Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Spy Software Coming On-Line: "Surveillance in a Box" Makes its Debut

You've heard of the FBI's "Quantico Circuit" and were outraged by illegal warrantless wiretapping by Bushist minions. To no avail, you flooded Congress with emails and phone calls, angered by the bipartisan "FISA Amendments Act of 2008" and the swell party thrown by AT&T for "Blue Dog" Democrats in Denver this week for the convention.

But just in time for a new administration (and the bundles of cash always at the ready for the expanding homeland security market), comes a complete "surveillance in a box" system called the Intelligence Platform!

According to New Scientist, German electronics giant Siemens has developed software allegedly capable of integrating

...tasks typically done by separate surveillance teams or machines, pooling data from sources such as telephone calls, email and internet activity, bank transactions and insurance records. It then sorts through this mountain of information using software that Siemens dubs "intelligence modules". (Laura Margottini, "Surveillance Made Easy," New Scientist, 23 August 2008)

New Scientist reports that the firm has sold the system to some 60 countries in Europe and Asia. Which countries? Well, Siemens won't say.

However, privacy and human rights advocates say the system bears a remarkable resemblance to China's "Golden Shield," a massive surveillance network that integrates huge information databases, internet and email monitoring, speech and facial recognition platforms in combination with CCTV monitoring.

Designed specifically for "fusion centers" or their European/Asian equivalents, the Intelligence Platform promises to provide "real-time" high-tech tools to foil terrorist plots before they're hatched (or keep tabs on antiwar/antiglobalization activists).

The latest item in the emerging "intelligent" software niche market, Intelligence Platform has been "trained" on a large number of sample documents to zero in on names, phone numbers or places from generic text. "This means it can spot names or numbers that crop up alongside anyone already of interest to the authorities, and then catalogue any documents that contain such associates," New Scientist avers.

In the UK, the Home Office announced it plans to provide law enforcement, local councils and other public agencies access to the details of text messages, emails and internet browsing. This follows close on the heels of an announcement last May that New Labour was considering building a massive centralized database "as a tool to help the security services tackle crime and terrorism." According to The Guardian,

Local councils, health authorities and hundreds of other public bodies are to be given the power to access details of everyone's personal text, emails and internet use under Home Office proposals published yesterday.

Ministers want to make it mandatory for telephone and internet companies to keep details of all personal internet traffic for at least 12 months so it can be accessed for investigations into crime or other threats to public safety. ...

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats last night branded the measure a "snooper's charter". (Alan Travis, "'Snooper's charter' to check texts and email," The Guardian, Wednesday, August 13, 2008)

A blurb posted on Siemens' website claims that the "challenge" is "to foster the well-being of law-abiding citizens" and therefore, "authorized groups need to have direct access to communications between suspects, whether it is individuals, groups or organizations. Only then can they take appropriate action, detect, prevent and anticipate crimes and guarantee peace and security."

In other words, if you've got nothing to hide "trust us:" the shopworn mantra of securocrats everywhere. And in today's climate, this is an especially burdensome challenge for state security and corporate spies who demand "highly-sophisticated, multi-level voice and data recordings" in order to destroy our rights while transforming our respective societies into Orwellian police states. New Scientist reports,

Once a person is being monitored, pattern-recognition software first identifies their typical behaviour, such as repeated calls to certain numbers over a period of a few months. The software can then identify any deviations from the norm and flag up unusual activities, such as transactions with a foreign bank, or contact with someone who is also under surveillance, so that analysts can take a closer look.

But if the experience of U.S. Fusion Centers are any indication of the accuracy of the Siemens system, false positives will be endemic while thousands, if not millions, of perfectly innocent individuals are forever ensnared in the state's data driftnet. According to the American Civil Liberties Union,

The Justice Department's 2006 Guidelines envision fusion centers doing more than simply sharing legitimately acquired law enforcement information across different branches of our burgeoning security establishment. The Guidelines encourage compiling data "from nontraditional sources, such as public safety entities and private sector organizations" and fusing it with federal intelligence "to anticipate, identify, prevent, and/or monitor criminal and terrorist activity." This strongly implies the use of statistical dragnets that have come to be called data-mining. The inevitable result of a data-mining approach to fusion centers will be:

Many innocent individuals will be flagged, scrutinized, investigated, placed on watch lists, interrogated or arrested, and possibly suffer irreparable harm to their reputation, all because of a hidden machinery of data brokers, information aggregators and computer algorithms.

Law enforcement agencies will waste time and resources investing in high-tech computer boondoggles that leave them chasing false leads--while real threats go unaddressed and limited resources are sucked away from the basic, old-fashioned legwork that is the only way genuine terror plots have ever been foiled. (Michael German and Jay Staley, "What's Wrong with Fusion Centers," American Civil Liberties, December 2007)

But perhaps "high-tech computer boondoggles" are precisely the point!

After all, the Boeing Company and their sidekicks at SRI International (which describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit research institute") were recently criticized by a House Science and Technology Subcommittee for "irregularities" in the government's Railhead program, a suite of software "upgrades" to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), "a vast database of names that feeds the nation's terrorist watch list," the Associated Press reported.

Railhead was touted as a "fix" for a system built by Lockheed Martin in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. According to congressional investigators, the system provides data to all federal terrorist watch lists, including the "no-fly" list run by the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration and the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, a national clearinghouse for federal, state and local fusion centers.

According to the House committee the program is months behind schedule, millions over budget and "would actually be less capable than the U.S. government terrorist tracking system it is meant to replace." Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported,

When tested, the new system failed to find matches for terrorist-suspect names that were spelled slightly different from the name entered into the system, a common challenge when translating names from Arabic to English. It also could not perform basic searches of multiple words connected with terms such as "and" and "or." (Siobhan Gorman, "Flaws Found in Watch List for Terrorists, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2008)

Leaving aside the racist presuppositions of the Journal, to wit, that Arab = terrorist (no small matter when dealing with nativist yahoos here in the "homeland" or elswehere), as Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said in a statement, "the program appears to be on the brink of collapse after an estimated half-billion dollars in taxpayer funding has been spent on it." According to the committee,

The Railhead program had been undergoing an internal technical implosion for more than one year. But public statements and sworn public testimony to Congress from senior officials within the NCTC [National Counterterrorist Center] and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) never revealed the mounting technical troubles, poor contractor management or lax government oversight that appears to have been endemic throughout the program and has led to Railhead's colossal failure. Astoundingly, the Director of NCTC and the Director of National Intelligence have both specifically pointed to TIDE and NCTC Online as hallmarks of the government’s information sharing accomplishments. ("Technical Flaws Hinder Terrorist Watch List; Congress Calls for Investigation," Committee on Science and Technology, Press Release, August 21, 2008)

In a technical sense, the NCTC and the ODNI may be correct in touting TIDE and NCTC Online as "hallmarks of the government's information sharing accomplishments," if by "sharing accomplishments" they meant handing over unlimited bundles of taxpayer's hard-earned cash to enterprising contractors!

Gorman reports that in "recent weeks, the government has fired most of the 862 private contractors from dozens of companies working on the Railhead project, and only a skeleton crew remains." Boeing and SRI's response? According to the Journal, "calls to officials of Boeing and SRI were not immediately returned."

I bet they weren't! Especially since the committee said "Railhead insiders" allege that the government paid Boeing some $200 million to retrofit the company's Herndon, Virginia office with security upgrades so that top secret software work could be performed there. The government then leased the same office space from Boeing. How's that for hitting the old corporate "sweet spot."

None of this of course, should surprise anyone, least of all defense lobby dollar-addicted members of Congress who, like Captain Renault in Casablanca are "shocked, shocked" to find their corporate "partners" have failed to deliver--again.

According to Washington Technology's list of "2008 Top 100 Government Prime Contractors," Boeing clocked-in at No. 2 with $9,706,621,413 in taxpayer handouts. No slouches themselves, Siemens placed No. 79 with some $186,292,146 in prime government contracts across an array of defense and civilian agencies. With Railhead's imminent demise, perhaps the German electronics giant has a future in the U.S. "homeland security" market with its Intelligent Platform?

Then again, perhaps not. Computer security expert Bruce Schneier told New Scientist, "'currently there are no good patterns available to recognise terrorists,' he says, and questions whether Siemens has got around this." But since the business of government is business, maybe they do after all.

Meanwhile, the PRISE consortium of security technology and human rights experts funded by the European Union, called "for a moratorium on the development of fusion technologies, referring explicitly to the Siemens Intelligence Platform," Margottini reported.

According to New Scientist, PRISE analysts told the EU, "The efficiency and reliability of such tools is as yet unknown. More surveillance does not necessarily lead to a higher level of societal security. Hence there must be a thorough examination of whether the resulting massive constraints on human rights are proportionate and justified."

But here in the United States concern over trivial things such as "massive constraints on human rights," unlike state attacks against the "quaint" rights of the average citizen are, like the impeachment of a regime studded with war criminals, most definitely "off the table."

While the Democrats celebrate Barack Obama's coronation in Denver this week and the Republicans are poised to do the same for John McCain in the Twin Cities rest assured, administrations may change, but the corporate grift is eternal.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Defense Intelligence Agency Seeking "Mind Control" Weapons

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council (NRC) argues that the Pentagon should harvest the fruits of neuroscientific research in order to enhance the "warfighting" capabilities of U.S. soldiers while diminishing those of enemy personnel.

The 151-page report issued by a 16-member blue ribbon commission, "Cognitive Neuroscience Research and National Security," was quietly announced in an August 13 National Academy of Sciences Press Release.

Commissioned by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon spy shop, the study asserts that the U.S. intelligence "community" must do a better job following cutting-edge research in neuroscience or as is more likely, steering it along paths useful to the Defense Department. According to the NRC,

A 2005 National Research Council report described a methodology for gauging the implications of new technologies and assessing whether they pose a threat to national security. In this new report, the committee applied the methodology to the neuroscience field and identified several research areas that could be of interest to the intelligence community: neurophysiological advances in detecting and measuring indicators of psychological states and intentions of individuals, the development of drugs or technologies that can alter human physical or cognitive abilities, advances in real-time brain imaging, and breakthroughs in high-performance computing and neuronal modeling that could allow researchers to develop systems which mimic functions of the human brain, particularly the ability to organize disparate forms of data. ("National Security Intelligence Organizations should Monitor Advances in Cognitive Neuroscience Research," National Academy of Sciences, Press Release, August 13, 2008)

Unlocking the secrets of the brain is projected as the next growth industry for the military, academia and corporate grifters hoping to land huge Pentagon contracts. As defense analyst Noah Shachtman reported in Wired, the "Army has given a team of University of California researchers a $4 million grant to study the foundations of "synthetic telepathy." Unlike "remote viewing" research funded by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency between 1972 and 1996, variously known as "Grill Flame," "Sun Streak" and finally, "Star Gate" before the plug was pulled, the Army-U.C. Irvine joint venture are exploring thought transmission via a brain-computer mediated interface.

Recently New Scientist reported on a series of bizarre experiments at the University of Reading in the UK. Researchers there have connected 300,000 disembodied rat neurons suspended in "a pink broth of nutrients and antibiotics" to 80 electrodes at the base of the growth medium. As journalist Paul Marks informs us, the "rat neurons have made--and continue to make--connections with each other." The voltages sparked by the firing cells are displayed on a computer screen.

Welcome to the "brave new world" of neural prosthetics and the militarists who are exploiting science and technology for new weapons applications.

Declaring that emerging technologies such as brain imaging and cognitive and physical enhancers are "desired by the public," NRC avers "such forces act as strong market incentives for development." But as Rick Weiss cautions on the Science Progress blog,

But even more interesting to me is the report's discussion of the emerging market in brain-targeted, performance-degrading techniques. Some experiments, it turns out, suggest that magnetic beams can be used to induce seizures in people, a tempting addition to the military's armamentarium. More conventionally, as scientists discover new chemicals that can blur thinking or undermine an enemy's willpower, and as engineers design aerosolized delivery systems that can deliver these chemicals directly to the lungs (and from there, the brains) of large groups of people, the prospect of influencing the behavior of entire enemy regiments becomes real. ("Minding Mental Minefields," Science Progress, August 15, 2008)

The use of so-called calmative agents as non-lethal weapons are already under development. As Antifascist Calling reported last month in "The Calmative Before the Storm," the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) are carrying out experiments into what it euphemistically calls "Human Effects Research" and developing an "Advanced Total Body Model for predicting the effects of non-lethal impacts."

Apparently the DIA has taken this a step further and will now explore the possibility of creating aerosolized pharmacological agents that can disrupt and perhaps influence, the mental functioning of targeted populations abroad, enemy soldiers or dissenting citizens here in the United States.

Neil Davison, a researcher with the Bradford Disarmament Research Centre (BDRC) at Bradford University in the UK, wrote an important 2007 study, "'Off the Rocker' and 'On the Floor': The Continued Development of Biochemical Incapacitating Weapons." Davison examined the historical differentiation made by weaponeers between "off the rocker" agents such as LSD, PCP and psilocybin in their allegedly weaponized forms versus "on the floor" agents such as sedatives, opiate analgesics and anesthetic chemicals.

During the "golden age" of the CIA and U.S. Army's quixotic search for "mind control" agents during the 1950s and 1960s, researchers were seeking a reliable mechanism that would unlock the secrets of the mind--and gain control over witting or unwitting subjects--for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. Hundreds, if not thousands, of unethical experiments were carried out on psychiatric patients, civilians and soldiers. The results were subsequently suppressed on grounds on "national security."

While the majority of CIA MKULTRA files were ordered destroyed by former Agency Director Richard Helms in 1973, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held landmark 1977 hearings and issued a report, "Project MKULTRA, The CIA's Program of Research in Behavioral Modification." As Senator Ted Kennedy discussed in his opening remarks,

Some 2 years ago, the Senate Health Subcommittee heard chilling testimony about the human experimentation activities of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Deputy Director of the CIA revealed that over 30 universities and institutions were involved in an "extensive testing and experimentation" program which included covert drug tests on unwitting citizens "at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign." Several of these tests involved the administration of LSD to "unwitting subjects in social situations." ...

We believed that the record, incomplete as it was, was as complete as it was going to be. Then one individual, through a Freedom of Information request, accomplished what two U.S. Senate committees could not. He spurred the agency into finding additional records pertaining to the CIA's program of experimentation with human subjects. ... The records reveal a far more extensive series of experiments than had previously been thought. Eighty-six universities or institutions were involved. New instances of unethical behavior were revealed.

The Central Intelligence Agency drugged American citizens without their knowledge or consent. It used university facilities and personnel without their knowledge. It funded leading researchers, often without their knowledge. (emphasis added)

While the CIA's MKULTRA project and related Army ventures carried out at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, may have failed to develop specific agents that could be wielded as a "mind control" weapon, the research did result in the development of abusive interrogation techniques that can only be characterized as torture.

As Antifascist Calling queried in "Neuroscience, National Security & the 'War on Terror'," "If behavioral psychology was handmaid to the horrors perpetrated at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and CIA transnational 'black sites,' what new nightmares are in store for humanity when advances in neuroscience, complex computer algorithms and a secretive national security state enter stage (far) right?"

Apparently horrors of the "mind control" variety, particularly when it comes to applications for ever-newer and more insidious interrogation/control techniques to be used on "enemy combatants" or dissenting malefactors in the heimat.

According to the NRC and the corporate-academic grifters involved in the research, cognitive warfare should be sold as a "more humane" method of advancing imperialist objectives. As the report baldly states, the equation "pills instead of bullets" will be the preferred marketing technique employed for "selling" the program to the American people. As anthropologist Hugh Gusterson wrote,

The military and scientific leaders chartering neuroweapons research will argue that the United States is a uniquely noble country that can be trusted with such technologies, while other countries (except for a few allies) cannot. They will also argue that these technologies will save lives and that U.S. ingenuity will enable the United States to dominate other countries in a neuroweapons race. When it is too late to turn back the clock, they will profess amazement that other countries caught up so quickly and that an initiative intended to ensure American dominance instead led to a world where everyone is threatened by chemicalized soldiers and roboterrorists straight out of Blade Runner. (The militarization of neuroscience," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 9 April 2007)

But as the world looked on in horror at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, this "uniquely noble country" guided by "ethical principles," resorted to repugnant methods such as sensory deprivation, near drowning and "self-inflicted pain" techniques (short-shackling and the like) to achieve control over defenseless prisoners.

As the NRC would have it, academics in thrall to corporate funding and state agencies staffed by war criminals now expect us to believe that "ethics" will guide those exploring pharmacological methods to obtain more insidious means to subjugate humanity.

Weiss reports that the NRC notes in its report, the motivation, or lack thereof, to fight, is of great concern to Pentagon bureaucrats and policy makers. "So one question," for military-corporate-academic funded research "would be, 'How can we disrupt the enemy's motivation to fight?' Other questions raised by controlling the mind: 'How can we make people trust us more?' 'What if we could help the brain to remove fear or pain?' 'Is there a way to make the enemy obey our commands?'...As cognitive neuroscience and related technologies become more pervasive, using technology for nefarious purposes becomes easier."

But as is usual with all such screeds, the psychoanalytic theory of projection comes in handy when deciphering the monstrous intent of Pentagon weaponeers. It is all-too-clear whether we are discussing nuclear, biological, chemical or contemporaneously, cognitive weapons that Western proponents of preemptive war, always couch their acts of violent imperialist aggression in purely defensive terms.

In this light, Freud and his followers have defined projection as a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, and where aggressive impulses then appear as a threat from the external world. In the case of corporate defense and security grifters, their militarist pit bulls and the academic sycophants who fuel their deranged "cognitive warfare" fantasies, the other--a nation, a dispossessed class or a bogeyman such as "international terrorism"--are always the external harbingers of apocalyptic death and destruction, when in reality such fantasies are wholly reflective of their own desire to aggressively dominate and plunder other nations.

Therefore, the NRC maintains, and note the ideologically-skewed reference to the eternal verities of "the market," the Holy Grail of capitalism in its hyperimperialist phase:

The fear that this approach to fighting war might be developed will be justification for developing countermeasures to possible cognitive weapons. This escalation might lead to innovations that could cause this market area to expand rapidly. Tests would need to be developed to determine if a soldier had been harmed by a cognitive weapon. And there would be a need for a prophylactic of some sort. (NRC, op. cit.)

Who, pray tell, is driving this "escalation" and counting on academia to produce "innovations" in "this market area"? One might also quite reasonably inquire: Who profits?

As Christopher Green, the chairman of the NRC investigative panel championing neuroweapons research avers in a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,

Big Pharma is global. Drug discovery research is both ponderous (not as much as arms control, however) and increasingly beyond the control of governments and the public. The development of cognitive enhancers and anti-aging aides during the next two decades (the time needed for drug discovery to become successful) will be...ethically worrisome. But it will be beyond opprobrium. Drugs will be developed and marketed, and not necessarily under the auspices of traditional Western controls and good laboratory practices. ("The potential impact of neuroscience research is greater than previously thought," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 9 July 2008) [emphasis added]

While Green claims he is opposed to developing drugs "with safe and efficacious properties for military use," the NRC study, after all, was funded by the Defense Intelligence Agency, hardly a "neutral party" when it comes to "enhanced interrogation techniques" and other horrors of this horrible system!

One must also dissect the linguistic formulations and assumptions deployed by those advocating this line of research. By referring to neuroweapons production as a "market area," those contemplating unleashing devilish pharmacological forms of warfare on unsuspecting populations behave, in you'll pardon the pun, as if they were brainstorming the release of a new video game or suite of luxury condominiums in an American city "ethnically cleansed" of its urban poor!

Green and his acolytes claim that "battlefield commanders of all nations hold sacrosanct the right to determine the applications" of weapon deployments that may cause "collateral damage" to civilian noncombatants. Therefore, Green argues that "if governments or scientists were to try to develop a system to pre-screen neuroscientific cognitive manipulators, which would be HIPAA approved and tested, and robust in its core science, success would be as likely as it was with mines and cluster-bombs--meaning not likely." Translation: full-speed ahead!

While the NRC allege that their approach to monitoring neuroweapons research is "ethical," the committee ponders whether "the concept of torture could also be altered by products in this market. It is possible that someday there could be a technique developed to extract information from a prisoner that does not have any lasting side effects."

Other than the hollowing-out of one's personality and the unique traits that make us human, that is. "Paging Winston Smith, white courtesy telephone!"

While Nazi theories of Aryan superiority may have been displaced by a uniquely American ultranationalist, though no less predatory utilitarian praxis, behind the glittering technological promises trumpeted by today's biotech weaponeers lurk the same murderous mental constructs that guided Indian hunters and slave traders of yore.

Only this time, we're all Manchurian candidates.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

COINTELPRO 2.0: Mukasey Loosens Guidelines on Domestic Spying

The waning months of the Bush administration can be characterized by an avalanche of changes to long-standing rules governing domestic intelligence operations.

The revisions proposed by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and other top administration officials, represent the greatest expansion of executive power since the Watergate era and should been viewed as an imminent threat to already-diminished civil liberties protections in the United States.

The slippery slope towards open police state methods of governance may have begun with the 2001 passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, but recent events signal that a qualitative acceleration of repressive measures are currently underway. These changes are slated to go into effect with the new fiscal year beginning October 1, and are subject neither to congressional oversight nor judicial review.

Bush allies in Congress kicked-off the summer with the shameful passage by the House and Senate of the FISA Amendments Act, an unconstitutional domestic spying bill that gutted Fourth Amendment protections. With broad consensus by both capitalist political parties, the FISA Act eliminates meaningful judicial oversight of state surveillance while granting virtual immunity to law-breaking telecoms.

Despite posturing by leading Democrats, including the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, the FISA legislation legalized the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program and set the stage for further assaults on the right to privacy and dissent.

Further attacks were not long in coming.

In the last month alone, mainstream media have reported that the FBI illegally obtained the phone records of overseas journalists allegedly as part of a 2004 "terrorism investigation."

Other reports documented how the Department of Homeland Security asserts the right to seize a traveler's laptop and other electronic devices for an unspecified period of time and without probable cause.

Still other reports revealed that the administration has expanded the power of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to issue "overarching policies and procedures" and to coordinate "priorities" with foreign intelligence services that target American citizens and legal residents.

And on Wednesday, The Washington Post exposed how the federal government has used "its system of border checkpoints to greatly expand a database on travelers entering the country by collecting information on all U.S. citizens crossing by land, compiling data that will be stored for 15 years and may be used in criminal and intelligence investigations." Ellen Nakashima writes,

The disclosure of the database is among a series of notices, officials say, to make DHS's data gathering more transparent. Critics say the moves exemplify efforts by the Bush administration in its final months to cement an unprecedented expansion of data gathering for national security and intelligence purposes. ("Citizens' U.S. Border Crossings Tracked," The Washington Post, August 20, 2008)

The Post also revealed that the information will be linked to a new database, the Non-Federal Entity Data System, "which is being set up to hold personal information about all drivers in a state's database." Posted at the Government Printing Office's website, the notice states that the information may even be shared with federal contractors or consultants "to accomplish an agency function related to this system of records."

But perhaps the most controversial move towards increasing the federal government's surveillance powers were unveiled by the Justice Department in late July. According to The Washington Post, "a new domestic spying measure...would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years."

New rules for police intelligence-gathering would apply to any of the 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive some $1.6 billion each year in federal grants. These proposed changes, as with other administration measures, were quietly published July 31 in the Federal Register.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau reported August 13, that Mukasey confirmed plans to "loosen post-Watergate restrictions on the FBI's national security and criminal investigations," under cover of improving the Bureau's "ability to detect terrorists." Marisa Taylor wrote,

Mukasey said he expected criticism of the new rules because "they expressly authorize the FBI to engage in intelligence collection inside the United States." However, he said the criticism would be misplaced because the bureau has long had authority to do so.

Mukasey said the new rules "remove unnecessary barriers" to cooperation between law enforcement agencies and "eliminate the artificial distinctions" in the way agents conduct surveillance in criminal and national security investigations. ("FBI to Get Freer Rein to Look for Terrorism Suspects," McClatchy Washington Bureau, August 13, 2008)

While the Justice Department's draft proposals have been selectively leaked to the media, and DoJ is expected to release its final version of the changes within a few weeks, even then the bulk of these modifications will remain classified on grounds of "national security."

Under the new regulatory regime proposed by Mukasey, state and local police would be given free rein to target groups as well as individuals, and to launch criminal intelligence investigations based on the "suspicion" that a target is "engaged in terrorism." The results of such investigations could be shared "with a constellation of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and others in many cases," according to Post reporters Spencer S. Hsu and Carrie Johnson.

With probable cause tossed overboard, domestic intelligence as envisaged by the Bush Justice Department is little more than a fishing expedition intended to cast a wide driftnet over Americans' constitutional rights, reducing guarantees of free speech and assembly to banal pieties mouthed by state propagandists.

These changes are intended to lock-in Bush regime surveillance programs such as warrantless internet and phone wiretapping, data mining, the scattershot issuance of top secret National Security Letters to seize financial and other personal records, as well as expanding a security index of individuals deemed "terrorist threats" by the corporatist state.

Simultaneous with the release of new DoJ domestic spying guidelines, the Bush administration's "modernization" of Reagan-era Executive Order 12333, as The Washington Post delicately puts it, also calls for intensified sharing of intelligence information with local law enforcement agencies.

In addition to consolidating power within the ODNI, E.O. 12333 revisions direct the CIA "and other spy agencies," in a clear violation of the Agency's charter, to "provide specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel" to state and local authorities.

The latest moves to expand executive power follow close on the heels of other orders and rule changes issued by the Bush regime. As researcher and analyst Michel Chossudovsky reported in June, the Orwellian National Security Presidential Directive 59/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 24 (NSPD 59/HSPD 24), entitled "Biometrics for Identification and Screening to Enhance National Security," is directed against U.S. citizens. Chossudovsky wrote,

NSPD 59 goes far beyond the issue of biometric identification, it recommends the collection and storage of "associated biographic" information, meaning information on the private lives of US citizens, in minute detail, all of which will be "accomplished within the law."

The directive uses 9/11 as an all encompassing justification to wage a witch hunt against dissenting citizens, establishing at the same time an atmosphere of fear and intimidation across the land.

It also calls for the integration of various data banks as well as inter-agency cooperation in the sharing of information, with a view to eventually centralizing the information on American citizens. ("Big Brother" Presidential Directive: "Biometrics for Identification and Screening to Enhance National Security," Global Research, June 11, 2008)

Indeed, NSPD 59/HSPD 24 creates the framework for expanding the definition of who is a "terrorist" to include other categories of individuals "who may pose a threat to national security."

In addition to al Qaeda and other far-right Islamist terror groups, many of whom have served as a cat's paw for Western intelligence agencies in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the Balkans, NSPD 59/HSPD 24 has identified two new categories of individuals as potential threats: "Radical groups" and "disgruntled employees."

In other words, domestic anarchist and socialist organizations as well as labor unions acting on behalf of their members' rights, now officially fall under the panoptic lens of federal intelligence agencies and the private security contractors who staff the 16 separate agencies that comprise the U.S. "intelligence community."

These moves represent nothing less than an attempt by the Bush administration to return to the days of COINTELPRO when the Bureau, acting in concert with state and local police "red squads" targeted the left for destruction.

"After 9/11, the gloves come off"

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. national security state has ramped-up its repressive machinery, targeting millions of Americans through broad surveillance programs across a multitude of state and private intelligence agencies.

While the FBI, CIA, NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may be the federal "tip of the spear" of current intelligence operations, they certainly are not alone when it comes to domestic spying.

Outsourced contractors from communications, defense and security corporations such as AT&T, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Verizon Communications, Northrop Grumman, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), L-3 Communications, CACI International and many more, have collaborated with Bush regime war criminals in fashioning a hypermodern, high-tech police state.

That these corporations have staked-out "homeland security" as a niche market to expand their operations has been explored by Antifascist Calling in numerous articles. As I have previously reported, it is estimated that some 70% of the personnel employed by U.S. intelligence agencies are now private contractors holding top secret and above security clearances.

Unaccountable actors virtually beyond congressional scrutiny, outsourced intelligence agents first and foremost are employees answerable to corporate managers and boards of directors, not the American people or their representatives. Chiefly concerned with inflating profit margins by overselling the "terrorist threat," the incestuous relationships amongst corporate grifters and a diminished "public sector" demonstrate the precarious state of democratic norms and institutions in the U.S.

New rules governing FBI counterintelligence investigations will allow the Bureau to run informants for the purpose of infiltrating organizations deemed "subversive" by federal snoops. Many of the worst abuses under COINTELPRO, the CIA's Operation CHAOS and the U.S. Army's deployment of Military Intelligence Groups (MIGs) for illegal domestic operations during the 1960s, employed neofascists as infiltrators and as nascent death squads.

While the Bureau may have eschewed close collaboration with fascist gangs, will sophisticated, high-tech private security corporations now play a similar role in Bureau counterintelligence and domestic security operations?

If history is any judge, the answer inevitably will be "yes."

Currently equipping the "intelligence community" with electronic specialists, network managers, software designers and analysts, will defense and security corporations bulk-up the Bureau and related agencies with "plausibly deniable" ex-military and intelligence assets for targeted infiltration and "disruption" of domestic antiwar and anticapitalist groups?

It can't happen here? Why its happening already! As investigative journalist James Ridgeway revealed in April, a private security firm,

organized and managed by former Secret Service officers spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings. According to company documents provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records--donor lists, detailed financial statements, the Social Security numbers of staff members, strategy memos—from these organizations and produced intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations involved in environmental controversies. ("Cops and Former Secret Service Agents Ran Black Ops on Green Groups," Mother Jones, April 11, 2008)

The firm, Beckett Brown International (later called S2i) provided a range of services for corporate clients. According to Ridgeway, the private snoops engaged in "intelligence collection" for Allied Waste; conducted background checks and "performed due diligence" for the Carlyle Group; handled "crisis management" for the Gallo wine company and Pirelli; engaged in "information collection" for Wal-Mart. Also listed as BBI/S2i records as clients were Halliburton and Monsanto.

Mike German, a former FBI agent and whistleblower who is now the policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that once proposed changes are implemented, police may collect intelligence even when no underlying crime is suspected. This is nothing less than "preemptive policing" and a recipe for tightening the screws on dissent. The Post averred,

German, an FBI agent for 16 years, said easing established limits on intelligence-gathering would lead to abuses against peaceful political dissenters. In addition to the Maryland case [that targeted antiwar and death penalty opponents], he pointed to reports in the past six years that undercover New York police officers infiltrated protest groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention; that California state agents eavesdropped on peace, animal rights and labor activists; and that Denver police spied on Amnesty International and others before being discovered.

"If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information," German said. "It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government." (Spencer S. Hsu and Carrie Johnson, "U.S. May Ease Police Spy Rules," The Washington Post, August 16, 2008)

In a related report on Fusion Centers, that German coauthored with Jay Staley for the ACLU, they documented how so-called "counterterrorist" national collection agencies are "characterized by ambiguous lines of authority, excessive secrecy, troubling private-sector and military participation, and an apparent bent toward suspicionless information collection and data mining."

As I reported earlier this month, citing research from German and Staley's report, U.S. Marine Corps officers, enlisted personnel and an analyst with U.S. NORTHCOM, pilfered intelligence files and shared them with private defense contractors in hope of securing future employment.

Money talks, particularly in a political culture where the business of government is, after all, business!

With little oversight from a compliant Congress, and an "opposition" party in league with their "constituents"--multinational corporate grifters out to make a buck--the final nails are being hammered into the coffin of America's former democratic Republic.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Air Force Pulls the Plug on Cyber Command

In July, Antifascist Calling reported on the imminent launch of U.S. Air Force Cyber Command (AFCYBER).

With a unified organizational structure and a $2 billion budget for its first year of operations, and a projected $30 billion cost for the first five years of operations, AFCYBER promised an offensive capability that would deliver withering attacks on adversaries.

As I wrote, "Eventually, if Air Force securocrats have their way, it 'will grow into one of the service's largest commands.' With a mission to 'deceive, deny, disrupt, degrade, and destroy' an enemy's information infrastructure, the potential for mischief on the part of American 'warfighters' and 'public diplomacy' black propaganda specialists shouldn't be underestimated."

Now however, numerous reports reveal that the Air Force has suspended plans for the controversial unit. NextGov broke the story Wednesday. According to investigative journalist Bob Brewin,

The Air Force on Monday suspended all efforts related to development of a program to become the dominant service in cyberspace, according to knowledgeable sources. Top Air Force officials put a halt to all activities related to the establishment of the Cyber Command, a provisional unit that is currently part of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, sources told NextGov.

An internal Air Force e-mail obtained by NextGov said, "Transfers of manpower and resources, including activation and reassignment of units, shall be halted." Establishment of the Cyber Command will be delayed until new senior Air Force leaders, including Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz, sworn in today, have time to make a final decision on the scope and mission of the command. ("Air Force Suspends Cyber Command Program," NextGov, August 13, 2008)

Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick told Federal Times, the "freeze" was necessary "because we have new leaders and they want to make sure they're on the right course." But he said the Air Force "remains committed to cyberspace."

With an October 1 launch date, it appears that aggressive efforts by Major General William Lord, the unit's commander, to hype its capabilities may have been its undoing. Brewin reports the "hard sell" by Lord and other AF securocrats "seemed to be a grab by the Air Force to take the lead role" in U.S. cyberdefense efforts.

Bureaucratic in-fighting may play a significant role in pulling AFCYBER's plug. Philip Coyle, a senior adviser with the Center for Defense Information (CDI), a liberal defense think tank, told NextGov that he believes "the Navy's Network Warfare Command and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center have led the way in cyberspace. The Army engages in cyberspace operations daily in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Coyle, who served as assistant secretary of Defense and director of its operational test and evaluation office from 1994 to 2001."

Accordingly, Coyle believes the decision may have come from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who wants to see a more "robust role" for the Navy in cyberspace. Lord's high public profile and hard-sell may have shot-down AF plans to "dominate cyberspace" and the AF "is now suffering from its own hubris."

It appears that AFCYBER's aggressive public posture and its assertion that cyberspace is a "warfighting domain," may have angered Department of Defense bureaucrats who favor a "softer" approach when it comes to plans for imperialist domination.

In this light, recent Air Force scandals, including the unauthorized transfer of nuclear weapons in 2007 and the dismantling of the service's top command by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as a result, the Air Force's lax organizational structure may have been a deciding factor.

In June, Gates fired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Mosley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne for their incompetence over the service's handling of nuclear weapons.

Many readers will recall that on August 30, 2007 a B-52 Stratofortress bomber flew nearly 1,500 miles from Minot Air Force base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles fixed to its wings. For nearly six hours the Air Force was unable to account for the weapons. When Military Times broke the story, it elicited a yawn from major media outlets that amounted to self-censorship.

While brief media reports emphasized that the public was "never in danger," as physicist Pavel Podvig reported,

The point is that the nuclear warheads were allowed to leave Minot and that it was surprised airmen at Barksdale who discovered them, not an accounting system that's supposed to track the warheads' every movement (maybe even in real time). We simply don't know how long it would've taken to discover the warheads had they actually left the air force's custody and been diverted into the proverbial "wrong hands." Of course, it could be argued that the probability of this kind of diversion is very low, but anyone who knows anything about how the United States handles its nuclear weapons has said that the probability of what happened at Minot was also essentially zero. ("U.S. loose nukes," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 12 September 2007)

In the wake of the scandal, Mosley and Wynne were forced to fall on their swords. Similar forces may be at play regarding AFCYBER. According to CDI researcher Chelsea Dilley,

It is unclear what AFCYBER's exact mission is, what capabilities are being developed, what circumstances warrant a cyber attack, what actions will be taken in response to an attack, who can authorize an attack, what steps will be taken to prevent crisis escalation, what the budgets are and exactly where the money is coming from. AFCYBER's relation to the Department of Homeland Security and to the Air Force Space Command is also hazy, which could prove problematic, as all have claimed some responsibility for maintaining control of cyberspace. 
Alarmingly, there are many similarities in the ways used to promote AFCYBER and those used in the Air Force's increasingly belligerent counterspace mission. The diction used in the 2004 Air Force Counterspace Operations Doctrine and the 2008 Air Force Cyber Command Strategic Vision is in many places exactly the same, and it is uncertain if the task that was given to the Air Force Space Command to maintain cyberspace has actually been transferred to or just appropriated by the new Cyber Command. ("Air Force Cyber Command: Defending Cyberspace, or Controlling It?," Center for Defense Information, August 7, 2008)

Whether or not a bureaucratic tussle amongst competing branches of the military and the Department of Homeland Security may have played a role in AFCYBER's apparent demise, the Air Force is continuing to develop new and more hideous weapons to insure that the American Empire's dream of global domination remains a viable option for our capitalist masters.

New Scientist reported August 12 on an airborne laser weapon, dubbed the "long-range blowtorch." According to defense analyst David Hambling,

The Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) is to be mounted on a Hercules military transport plane. Boeing announced the first test firing of the laser, from a plane on the ground, earlier this summer.

Cynthia Kaiser, chief engineer of the US Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate, used the phrase "plausible deniability" to describe the weapon's benefits in a briefing on laser weapons to the New Mexico Optics Industry Association in June. ("U.S. Boasts of Laser Weapon's 'Plausible Deniability'," New Scientist, August 12, 2008)

As readers are aware, "plausible deniability" is a term used to describe aggressive covert operations where those responsible for an event, say the assassination of a political opponent or the terrorist bombing of a civilian target, could plausibly claim to have neither knowledge nor involvement in the atrocity since command responsibility by design is highly compartmentalized.

According to Hambling, "a laser is silent and invisible. An ATL can deliver the heat of a blowtorch with a range of 20 kilometres, depending on conditions. That range is great enough that the aircraft carrying it might not be seen, especially at night."

Whatever the eventual fate of AFCYBER rest assured, as Aviation Week reported back in December, "U.S. Air Force leaders working on the nascent cyber command believe there will be a 'huge' need for contracted services to support the embryonic effort as it faces personnel, technology and funding headwinds."

Army, Navy, Air Force? Who cares! Enterprising corporate grifters will certainly be there, pushing for "full-spectrum dominance" as they lunge after multiyear, high-end contracts that just might hit the corporatist "sweet spot"!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Operation Sentinel: The High-Tech Police State Takes Shape

Operation Sentinel, a new program unveiled by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), would encircle Manhattan with thousands of surveillance cameras that photograph every car or truck entering and exiting the city across its network of bridges and tunnels.

Information captured by this intrusive project would be stored in a huge database for an undisclosed period of time. Additionally, a network of sensors installed at toll plazas would allegedly be able to capable detect radiological materials that could be used in potential terror plots, the New York Times reports.

However, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has denounced the proposal as "an attack on New Yorkers' right to privacy." NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman lambasted this outrageous proposal saying,

"The NYPD's latest plan to track and monitor the movements of millions of law-abiding people is an assault on this country's historical respect for the right to privacy and the freedom to be left alone. That this is happening without public debate, and that elected officials have had no opportunity to study this program is even more alarming." ("NYCLU: NYPD Plan to Track Millions of Law-Abiding People is an Assault on Privacy Rights," New York Civil Liberties Union, August 12, 2008)

Last month I reported on a high-tech surveillance system under development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called "Combat Zones That See" (CTS).

The 2003 program was predicated on the notion that once thousands of digital CCTV networks were installed across occupied or "homeland" cities, CTS would provide occupying troops--or police--with "motion-pattern analysis across whole city scales." Based on complex algorithms linked to the numeric recognition of license plate numbers and scanned-in human profiles, CTS would furnish troops--or cops--real-time, "situational awareness" of the "battlespace."

Despite repeated attempts by NYCLU to obtain information on Operation Sentinel, NYPD and DHS have refused to provide any information about their mega-surveillance system. While all traces of CTS disappeared from DARPA's website, portions of the program have resurfaced with a vengeance, courtesy of the NYPD and DHS.

According to New York Times reporter Al Baker,

Data on each vehicle--its time-stamped image, license plate imprint and radiological signature--would be sent to a command center in Lower Manhattan, where it would be indexed and stored for at least a month as part of a broad security plan that emphasizes protecting the city's financial district, the spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said. If it were not linked to a suspicious vehicle or a law enforcement investigation, it would be eliminated, he said. ("City Would Photograph Every Vehicle Entering Manhattan and Sniff Out Radiation," The New York Times, August 12, 2008)

While preventing terrorists from detonating a radiological dirty bomb or a nuclear device in Manhattan--or anywhere else for that matter--is certainly a salutary government function, the misuse of such a system for illegal surveillance of the citizenry cannot be ruled out in advance nor dismissed out of hand as mere paranoia.

In addition to civil liberties concerns--no small matter after all, given the repressive nature of NYPD and DHS--Operation Sentinel's grandiose scheme bank on technological systems which do not exist.

The Times dryly notes, the proposed plan "relies on integrating layers of technologies, some that are still being perfected." In other words, the program is rife with potential abuse by enterprising security contractors, many with documented histories of promising much, delivering little and with substantial cost overruns borne by the public.

The department currently deploys portable radiation vehicles known as TRACS, or Tactical Radiation Acquisition and Characterization System, which the Times claims can detect radiological agents such as cesium and cobalt, and differentiate "between dangerous ones and ones used in products like smoke detectors or medical devices."

However, as I reported in June, another system under development, the "Advanced Spectroscopic Portal" or ASP, allegedly a more "advanced" system than those currently used, failed, as do today's systems, to differentiate between the components of a radiological dirty bomb and natural radiation emitters such as kitty litter, ceramics and bananas!

As I noted, the ASP program is already tens of millions of dollars above the original estimate provided by Raytheon, other contractors and DHS. Why therefore, would any sane person believe that the system currently under consideration would be anymore functional or cost effective? Unless that is, Operation Sentinel's real purpose is to enhance an already-formidable surveillance state.

NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and his staff have been "urging the creation of a London-style surveillance system for the financial district that relies on license plate readers, movable roadblocks and 3,000 public and private security cameras below Canal Street, all linked to a coordination center at 55 Broadway. Known as the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, the center is to open in September," according to the Times.

NYPD spokesperson Paul J. Browne "could not say, when the program [Operation Sentinel] would be completed," though "the Lower Manhattan Initiative is expected to be in place by 2010." Since 2007, NYPD have been using CTS-type CCTV systems to read license plates linked to databases for (unspecified) "intelligence purposes."

And if the illegal handling of the 2004 Republican National Convention protests are an indication of Operation Sentinel's intended purpose, New York City residents' outrage with the proposal are fully justified.

The Times revealed their own proclivities on this score when they prominently featured the "analysis" of so-called "terrorism expert," Steven Emerson, the executive director of the Washington-D.C.-based Investigative Project on Terrorism, a right-wing think-tank with close ties to the Bush administration and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

When civil libertarians (unnamed by the "newspaper of record") voiced concerns over the intrusive nature of Operation Sentinel and the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, Emerson dismissed their apprehensions out of hand,

"It is one tool of ensuring that if there is somebody on a terrorist watch list or someone driving erratically, or if a pattern develops that raises suspicions, it gives them an opportunity to investigate further and--if need be--track down the drivers or the passengers," he said. "The bottom line is they can't frisk everybody coming into Manhattan; they cannot wand everyone, as they do at airports. This is a passive collection of data that is not as personally invasive as what they do at airports."

An Islamophobe with a long record of blaming Muslims and the left for every act of terrorism under the sun, Emerson demonstrated his bona fides in 1995 when he claimed that "Arab terrorists" were responsible for the horrific bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.

The blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children in a daycare center while wounding hundreds of others. Attentive readers may recall that the Murrah building bombing was in fact, carried out by a neo-Nazi gang linked to Timothy McVeigh and the Aryan Republican Army.

While Emerson claims Operation Sentinel is "a passive collection of data," as the American Civil Liberties Union reports, there are currently more than one million names in an FBI-administered database known as the Terrorist Screening Center. Such an unwieldy monstrosity is hardly a tightly-focused list of potential "threats"!

But let's be clear: Operation Sentinel, and a host of other programs cooked-up by Bush regime war criminals and their corporatist allies is another sordid scheme to keep Americans terrorized, while destroying our civil liberties under cover of "homeland security."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

CIFA Closes, Pentagon Opens New Spy Shop

Back in April, Antifascist Calling reported on the proposed shut-down of the Pentagon's controversial Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) office that illegally spied on the antiwar movement.

That office was officially "disestablished" August 4 by the Department of Defense (DoD). Simultaneously, it "activated" the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC) "under the direction of the Defense Intelligence Agency."

DCHC will "combine CIFA resources and responsibilities with longstanding DIA CI and HUMINT capabilities." DCHC director Army Maj. Gen. Theodore Nicholas says that "the realignment of CIFA's functions and resources into DIA strengthens the close historical and operational relationship between counterintelligence and HUMINT."

According to the Associated Press, DIA's new office will engage in what it calls "offensive counterintelligence" to identify what terrorist operatives or foreign intelligence officers are up to and thwart their activities.

The DoD stresses that "CIFA's designation as a law enforcement activity did not transfer to DIA. The new center will have no law enforcement function." In other words unlike CIFA, if we're to believe the Defense Department, DCHC will not spy on Americans' or subvert their constitutionally-protected rights of free speech and assembly. But unlike DCHC's classified budget, talk is cheap and the devil is in the details which are few and far between.

CIFA: mired in cronyism, scandal and corruption

The brainchild of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, CIFA was mired in cronyism, scandal and corruption.

Indeed, disgraced Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), now a convicted felon cooling his heels in a federal penitentiary, was caught in a cash-and-hookers-for-contracts scandal along with Mitchell Wade, the notorious ex-chairman of MZM Inc.

Cunningham, a member of the House Appropriations and Intelligence Committees, chaired the subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence that had authority over CIFA operations. Like any good congressman dedicated to "fighting the terrorists over there, so we don't have to fight them here," Cunningham showered MZM with some $16 million in dubious "earmarks" for contracts with CIFA before being run to ground.

One MZM deal would have allegedly provided the Pentagon office with a data-mining and storage system, the usual suite of "tools" for illegal spy operations we've come to expect from the Bush regime. The problem was, MZM's "product" was useless and was never installed.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Wade's shady dealings extended deep into CIFA's dark heart. Wade enjoyed a "special" relationship with a company named Gray Hawk Systems Inc. The firm, according to investigative journalist Chitra Ragavan, "obtained several lucrative and questionable contracts from CIFA, which it then shared with MZM."

To sweeten the grift, "three senior CIFA officials with influence over the contracting process left the agency and joined Gray Hawk," according to Ragavan. With knowledgeable insiders in place, Wade was then able to "craft earmarks for Cunningham," who then inserted them into appropriations bills worth tens of millions of dollars. After that, Cunningham was able to pressure "Pentagon officials to award the contracts to Gray Hawk and MZM."

Pretty neat trick, eh? Unfortunately for Wade, his extracurricular activities earned him an eight year sentence in federal prison like his buddy, the "Dukester."

Gray Hawk was purchased in 2005 for $100 million by ManTech International Corp. in an "all cash acquisition," according to Washington Technology. Approximately 90% of the firm's employees hold security clearances which, as we've previously described, are marketable commodities. No charges were ever brought against Gray Hawk or its corporate officers.

But wait, there's more!

Before the smoke cleared, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the CIA's Executive Director, former Iran-Contra operative and close confidant of both ex-CIA Director Porter Goss and convicted fraudster Brent Wilkes, the former CEO of ADCS Inc., was indicted in 2007 on charges of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. On February 19, 2008, Foggo's poker-playing pal Wilkes was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for his role as Mitchell Wade's "subcontractor" in CIFA shenanigans, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

However, the execution of a search warrant on a top CIA official by San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam in May 2006, proved too much for the Bush administration and their close political allies in the Republican party. In addition to Cunningham, Wade, Foggo and Wilkes, Lam's net now was closing around several other congressmen involved in CIFA sleaze.

Indeed Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonazales' Chief of Staff, was enmeshed in the scandal over fired U.S. Attorneys by the Bush regime. When the Justice Dept. learned of the Foggo search warrant, the very next day Sampson wrote an e-mail to his political masters stating the need to discuss "the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam." Shortly thereafter, Lam was forced to resign and became one of the first victims of the "Attorneygate" scandal that eventually led to Gonzales' forced resignation as U.S. Attorney General.

Foggo's 2007 indictment was superseded when the CIA's former No. 3 was indicted on new charges filed May 20, 2008 by federal prosecutors. The new indictment charged Foggo with accepting tens of thousands of dollars in "gratuities" and "sexual companionship" (the hookers in "hookergate") in exchange for helping Wilkes secure plum government contracts. His trial is currently pending.

Small world...of crony capitalist grifting on a grand scale!

CIFA targets the antiwar movement

But the "hookergate" scandal was the least of CIFA's problems. The office was caught red-handed spying on Americans when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained documents detailing the Pentagon's illegal domestic spying operation.

Multiple news reports beginning in late 2005 revealed that CIFA, with 400 full-time DoD workers and 900 "outsourced" contractor employees and a classified budget, had been authorized to track "potential terrorist threats" against DoD through reports known as Threat and Local Observation Notices (TALON).

As it turned out, "nonvalidated" TALON reports were maintained in a huge database that compiled information on antiwar activists who organized demonstrations and vigils near U.S. military bases. Even when supposed "threats" were designated "not credible," the office retained the files nonetheless.

Examples of TALON reports were subsequently published by The National Security Archive on their website. According to Archive analyst Jeffrey Richelson,

There were approximately four dozen reports concerning anti-war meetings or protests, including reports that remained in the database long after it was concluded that the targets were unrelated to any threat. Among the meetings that attracted the attention of military counterintelligence authorities were a large anti-war protest in Los Angeles in March 2005, a planned protest against military recruiters in Boston in December 2004, a planned demonstration outside the gates of the Fort Collins, Colorado, military base, and a planned protest at McDonald's National Salute to America's Heroes--a military air and sea show in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It was concluded that the Ft. Lauderdale protest was not a credible threat and a column in the database noted that it was a "US group exercising constitutional rights." ("The Pentagon's Counterspies," The National Security Archive, September 17, 2007)

The TALON database was shut down in September and future "threat reports" would now "be funneled to an FBI database known as Guardian," Wired reported last August. Guardian and its related e-Guardian database will be available for sharing "certain unclassified information" with state and local law enforcement officers. "Once sharing agreements are signed," according to SourceWatch, "police chiefs and sheriffs will be able to query local terrorism threats and also submit terrorism information to the FBI through e-Guradian."

However, "in accordance with intelligence oversight requirements," even though CIFA is now closed, DoD "will maintain a record copy of the collected data," SourceWatch revealed. In other words TALON reports, including data illegally collected on antiwar activists, will continue to exist somewhere deep in the bowels of the Defense Department.

The ties that bind (and pay handsomely in the process!)

Though CIFA is gone, the DoD's new office will retain many of the characteristics of its predecessor, including DIA's reliance on outsourced contracts to private defense and security firms. According to a July 22, 2008 Memorandum from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England obtained by Cryptome,

On August 3, 2008, all DoD CIFA CI missions, responsibilities, functions, and authorities as well as all associated resources including all personnel, support contracts and contractors, and appropriate records and archives shall transition in place to DIA. Personnel transfer notifications, as appropriate and required, shall be accomplished in advance of the August 3, 2008, transfer from DoD CIFA to DIA. [emphasis added]

Major CIFA contractors included QinetiQ, a British-owned defense and intelligence firm based in McClean, Virginia. Investigative journalist Tim Shorrock reported in January for CorpWatch that QinetiQ's "Mission Solutions Group, formerly Analex Corporation, had just signed a five-year, $30 million contract to provide a range of unspecified 'security services'." Interestingly enough, Cambone became a QinetiQ vice president when he left the Pentagon and CIFA signed the QinetiQ deal a scant two months after he was hired. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.

CIFA's brief included a Directorate of Field Activities, tasked with "preserving the most critical defense assets;" the Counterintelligence and Law Enforcement Center, designated as the office to "identify and assess threats;" and Behavioral Sciences, the office that provided "a team of renowned forensic psychologists [who] are engaged in risk assessments of the Guantanamo Bay detainees," according to Shorrock.

Will the CIFA shut-down and the transference of its intelligence brief to DIA mean that a privatized military-surveillance complex is now a relic of the corrupt Bush regime? Hardly. According to estimates, some 30-40% of DIA personnel are outsourced contractors themselves.

Indeed, Washington Technology reported that "the Defense Intelligence Agency is planning a billion-dollar contract for information technology and services." According to the brief report, the contract "to be known as the Solutions for Information Technology Enterprise, will be open to Defense Department intelligence agencies, the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines Corps as well as non-DOD agencies involved in intelligence." (emphasis added)

Back in April, the publication reported that eight giant multinational defense and security firms "won prime contracts" from DIA "for military intelligence analysis services." The companies included BAE Systems Inc., Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., CACI International Inc., Concurrent Technologies Corp., L-3 Communications Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., Science Applications International Corp. and SRA International Inc. In other words, the usual suspects!

Interestingly enough, two items that appeared last week in the federal insider and high-tech defense industry press paint DIA "partner" Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in a less than favorable light, to say the least!

The first item was an August 5 piece in Washington Technology, that detailed how the Department of Homeland Security had to "suspend a procurement" for the upcoming TopOff 5 (Top Officials) "national disaster drill to investigate improprieties in the contracting process." According to Alice Lipowicz,

...lawmakers said a contractor who apparently wrote parts of FEMA's request for proposals for the Topoff 5 contract might also be a bidder on the contract. If so, that would present an unfair competitive advantage due to an organizational conflict of interest, and possibly other ethics infractions. The senators also said FEMA officials did not recognize the potential conflict nor approve a mitigation strategy, such as firewalls, that would have mitigated it.

The contractor has not been named, but sources identified it as SAIC, which confirmed it submitted a bid for the Topoff 5 work. ("FEMA Suspends TopOff, SAIC Drops out of Competition," Washington Technology, August 5, 2008)

The second item appeared the very next day, when Federal Times revealed that SAIC had been found guilty of violating the False Claims Act "and ordered the company to pay the government $6 million in damages." Elsie Castelli reports,

SAIC failed to disclose conflicts of interest that could have biased the company's work assisting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the jury found. SAIC was hired by the agency to help it develop a rule to govern the recycling of radioactive waste from nuclear facilities. The jury ruled the company concealed its relationships with private firms that would benefit from the rule, and made 77 false statements and claims to obtain payment on two NRC contracts in the 1990s. ("SAIC Found Guilty of False Claims Act Violations," Federal Times, August 6, 2008)

The second case is far more serious since "companies found liable" for submitting false claims "are subject to suspension or debarment," Federal Times reports.

SAIC, No. 5 on Washington Technology's "Top 100 List" of Federal prime contractors, clocked in with $4,919,829,998, more than two thirds of which were defense and security related. "No such actions have been taken against SAIC, according to the government's Excluded Parties List, which tracks suspensions and debarments," according to Federal Times.

Would anyone care to wager whether or not the San Diego-based defense and security giant will be suspended or debarred from future government contracts? I didn't think so.

While the Defense Department claims that the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center will "have no law enforcement function," the question remains: with a massive domestic intelligence apparatus aimed like a Borg death-ray at America's democratic Republic, where has the Pentagon's "law enforcement function" been transferred?

According to investigative journalist Erin Rosa's report in The Colorado Independent, "the military sharing intelligence information and providing support through U.S. Northern Command, (NORTHCOM) a unit stationed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs that was created in 2002 for homeland defense missions," during the upcoming Democratic National Convention later this month in Denver.

The more things change...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Militarizing the Social Sciences

Since World War II's Manhattan Project, the above-top secret program that built the atomic bomb subsequently dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. national security state has transformed scientific research into a branch of weapons development.

The quest for atomic arms and chemical/biological warfare agents led physicists, engineers, biologists, chemists and physicians ever-deeper into the dark heart of a secretive and far-flung U.S. weapons complex. Indeed, many of these dubious programs were hidden in plain sight at prestigious American universities and corporate laboratories.

This trend accelerated during the Cold War when many psychologists and social scientists became witting and unwitting partners in the CIA and Army's illegal and ethically-challenged MKULTRA program.

Under the cover of "national security," CIA and Army researchers sought to create magic bullets they hoped would provide Cold Warriors a leg up over their Soviet rivals in the development of "mind control" technologies.

While that quixotic mission ended in failure, other discoveries in behavioral psychology and psychiatry--such as illicit experiments in sensory deprivation and conditioning--led to the development of today's "enhanced interrogation" techniques (torture) at Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq and the CIA's transnational network of secret prisons.

Recent articles in Antifascist Calling have explored the militarization of biological, cognitive, and information sciences as constituent elements of the Bush administration's "war on terror." We now turn to Pentagon schemes to militarize the social sciences, both as a tactical necessity under battlefield conditions and as a strategic instrument to further military/media psychological operations (PSYOPS), particularly within societies under threat of imperialist attack.

While the utilization of social scientists as reliable, off-the-shelf intelligence assets is not a new phenomenon, various "dirty tricks" offices of the CIA freely employed the services of media and social science operatives either during the run-up to U.S.-sponsored coups (Congo [1961], Brazil [1964], Indonesia [1965], Greece [1967], Chile [1973]) or as embedded counterinsurgency specialists (Vietnam [1950-1973] ), what is new are current plans by the Department of Defense to formalize these ad hoc relationships within specific programs under a Pentagon command structure.

Unlike the complicitous relationships amongst physical scientists as state-sponsored weaponeers, chained to research funding by the DoD or by giant multinational corporate grifters, these plans have been met by widespread--and growing opposition--amongst social scientists themselves. This is certainly a healthy--and welcome--development.

But as anthropologist David H. Price points out, similar funding trends now threaten to undermine and subvert the sensitive work--and academic freedom--of social scientists. Price avers,

As non-directed independent funding for American social scientists decreases, there are steady increases in new directed funding programs such as the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program, the National Security Education Program, Intelligence Community Scholars Program; these programs leave our universities increasingly ready to produce knowledge and scholars aligned with the ideological assumptions of the Defense Department. ("Inside the Minerva Consortium: Social Science in Harness," CounterPunch, June 24, 2008)

The latest move towards militarizing academia came April 14, when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the formation of the Minerva Research Institute.

The Minerva Research Institute: Counterinsurgency with a Human Face

The Washington Post revealed that the Pentagon is funding a $50 million initiative that would fund social science research deemed vital to "national security."

The Minerva Research Initiative is a scheme to help the military "unravel questions" about how terrorists are recruited, translate and analyze captured Iraqi documents, the allure for Afghans of a resurgent Taliban, the collation of open-source documents that pertain to Chinese military policy, or what makes Iraqi insurgents tick.

But the program as described by the Post, would have immediate ramifications for societies already designated enemies of the American corporatist empire such as Venezuela, other socialist outposts of alternative development such as Cuba, not to mention geopolitical rivals Russia, China and Iran.

The danger of course, is to transform anthropologists under the watchful eye of Pentagon commissars into counterinsurgency "mission specialists." Many knowledgeable observers fear that social science as conceived by the Minerva Research Institute, will become yet another front in the "war on terror."

Such fears are hardly misplaced. During the 1960s for example, Project Camelot, an Army-sponsored program "to study political change and unrest in Latin America, was canceled abruptly after the program was revealed in the Chilean press," the Post reports.

However, as Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett describe in their definitive history, Thy Will Be Done: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil, (New York: Harper Collins, 1995) Project Camelot was conceived first and foremost as a counterinsurgency program in oil-rich Latin American nations:

The social sciences were the brains, what a computerized guidance system is to a deadly missile. In July 1964, the U.S. Army gave the Special Operations Research Office (SORO) at American University in Washington, D.C., the largest single grant ever awarded a social science project. The project's targets for "field research" in Latin America were Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela, and Colombia. ...

Project Camelot was to be a broad sweep for local data collection, including everything from the language, social structure, and history of peoples to labor strikes, peasants' seizure of haciendas, and violence. Anthropologists, linguists, psychologists, sociologists, and economists would be joined by political scientists, mathematicians, and the military to produce a deliberate political objective of social control. (p. 479)

As Price points out, "because of the narrowness of scope and assumptions about the causes of problems facing America, Gates' Minerva plan ... will inevitably fund scholars willing to think in the narrow ways already acceptable to the Defense Department."

While the DoD has largely abandoned the demonizing and shallow rhetoric of the Bush regime, ("they hate us because of our freedoms") will subtler, yet potentially more lethal approaches that propose to "get inside people's heads," solve the real world problems created by the systemic economic/ideological biases of our corporate masters? I think not.

In other words, will a cultural knowledge skill-set, particularly during a period characterized by economic melt-down and preemptive wars of imperial conquest and resource extraction, do anything to actually ameliorate the "root causes" of terrorism?

Will rampant poverty, exploitation, repression in the form of the "political genocide" of left alternatives, state-sponsored religious fundamentalism, often in concert with Western intelligence agencies, not to mention the environmental crises brought on by widespread habitat destruction for profit, be mitigated by such schemes? Or will universities, already dependent on DoD and corporate research dollars become ideologically-biased outposts tied ever-closer to the military-industrial-surveillance complex?

As the Network of Concerned Anthropologists (NCA) point out,

The US university system is already highly militarized, that is, many universities take in a large proportion of their research funding from military sources. This is problematic...

The fields so supported are distorted by focus on issues of utility to warmaking. Whole fields of study hypertrophy and others shrink or are never developed as researchers are drawn from one field into the other, Pentagon-desired ones. Nuclear and other weapons research related areas grow, at the expense of environmental research, for example. Moreover, theory, methodology, and research goals in such fields as physics, computer science, and engineering after decades of military funding now operate on assumptions that knowledge about force is paramount. ...

The University becomes an instrument rather than a critic of war-making, and spaces for critical discussion of militarism within the university shrink. ("Some Concerns about the Minerva Consortia Project," Network of Concerned Anthropologists, May 28, 2008)

Unfortunately, this process is well-underway.

Militarizing the "Cultural Front"

The Human Terrain System (HTS) is a project administered by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The unit is commanded by Col. Steve Fondacero, who says the project's purpose is to "non-kinetically neutralize enemies" through knowledge of "what's going on culturally."

HTS units are currently comprised of five-person teams of social scientists and intelligence specialists deployed to forward-operating combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to a 2007 article in In These Times (ITT), "The 'human terrain' is defined as the social, ethnographic, cultural, economic and political characteristics of the people who live in the region occupied by the brigade, a force of 3,000 to 5,000 troops under the command of a colonel."

Fondacero told ITT investigative journalist Lindsay Beyerstein last year "he isn't at liberty to talk about [the program] in detail, lest the enemy learn about successful programs and target them accordingly."

Two HTS specialists have been killed this year. Nicole Suveges was killed in June in Sadr City, Iraq while Michael Bhatia was killed in May in Afghanistan. Suveges was a social scientist and Army reservist previously deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina where she was assigned to the Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force. Bhatia was a political scientist who was a research fellow at Brown University's The Watson Institute for International Studies.

While their deaths are tragic, what broader ethical issues are raised by embedding anthropologists or other social scientists in military units where the mission involves extracting cultural knowledge from local sources as a tactical modality for their subjugation?

As George Mason University anthropology professor Hugh Gusterson writes,

We engage in what one anthropologist has called "deep hanging out" with people, passing the time with them, often day after day for months, painstakingly earning their trust and getting them to tell us about their worlds. What distinguishes anthropology from espionage ... is that we seek the consent of our subjects, and we follow an injunction to do no harm to those we study. According to the anthropological code of ethics, our obligations to those we study trump all others--to colleagues, funders, and nation. (It's for this reason that Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology, famously condemned four colleagues for using anthropological research as cover for spying during World War I.) ("The U.S. military's quest to weaponize culture," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 20 June 2008)

The HTS program is administered by corporate giants intimately connected to the military-industrial-surveillance complex. The scandal-plagued, British defense firm BAE Systems is the prime contractor currently administering HTS, while CACI International and the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) are subcontractors handling recruitment. Newsweek reported that BAE Systems "was handed" the contract "without a bidding process."

According to Washington Technology's Top 100 List of "Federal Prime Contractors: 2008," No. 12 BAE Systems Inc., derived $2,019,931,520 of its earnings from defense and civilian federal government contracts; No. 5 Science Applications International Corp., earned $4,919,829,998 from similar sources; and No. 17 CACI International Inc., received $1,337,472,153 for work related to the Defense Department. While the $40 million price tag for the entire program is a mere pittance compared to other DoD projects, it raises serious issues as to the independence of social scientists recruited to the program.

As Roberto Gonzalez and David Price wrote in a 2007 piece for CounterPunch, SAIC "has begun describing anthropology as a counter-insurgency related field in its job advertisements." As a job description it doesn't get any more explicit!

Problems have plagued the program since its inception. Newsweek reported,

Of 19 Human Terrain members operating in five teams in Iraq, fewer than a handful can be described loosely as Middle East experts, and only three speak Arabic. The rest are social scientists or former GIs who...are transposing research skills from their unrelated fields at home. ...

Recruitment appears to have been mishandled from the start, with administrators offering positions to even marginally qualified applicants. The pool of academics across the country who speak Arabic and focus on Iraq, or even more broadly on the Middle East, is not large to begin with. ... Several team members say they were accepted after brief phone interviews and that their language skills were never tested. As a result, instead of top regional experts, the anthropologists sent to Iraq include a Latin America specialist and an authority on Native Americans. One is writing his Ph.D. dissertation on America's goth, punk and rave subcultures. (Dan Ephron and Silvia Spring, "A Gun in One Hand, A Pen in the Other," Newsweek, April 21, 2008)

But more problematic than the poor administration of the program by the Army and outsourced contractors, is the nature of HTS and the proposed Minerva Research Initiative itself.

As the NCA document, Assistant Under Secretary of Defense John Wilcox, has described Human Terrain Mapping, a constitute element of the program, as one that "enables the entire kill chain across the Global War on Terror." Indeed, in a 2006 article in Military Review, Pentagon analysts describe HTS as "a CORDS for the 21st Century." Such analogies are troubling to say the least.

The Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) was the operational element of the CIA's Phoenix Program during the Vietnam war. Launched in 1967, Phoenix was a high-tech computer operation aimed at "neutralizing"--through assassination, kidnapping and systematic torture--the civilian infrastructure that supported the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front.

From its inception, the program was rife with corruption. Those who failed to pay bribes to South Vietnamese military personnel assigned to CORDS, found themselves at the tender mercies of CIA-Phoenix operatives. More than 25,000 people were murdered. CORDS, among other things, in a eerie echo of today's "war on terror" ran interrogation centers that were little more than dungeons where "suspects" were cruelly tortured and then "disappeared." (For more on CORDS see: Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program, New York: The William Morrow Company, 1990)

More disturbing still, are recent developments. In keeping with the "global war on terror" paradigm that opposition = subversion = terrorism, the Network of Concerned Anthropologists reported that at a November 30 panel discussion which featured three of their members during the American Anthropological Association annual meeting, "witnesses saw two U.S. Army personnel affiliated with the human terrain program writing down the names and institutional affiliations of anthropologists who had signed copies of the NCA pledge circulating during the panel."

In a subsequent letter to HTS commander Colonel Fondacero, Hugh Gusterson wrote:

I'm writing to you in the hope you might shed light on an incident that concerns me. A former US intelligence officer who now works with the Network of Concerned Anthropologists saw Laurie Adler of TRADOC and Jessica Lawrence of the US army writing down the names and institutional affiliations of anthropologists who had signed the pledge of non-participation in counter-insurgency work as the pledge was passed around a session at the meetings. This raises a number of questions:

Whose orders were Adler and Lawrence following when they engaged in this behavior? How many names of signatories to the pledge has the US military collected How and where are those named being stored? Who will have access to these names? What is the US military's purpose in collecting the names of people who have signed the pledge?

Surveillance of ethical social scientists who have taken a stand against militarizing their discipline is a clear harbinger of what awaits those who heed the Pentagon's siren song. With annual salaries exceeding $300,000 according to Newsweek, will anthropologists and social scientists become the academic equivalent of the armed gangs of mercenaries already employed by dozens of private military contractors?

Social scientists, as David Price forcefully argues "cannot ignore the political context in which their knowledge will be used." Minerva and the Human Terrain System, like earlier counterinsurgency programs funded by the Defense Department and the CIA seek to increase of the efficiency of the Bush Doctrine across "the entire kill chain," not question it.