Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top White House Officials Discussed and Approved Torture, Rice Admits

White House officials discussed torturing suspected "enemy combatants" early in 2002, according to a detailed questionnaire put to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by Senate investigators. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released a series of new documents that shed additional light on the origins of U.S. torture policies. The Washington Post reports,

The details of the controversial program were discussed in multiple meetings inside the White House over a two-year period, triggering concerns among several officials who worried that the agency's methods might be illegal or violate anti-torture treaties, according to separate statements signed by Rice and her top legal adviser. ("Top Officials Knew in 2002 of Harsh Interrogations," Joby Warrick, The Washington Post, Thursday, September 25, 2008; A07)

John Bellinger III, Rice's legal adviser at the State Department and during her tenure at the National Security Council (NSC), said in answer to written questions by Senate investigators, "I expressed concern that the proposed CIA interrogation techniques comply with applicable U.S. law, including our international obligations."

As The New York Times reported,

The documents provide new details about the still-murky early months of the C.I.A.'s detention program, when the agency began using a set of harsh interrogation techniques weeks before the Justice Department issued a written legal opinion in August 2002 authorizing their use. Congressional investigators have long tried to determine exactly who authorized these techniques before the legal opinion was completed. (Mark Mazzetti, "Bush Aides Linked to Talks on Interrogations," The New York Times, September 25, 2008)

In other words, as with the invasion and occupation of Iraq, indeed as with a host of other illegal White House programs across the entire "battlespace" of the "war on terror," legal niceties were supplied by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and then crafted, as with pre-war intelligence, "to fit the policy" (torture) already in place.

The Times reported that "Justice Department lawyers gave oral guidance to the C.I.A. before the secret memo was completed." Fearful of prosecution, CIA lawyers ordered the use of "harsh techniques" employed by CIA officers "suspended" until their formal authorization by White House proxies in the Justice Department.

Mazzetti reported that former National Security Council legal adviser Bellinger wrote "that during the White House meetings, Justice Department lawyers frequently issued oral guidance to the C.I.A. about the interrogation program. One who did was John Yoo, the principal author of the August 2002 memo, Mr. Bellinger said."

As ABC News revealed in April,

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News. ("Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'," Jan Crawford Greenburg, Howard L. Rosenburg and Ariane de Vogue, ABC News, April 9, 2008)

As chair of the National Security Council, Rice presided over the meetings but when the ABC News story first broke, the White House declined to comment on her participation. With good reason, as it turns out!

In 2002, the National Security Council's Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell as well as CIA Director George Tenet and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

According to ABC News "Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies." Discussions around specific techniques to be used by CIA interrogators were so detailed, ABC News reported, they "were almost choreographed" by high-level Bush administration officials.

The network also reported that at one meeting, Ashcroft famously complained: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly." Nor would federal prosecutors if America were a "normal" country.

Viewed as an exemplary means of expanding executive power, Cheney's shop instructed the Office of Legal Counsel to write a series of still-classified memos that gave the CIA formal legal authority to use what the administration and corporate media euphemistically call "enhanced interrogation techniques" on alleged al-Qaeda suspects.

The Bybee-Yoo memos, with major input from Cheney's legal adviser (now Chief of Staff), David Addington, are referred to as a "Golden Shield" for CIA repressors fearful of future prosecution as war criminals.

In her response to the question posed by Senate investigators, "Where did it [discussion of prisoner interrogation] take place (e.g., meeting at the Pentagon, etc)?" Rice confirmed ABC's report, "All of the meetings I attended on these matters occurred inside the White House."

When pressed by investigators: "Were you present at a meeting at which the OLC gave oral advice about the legality of interrogation techniques proposed for or in use by the CIA?" the Secretary of State replied, "I was present in meetings at which DoJ lawyers provided legal advice about the CIA program. I recall that John Yoo provided advice at several of these meetings. I do not recall if other members of OLC were also present. ... I do not know whether any oral advice provided by OLC attorneys differed from OLC's written advice."

But as congressional investigators and media reports have previously revealed, the OLC's "oral advice" most certainly did not differ from their "written advice" since it was supplied by torture-enabler Yoo who acted as a proxy for Cheney's legal adviser, David Addington.

SASC investigators then turned their attention to the Pentagon's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) programs. "On July 25, 2002 the Chief of Staff to the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) informed the DoD Office of the General Counsel [run by Addington protégé William J. Haynes II], that 'JPRA will continue to offer exploitation assistance to those governmental organizations charged with the mission of gleaning intelligence from enemy detainees.' Were you aware that JPRA was offering such assistance?" Rice replied, "I am unfamiliar with the JPRA and am unaware of whether it offered any assistance with interrogations."

Investigators then questioned NSC legal adviser John Bellinger III. Right from the start, Bellinger played the "Alberto Gonzales card" in his written responses: "The Committee's questions relate to events that occurred five and six years ago while I served as NSC Legal Adviser during an extraordinarily busy and taxing period. In many cases, I simply do not recall the specific details the Committee has requested." (emphasis added)

To the questions: "Was there any discussion(s) of specific interrogation techniques used or proposed for use in detainee interrogations?" And: "Was there any discussion(s) about physical and/or psychological pressures used in SERE training?" Bellinger replied: "I was present at meetings in 2002 and 2003 with some or most of the listed individuals at which specific interrogation techniques used or proposed for use in detainee interrogations by the CIA was discussed." And: "I was present in meetings at which SERE training was discussed. I recall being told that numerous U.S. military personnel had undergone SERE training without significant ill-effect."

But the policy on the use of reverse-engineered SERE tactics had already decided upon months earlier by Rumsfeld's Pentagon. Indeed, an April 16, 2002 email from Dr. Bruce Jessen, an outsourced psychologist employed by JPRA and the CIA, to Col. Randy Moulton, the Commander of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) and copied to two other contractors, Christopher Wirts and Mike Dozier demonstrate JPRA's enthusiasm for the project. Entitled: "Draft Exploitation Plan," Jessen writes,


My initial draft plan. If you decide to proceed with this I will have more details to add to this skeleton.

I am sending this to Mike and Chris so they can operationalize my draft into a CONOP [Concept of Operations] for your consideration.


Jessen's "concept" has been conveniently redacted from SASC documents but Moulton's reply is significant in that JPRA's Commander whole-heartedly endorsed reverse-engineering SERE techniques for prisoner torture.


We need to craft a 10-12 slide briefing to take up for approval to include what generated this requirement, why we (USG) need it, how it falls within our Chartered responsibilities (or if not, why we should do it) and then make a recommendation.

Colonel Randy Moulton
Commander JPRA

Jessen, as we've subsequently learned, supplied what JPRA and their Pentagon masters were looking for in spades. Along with partner James Mitchell, another outsourced psychologist employed by JPRA and the CIA, the duo's Spokane, Washington-based Mitchell, Jessen & Associates was located close to the Air Force's SERE school program. The pair, along with military psychologists, did the heavy-lifting to tailor SERE for CIA and Pentagon torture programs. According to investigative journalist Jane Meyer,

Soon, the former SERE psychologists were training CIA interrogators and advising the CIA on implementing a program that one knowledgeable source describes as "a Clockwork Orange kind of approach." As psychologists they were unusually well-equipped to understand the human psyche. (Jane Meyer, The Dark Side, New York: Doubleday, 2008, p. 163)

"Well-equipped" indeed. According to SASC Chairman Senator Carl Levin, in July 2002, Richard Shiffrin, a Pentagon Deputy General Counsel called Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Baumgartner, the Chief of Staff at the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) "and asked for information on SERE techniques." Baumgartner responded by drafting a memo with three attachments. According to Levin's June 17, 2008 statement and supporting documentation released by the SASC,

One of those attachments (TAB 3) listed physical and psychological pressures used in SERE resistance training including sensory deprivation, sleep disruption, stress positions, waterboarding, and slapping. It also made reference to a section of the JPRA instructor manual that talks about "coercive pressures" like keeping the lights on at all times, and treating a person like an animal. Another attachment (TAB 4), written by Dr. Ogrisseg, also a witness today, assessed the long-term psychological effects of SERE resistance training on students and the effects of the waterboard.

During SASC hearings last Thursday, Colonel Steven Kleinman, a senior officer at the Air Force Academy who supervised that service's SERE program said in testimony he was "shocked" when he witnessed use of the harsh physical and psychological tactics used to train combat pilots facing potential capture during hostile encounters, employed haphazardly on Iraqis in a U.S. prison camp.

Kleinman told Senate investigators that SERE training "had morphed into a form of punishment for those who wouldn't cooperate." He testified that he told the task force commander "that the methods were unlawful and were in violation of the Geneva Conventions."

But as we now know, SERE techniques were reverse-engineered on orders from the highest levels of the Defense Department and the Vice President's office precisely as a mechanism to break recalcitrant "al-Qaeda" and Iraqi prisoners stripped by White House lawyers of all rights under the Geneva Conventions.

Disingenuously however, Kleinman claimed that SERE tactics were adopted from torture methods used by "Chinese communists." While historically accurate up to a point, Kleinman failed to disclose their current provenance: the decades-long programs developed by both the CIA and U.S. Military Intelligence that refined crude Stalinist-era methods of psychological torture.

After the Korean war, the CIA embarked on a nightmarish program, MKULTRA. Indeed, as I wrote in April, the programs employed at Guantánamo Bay, CIA "black sites" in Europe and Afghanistan and at prisons across Iraq were a distillation of coercive techniques devised during the 1950s and 1960s by MKULTRA psychiatrists.

Indeed, as Scott Shane reported in The New York Times, a 1957 Air Force study titled "Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War," written by Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist, served as one of the primary sources of the CIA's torture manual, "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation."

CIA-Military Intelligence PSYWAR programs were further crystallized with the publication of the "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983" (HRE). The secret manual, compiled from sections of the KUBARK guidelines and from U.S. Military Intelligence field manuals were "written in the mid 1960s as part of the Army's Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program code-named 'Project X'," The National Security Archive reports.

In other words, while "Chinese communists" may have gotten the psychological torture ball rolling, the United States Government's intelligence apparatus picked it up and ran with it.

The "refined" methods described in KUBARK and HRE included: forced drugging, hooding, sexual humiliation, extended sensory deprivation, prolonged interrogation, environmental and dietary manipulation, beatings, stress positions and other methods of "self-inflicted pain." CIA officers and their Military Intelligence doppelgängers, at the urging of White House masters, systematically committed war crimes on defenseless prisoners in their custody.

In a major breakthrough that demolished the mendacious claims of the Bush regime, documents released by the Senate Armed Service Committee in June, provided irrefutable evidence that top Pentagon and CIA officials sought out military and "outsourced" mercenary personnel, including psychologists like Jessen and Mitchell, precisely to reverse-engineer SERE tactics for use on prisoners designated "enemy combatants" by the administration.

Psychoanalyst Stephen Soldz, Salon investigative journalist Mark Benjamin and Jane Meyer's reports in The New Yorker have all documented that moves by Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCT) tasked to the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, followed hot on the heels of explicit demands by the Bush torture team to "take the gloves off." At Guantánamo and elsewhere, BSCT psychologists held operational positions and did not function as mental health providers but rather, were present at Guantánamo for the purpose of instructing personnel in the use of "enhanced interrogation" tactics, torture.

While hearings by the Senate Armed Services Committee has provided solid evidence of widespread human rights abuses by the Bush administration and their minions, the Democratic-controlled Congress has systematically failed to bring these war criminals to justice.

There is no mistaking the pattern: given ample opportunity to purge the American political landscape of these miscreants, Congress has abnegated its legal right and moral duty to remove Bushist malefactors from power.

With "impeachment off the table," as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously declared in 2006, from preemptive wars of conquest to warrantless wiretapping, and from the systematic looting of the economy to the heinous torture of prisoners of war, the Democratic Party is fully complicit with the Bush administration's high crimes and misdemeanors.

The cover-up continues...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Documents Reveal Massive DHS Border Spying Operations

New documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) revealed that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) subunit "reversed a two-decades-old policy that restricted customs agents from reading and copying the personal papers carried by travelers, including U.S. citizens."

After suing DHS under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the civil liberties organizations received 661 pages of heavily redacted files from the department and will be seeking withheld documents as well as the blacked-out material in federal district court this fall.

Antifascist Calling has reviewed many of these files; in some cases 50% or more of the documents have been censored. One might call it DHS' lame attempt at remaking the 1980 hit thriller Fade to Black!

In 2007, CBP quietly loosened 1986 federal guidelines restricting the examination of travelers' documents and papers. More than 20 years earlier a lawsuit, Heidy v. U.S. Customs Service, was filed by a group of solidarity activists targeted by the government after returning from Nicaragua. Their suit, charging the state with an illegal seizure of books, documents and personal papers led to the Reagan administration guidelines.

During the 1980s Nicaragua was a target of U.S. destabilization programs and a "dirty war" waged by the CIA and their drug-dealing Contra allies against the leftist Sandinista government. Reagan-era Customs agents claimed they had a right to seize "subversive literature" at the border.

Based on dubious legal authority, agents confiscated diaries, datebooks and other personal papers and photocopied the files. U.S. Customs then shared the activists' personal details with the FBI on the grounds that the government was engaged in a "counterintelligence operation" against a "hostile power." According to The Washington Post,

"Essentially they were using that as a pretext to do intelligence gathering on critics of our policies on Nicaragua," said David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who was then a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing the activists suing the government in Heidy v. U.S. Customs Service. (Ellen Nakashima, "Expanded Powers to Search Travelers at Border Detailed," The Washington Post, Tuesday, September 23, 2008; A02)

As the Center for Constitutional Rights documented, "Pretrial discovery revealed a broad pattern of Customs abuses, including the use of Customs authority to gather intelligence about returnees from Nicaragua and the entry of that information into a nationwide Customs computer."

The Heidy decision, in other words, specifically barred Customs officials from rifling through travelers files in pursuit of so-called "actionable intelligence." The state was specifically barred from sharing the spoils of these illegal searches with other federal agencies. Fast-forward 22 years. As EFF revealed,

The documents show that in 2007, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) loosened restrictions on the examination of travelers' documents and papers that had existed since 1986. While CBP agents could previously read travelers' documents only if they had "reasonable suspicion" that the documents would reveal violations of agency rules, in 2007 officers were given the power to "review and analyze" papers without any individualized suspicion. Furthermore, whereas CBP agents could previously copy materials only where they had "probable cause" to believe a law had been violated, in 2007 they were empowered to copy travelers' papers without suspicion of wrongdoing and keep them for a "reasonable period of time" to conduct a border search. The new rules applied to physical documents as well as files on laptop computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. ("Internal DHS Documents Detail Expansion to Read and Copy Travelers' Papers," Electronic Frontier Foundation, September 23, 2008)

In keeping with an avalanche of rule changes governing the expansive reach of America's intelligence agencies, the "quaint" notion of "probable cause"--that a targeted individual is suspected of a crime--is now a thing of the past, replaced by the Orwellian concept of "thought crimes" where everyone is miraculously transformed into a "suspect" by securocrats.

Under the guise of "keeping America safe," counterterrorism is the new stand-in for what covert operators once referred to as countersubversive operations that targeted left-wing political groups for destruction. As America's constitutional guarantees circle the drain awaiting only the final flush into oblivion, the religious and political beliefs of citizens and legal residents re-entering the country are now considered "fair game" by Bushist spooks.

ALC staff attorney Shirin Sinar denounced these patently illegal moves by the administration saying, "For more than 20 years, the government implicitly recognized that reading and copying the letters, diaries, and personal papers of travelers without reason would chill Americans' rights to free speech and free expression. But now customs officials can probe into the thoughts and lives of ordinary travelers without any suspicion at all."

It appears that simply attempting to legally cross the border constitutes "suspicious behavior" and is an occasion for state security agencies to have access to all our personal details, regardless of their relevance to an "ongoing terrorism investigation." Or, as is more likely in America's "new normal" regime, border crossings now serve as a pretext for future "terrorism investigations."

In a further move to subvert the 1986 guidelines, ALC and EFF noted that "CBP's wide latitude to collect this data attracted significant attention from other law enforcement agencies that sought to access it." In other words, under cover of conducting "counterterrorist" border searches, dodgy outfits such as the CIA, FBI, and the NSA are now asserting a "right" to have access to data seized from travelers' cell phone directories, laptops, financial data or confidential business records stored in CBP databases "available" for their perusal.

DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa told the Post "the updating of policies reflects an effort to be more transparent." Or cover DHS ass-ets since they were forced to release the files in the first place! The policy change according to Kudwa "reflects the realities of the post-9/11 environment," that is, an unaccountable Executive branch that has assumed "plenary" (unlimited) powers "during a time of war" (of their own choosing).

All is not well in Homelandia, however.

As The Washington Post reported two weeks ago, "In the five years since it was created, the Department of Homeland Security has overseen roughly $15 billion worth of failed contracts for projects ranging from airport baggage-screening to trailers for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, according to congressional data." Dana Hedgpeth wrote,

The contracts wound up over-budget, delayed or canceled after millions of dollars had already been spent, according to figures and documents prepared by the House Committee on Homeland Security. A panel of experts is to testify today before the House Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight on how to fix problems with the DHS acquisitions process. ...

The experts are to talk about a series of problem projects: About $351 million was wasted and not properly overseen in the U.S. Coast Guard's Deepwater program after ships were built and then scrapped, according to Homeland Security committee staffers and oversight agency reports. A $1.5 billion Boeing program to help secure U.S. borders with electronic sensors and other equipment is being shelved after it was over-budget, late and had technology problems. ("Congress Says DHS Oversaw $15 Billion in Failed Contracts," The Washington Post, Wednesday, September 17, 2008; D02)

While $15 billion may seem like chump change in today's climate of trillion dollar financial bailouts for Washington's favorite grifters in the banking and securities industry, neither Congress nor DHS have a "fix" for these wasteful programs, unless that is, the fix is already in and taxpayers not privy to information available to various "wise men" peacefully ensconced in their "secure, undisclosed locations" remains "classified."

But I digress...

Documents revealed that a July 11, 2007 email originating from CBP's New York office noted the "wide interest among other government agencies in CBP's ability to collect information." Indeed, the nameless CBP bureaucrat wrote, "As we all know, CBP's data collection capabilities have been widely discussed in the law enforcement community and we have been asked by many various agencies to copy and transmit documentation being carried by travelers for legitimate law enforcement reasons."

And under current rule changes enacted in July, DHS is allowed to share data obtained at the border with other agencies if there is a "suspicion" a law is being violated. Last year, documents revealed that the Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations wrote:

There may be situations where an agency or entity, in furtherance of its respective mission, wishes to retain or disseminate copies of the information provided to it by CBP for technical assistance. Any such retention and/or dissemination will be governed by that agency or entity's existing legal authorities or policies, including periodic reviews of retained materials to evaluate and ensure continued relevance. (Memorandum for: Directors, Field Operations, Office of Field Operations. From: Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations. Subject: Border Search/Examination of Documents, Papers, and Electronic Information, July 5, 2007)

What these "situations" are that might merit sharing personal information with the CIA, FBI or NSA (or the Main Core database for that matter) and what would constitute "continued relevance" is not specified by the Assistant Commissioner.

As the civil liberties groups noted, ALC received more than two dozen complaints from U.S. citizens, particularly those who were Muslim, South Asian, or Middle Eastern. Those illegally detained "were grilled about their families, religious practices, volunteer activities, political beliefs, or associations when returning to the United States from travels abroad."

Since "traveling while Arab" is apparently an enforceable offense, these individuals had their books, hand written notes, personal photos, laptop computer files and cell phone directories scrutinized and copied. Indeed, as EFF/ALC averred "CBP appears to have no policy constraining agents from questioning travelers on their religious practices or political views, in spite of the fact that many travelers have complained about being grilled on such First Amendment-protected activities."

Nor will CBP agents be "constrained" from violating our constitutional rights. While some will chalk it up to America's "enhanced security environment" where Bushist cronies reap the spoils of their ill-gotten wealth, "business as usual"--as always--is standard operating procedure in post-Constitutional America.

Oh, and by the way, Welcome to the United States!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When Corporations Spy

As if illegal spying and dirty tricks by state agencies weren't threat enough to democratic institutions and grassroots activist organizations, hundreds of corporate spy outfits are doing their part--to defend the "homeland" and the bottom line--for the multinational grifters who plunder the world's wealth.

SourceWatch revealed that Hakluyt & Company, Ltd., a "British private intelligence agency ... staffed almost entirely by ex-intelligence services staff," was outed by a freelance journalist after the company sought to recruit her "services." The group reported in August:

Melissa Sweet, a freelance Australian health journalist, reports that she recently received an email from a staffer with Hakluyt. In it she was asked if she would like to become part of a "network of well-placed individuals around the world who are able to provide us, very discreetly, with intelligence on specific commercial or political issues that may arise." In particular, they were seeking her assistance for an anonymous "financial institution" client on "a new project on the new Australian government's healthcare policy--how realistic their reform ambitions really are", "the role of the private sector" and other matters. Sweet responded by pointing out that she was a journalist not a consultant. Undeterred, the Hakluyt staffer wrote back explaining that as a journalist she was likely to have "dozens of well-placed sources in the field" and that the company already has "a number of quality, usually specialist journalists that we deal with". In 2001 Hakluyt was outed for infiltrating Greenpeace in Europe. ("Hakluyt & Company Limited," SourceWatch, August 1, 2008)

The Sunday Times reported in 2001 that Hakluyt hired Manfred Schlickenrieder, a German foreign intelligence operative tasked by the firm to spy on Greenpeace at the behest of oil giants BP and Shell. According to The Sunday Times:

His political credentials seemed impeccable: he had once been chairman of the Munich branch of the German Communist party and the bookshelves of his office held the works of Bertolt Brecht, the Marxist playwright and poet.

Behind the facade, however, Schlickenrieder was a spy working for both the German secret service and for Hakluyt, a private intelligence agency based in London's West End and set up by former officers of MI6, the secret intelligence service. His codename was Camus after Albert Camus, the existentialist author of L'Etranger.

Hakluyt paid him thousands of pounds to inform on the activities of Greenpeace, Anita Roddick's Body Shop and other environmental campaigners. The BND, the German equivalent of MI6, allegedly paid him £3,125 a month living expenses. (Maurice Chittenden and Nicholas Rufford, "MI6 'Firm' Spied on Green Groups," The Sunday Times, June 17, 2001)

Also in 2001, after the Greenpeace scandal exploded, Christopher James, Hakluyt's Managing Director, wrote to the disgraced CEO of Enron, the convicted felon Jeffrey Skilling, bragging of Hakluyt's unique "services":

The range of deployments we have completed for core clients is wide. In all cases we guarantee complete confidentiality. And, although we work for divisional directors on tactical issues, we have found our most rewarding work in personal dealings with CEOs who wish--for whatever reason--to have a confidential agency at their own disposal. It was this, which prompted Phil Carroll to write to you about us in April as he has found our work of considerable value to him personally. We look at people and the issues, which often drive them to make the decisions or act as they do. All our work is unattributable.

To sweeten the pot, James told Skilling,

We also have an association with Kissinger/McLarty Associates for although our work is very different the services we both provide can be complementary. Our US client base is increasing well but at the same time we wish to remain small and discreet. (Confidential email from Christopher James to Jeffrey Skilling, posted by Enron Explorer, July 8, 2001)

Talk about a small (and very greedy) world!

But Hakluyt wasn't the only firm engaged in corporate espionage targeting green groups. As investigative journalist James Ridgeway reported last April,

A private security company 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, the now-defunct Beckett Brown International, provided a "range of services" for heavy-hitting corporate clients including Allied Waste, the Carlyle Group, Halliburton and Monsanto. Headquartered in Easton, Maryland, BBI "worked extensively" for public-relations firms Ketchum, Nichols-Dezenhall Communications, and Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin. According to Ridgeway,

At the time, these PR outfits were servicing corporate clients fighting environmental organizations opposed to their products or actions. Ketchum, for example, was working for Dow Chemical and Kraft Foods; Nichols-Dezenhall, according to BBI records, was working with Condea Vista, a chemical manufacturing firm that in 1994 leaked up to 47 million pounds of ethylene dichloride, a suspected carcinogen, into the Calcasieu River in Louisiana.

BBI was apparently good at what they did until the firm ran to ground in 2001, provoked by "infighting between the principals." But don't despair, Ridgeway tells us that "the firm's officials went on to work in other security firms that remain active today." Call it another prime example of keeping the "homeland safe"--and profitable--for the corporate grifters who ceaselessly labor to destroy "our way of life." Their dream, our nightmare.

Big Budgets, Global Reach

With global reach, seemingly limitless budgets and often staffed by ex-military and security operatives, the world of private spying is a big business with a huge growth potential, particularly when citizens revolt against the sordid schemes of corporate polluters, defense contractors and resource grabbers.

Indeed, as legendary researcher Frank J. Donner documented in his landmark books, The Age of Surveillance and Protectors of Privilege, "a more functional public-private linkage is often found on the urban and state levels" where connections amongst right-wing groups, corporations and the government abound.

Historically, this nexus included organizations such as the semi-official Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU), ultrarightist outfits such as the John Birch Society, Church League of America, the Minutemen, Legion of Justice, the American Security Council, and "legitimate" private detective agencies such Pinkerton, Kroll, Burns and Wackenhut.

But as the corporatist state totters on the brink of economic collapse, in no small part the result of greed and gross criminality by top-flight financial institutions, banks, investment firms and other corporate grifters linked to the Bush administration and the Republican and Democratic parties, the capitalist state will require a vast legion of private spooks to "keep the rabble in line."

There certainly are plenty of them.

In 2006, the World Socialist Web Site reported that high-tech powerhouse Hewlett-Packard was caught red-handed in a corporate spies-for-hire scheme to stanch leaks.

The spying campaign, launched by H-P board Chairwoman Patricia Dunn in response to leaks to the press of internal corporate discussions, included surreptitiously obtaining the phone records of H-P board members and employees, surveillance of board members and journalists, and the emailing of spyware to journalists in an effort to learn the identity of their sources within the company.

Private telephone records on hundreds of cell and home telephones were obtained by a method called "pretexting," in which investigators made repeated calls to telephone companies, pretending to be the individuals targeted, until they were able to convince a phone company employee to release the information. (Patrick Martin, "Hewlett-Packard spying scandal sheds new light on U.S. corporate 'ethics'," World Socialist Web Site, 2 October 2006)

The corporate spooks, their tradecraft acquired through years of practice as dodgy state operatives, were hired through a series of "cutouts" designed to provide top company officials with "plausible deniability" should their cover be blown.

Among the firms employed by H-P were the Boston-based Security Outsourcing Solutions (SOS). According to Martin, the "dirty work" was outsourced to Action Research Group (ARG) of Melbourne, Florida. A blurb on SOS's website claims that the company will "work with internal security departments that do not have the expertise and or resources to address all of their organization's security concerns."

That's rich, considering that H-P clocks in at No. 14 on the 2008 Fortune 500 list and recently agreed to pay $12.6 billion to buy out Electronic Data Systems! An additional subcontractor, Eye in the Sky Investigations, described itself as providing (as of 2004) "skip tracing services" for "the licensed private investigator, finance company, collection agency, recovery agency, bail bondsman, info brokers." A handy list of charges for company "services" was even listed on Webspawner.

While ARG's website is blocked, a simple Google search uncovered a "Complaint for Injunctive and Other Equitable Relief" filed February 14, 2007 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in United States Federal District Court, Orlando Division, against ARG and Eye in the Sky Investigations.

The complaint against corporate officers of the firms charged the companies with gross violations of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 for illegally obtaining "customer proprietary network information."

Indeed the FTC accused ARG and other defendants in the suit with engaging in an egregious "invasion of privacy" of confidential customer phone records "likely to cause substantial harm to consumers." According to court documents:

The account holders have not authorized Defendants to access or sell their confidential customer phone records. Instead, to obtain such information, Defendants have used or have caused others to use, false pretenses, fraudulent statements, fraudulent or stolen documents or other misrepresentations, including posing as an account holder or as an employee of the telecommunications carer [sic], to induce officers, employees, or agents of telecommunications carers [sic] to disclose confidential customer phone records. Defendants have sold the confidential customer phone records that they have obtained to their clients or others.

Sounds like business as usual to me!

The San Francisco Business Times reported in May that the named defendants agreed to pay some $600,000 to settle the case with the FTC for their role in the illegal H-P spying operation. Keep in mind, this is but one case in what must be a tsunami of illegal covert operations by American corporate behemoths!

Wal-Mart and Raytheon: Best Friends Forever!

While the hunt for "subversives," often under the direction of corporate associations such as the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chamber of Commerce and related "defense" industry trade and lobby shops, occupied corporate spooks during the McCarthy period, by the late 1970s and down to the present moment, environmental, labor, antiwar, antinuclear, antiglobalization and increasingly, civil liberties and privacy advocates have entered the frame, often with a vengeance.

Indeed, according to Wal-Mart Watch, the retail giant's Threat Research and Analysis Group conducted extensive spying operations against critics and employees until it was revealed by a whistleblower. Bruce Gabbard told The Wall Street Journal,

Wal-Mart began beefing up its electronic call surveillance after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in response to government requests to employers in general to help find terrorist cells. Mr. Gabbard says he was directed by two former FBI agents working for Wal-Mart to set up a system that could track any calls to and from Syria, Yemen and Iran, among other countries. The search was unsuccessful, only flagging an apparent call from Iran that turned out instead to be from an Indian jeweler, according to Mr. Gabbard.

Later, he says, he used the same equipment to intercept and record calls from the New York Times. (Ann Zimmerman and Gary McWilliams, "Inside Wal-Mart's 'Threat Research' Operation," The Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2007, Page B1)

Wal-Mart whistleblower Gabbard said the electronic surveillance "accelerated" in 2005 when leaked documents began appearing on the website of the pro-union group Wal-Mart Watch. One memo "suggested" that because of rising healthcare costs and criticism of the corporate giant's policies "the retailer should revise its policies by hiring healthier workers and requiring all jobs to perform physical activity, such as retrieving shopping carts."

According to the Journal, Wal-Mart began working with Oakley Networks Inc., a developer of "insider threat management" gear to surveil employee computer usage over the retail giant's network. Indeed, the Journal reports that one Oakley system is capable of recording an employee's keystrokes "and deliver a TiVo-like replay of his or her computing activities."

While confirming the "advanced capabilities" of its system, Oakley Networks refused to identify its customers "apart from the U.S. Defense Department." Zimmerman and McWilliams reported that "the system goes beyond keystroke capture products and email filtering packages" providing "a view of content" moving across a targeted network.

Oakley Networks Inc., now a wholly owned subsidiary of Raytheon (Raytheon Oakley), was founded in 2001 and "acquired" in 2007 by the defense giant. It is now a major component of Raytheon's "Intelligence and information Systems (IIS) business." According to a blurb on their website, "Raytheon Oakley protects 10 of the Fortune 100 banking, technology, manufacturing and other critical commercial infrastructure companies." Washington Technology reported "terms [of the deal] were not disclosed."

And with "security" in the heimat the latest frontier to be conquered by "war on terror" corporate profiteers, is it any wonder that private surveillance has become a lucrative growth industry. Indeed, there's even a trade association, the Homeland Security Industries Association (HSIA)! A Washington, D.C.-based lobby group, HSIA describes its mission as providing "a mechanism for government and the private sector to coordinate on a wide range of homeland security issues."

And do they ever coordinate!

Members include corporate heavy-hitters such as Bechtel, Fluor Corp., Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Textron and Washington Group International. Mid-sized firms such as E.J. Krause & Associates, Intelsat Government Solutions, Galileo International, Shaw Group, and Worldwide Security Associates. Additionally, smaller firms and universities include AR Challenges, Georgetown University, Intelliorg, the John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, and QED are saddled-up in HSIA's stable.

As USA Today reported back in 2006,

Without another major terrorist attack like those of 9/11, Homeland Security Research, the industry tracker, expects the market for security goods and services to increase to $178 billion in 2015, or triple its current value.

But a major attack in the United States, Europe or Japan could increase the global market in 2015 to $730 billion, more than a twelvefold increase, the company says.

Most of the growth this decade will come from building what Homeland Security Research calls "a homeland defense infrastructure." Growth areas are likely to include technology for surveillance and for detection of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. (Gary Stoller, "Homeland security generates multibillion business," USA Today, September 10, 2006)

As can be seen from this overview, corporate spying like "outsourcing" state security and intelligence functions to corporatist "partners" are another means of providing "plausible deniability," global reach and maximum capabilities in the subversion of democratic institutions in the service of imperialist Empire.

We can be certain of this: as the American economic house of cards continues its epochal collapse, a viper's nest of state and private intelligence operatives will be unleashed upon the American people.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Democracy or Police State? New Lawsuit Targets Bush, Cheney, NSA over Illegal Spying

On Wednesday, Antifascist Calling reported on moves by the Department of Justice to seek blanket immunity for AT&T under provisions of the disgraceful FISA Amendments Act (FAA).

If approved by Judge Vaughn Walker, the presiding magistrate hearing the landmark Hepting v. AT&T lawsuit in federal district court in San Francisco, the giant telecommunications corporation and Bush crime family partner would walk away scott free.

The suit, brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of AT&T customers caught up in the state's illegal internet and telephone driftnet surveillance, is challenging unconstitutional spying on U.S. citizens and legal residents.

The shocking extent of the "public-private partnership" in political repression was first revealed in depth when former AT&T technician Mark Klein filed an affidavit in support of EFF's contention that AT&T had systematically violated their customers' right to privacy.

As Antifascist Calling has previously reported on many occasions, the telecommunications giant had constructed a secret room (SG3 Secure Room, room number 641A) for the exclusive use of the National Security Agency's spying operations at AT&T's Folsom St. office.

On Saturday, EFF reported that the government "started the formal process for retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies sued by EFF and others for their involvement in the warrantless surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans." That hearing is set for December 2, 2008 in San Francisco.

The state filed a secret "certification" by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey with the court along with a public submission of its claim of limitless executive power "during a time of war."

However in a bold, preemptive move on Thursday, EFF filed a new lawsuit against the government. That suit, Jewel v. NSA, targets the National Security Agency, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney's sinister chief of staff, David Addington, and former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Filed "on behalf of AT&T customers," the civil rights organization has opened a new front against the government and their corporate partners. EFF declared:

The lawsuit, Jewel v. NSA, is aimed at ending the NSA's dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it. Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA. ("EFF Sues NSA, President Bush and Vice President Cheney to Stop Illegal Surveillance," Electronic Frontier Foundation, Press Release, September 18, 2008)

As in Hepting v. AT&T, the identical evidence of gross malfeasance on the part of well-heeled corporate lawbreakers who acted in concert with unaccountable secret state agencies, is central to Jewel v. NSA.

These covert intelligence operations arose as the result of secret Department of Justice memorandums written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). According to an unsigned and undated memo released by by the OLC, the Justice Department claims that President Bush has an "inherent right" to carry out "communications intelligence targeted at the enemy." Indeed, as the extent of these illegal programs have revealed, the "enemy" is none other than the American people themselves!

A January 19, 2006 Justice Department White Paper, Legal Authority Supporting the Activities of the NSA Described by President Bush, states:

The NSA's activities are supported by the President's well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs to conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces for intelligence purposes to detect and disrupt armed attacks on the United States.

Under color of the dubious theory of the "unitary executive," propounded by ultra-rightist outfits such as the Federalist Society, Americans' Fourth Amendment rights are flagrantly--and illegally--violated on a daily basis by the Bush administration. Such specious assertions represent nothing less than an open declaration of war on our rights and the framework for a limitless presidential dictatorship.

Senior EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston commenting on the intent of Jewel v. NSA averred,

"In addition to suing AT&T, we've now opened a second front in the battle to stop the NSA's illegal surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and hold personally responsible those who authorized or participated in the spying program. For years, the NSA has been engaged in a massive and massively illegal fishing expedition through AT&T's domestic networks and databases of customer records. Our goal in this new case against the government, as in our case against AT&T, is to dismantle this dragnet surveillance program as soon as possible."

By targeting the individuals responsible for these illegal programs, EFF intends to bring these felons to justice by holding them accountable for the destruction of our constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment states in plain and simple language:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

But in a perverse interpretation of the constitutional separation of powers, Bushist minions such as torture-enabler John C. Yoo, formerly an attorney with the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel and currently a tenured professor at the University of California's Boalt Hall Law School, stated publicly that the President, in his role as "Commander-in-Chief," has the authority to bypass, indeed subvert, laws passed by Congress.

Under this novel interpretation of the Constitution, the President has the right under the theory of the "unitary executive" to grab unlimited executive power to conduct foreign and domestic policy as he sees fit.

As limited as the Watergate-era Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was, it represented an attempt by Congress after Nixon's resignation to curtail unchecked Executive branch surveillance of domestic dissidents under color of "national security." Indeed, Nixon's blatant and illegal surveillance of his political opponents was included in Article 2 of the impeachment articles against him.

In the view of miscreants such as Cheney, Addington and Yoo, congressional limitations on the president's power are "unconstitutional" maneuvers meant to strip the Chief Executive of his rightful power to act as he--and the corporatists setting policy--see fit. Under their reading, the Executive, particularly in his role as "Commander-in-Chief," must interpret laws on an equal footing with the courts, if he is to perform his "wartime" function. However, no such provision exists in the U.S. Constitution and in fact, the "unitary executive" is a fantasy.

Since 1803, U.S. constitutional tradition has recognized that the courts wield what Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall called "judicial supremacy," that is, the court is the final arbiter of what is and what is not the law. Bushist ideologues stand this principle on its head and transform a society based on law into a "managed democracy" predicated on the whims of corporations and the men who wield executive power in their "unitary" interests.

If such flagrant violations of democratic and republican norms go unchecked--either by the coequal branches of government or salutary direct action by the people themselves, the rights of citizens to determine the fundamental nature of society is replaced by a Führerprinzip, that is to say, a "leader principle" rooted in an antidemocratic hierarchy of warlords that resemble the military structures of the Nazi Party. In other words, a high-tech, panoptic police state.

Since September 11, 2001, the United States Government has launched systematic assaults against the constitutional rights of American citizens and legal residents. As the illegal aggression against the people of Iraq has revealed in all its ghastly horror, the "war on terror" is a war of terror against anyone who would challenge U.S. imperialism's claim to be undisputed "masters of the universe."

From warrantless wiretapping to torture, from preemptive wars of aggression and conquest to the plunder of the environment on behalf of corporate "friends," and from indefinite detention of "enemy combatants" to secretive plans for martial law, the Bush administration and their congressional enablers in both capitalist political parties demonstrate on a daily basis that the greatest threat to the American people comes, not from foreign terrorists or Islamic jihadists, but from neofascist fundamentalists here at home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

As ACLU Challenges FISA Law in Federal Court, Justice Department Moves to Immunize Spying Telecoms

Last Friday the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) in Federal District Court in New York. But on the same day, Wired reported that Justice Department special counsel Anthony Coppolino informed U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco that the government would seek blanket immunity under FAA for spying telecoms.

Calling the FAA "the most sweeping surveillance bill ever enacted by Congress," the ACLU urged the court to strike down the law as an unconstitutional breach of privacy and free speech rights.

The FAA, a piece of Bushist legislative flotsam, was overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law in July by president Bush. While the reputed "opposition" party, the Democrats, managed a few bleats against immunity provisions for lawbreaking corporate grifters, they quickly fell into line and passed this disgraceful statute.

Why? So as not to appear "soft on terror" during November's general election according to The New York Times. But flip-flopping "liberal" Democrats, including the party's nominee for president, Sen. Barack Obama, joined their colleagues across the aisle for a more salient reason: cold, hard cash.

As I wrote in June (see: "'Fighting Democrats' Rake-in Big Telecom Bucks"), citing a blistering report by the watchdog group MAPLight, "the 94 Democrats who changed their position on telecom immunity 'received on average $8,359 in contributions from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint from January, 2005, to March, 2008'."

While none of this should come as a surprise to readers of Antifascist Calling, Glenn Greenwald pointed out Monday in Salon,

...it is extremely easy to understand why not only the White House and Congressional Republicans, but also the Democratic leadership, was so eager to ensure that this law-breaking remain concealed from the public and that there are never any consequences for it. It's because, as is true for so much of the Bush radicalism and lawbreaking over the years, top Democrats were fully aware of what was taking place and either explicitly endorsed the lawbreaking or, with full complicity, allowed it to continue.

Indeed, Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman documents in his new book, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, that top congressional Democrats worked covertly to conceal the Bush administration's illegal NSA surveillance programs from the American people. Gellman writes:

More than three years later, [former U.S. Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales would testify that there was "consensus in the room" from the lawmakers, "who said, 'Despite the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, go forward with these very important intelligence activities.'" By this account--disputed by participants from both parties--four Democrats and four Republicans counseled Cheney to press on with a program that Justice called illegal.

Greenwald comments:

...there is no dispute that the meeting took place and that these members were repeatedly briefed on the spying program--not only after 2004, but before 2004. This specific meeting described by Gellman, and the briefings generally, included Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, Steny Hoyer, and Jay Rockefeller--all of whom voted to put an end to the telecom lawsuits (and thereby ensure that these crimes remain concealed), and the latter two of whom were, far and away, the key forces behind the new law that killed the lawsuits looking into these spying activities (and then joined Bush and Cheney at a festive, bipartisan White House signing ceremony to celebrate their joint victory). ("What illegal 'things' was the government doing in 2001-2004?", Salon, Monday, September 15, 2008)

In other words, even when presented with the facts of Bushist criminality, congressional Democrats urged Cheney to "press on" with programs that would have made Watergate felon Richard Nixon and his cronies blush, a stunning indictment of the "Washington consensus" and the bogus "war on terror."

In this context, it makes perfect sense that the biggest recipients of telecom largesse were House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), $29,000, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), $24,000. No slouch herself, Jane Harman (D-CA), House co-sponsor of the Orwellian "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" (H.R. 1955) pulled down some $7,000 from grateful corporate grifters in the telecommunications industry. But no matter how you slice it, that's a lot of boodle for the best Congress money can buy!

The FAA gives the Bush--and future administrations--virtually unlimited power to intercept the emails and phone calls of American citizens and legal residents. Indeed, the new law hands the state the authority to conduct intrusive spying operations "without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and email addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it's conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing," according to the ACLU. Jameel Jaffer, the Director of the ACLU's National Security Project, said:

"The FISA Amendments Act allows the mass acquisition of Americans' international e-mails and telephone calls. The administration has argued that the law is necessary to address the threat of terrorism, but the truth is that the law sweeps much more broadly and implicates all kinds of communications that have nothing to do with terrorism or criminal activity of any kind. The Fourth Amendment was meant to prohibit exactly the kinds of dragnet surveillance that the new law permits." ("ACLU Asks Court to Strike Down Unconstitutional Spying Law," American Civil Liberties Union, Press Release, September 12, 2008)

As the civil liberties group argues in its brief, the FAA grants unaccountable Executive branch agencies the right to acquire all of the international communications of American citizens under the pretext that "the surveillance is directed at collecting foreign intelligence information and targeted at people outside the United States."

This is a patent falsehood. Driftnet-style communications obtained by the government in league with spying telecoms, as AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein revealed, were facilitated by AT&T when the NSA installed intercept equipment in a secret room in the corporation's San Francisco switching office.

Indeed, Klein submitted an affidavit in support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) landmark lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T. In that affidavit Klein declared, the room contained among other equipment, a Narus STA 6400 traffic analyzer into which all of AT&T's internet and phone traffic was routed. The retired technician should know since he helped wire the splitter box that made this possible.

Klein told the court that the company routed its "peering links" into the splitter which means that any and all traffic passing through AT&T's network could also be scanned. The whistleblower told Judge Walker that AT&T offices in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego had similar secret rooms built for the exclusive use of NSA's multitude of surveillance programs.

In a direct threat to attorney-client privilege and the right of a detained person to receive a fair trail, the ACLU declares that FAA grants the government the right to "acquire all of the communications of European attorneys who work with American attorneys on behalf of prisoners held at Guantánamo, including communications in which the two sets of attorneys share information about their clients and strategize about litigation."

This is a particularly sinister feature of the law, considering Bushist treatment of so-called "enemy combatants" at the Guantánamo Bay prison gulag and global CIA "black sites."

Meanwhile, Wired reports that the Justice Department has moved to dismiss EFF's Hepting v. AT&T lawsuit. When Judge Walker ruled that the so-called "state secrets privilege" was not grounds for dismissal, the government deployed a new tactic, this time relying on the FAA's immunity provisions.

Like the ACLU, EFF has stated in court briefs that the FAA is unconstitutional. The organization provided the court with five reasons not to dismiss their case against AT&T:

1. Congress violated the separation of powers by attempting to usurp judicial authority to decide the Fourth Amendment claims of millions of ordinary Americans who have been, and continue to be, subjected to dragnet surveillance for the past seven years.

2. Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by passing legislation that grants to the Executive the discretion to essentially dictate the outcome of specific, pending litigation.

3. The statute improperly requires dismissal of claims of illegal surveillance between September 11, 2001 and January 17, 2007 based not on a judicial finding about the facts of the surveillance or the legality or constitutionality of the surveillance, but instead merely based on a 'certification' from the attorney general that some unknown member of the Executive branch told the carriers that some undescribed surveillance is 'lawful.'

4. The legislation denies due process to the plaintiffs by granting to the Executive, rather than the courts, the essential decision making about their constitutional and statutory rights.

5. The legislation purports to grant the Executive a unilateral right to require that the court keep secret not only the evidence, but also its own decisions. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, "Joint Case Management for Cases Involving Telecommunications Carrier Defendants," United States District Court, Northern District of of California, San Francisco Division, MDL Docket No 06-1791 VRW, Filed September 2, 2008)

If the legislation stands constitutional muster--Bushist style--the telecoms will get off scott free if the government can prove their "assistance" was the result of a court order, authorized under the Protect America Act of 2007, or was approved by the president and was designed "to detect or prevent a terrorist attack, or in activities in preparation for a terrorist attack, against the United States, and the subject of a written request or directive."

But given the climate of hysteria surrounding "national security" and "terrorism" (the retail variety practiced by religious nutters such as al-Qaeda or Christian fundamentalist abortion clinic bombers, not the wholesale brand of state terrorism practiced let's say, by the U.S. government itself), the jury is out on how far the courts are willing to go in defiance of the Executive branch and a lap-dog Congress.


Speaking of hysteria, the whistleblowing website Wikileaks released a non-public "for official use only" document by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Titled "Fear of Terrorist Attack Could Trigger Mass Psychogenic Illness," the 2006 report by the Homeland Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis Center (HITRAC) cautions that terrorism-fear-created illnesses are "an additional factor to consider in the response to terrorist attacks, particularly those involving chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) weapons. The number of those suffering psychogenic illness could far exceed the number of actual casualties in a CBR event."

That's rich coming from a government office that specializes in whipping-up endless terror frenzies amongst the American public! The HITRAC "private sector note" provides DHS's "perspective on the potential for mass psychogenic illness occurring as a result of anxiety over terrorism." (emphasis added)

Proving once again, as Lilly Tomlin wisely said: "No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up"!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New York's Mass Surveillance Plan Fast-Tracked by the NYPD. Mukasey Hands FBI Broad New Powers

Last month Antifascist Calling reported on a scheme by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to encircle Manhattan with thousands of surveillance cameras and sensors that would photograph all vehicles entering the city. Information captured by this intrusive system would be stored in a huge database for an undisclosed period of time. That plan is now moving forward with a vengeance.

The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative (LMSI) and a related program, Operation Sentinel, are modeled after London's so-called "Ring of Steel." In London, roads entering the city are narrowed and have tight serpentine curves that force drivers to slow down and be recorded by CCTV cameras. Typically, such roads have concrete or reinforced plastic medians with a sentry box where police stand guard and monitor traffic flows. Following the July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks in London, security has been stepped up, with occasional spot checks by machine-gun toting police of cars and trucks entering the security cordon.

As it now stands, LMSI would link a matrix of 3,000 public and private surveillance cameras for monitoring and tracking vehicles and pedestrians south of Canal Street, the city's financial hub. Other features of the system include mobile roadblocks that could swivel into place and block off any given street to traffic.

But as Durham University geographer Stephen Graham argues, these intrusive projects presuppose an "inside" and "outside" within a militarized urban space. Graham writes,

In a world of intensifying transnational migration, transport, capital and media flows ... such attempts at constructing a mutually exclusive binary--a securitized 'inside' enclosing the urban places of the US Empire's 'homeland', and an urbanizing 'outside', where US military power can pre-emptively attack places deemed sources of 'terrorist' threats--are inevitably both ambivalent and ridden with contradictions. They rest alongside the ratcheting-up of state surveillance and repression against Others targeted within US cities and society. They are paralleled ... by military strategies which increasingly treat the 'inside' spaces within the US and the 'foreign' ones in the rest of the world as a single, integrated, 'battlespace' prone to the rapid movements of 'terrorist' threats into the geographical and urban heartlands of US power at any instant. And they obscure the complex geographies and political economies of 'primitive accumulation' which closely tie predatory post-war 'reconstruction' and oil contracts in Iraq, and homeland security contracts in US cities, to the same cartel of Bush-friendly oil companies, defence and security contractors and 'private military corporations.' ("Cities and the 'War on Terror'," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 30.2, June 2006, pp. 255-276)

As I have frequently reported, "homeland security" corporations and a related complex of right-wing think tanks and terrorism "specialists" drawn from academia and the media have sprung up across the U.S. Empire's urban "battlespace" like so-many genetically-modified weeds.

Armed with a (highly-profitable) brief to "keep America safe," the net result has been the strangling of democratic processes and institutions. While its corollary, lack of accountability and state criminality, are the built-in features of a "war on terror" promulgated by an illegitimate regime that operates privately and secretly and which demands only silence from a terrorized and compliant population.

In light of recent moves to securitize New York's financial district as a first step towards militarizing the city as a whole, Operation Sentinel would photograph the license plates of every car and truck entering Manhattan across bridges or through tunnels. Under the proposal, radiation sensors would scan every vehicle for nuclear materials which could potentially be used in manufacturing a "dirty bomb."

However, as I previously reported the technology to do so does not exist. Indeed, a recent story in The Washington Post confirms my initial assessment that Operation Sentinel is little more than a corporatist scam.

Advanced Spectroscopic Portal (ASP) monitors designed by major defense contractors Raytheon, Thermo Electron and Canberra Industries failed to perform as advertised after Congress had allocated tens of million of dollars for the system.

The program is now being scaled back after an audit report by the Government Accountability Office determined that the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) "misled Congress about the testing, cost and effectiveness of the machines. Budget documents this year showed the cost to put the monitors at borders and ports would be far higher than the detection office originally estimated," according to the Post.

DNDO "is not sure" what methods it will deploy to screen "rail cars, privately owned vehicles, airport cargo and cargo at seaport terminals" in the near future, the report said. (emphasis added)

The lack of a reliable nuclear detection system will not deter NYPD officials however, who continue claiming Operation Sentinel is on a fast-track. But whether or not radiation monitors actually work, it now appears that the primary thrust of the project is to scrutinize all vehicles entering Manhattan. Information captured by the system will be stored in a huge database amenable to the usual data-mining techniques employed by the U.S. intelligence "community."

However, last Monday the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), filed a lawsuit in New York's State Supreme Court "challenging the NYPD's refusal to disclose information about its plan to create a massive surveillance network in downtown Manhattan." According to a statement by NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman,

"The NYPD is planning blanket surveillance of millions of law-abiding New Yorkers, but it refuses to disclose even the simplest details of this costly proposal. A plan of this scope, expense and intrusiveness demands robust public debate and legislative oversight. The public has a right to this information." (New York Civil Liberties Union, "NYCLU Sues NYPD for Information on Massive Surveillance Plan," Press Release, September 8, 2008)

With initial estimates to complete the system in the range of $100 million, massive cost overruns can be expected as high-tech security and other corporate grifters scramble to reap the benefits of federal, state and city largesse.

Among the many unanswered questions about the LMSI and Operation Sentinel, the NYCLU is seeking clarification on the scope of information gathered about citizens; how the cops intend to use the surveillance videos; with whom will police share captured video data; how long will such information be retained in its database; what privacy protections, if any, are built into the system; which private surveillance systems will be incorporated into LMSI; will assessments of London's "Ring of Steel" be made prior to LMSI's launch date; and finally, the extent of city funding.

Needless to say, the NYPD have been less than forthcoming. According to The New York Times, the police all but accused the NYCLU of aiding and abetting "terrorism" for seeking information on their intrusive programs. The Times reported,

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief spokesman, said the department had already released as much information as it could without compromising its plans for an area of the city--and nation--that has repeatedly been a target of terrorists.

"We have already provided the N.Y.C.L.U. with information short of a road map for terrorists to use in another attack on the financial district," Mr. Browne said. ( Al Baker, "Group Sues for Details on Security Downtown," The New York Times, September 9, 2008)

With grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), New York City is listed as a "tier 1" city by DHS. Accordingly, the New York State Office of Homeland Security (NYOHS) has designated that the NYPD and the Port Authority Police Department will be able to disperse funds in order to implement the proposed LMSI for "full-time counterterrorism duties" including "intergovernmental assignments."

And a NYOHS "Program Guidance" document, states that "counterterrorism duties include such activities as intelligence gathering, information-sharing, and surveillance."

Under the umbrella of the UASI, DHS is disbursing some $781.6 million "to build capabilities in high-threat, high-density urban areas across the country. The seven highest risk urban areas will receive a combined total of $429.9 million, and 53 high-risk urban areas will receive a total of $351.7 million." New York's LMSI clearly fall within these federal guidelines and undoubtedly, the feds will have major input in decision making.

As with other federal homeland security programs, the lack of civilian oversight appear to be de rigueur. Indeed, the New York City Council first learned of these programs when they were reported in the media. One might also reasonably inquire: "intelligence gathering, information-sharing, and surveillance" on whom and for what purpose?

If recent massive police preemptive actions in St. Paul during the run-up to the Republican National Convention are an indication of the direction "counterterrorist operations" are heading we can only surmise that the NYPD's LMSI represent nothing less than a quantum leap towards the construction of a panoptic surveillance state.

Indeed, the World Socialist Web Site reported that eight members of the RNC Welcoming Committee, an anarchist group that spearheaded protests in St. Paul have been charged with "terrorism." The organizers have been brought up on conspiracy charges simply for attempting to organize marches and civil disobedience in Minnesota earlier this month during the coronation of right-wing presidential and vice presidential candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin, the darling of the theocratic Christian Right.

In what may be the first case of its kind, American citizens have been arrested and charged as terrorists for no other act than planning to protest and obstruct a political event. In this case the occasion was the nominating convention of a party chiefly responsible for policies detested by the majority of Americans, including the war in Iraq and the enrichment of a tiny layer of the enormously wealthy. (Tom Eley, "Political dissent as terrorism: 'Minnesota Patriot Act' charges filed against RNC Eight," World Socialist Web Site, 11 September 2008)

As Eley points out, "more alarming than the case itself, however, is the fact that it has gone virtually unnoted by the national news media. This reporter could also find no mention of the case on the web sites of left-liberal publications such as the Nation, the Progressive, or In These Times."

But as with all such repressive actions, the goal of "preemptive policing" and the mass surveillance that accompany the run-up to "cops-gone-wild" events like St. Paul, their purpose is to intimidate--and serve as a warning--to the population as a whole. In this respect, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative like the NSA's warrantless spying programs are clearly designed to insure a seamless transition from surveillance to wholesale repression.

Unleashing the FBI: the New COINTELPRO

Meanwhile on the federal front, The Washington Post reports that "The Justice Department will unveil changes to FBI ground rules today that would put much more power into the hands of line agents pursuing leads on national security, foreign intelligence and even ordinary criminal cases." Carrie Johnson writes,

The overhaul touches on several sensitive areas. It would allow, for example, agents to interview people in the United States about foreign intelligence cases without warrants or prior approval of their supervisors. It also would rewrite 1976 guidelines established after Nixon-era abuses that restrict the FBI's authority to intervene in times of civil disorder and to infiltrate opposition groups. ("Rule Changes Would Give FBI Agents Extensive New Powers," The Washington Post, September 12, 2008)

In other words, COINTELPRO-style infiltration and neutralization operations by federal gangsters and their paid provocateurs will now be "normalized" under new Bushist rules. However, far from being a case of improving the efficacy of "information gathering" to "detect terrorist threats" as the Post claims, new federal guidelines will create a broad legal framework for the suppression of basic constitutional and democratic rights.

Indeed, under the new rules proposed by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, "threat assessments" based on one's race, ethnicity or religion will become standard operating procedure as FBI agents and their informants target individuals, or left-wing political groups, solely on the basis of constitutionally-protected speech or religion.

Aping the Sicherheitsdienst (SD, Nazi Security Service) approach to law enforcement, the Bush administration and their minions in the private security sector such as InfraGard, seek to criminalize broad sections of the population who don't fit a prescribed behavioral "norm." Denouncing the proposals, the American Civil Liberties wrote,

The rewritten guidelines have been drafted in a way to give the FBI the ability to begin surveillance without factual evidence, stating that a generalized "threat" is enough to use certain techniques. Also under the new guidelines, a person's race or ethnic background could be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move the ACLU believes will institute racial profiling as a matter of policy. The guidelines would also give the FBI the ability to use intrusive investigative techniques in advance of public demonstrations. These techniques would allow agents to conduct pre-textual (undercover) interviews, use informants and conduct physical surveillance in connection with First Amendment protected activities. ("New FBI Guidelines Open Door to Further Abuse," American Civil Liberties Union, Press Release, September 12, 2008)

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said,

"The new guidelines offer no specifics on how the FBI will ensure that race and religion are not used improperly as proxies for suspicion, nor do they sufficiently limit the extent to which government agents can infiltrate groups exercising their First Amendment rights. The Bush administration's message once again is 'trust us.' After eight years of historic civil liberties abuses, the American people know better. From the U.S. attorney purges to the abuse of national security letters, the Department of Justice and the FBI have repeatedly shown that they are incapable of policing themselves."

By tossing Nixon-era intelligence guidelines out the window, Mukasey and his masters in the Executive branch are granting line agents, "unparalleled leeway to investigate Americans without proper suspicion, and that will inevitably result in constitutional violations," according to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Our right to protest the government and its policies is not suspicious behavior; it is constitutionally protected speech."

Unfortunately, in America's post-constitutional "new normal," characterized by an unprecedented looting of social wealth by crony capitalists, bloody wars of aggression, environmental plunder and the general putrefaction of culture under the flag of a "Christian Republic," protesting the government and its policies are indeed the quintessential hallmarks of suspicious behavior!

Karl Marx perhaps said it best, prefiguring the high-tech barbarism of 21st century America: "The past lies like a nightmare upon the present."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Niche Telecom Providers Assisting NSA Spy Operations

What do the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program and enterprising capitalist grifters have in common? Workarounds...and lots of them. The kind that aren't covered by any law.

Two highly-disturbing reports by CNET and the London Review of Books describe how government intelligence agencies and niche telecom providers have teamed-up to subvert our privacy rights--while providing security agencies with real-time cell phone tracking capabilities.

The stuff of paranoid delusions? Hardly.

According to London Review of Books editor Daniel Soar, to the Intelligence Support Systems Industry (ISS), "which sells analysis tools to government agencies, police forces and--increasingly--the phone companies themselves," the least interesting thing about your call may be what you say. Soar writes,

At a very rough estimate half a trillion calls are made each day on the world's mobile networks: their origin and destination, their time and duration and all identifying codes are logged on telecom provider hard-drives and generally retained, under emerging legislation, for up to two years. It's impossible to exaggerate the value of these data. ... At the frequent ISS conferences--Dubai, Qatar, Washington, Prague--one of the key topics of discussion tends to be how to identify targets for LI (that's 'lawful intercept') in the first place: it's a cinch to bug someone, but how do you help a law enforcement agency decide who to bug? ("Daniel Soar Considers Mobile Surveillance," London Review of Books, 14 August 2008)

And with a swarming multitude of new companies crawling out of the woodwork to "service" the "homeland security" market, why its a snap. Firms such as ThorpeGlen, VASTech, Kommlabs, and Aqsacom all sell what CNET's Chris Soghoian describes as "off-the-shelf data-mining solutions to government spies interested in analyzing mobile-phone calling records and real-time location information."

Called "passive-probing" data mining, these companies are carving-out lucrative niche markets. Only there's nothing "passive" about these intrusive operations undertaken in concert with a veritable army of state and corporate spooks.

According to Soghoian, while firms such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint directly collaborated with NSA on the agency's driftnet-style surveillance programs, legal experts are now suggesting that the public-private partnership in illegal spying may run far deeper into the wireless phone industry than anyone suspects.

With over 3,000 wireless companies operating in the United States, the majority of industry-aided snooping likely occurs under the radar, with the dirty-work being handled by companies that most consumers have never heard of. (Chris Soghoian, "Exclusive: Widespread Cell Phone Location Snooping by NSA?", CNET, September 8, 2008)

Indeed, a "Webinar" hosted by the UK's ThorpeGlen in May, demonstrated that company's tools by "mining a dataset of a single week's worth of call data from 50 million users in Indonesia, which it has crunched in order to try and discover small anti-social groups that only call each other," Soghoian reports.

In the case of the Indonesian analysis presented in ThorpeGlen's "Webinar," the London Review of Books reported that the VP of sales and marketing told prospective clients,

Everyone on a network ... is part of a group; most groups talk to other groups, creating a spider's web of interactions. Of the 50 million subscribers ThorpeGlen processed, 48 million effectively belonged to 'one large group': they called one another, or their friends called friends of their friends; this set of people was dismissed. A further 400,000 subscriptions could be attributed to a few large 'nodes', with numbers belonging to call centres, shops and information services. The remaining groups ranged in size from two to 142 subscribers. Members of these groups only ever called each other--clear evidence of antisocial behaviour--and, in one extreme case, a group was identified in which all the subscribers only ever called a single number at the centre of the web. This section of the ThorpeGlen presentation ended with one word: 'WHY??' (LRB, op. cit.)

The question arises: Is the NSA deploying similar technologies in the United States to spy on citizens doing no more than exercising their constitutional rights to protest state policies? If the swift preemptive raids by St. Paul police and the FBI during last week's Republican National Convention are any indication, the answer inevitably is yes.

In other words, were the pin-point raids on homes shared by protest organizers and media workers such as I-Witness Video and the Glass Bead Collective simply the result of blind luck or human intelligence gathered by paid provocateurs? If report's emerging on real-time cell phone tracking are any indication of the state's desire to quash dissent--and those who document their repressive behavior, journalists--then the answer is a resounding no.

How then, would the NSA gather this information? Soghoian reports,

The massive collection of customer data comes down to the interplay of two specific issues: First, thousands of companies play small, niche support roles in the wireless phone industry, and as such these firms learn quite a bit about the calling habits of millions of U.S. citizens. Second, the laws relating to information sharing and wiretapping specifically regulate companies that provide services to the general public (such as AT&T and Verizon), but they do not cover the firms that provide services to the major carriers or connect communications companies to one other. [emphasis added]

That's right. While it might be illegal for the NSA to obtain real-time customer location information from any of the giant telecoms, Bushist spooks can simply go to the companies that own and operate the wireless towers that the telecoms use for their networks "and get accurate information on anyone using those towers--or go to other entities connecting the wireless network to the landline network. The wiretapping laws, at least in this situation, simply don't apply," Soghoian writes.

Since networks "are more and more disaggregated and outsourced," a single call is handled "by many more parties than the named provider today," according to Albert Gidari, a lawyer at Perkins Cole in Seattle "who frequently represents the wireless industry in issues related to location information and data privacy."

Such legal loopholes are in fact so massive that a fleet of tanker trucks could be driven right through them!

And since Sprint, AT&T or Verizon don't actually own their own cellular towers, TowerCo, the company that does, "learns some information on every mobile phone that communicates with one of its towers." But it gets worse, much worse. According to Soghoian, this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

There are companies that provide "backhaul" connections between towers and the carriers, providers of sophisticated billing services, outsourced customer-service centers, as well as Interexchange Carriers, which help to route calls from one phone company to another. All of these companies play a role in the wireless industry, have access to significant amounts of sensitive customer information, which of course, can be obtained (politely, or with a court order) by the government.

As we know, perverse laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, not to mention FBI National Security Letters come with ready-made gag orders attached that forbid companies--or anyone else so served--from disclosing any information to the public or those whom the state is spying upon. Gidari told CNET,

"So any entity--from tower provider, to a third-party spam filter, to WAP gateway operator to billing to call center customer service--can get legal process and be compelled to assist in silence. They likely don't volunteer because of reputation and contractual obligations, but they won't resist either."

Short of a whistleblower like Mark Klein or Babak Pasdar spilling the beans, the existence of these programs will likely remain a closely-guarded state secret. Why? Paul Ohm, a cyberlaw professor at the University of Colorado Law School and former federal prosecutor told CNET,

"Whether [a] vendor to a carrier to the public cooperates with agencies (either for a fee or by acquiescence in an order), is something you will not find out as FISA makes it so, regardless of whether the person is in the U.S. or communicating with a person abroad. Such means and methods largely are hidden."

And there you have it. Niche telecom providers are the latest players in the West's burgeoning "terrorism industry," one that "keeps us safe" by destroying our privacy and our rights with hefty profits all around. Call it another seamless victory for the market's "invisible hand" that clenches as it morphs into the state's iron fist wrapped in American flags and blood-drenched corporate logos.

Note: Since Antifascist Calling published "New Spy Software Coming on-Line: 'Surveillance in a Box' Makes its Debut," last month, we've received an intriguing package from the good folks at Quintessenz, "IT and telco surveillance equipment--data sheets and presentations."

Described as, "A collection of network monitoring and datamining suites made by Nokia Siemens, Ericsson, Verint and others. All systems are compliant to ETSI and CALEA 'lawful interception' standards, the vendors themselves are involved in the standardization. While the official name of the game is still 'lawful interception' the newer suites also perform 'high speed government surveillance'. From Iran to China they are ab/used to track down the democratic opposition, dissidents, ethnic and religious minorities. The vendors are mostly European and US companies."

The power-point presentations and accompanying documentation are definitely worth a look and are highly recommended! Check out, "The making of the European Surveillance Union, 1993-2001," a real eye-opener!