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Obama Wants U.S. “Comfortable” with Vast Surveillance

by Debra Sweet        Barack Obama pulled out the “we’re not Big Brother” line again Friday in the ongoing to effort to bamboozle people alarmed about the vast National Security Agency surveillance of whole populations exposed by Edward Snowden.  The important thing to him is not that the surveillance is curtailed, but that you feel comfortable with it.

Confronting the latest attack on our privacy and freedom: Lavabit's Profile in Corporate Principles and Personal Courage

By Alfredo Lopez


The term "collateral damage" is most frequently applied to the "non-targeted" death and destruction brought by bombs and guns. But it seems that our government, the master of collateral damage, is now doing it in "non-violent" ways. Take the recent situation at Lavabit.

ARMY ESTABLISHES INSIDER THREAT PROGRAM

Secrecy News Blog:  http://blogs.fas.org/secrecy/

On July 30, a military judge found Army Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of multiple violations of the Espionage Act and other laws because of his unauthorized disclosure of restricted government records to the WikiLeaks website.

On July 31, the Secretary of the Army formally established the Army Insider Threat Program. Remarkably, this is still a pending initiative rather than an accomplished fact.

The program "will ensure the security and safety of Army computer networks by establishing an integrated capability to monitor and audit user activity across all domains to detect and mitigate activity indicative of insider threat behavior," wrote Army Secretary John M. McHugh in Army Directive 2013-18.

The directive requires development and implementation of "a technical capability to monitor user activity on the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network" used by Manning as well as on the Joint World Intelligence Communication System.

In order to facilitate the identification of insider threats, the directive authorizes the sharing of counterintelligence and a variety of other sensitive information, including personal medical information.  ("The Surgeon General will provide information from medical sources, consistent with privacy laws and regulations, to authorized personnel to help them recognize the presence of an insider threat.")

The new Army directive was issued in response to a November 21, 2012 Obama White House memorandum on "National Insider Threat Policy and Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs."

Some government insider threat programs go beyond encouraging sensible security practices, and seem to promote free-ranging suspicion in the workplace.

A slide prepared by the Defense Information Systems Agency for an online training module on insider threats suggests that an employee who "speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy" may represent a risk.  (The only thing more troubling might be someone who speaks openly of happiness with U.S. foreign policy.)  See "Unhappy With U.S. Foreign Policy? Pentagon Says You Might Be A 'High Threat'" by Matt Sledge, Huffington Post, August 7.

On June 21, 2013 the Director of National Intelligence issued Intelligence Community Directive 703 on "Protection of Classified National Intelligence, Including Sensitive Compartmented Information."

The directive summarizes and re-states classified information security policy, including little-known facts such as: "The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provides SCI access determinations and Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) accreditation for the legislative and judicial branches of the U.S. Government."


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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

Is America playing its last card?: Pissing Off Friends is a Doomed Strategy

By Dave Lindorff


Like an obnoxious drunk harassing everyone and spilling drinks at a party, the US has continued to make itself both loathed and laughed at in the wake of the revelations about the National Security Agency’s global spying program as revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. 


The Secret Court: Is it Constitutional?

By Christopher H. Pyle

Americans are just beginning to discover that a secret court has been quietly erasing their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. They are also learning that this court is made up primarily of conservative  activists from the Republican Party who have no respect for the original intent of the Constitution’s framers.
 
With the blessing of this secret court, the National Security Agency (and well-paid companies like Booz Allen) have recorded billions of phone calls and e-mails belonging to nearly all Americans, with the intent of searching them later. 
 
Under the Fourth Amendment, the NSA and its contractors are supposed to obtain specific judicial authority before seizing anyone’s communications. But, where NSA’s spying is concerned, no judicial warrants based on probable cause and authorizing targeted searches are required. Quite the contrary. The secret  “warrant” that Edward Snowden disclosed permits bulk seizures and subsequent searches without probable cause to believe that the targets of these computer searches are terrorists, criminals, or foreign agents. It is the very sort of general warrant that triggered the American Revolution and inspired the Fourth Amendment.
 
When the secret court was created in 1978, it was meant to authorize targeted searches, but sometime around 2004 it began, in secret, to issue general warrants for bulk seizures of communications. And it secretly coerced telephone companies and Internet servers to betray their customers’ privacy, without telling them.
 
According to Snowden, the agency’s analysts can use their super-computers to search anyone’s records within these vast caches at their own discretion. The government denies this, but then, it has a long history of lying about its intelligence activities. 
 
They say we shouldn’t worry about these secret searches because the government never does anything wrong. But officials can use the results of these searches to punish their critics or intimidate employees and reporters from blowing the whistle on government waste, fraud, law-breaking, kidnapping, torture, cruel detentions, or the killing of citizens by drone in foreign lands. Embarrassing information can also be used to destroy the reputations of whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg and anti-Wall Street politicians like New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
 
All this is perfectly legal, Obama’s lawyers say, because a secret court says it is. But the judicial power of the United States only extends to cases and controversies arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States. Are general warrants secretly issued in one-sided hearings the kind of “cases” that the framers had in mind? Did they intend to vest the judicial power in a secret court that only listens to the government and never gives the people any opportunity to challenge its decisions?

Our legal system presupposes that every “case” must be decided according to legal doctrines publicly laid down in similar cases in the past. That is what a system of legal precedent means. Nothing in the Constitution says that a secret court may lay down secret law, or make ad hoc decisions overriding constitutional rights, without letting the people to know their reasoning. That is not the system we inherited from the British, who abolished their last secret court -- the infamous Star Chamber -- in 1641. 
 
National security courts like the Star Chamber are always a threat to freedom because, like war itself, they are based in the assumption that the end of security justifies almost any means. Our Constitution is based on the principle that means and ends must both be justifiable before the government may compromise our liberties, and that politicians and secret agents may not hide their wrongdoing behind layers of secrecy. 
 
Unfortunately, our government, with the help of the secret FISA court, has strayed far from that principle. It’s time to abolish that court before it is asked to endorse even worse abominations, like issuing death warrants for the murder of citizens whom the administration wants to kill.
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Professor Pyle teaches constitutional law at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He is the author of several books, including Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics and Getting Away with Torture. In 1970 he disclosed the Army’s massive surveillance of civilian politics and worked for three congressional committees, including Senator Church’s intelligence committee, to end it.

Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden: Whistleblowers as Modern Tricksters

By John Grant


Every generation occupies itself with interpreting Trickster anew.

                      -Paul Radin

 

War and Whistleblowers - Why Bradley Manning Should be Free



Stop the War bulletin | stopwar.org.uk

Public Meeting Friday 9 August
War and Whistleblowers - Why Bradley Manning Should be Free

Bradley Manning faces a prison sentence of up to 136 years after being found guilty of 20 charges for revealing the war crimes carried out in our name. This public meeting, with speakers including Tariq Ali, Peter Tatchell, and Norman Solomon from the USA, will discuss the courage and sacrifice of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who have exposed how the secret state wages perpetual war behind our backs. How can we protect whistleblowers from persecution by war-addicted governments? How can we campaign for the freedom of Bradley Manning?

War and Whistleblowers - Why Bradley Manning Should be Free
Friday 9 August 7pm
Hilda Porter Room, TheWesley
81-103 Euston Street London NW1 2EZ

(2 minute walk from Euston Station)
For updates see: http://bit.ly/19ztF9N

Speakers:
Tariq Ali writer and activist, Peter Tatchell human rights campaigner
Norman Solomon US author and activist, Kate Hudson CND
Chris Nineham Stop the War Coalition


Norman Solomon, will speak at the meeting on his way from the USA to present to the Nobel committee in Oslo a petition with over 100,000 names calling for Bradley Manning to be awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Read more:
• Norman Solomon: Why Bradley Manning deserves the Nobel Peace Prize http://bit.ly/13vmjNi
• Owen Jones: What would be the ultimate show of gratitude to Bradley Manning? http://bit.ly/15uKa2U
• John Pilger: We have all been made witnesses to crimes against humanity" http://bit.ly/12Xs5gn
• Gary Younge: If Bradley Manning is an enemy of the state then so too is truth http://bit.ly/15wKpKr


Stop the War Coalition | office@stopwar.org.uk | 020 7561 4830

Holder promises Russia not to torture Snowden: A Shameful Day to Be a US Citizen

By Dave Lindorff


I have been deeply ashamed of my country a number of times. The Nixon Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong was one such time, when hospitals, schools and dikes were targeted. The invasion of Iraq was another. Washington’s silence over the fatal Israeli Commando raid on the Gaza Peace Flotilla--in which a 19-year-old unarmed American boy was murdered--was a third.  But I think I have never been as ashamed and disgusted as I was today reading that US Attorney General Eric Holder had sent a letter to the Russian minister of justice saying that the US would “not seek the death penalty” in its espionage case against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, promising that even if the US later brought added charges against Snowden after obtaining him, they would not include any death penalty, and vowing that if Snowden were handed over by Russia to the US, he would “not be tortured.”


So it has come to this: That the United States has to promise (to Russia!) that it will not torture a prisoner in its control -- a US citizen at that -- and so therefore that person, Edward Snowden, has no basis for claiming that he should be “treated as a refugee or granted asylum.”


Why does Holder have to make these pathetic representations to his counterpart in Russia? 


Because Snowden has applied for asylum saying that he is at risk of turture or execution if returned to the US to face charges for leaking documents showing that the US government is massively violating the civil liberties and privacy of every American by monitoring every American’s electronic communications.


Snowden has made that claim in seeking asylum because he knows that another whistleblower, Pvt. Bradley Manning, was in fact tortured by the US for months, and held without trial in solitary confinement for over a year before being finally put on trial in a kangaroo court, where the judge is as much prosecutor as jurist, and where his guilt was declared in advance by the President of the United States -- the same president who has also already publicly declared Snowden guilty too...


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:www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1888

Review: The Terminal (2013)

 This summer’s blockbuster is a remake of Steven Spielberg’s 2004 romantic comedy The Terminal.  The main figure in the earlier film, Viktor--played somewhat awkwardly by Tom Hanks, affecting a nondescript all-purpose Eastern European accent--is trying to immigrate to New York.  He becomes stranded in Kennedy Airport, however, when his home country suddenly undergoes a violent coup and no longer officially exists.  

In this 2013 remake, director Glenn Greenwald reverses the East-West aspects of the earlier plot and blends the Spielberg film’s storyline with elements of the 1998 Will Smith/Gene Hackman  action flick Enemy of the State.  Result: instead of a comedy we now have an international thriller.  Edward Snowden plays a former U.S. spy agency contractor who is stranded in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after he reveals that an invisible coup has occurred in the United States, and the US government is no longer what its citizens think it is.

 

The thread connecting the two films is that both central figures--Viktor and Edward--are so honest, straightforward, and devoid of hidden motives that their simplest words and acts make the officials trying to deal with them look bad by contrast.  When the officials continue to operate as rule-bound, duplicitous, and sometimes vindictive servants of the institution, we become appalled by both the bureaucracies they serve and their own limited moral imaginations.

Two different stories linked by one scary trend: Track and Truth: Manning and the "Other" Surveillance System

By Alfredo Lopez


The tumble of revelations and developments involving the Internet has produced a pastiche of truths that, when examined closely, show links between what might usually be considered separate news stories.

Just for Sissies: US Flaunts the Rule of Law while Demanding that other Countries Honor It

By Dave Lindorff 


Ah, the rule of law. How often we hear our government leaders angrily demand that the rest of the world adhere to this sacred stricture, most recently as it demands that countries -- even countries with which the US has signed no extradition treaty like Russia or China -- honor the US charges leveled against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and send him to the US for trial.


His 'Crime' is Patriotism, not Betrayal Like Hale's Philip Nolan, Snowden has Become a 'Man Without a Country'

By  Dave Lindorff

 

In Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country," US Army Lt. Philip Nolan, following a court-martial, is exiled from his country, his citizenship snatched away, leaving him doomed to sail the seven seas confined to a Navy vessel, unable to make any country his home. His crime: being seduced by a treacherous leader to betray the US of A, the country of his birth.

High School Civics Quiz: The Obama Years

This column is a lightly-modified version of one that first appeared back in March of 2006.  The Bush administration was the focus of that earlier column.  It’s only fair to apply the same standards now to the Obama years.  Readers are encouraged to take the quiz themselves.  I’d be delighted to know your scores, if you would like to self-report.  And I’d welcome your suggestions for additional questions that might be used in a third version of the quiz.

                                               -  Tony

Denouncing NSA Surveillance Isn’t Enough -- We Need the Power to Stop It

By Norman Solomon

For more than a month, outrage has been profuse in response to news about NSA surveillance and other evidence that all three branches of the U.S. government are turning Uncle Sam into Big Brother.

Now what?

Continuing to expose and denounce the assaults on civil liberties is essential. So is supporting Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers -- past, present and future. But those vital efforts are far from sufficient.

For a moment, walk a mile in the iron-heeled shoes of the military-industrial-digital complex. Its leaders don’t like clarity about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t like being exposed or denounced -- but right now the surveillance state is in no danger of losing what it needs to keep going: power.

The huge digi-tech firms and the government have become mutual tools for gaining humungous profits and tightening political control. The partnerships are deeply enmeshed in military and surveillance realms, whether cruise missiles and drones or vast metadata records and capacities to squirrel away trillions of emails.

At the core of the surveillance state is the hollowness of its democratic pretenses. Only with authentic democracy can we save ourselves from devastating evisceration of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

The enormous corporate leverage over government policies doesn’t change the fact that the nexus of the surveillance state -- and the only organization with enough potential torque to reverse its anti-democratic trajectory -- is government itself.

The necessity is to subdue the corporate-military forces that have so extensively hijacked the government. To do that, we’ll need to accomplish what progressives are currently ill-positioned for: democratic mobilization to challenge the surveillance state’s hold on power.

These days, progressives are way too deferential and nice to elected Democrats who should be confronted for their active or passive complicity with abysmal policies of the Obama White House. An example is Al Franken, senator from Minnesota, who declared his support for the NSA surveillance program last month: “I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people.”

The right-wing Tea Party types realized years ago what progressive activists and groups are much less likely to face -- that namby-pamby “lobbying” gets much weaker results than identifying crucial issues and making clear a willingness to mount primary challenges.

Progressives should be turning up the heat and building electoral capacities. But right now, many Democrats in Congress are cakewalking toward re-election in progressive districts where they should be on the defensive for their anemic “opposition” to -- or outright support for -- NSA surveillance.

Meanwhile, such officials with national profiles should encounter progressive pushback wherever they go. A step in that direction will happen just north of the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend, when House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi appears as guest of honor to raise money for the party (up to $32,400 per couple) at a Marin County reception. There will also be a different kind of reception that Pelosi hadn’t been counting on -- a picket line challenging her steadfast support for NSA surveillance.

In the first days of this week, upwards of 20,000 people responded to a RootsAction.org action alert by sending their senators and representative an email urging an end to the Insider Threat Program -- the creepily Orwellian concoction that, as McClatchy news service revealed last month, “requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.”

Messages to Congress members, vocal protests and many other forms of public outcry are important -- but they should lay the groundwork for much stronger actions to wrest control of the government away from the military-industrial-digital complex. That may seem impossible, but it’s certainly imperative: if we’re going to prevent the destruction of civil liberties. In the long run, denunciations of the surveillance state will mean little unless we can build the political capacity to end it.

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Snowden Affair exposed more than NSA spying: US Corporate Media shown to be Rank Propaganda Arms

By Dave Lindorff


It’s little wonder that despite his disclosure of an unprecedented KBG-like or Stasi-like spying program targeting all Americans, fully half of all Americans polled are saying that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is a “spy” or “traitor” who should be brought to justice.

Why would this be, when a solid majority also say they oppose the spying program?

In Obamaland, ‘Rule of Law’ is for the Other Suckers: US (and French) Courts Have Ruled Head-of-State Immunity is Absolute

By Dave Lindorff


It is clear that the entrapment and forced landing in Austria of the official airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was the work of the US, which was obviously behind the decision by France and Portugal to deny air rights to the flight, and which also was obviously behind the Austrian government’s demand to be allowed to search the jet after it landed. After all, those countries have no interest themselves in capturing US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is only Obama’s and the NSA’s quarry. 


A Noir America: Killers and Roller-Coaster Rides

By John Grant


We're all aware of the reputed Chinese curse about living in interesting times. Upheaval seems to be in the air. According to Wikipedia, the interesting times curse was linked with a second, more worrisome curse: "May you come to the attention of those in authority."

Servile Euro Leaders Cave Under US Pressure: Bolivia's Morales Dissed and Pissed as Diplomatic Immunity Ignored

By Dave Lindorff


Those of us who have been saying that the US has become a weak, or at least more ordinary power among many in the world because of its military failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and because of its economic decline, will have to recalibrate our analysis after watching the pathetic behavior of the leaders of Russia, Germany and France under pressure from the Obama administration not to allow Edward Snowden to gain asylum in those countries or even to escape his purgatory in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

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

By Dave Lindorff


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.


Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

From WikiLeaks

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic "wheeling and dealing" over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.

Edward Joseph Snowden

Monday 1st July 2013

We let them do it and we can still stop them! The Snowden Controversy and our Legacy of Choices

By Alfredo Lopez


In one of the most innovative uses of the bizarre rules of international travel, whistle-blower Edward Snowden sits in an airport transit lounge outside the customs barrier that is Russian enough to not invade but not Russian enough to claim the Russians are hiding him. He has now reportedly applied for asylum in Russia.

Biden/Obama full-court press on Snowden is a bad joke: The Real Traitors to America are in Washington and New York

By Dave Lindorff


It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry as the US goes all out to get its hands on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

FBI Knew of Plot to Execute Occupy Activists but Did Nothing

By Dave Lindorff


Would you be shocked to learn that the FBI apparently knew that some organization, perhaps even a law enforcement agency or private security outfit, had contingency plans to assassinate peaceful protestors in a major American city — and did nothing to intervene?

Terminal Snowden

AFP reports that "Snowden's extended stay at the Russian airport has raised comparisons to the Tom Hanks movie "The Terminal" about a man stranded in a New York airport, and [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro suggested that a film should be made about the US fugitive titled "Terminal Snowden."

Support Edward Snowden

When the official default is to lie: In Us We Have to Trust

By Dan DeWalt


“If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress, and don't trust federal judges, to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here.”   


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