country is spying on it. In an interview with Folha, Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim acknowledged that his fellow countrymen could be spied on via their connections to foreign social networks. (The implication was those in the United States.) But he said there was no evidence that the Brazilian government was using such a scheme to monitor its own citizens.

“What is known is more about the U.S. agencies,” Celso said. “To my knowledge, nothing has come out about the Brazilian agencies. But Brazilians can be [monitored], yes. It is speculation.”

Celso added that on two occasions, he believed his communications had been monitored by the United States, including while he lived in the country as Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations. “I was responsible for three committees on the issue of Iraq. My phone started making a very strange noise, and when the commission on Iraq ended, the noise did too. There was an obvious focus then.”

U.S. technology companies’ reputations are also taking hits in Europe. Vivane Reding, the European Union’s Justice Minister, is reviewing the Safe Harbor Framework, which is intended to support transatlantic trade while also protecting European citizens’ privacy. Redding has said the agreement could be used as a “loophole” to allow the transfer of personal data to the United States from European countries where privacy rules are stronger.

Companies based in Europe also believe that the NSA scandal could be a financial boon for them. Customers may start moving their data to facilities located in countries with stricter privacy regulations — and away from American-based firms. “There’s a perception, even if unfounded, that U.S. privacy protections are insufficient to protect the data which is stored either on U.S. soil or with U.S. companies,” Justin Freeman, the corporate counsel for cloud computing provider Rackspace, told a House committee last year.

Snowden’s revelations have cracked whatever veneer of deniability U.S. companies had that they weren’t providing foreigners’ personal data to American intelligence agencies. And considering that Congress this week put its stamp of approval on a key element of the NSA’s surveillance architecture, companies may find it harder to persuade their foreign customers that the U.S. is still a safe place to keep their information.

But there may be a way, however unlikely, for U.S. companies to repair their international standing and keep their customers’ information away from the NSA: They could move their own infrastructure overseas or become acquired by majority foreign owners.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the wireless division of Verizon and T-Mobile have not been part of the spy agency’s data collection regime because they’re tied to foreign owners. Deutsche Telekom, of Germany, owns 74 percent of T-Mobile, and Vodafone Group, of the United Kingdom, owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless in a joint-venture with its parent company.

Germany and England may seem a long way to go to relocate a business. But it could keep companies further from the long arm of the NSA.

via The Surveillance State Strikes Back – By Shane Harris | Foreign Policy.

NSA Snooping: The War on Terror Is America’s Mania- The View from Germany


The NSA spying scandal shows that America’s pursuit of terrorists has turned into a mania. Spying on citizens is as monstrous and unlawful as Guantanamo Bay and drone warfare. The German government‘s response has been woefully weak.

America is sick. September 11 left it wounded and unsettled — that’s been obvious for nearly 12 years — but we are only now finding out just how grave the illness really is. The actions of the NSA exposed more than just the telephone conversations and digital lives of many millions of people. The global spying scandal shows that the US has become manic, that it is behaving pathologically, invasively. Its actions are entirely out of proportion to the danger.

Since 2005, an average of 23 Americans per year have been killed through terrorism, mostly outside of the US. “More Americans die of falling televisions and other appliances than from terrorism,” writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, and “15 times as many die by falling off ladders.” The US has spent $8 trillion on the military and homeland security since 2001.

America has other threats. The true short-term danger is homegrown: More than 30,000 Americans are killed by firearms every year. An American child is 13 times more likely to be shot than a child in another industrialized country. When it comes to combating the problem, President Barack Obama and Congress are doing very little — or, to be fair, nothing at all. They talk about it every now and then, after every killing spree. The gun lobby, incurably ill, counters that the weapons are necessary for self-defense.

And when it comes to real long-term dangers, such as climate change, America, its prime perpetrator, does nothing — or, to be fair, too little too late.

As Monstrous as Guantanamo

Guantanamo Bay Facility Continues To Serve As Detention Center For War Detainees

Getty Images

Eleven and a half years later, Guantanamo Bay detention camp is still up and running.

All of this is not to say that terrorism doesn’t exist: 9/11 happened, and al Qaida is real. But spying on citizens and embassies, on businesses and allies, violates international law. It is as monstrous and as unlawful as Guantanamo Bay, where for 11 and a half years, men have been detained and force-fed, often without evidence against them, many of whom are still there to this day. It is as unlawful as the drones that are killing people, launched with a mere signature from Obama.

There has been virtually no political discussion about all of this. Attacks have been prevented through the spying program — Obama says it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it, and we have to believe them. Voters and citizens are akin to children, whose parents — the government — know what is best for them. But does the free America that should be defended even still exist, or has it abolished itself through its own defense?

An American government that gives its blessing to a program like Prism respects nothing and no one. It acts out its omnipotence, considers itself above international law — certainly on its own territory and even on foreign ground. The fact that it’s Obama behaving in such a way is bleak. If this were happening during the administration of George W. Bush, we could at least think, “It’s just Bush. He’s predictable. There is a better America.” Now we know: There is only one America. Did Obama, the Harvard Law student, even believe what he was saying in his speeches about the return of civil liberties? Can someone be so cynical that they promise to heal the world, then act in such a way all the while giving the xenophobic explanation that only foreigners would be monitored? Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are Obama’s role models. What would they say?

The Stasi Comparison Stands

The German government has shown devastating weakness. Merkel should say, “You are manic, and what you are doing is sick.” That’s what friends do. Instead she weighs every word to avoid annoying the Americans. She said that a comparison between the NSA and the Stasi is inappropriate, but she’s wrong. A comparison doesn’t require that two things be identical. The Stasi destroyed families, the NSA probably not. But the use of technology, the careful nurturing of the image of the enemy, the obsessive collection of data, the belief of being on the right side, the good side: Is there really no resemblance?

Angela Merkel promised to defend the German people from harm. To have your phone wiretapped and accept the fact that every one of your emails could be monitored — the violation of the private sphere — that qualifies as harm.

Every voter knows that realpolitik can be ugly, because politics require the balancing of many considerations. The decisive question is: What greater good justifies this breach of law by the US and the cooperation of German agencies? It is time for answers.

via SPIEGEL Commentary on US Internet Surveillance – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Selective silencing: Was Michael Hastings murdered?


Based on my research as a professionally licensed investigator with nearly 30 years of experience, I wish to be on record that it is my professional opinion that investigative journalist Michael Hastings was murdered.

It was exactly one month ago today, on June 18, 2013, that Hastings, 33, was killed in a single vehicle crash in the darkest hours of the night on a deserted Los Angeles city street. According to official reports, Mr. Hastings was the driver and sole occupant of a 2013 model CLK250 Mercedes Benz traveling south on Highland Avenue at a high rate of speed when he reportedly struck a palm tree located in the median on Highland Avenue, near the intersection of Melrose, at 4:20 a.m. Pacific Time. Also according to official reports, Mr. Hastings’ vehicle burst into flames upon impact, incinerating the vehicle and everything inside, including his body.

Michael Hastings was a correspondent for Newsweek and extensively covered the war in Iraq. He was also a reporter for BuzzFeed and a contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine. It was in 2010 when he gained widespread attention for his profile of General Stanley McChrystal, then-commander of NATO’s security force in Afghanistan, in a revealing report titled “The Runaway General.” It was this report that led to the general’s resignation for his contemptuous remarks about Barack Hussein Obama and Joseph Biden.

Although Mr. Hastings became well known for that article and reportedly received at least one credible death threat as a result, I do not believe that it was his previous work that led to his tragic and untimely death. The following will explain why.

Collaborative effort revealed

For the first time, I can publicly reveal that I’ve been working with a very experienced and well-respected professional investigator based in Los Angeles and licensed by the state of California. We began our collaboration on Friday, June 21, 2013 – about 72 hours after Mr. Hastings’ death. Since then, we’ve spent about 44 collective man-hours investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash that took the life of Mr. Hastings.

As our investigation is continuing and to avoid potentially compromising our continued efforts, we agreed that revealing his identity at this time would not be in the best interests of this investigation or for the security of those involved. After a review of findings to date, however, we agreed that an interim investigative report should be published.

Although this investigation has been a collaborative effort and we agree on the findings my Los Angeles based colleague requested complete anonymity, including interim references to any individual or collective analysis of findings. Therefore, the statements made in this report will be made in the first-person singular, with this writer presenting the findings as the public point of contact.

Summary of interim investigative findings

Based on careful analysis of the findings of all research and investigation conducted to date, it is my professional belief that investigative journalist Michael Hastings was murdered. This assertion is made based on extensive analysis of the crash site (in person, on-site analysis as well as a review of the photographic documentation taken at the time of the incident that exists both in and outside of public purview), statements made by associates of Mr. Hastings, and a number of other factors relating to the official investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, the coroner’s office, and other agencies and departments involved in the official investigation.

Associated with the above and contrary to public statements, it appears that the FBI, including but not limited to the U.S. Department of Justice might have played a role in directing parts of the official LAPD investigation. There is also an indication that the Department of Justice possibly sought and subsequently obtained certain records produced by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Fire Department, as well as documentation produced by the coroner’s office.

Additionally, it is my professional opinion that his death was the direct result of research being conducted by Mr. Hastings concurrent with or at the time of his death. While there have been references made to at least one credible death threat related to his 2010 report pertaining to General Stanley McChrystal, nothing was found to suggest any direct connection between that threat or subject and his death.

According to most recent investigative findings, it appears that Mr. Hastings made multiple contacts with sources directly associated with the illegal NSA domestic spying program, and either recently acquired materials and/or information about the extent of, the targets of, and the recipients of the information of domestic spying program. It is speculated that the latter information was of particular concern to as yet unidentified individuals holding positions of authority within the U.S. Department of Defense and their subcontractors, as well as certain parties within the Executive branch of the United States government. Investigation and research suggests that Mr. Hastings might have obtained, or arranged to obtain information pertaining to the role of a particular high-ranking officer within the U.S. military overseeing the domestic aspects of the NSA project.

Additionally and relevant to the circumstances surrounding his death, I believe that Michael Hastings knew, or had reason to know, that he was under both investigation and surveillance of the FBI as well as the NSA at the time of his death. According to information provided to this investigator, at least two agents reportedly representing the FBI contacted an associate of Michael Hastings for information related to his current and recent activities sometime between June 3rd – 7th, 2013.

These allegations appear to be substantiated by the following e-mail sent by Michael Hastings to two or more of his known associates immediately before his death (note: E-mail headers have been removed):

————————————————————

From:

To:

CC:

Subject: FBI Investigation, re: NSA

Hey [Name redacted] — the Feds are interviewing my “close friends and associates.” Perhaps if the authorities arrive “BuzzFeed GQ,” er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news gathering practices or related journalism issues.

Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the rada (sic) for a bit.

All the best, and hope to see you all soon.

Michael

————————————————————

It is important to note that following the death of Mr. Hastings, Laura Eimiller, FBI spokesperson based in the Los Angeles field office, emphatically denied that Mr. Hastings was under investigation at the time of his death. It must be emphasized that this denial is in direct contradiction to Mr. Hastings’ e-mail.

In addition to the above, research and investigation into the anomalies of the vehicle crash, including but not limited to the debris field and location of the components of Mr. Hastings’ vehicle, the actions of his vehicle immediately preceding impact were reviewed. Based on this review and information obtained from sources within the area of the incident, it is possible that a previously unreferenced vehicle operated by an unknown individual might have played a contributing role in this incident. The general location of that vehicle was positioned well ahead of Mr. Hastings’ vehicle, and is believed to have been stopped near the intersection of Melrose. Investigation into this aspect of the incident is ongoing.

Notations

There has been much speculation about the cause of the vehicle fire itself, including its actual cause, its intensity, and burn patterns. While fires sometimes happen as a consequence of or secondary to collisions, analysis of both open source still photographs and video, along with a review of photos not publicly accessible are cause for concern regarding the exact cause of the fire. This matter, along with the post-autopsy disposition of Mr. Hastings’ body (cremation) will be addressed in a follow-up report.

There has also been much speculation related to the location of the vehicle’s engine and drive train following impact. This issue is presently undergoing further analysis based on related but unreleased documentation. Assessment of this aspect of the crash will be made public in a follow-up report.

The lack of skid marks from the vehicle’s tires leading to the area of impact was found to be of significance based on analysis of this scene. This will be also addressed in greater detail in the follow-up report as well.

via Selective silencing: Was Michael Hastings murdered?.

Skepticism grows among lawmakers over NSA surveillance


9196665099_f7563938d7photo by WilliamBanzaix

WASHINGTON—Republican and Democrat lawmakers expressed renewed skepticism Wednesday about the scope of the government’s surveillance operations and threatened to revoke authority for one of the programs recently disclosed by a former National Security Agency contractor that collects telephone records on tens of millions of Americans.

“I feel very uncomfortable about using aggregated…data on everybody,” Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., told Justice Department and NSA officials appearing before a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

“This is unsustainable, outrageous and must be stopped immediately.”

Noting mounting concerns since details about the telephone records program and a separate operation that collects the communications of non-U.S. citizens abroad were disclosed last month, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said there “are not enough votes to renew” the authority, at least for the vast phone records collection effort.

“This program has gone off the tracks,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said, “and it needs to be reined in.”

But Justice Department and NSA officials asserted that the programs were the subject of strict oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Congress and agency officials.

“This is not done in some rogue manner,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the panel. “We know of no one who has abused this in a way that would have caused discipline.”

Though former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the existence of the operations without authorization prompting criminal charges related to espionage, Deputy NSA Director Chris Inglis said the government has no evidence that he “abused the data.”

The strong questioning from lawmakers comes more than a month after Snowden’s disclosures triggered a heated debate over the intersection of the government’s surveillance authority and personal privacy rights.

Snowden has taken refuge in the transit area of a Moscow airport since fleeing Hong Kong last month to avoid extradition to the U.S.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said that while he was “satisfied” that government officials overseeing the programs were acting in good faith, he said there was “concern that this could evolve into something quite different.”

“How do we keep this from evolving into an unchecked weapon that can be used against people’s rights?”

Cole said the phone record collection program contained multiple safeguards against inappropriate breaches of privacy. Echoing defenses offered by other administration officials, he said collection did not involve the content of phone calls, nor did it include the names of the parties to the calls.

“You can’t just wander through these records,” he said.

Responding to repeated questions about the vast nature of the collection effort, Cole said at one point: “If you are looking for the needle in a haystack, you have to have the haystack.”

Fallout from NSA surveillance program disclosures spreads


The fallout from the recent disclosures of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs continues to spread.

Martin Rowson 10.06.2013

On Monday, the European Parliament Civil Liberties Commission voted overwhelmingly to investigate the privacy and civil rights implications of the NSA’s PRISM and other spy programs on European citizens, and demanded more information on the programs from U.S. authorities.

In a resolution, the Parliament called on member nations to also consider suspending any counter-terrorism related data transfer arrangements — such as airline passenger records — they might have with the U.S. until better protections become available for the data.

EPIC asks Supreme Court to stop NSA surveillance

Meanwhile, in a separate development, the Washington-based rights group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the legal basis that the NSA is using to collect the phone records of tens of millions of Americans.

EPIC’s petition asked the Supreme Court to immediately halt the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities saying the agency has no reasonable basis for conducting such surveillance.

The developments are the latest in a string of events that began when NSA contract worker Edward Snowden leaked documents describing secret U.S. surveillance programs to the media. The documents describe various NSA data collection around the world, and have caused widespread concern about dragnet NSA surveillance activities not just within the United States but outside the country as well.

The EU resolution, which was passed by a margin of 483 votes to 98 (with 65 abstentions), is one measure of the concern stoked by Snowden’s revelations. It strongly condemned the NSA’s alleged activities and urged U.S. authorities to provide the EU with full information on the secret surveillance disclosed by Snowden.

“Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee will conduct an ‘in-depth inquiry’ into the US surveillance programs, including the bugging of EU premises and other spying allegations, and present its results by the end of this year,” a statement from the Parliament noted. “It will assess the impact of the alleged surveillance activities on EU citizens’ right to privacy and data protection, freedom of expression, the presumption of innocence and the right to an effective remedy.”

The Snowden affair has strained Washington’s relationships with other countries as well. Over the weekend, Brazil for instance, expressed “deep concern” over a report in The Guardian newspaper about U.S. intelligence agencies tapping electronic and phone communications of Brazilian citizens.

In a press statement, the country’s Minister of External Relations, Antonio Patriota, said Brazil’s government has sought clarifications from Washington on the nature of the NSA surveillance activities in that country.

Several other Latin American countries have also expressed displeasure at Washington after a recent incident in which the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced into making an unscheduled stop in Austria on the suspicion that Snowden was on board.

U.S. relations with Russia and China too have taken a hit over the Snowden affair. The U.S. government has accused both countries of not doing enough to extradite Snowden when they have had the ability to do it. Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has flatly said his country will not deport Snowden back to the United States.

Snowden is currently believed to be in the transit lounge at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where he is evading U.S. authorities. He flew into Moscow from Hong Kong more than two weeks ago.

via Fallout from NSA surveillance program disclosures spreads – ComputerworldUK.com.

United Stasi of America


A protester in Hanover, Germany, holds up a sign on Saturday reading: "The United Stasi of America," a reference to the feared secret police in totalitarian East Germany. A second sign states: "Those with nothing to hide should not fear whistleblowers." Photo: Der Spiegel/DPA

A protester in Hanover, Germany, holds up a sign on Saturday reading: “The United Stasi of America,” a reference to the feared secret police in totalitarian East Germany. A second sign states: “Those with nothing to hide should not fear whistleblowers.” Photo: Der Spiegel/DPA

In an important news report, ‘How the NSA Targets Germany and Europe’, Der Spiegel has reviewed a series of documents which prove that Germany played a central role in the NSA’s global surveillance network – and how the Germans have also become targets of US attacks. Each month, the US intelligence service saves data from around half a billion communications connections from Germany.

Der_Spiegel-USA_spying_3According to the listing, Germany is among the countries that are the focus of surveillance. Thus, the documents confirm that the US intelligence service, with approval from the White House, is spying on the Germans, said Der Spiegel, and possibly right up to the level of the chancellor.

Britain has been revealed as the junior partner in this Orwellian scheme. But the European Commission has reacted swiftly and strongly. In a letter to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Commission vice-president Viviane Reding requested detailed clarifications about the scope of the UK’s spying practices and even hinted at legal action.

The new aspect of the revelations isn’t that countries are trying to spy on each other, eavesdropping on ministers and conducting economic espionage. What is most important about the documents is that they reveal the possibility of the absolute surveillance of a country’s people and foreign citizens without any kind of effective controls or supervision.

The Global Network of Undersea Cables. Graphic: Der Spiegel

The Global Network of Undersea Cables. Graphic: Der Spiegel

Many high-ranking European officials have issued statements of outrage and protest against America’s spying. These representatives of the European ruling class pretend surprise at the revelations but have no doubt acquiesced to, authorised or supported similar surveillance of their own populations and of their American counterparts.

Nevertheless, the unanimity of the response is an indication that European governments have been goaded into voicing the concerns of their citizens. The US dragnet of telecommunications and the internet over Europe has never been so visible, as are now, thanks to Edward Snowden, US efforts to persecute those who have brought the spying to public notice.

The NSA's 'Boundless Informant' Programme. Graphic: Der Spiegel

The NSA’s ‘Boundless Informant’ Programme. Graphic: Der Spiegel

In the USA, the slavish corporate media has condemned Snowden’s actions. Witness a representative reaction in theNew York Times, for whom Snowden is the product of an “atomised society” and lacking “respect for institutions and deference to common procedures”! This daily newspaper, like others in its pettyfogging class and like the American national television channels, bloodthirsty and war-mongering now for a decade, has ignored the point made bluntly by the American Civil Liberties Unionthat these “institutions and procedures” long ago lost their claim to respectability.

Britain has been cast even further into Europe’s data protection wilderness after revelations that its formerly glorious signals intelligence agency GCHQ has been monitoring web and telecommunications on an even greater scale than the NSA. Germany’s justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, has demanded explanations from her British counterpart, asking whether the 30-day retention of signals data is based on concrete suspicion or is warrantless (guess which?).

Yet, as Der Spiegel has commented, among the intelligence agencies in the Western world there appears to be a division of duties and at times extensive cooperation. And it appears that the principle that foreign intelligence agencies do not monitor the citizens of their own country, or that they only do so on the basis of individual court decisions, is obsolete in this world of globalised communication and surveillance. Hence Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency, the American NSA and Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency create a matrix is created of boundless surveillance in which each partner aids in a division of roles.

Via

 

Implications of the Surveillance State


By Mark A. Goldman

Even those who are deeply incensed at the thought that the NSA and others are snooping on every American do not necessarily understand what the implications are; how this program has already destroyed most of what we thought it meant to live in America.

Most Americans do not realize that the country that exists in their minds has already been dismantled. In some sense this ignorance is now our only hope… but only because our illusions are really our cherished memory of what we think we have and what we really want. Only now what we think we have no longer exists and if that’s what we still want, it will have to be reclaimed… it will have to be won all over again for we now live under a tyranny that we don’t all yet recognize or experience because up until now the dismantling of the Constitution has been a secret or at best a taboo topic for public discussion.

No branch of government now operates as it was originally intended or visualized by the Framers. Those who are in control have corrupted every important aspect of what it means to live in freedom and in a democracy. We have to deeply lie to ourselves in order not to see what we have become as a nation, as a people.

Those who hold high office are being blackmailed. They live in fear of losing face, status, reputation, position, money, or whatever is important to them. They follow orders and no longer think for themselves. Many don’t even know that what they believe has been programmed into them, defining the limits of what they are allowed to think if they wish to hold onto their position in life.  You don’t have to be an elected official for this to happen to you.

To be elected to public office requires that you gain favor from certain individuals who possess wealth and power. And yet you can’t get elected unless you get enough votes. So to get elected and to stay in office you have to tell voters what they want to hear but later, behind closed doors, do just the opposite of what you told them. You have to ignore injustices you discover and sign legislation that contributes to injustice in ways you may not even understand. And those injustices can include some of the most horrific crimes that human beings can contemplate and carry out against other human beings.

You have to spend your time dialing for dollars rather than doing the people’s business. You have to pass legislation that funnels money into the hands of the already privileged and undeserving few at the expense of ordinary citizens. You have to support war and war crimes. You have to tow the party line, fall into place, and follow the lead of people you fear. If you don’t fall into line you can be destroyed by someone who has the goods on you and knows how to use that illegally gathered information to get what they want. There are exceptions, of course, but you live and operate within the confines and in an atmosphere of systemic corruption. And this is true whether you are a judge, an elected official, or an appointee to a position of power.

The specifics that prove what I am saying is true, are what whistleblowers have been trying to tell us and what those in power don’t want us to know; for if too many of us did know and understand, and if we believed in ourselves, we might actually try to do something about it and succeed.

Of course if we never try and don’t succeed, we will continue to lose more of our freedoms, our wealth, our dignity, and our happiness.

via Implications of the Surveillance State.

Bugged by US spying, EU may sever ties with American internet providers


The building of the European Parliament is seen in Brussels.(AFP Photo/Dominique Faget) 

EU businesses are threatening to terminate relations with American internet providers in response to the National Security Agency surveillance scandal, the European Commission has warned.

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, said that US providers of “cloud services,” a technology that permits clients to store data on remote servers, could suffer steep losses if users fear the security of their material is at risk of being compromised.

“If businesses or governments think they might be spied on, they will have less reason to trust cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out,” Kroes said. “Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes?”

The EC vice president then pointed to the “multi-billion euro consequences” facing US internet companies in the wake of the scandal.

“It is often American providers that will miss out, because they are often the leaders in cloud services. If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government, then maybe they won’t trust US cloud providers either. If I am right, there are multibillion-euro consequences for American companies. If I were an American cloud provider, I would be quite frustrated with my government right now.”

AFP Photo / John Macdougall
AFP Photo/John Macdougall

On Thursday, the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution that says the US should provide full disclosure about its email and communications data, otherwise two EU-US transatlantic information-sharing deals — the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) and Passenger Name Records (PNR) — could be revoked.

Relations between Washington and Brussels suffered a setback in June when former NSA analyst Edward Snowden leaked details of a top-secret US data-mining surveillance program, known as Prism, which operated both in the United States and the European Union.

Prism is said to give the NSA and FBI user information from some of the world’s largest internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

Der Spiegel cited a secret 2010 document alleging that the US spied on internal computer networks in Washington, as well as at the 27-member bloc’s UN office and EU offices in New York.

The NSA paper also allegedly refers to the EU as a “target.”

According to Der Spiegel, the US surveillance system spied on some 500 million telephone and internet recordings in Germany each month, ramping up fears that the United States was not simply collecting data to prevent against acts of terrorism, but was involved in full-scale industrial espionage.

In response to heated European criticism of the US surveillance activities, US President Barack Obama this week seemed to downplay the severity of the situation when he commented: “I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders. That’s how intelligence services operate.”

During a Wednesday phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama sought to reassure her that the United States would provide the Europeans with details of their surveillance program.

Meanwhile, in an effort to contain the damage from the revelations, ambassadors to the European Union agreed on Thursday to proceed with EU-US negotiations on a new transatlantic free trade pact, scheduled to open in Washington on Monday. 

EU commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.(AFP Photo / Georges Gobet)
EU commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.(AFP Photo/Georges Gobet)

During the EU-US trade negotiations it will certainly not go unnoticed that crucial European positions in the trade talks may already be compromised due to the wide-scale surveillance. EU officials do not want the issue of America’s covert spy program to be the elephant in the room which nobody talks about.

Dalia Grybauskaite, the president of Lithuania, which takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency this week, said on Thursday that she awaits “information” — not apologies — from the Americans over the spying allegations.

“They are open to co-operation. They are open to explain,” she said. “I never seek an apology from anyone. I seek information … We don’t want to jeopardize the strategic importance of free trade.”

Grybauskaite insisted that the scandal, which has shown no sign of abating, should not be allowed to obstruct the trade talks but acknowledged that “some countries are very sensitive on this question.”

Meanwhile, Britain may also have some explaining to do on the sidelines of next week’s trade talks since it was suggested that the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), through a system known as Tempora, .

The European Commission vice president said that US companies could suffer from the US government’s covert intelligence-gathering activities.

“Concerns about cloud security can easily push European policy-makers into putting security guarantees ahead of open markets, with consequences for American companies,” Kroes warned. “Cloud has a lot of potential. But potential doesn’t count for much in an atmosphere of distrust.”
________

 

Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empirewhich discusses the dangerous consequences of excessive corporate power now prevalent in the United States.

 

 

http://rt.com

rt.com is Russian television, which actually does a great job reporting on US news too.

Public Support Grows for Snowden in Europe: Germany and France Should offer NSA Whistleblower Asylum


Europeans are pissed off at the US, in the wake of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s latest revelation that the US was aggressively spying on its European allies, both at their and the European Union’s embassies in Washington, and in Europe itself, gleaning not information about terrorism, but inside-track knowledge about trade negotiation positions and other areas of disagreement or negotiation.

Leaders in Germany, France, Italy and other European countries are demanding that the US cease its spying on them, and give a “full accounting” of the spying that it has been engaging in. But given the steady stream of lies coming from the NSA, the Obama Administration, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other American sources, why should they believe anything they are being told?

If, as Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, said today, the NSA is like the Soviet-era KGB, why would anything the US says about its nefarious activities have any credibility whatsoever?

At this point, pressure is building on European governments in Germany, France, Italy and elsewhere to stand up to the US and to grant Snowden asylum in Europe.

It makes sense. The US, weakened as it is economically these days, is still able to threaten weak nations in Latin America, which are stuck with the reality that the great consumer vacuum cleaner to the north is their biggest market, and are thus seriously at risk if the US threatens, as it did in the case of Ecuador, to impose import duties on goods shipped to the US for sale here. Europe has no such concerns. The US is in no position to economically threaten Europe.

Moreover, Snowden is widely seen among the people in European countries, where there has been plenty of ugly history of repressive spying regimes, as an unvarnished hero.  Opposition politicians in both Germany and France, and even members of the ruling parties, have been calling for both countries to grant him asylum. The Green party in both countries, and in the European Parliament, has been calling for their home countries and for the European Union as a whole, to grant him asylum.

Germans have vivid memories of both the Nazi SS, and more recently, of the East German Stasi, who attempted in a pre-computer era to do precisely the kind of all-encompassing surveillance and monitoring that the NSA is now doing electronically in the US and around the globe. Germans understandably have a visceral aversion to such government snooping. Meanwhile, in France, there is a long tradition of granting asylum to those who are in trouble with authorities in their home country, as well as a simmering grudge against the US, which has long made known its disdain for French politics and French insistence on maintaining an independent stance within NATO….

For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF inThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent three-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1847

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper http://www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books (“This (more…)

via OpEdNews – Article: Public Support Grows for Snowden in Europe: Germany and France Should offer NSA Whistleblower Asylum.

German Prosecutors May File Charges Over US, British Surveillance


 

Justice Minister: US Using ‘Cold War‘ Methods

Recent revelations about the NSA’s broad surveillance of German phone and Internet communications have fueled major concerns in the country, as Federal Prosecutors say they are preparing criminal charges against US and British spies involved.

Hessian prosecutors were the first to receive complaints about the matter, but that is likely to grow precipitously after German media outlets reported the US surveillance has collected more than half a billion phone calls and emails per month in Germany alone.

Though broad internal surveillance is also an issue in the US, the NSA’s policies don’t make spying on Germans illegal as such. The US lists Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand as “second party” nations exempt from surveillance, but considers Germany fair game. The program also explicitly targeted European Union diplomats.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the US policy was “beyond comprehension,” and said that such “Cold War” methods were unacceptable toward allies. Officials are urging the EU to take direct action to stop the surveillance.

via German Prosecutors May File Charges Over US, British Surveillance — News from Antiwar.com.

HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

I CAN'T CONTROL EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE, BUT I CAN CONTROL WHAT I PUT IN MY BODY.😎🍓🍍🍇🍑🍐🍉🍈🍏🍊🍋🍅🍎🍌🍠🍢🍥

Saranya

Normal thoughts but unique view

David, earth planet , knopfler and a humble man

Amante libros, música y viajes A bookworm and lover of tunes and wayfarer

Web Dietitian

Debunking myths and uncovering the truth on food and nutrition by a Registered Dietitian

inpuntadipiedinaturalmente

dai rimedi naturali fatti in casa alla riflessologia

thepracticalhistorian

Your guide to practically true history.

MadhviMuses

Read Books, Chase Butterflies, Eat Breakfasts,Love Life!

La Rioja and the world seen from my guardaviñas

Sharing ideas. Photos, travels, music, History, stories,...

The Visualizer

Reinforcing creativity with tech

Manić Teodora

Jer ono u šta ljudi poveruju, to će vremenom i postati.❤ Because in what people belive, that's who they will become as the time passes by. ❤

Ultimatetravel

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

Yes, I Know

The movies wouldn't lie to me... would they?

El Zocco

Un espacio de información sobre ocio, moda, sexo, música y viajes.

Create Awesome

Life Awesome On YouTube

doar, o viaţă

eu trăiesc, când să fiu supărat

ChronosFeR

Música, Literatura, Fotografia, Cinema,Cultura.

MaBeautility

Passie voor beauty, bloggen, lifestyle, dans en make-up

That middle class girl

The winner of hearts!

FLOW ART STATION

The New contemporary Art Magazine

21st Century Films

Film Analysis, Essays, and Short Stories

Writetable Words

write to tell stories.

swo8

Music means something

Discobar Bizar

Welkom op de blog van Discobar Bizar. Druk gerust wat op de andere knoppen ook, of lees het aangrijpende verhaal van Hurricane Willem nu je hier bent. Welcome to the blog of Discobar Bizar, feel free to push some of the other buttons, or to read the gripping story of Hurricane Willem whilst you are here!

Playing by My Own Rules

Cancer Messed with the Wrong Hellion

manologo

pienso y recuerdo...luego, existo

When The Whippoorwills Sing

Queer Supernatural Romance and Horror Erotica

Noellie's Place

Life is brutal at times but always offers beauty and love to soften the blows if you open your hearts eye

After Credits Corner

There's a million films I haven't seen. Just you wait...

Reel Time Flicks

Film reviews and news, everyone's a critic! Welcome to the drinking blog with a film problem.

baz allen

Archive

Silents, Please!

interesting avenues in silent film history

Superduque

Mi patria es todo el mundo.

WRITE THEM ALL.

THOUGHTS. FEELINGS. MEMORIES.

Budget Traveler

Travel Guide, Blog & Reviews

The Conglomerate Lode

Mining thoughts, opinions, and experiences that enter the eyes the front door to the grey matter

La Audacia de Aquiles

"El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto" / "The Visible World is Just a Pretext".-

CINESPIRIA

Shining a light on the deep recesses of film history

Dr. Grob's Animation Review

The animation film review site

Genç Yazarlar Kulübü

Edebiyat burda, kahve tadında.

ALFRED EAKER

The Official Site Of Author and Artist

Master Mix Movies

One Movie at a Time

%d bloggers like this: