You are hereSpying
By Dave Lindorff
Back in 2005-06, I wrote a book, The Case for Impeachment, in which I made the argument that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as other key figures in the Bush/Cheney administration--Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales--should be impeached for war crimes, as well as crimes against the Constitution of the United States.
These days, when I mention the book’s title, people sometimes ask, half in jest, whether I’m referring to the current president, Barack Obama.
Sadly, it is time to say, just 14 months into the current term of this new president, that yes, this president, and some of his subordinates, are also guilty of impeachable crimes--including many of the same ones committed by Bush and Cheney.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush.
In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been “subjected to unlawful surveillance,” the judge said the government was liable to pay them damages.
The ruling delivered a blow to the Bush administration’s claims that its surveillance program, which Mr. Bush secretly authorized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was lawful. Under the program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans’ international e-mail messages and phone calls without court approval, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, required warrants.
The Justice Department said it was reviewing the decision and had made no decision about whether to appeal. Read more.
Today TomDispatch is especially proud to be posting a first, an unprecedented and dramatic history of the 30-year American war in Afghanistan as a drug war -- by an expert in the CIA and drug wars -- that takes you from 1979 to late tomorrow night: Alfred W. McCoy, "Can Anyone Pacify the World's Number One Narco-State, The Opium Wars in Afghanistan" (And don't miss the latest TomCast audio interview in which McCoy discusses just who is complicit in the Afghan opium trade.)
It's strange. Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world's opium supply and is the number one narco-state on the planet. The Taliban is significantly supported by drug money -- and so is the government of Hamid Karzai. So, in fact, are the Afghan people. And yet drugs and the drug trade are largely dealt with as ancillary issues in the Afghan War.
Now, Alfred McCoy, historian and noted expert on the drug trade and the CIA -- the Agency actually tried unsuccessfully to suppress his classic Vietnam-era book The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade -- offers a remarkable account of the drug wars in Afghanistan. After a look at the recent U.S. military operation in Marja, the opium capital of the world, he backtracks to a moment in 1979 when Afghanistan produced next to no poppies and offers a remarkable history of how, with the help of the U.S., the Soviets, warlords, druglords, the Taliban, the Karzai government, and others it became the drug state extraordinaire on planet Earth.
He shows just how decades of war, as well as agricultural and environmental destruction, left Afghan farmers with little choice but to turn to the poppy, which proved ideally suited to the Afghan climate. More important, he shows just how and why no one will pacify or even help Afghanistan without taking true stock of the drug trade -- and why serious, long-term rural development, not massive military intervention, is the only answer to Afghanistan's problems.
There is no way to sum up this powerful, monumental piece. It will change the way you look at the Afghan war. Don't miss it. Read it now.
Army Intel ACORNing WikiLeaks? Web Publisher Under Attack
By Michael Collins | The Agonist
U.S. Army Counterterrorism issued a report that said WikiLeaks is a threat to U.S. security, particularly in Afghanistan. The report says that the organization should be destroyed and offered a plan. Does the government really think it can destroy WikiLeaks or is the leaked report part of a plan to smear the organization so badly, it will lose supporters and money?
Since its launch three years ago, WikiLeaks has produced more scoops than the Washington Post has in the past thirty years according to a report by The Guardian. The web based service was "founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa" according to their "About" page. WikiLeaks targets oppressive regimes throughout the world, as well as regimes seeking to repress information on illegal and unethical government actions and policies.
The organization pays a price for its activism. A study by the Army Counterintelligence Center concluded that WikiLeaks is a security risk to the United States. Their information "could be used … by FISS (foreign intelligence services), foreign terrorist organizations, and other potential adversaries for intelligence collection, planning, or targeting purposes." Further, the report concluded that the publications at the website, "could increase the risk to US forces and could potentially provide potential attackers with sufficient information to plan conventional or terrorist attacks in locations such as Iraq or Afghanistan" WikiLeaks.org - An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups? WikiLeaks, March 15, p. 22).
Those extremely serious charges by Army resulted in a plan to destroy WikiLeaks:
"WikiLeaks.org uses trust as a center of gravity by assuring insiders, leakers, and whistleblowers who pass information to WikiLeaks.org personnel or who post information to the Web site that they will remain anonymous. The identification, exposure, or termination of employment of or legal actions against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others from using WikiLeaks.org to make such information public." (Army Counterintelligence report, March 15, p. 3). Read more.
I'm not sure what was worse; sitting in an auditorium for a speech by the head of CIA clandestine operations, or having most of the audience give a standing ovation afterward. There were some low points in between, too.
Thursday night I went with my friend Ray McGovern, and some current and former Fordham students to a lecture at Fordham University by Michael Sulick, Director of the National Clandestine Service, the guy in charge of counter-terrorism and covert ops. Ray and Sulick are both graduates of Fordham, and both worked for the C.I.A. One difference between them is that Ray quit long ago.
Fordham, a Jesuit school, has a very active Peace and Justice program led by a tenured professor, which just the evening before had held a commemoration of the assassination 30 years ago of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador, a fellow Jesuit. It was noted that Romero was killed by graduates of the School of the Americas, with help from the CIA.
But that same university produces a lot of FBI and CIA agents. For Sulick, the student center was decorated with the kind of puffy, shiny balloon letters junior high schools use for birthday parties, with silvery “C-I-A” floating in the lobby. I felt it was going to be a strange night. Read more.
WikiLeaks to reveal Pentagon murder-coverup at US National Press Club, Apr 5, 9am; contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The State Department/CIA has been tailing and detaining those related to Wikileaks over the planned April 5th leak of a decrypted video depicting an airstrike on civilians and journalissts.
Several things stuck out for me in the NYT’s big story about DOD’s PsyOp contractors-as-assassination-flunkies. First, the degree to which DOD allegedly hid its assassination program inside a PsyOp venture. As the story reports, Michael Furlong, the guy running this show, was ostensibly engaged in strategic information, collecting information on Afghanistan’s social structure. But in fact, he was using that money to employ freelancers who, at a minimum, were targeting Afghans for assassination.
Mr. Furlong has extensive experience in “psychological operations” — the military term for the use of information in warfare — and he plied his trade in a number of places, including Iraq and the Balkans. It is unclear exactly when Mr. Furlong’s operations began. But officials said they seemed to accelerate in the summer of 2009, and by the time they ended, he and his colleagues had established a network of informants in Afghanistan and Pakistan whose job it was to help locate people believed to be insurgents.
Government officials said they believed that Mr. Furlong might have channeled money away from a program intended to provide American commanders with information about Afghanistan’s social and tribal landscape, and toward secret efforts to hunt militants on both sides of the country’s porous border with Pakistan. Read more.
The feds turn to social networks to fight crime, hoping that tweet will give them a jailbird
By Richard Larder, AP Writer | Chicago Tribune
Maxi Sopo was having so much fun "living in paradise" in Mexico that he posted about it on Facebook so all his friends could follow his adventures. Others were watching, too: A federal prosecutor in Seattle, where Sopo was wanted on bank fraud charges.
Tracking Sopo through his public "friends" list, the prosecutor found his address and had Mexican authorities arrest him. Instead of sipping pina coladas, Sopo is awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Sopo learned the hard way: The Feds are on Facebook. And MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, too.
Law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, even going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that surfaced in a lawsuit.
The document shows that U.S. agents are logging on surreptitiously to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target's friends or relatives and browse private information such as postings, personal photographs and video clips. Read more.
FBI paid racist shock jock Hal Turner ‘in excess of $100,000′
By Stephen C. Webster | Raw Story
Turning informant on your fans can be lucrative, if you're a shock jock by the name of Hal Turner.
Amid a trial where Turner faces criminal charges for making threats of violence against public servants, he disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation paid him "in excess of $100,000" over a five-year period.
Turner, a long-time racist radio host who attracted an audience of white supremacists and neonazis, was first revealed as an FBI informant in 2008. After becoming the subject of ridicule on infamous Internet forum 4chan, Turner was confronted by hackers on his site's discussion boards with copies of e-mails he'd allegedly sent to the FBI, bragging about how he'd helped in "flush[ing] out another crazy."
The arrest came after Turner called for the murder of three judges.
"Let me be the first to say this plainly: these Judges deserve to be killed," he wrote on his Web site...Read more.
By David Swanson
One of the most unusual books and far-and-away the saddest I have ever read is James Douglass's "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters." This is the best documented account ever produced of why and how the CIA assassinated John F. Kennedy. That the CIA did this is beyond dispute, and that the first President Bush was involved is well established by Russ Baker's book "Family of Secrets." What separates Douglass's book from the pack is his account of how Kennedy lived his final months, the actions he took that turned the CIA against him but saved the world from a nuclear holocaust and -- had he lived -- would probably have avoided the Vietnam War and brought the Cold War to a swift and peaceful conclusion.
President Barack Obama has signed a one-year extension of several provisions in the nation's main counterterrorism law, the Patriot Act.
Provisions in the measure would have expired on Sunday without Obama's signature Saturday.
The act, which was adopted in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, expands the government's ability to monitor Americans in the name of national security.
Three sections of the Patriot Act that stay in force will: Read more.
Washington D.C. (February 26, 2010) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement after the House of Representatives voted 235 to 168 to pass the Intelligence Authorization Act:
“I strongly support the dedicated public servants of our intelligence community. Their work to ensure our national security is to be commended. However, I must oppose the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2010.
School district gives students laptops with webcams that can be remotely operated by school personnel
Why not, the White House would do it.
Here's a class action complaint: PDF.
Nearly a decade ago, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) stood alone as the Senate's constitutional conscience. Casting the only dissenting vote against passage of the PATRIOT Act in 2001, he was powerless to stop an opportunistic power grab by neo-conservatives who had long sought, well before the tragedy of 9-11, to expand our government's reach into the lives of law-abiding Americans.
Today, the draconian authorities foisted on an unsuspecting public by the PATRIOT Act once again place the Constitution in the cross-hairs of a complacent Congress, acquiescing to another administration whose political agenda lies at conspicuous odds with its leader's oath to defend the Constitution.
Spying for Dollars: Military Contractors and Security Firms Reap Huge Profits
As the Defense Budget Soars, Billions of Dollars are Channelled Offshore to Avoid Paying Taxes
By Tom Burghardt | Global Research | Antifascist Calling
<p>The Obama administration is seeking to increase the obscenely bloated U.S. Defense Department budget to a whopping $708 billion for fiscal year 2011, 3.4% above 2010's record level, The Wall Street Journal reported.
While the overall budget deficit will balloon to a staggering $1.6 trillion in 2011, the result of massive tax cuts for the rich, declining revenues, a by-product of capitalism's economic meltdown, imperial adventures abroad and general corporate malfeasance (the old tax-dodge grift), the administration plans to cut $250 billion over three years from non-military "discretionary spending" on domestic social programs.
However, as the World Socialist Web Site points out: "President Barack Obama has done nothing to reverse decades of wage stagnation, mounting poverty, and attacks on the social welfare system. On the contrary, following George W. Bush, he has seized on the crisis to redistribute wealth to a tiny financial elite through the ongoing bailout of the finance industry."
It is no small irony that despite stark budget figures and an even bleaker future for the American working class, Washington Technology reported January 28 that the "29 largest publicly traded defense contractors increased their use of offshore subsidiaries by 26 percent from 2003 to 2008."
Citing reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), journalist Alice Lipowicz disclosed that the "subsidiaries helped the contractors reduce taxes, in part by avoiding Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for U.S. workers hired at the foreign subsidiaries."
Considering that the Pentagon hands out some $396 billion annually to contractors, outsourcing everything from "in theatre" construction in places like Afghanistan and Iraq to pricey "intelligence analysts" at secret state agencies, cash not spent on payroll taxes by dodgy firms slices another hole into the already-shredded social safety net.
Amongst the largest firms cited in GAO's 2008 report, updated in January 2010, Oracle Corp., operates in 77 tax havens; Boeing Co., 38; Dell Inc., 29; BearingPoint Inc., 28; Computer Sciences Corp., 21; Fluor Corp., 34; General Dynamics, 5; Harris Corp., 13; Hewlett-Packard, 14; Honeywell International, 7; ITT Corp., 18; L-3 Communications, 15; Sprint Nextel, 7.
Protest at the University of HI Challenges Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence & CIA Campus Recruitment
Protest at the University of Hawaii Challenges Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence and CIA Recruitment on Campus
By Ann Wright | Click "Read more" below for large photo
Hawaii activists protested on February 10, 2010, the University of Hawaii’s participation with U.S. intelligence agencies in a symposium on national security and called on students and faculty to remember the criminal track record of these agencies in torture, assassination, kidnapping and illegal prisons.
Protesters called on the University administration to reject any request by the federal government to create a National Intelligence Center of Academic Excellence (ICCAE, pronounced “icky”) at the University of Hawaii.
Government intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Homeland Security, have created in the past four years twenty-two Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence on university campuses to provide “systematic long-term programs at universities and colleges to recruit and hire eligible talent for [intelligence community] agencies and components” and to “increase the [intelligence recruiting] pipeline of students.”
The EU Parliament voted today–by big margins–to end the temporary deal allowing the US access to data from SWIFT.
The European Parliament on Thursday broadly rejected an agreement with the United States on sharing information on bank transfers that was aimed at tracking suspected terrorists through their finances.The vote in Strasbourg, France, underlined differences between the United States and the European Union over how to balance guarantees of personal privacy with concerns about national and international security.
A resolution to reject the deal passed 378-196, with 31 abstentions. The vote means that the agreement, which provisionally went into force at the beginning of February, cannot be used as planned.
The agreement would have freed the United States from having to seek bank data on a country-by-country basis. But Washington still could press for access to the data through such avenues.
Remember, this deal would have given European citizens more protections than Americans currently get from their banks (because it would have allowed them to check whether their data had been accessed). Read more.
Airport Body Scanning Raises Radiation Exposure, Committee Says
By Jonathan Tirone | Bloomberg
Air passengers should be made aware of the health risks of airport body screenings and governments must explain any decision to expose the public to higher levels of cancer-causing radiation, an inter-agency report said.
Pregnant women and children should not be subject to scanning, even though the radiation dose from body scanners is “extremely small,” said the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety report, which is restricted to the agencies concerned and not meant for public circulation. The group includes the European Commission, International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Energy Agency and the World Health Organization.
A more accurate assessment about the health risks of the screening won’t be possible until governments decide whether all passengers will be systematically scanned or randomly selected, the report said. Governments must justify the additional risk posed to assengers, and should consider “other techniques to achieve the same end without the use of ionizing radiation.”
President Barack Obama has pledged $734 million to deploy airport scanners that use x-rays and other technology to detect explosives, guns and other contraband. The U.S. and European countries including the U.K. have been deploying more scanners at airports after the attempted bombing on Christmas Day of a Detroit-bound Northwest airline flight.
“There is little doubt that the doses from the backscatter x-ray systems being proposed for airport security purposes are very low,” Health Protection Agency doctor Michael Clark said by phone from Didcot, England. “The issue raised by the report is that even though doses from the systems are very low, they feel there is still a need for countries to justify exposures.” Read more.
9/11, Deep Events, and the Curtailment of U.S. Freedoms
A talk delivered to the New England Antiwar Conference, MIT, January 30, 2010.
by Prof Peter Dale Scott | Global Research
Hello everyone! I’m honored to be invited to this important anti-war conference. As I am in the final stages of editing my next book, The Road to Afghanistan, I have been turning down invitations to speak. But I was eager to accept this one, and to join my friends and others in debunking the war on terror, the false justification for the Afghan-Pakistan war.
Let me make my own position clear at the outset. There are indeed people out there, including some Muslim extremists, who want to inflict terror on America. But it is crystal clear, as many people inside and outside government have agreed, that it makes this problem worse, not better, when Washington sends large numbers of U.S. troops to yet another country where they don ‘t belong.
A war on terror is as inappropriate a cure as a U.S. war on drugs, which as we have seen in Colombia makes the drug problem worse, not better. The war on terror and the war on drugs have this in common: both are ideological attempts to justify the needless killings of thousands – including both American troops and foreign civilians -- in another needless war.
Why does America find itself, time after time, invading countries in distant oil-bearing regions, countries which have not invaded us? This is a vital issue on which we should seek a clear message for the American people. Unfortunately it has been an issue on which there has been serious disagreement dividing the antiwar movement, just as it divided people, even friends, inside the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s.
Perhaps many of you in this room know that there was disagreement between Noam Chomsky and myself in our analysis of how America entered the Vietnam War. This did not stop Noam and I from speaking out on the same platform against the war, or remaining friends, even after our public disagreements. There was too much on which we agreed.
Let me turn to today’s topic, the war on terror, by reading a long quote from Noam Chomsky in 2002, with which I fully agree:
"the war on terrorism was not declared on September 11 ; rather, it was redeclared, using the same rhetoric as the first declaration twenty years earlier. The Reagan administration, as you know, I'm sure, came into office announcing that a war on terrorism would be the core of U.S. foreign policy, and it condemned what the president called the "evil scourge of terrorism. " …. International terrorism was described as a plague spread by "depraved opponents of civilization itself," in "a return to barbarism in the modern age.”"
Today it is easy to see the falsehood of the government rhetoric in the 1980s about heroic freedom fighters fighting the “evil scourge of terrorism.” Most of the CIA money in the 1980s went to the terrorist drug trafficker Gulbeddin Hekmatyar, remembered for his habit of throwing acid in the faces of women not wearing burkas. Hekmatyar did not represent Afghan aspirations for freedom, but the interests of the U.S. ally Pakistan. As a true Afghan leader said in 1994, “We didn't choose [him]. The United States made Hekmatyar by giving him his weapons.” To describe Hekmatyar’s men as freedom fighters was a fraud. Read more.
On the evening of Jan. 27, 2010, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) spoke, in Baltimore City, before a capacity audience at Loyola University Maryland. He addressed a wide range of issues, including civil liberties, civil disobedience, the CIA’s assassination policy, torture, rendition, secret prisons, enemy combatants, the ancient Writ of Habeas Corpus, Barack Obama’s White House and the 2nd and 10th Amendments. Rep. Paul also expressed his growing fears, post-9/11, for our fast-fading Republic itself. He added that the current situation in the country is compounded by the shaky economic and monetary systems, which have been ineptly crafted and dominated by the Wall Street Banksters and “The Fed.” With respect to Rep. Paul’s comments on the CIA’s assassination policy, see: “CIA is Said to Weigh Targeting Americans for Death,” Jan. 31, 2010, by Greg Miller, Tribune Newspapers. Check out related videos here and here.
The logic of (counter) terrorism, as practiced by the US government
By Michael Schwartz
Keep in mind that well known sociological studies (enshrined in a famous movie starring Will Smith) demonstrate all people on earth are separated by only six degrees of separation. This means that careful work by the intelligence agencies can place almost anyone into a network of associates with any suspect. This means that, in practice, the construction of these suspicious networks will sweep up pretty much everyone in the vague social vicinity of a terrorist suspect.
In a recent Harper's article, Petra Bartosiewicz explains, in excruciating detail, the incredible saga of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who trained and worked in the United States for eleven years, and who vanished from her hometown in Pakistan in 2003, and re-appeared in 2008, accused of the attempted murder of U.S. intelligence agents who were apparently interrogating her for the umpteenth time during what was likely five years of imprisonment by various authorities, mainly the Pakistani and U.S. intelligence agencies. The whole story is bizarre, and even Bartosiewicz is still confused about what actually happened, though it is entirely possible that Siddiqui is innocent of all allegations and charges. Of course, there is no guarantee that the pending trial will clarify anything.
One thing is, however, crystal clear: that the secret counter terrorist intelligence network created by the U.S. practices every form of brutality that it accuses its targets of utilizing. And it does this on a scale that Al Qaeda and its allies can only dream about.
But there is a much larger significance to the prevalence of these practices, and this larger significance lies much more in the process of disappearing innocent citizens in every country of the world than in the particularities of how they are treated once they are captured and incarcerated. The logic behind this practice of the mass arrest of innocents was made explicit by an FBI document filed in the U.S. court a few years back. Here is Bartosiewicz's account of that document:
When the FBI detained more than a thousand Muslim immigrants in 2001, for instance, it provided judges at secret detention hearings an affidavit explaining that the business of counterterrorism intelligence gathering in the United States is akin to the construction of a mosaic and that evidence that may seem innocuous at first glance might ultimately fit into a picture that will reveal how the unseen whole operates. The FBI reasoned that even the possessors of this intelligence might not be aware of the significance of what they knew, and so they could be detained simply because the agency was unable to rule out their value.
FBI 'fabricated terror emergencies to get phone records'
Justice department to accuse FBI of invoking crises to obtain details of more than 2,000 calls, Washington Post reports
By Chris McGreal | Guardian.co.UK
Caproni said that FBI's issuing of authorisations after the fact was a "good-hearted but not well thought-out" move to give the phone companies legal cover for handing over the records....The FBI subsequently issued a blanket authorisation covering all past searches, although its legality was questioned. The Washington Post said journalists on the newspaper and the New York Times were among those whose phone records were illegally searched. The FBI later apologised to editors of both papers.
The US justice department is preparing a report which concludes that the FBI repeatedly broke the law by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist to obtain more than 2,000 telephone call records over four years from 2002, including those of journalists on US newspapers, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post.
The bureau also issued authorisations for the seizure of records after the fact, in order to justify unwarranted seizures.
The Washington Post said the emails show how counter-terrorism officials inside FBI headquarters breached regulations designed to protect civil liberties.
The FBI's general counsel, Valerie Caproni, told the Washington Post that the agency violated privacy laws by inventing non-existent terrorist threats to justify collecting the phone records. "We should have stopped those requests from being made that way," she said.
Caproni said that FBI's issuing of authorisations after the fact was a "good-hearted but not well thought-out" move to give the phone companies legal cover for handing over the records. Read more.
To establish the right to sue, a private citizen must demonstrate a "direct, personal stake in the outcome" and cannot merely claim "a right to have the government follow the law," Walker said.
A federal judge has dismissed AT&T customers' lawsuit over wiretapping conducted under former President George W. Bush, a challenge the judge had allowed to proceed before Congress intervened.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco ruled in 2006 that the AT&T customers could sue the company for allegedly allowing federal agents to intercept their calls and e-mails and seize their records without a warrant.
Bush acknowledged in December 2005 that he had ordered interception of communications between Americans and alleged foreign terrorists four years earlier without seeking court approval, as required by federal law. Read more.
Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama's closest confidants. Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein is currently Obama's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for "overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs." In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-"independent" advocates to "cognitively infiltrate" online groups and websites -- as well as other activist groups -- which advocate views that Sunstein deems "false conspiracy theories" about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens' faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper's abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.
Sunstein advocates that the Government's stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups." He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called "independent" credible voices to bolster the Government's messaging (on the ground that those who don't believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false "conspiracy theories," which they define to mean: "an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role." Sunstein's 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger, and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story's Daniel Tencer.
There's no evidence that the Obama administration has actually implemented a program exactly of the type advocated by Sunstein, though in light of this paper and the fact that Sunstein's position would include exactly such policies, that question certainly ought to be asked. Regardless, Sunstein's closeness to the President, as well as the highly influential position he occupies, merits an examination of the mentality behind what he wrote. This isn't an instance where some government official wrote a bizarre paper in college 30 years ago about matters unrelated to his official powers; this was written 18 months ago, at a time when the ascendancy of Sunstein's close friend to the Presidency looked likely, in exactly the area he now oversees. Additionally, the government-controlled messaging that Sunstein desires has been a prominent feature of U.S. Government actions over the last decade, including in some recently revealed practices of the current administration, and the mindset in which it is grounded explains a great deal about our political class. All of that makes Sunstein's paper worth examining in greater detail. Read more.
Before President Obama, it was grimly accurate to write, as I often did in the Voice, that George W. Bush came into the presidency with no discernible background in constitutional civil liberties or any acquaintance with the Constitution itself. Accordingly, he turned the "war on terror" over to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld-ardent believers that the Constitution presents grave obstacles in a time of global jihad.
But now, Bush's successor-who actually taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago-is continuing much of the Bush-Cheney parallel government and, in some cases, is going much further in disregarding our laws and the international treaties we've signed.
On January 22, 2009, the apostle of "change we can believe in" proclaimed: "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of my presidency." But four months into his first year in command, Obama instructed his attorney general, Eric Holder, to present in a case, Jewel v. National Security Agency, a claim of presidential "sovereign immunity" that not even Dick Cheney had the arrant chutzpah to propose.
Five customers of AT&T had tried to go to court and charge that the government's omnipresent spy, the NSA, had been given by AT&T private information from their phone bills and e-mails. In a first, the Obama administration countered-says Kevin Bankston of Electronic Frontier Foundation, representing these citizens stripped of their privacy-that "the U.S. can never be sued for spying that violated federal surveillance statutes, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the Wiretap Act."
It is one thing, as the Bush regime did, to spy on us without going to court for a warrant, but to maintain that the executive branch can never even be charged with wholly disregarding our rule of law is, as a number of lawyers said, "breathtaking." Read more.
A privacy group says the Transportation Security Administration is misleading the public with claims that full-body scanners at airports cannot store or send their graphic images.
The TSA specified in 2008 documents that the machines must have image storage and sending abilities, the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said.
In the documents, obtained by the privacy group and provided to CNN, the TSA specifies that the body scanners it purchases must have the ability to store and send images when in "test mode."
That requirement leaves open the possibility the machines -- which can see beneath people's clothing -- can be abused by TSA insiders and hacked by outsiders, said EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg.
EPIC, a public-interest group focused on privacy and civil rights, obtained the technical specifications and vendor contracts through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The written requirements also appear to contradict numerous assurances the TSA has given the public about the machines' privacy protections. Read more.