Friday, October 31, 2008

Are You a 'Violent Extremist'? FBI's Analytical Lexicon Lowers the Bar

Do you "pal around with terrorists"? Are you a "radical" or express views that the government considers "extremist"?

On October 28, the whistleblowing website Cryptome published the FBI Directorate of Intelligence: Counterterrorism Division's Counterterrorism Analytical Lexicon. This eye-opening "Unclassified/For Official Use Only" (U/FOUO) document purports "to standardize terms used in the FBI analytical products dealing with counterterrorism."

But what it does instead, in keeping with the FBI's insatiable appetite for "actionable intelligence product," is create new categories of individuals who might fall under the purview of state "counterterrorism" investigations.

Right up front the Bureau informs us that the definitions used in the lexicon, "do not supercede those in the Department of Justice National Foreign Intelligence Program Manual (NFIPM), the Attorney General Guidelines, the National Implementation Plan for the War on Terror, or any US government statute."

That covers a lot and ground and can hide much in the way of government mischief, particularly when new guidelines issued by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey permit broad, intrusive investigations by FBI snoops. As the Washington Post reported in early October,

The new road map allows investigators to recruit informants, employ physical surveillance and conduct interviews in which agents disguise their identities in an effort to assess national security threats. FBI agents could pursue each of those steps without any single fact indicating a person has ties to a terrorist organization. (Carrie Johnson, "Guidelines Expand FBI's Surveillance Powers," The Washington Post, Saturday, October 4, 2008; A03)

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that,

The new guidelines reduce standards for beginning "assessments" (precursors to investigations), conducting surveillance and gathering evidence, meaning the threshold to beginning investigations across the board will be lowered. More troubling still, the guidelines allow a person's race or ethnic background to be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move the ACLU believes may institute racial profiling as a matter of policy. ("ACLU Condemns New FBI Guidelines," Press Release, October 3, 2008)

In other words, an individual's political views, racial background or ethnic origin can serve as a pretext for an investigation. The Analytical Lexicon claims that "Analysis that labels an individual with any of these terms is not sufficient predication for any investigation or technique. Nor can any investigation be conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment or the lawful exercise of other rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States."

The next sentence, couched in overly broad language subject to a great deal of latitude on the part of investigators states: "Before applying a label to an individual or his or her activity, reasonable efforts should have been made to ensure the application of that label to be accurate, complete, timely, and relevant." (emphasis added)

Would, let's say, the word of a paid informant or provocateur, be considered a "reasonable effort" that would then lead to labelling an individual as a member of a "terrorist cell" or "network"?

Indeed, the Lexicon avers that "one or more terms from each of these categories can be used to characterize an individual and his or her background and activity. The applicability of these terms to an individual is generally a matter of degree and involves subjective judgments."

"Subjective judgments" by whom, and for what purpose, one might reasonably ask the Directorate of Intelligence. As has been amply documented in the case of antiwar activists targeted by the Maryland State Police (MSP), once individuals have been labeled "terrorists" their personal details disappear into a myriad of federal, state and local "extremist" databases.

During a 14 month period in 2005-2006 for example, the Maryland State Police and the MSP's Homeland Security and Intelligence Division (HSID), illegally spied on death penalty opponents and antiwar organizers.

Surveillance summaries, including names and personal details gathered on individuals and groups were entered into the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) database, a federal data mining "tool" which tracks suspected terrorists and shares the results with national "counterterrorist" Fusion Centers.

The Washington Post reported that one "well-known antiwar activist from Baltimore, Max Obuszewski, was singled out in the intelligence logs released by the ACLU, which described a "primary crime" of 'terrorism-anti-government' and a 'secondary crime' of 'terrorism-anti-war protesters'."

According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, labeled "Exhibit 2" in the report issued by Stephen E. Sachs, "show that there was communication between the MSP and the National Security Agency (NSA) regarding surveillance," the ACLU reported.

Spying and repression by "off the reservation" state and local agencies dependent on federal largess hasn't been limited to Maryland, nor are intelligence operations targeting peaceful protest and constitutionally-protected speech limited to the FBI or Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Such operations in fact, fit a discernible and troubling pattern that for decades has equated dissident political activity with "subversion."

As Mike Van Winkle, a spokesperson with the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) infamously told the Oakland Tribune back in 2003, "You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that (protest). You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."

There you have it, the criminalization of dissent.

No reasonable person would oppose law enforcement officials investigating criminal gangs who might threaten Americans with horrific attacks such as those perpetrated on September 11, 2001 by the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al Qaeda.

But as numerous media reports, Congressional investigators and indeed, the 9/11 Commission itself have documented: despite multiple occasions before the plot was executed, law enforcement and intelligence officials failed to act.

Indeed, these serial failures--whether through commission or omission--can be characterized as criminal negligence, a prosecutable offense that could result in jail time. Yet not a single official was ever held to account. On the contrary the worst offenders, including senior administrators in the FBI, CIA and NSA were awarded plum promotions or assumed well-compensated corporate positions within the military-industrial-security complex!

My purpose here is not to debate various theories regarding 9/11 or its subsequent cover-up, but rather to demonstrate that in the wake of those horrific attacks, state intelligence agencies pointed their formidable surveillance apparatus at the American people themselves. This tendency is prominently featured in the FBI's Analytical Lexicon where we discover:

US-Radicalized: A "US-radicalized" individual's primary social influence has been the cultural values and beliefs of the United States and whose radicalization and indoctrination began or occurred primarily in the United States.

Ideologue or propagandist: An "ideologue" or "propagandist" establishes, promotes, or disseminates justifications for violent extremism, often through manipulation of primary text materials such as religious texts or historical accounts that establish grievances. He or she may not have strong links to any terrorist organization or be integrated into an organization's command structure. Unless he or she directly advocates specific acts of violence, much of such an individual's activity might be constitutionally protected. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counterterrorism Analytical Lexicon," Washington, D.C., no date, pp. 4-5)

As we have seen over the years since 9/11, the grounds for launching "counterterrorism" investigations have shifted from directly targeting intelligence and/or terrorist operatives on U.S. soil, to American dissidents and their supporters, the vast majority of whom are antiwar, environmental, civil liberties, socialist and labor activists.

Indeed, millions of Americans have questioned "the cultural values and beliefs of the United States," particularly when they have challenged the Bush regime's doctrine of aggressive, preemptive war or the systematic looting of the economy by capitalist grifters.

The Lexicon, while affirming that the theoretical or investigative work of alleged "ideologues" and "propagandists"--such as investigative journalists or historians--"might be constitutionally protected," the bar is set very low here and this too, fits the Bureau's own historical ideological mindset that dissent = terrorism.

And when citizens band together to form, let's say, an antiwar committee, environmental action group or labor organizing task force, the Lexicon designates this "a network."

Network: A "network" is any group of two or more individuals that is tied together by communication or common associations. A network is distinguished from a cell in that a network does not work together toward a discrete common objective, although all the members might ideologically support a common goal. Any individual's associations can typically be described in terms of multiple networks. (FBI, op. cit., p. 8)

Citizens would be naïve to think that the terms described in the Analytical Lexicon wouldn't be applied to them or that the Bureau's current investigative guidelines will not become the basis for new political witch hunts against Americans.

As we have seen throughout these eight long, dark years of the Bush administration, the geopolitical machinations of the U.S. ruling class have created nothing but disaster and suffering. From Afghanistan to Iraq and from Hurricane Katrina to the ongoing nightmare that is "Hurricane America" in the form of the recent $700 billion Wall Street bailout, ruling elites will do everything in their power to "keep the rabble in line."

In a political culture such as this, we have all become "suspects."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

DARPA Engineering New "Home Invasion" Technologies

Just when you thought the Pentagon's Dr. Strangeloves couldn't design anything more devilish than they have already, new plans on the drawing board may help make the science of repression an ever-more lucrative market for capitalist grifters in the defense and security industries.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon geek-squad that designs insidious ways to kill people, has announced a new project, Harnessing Infrastructure for Building Reconnaissance (HIBR).

The Broad Agency Announcement (BAA09-08) published October 10, is seeking industry proposals for a suite of high-tech tools that will provide "warfighters" and "peacekeepers" with the uncanny ability to peer inside your apartment building, in what the agency claims would be an unprecedented opportunity to map rooms, stairwells and people in real-time--the better to "pacify" them.

When the project is completed, DARPA hopes it will have contrived a technology that can electronically bore into a 10-story building with a dual-level basement. According to DARPAcrats HIBR will develop,

...broad and diverse technologies necessary for external sensing deep inside buildings with the objective of providing a suite of sensing technologies for situational awareness both above- and below-ground suitable across a broad range of building environments. The component technologies must support all external ISR [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance] concepts of operations ranging from pre-mission planning through detailed assessment of targeted structures, and live updates during mission execution. (DARPA, Strategic Technology Office, "Harnessing Infrastructure for Building Technology," BAA09-08, October 10, 2008)

Indeed, the Strategic Technology Office (STO) will fully "investigate individual technological approaches that leverage building infrastructure to opportunistically collect information for interior awareness. DARPA believes that opportunistic sensing may be exploited to infer urban interior building awareness using exterior observations."

Readers of Antifascist Calling are well acquainted with the Pentagon's unbridled lust for "situational awareness." A DoD buzzword linked to the Rumsfeldian Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA, also referred to as "network-centric warfare"), "situational awareness" is a theoretical warfighting construct that proposes ubiquitous military control over the "battlespace." This will be achieved by the deployment of "stealth" technologies, "precision" targeting via microscale sensor arrays and satellite geopositioning of military assets. RMA presupposes that America's technological "edge" will translate into "full-spectrum dominance" over adversaries on land, air, sea and in space, thus assuring U.S. imperialist domination well into the 21st century.

Despite the cruel reality that automatic garage door openers, throw-away cell phones and decades' old ordnance reduced the "up-armored" American military machine to twisted hulks of molten metal in Iraq and Afghanistan, the high-tech "revolution" will continue, indeed intensify!

Since the 1980s, forward-looking military theoreticians have cautioned that all the high-tech wizardry in the world will not defeat determined insurgent forces. This realization led to a rethinking of Army doctrine called Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) linked to "asymmetric" (guerrilla) warfare planning against well-entrenched partisans, particularly in cities.

They pointed to the examples of Algeria, Vietnam and El Salvador, particularly when guerrilla forces (FLN, NLF and FMLN) despite years of brutal counterguerrilla operations against their civilian infrastructures, launched bold urban offensives. While guerrilla forces in cities may have been defeated militarily, the political dynamics created by ubiquitous "facts on the ground" rebounded unfavorably on the U.S. and their allies.

Indeed, an American colonel reportedly said to Vietnam People's Army commander General Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant tactician who defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu (1954) and fought the Americans to a stalemate during the Tet Offensive (1968): "You know, you never beat us in a battle." Giap replied, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."

As the battleground shifted from opposing NATO and Warsaw Pact armies facing off against one another to global South, and perhaps in the near future, heimat cities, urban space was envisaged as a labyrinthian warren hiding "nests" of insurgents and other "enemies," say the vast majority of citizens who don't want to be "liberated" by imperialism.

A perusal of Joint Publication 3-06, Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations (JUO 3-06), published in September 2002 under the auspices of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provides an overview of Pentagon thinking as it relates to urban warfare planning. As the authors of JUO 3-06 aver,

Cities reduce the advantages of the technologically superior force. The physical terrain of cities tends to reduce line of sight (LOS) and the ability to observe fires, inhibits command, control, and communications capability, makes aviation operations more difficult, and decreases the effectiveness of naval surface fire support and indirect fire support. It also degrades logistics, and often reduces ground operations to the level of small unit combat. In addition, the constraints imposed by a need to minimize civilian casualties and preserve infrastructure further reduce technological advantage. (JUO 3-06, I-7, 8)

Despite the observations of Pentagon planners themselves, Rumsfeld's "transformational" hubris with its over-reliance on "network-centric" means of waging counterinsurgent warfare came at a very steep price, particularly as the cost of invading and occupying resource-rich global South cities led inevitably to high U.S. casualty rates as local insurgencies successfully fought back. As we have seen, the political fallout on the home front in the wake of the disastrous Iraq occupation, increased geometrically as America's high-tech military machine was countered by throw away items and low-tech ordnance applied in ingenious ways.

As Durham University geographer Stephen Graham observed,

The first key effort to redirect the RMA to the purported challenges of US forces attempting to dominate and control global south cities involve programmes designed to saturate such cities with myriads of networked surveillance systems. The dream of US military theorists is that this can be done to such an extent that any identified target can be automatically identified at any time and so exposed to high-technology tracking and killing powers of 'network-centric' weapons. Such visions imagine pervasive and interlinked arrays of 'loitering' and 'embedded' sensors as overcoming all the limits and interruptions that megacity environments place in the way of successfully implementing network centric warfare. (Stephen Graham, "From Space to Street Corners: Global South Cities and US Military Technophilia," unpublished paper, 2007, p. 18)

Hence, outfits such as DARPA single-mindedly pursue technological workarounds to the innumerable political conundrums posed by occupation and resistance. But far from leading to a diminution of resistance, increasing levels of repression and violence at the heart of systems such as HIBR will inevitably have a boomerang effect. Thus HIBR, if technologically feasible, will be incorporated with other projects actively pursued by STO such as VisiBuilding. As I wrote in July,

VisiBuilding will address "a pressing need in urban warfare: seeing inside buildings." This Orwellian project proposes to 1) determine building layouts; 2) find anomalous quantities of materials and 3) locate people within the building. VisiBuilding "will develop knowledge-deriving architectures for sensing people and objects in buildings" in order to "find which buildings should be searched, through detailed assessment of targeted structures for building layouts and behavioral analysis, live updates of building occupancy to support building raids, and finally post-mission analysis to find hidden objects or people." ("America's Cyborg Warriors," Antifascist Calling, July 23, 2008)

DARPAcrats hope that once overhead drones, prepositioned sensors and data derived by satellites have zeroed-in on "which buildings should be searched," HIBR will provide "peacekeepers" kitted out with additional suites of sensors, real-time architectural snapshots of every room, wall, stairwell and basement in the "target" building, as well as "the structural, electrical, plumbing, and ventilation systems."

Accordingly, DARPA theorizes that "such information may be acquired through access to the exterior of buildings which may include direct contact with an exterior umbilical, but does not require contact or deployments within the building," and that "multiple approaches may be required to provide complete building interior awareness."

In other words, "approaches to acquiring such information may require active as well as passive sensing." Meaning that "mission execution" may require previous intelligence gathering such as that supplied by infiltrators, provocateurs and other "mission friendly" assets bought-off by U.S. "liberators." But as Dr. Steve Wright, an Information Technology professor at Leeds Metropolitan University wrote,

Peace enforcement implies coercion--including the kind of operations currently being undertaken in Iraq--while pacification operations imply a much more violent approach of wiping out dissent at any cost. These latter operations ... may be regarded as completely illegitimate by the targeted population. In such a context, as a state loses legitimacy, it also loses authority and must deploy increasing levels of force in its enforcement activities, just to maintain the status quo.

During pacification operations, activities may go beyond the limits of the law and spawn a catalogue of human rights abuses including a crackdown on all forms of dissent, total surveillance and tracking of human rights defenders, 'disappearances', imprisonment without trial and a range of cruel, degrading and inhumane treatments of the civilian population, including torture and extra-judicial execution. (Dr. Steven Wright, "Violent Peacekeeping: The Rise and Rise of Repressive Techniques and Technologies," Praxis Centre, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, 28 January 2005, pp. 1-2)

Needless to say, Wright has described the entire panoply of horrors unleashed by the United States across the planetary "battlespace" of imperialism's "war on terror." And as I have documented in numerous articles, the coercive and repressive technologies of surveillance and control deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq have most certainly migrated from the "network-centric" fantasies of Pentagon repressors and come home with a vengeance.

From warrantless wiretapping, data mining and satellite surveillance, to the "watch listing" of dissidents, others deemed "suspect" by the panoptic police state, to the "preemptive" targeting of activists and journalists during the recent Denver and St. Paul political conventions of the major capitalist parties, "keeping the lid on" is a major preoccupation of our political masters.

But as socialist historian Mike Davis sagely reminds us in Planet of Slums: "If the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression, its outcasts have the gods of chaos on their side."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ACLU Demands Information on U.S. Military Domestic Operations

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request demanding information from the government on U.S. Northern Command's (NORTHCOM) deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Combat Brigade Team (BCT) on U.S. soil for "civil unrest" and "crowd control" duties.

Last month, Army Times published a piece detailing how the 1st BCT spent "35 of the last 60 months in Iraq." The 1st BCT--also known as the "Raiders"--carried out house-to-house raids and engaged in close-quarters combat in the city of Ramadi to suppress Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation, according to a report on the World Socialist Website.

Readers will recall my October 11 piece, "Militarizing the Homeland:" NORTHCOM's Joint Task Force-Civil Support," that described NORTHCOM's Vibrant Response exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

In tandem with the elite 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, the 1st BCT participated in mock drills designed to "coordinate with local governments and interagency organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency," U.S. Northern Command News reported.

The Pentagon revealed that 1st BCT is a key component of NORTHCOM's Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS), designed to "execute both homeland defense and civil support missions." As I pointed out in a piece earlier this month, current Army doctrine is heavily-weighted towards contingency planning for "civil disturbances."

Indeed, Army Times reported that the 1st BCT would be kitted out with "the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded." The publication reported, "the package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets." But after spilling the proverbial beans, Army Times retracted that portion of their report.

NORTHCOM now claims that a "nonlethal" weapons package was intended only for use in Iraq and not in the heimat. In the opinion of this writer, this is nothing more than a feeble Pentagon move to spin a story that has garnered much unfavorable publicity since it first appeared.

Rules for domestic military operations, including as an armed force to suppress "civil disturbances," are clearly spelled out in Department of Defense Directive 3025.12 (DoD 3025.12), "Military Assistance for Civil Disturbances" (MACDIS). Army doctrine and rules of engagement for civil disturbance and "riot control" planning have long recommended equipping troops with "non-lethal weapons" (NLWs) for what the Pentagon euphemistically calls "operations other than war."

As researcher and activist Frank Morales reported in Police State America, the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL), located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, "reacting to a growing sense of urgency to field weaponry in step with the requirements of globalization, issued a primer on the subject, entitled, Civil Disturbances: Incorporating Non-Lethal Technology, Tactics, Techniques and Procedures," in 2000. Why is the Pentagon now so hesitant to come clean on plans for using NLWs in the "homeland"?

Since the late 1960s, the military has gradually expanded its brief to include domestic law enforcement, drug interdiction and border security, in clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. The 1878 law specifically bars the use of the military in domestic policing. However the trend towards militarizing the inherently civilian nature of locally controlled law enforcement has accelerated since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, most infamously with the October 2002 creation of NORTHCOM itself.

U.S. Northern Command's original mandate "to provide command and control of Department of Defense (DoD) homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities," has since expanded with the May 2007 National Security Presidential Directive 51, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (NSPD 51/HSPD 20).

Indeed, as previously reported, NSPD 51/HSPD 20's top secret Continuity of Government annexes have been refused to members of Congress; a clear move by the White House to inhibit the legislative branch from performing its lawful oversight functions. What then, is the Bush administration hiding from Congress and the American people?

The ACLU stakes out the legal ground on the erosion of Posse Comitatus and states,

Civilian authorities, not the military, have historically controlled and directed the internal affairs of the United States. This rule traces its origins to the nation's founding and has been reaffirmed in landmark statutes including the Posse Comitatus Act, which helps preserve the foundational principles of our Constitution and democracy. ("ACLU Demands Information on Military Deployment within U.S. Borders," Press Release, October 21, 2008)

Jonathan Hafetz, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project inquires: "What is the unit's mission? What functions will it perform? And why was it necessary to deploy the unit rather than rely on civilian agencies and personnel and the National Guard? Given the magnitude of the issues at stake, it is imperative that the American people know the truth about this new and unprecedented intrusion of the military in domestic affairs."

Indeed, senior NORTHCOM commanders have repeatedly dodged these questions. During an emergency, they claim JTF-CS "supports" the "Primary Federal Agency [PFA] ... designated to coordinate the government's response to a disaster or emergency situation." But "support" to a civilian agency is not the same as playing a subordinate role to civilian leadership. This is stated unambiguously by NORTHCOM: "Although the JTF-CS supports the PFA throughout a CBRNE [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive] consequence management operation, the unit operates within a clear Department of Defense chain of command."

In other words, the "chain of command" followed by JTF-CS begins and ends with the Executive Branch and the President in his role as leader of the "unitary executive branch" and Commander-in-Chief. As former FBI whistleblower and senior ACLU national policy counsel Mike German states, "This is a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority, and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law."

To facilitate an open and public assessment of recent "homeland" military deployments, the ACLU demanded that the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense "immediately make public all legal opinions, executive orders, presidential directives, memos, policy guidance, and other documents that authorize the deployment of military troops for domestic purposes."

Such a demand arises precisely because of the unprecedented expansion of the U.S. national security-surveillance complex since the 9/11 attacks. As the civil liberties' group pointedly reminds us,

[T]he Department of Defense has dramatically expanded its role in domestic law enforcement and intelligence operations, including the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping programs, the Department of Homeland Security's use of military spy satellites, and the participation of military personnel in state and local intelligence fusion centers. The ACLU has repeatedly expressed concern about these incremental encroachments of the military into domestic affairs, and the assignment of active duty troops to Northern Command only heightens these concerns.

Unfortunately, some, if not most members of Congress, rather than defending the rights of the American people would rather re-write Posse Comitatus to reflect the needs of an "Executive Branch gone wild." As David Swanson reported on, Senator John Warner wrote a constituent who had expressed alarm over the 1st BCT's attachment to NORTHCOM. Swanson commented,

This, like other changes imposed by President Bush, of course violates the Posse Comitatus Act. It also served to strengthen the threats of martial law that Congressman Brad Sherman reported the White House making to Congress members in order to win their support for the $780 billion give-away to Wall Street. (David Swanson, "Sen. Warner Supports Domestic Use of Military,, October 21, 2008)

Claiming he is "deeply concerned that the Department of Defense and the President may not have authority to use active duty personnel in the most effective manner," Warner writes,

I believe we must review the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act and similar provisions that limit the role of the active duty military to ensure that every available asset is properly employed in any type of future emergency situation. Title 18, Section 1385 of the U.S. Code, commonly referred to as the Posse Comitatus Act, prevents the armed forces from becoming involved in law enforcement activities for which, in most cases, they are not specifically trained or equipped. Posse Comitatus is largely rooted in historical tradition that prohibits military involvement in civilian affairs.

To be clear, I do not believe that U.S. law pertaining to this matter needs to be entirely rewritten. I do, however, think it is necessary that we review the regulations governing use of military personnel in domestic operations in order to better understand how all of our military assets can best assist during emergency situations.

Attentive readers will recall that "The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007," included a section that permitted the President to deploy the armed forces to "restore public order" or to "suppress any insurrection." As Democracy Now's Amy Goodman reported earlier this month, "while a later bill repealed this, President Bush attached a signing statement that he did not feel bound by the repeal."

The ACLU's concerns are fully warranted and demand an impartial evaluation of the dangerous implications for democracy, particularly in light of the current capitalist economic crisis. As the historic meltdown deepens, social tensions--and struggles--will inevitably intensify. As researcher and analyst Michel Chossudovsky wrote,

Civil unrest resulting from the financial meltdown is a distinct possibility, given the broad impacts of financial collapse on lifelong savings, pension funds, homeownership, etc.

The timing of this planned militarization is crucial: how will it affect the presidential elections scheduled for Tuesday November 4.

The brigade in its domestic homeland activities will be designated as the Consequence Management Response Force (CCMRF).

What "Consequences" are being envisaged? ("Pre-election Militarization of the North American Homeland. US Combat Troops in Iraq repatriated to 'help with civil unrest'," Global Research, September 26, 2008)

While the state justifies this deployment as a response to "terrorist threats," what other scenarios are being contemplated?

With daily reports of voter suppression drives by the Republican Party in multiple "battleground" states hitting the corporate media, and a major exposé of these antidemocratic operations by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast published in Rolling Stone, Washington's plans for the use of military force at home is a dagger aimed directly at the American people--and what remains of a democratic republic--by a thuggish and bankrupt ruling elite.

Monday, October 20, 2008

'Tying the room together': DARPA's Project Gandalf

In the 1998 Coen brothers cult film The Big Lebowski, southern California slacker Jeffrey Lebowski aka "The Dude," bemoans the desecration of his living room rug by criminals out to collect a debt in a hilariously absurd case of mistaken identity. After the thugs urinate on his prized possession, The Dude is crestfallen because that rug "really tied the room together."

Fast forward to 2008, only there's no mistaking either the identities or what's being "tied together" here. DARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) is seeking solicitations for "Project Gandalf," according to an October 7 "Industry Day" announcement on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

In a bid to "tie the room together," DARPA is developing a demonstration project that will provide "counterterrorist" special operators and spies, aka state terrorists, with

solutions to ... radio frequency (RF) geolocation and emitter identification using specific emitter identification (SEI) for specific signals of interest. The ultimate goal of the Gandalf program is to enable a set of handheld devices to be utilized to perform RF geolocation and SEI on RF signals of interest to the Gandalf program. The specific goals and performance objectives associated with RF geolocation and SEI for the Gandalf system are classified. ("Gandalf Program, DARPA Industry Day Announcement," Federal Business Opportunities, October 7, 2008)

That's right, a hand-held cell phone tracking device that will enable security operatives to locate and take out opponents of the capitalist "new order" in global South or "hardened" heimat cities.

Sounds like a seamless way to "tie together" information culled by NSA trolls or the Justice Department's Terrorist Identity Datamart Environment (TIDE), the "master list" from which all other federal agencies derive their own dubious watch lists.

The Gandalf Program is classified Secret/NOFORN, meaning only American firms whose personnel hold coveted U.S. Department of Defense "secret clearances or higher" need apply. The October 28, 2008 Industry Day will be held at the Rosslyn, Virginia headquarters of the Scitor Corporation. An appropriate venue if ever there were one.

Deriving its name from a Latin word meaning "to seek to know," Scitor's website has little in the way of useful information for the researcher, aside that is, from the usual banalities about "excellence" and "solving customer needs."

However, a profile on Yahoo! Finance reveals that Scitor "hopes to aid you in your search for technological knowledge and harmony." (!) There we also learn that the firm "offers a wide range of professional and technological services, including consulting work, risk management, software development and systems engineering." Unsurprisingly, "Scitor works primarily for U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense."

Founded in 1979, the company was acquired in 2007 by the private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners LLP. With $421.9 million in revenue in 2007, the company employs some 1,100 people with top secret and above security clearances. Their main competitors according to Yahoo's profile are Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, Northrop Grumman Information Technology and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

But as investigative journalist Tim Shorrock revealed in his essential book Spies For Hire,

...Scitor, a CIA and defense contractor company...has become a $300 million company without creating a single ripple in the media. "It's the biggest company you never heard of," said a former NSA officer who knows the company well.

Scitor is a technology company that does extensive work for the U.S. Air Force in aerospace communications and satellite support services. The privately held company is also an important contractor for the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology... Within that directorate, two sources said, it is used primarily by the Office of Technical Services, the secretive unit that develops the gadgets, weapons and disguises used by spies. ...

A Scitor contract with the General Services Administration posted on the GSA's Web site lists the CIA among the company's clients. It states that Scitor helps government agencies manage "major acquisitions and cradle-to-grave programs that are vital to national defense." Those agencies include the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, the NGA [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency], the CIA and the Pentagon. (Tim Shorrock, Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008, pp. 141, 142)

Clearly, DARPA's cell phone tracking proposal falls well within the parameters of Scitor's spooky brief.

While the "specific goals and performance objectives associated with RF geolocation and SEI for the Gandalf system are classified," it doesn't take a rocket scientist--or securocrat--to realize there's real money to be made here.

Former Royal Navy officer Lew Page who unearthed the project for the U.K. online tech publication The Register, reports that "Project Gandalf" will supplement work "already done by surveillance aircrafts and/or drones." The "new wrinkle" according to Page, "is being able to do it using handheld devices" at close quarters. Page writes,

So it would appear that a group of undercover operatives or special-forces troops dispersed near a target (perhaps a specific cell or satellite phone) might carry portable gadgets, presumably networked. The netted devices would be able to pick out the phone, radio or whatever they were after and track it. ...

As far as the technology goes, the idea sounds feasible. Commercial pico/microcell gear, for instance--with all the capabilities needed to ID and locate cell phones--is already easily down to briefcase size. Satellite phones would be harder, of course. (Lew Page, "DARPA to Begin Mysterious 'Project Gandalf'," The Register, October 8, 2008)

As I wrote in "Niche Telecom Providers Assisting NSA Spy Operations," enterprising capitalist grifters in the telecom industry are already "providing security agencies with real-time cell phone tracking capabilities." What makes this research so insidious are the workarounds supplied--at a premium price--by under-the-radar companies to NSA or the U.K.'s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) not covered by any law.

Project Gandalf clearly travels along the same repressive continuum but with a twist. If the program pans out it will give security agents an "up close and personal" capacity, let's just call it for the sake of argument, that real-world intel touch required to disrupt meetings or smash an organizing drive even as they're taking place. Now that's real progress!

Industry Day Goals at the upcoming October 28 meet and greet are threefold:

1) to familiarize participants with DARPA's interest in RF geolocation and SEI technologies, 2) to identify potential offerors and promote understanding of the BAA proposal requirements, and 3) to promote discussion of synergistic capabilities among potential program participants. Information on the Gandalf solicitation will be available at: following the publication of the BAA in FedBizOpps. Following the Industry Day, the web site will contain the unclassified Gandalf Frequently Asked Questions, unclassified presentations from the Industry Day, and information on how to obtain the classified briefings and Q&A.

As the European watchdog group Quintessenz has revealed, digital and telephonic privacy invasions represent a fundamental assault on "freedom of information, the right to personal privacy and data integrity, the right to communicate freely."

With information on Thales "Autonomous facility for IP Monitoring," aka IP Tr@pper, the Siemens Intelligence Platform, Force10 Networks "10 Gigabit Packet Filtering" presentation to the NSA "for high speed government surveillance," to the Verint (formerly Comverse Infosys) "STAR-GATE interception system," the Quintessenz project "ties the room together" on state and corporate assaults on our fundamental right to free speech and privacy.

As Antifascist Calling has previously reported (see: "America's Cyborg Warriors," July 23, 2008) such "technophilic" moves arise during a period when "restless natives"--on the contested, resource rich terrain of the global South and increasingly, within the Western "homeland" itself--are challenging the economic, political and social hegemony of "actually existing capitalism." As Durham University geographer Stephen Graham wrote,

Here, attention should fall in particular on the ways in which biopolitical stipulations of the worth--or lack of worth--of human subjects are, quite literally, cast into the software code that operates increasingly automated and multi-scale surveillance, targeting and killing systems. Thus, the new technoscience of the urbanized RMA [Revolution in Military Affairs] concentrates on distinguishing 'normal' urban space-times and ecologies in the global north, so that the apparatus of an increasingly militarized police state can be used to discipline those deemed 'abnormal'. (Stephen Graham, "Surveillance, urbanization, and the 'Revolution in Military Affairs'," in D. Lyon, Theorizing Surveillance, Uffculme, Devon: Willan Publishing, 2006, p. 264)

And as we have seen in recent surveillance scandals in the U.S. and elsewhere, those deemed "abnormal" include: union organizers, antiwar activists, socialist parties, antiglobalization campaigners, environmentalists, animal rights activists, civil liberties and human rights organizations, the list goes on and on. Indeed, from the point of view of state security agencies and their outsourced corporate partners, potentially "abnormal" or at least politically "suspect" individuals encompass the vast majority of citizens.

Finally, as the West's "terrorism industry" continues to grow at a rate directly proportional to capitalism's economic decline, we can expect that enterprising corporate grifters will flood DARPA with proposals to make "Project Gandalf" a reality.

Friday, October 17, 2008

ACLU Files New FOIA Requests for NSA Spying Documents. EFF Charges Telecom Amnesty Unconstitutional

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests demanding that the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and the National Security Agency (NSA) disclose "any policies and procedures" that protect Americans' privacy rights when the ultra-spooky agency "collects, stores and disseminates private U.S. communications."

The FOIA brief opens a new front in an on-going campaign by the civil liberties' group to pry information from unaccountable Bush administration spy agencies and their "up-armored" lawyers in the Justice Department.

According to Melissa Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, "the American public needs to know whether the NSA's procedures are sufficiently protective of our privacy rights. Unfortunately, there is often no meaningful court oversight of the NSA's surveillance activities and the NSA is left to police itself," Goodman said in a press release on Wednesday.

Coming on the heels of last week's report by ABC News that provided new details of the Agency's illegal spying on hundreds of aid workers, journalists and soldiers stationed in Iraq, the ACLU is charging that the NSA spied on personal phone calls that "were not in any way related to national security." Indeed, intimate phone calls intercepted by Army communications specialists were routinely shared and swapped like salacious trophies amongst NSA personnel for their amusement.

At a news conference last February, President Bush declared that "there is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens are treated with respect." A whistleblower, former Navy Arab linguist David Faulk however, put paid to Bush's lie when he told ABC that "he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007."

But the network's belated report on a story initially broken in July 2007 by David Swanson at, former U.S. Army Reserve Arab linguist Adrienne Kinne, who was assigned to a special military signals intelligence unit run from the NSA facility at Fort Gordon, Georgia, revealed that illegal surveillance on Americans was widespread.

Prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, NSA operators were forbidden to listen in or collect information on Americans. The NSA was specifically barred from doing so by United State Signals Intelligence Directive 18 (USSID 18).

Kinne also told Swanson that many of the individuals the NSA spied upon were journalists, including those staying at a Baghdad hotel that turned up on a U.S. target list.

Despite Kinne's repeated attempts to bring this information to the attention of Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she was rebuffed by Leahy and his staff. "Now, in response to ABC News picking up the story," Swanson reported October 10, "Leahy is pretending to be interested in the matter."

These revelations come hot on the heels of Congress' July passage of the unconstitutional FISA Amendments Act (FAA) that granted NSA free reign to carry out warrantless spying. As Antifascist Calling has reported on many occasions, most recently September 20 (see: "Democracy or Police State? New Lawsuit Targets Bush, Cheney, NSA over Illegal Spying"), FAA grants unaccountable intelligence agencies the power to conduct driftnet surveillance on the telephone and internet communications of American citizens and legal residents. As I wrote in September,

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 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!

Additionally, FAA handed corporate grifters in the telecommunications industry such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon retroactive immunity for aiding and abetting the Bush regime's unconstitutional spy operations. The "best money Congress can buy," with the Democrats in cahoots with their Republican colleagues in the Justice Department are attempting to derail the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) landmark lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T.

But in a move late Thursday, EFF attorneys challenged the law's constitutionality in a brief filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Judge Vaughn Walker is the presiding judge hearing Hepting v. AT&T. In a statement issued Friday by the civil liberties group,

...the flawed FISA Amendments Act (FAA) violates the federal government's separation of powers as established in the Constitution and robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law. Signed into law earlier this year, the FAA allows for the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms' participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that either the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. Attorney General Michael Mukasey filed that classified certification with the court last month. ("EFF Challenges Constitutionality of Telecom Immunity in Federal Court," Electronic Frontier Foundation, Press Release, October 17, 2008)

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston charged that "the immunity law puts the fox in charge of the hen house, letting the Attorney General decide whether or not telecoms like AT&T can be sued for participating in the government's illegal warrantless surveillance."

Bankston pointed out that in a constitutional system "it is the judiciary's role as a co-equal branch of government to determine the scope of the surveillance and rule on whether it is legal, not the executive's. The Attorney General should not be allowed to unconstitutionally play judge and jury in these cases, which affect the privacy of millions of Americans."

Mendaciously, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey--a darling of "liberal" Democrats during his confirmation hearing last year-- claimed in a public version of the government's certification to the court for dismissal, that the state had no "content-dragnet" program that searched for key words in the body of communications.

As AfterDowningStreet, ABC News and AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein have revealed, this is clearly a lie as communications were vacuumed into government databases while state officials offered one prevarication after another to conceal the breadth of these illegal programs from the public.

EFF has presented the court with a summary of thousands of pages of documentary evidence that clearly demonstrate the broad, driftnet surveillance of millions of innocent Americans since 9/11.

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl said, "We have overwhelming record evidence that the domestic spying program is operating far outside the bounds of the law. Intelligence agencies, telecoms, and the Administration want to sweep this case under the rug, but the Constitution won't permit it."

But that doesn't mean they won't continue trying. Immunity provisions in the FAA authorized Mukasey to inform Judge Walker in classified and non-public documents why the government is within its rights to seek immunity for spying telecoms. With little latitude, Walker has no recourse to deny Mukasey's request to dismiss.

However, as Wired Magazine analyst Ryan Singel writes, Walker, "a libertarian-leaning Republican appointee, has so far not been sympathetic to the government, ruling early on that the suits could continue despite the government's claim that the suits would put the nation at risk."

The EFF's constitutional challenge is set to be heard December 2.

The ACLU has also filed a lawsuit to stop the state from conducting surveillance under the new spy law, charging that FAA violates the Fourth Amendment by giving the government (and its alphabet-soup mix of intelligence agencies) "virtually unchecked power" to intercept e-mails and telephone calls. (See: "ACLU Sues Over Unconstitutional Dragnet Wiretapping Law," Press Release, July 10, 2008) The ACLU's current FOIA inquiries demand that the NSA and Justice Department produce:

Any and all legal memoranda, procedures, policies, directives, practices, guidance or guidelines created between 1993 and the present pertaining to the acquisition, processing, analysis, retention, storage or dissemination of Americans' communications--whether targeted for interception or incidentally intercepted--during the course of NSA surveillance activities conducted inside or outside the United States; and

Any and all records created between September 2001 and the present concerning complaints about, investigations of, or disciplinary actions related to the NSA's monitoring of U.S. communications.

Illegal interception of telephone and internet communications are intimately connected to data mining, a practice that seeks to establish relationships amongst "targets" by literally "mining" commercial and government databases for telephone communications, internet searches, medical records, travel itineraries, credit card purchases, etc.

As used by intelligence agencies, data miners claim they can identify trends that go beyond simple analytical results produced by the data. Relying on sophisticated algorithms, state data miners claim they can forecast "future events" through predictive analysis and its deranged off-shoot, link analysis, a subset of network analysis that explores the associations and relationships between objects and people. However, these spooky Nostradamuses more often than not generate false-positives that have real world consequences for their victims.

Just ask anyone unfortunate enough to have landed on the state's Kafkaesque "no fly list" or the FBI's sinister Terrorist Screening Center, a "terrorist watch list" that surpassed some one million names this summer, according to the ACLU.

Earlier this month, the National Academy of Science's National Research Council issued a scathing report questioning the validity of automated data mining, citing the slipshod manner in which data sets are linked together as well as the severe privacy breeches such programs inevitably produce.

Poor-quality data are a major concern in protecting privacy because inaccuracies may cause data-mining algorithms to identify innocent people as threats, the report says. Linking data sources together tends to compound the problem; current literature suggests that a "mosaic" of data assembled from multiple databases is likely to be error-prone. Analysts and officials should be aware of this tendency toward errors and the consequent likelihood of false positives. ("All Counterterrorism Programs That Collect and Mine Data Should Be Evaluated for Effectiveness, Privacy Impacts," National Academy of Science, Press Release, October 7, 2008)

But given the current trajectory of the "unitary executive branch," especially now as the financial system continues melting down and imperial wars relentlessly grind on, the corporatist criminals who rule the roost will undoubtedly expand the "public-private partnership" that has proven so profitable for the telecommunications industry.

With upcoming presidential elections in the United States, neither Sen. Barack Obama nor Sen. John McCain, the respective candidates of the capitalist parties of war and repression, have opposed FAA, NSA spying or the shredding of the U.S. Constitution. Nor is it likely either candidate will repudiate the unprecedented Executive Branch power-grab by the Bush gang once the winner attains "high office" come January.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just in Time for the Capitalist Meltdown: Army, Justice Department to Field "Pain Ray"

Back in July I reported that Raytheon (No. 4 on Washington Technology's "Top 100 List of Prime Defense Contractors," with $5,170,829,645 in revenue) was developing a microwave "non-lethal" weapons (NLW) system for the U.S. Army.

At a cost of $25 million, five truck-mounted NLWs will soon be shipped off to Iraq for heavy-lifting in Iraqi cities for use against militant oil workers and citizens should U.S. energy multinationals finally get their greedy little hands on that nation's oil wealth. A slimmed-down version of the Active Denial System (ADS) is sought for deployment in the "homeland. According to Aviation Week,

Raytheon is kicking off a U.S. Army program to mount Joint Silent Guardian non-lethal, directed energy weapons--with a range of more than 250 meters--on Ford 550 commercial trucks for crowd control.

The high power microwave (HPM) device heats water in a person's outer layers of skin to the point of pain. Tests have shown that the effects can reach through cracks in and around concrete walls and even through the glass of automobiles, company officials say. (David A. Fulghum, "High Power Microwave Nearly Operational," Aviation Week, October 9, 2008)

Aviation Week also reports "the program is expected to be awarded by year's end. A year after the contract is signed, the combination vehicle/weapons will start be fielded at the rate of one per month."

With the American automative industry in a death-spiral as a result of capital's historic credit crunch, what better means to "rescue" the industry than buying a fleet of Ford 550's for "crowd control."

Particularly handy for deployment in American cities should "rioters" object to a stolen presidential election or the state moves to terminate what little is left of the social "safety net" (in the interest of kick-starting the "recovery," of course) Silent Guardian is a product whose time has come!

Raytheon describes the system as "a revolutionary less-than-lethal directed energy application that employs millimeter wave technology to repel individuals or crowds without causing injury." Without a hint of irony considering its intended use, Silent Guardian is touted as a "protection system" that can "save lives" and even "de-escalate aggression." Designed as a tool for "law enforcement, checkpoint security" and "peacekeeping missions," the Department of Justice's (DoJ) National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has been hawking its "benefits" for several years. According to the NIJ:

NIJ is leveraging a less-lethal technology developed by the U.S. Department of Defense for use in law enforcement and corrections. The technology, called the Active Denial System, causes people to experience intolerable discomfort. It makes them stop, turn away and leave the area.

The Active Denial System emits electromagnetic radiation (radiofrequency waves) at 95 GHz. The system stimulates nerve endings and causes discomfort but does not cause permanent injury--the radiation penetrates less than 1/64th of an inch into a person's skin. Symptoms dissipate quickly when the device is turned off or the person moves away from the radiation beam. ...

NIJ has created a small working prototype of the military Active Denial System that law enforcement and correction officers can carry. ("Active Denial System Deters Subject without Harm," National Institute of Justice, October 25, 2007)

It now appears that Silent Guardian is ready for prime time.

But not so fast. A new report by Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung (DSF, German Foundation for Peace Research) physicist Dr. Jürgen Altmann, states that the ADS may be highly-damaging or even lethal. According to Dr. Altmann,

The Active Denial System (ADS) produces a beam of electromagnetic millimetre waves; such radiation is absorbed in the upper 0.4 mm of skin. The beam stays approximately 2 m wide out to many hundreds of metres. With a power of 100 kilowatts, the beam can heat the skin of target subjects to pain-producing temperature levels within seconds. With a prototype weapon, mounted in a military multi-purpose vehicle, the effects have been tested on hundreds of volunteers. In order to produce pain while preventing burn injury, the power and duration of emission for one trigger event is controlled by a software program. Model calculations show that with the highest power setting, second- and third-degree burns with complete dermal necrosis will occur after less than 2 seconds. Even with a lower setting of power or duration there is the possibility for the operator to re-trigger immediately. (Dr. Jürgen Altmann, "Millimetre Waves, Lasers, Acoustics for Non-Lethal Weapons? Physics Analyses and Inferences," Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung (DSF), 2008, p. 4)

Between 1995 and 2006, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) have spent approximately $51 million on the technology. What have U.S. taxpayers gotten for their money? Dr. Altmann avers,

In 2005 the military press reported about requests from the armed forces and mentioned fast deployment to Iraq. However, in September 2006 Secretary of the Air Force Wynne was quoted as being reluctant to deploy ADS on the battlefield; to avoid vilification in the world press it should be used on crowds in the US first.

In January 2007 a media day with live demonstrations of ADS system 1 was held at Moody AFB, Georgia. A deployment date of 2010 was mentioned; press reports said that the beam heats the skin to 50C [122F] without lasting harm, not mentioning the fact that this depends on the beam being switched off immediately when such a temperature is reached. (Altmann, op. cit., p. 18) [emphasis added]

Yes, you did read that correctly: "to avoid vilification" it was recommended that the pain beam "should be used on crowds in the US first." Dr. Altmann continues,

As a consequence, the ADS provides the technical possibility to produce burns of second and third degree. Because the beam of diameter 2 m and above is wider than human size, such burns would occur over considerable parts of the body, up to 50% of its surface. Second- and third-degree burns covering more than 20% of the body surface are potentially life-threatening--due to toxic tissue-decay products and increased sensitivity to infection--and require intensive care in a specialised unit. Without a technical device that reliably prevents re-triggering on the same target subject, the ADS has a potential to produce permanent injury or death. (Altmann, op. cit., p. 24)

Never mind that the system may cause permanent injury or even death via "complete dermal necrosis," our capitalist masters are plowing full-speed ahead! A June 2007 accident report, initially covered-up by the JNLWD, reveals that a lack of operator training and the removal of ADS safety features led to a "test subject" suffering painful burns that required hospitalization in a burn unit. Obtained by Wired defense analyst Sharon Weinberger the internal JNLWD document describes how,

Crucially ... the "ADS Crew did not realize that the ADS, when it came back to 'stand-by' mode, had defaulted to the previous setting of 100% power and allowed at least a 4 second trigger pull." A casual, or secondary, factor was related to hardware: specifically, there was no working built-in range finder during the test, which could have helped prevent over-exposure.

Two people who reviewed the unredacted report for DANGER ROOM said the accident raises some basic questions about the weapon. Built-in range finders "have been basic features of high tech line-of-sight weapons and sensors for decades" and typically will prevent operators from using systems in an unsafe fashion, says one Pentagon official familiar with weapon's development. "Yet those critical safety features, that were integrated into the HMMWV [Humvee] ADS System 1, were removed by the AFRL [Air Force Research Lab] prior to testing, exposing the test subjects to unconscionable risks." (Sharon Weinberger, "Pain Ray Test Subjects Exposed to 'Unconscionable Risks'," Wired, October 14, 2008)

Just another day at the office for Pentagon weaponeers. And given how local beat cops love tasering "suspects," imagine the hijinks when the riot squad lets loose on a bunch of commie protesters down at the old Stock Exchange!

As University of Bradford researcher Neil Davison points out, the United States and their NATO "partners" are resisting any moves to restrict NLWs from being developed or deployed, despite risks to their intended "targets": "homeland" citizens rebranded as "rioters" and "domestic terrorists."

For emerging acoustic and directed energy weapons, however, there are no international agreements restricting their development and proliferation beyond compliance with international humanitarian law, and the additional protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) that prohibits laser weapons intentionally designed to blind. Military establishments are keen to resist additional constraints on the development and use of "non-lethal" weapons technologies, as exemplified in a recent NATO report: "In order to ensure that NATO forces retain the ability to accomplish missions, it will be important that nations participating in NATO operations remain vigilant against the development of specific legal regimes which unnecessarily limit the ability to use NLWs." (Neil Davison, "The Contemporary Development of 'Non-Lethal' Weapons," Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project (BNLWRP), May 2007, p. 37)

In a telling--and chilling--description of why the ADS is "needed," the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, informs us,

The ADS will support a full spectrum of operations ranging from non-lethal methods of crowd and mob dispersal, checkpoint security, perimeter security, area denial, port protection, infrastructure protection and clarification of intent (identifying combatants from non-combatants). Most currently available non-lethal weapons use kinetic energy, where the size and range of the target can limit or change the effectiveness of the weapon. The range of the ADS is 10 times greater than other non-lethal weapons and will have the same compelling non-lethal effect on all human targets, regardless of size, age and gender. ("Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Active Denial System," Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, no date) [emphasis added]

Yet despite these risks, the National Institute of Justice in a cool "risk-benefit" analysis worthy of Dr. Mengele, is very much interested in a "hand-held, probably rifle-sized, short range weapon that could be effective at tens of feet for law enforcement officials."

As global capitalism enters a new and potentially "terminal" phase of its disintegration, the U.S. ruling class and their European "partners" will increasingly resort to escalating levels of violence--from the criminalization of dissent to martial law--should "domestic terrorist" threats "get out of hand." A general deployment of "non-lethal weapons" for use in "homeland" cities clearly has a prominent role to play along this repressive continuum. As Durham University geographer Stephen Graham avers,

Those experiencing frequent 'terrorist' labelling by national governments or sympathetic media since 9/11 include anti-war dissenters, critical researchers, anti-globalization protestors, anti-arms-trade campaigners, ecological and freedom of speech lobbyists, and pro-independence campaigners within nations like Indonesia allied to the US. Protagonists of such a wide spectrum of opposition to transnational US dominance are thus all too easily dehumanized or demonized. Above all, they become radically delegitimized. Who, after all, will speak out in favour of 'terrorists' and their sympathizers? ("Cities and the 'War on Terror'," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 30.2, June 2006, p. 257)

And so it goes during the never-ending "Year Zero" of the Bush regime. Silent Guardian: Coming soon to a city near you!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Militarizing the "Homeland": NORTHCOM's Joint Task Force-Civil Support

Antifascist Calling reported October 6 that nine months prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Donald Rumsfeld signed off on revisions for the Pentagon's secretive Continuity of Operations Program (COOP).

Based on a document (AR 500-3) published by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, it described "all hazards COOP planning" as the mechanism by which "the Army remains capable of continuing mission-essential operations during any situation, including military attack, terrorist activities, and natural or man-made disasters."

The Wikileaks document is all the more relevant since a September report in Army Times described how the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) would be deployed October 1 "under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North," the "service component" of NORTHCOM.

Since that article appeared September 8, Army Times has done a partial climb-down and now claims that the "non-lethal crowd control package" described earlier for operations in the heimat, "is intended for use on deployments to the war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated."

But this mendacious claim by Army Times is belied by current political trends in the U.S. Under cover of the "war on terror," driftnet surveillance and moves toward suppressing dissent, most recently on display when protests during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions were criminalized and organizers were charged with "domestic terrorism" under the Patriot Act, are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Wholesale spying on activists by the Pentagon's now defunct Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), as well as revelations that State police agencies in Maryland routinely spied on antiwar organizers, shared this information with the National Security Agency and classified them as "terrorists" in government-run databases, are viewed as exemplary means to "keep the rabble in line"--and under wraps, if necessary.

A highly-disturbing report by Christopher Ketchum in the May/June 2008 issue of Radar Magazine, outlined how the top secret Main Core database linked to Continuity of Government contingency planning, "includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people."

Reporting in July for Salon, investigative journalist Tim Shorrock was told by a source that Main Core is "'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 ... 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'."

As the historic economic and political crisis gripping capitalism deepens and intensifies, and as stop-gap measures deployed by the U.S. Treasury Department intended to shore-up the crumbling financial sector crash, one by one, "forward thinking" ruling class factions are openly preparing a "Pinochet option" for the American people.

In this context, the militarization of domestic law enforcement is now coupled with the military's own rapid development and deployment of "non-lethal weapons" systems which inevitably, will be "shared" with civilian police for "crowd control." As with data mining, DHS spy-satellite surveillance, blanket CCTV coverage of American cities, illegal FBI deployment of infiltrators and provocateurs, "mission creep" by the Pentagon into civil affairs are signs that stronger measures to blunt the crisis may be in the offing. (For more on the Pentagon's development of NLW's, see: Antifascist Calling, "'Non-Lethal' Weapons: Where Science and Technology Service Repression," July 8, 2008; and, Antifascist Calling, "The Calmative Before the Storm," July 12, 2008)

During the recent Vibrant Response exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia, three units of NORTHCOM's Consequence Management Response Force (CCMRF, pronounced "sea-smurfs"), including two combat units from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Army Division and the elite 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade participated in mock drills designed to "coordinate with local governments and interagency organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency," according to a report on U.S. Northern Command News.

Interestingly enough, Fort Stewart is also the site of a top secret NSA listening post that routinely "intercepted and transcribed satellite phone calls of American civilians in the Middle East for the NSA," according to a whistleblower and former Arab linguist attached to the illegal NSA project, Wired reports.

Code-named "Operation Highlander," the top secret program was initiated in the wake of the September 11 attacks on orders from the Bush administration. According to Wired,

If the allegations are true, it would seem to indicate that warrantless spying of Americans approved by President Bush following 9/11 expanded rapidly beyond U.S. borders to citizens overseas, notwithstanding United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, or USSID 18--an NSA rule that bars overseas surveillance of Americans without authorization and probable cause. (Kim Zetter, "Inside Operation Highlander," Wired, October 10, 2008)

While the ostensible purpose of Vibrant Response was to wargame scenarios where chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive incidents (CBRNE) were launched "in the nation's heartland," what other events could trigger the declaration of a "national security emergency," or even martial law in the U.S.?

As Amy Goodman reported in a column for Democracy Now!

Military participation in domestic operations was originally outlawed with the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878. The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, however, included a section that allowed the president to deploy the armed forces to "restore public order" or to suppress "any insurrection." While a later bill repealed this, President Bush attached a signing statement that he did not feel bound by the repeal. ("Invasion of the Sea-Smurfs," Democracy Now!, October 2, 2008)

As I pointed out in my October 6 article, current Army doctrine is heavily-weighted towards contingency planning for "civil disturbances." While these programs are not new and in fact, plans such as Garden Plot and Cable Splicer have been integral to military doctrine since the late 1960s, what is new--and highly disturbing--is the launch of NORTHCOM's Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS).

Located at Ft. Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, JTF-CS is described on NORTHCOM's website as "a subordinate command of U.S. Northern Command, a unified combatant command formed in October 2002 to plan, organize and execute both homeland defense and civil support missions."

While NORTHCOM claims that JTF-CS would be deployed "only after a Governor requests federal assistance from the President, and after the President issues a Presidential Disaster Declaration," the Bush signing statement as well as secret annexes in updated Continuity of Government planning documents, National Security Presidential Directive 51/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (NSPD 51/HSPD 20) means, as Commander-in-Chief,

The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government. In order to advise and assist the President in that function, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (APHS/CT) is hereby designated as the National Continuity Coordinator. ...

Federal Government COOP, COG, and ECG plans and operations shall be appropriately integrated with the emergency plans and capabilities of State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to promote interoperability and to prevent redundancies and conflicting lines of authority. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall coordinate the integration of Federal continuity plans and operations with State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to provide for the delivery of essential services during an emergency. (The White House, President George W. Bush, NSPD 51/HSPD 20, May 7, 2007)

It should be kept in mind that top secret annexes of this document have been withheld from Congress, despite repeated requests--and legal oversight requirements--by the House Homeland Security Committee, as Peter Dale Scott reported in March for CounterPunch.

NORTHCOM avers that,

The Primary Federal Agency [PFA] is the federal civilian agency designated to coordinate and direct the government's response to a disaster or emergency situation. Presidential Decision Directive 39 designated the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the PFA for managing the consequences of CBRNE events. In most instances, FEMA will be the PFA, however, the Federal Bureau of Investigation serves as the PFA for crisis management in events designated as an act of terrorism. Although the JTF-CS supports the PFA throughout a CBRNE consequence management operation, the unit operates within a clear Department of Defense chain of command. (U.S. Northern Command, Joint Task Force Civil Support, FAQ, no date)

In other words, although civilian agencies are the nominal PFA's during a "disaster or emergency situation," JTF-CS "operates within a clear Department of Defense chain of command" that begins and ends with the Executive Branch, that is, the President in his role as the leader of the "unitary executive branch" and Commander-in-Chief. Were a "national emergency" of any kind declared by the President, rules governing Continuity of Government operations would place civilian agencies, including "State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure," under the effective control of the military.

This is clearly delineated in Department of Defense Directive 3025.12 (DoD 3025.12), "Military Assistance for Civil Disturbances (MACDIS)":

Ensure continuous planning by the DoD Components, both in the Department of Defense and in cooperation with civil government agencies for MACDIS operations that may be required during any time or condition of peace, war, or transition to war, including any national security emergency. ...

The President is authorized by the Constitution and laws of the United States to employ the Armed Forces of the United States to suppress insurrections, rebellions, and domestic violence under various conditions and circumstances. Planning and preparedness by the Federal Government and the Department of Defense for civil disturbances are important due to the potential severity of the consequences of such events for the Nation and the population.

Military resources may be employed in support of civilian law enforcement operations in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories and possessions only in the parameters of the Constitution and laws of the United States and the authority of the President and the Secretary of Defense, including delegations of that authority through this Directive or other means.

The primary responsibility for protecting life and property and maintaining law and order in the civilian community is vested in the State and local governments. Supplementary responsibility is vested by statute in specific Agencies of the Federal Government other than the Department of Defense. The President has additional powers and responsibilities under the Constitution of the United States to ensure that law and order are maintained. ("Military Assistance for Civil Disturbances [MACDIS]," Department of Defense Directive, No. 3025.12, February 4, 1994, pp. 1, 3) [emphasis added]

The Executive Branch's leading role in MACDIS operations are underscored by the following:

Delegations of Authority. The Secretary of Defense shall be assisted in executing his responsibility for MACDIS by the following:

The Secretary of the Army shall be the DoD Executive Agent and shall act for the Secretary of Defense in accordance with this Directive and any supplemental direction or guidance received from the Secretary of Defense. In that capacity, the DoD Executive Agent shall develop planning guidance, plans, and procedures for MACDIS, in accordance with this Directive. The DoD Executive Agent has the authority of the Secretary of Defense to task the DoD Components to plan for and to commit DoD resources, in response to requests from civil authorities under MACDIS. The DoD Executive Agent shall coordinate with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff any commitment of Military Forces assigned to the Combatant Commands.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall communicate to the Commanders of the Combatant Commands appropriate guidance issued by the DoD Executive Agent for their compliance with this Directive, and also shall assist the DoD Executive Agent in developing MACDIS planning guidance for all conditions of war or attacks on the United States or its territories. ...

For response to domestic terrorist incidents and other purposes, the DoD Executive Agent shall obtain authority from the Secretary of Defense for any employment of U.S. counterterrorism forces. The DoD Executive Agent shall coordinate with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff any request, contingency plan, directive, or order affecting the employment of such forces and, simultaneously, shall provide all applicable information to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict), who provides policy oversight for the Secretary of Defense, in accordance with DoD Directive 5138.3 (reference (h)).

The Secretary of Defense reserves the authority to modify or terminate the Executive Agency established by this Directive if operational needs so require in a particular situation. (MACDIS, op. cit., pp. 5-6)

What those "operational needs" are that might require the Secretary of Defense to "modify or terminate" the "Executive Agency" are not specified in the MACDIS Directive. However, in this regard, it is clear that a leading role of U.S. military "civil disturbance" operations will be assumed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and not a "Prime Federal Authority," that is a civilian agency. The JCS will,

In coordination with the DoD Executive Agent, facilitate communications by the DoD Executive Agent with Commanders of Combatant Commands, as appropriate.

Ensure the compatibility of MACDIS plans with other military plans.

Assist in the DoD Executive Agent's determination of military units and capabilities sufficient for all contingencies of the GARDEN PLOT plan.

Support training for and coordinated evaluation of MACDIS plans and capabilities by the Commanders of the Combatant Commands through exercises or other means, as appropriate. (MACDIS, op. cit., pp. 10-11)

Clearly, NORTHCOM's Vibrant Response exercise, initiated by the Joint Task Force-Civil Support falls under the broad purview of Garden Plot and other planning "contingencies." In terms of dealing with a "national security emergency" declared by the Executive Branch under rules governing Continuity of Government operations, DoD 3025.12 describes "civil disturbances" as,

Group acts of violence and disorders prejudicial to public law and order in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. possessions and territories, or any political subdivision thereof. The term "civil disturbance" includes all domestic conditions requiring the use of Federal Armed Forces under this Directive. (MACDIS, op. cit., p. 17)

Would, let's say, the eruption of mass protests as a result of a stolen presidential election or mass actions as a legitimate and exemplary civilian response to limiting bank withdrawals, a freeze on Social Security payments, a prohibition on strikes or the declaration of a "national security emergency" as a result of prerevolutionary challenges to the legitimacy of federal authority (as took place in Argentina in 2000 during that nation's economic meltdown) trigger MACDIS and other Continuity of Government operations?

DoD 3025.12 states, "Under reference (r), the terms "major disaster" and "emergency" are defined substantially by action of the President in declaring that extant circumstances and risks justify Presidential implementation of the legal powers in those statutes." In other words, "extant circumstances" are "defined substantially" by the President. Once triggered by Executive Order, the scope of operations undertaken by the military acting as the enforcement arm of the "unitary executive branch" are virtually unlimited.

Under these rules, martial law, suspension of habeas corpus, indefinite detention would render lawful rules guiding a constitutional republic moot; mere footnotes written on the "blank page" of America's "new normal," what Naomi Klein has termed "disaster capitalism." Klein writes,

A more accurate term for the system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business is not liberal, conservative or capitalist, but corporatist. Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive nationalism that justifies unlimited spending on security. For those inside the bubble of extreme wealth created by such an arrangement, there can be no more profitable way to organize a society. But because of the obvious drawbacks for the vast majority of the population left outside the bubble, other features of the corporatist state tend to include aggressive surveillance (once again, with government and large corporations trading favors and contracts), mass incarceration, shrinking civil liberties and often, though not always, torture. (The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007, p. 15)

Now that the economic bubble for the vast majority of Americans has burst, "shrinking civil liberties" are rushing headlong towards the vanishing point.

While DoD 3025.12 states that "any employment of Military Forces in support of law enforcement operations shall maintain the primacy of civilian authorities," as noted above JTF-CS "operates within a clear Department of Defense chain of command," answerable to the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army as the "DoD Executive Agent for MACDIS."

Clearly, a "terrorist attack" or "any national security emergency" so designated by the President would trigger MACDIS guidance for "civilian law enforcement operations" and fall under the purview of NORTHCOM and JTF-CS as "a subordinate command" and would play a leading role in responding to "any national security emergency" declared by the President.

Despite the repeal of the "Insurrection Act Rider" to the 2007 Defense Appropriations bill that gave the President sweeping emergency power to deploy the military for any "condition" he might cite, not merely a terrorist atrocity or CBRNE "event," the Bush "signing statement" reported by Amy Goodman above, effectively nullified Congress' intent not to give the president carte blanche to station U.S. troops on American streets.

While NORTHCOM insists that JTF-CS, "will not be called upon to help with law enforcement, civil disturbance or crowd control, but will be used to support lead agencies involved in saving lives," as I have outlined above, citing the DoD's own documents and Executive Branch National Security Presidential Directives, contingency plans for suppressing "civil disturbance" such as the Garden Plot scenario are, like an iron fist inside a velvet glove, already in place and capable at a moment's notice of striking the American people.

During these dark times, it is well-worth recalling the sage advice of the great American revolutionary Thomas Jefferson: The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.