Sunday, April 29, 2012

Secret State vs. the Bill of Rights: House Passes Draconian Internet Spying Bill




On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the draconian Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (H.R. 3523 or CISPA) by a vote of 248-168, with 206 Republicans and 42 Democrats voting in favor.

If the legislation passes muster in the Senate and is signed by President Obama (who has threatened a veto, but don't hold your breath), it would allow private firms--internet service providers (ISPs), telecoms and wireless providers--to hand over personal information about users to law enforcement and security agencies.

This unprecedented power-grab by a cabal of giant corporations and the federal government would take place under the guise of "cybersecurity," the latest front in the secret state's assault on Americans' civil liberties and privacy rights.

While the bill's sponsors and supporters claim that any "information-sharing" of personal data would be "voluntary," it would occur without benefit of a warrant or a court order and automatically "exempts such information from public disclosure."

Denouncing the bill, the ACLU's Michelle Richardson said that CISPA's "biggest and most fundamental flaw" is that it empowers "the military, including agencies like the NSA, to collect the internet records of Americans' everyday internet use."

CISPA is the latest in a series of repressive measures that have incrementally rolled-back the Bill of Rights since 1995's Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 terrorist provocations. Under successive Democratic and Republican administrations fundamental constitutional protections, specifically those guaranteed by the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, have been gutted.

Beginning with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), which severely limited the rights of prisoners to obtain habeas corpus relief from federal courts, 2001's Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which handed the Executive Branch carte blanche to wage endless, undeclared wars, and now the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), which empowers the President to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison anyone, anywhere in the world declared a "terrorist," including American citizens detained on U.S. soil, without charge or trial, the architecture of a police state is firmly in place.

"In the past decade," the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Trevor Timm averred, "the amorphous phrase 'national security' has invaded many arenas of government action, and has been used to justify much activity that did not involve legitimate terrorist threats. The most obvious (and odious) example is the unfortunately named USA-PATRIOT Act, a law that was sold to the American public as essential to combating terrorism, but which has overwhelmingly been applied to ordinary American citizens never even suspected of terrorism."

Citing the example of the FBI, Timm pointed out that under the rubric of "stopping terrorism" the Bureau "issued more than 192,000 National Security Letters to get Americans' business, phone or Internet records without a warrant. These invasive letters--which come with a gag order on the recipient so they can't even admit they received one--have been used to gather information about untold number of ordinary citizens, including journalists."

Indeed, "'Information sharing'--CISPA's mantra--has also created privacy nightmares for everyday Americans in the name of national security. The federal government routinely shares its massive national security databases with local law enforcement agencies with predictable results."

Amongst CISPA's controversial provisions, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Obergruppenf├╝hrer of America's 16-agency Intelligence Community, "shall issue guidelines providing that the head of an element of the intelligence community may, as the head of such element considers necessary to carry out this subsection: (A) grant a security clearance on a temporary or permanent basis to an employee or officer of a certified entity; (B) grant a security clearance on a temporary or permanent basis to a certified entity and approval to use appropriate facilities; and (C) expedite the security clearance process for a person or entity as the head of such element considers necessary, consistent with the need to protect the national security of the United States."

Under "Definitions," (1) a "certified entity" is described as a "protected entity, self-protected entity, or cybersecurity provider that--(A) possesses or is eligible to obtain a security clearance, as determined by the Director of National Intelligence; and (B) is able to demonstrate to the Director of National Intelligence that such provider or such entity can appropriately protect classified cyber threat intelligence."

"(2) The term 'cyber threat information' means information directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from--(A) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or (B) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information. (3) Cyber threat intelligence.--The term 'cyber threat intelligence' means information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from--(A) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or (B) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information."

According to this reading, a "certified entity" is any one of the thousands of ├╝ber-secretive "cybersecurity firms" with their stable of "cleared" employees who hold top secret and above security clearances who rely upon and do the bidding of their masters--corporate shareholders and the federal government.

The bill's draconian language would in essence transform investigative journalism and whistleblowing into a crime since "the theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information" is precisely the meat and potatoes used by journalists and outraged citizens to uncover corporate and government lawbreaking.

Indeed under CISPA, the employees of firms such as the ultra-spooky Endgame Systems, SAIC, Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics, the designers of "boutique cyber weapons" for the government as BusinessWeek disclosed last summer, would ply their dirty trade in destructive algorithmic weapons with more than a wink-and-a-nod: they would be empowered to do so and earn big bucks (courtesy of U.S. taxpayers) in the process!

To get a sense of some of the surveillance "products" which have transformed private data into weaponized kit for the secret state, readers are well-advised to peruse The Spyfiles published last December by the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks.

"In the last ten years," WikiLeaks informed us, "systems for indiscriminate, mass surveillance have become the norm. Intelligence companies such as VASTech secretly sell equipment to permanently record the phone calls of entire nations. Others record the location of every mobile phone in a city, down to 50 meters. Systems to infect every Facebook user, or smart-phone owner of an entire population group are on the intelligence market."

To cite but one example culled from The Spyfiles, NICE Systems, founded by "retired" members of Israel's equivalent of the National Security Agency, Unit 8200, has become a key player in the global Surveillance-Industrial Complex.

With decades of experience surveilling, tracking and repressing Palestinian and left-wing activists at home and abroad, the NiceTrack Mass Detection Center is a perfect tool that provides "nationwide interception, monitoring and analysis" to enterprising securocrats who need a leg-up on home-grown "subversive elements."

Accordingly, the Mass Detection Center "helps intelligence organizations and national security agencies fight terrorism and reduce national threat levels. It supports both mass and target monitoring workflows and helps operators and analysts find new suspects, generate new leads and monitor existing targets." Indeed, the software suite "stores and analyzes all types of telephony and Internet content." We're informed that "collecting and storing nationwide data enables broadening the scope of target information and performing on-going and post-event investigations."

NiceTrack Target 360° according to brochures published by WikiLeaks "is the leading communication intercept system for tracking, monitoring, and investigating targets' activities, securing 1.5 billion people worldwide." Indeed, "the system is designed to provide Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), intelligence organizations and SIGINT agencies with hermetic 360° target monitoring by collecting, processing, retaining and analyzing any type of communication activity."

Amongst the product's "Key Benefits" we learn that Target 360° can "help" law enforcement "reduce crime, prevent terrorism" and "identify other security threats" by providing "persistent situation awareness" of a "target" through "advanced IP monitoring," "open source intelligence" and "lawful hacking."

Additionally, Target 360° can "manage and efficiently structure millions of internet activities and unstructured data into a simple and meaningful intelligence picture." Target 360° "is designed to handle all types of Web 2.0 internet applications, including Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, forums, chats, and e-mails, and is scalable to support new services" and can "be integrated with legacy systems for telephony and mobile interception and provide a comprehensive solution for all types of communication interception."

As numerous critics and journalists have pointed out, the privatization of the government's intelligence and security functions, theoretically transparent under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), would, under CISPA, fall under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) where "disclosure" is little more than a euphemism for "down the memory hole."

In all likelihood, privatized spooks would be exempt from revealing the state's blanket surveillance of its citizens under any number of provisions built into the Freedom of Information Act.

For example under section (b)(1), the secret state can prevent "disclosure [of] national security information concerning the national defense or foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified in accordance with the substantive and procedural requirements of an executive order."

Can you say "state secrets privilege," Sibel Edmonds or Thomas Drake?

Since, an "an employee or officer of a certified entity," i.e., a private contractor, telecom or ISP will be empowered by Congress to share user information with NSA and other departments of the federal government, such information "shall be considered proprietary information and shall not be disclosed to an entity outside of the Federal Government except as authorized by the entity sharing such information."

Under CISPA it will be virtually impossible for the average citizen to learn whether they have been spied upon since Section (b)(4) of FOIA specifically protects "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential. This exemption is intended to protect the interest of both the government and submitter of information."

And once an "employee or officer of a certified entity" has been "read into" a CIA, FBI, DHS or NSA black program, they are automatically exempt from disclosing such information to a lawful court since CISPA "prohibits a civil or criminal cause of action against a protected entity, a self-protected entity (an entity that provides goods or services for cybersecurity purposes to itself), or a cybersecurity provider acting in good faith under the above circumstances."

With CISPA, official lawbreaking is automatically precluded from review by a lawful court and the average citizen, who may have lost their job because of malicious or flawed data collected by a "certified entity" will be stripped of their ability to obtain compensation from deputized cyber snoops "acting in good faith."

Most controversially perhaps, the statute reads: "notwithstanding any other provision of law," companies can share information "with any other entity, including the federal government."

As CNET News analyst Declan McCullagh pointed out, "By including the word 'notwithstanding,' House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) intended to make CISPA trump all existing federal and state civil and criminal laws."

Indeed, by inserting the word "notwithstanding" into the legislation, it "would trump wiretap laws, Web companies' privacy policies, gun laws, educational record laws, census data, medical records, and other statutes that protect information," McCullagh wrote.

As noted above, "CISPA's authorization for information sharing extends far beyond Web companies and social networks. It would also apply to Internet service providers, including ones that already have an intimate relationship with Washington officialdom," CNET reported.

"Large companies including AT&T and Verizon handed billions of customer records to the NSA; only Qwest refused to participate," McCullagh reminded us. "Verizon turned over customer data to the FBI without court orders. An AT&T whistleblower accused the company of illegally opening its network to the NSA, a practice that the U.S. Congress retroactively made legal in 2008."

What's to prevent firms such as Google, Facebook or Twitter from turning over our private data to the government, after all, they have their customers' best interests at heart as part of their business model, right? Better think again!

The New York Times reported Sunday that that "Google's harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report."

That report, prepared by the Federal Communications Commission "draws a portrait of a company where an engineer can easily embark on a project to gather personal e-mails and Web searches of potentially hundreds of millions of people as part of his or her unscheduled work time, and where privacy concerns are shrugged off."

"As early as 2007," the Times disclosed, "Street View engineers had 'wide access' to the plan to collect payload data. Five engineers tested the Street View code, a sixth reviewed it line by line, and a seventh also worked on it, the report says."

"Google's rogue engineer scenario collapses in light of the fact that others were aware of the project and did not object," Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Times. "This is what happens in the absence of enforcement and the absence of regulation."

Such practices will be infinitely worse under CISPA. Google's harvesting of their customers' private data or Facebook's routine cooperation with law enforcement "requests" for users' information could in fact be turned over whenever an intelligence agency declares that doing so is in the interest of national- or cybersecurity and we would have no way of ever learning about it since harvested emails, web searches and stored profiles could be deemed "proprietary information."

With a ginned-up panic over "cybersecurity" taking its place alongside imperialism's other "wars" on "terror," "drugs" and "crime," the secret state's "unprecedented attacks on democratic rights, in which the entire political establishment and both Democrats and Republicans are participating," as the World Socialist Web Site warned, "must be understood as preemptive preparations by the political establishment to meet the coming social upheavals with police state measures."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weaponized Data: A New Front in Global Capital's Control Grid




From driftnet surveillance to data mining and link analysis, the secret state has weaponized our data, "criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial," as Cryptohippie famously warned.

No longer the exclusive domain of intelligence agencies, a highly-profitable Surveillance-Industrial Complex emerged in the 1980s with the deployment of the NSA-GCHQ ECHELON intercept system. As investigate journalist Nicky Hager revealed in CovertAction Quarterly back in 1996:

The ECHELON system is not designed to eavesdrop on a particular individual's e-mail or fax link. Rather, the system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and using computers to identify and extract messages of interest from the mass of unwanted ones. A chain of secret interception facilities has been established around the world to tap into all the major components of the international telecommunications networks. Some monitor communications satellites, others land-based communications networks, and others radio communications. ECHELON links together all these facilities, providing the US and its allies with the ability to intercept a large proportion of the communications on the planet.


With the exponential growth of fiber optic and wireless networks, the mass of data which can be "mined" for "actionable intelligence," covering everything from eavesdropping on official enemies to blanket surveillance of dissidents is now part of the landscape: no more visible to the average citizen than ornamental shrubbery surrounding a strip mall.

That process will become even more ubiquitous. As James Bamford pointed out in Wired Magazine, "the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (10 to the 24th bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes--so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)"

"It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015," Bamford reported, "reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) ... Thus, the NSA's need for a 1-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text."

A former top NSA official turned whistleblower, William Binney, who resigned in 2001 shortly after the agency stood-up the Bush regime's warrantless wiretapping programs (now greatly expanded under Hope and Change™ huckster Barack Obama), "held his thumb and forefinger close together" and told Bamford, "We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state."

Last week, Binney said on Democracy Now when queried whether there were any differences between the Bush and Obama administrations, "Actually, I think the surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they've assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens."

Add to that the Transportation Security Administration's invasion of "travel by other means," as Jennifer Abel pointed out in The Guardian, through the agency's usurpation of "jurisdiction over all forms of mass transit," and it should be clear to Americans (though it isn't) that there is no way of escaping the secret state's callous trampling of our rights.

Commenting, Salon's Glenn Greenwald pointed out that the "domestic NSA-led Surveillance State which Frank Church so stridently warned about has obviously come to fruition."

"The way to avoid its grip is simply to acquiesce to the nation's most powerful factions, to obediently remain within the permitted boundaries of political discourse and activism."

"Accepting that bargain," Greenwald noted, "enables one to maintain the delusion of freedom--'he who does not move does not notice his chains,' observed Rosa Luxemburg--but the true measure of political liberty is whether one is free to make a different choice."

But in a militarized Empire such as ours the only "choice" is to shut up, keep your head down--or else.

'Lower Your Shields and Surrender Your Ships'

Militarist solutions to intractable social contradictions, the oft-maligned class struggle, do not appear out of the blue. Indeed, NSA's ECHELON system, the template for STELLAR WIND and the agency's associated email and web search database known as PINWALE, were technological responses by Western elites to challenges posed by the "excess of democracy" decried by Samuel Huntington and his cohorts in The Crisis of Democracy, published by the Rockefeller-funded Trilateral Commission.

Social critic Andrew Gavin Marshall observed that for Huntington and the right-wing ideologues who mounted an intellectual counterattack against the democratic "excesses" of the 1960s, the "massive wave of resistance, rebellion, protest, activism and direct action by entire sectors of the general population which had for decades, if not centuries, been largely oppressed and ignored by the institutional power structure of society," were "terrifying."

Fast forward to today. As the global economic crisis deepens and hundreds of millions of people worldwide reject the "austerity" boondoggles of the financial sharks who brought on the crisis through massive frauds disguised as "investment opportunities," our corporatist masters are fighting back and have turned to police state methods to prop-up their illegitimate rule.

Nor should it surprise us, as George Ciccariello-Maher pointed out in CounterPunch in the wake of last summer's London "riots," a mass response to police murder (coming soon to an "urban exclusion zone" near you!): "Irrational, uncontrollable, impermeable to logic and unpredictable in its movements, these undesirables have once again ruined the party for everyone, as they have done from Paris 1789 to Caracas 1989. In Fanon's inimitable words: 'the masses, without waiting for the chairs to be placed around the negotiating table, take matters into their own hands and start burning...'"

Call it the great fear of those lording it over the slaves down on the global plantation!

Combining attributes of Jeremy Bentham's "Panopticon" and George Orwell's ubiquitous "Big Brother," the National Security State, as it works to stave-off its own well-deserved collapse, seeks to root out and marginalize "dangerous" individuals and ideologies thereby "inoculating" the body politic from what were euphemistically called in the halcyon days of J. Edgar's COINTELPRO operations, "subversive elements."

It matters little whether today's "usual suspects" are landless peasants, displaced workers, investigative journalists, civil libertarians or innocent citizens mistakenly caught in one dragnet or another: "threats" will be "neutralized" or more pointedly, in the evocative language employed by spooks: "Terminated with extreme prejudice."

Operating alongside tried and methods--police repression and violence--contemporary crackdowns are guided by "robust situational awareness" gleaned from the wealth of personal data stored on multiple digital devices (the spies in our pockets) and in huge databases. As Cryptohippie averred: "An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine."

"When we produced our first Electronic Police State report," the privacy professionals wrote, "the top ten nations were of two types:

1. Those that had the will to spy on every citizen, but lacked ability.
2. Those who had the ability, but were restrained in will.


But as they revealed in their 2010 National Rankings, "This is changing: The able have become willing and their traditional restraints have failed." The key developments driving the global panopticon forward are the following:

• The USA has negated their Constitution's fourth amendment in the name of protection and in the name of "wars" against terror, drugs and cyber attacks.
• The UK is aggressively building the world of 1984 in the name of stopping "anti-social" activities. Their populace seems unable or unwilling to restrain the government.
• France and the EU have given themselves over to central bureaucratic control.


As Marxist critic and Situationist troublemaker Guy Debord pointed out decades ago in The Society of the Spectacle, "the spectacle is not the inevitable consequence of some supposedly natural technological development. On the contrary, the society of the spectacle is a form that chooses its own technological content."

Mark that well.

Rejecting the orthodoxies and received wisdom of his day, Debord argued that "The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender 'lonely crowds.' With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions."

It is again worth noting that the much-vaunted "global village" which sprung to life with the widespread deployment of the internet in the 1990s, as a profit-center for the giant telecoms and a spy machine for the secret state, was, after all, a casual by-product of the Pentagon's quest for a wartime digital communications system.

But now that every facet of daily life has become a war theater, what are we to make of the electronic walled gardens offered for sale by Apple, Facebook and Google, replete with their multitude of proprietary apps which, like Bentham's "panopticon," have become prisons of our own choosing?

Ponder Debord's rigorous theorems in this light; substitute "cell phone" or "GPS" for "automobile," and "internet" for "television" and it becomes clear pretty quickly that unbeknownst to the militarist inventors of the "digital highway" they had stumbled upon the perfect means for enabling a global control grid.

As Debord averred: "If the spectacle, considered in the limited sense of the 'mass media' that are its most glaring superficial manifestation, seems to be invading society in the form of a mere technical apparatus, it should be understood that this apparatus is in no way neutral and that it has been developed in accordance with the spectacle's internal dynamics."

"Internal dynamics" geared only towards its own survival and reproduction come hell or high water. Endless wars on "terror," "drugs," "crime," take your pick. Prison-Industrial Complexes? Genetically-engineered plagues? Ecological collapse? Step right this way! There's an app for that and much, much more!

Indeed, "if the social needs of the age in which such technologies are developed can be met only through their mediation, if the administration of this society and all contact between people has become totally dependent on these means of instantaneous communication, it is because this 'communication' is essentially unilateral," that is, "the product of the social division of labor that is both the chief instrument of class rule and the concentrated expression of all social divisions."

Keep in mind that Debord's seminal text was penned in 1967, long before the wet dreams of securocrats had been brought to life like Frankenstein's monster. Once a disquieting and uncanny shape looming on some far-off, dystopian horizon, the world of smart phones and dumbed-down people is, simply put, an Americanized Borg cube where "resistance" is always "futile."

The question is, in our fallen Republic does anyone even notice?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Obama Administration's Backdoor Wiretap Bills Threaten Political and Privacy Rights







Under the guise of "cybersecurity," the new all-purpose bogeyman to increase the secret state's already-formidable reach, the Obama administration and their congressional allies are crafting legislation that will open new backdoors for even more intrusive government surveillance: portals into our lives that will never be shut.

As Antifascist Calling has frequently warned, with the endless "War on Terror" as a backdrop the federal government, most notably the 16 agencies that comprise the so-called "Intelligence Community" (IC), have been constructing vast centralized databases that scoop-up and store all things digital--from financial and medical records to the totality of our electronic communications online--and do so without benefit of a warrant or probable cause.

The shredding of constitutional protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment, granted to the Executive Branch by congressional passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) after the 9/11 attacks, followed shortly thereafter by the oxymoronic USA Patriot Act set the stage for today's depredations.

Under provisions of multiple bills under consideration by the House and Senate, federal officials will be given broad authority over private networks that will almost certainly hand security officials wide latitude over what is euphemistically called "information-sharing" amongst corporate and government securocrats.

As The Washington Post reported in February, the National Security Agency "has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks" but has allegedly "been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns."

"The most contentious issue," Post reporter Ellen Nakashima wrote, "was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide such critical services as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic to be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government."

Both the White House and Justice Department have argued, according to the Post, that the "proposal would permit unprecedented government monitoring of routine civilian Internet activity."

National Security Agency chief General Keith Alexander, the dual-hatted commander of NSA and U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), the Pentagon satrapy that wages offensive cyberwar, was warned to "restrain his public comments after speeches in which he argued that more expansive legal authority was necessary to defend the nation against cyberattacks."

While we can take White House "objections" with a proverbial grain of salt, they do reveal however that NSA, the largest and most well-funded of the secret state's intel shops will use their formidable surveillance assets to increase their power while undermining civilian control over the military in cahoots with shadowy security corporations who do their bidding. (Readers are well-advised to peruse The Surveillance Catalog posted by The Wall Street Journal as part of their excellent What They Know series for insight into the burgeoning Surveillance-Industrial Complex).

As investigative journalist James Bamford pointed out recently in Wired Magazine, "the exponential growth in the amount of intelligence data being produced every day by the eavesdropping sensors of the NSA and other intelligence agencies" is "truly staggering."

In a follow-up piece for Wired, Bamford informed us that when questioned by Congress, Alexander stonewalled a congressional subcommittee when asked whether NSA "has the capability of monitoring the communications of Americans, he never denies it--he simply says, time and again, that NSA can't do it 'in the United States.' In other words it can monitor those communications from satellites in space, undersea cables, or from one of its partner countries, such as Canada or Britain, all of which it has done in the past."

Call it Echelon on steroids, the massive, secret surveillance program first exposed by journalists Duncan Campbell and Nicky Hager.

And with the eavesdropping agency angling for increased authority to monitor the electronic communications of Americans, the latest front in the secret state's ongoing war against privacy is "cybersecurity" and "infrastructure protection."

'Information Sharing' or Blanket Surveillance?

Among the four bills currently competing for attention, the most egregious threat to civil liberties is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA, H.R. 3523).

Introduced by Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), the bill amends the National Security Act of 1947, adding language concerning so-called "cyber threat intelligence and information sharing."

"Cyber threat intelligence" is described as "information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from: (1) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or (2) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information."

In keeping with other "openness" mandates of our Transparency Administration™ the Rogers bill will require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to establish procedures that permit IC elements to "share cyber threat intelligence with private-sector entities, and (2) encourage the sharing of such intelligence."

These measures however, will not protect the public at large from attacks by groups of organized cyber criminals since such intelligence is only "shared with certified entities or a person with an appropriate security clearance," gatekeepers empowered by the state who ensure that access to information is "consistent with the need to protect U.S. national security, and used in a manner that protects such intelligence from unauthorized disclosure."

In other words, should "cleared" cyber spooks be directed by their corporate or government masters to install state-approved malware on private networks as we discovered last year as a result of the HBGary hack by Anonymous, it would be a crime punishable by years in a federal gulag if official lawbreaking were disclosed.

The bill authorizes "a cybersecurity provider (a non-governmental entity that provides goods or services intended to be used for cybersecurity purposes)," i.e., an outsourced contractor from any one of thousands of spooky "cybersecurity" firms, to use "cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information in order to protect the rights and property of the protected entity; and share cyber threat information with any other entity designated by the protected entity, including the federal government."

Furthermore, the legislation aims to regulate "the use and protection of shared information, including prohibiting the use of such information to gain a competitive advantage and, if shared with the federal government, exempts such information from public disclosure."

And should the public object to the government or private entities trolling through their personal data in the interest of "keeping us safe" well, there's an app for that too! The bill "prohibits a civil or criminal cause of action against a protected entity, a self-protected entity (an entity that provides goods or services for cybersecurity purposes to itself), or a cybersecurity provider acting in good faith under the above circumstances."

One no longer need wait until constitutional violations are uncovered, the Rogers bill comes with a get-out-of-jail-free card already in place for state-approved scofflaws.

Additionally, the bill also "preempts any state statute that restricts or otherwise regulates an activity authorized by the Act." In other words, in states like California where residents have "an inalienable right to privacy" under Article 1, Section 1 of the State Constitution, the Rogers bill would be abolish that right and effectively "legalize" unaccountable snooping by the federal government or other "self-protected," i.e., private entities deputized to do so by the secret state.

Social Media Spying

How would this play out in the real world? As Government Computer News reported, hyped-up threats of an impending "cyber-armageddon" have spawned a host of new actors constellating America's Surveillance-Industrial Complex: the social media analyst.

"Companies and government agencies alike are using tools to sweep the Internet--blogs, websites, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter feeds--to find out what people are saying about, well, just about anything."

Indeed, as researchers Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins pointed out last year in Loving the Cyber Bomb?, "An industrial complex reminiscent of the Cold War's may be emerging in cybersecurity today."

Brito and Watkins averred that "the military-industrial complex was born out of exaggerated Soviet threats, a defense industry closely allied with the military and Department of Defense, and politicians striving to bring pork and jobs home to constituents. A similar cyber-industrial complex may be emerging today, and its players call for government involvement that may be superfluous and definitely allows for rent seeking and pork barreling."

Enter social media analysis and the private firms out to make a buck--at our expense.

"Not surprisingly," GCN's Patrick Marshall wrote, "intelligence agencies have already been looking at social media as a source of information. The Homeland Security Department has been analyzing traffic on social networks for at least the past three years."

While DHS claims it does not routinely monitor Facebook or Twitter, and only responds when it receives a "tip," such assertions are demonstrably false.

Ginger McCall, the director of the Electronic Electronic Privacy Information Center's Open Government Program told GCN that the department is "explicitly monitoring for criticism of the government, for reports that reflect adversely on the agency, for public reaction to policy proposals."

But DHS isn't the only agency monitoring social media sites such as Facebook and Google+.

As Antifascist Calling reported back in 2009, according to New Scientist the National Security Agency "is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks."

Not to be outdone, the CIA's venture capital investment arm, In-Q-Tel, has poured millions of dollars into Visible Technologies, a Bellevue, Washington-based firm specializing in "integrated marketing, social servicing, digital experience management, and consumer intelligence."

According to In-Q-Tel "Visible Technologies has developed TruCast®, which takes an innovative and holistic approach to social media management. TruCast has been architected as an enterprise-level solution that provides the ability to track, analyze, and respond to social media from a single, Web-based platform."

Along similar lines, the CIA has heavily invested in Recorded Future, a firm which "extracts time and event information from the web. The company offers users new ways to analyze the past, present, and the predicted future."

The firm's defense and intelligence analytics division promises to "help analysts understand trends in big data, and foresee what may happen in the future. Groundbreaking algorithms extract temporal and predictive signals from unstructured text. Recorded Future organizes this information, delineates results over interactive timelines, visualizes past trends, and maps future events--all while providing traceability back to sources. From OSINT to classified data, Recorded Future offers innovative, massively scalable solutions."

As Government Computer News pointed out, in January the FBI "put out a request for vendors to provide information about available technologies for monitoring and analyzing social media." Accordingly, the Bureau is seeking the ability to:

• Detect specific, credible threats or monitor adversarial situations.
• Geospatially locate bad actors or groups and analyze their movements, vulnerabilities, limitations, and possible adverse actions.
• Predict likely developments in the situation or future actions taken by bad actors (by conducting trend, pattern, association, and timeline analysis).
• Detect instances of deception in intent or action by bad actors for the explicit purpose of misleading law enforcement.
• Develop domain assessments for the area of interest (more so for routine scenarios and special events).


So much for privacy in our Orwellian New World Order!

Backdoor Official Secrets Act

Social media "harvesting" by private firms hot-wired into the state's Surveillance-Industrial Complex will be protected from challenges under provisions of CISPA.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) pointed out, "a company that protects itself or other companies against 'cybersecurity threats' can 'use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property' of the company under threat. But because 'us[ing] cybersecurity systems' is incredibly vague, it could be interpreted to mean monitoring email, filtering content, or even blocking access to sites. A company acting on a 'cybersecurity threat' would be able to bypass all existing laws, including laws prohibiting telcos from routinely monitoring communications, so long as it acted in 'good faith'."

And as EFF's Rainey Reitman and Lee Tien aver, the "broad language" concerning what constitutes a cybersecurity "threat," is an invitation for the secret state and their private "partners" to include "theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information."

"Yes," Reitman and Tien wrote, "intellectual property. It's a little piece of SOPA wrapped up in a bill that's supposedly designed to facilitate detection of and defense against cybersecurity threats. The language is so vague that an ISP could use it to monitor communications of subscribers for potential infringement of intellectual property. An ISP could even interpret this bill as allowing them to block accounts believed to be infringing, block access to websites like The Pirate Bay believed to carry infringing content, or take other measures provided they claimed it was motivated by cybersecurity concerns."

More troubling, "the government and Internet companies could use this language to block sites like WikiLeaks and NewYorkTimes.com, both of which have published classified information."

Should CISPA pass muster it could serve as the basis for establishing an American "Official Secrets Act." In the United Kingdom, the Act has been used against whistleblowers to prohibit disclosure of government crimes. But it does more than that. The state can also issue restrictive "D-Notices" that "advise" editors not to publish material on subjects deemed sensitive to the "national security."

EFF warns that "online publishers like WikiLeaks are currently afforded protection under the First Amendment; receiving and publishing classified documents from a whistleblower is a common journalistic practice. While there's uncertainty about whether the Espionage Act could be brought to bear against WikiLeaks, it is difficult to imagine a situation where the Espionage Act would apply to WikiLeaks without equally applying to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and in fact everyone who reads about the cablegate releases."

And with the Obama regime's crusade to prosecute and punish whistleblowers, as the recent indictment of former CIA officer John Kiriakou for alleged violations of the Espionage Act and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for disclosing information on the CIA's torture programs, we have yet another sterling example of administration "transparency"! While Kiriakou faces 30 years in prison, the former head of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who was responsible for the destruction of 92 torture videotapes held by the Agency, was not charged by the government and was given a free pass by the Justice Department.

As the World Socialist Web Site points out: "More fundamentally, the prosecution of Kiriakou is part of a policy of state secrecy and repression that pervades the US government under Obama, who came into office promising 'the most transparent administration in history.'"

Critic Bill Van Auken observed that Kiriakou's prosecution "marks the sixth government whistleblower to be charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act, twice as many such prosecutions as have been brought by all preceding administrations combined. Prominent among them is Private Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have leaked documents exposing US war crimes to WikiLeaks. He has been held under conditions tantamount to torture and faces a possible death penalty."

"In all of these cases," the World Socialist Web Site noted, "the World War I-era Espionage Act is being used to punish not spying on behalf of a foreign government, but exposing the US government's own crimes to the American people. The utter lawlessness of US foreign policy goes hand in hand with the collapse of democracy at home."

The current crop of "cybersecurity" bills are sure to hasten that collapse.

Under Rogers' legislation, "the government would have new, powerful tools to go after WikiLeaks," or anyone else who challenges the lies of the U.S. government by publishing classified information that contradicts the dominant narrative.

"By claiming that WikiLeaks constituted 'cyber threat intelligence' (aka 'theft or misappropriation of private or government information')," EFF avers, "the government may be empowering itself and other companies to monitor and block the site. This means that the previous tactics used to silence WikiLeaks--including a financial blockade and shutting down their accounts with online service providers--could be supplemented by very direct means. The government could proclaim that WikiLeaks constitutes a cybersecurity threat and have new, broad powers to filter and block communication with the journalistic website."

Since January, Obama has signed legislation (NDAA) granting the Executive Branch authority to condemn alleged "enemy combatants," including U.S. citizens detained in America, indefinite military detention without charges or trials, and with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asserting that the president has the "right" to assassinate American citizens anywhere on earth, it clear to anyone who hasn't drunk the Hope and Change™ Kool-Aid, that the architecture of an American police state is now in place.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Final Curtain Call? Deep State Surveillance and the Death of Democratic Alternatives




Over the decades, the maintenance of power and class privileges by corporate, financial and political elites have relied on covert and overt forms of violence, oftentimes in unspoken arrangements with transnational criminal networks (the global drug trade) or intelligence-connected far-right terrorists: the minions who staffed and profited from Operations Condor and Gladio come to mind.

Once viewed as the proverbial "tip" of the imperial spear that advanced elitist dreams of "full-spectrum dominance," the "plausibly deniable" puppeteering which formerly characterized such projects now take place in full-daylight with nary a peep from bought-off guardians of our ersatz democratic order, or a public narcotized by tawdry spectacles: Kony 2012 or American Idol, take your pick!

Mixing intellectual and moral squalor in equal measure with the latest high-tech gizmos on offer from Silicon Valley or Chengdu, the general societal drift towards data totalitarianism, once a hallmark of police states everywhere, is the backdrop where "too big to fail" is code for "too important to jail"!

With the current global economic crisis, brought on in no small part by private and public actors resorting to various frauds and market manipulations which reward privileged insiders, we have reached a social endpoint that analyst Michel Chossudovsky has accurately described as the "criminalization of the state," that is, the historical juncture where "war criminals legitimately occupy positions of authority, which enable them to decide 'who are the criminals', when in fact they are the criminals."

It should hardly surprise us then that American "hero," Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, accused of murdering 17 innocent Afghan civilians, including 9 children and then burning their bodies, joined the Army after the 9/11 attacks not out of a sense of patriotic "duty," but because he was a thief and swindler who went on the lam to avoid accounting for his crimes.

Indeed, ABC News reported that Bales "enlisted in the U.S. Army at the same time he was trying to avoid answering allegations he defrauded an elderly Ohio couple of their life savings in a stock fraud."

Meanwhile Bales' attorney John Henry Browne told CBS News that his client has "no memory" of the massacre and that it was "too early" to determine "what factors" may have led to the "incident."

Some hero.

Keeping Us 'Safe'

However, there are powerful institutional forces at work today which have extremely long--and exceedingly deep--memories, able to catalog and store everything we do electronically, "criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial," or, more in keeping with the preferences of our Hope and Change™ administration, a one-way ticket to indefinite military detention for dissident Americans in the event of a "national security emergency" as a recent White House Executive Order threatened.

"In an Electronic Police State," Cryptohippie averred, "every surveillance camera recording, every email you send, every Internet site you surf, every post you make, every check you write, every credit card swipe, every cell phone ping... are all criminal evidence, and they are held in searchable databases, for a long, long time. Whoever holds this evidence can make you look very, very bad whenever they care enough to do so. You can be prosecuted whenever they feel like it--the evidence is already in their database."

In stark contrast to feckless promises to undo the egregious constitutional violations of the Bush regime, The New York Times reported that the "Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may access, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats."

On March 22, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signed-off on new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) that "will lengthen to five years--from 180 days--the center's ability to retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism," investigative journalist Charlie Savage wrote.

"The guidelines," the Times disclosed, "are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and 'data-mining them'--using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat--than it currently does."

We're told that the relaxation of existing guidelines "grew out of reviews launched after the failure to connect the dots about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber, before his Dec. 25, 2009, attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner."

"'There is a genuine operational need to try to get us into a position where we can make the maximum use of the information the government already has to protect people,' said Robert S. Litt, the general counsel in the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the National Counterterrorism Center," the Times reported.

However, as Antifascist Calling disclosed in previous reports on the Abdulmutallab affair (see here, here, here and here) former NCTC Director Michael E. Leiter made a startling admission during hearings before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee shortly after the incident.

During those hearings intelligence officials acknowledged that the secret state knowingly allows "watch-listed" individuals, including terrorists, to enter the country in order "to track their movements and activities."

Leiter told congressional grifters: "I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another."

As I wrote at the time: "An alternative explanation fully in line with well-documented inaction, or worse, by U.S. security agencies prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and now, Christmas Day's aborted airline bombing, offers clear evidence that a ruthless 'choice' which facilitates the murder of American citizens are cynical pretexts in a wider game: advancing imperialism's geostrategic goals abroad and attacks on democratic rights at home."

Commenting on the ramp-up of new surveillance powers grabbed by the Obama administration, Michael German, a former FBI investigator now with the ACLU's legislative office warned that "the 'temporary' retention of nonterrorism-related citizen and resident information for five years essentially removes the restraint against wholesale collection of our personal information by the government, and puts all Americans at risk of unjustified scrutiny."

Anonymous administration officials who spoke to The Washington Post tried to assure us that "a number different agencies looked at these [guidelines] to try to make sure that everyone was comfortable that we had the correct balance here between the information sharing that was needed to protect the country and protections for people's privacy and civil liberties."

However, as journalist Marcy Wheeler pointed out "oversight" of the secret state's surveillance activities are being handled by the ODNI's Civil Liberties Protection Officer, Alexander Joel, a Bush appointee who was so "concerned" about protecting our privacy that he found no civil liberties violations when he reviewed NSA's illegal warrantless wiretapping programs.

Joel, a former attorney with the CIA's Office of General Counsel, told The Wall Street Journal that public fears about NSA's driftnet spying activities were "overblown."

"Although you might have concerns about what might potentially be going on, those potentials are not actually being realized and if you could see what was going on, you would be reassured just like everyone else," Joel said.

Despite Joel's soothing bromides spoon-fed to compliant media, Michael German warned that "such unfettered collection risks reviving the Bush administration's Total Information Awareness program, which Congress killed in 2003."

Documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that TIA aimed "to give law enforcement access to private data without suspicion of wrongdoing or a warrant."

EPIC learned that "The project called for the development of 'revolutionary technology for ultra-large all-source information repositories,' which would contain information from multiple sources to create a 'virtual, centralized, grand database.' This database would be populated by transaction data contained in current databases such as financial records, medical records, communication records, and travel records as well as new sources of information. Also fed into the database would be intelligence data."

Although Congress allegedly "killed" TIA in 2003 when it closed the Pentagon office, we now know from multiple investigations by journalists and from the government's own internal reports, Total Information Awareness never went away but rather, was hidden behind impenetrable layers of above top secret Special Access Programs and code-name protected projects, most of which are controlled by the National Security Agency.

'A Turnkey Totalitarian State'

The secret state's "virtual, centralized, grand database" will shortly come on line.

As investigative journalist James Bamford recently reported in Wired Magazine, "new pioneers" are taking up residence in the small Utah town of Bluffdale, home to the largest sect of renegade Mormon polygamists: the National Security Agency's Utah Data Center.

"A project of immense secrecy," Bamford wrote, "it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world's communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013."

Wired disclosed that all manner of communications will flow into Bluffdale's "near-bottomless databases" including "the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails--parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital 'pocket litter'."

Additionally, one top NSA official involved with the program told Bamford that the agency "made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: 'Everybody's a target; everybody with communication is a target'."

"For the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration--the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens," Bamford averred. "It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas."

Since the dawn of the Cold War, the National Security Agency operated outside its charter, illegally spying on the communications of dissident Americans. In a companion piece for Wired, Bamford detailed how NSA denied that it was eavesdropping on Americans.

"For example," Bamford wrote, "NSA can intercept millions of domestic communications and store them in a data center like Bluffdale and still be able to say it has not 'intercepted' any domestic communications. This is because of its definition of the word. 'Intercept,' in NSA's lexicon, only takes place when the communications are 'processed' 'into an intelligible form intended for human inspection,' not as they pass through NSA listening posts and transferred to data warehouses."

NSA mendacity aside, "for decades," Bamford informed us, "the agency secretly hid from Congress the fact that it was copying, without a warrant, virtually every telegram traveling through the United States, a program known as Project Shamrock. Then it hid from Congress the fact that it was illegally targeting the phone calls of anti-war protesters during the Vietnam War, known as Project Minaret."

But as we learned when The New York Times disclosed some aspects of the Bush regime's Stellar Wind program, the NSA was caught red-handed illegally spying on tens of thousands of Americans without benefit of a warrant and did so with the full cooperation of America's giant telecom firms and internet service providers who were then immunized by Congress under provisions of 2008's despicable FISA Amendments Act (FAA).

Even as Congress granted retroactive immunity to telecoms and ISPs, and politicians, including President Obama, scrambled to downplay serious violations to individual political and privacy rights, the enormous reach of these programs are still misunderstood by the public.

William Binney, a former NSA official who was a senior "crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency's worldwide eavesdropping network," went on the record with Wired and denounced NSA's giant domestic eavesdropping machine.

Binney explained "that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation's cable landing stations--the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law."

"Instead," Binney told Wired, the agency "chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country--large, windowless buildings known as switches--thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US. The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. 'I think there's 10 to 20 of them,' Binney says. 'That's not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast'."

Readers will recall that back in 2006, former AT&T technician Marc Klein blew the lid off the technical details of Stellar Wind, disclosing internal AT&T documents on how the firm gave NSA free-reign to install ultra-secret Narus machines. Those devices split communications as they flowed into AT&T's "secret rooms" and diverted all internet traffic into NSA's bottomless maw.

Klein, the author of Wiring Up the Big Brother Machine said that the program "was just the tip of an eavesdropping iceberg" which is not only targeted at suspected "terrorists" but rather is "an untargeted, massive vacuum cleaner sweeping up millions of peoples' communications every second automatically."

Narus, an Israeli firm founded by retired members of the IDF's secretive Unit 8200, now owned by The Boeing Corporation, and Verint, now Comverse Infosys, another Israeli firm, were close partners alongside NSA in these illegal projects; one more facet of the U.S. and Israel's "special relationship."

The former official turned whistleblower told Wired that "Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email."

"At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day," Bamford wrote, "which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency's worldwide intercepts. The haul only grew from there. According to Binney--who has maintained close contact with agency employees until a few years ago--the taps in the secret rooms dotting the country are actually powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct 'deep packet inspection,' examining Internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light."

"Once a name is entered into the Narus database," Binney said, "all phone calls and other communications to and from that person are automatically routed to the NSA's recorders."

"'Anybody you want, route to a recorder,' Binney says. 'If your number's in there? Routed and gets recorded.' He adds, 'The Narus device allows you to take it all.' And when Bluffdale is completed, whatever is collected will be routed there for storage and analysis."

Chillingly, Binney "held his thumb and forefinger close together" and told Bamford: "'We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state'."

Main Core

During World War II, the Roosevelt administration issued Executive Order 9066 which granted the military carte blanche to circumvent the constitutional rights of some 120,000 Japanese-American citizens and led to their mass incarceration in remote, far-flung camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.

Will history repeat, this time under the rubric of America's endless "War on Terror"?

In 2008, investigative journalists Christopher Ketchum reported in the now-defunct Radar Magazine and Tim Shorrock, writing in Salon, provided details on a frightening "Continuity of Government" database known as Main Core.

According to Ketchum, a senior government official told him that "there exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously."

That official and other sources told Radar that "the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention."

For his part, Shorrock revealed that several government officials with above top secret security clearances told him that "Main Core in its current incarnation apparently contains a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies."

"One former intelligence official," Shorrock reported, "described Main Core as 'an emergency internal security database system' designed for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe, a suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial law. Its name, he says, is derived from the fact that it contains 'copies of the 'main core' or essence of each item of intelligence information on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community'."

It now appears that Main Core, or some other code-word protected iteration of the secret state's administrative detention database will in all likelihood soon reside at Bluffdale.

While conservative and liberal supporters of the Bush and Obama administrations have derided these reports as the lunatic ravings of "conspiracy theorists," analysts such as Peter Dale Scott have made clear that a decade after the 9/11 attacks, "some aspects of COG remain in effect. COG plans are still authorized by a proclamation of emergency that has been extended each year by presidential authority, most recently by President Obama in September 2009. COG plans are also the probable source for the 1000-page Patriot Act presented to Congress five days after 9/11, and also for the Department of Homeland Security's Project Endgame--a ten-year plan, initiated in September 2001, to expand detention camps, at a cost of $400 million in Fiscal Year 2007 alone."

"At the same time," Scott wrote, "we have seen the implementation of the plans outlined by [Miami Herald journalist Alfonso] Chardy in 1987: the warrantless detentions that Oliver North had planned for in Rex 1984, the warrantless eavesdropping that is their logical counterpart, and the militarization of the domestic United States under a new military command, NORTHCOM. Through NORTHCOM the U.S. Army now is engaged with local enforcement to control America, in the same way that through CENTCOM it is engaged with local enforcement to control Afghanistan and Iraq."

Indeed, as the Associated Press recently disclosed in their multipart investigation into illegal spying by the New York Police Department (NYPD), undercover officers "attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the U.S., according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities."

A 2008 intelligence report obtained by AP revealed "how, in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies."

"The FBI for instance," investigative journalists Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo averred, "has collected information on anti-war demonstrators. The Maryland state police infiltrated meetings of anti-death penalty groups. Missouri counterterrorism analysts suggested that support for Republican Rep. Ron Paul might indicate support for violent militias--an assertion for which state officials later apologized. And Texas officials urged authorities to monitor lobbying efforts by pro Muslim-groups."

"The April 2008 memo offers an unusually candid view of how political monitoring fit into the NYPD's larger, post-9/11 intelligence mission. As the AP has reported previously, [David] Cohen's unit has transformed the NYPD into one of the most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies in the United States, one that infiltrated Muslim student groups, monitored their websites and used informants as listening posts inside mosques."

Nor should we forget how the Pentagon's own domestic intelligence unit, the Counterintelligence Field Activity or CIFA, routinely monitored antiwar activists and other dissidents.

As Antifascist Calling previously reported, 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).

Although that office was shuttered in 2008, its domestic security functions were transferred to the Defense Intelligence Agency's Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center and the TALON database along with future "threat reports" would now be funneled to an FBI database known as "Guardian."

However, as SourceWatch noted, "in accordance with intelligence oversight requirements," even though CIFA was closed down, DoD "will maintain a record copy of the collected data." 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, more likely than not in a Bluffdale database administered by NSA.

When President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law on December 31, he did more than simply facilitate multibillion dollar Pentagon boondoggles for the current fiscal year; he set the stage for what journalist Christopher Ketchum called "The Last Roundup," and what James Bamford's source denounced as our approaching "turnkey totalitarian state."

We need not speculate as to when an American police state will be fully functional, it already is.